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food & wine

Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens

Andrew Beahrs.
Publisher Penguin  
Format hardcover
ISBN 9781594202599
Pages/Publication Date 323/2010
Daedalus Item Code 21520
This item is not available.
This is one young food writer's search for America's lost wild foods and local specialties, from New Orleans croakers to Illinois prairie hen, with Mark Twain as his guide. When Andrew Beahrs first read Twain's menu in the classic work A Tramp Abroad, he noticed the dishes were regional in the truest sense of the word, drawn fresh from grasslands, woods, and waters—all local, all wild, and all, Beahrs feared, lost in the shift to industrialized food. Tracking Twain's foods leads Beahrs from the dwindling prairie of rural Illinois to a 600-pound raccoon supper in Arkansas to the biggest native oyster reef in San Francisco Bay. He finds pockets of the country where Twain's favorite foods still exist or where intrepid farmers, fishermen, and conservationists are trying to bring them back.

"At the end of a grand tour of Europe, Mark Twain professed himself thoroughly bored with local fare and composed a wish list of American foods his palate most missed. A few of these more than six dozen dishes, such as steak, turkey, and corn on the cob, continue to appeal to contemporary palates, but others on the list—canvasback duck, possum, frogs, and turtles—shock today's sensibilities. Moreover, in the Starbucks era, Twain's yen for American coffee simply mystifies. Twain's inventory sets Beahrs on a quest to rediscover American cuisine. He prepares grass-fed steak for breakfast. In New Orleans he discovers how much human taming of the Mississippi has changed local agriculture and foodways. He culls recipes from nineteenth-century cookbooks to determine what manner of American victuals Twain might have actually consumed. Beahrs laments recent years' industrialization of agriculture, yet his survey is equally an indictment of the timorous vapidity of present-day taste."—Booklist

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