Feast Here Awhile

Jo Brans, a child of Mississippi, a longtime resident of Texas, and now a Manhattanite, exhibits a taste for American cuisine as wide-ranging and eclectic as this brief biography suggests. Although FEAST HERE AWHILE concludes with a paean to one of the high priests of late twentieth century cuisine, the New York chef David Bouley, Brans also dwells lovingly on such banalities as pop tarts and the wieners on white bread served at the small Presbyterian college she attended in her home state. Throughout the book, her tastes follow those of the nation, as she cooks her way through Betty Crocker, James Beard, Julia Child, and the Silver Palate chefs.

Although Brans confesses early on that she has always thought about food all of the time, FEAST HERE AWHILE is not merely a recitation of culinary delights. Rather, Brans traces modifications in the American palate to give readers a tale of how she herself grew. In the late 1950’s she dresses in a pretty dress with an apron to protect it while experimenting with Betty Crocker’s version of curry. The next decade finds her exchanging this garb, first for beatnik black, then for mink false eyelashes. Strictly by means of serendipity, she discovers Julia Child’s MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, which has for her the force of revelation.

An enthusiastic amateur cook and former restaurant reviewer, Brans does a good job of supplying readers with the minute particulars of wondrous dishes and explaining what makes them great. Along the way, she illustrates—in amusing and colorful detail—why food is not just the focus of her own life but the warm heart of the nation.