A Taste of America

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For fifteen years, Jane and Michael Stern have recounted their gastronomic travels in a weekly column, “A Taste of America,” carried by nearly two hundred newspapers. This book of the same name is a compilation of their favorite recipes and restaurants from those articles. The Sterns began their sojourn looking primarily for good food at a reasonable price, but they came to realize that the distinctly local flavor of the recipes and their descriptions of the restaurants (especially those with idiosyncrasies) accounted for their column’s popularity.

This is a browser’s cookbook, to be read at one’s leisure. Even though it includes an index of recipes, and the chapters are grouped by food types (breads, soups, and so forth) for convenience and quick reference, the lore accompanying each recipe makes the reader slow down and savor every word to get the full picture that is being drawn.

The recipes are the Sterns’s adaptations of ones given them by selected restaurants, which they cut down to normal family size and redesigned for the home kitchen. Ethnic dishes of all varieties are represented: creole from Louisiana, chimichangas from Arizona, corn soup from the “Dutch” country of Pennsylvania, knish and matzo from New York and California respectively, and such traditional Southern fare as biscuits and red-eye gravy, to name only a few. Some recipes come from elegant, expensive restaurants; some come from truck stops where a filling meal for little money is the order of the day. All come together to give not only a taste of good food but also a sense of regional specialty that is “A Taste of America.”