The United States of Arugula

David Kamp

David Kamp’s lively survey of the American food scene, from the home-ec ’30s to the trendy present day, looks at familiar territory, like the contentious founding of Chez Panisse and Julia Child’s rise to stardom, but also presents less-remembered figures like Clementine Paddleford and Henri Soulé—respectively, an eccentric “doyenne of America’s then tiny contingent of food journalists” and “the undisputed godhead of American fine dining” at mid-century. Along the way, Kamp does some stellar reporting, getting sources to say things that are surprising even for the spat-ridden food world (as when one chef “admiringly” calls a writer “a very difficult bitch”). In the end, he shows that whatever fashion-driven food lovers may think, there is very little new in food.