This book has been twelve years in the writing. It was in January 1948 I started criss-crossing the United States as roving Food Editor for This Week Magazine – my assignment, tell “How America Eats.” I have traveled by train, plane, automobile, by mule back, on foot – in all over 800,000 miles.
I have ranged from the lobster pots of Main to the vineyards of California, from the sugar shanties of Vermont to the salmon canneries in Alaska. I have collected these recipes from a wide variety of kitchens: farm kitchens, apartment kitchenettes, governors’ mansions, hamburger diners, tea rooms and from the finest restaurants with great chefs in charge. I have eaten with crews on fishing boats and enjoyed slum gullion at the Hobo Convention.
I have eaten many regional specialties I had never eaten before – cioppino on Fisherman’ Wharf in San Francisco, Alaskan King Crab of the North Pacific in Seattle, mango ice cream in Tampa, chawed on cuts of fresh sugar cane in Louisiana, eaten roasted young goat in San Antonio, and roasted fresh truffles flown in from Italy at the Four Seasons in New York City.
This book is based on personal interviews with more than 2,000 of the country’s best cooks. And I have eaten every dish in the book at the table where I found it. I have eaten each dish again when the recipes were tested by home economists in This Week’s kitchen.
Now a pause to look back. How does America eat? She eats on the fat of the land. She eats in every language. For the most part, however, even with the increasingly popular trend toward foreign foods, the dishes come to the table with an American accent.
From the very beginning, American dishes came from many countries, made from recipes German, Swedish, Italian, ad infinitum…In some regions these dishes have kept their original character. But more often, over the years, they have been mixed and Americanized.
The pioneer mother created dishes with food available. These we call regional. It is to these, perhaps, I have given the greatest emphasis her. However, I am not given to food favorites, hold no food prejudices. Good food is good food, wherever you find it. Many of these recipes were salvaged from batter-splashed, hand-written notebooks. The great majority had never been printed until they appeared in This Week. They are word-of-mouth hand-downs from mother to daughter. To get such recipes takes everlasting patience, and a dash of effrontery, too.
Recipes are included for the quick-cook artists, who love doing things the easy way. Some dishes are for gourmets who are happy to spend two days or a week preparing one great dinner.
My files are bulging with America’s best eating. I had a hard time to choose this small sampling, which I sincerely hope you will enjoy to the last mouthful.
New York City August, 1960