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A richly illustrated culinary tour of the United States through fifty signature dishes, and a radical exploration of our gastronomic heritage.
Following his critically acclaimed Preparing the Ghost, renowned essayist Matthew Gavin Frank takes on America’s food. In a surprising style reminiscent of Maggie Nelson or Mark Doty, Frank examines a quintessential dish in each state, interweaving the culinary with personal and cultural associations of each region. From key lime pie (Florida) to elk stew (Montana), The Mad Feast commemorates the unexpected origins of the familiar. Brazenly dissecting the myriad intersections between history and food, Frank, in this gorgeously designed volume, considers politics, sexuality, violence, grief, and pleasure: the cool, creamy whoopie pie evokes toughness in the face of New England winters, while the stewlike perloo serves up an exploration of food and race in the South. Tracing an unpredictable map of our collective appetites, The Mad Feast presents a beguiling flavor profile of the American spirit.
Wearing his poetry M.F.A. and a passion for food on his sleeve, Frank (Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer), a creative writing instructor, takes the reader on an overwhelming whirlwind tour of America, whipping up a free-verse food essay for each of the 50 states. Each piece includes a recipe for a signature dish, a rambling history, and a rushing river of imagery and second-person perspective. In Arkansas, he creates beaver tail bouillon and writes from the point of view of a beaver: “You wonder if, after eating your own tail, their hearts fall to the middles of their bodies.” In Ohio, Cincinnati, chili is the key ingredient in Gold Star mini meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato icing. Frank considers the state’s importance in regard to heirloom tomatoes, and feels compelled to opine, “Ohio: just another state that begins with a cry of surprise, or pain.” The New York bagel, ripe with potential metaphor, never stands a chance. It is called everything from “an eye swollen shut,” to “Homer and Aristotle finally compromising on the shape of the earth.” Frank’s feast isn’t so much mad as madcap, trying to do too many things at once. (Nov.)
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