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(article, Caroline Cummins)
A better subtitle for this book might be “The Rise of the Foodie.” Toward the end of The United States of Arugula, author Kamp admits that modern America is just as besotted with Mickey D’s as with microgreens, and asserts that “America will always have an appetite” for “prepackaged, processed stuff.” But his book isn’t about the indiscriminate masses; it’s about the urban professionals who drove “the food revolution,” the 20th-century movement toward consuming the good, the fresh, and the local. His flagbearers aren’t corner grocers or mom-and-pop restaurants; they’re writers, home cooks, and professional chefs who reached national audiences via newspapers, magazines, books, and television. True to his background as a writer for Vanity Fair, Kamp’s book is essentially a collection of spicy profiles and salty descriptions; he compares mass-produced chickens, for example, to “San Fernando Valley porn, (offering) consistency and enormous breasts but little in the way of lasting satisfaction.” With its gossipy quotes and wild anecdote in place of cultural analysis and solid history, The United States of Arugula is less a square meal than a sampler platter. Or, as Kamp might say, a book you might give to your mistress, but not your wife. p(bio). [email@example.com "Caroline Cummins"] is the managing editor of Culinate.