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The Tummy Trilogy

(article, Christina Eng)

A compilation of three titles — American Fried; Alice, Let’s Eat; and Third Helpings — Calvin Trillin’s The Tummy Trilogy brings together more than 40 of the writer’s most entertaining essays from the 1970s and 1980s. It details his culinary adventures and obsessions, chronicled originally in the New Yorker. 

Trillin journeys across the country, delivering dispatches from such locales as Kentucky, Texas, and Louisiana. He recalls meetings with ordinary people engaged in everyday activities and talks of the foods he eats. 

In “Hometown Boy,” for example, from American Fried, and “Stalking the Barbecued Mutton,” from Alice, Let’s Eat, Trillin pays fitting tribute to Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri. He considers Bryant’s “the single best restaurant in the world,” its barbecued beef sliced from briskets cooked over a hickory fire for approximately 13 hours. He thinks about their menu when he’s in the area; he thinks about it even more when he’s out of the area. 

A longtime Greenwich Village resident, Trillin also writes of food items closer to home. He celebrates New York City bagels — lox and bagels are traditional fare for him — and nearby Chinatown finds. He craves dishes such as stuffed bean curd, salt-and-pepper shrimp, Peking duck, and Shanghai dumplings. He works up a healthy appetite.

Though initially published decades ago, these pieces still resonate, and Trillin’s endearing wit and self-effacing personality still shine. In story after story, he confirms what we have always suspected: that travel is best done on a full stomach, and that life is best lived at the table.

p(bio). [christina_eng@hotmail.com "Christina Eng"] is a writer in Oakland, California.


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