cover image Real American Food

Real American Food

Jane Stern. Alfred A. Knopf, $19.95 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-394-53953-9

The Sterns (Square Meals, etc.) contend that ""the `trend-setting' things that happen in the culinary worlds of New York and Los Angeles have little effect onand are of no interest toa huge number of happy, healthy eaters.'' One of the delights of their book is its sense of immediacy, as the authors, with humor and a spirit of adventure, journey to an Iowa cafe, through back roads past newly tapped maple trees to a New England sugarhouse, and to a Southern boardinghouse. The book is novel for offering not merely regional specialties, but also styles of eating, and each sectionEast, South, Midwest, Westis subdivided accordingly (for example, the East includes street food, bar food, deli, country store). The book may contain more recipes utilizing gravy and marshmallows than any other contemporary cookbook, and while it dutifully offers such favorites as Buffalo chicken wings, Chicago pizza and Philadelphia cheese steaks, specialties like Upper Peninsula pasties (tender, seasoned little meat pies from Northern Michigan's Finnish settlers) and Nevada's Basque soups and stews provide a balance of the unexpected. But even when a particular dish sounds awful, as the Sterns sometimes admit, the accompanying ``geogastronomic facts'' which the authors include in the belief that food is more enjoyable when something of its history and lore is knownmake it hard to ignore. The recipes are easy to follow and often flexible, and mail order addresses are included. Illustrations. Better Homes and Gardens Book Club alternate. (October 30)