The United States of Food – “America the Edible” by Adam Richman
Being a big fan of the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, I bought the book with a minor fear that the book would be Adam Richman (the show’s host) rehashing things he’d discussed on the show – the four pounds of pancakes he ate in one episode, or where to find the spiciest wings in America. While that stuff is a delight on TV, I wasn’t sure how that would translate to paper and ink.
However, It gives me great pleasure to say that’s not at all what this book is about.
“America the Edible” is a surprisingly candid travelogue by a man who has traveled these United States and (in the way some people retain memories through photos) remembers the places he’s been according to the food he ate. More a memoir than a TV tie-in book, Richman writes breezily and comfortably about nine cities he’s visited and the great encounters with both people and food he’s had along the way.
The cities – Los Angeles, Honolulu, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Cleveland, Austin, San Francisco, Portland, and Savannah – offer a wide range of atmospheres and appetites, and a handful of eateries are showcased in each of them. The reader is whisked away to a diner in L.A., finds themselves searching for sushi in St. Louis, and gets to experience Halloween in wonderfully weird Austin, all through Richman’s recollections. Really, it’s a love letter to foodie cities, as every one of then comes off sounding appealing and appetizing.
The book made me want to go to Cleveland. No joke. (And not just because he calls out my beloved Great Lakes Brewing Company.)
Richman recounts stories of first dates, drunken nights, and the down days of his pre-Travel Channel career as a struggling actor. There’s lots of talk of the women he’s encountered in the cities he’s visited, and his honesty is one of the book’s strong points; This is a guy who’s honest enough to tell the stories of the disappointing times as well as the happy and golden times. Not every date pans out, just like not every meal is going to be epic.
The book is also peppered with a few recipes, including his Mom’s recipe for chicken soup. There are also a few lists. Though my beloved Chicago doesn’t get a lot of love from the book, seeing Lou Malnati’s ranked #2 on the “Ten More Great Places for Pizza Outside New York” list made me smile.
Personally, I haven’t had the good fortune to visit many of these cities, but having recently traveled to Honolulu, he nails the cuisine and the lifestyle perfectly – and made my mouth water as I remembered one of the best meals of my life, which came from a shrimp truck on the North Shore of Oahu.
I finished reading this book with one thought – when was I going to be able to squeeze in a trip to Portland to get a lobster roll of my very own?
For a book about travel and food, I’d say that constitutes a success.