Book Review: American Fried


American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater

Calvin Trillin

HarperCollins, 1974

All of us are eaters. Calvin Trillin claims to be a happy eater. I think he’s more than that. Based on this book, I’d say he is an Eater-Extraordinaire. Whether he is on the road, in a neighborhood in his home city of New York or his old hometown of Kansas City, he finds and know the best food around.

His tastes in eating are very American, which means he loves all sorts of cuisine. And, he is tenacious in finding it. Here are some of the things he describes:  a search for the perfect Cincinnati chili, a crawfish eating contest in Louisiana, his Sunday stroll for bagels, cream cheese and salmon, and his search for authentic hickory-smoked barbeque in unknown towns.

Although I know that his writing is meant to be humorous (and it is very funny), it seems more like a report of what seriously happened. For instance, Trillin describes a trip he and his friend Fats Goldberg made to their hometown of Kansas City. They spent most of the airplane ride talking about special barbeques and hamburger places that by the time they got off the plane they were very hungry. So, here is what they said:

“Mario’s!” Fats said. “What Mario’s? When I come into town, I go to Winstead’s from the airport.”

“My grandfather is waiting. Fats,” I said, “He’s eighty-eight years old. My sister will scream at me if we’re late.”

“We could go by the North Kansas City Winstead’s branch from here, get a couple to go, and eat them on the way to whatisname’s,” Fats said. He looked desperate. I realized he had been looking forward to a Winstead’s hamburger since his last trip to Kansas City five or six months before — five or six months he had endured without eating anything worth talking about.

That is how Fats and I came to start the grand [food] tour . . .

It’s been over thirty years since this book was written. Many of the places he talks about are gone or have new ownership. That’s okay because it’s not meant to be a guidebook. It’s a commentary, a remembrance of good eating. The book is timeless and I recommend it to fellow readers who love good eating.

This is book number five for the Books About Food Challenge. This completes this challenge. I’m not going to quit reading books about food, just work on some of my other challenges in the next few months. Who knows, maybe another food book challenge will come along.

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3 Responses to Book Review: American Fried

  1. Cerrin says:

    Gosh When I head to Kansas City I think of Gates…Which route will get me to a gates on my way in the city. Now it used to be Las Chiquitas but when they changed owners the food is just not the same.

  2. Beth F says:

    Congrats on finishing up!! Great review. I love Calvin Trillin. Did you ever read (or better listen to) About Alice? (I’m always pushing that book) — a memoir about his wife.

  3. Margot says:

    Ask Alice is on my TBR list. I love everything he writes and says. I saw him on a Jon Stewart/Comedy Central show last Fall and he was funny then too. He was promoting a new book about politics and the Bush administration.

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