Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food

 

by Peggy Wolff, Editor
University of Nebraska Press, 2013
280 pages
ISBN: 978-0803236455

Review by Grace Pauley

Canned vegetables, cornmeal, and gravies have flavored most of my life. I was raised on the hillsides of Appalachia, but for five short years I lived in the Midwest. My last years of elementary school and my middle-school were spent in Fargo, North Dakota. Before moving, my family visited the city looking for a house. It was during this trip that I first tasted lefse. Lefse is a traditional Norwegian dessert; in Fargo it’s a delicacy. It’s a tortilla made out of potatoes, spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar, and then rolled. It looks like a sad pastry. I hated it, although it was probably the best (and only) homemade treat I ate while there.

Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie has a much different take on Midwestern food. This anthology is a collection of loving, first-hand accounts of baking, eating, and cooking by food writers with a rich understanding of Midwestern taste. The book is divided into five sections and includes pieces about everything from memorable Midwestern delicacies to savory family holidays. These range from tragic tales of the quest for a breaded, tenderloin pork sandwich to memories about the Minnesota state fair. Each piece is perfectly paired with endearing sketches and complimentary introductions. Some essays even come complete with recipes.

My favorite section was the first, “Midwestern Staples.” On the last day of our week long house hunting vacation in Fargo, we had breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast was included, but, instead of the average assorted buffet, we were seated at a table with wrapped silverware. At this point, I was overwhelmed after seeing so many potential future homes. I was ready to go back to my home. While glancing over the menu, I spotted comfort food: biscuits and gravy. The biscuits arrived doughy and the gravy was bland. Ironically, this disappointing experience with Midwestern food is why I enjoyed this part of the book. During our trip, I was relying on familiar foods in an unfamiliar place. No, it wasn’t the biscuits n’ gravy of my childhood, but it was comforting all the same. And although I’d later find out the food I was eating wasn’t traditionally Midwestern, it turns out my experience was. In the very first essay, Elizabeth Berg describes the same predicament but with meatloaf:

It wasn’t like my aunt Lala’s and it wasn’t like mine, you could tell. The truth is, it sort of looked like dog food. But it was meatloaf, symbol of too much to pass up. I bought it all.
I’ll admit: I don’t like meatloaf. And, honestly, I didn’t enjoy most of what I ate in Fargo. But this is the very reason I liked reading Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: its authors were able to do for me what its food could not—give me a true appreciation for Midwestern food. Not because it persuaded me to appreciate the Scandinavian cuisine of Fargo, but because this anthology allowed me to compare Midwesterners’ mealtime sentiments to my own. And these sentiments, regardless of the food they’re related to, are always delicious. I probably won’t give lefse another try, but I found myself willing to open my mind, and my mouth, to the tasty treasures these writers vouch for. Perhaps I’ll even give meatloaf another shot.


Note: You can read the reviewer's interview with Editor Peggy Wolff here.