Amanda Petrusich is the author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music. She writes about pop music for Spin, the New York Times, Paste, Pitchfork, the Onion, and elsewhere.
I’ve always found it remarkably difficult to read or write about a place without also reading or writing about its food: I used to think whole landscapes were ably reflected in guitar riffs and drum fills and pedal steel mews, but I’m growing more and more convinced that maybe fried chicken and crawfish and hamburgers and remoulade sauce and Buffalo wings are actually the true indicators of a region’s deep, gooey heart. In 2008, I read Calvin Trillin’s The Tummy Trilogy for the first time – it’s arguably three short books about food, but it’s also about American regionalism and, most of all, marriage (“Marriage, as I have often remarked, is not merely sharing one’s fettuccine, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccine restaurant in the first place,” Trillin writes). I admire Trillin’s charm and gusto as much as I admire his prose; who wouldn’t adore a narrator who believes that “anyone who sacrifices stuffing power by using chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant must be demented”?
I also loved Alone in the Kitchen With An Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, Jenni Ferrari-Adler’s collection of personal essays about sitting on your couch in a pair of sweatpants, eating peanut butter out of the jar, and Bich Minh Nguyen’s Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, a stunning memoir about how American assimilation also means eating Rice-A-Roni and casseroles and Kool-Aid and sacks of Doritos.