The Mad Feast by Matthew Gavin Frank (Liveright, 2015)
The subtitle for this 400-page travelogue through all fifty U.S. states is “An ecstatic tour through America’s food.” That’s about right. There are recipes: Cincinnati Chili; California Roll; Okie Sirloin; Peanut Soup. But the magic and ‘mad’ in this journey is in the language. “He sprints through the forests of Vermont, the rats fleeing like the split of water at the head of a ship.” Frank’s key ingredients are words, blended in to phrases, served as stories. Even the recipes seem chosen less for their taste, more for how they feel leaving your tongue: Rat Stew, from West Virginia; Funeral (Party) Potatoes, from Salt Lake City; Bierock, from Kansas. Read those and there’s got to be stories there. Frank tells them.