I wish The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation came out while I was first thinking about going to cooking school. It's exactly the sort of knowledge I was hungry for. I particularly enjoyed reading about more juicy food world dirt as well as how important the West Coast and Bay Area food scene has been in helping our country develop and fine tune its collective palate. True, it's certainly important to read separate tomes on and by noteworthy cooks from the past such as: Careme, Escoffier, Fannie Farmer, and others of their ilk. If you can't take the time and effort for that research, then The United States of Arugula book reports on and covers a huge amount of culinary history material in an engaging way. The biggie questions answered are: Who are the people who helped shape our country's eating and cooking habits? How and why did they do it?
The United States of Arugula goes far beyond being a useful primer. Now food professionals, writers, and those otherwise interested in or obsessed with their food (the book's author, David Kamp, can't get around the use of the dreaded "foodie" term, either) can use it as a historical-sociological-economical guide. Not only that, Kamp has got the juicy and sometimes excruciating (perhaps for those that were there) gossip on major celeb players, including James Beard, Mark Miller, Bill Niman, Alice Waters, Orville Schell, Chuck Williams, Wolfgang Puck, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Craig Claiborne, Emeril Lagasse, and more. It's fascinating and definitely worth a read.