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Extended Audio Sample The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food—Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal,, by Mark Kurlansky Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,045 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Kurlansky Narrator: Stephen Hoye Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Mark Kurlansky’s The Food of a Younger Land takes us back to the food of a younger America. Before the national highway system brought the country closer together, before chain restaurants brought uniformity, and before the Frigidaire meant that frozen food could be stored for longer, the nation’s food was seasonal, regional, and traditional. It helped to form the distinct character, attitudes, and customs of those who ate it.

While Kurlansky was researching The Big Oyster in the Library of Congress, he stumbled across the archives for the America Eats project and discovered this wonderful window into our national past. In the 1930s, with the country gripped by the Great Depression and millions of Americans struggling to get by, Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Federal Writers’ Project under the New Deal to give work to artists and writers, such as John Cheever and Richard Wright. A number of writers—including Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Nelson Algren—were dispatched all across America to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local people. The project was abandoned in the early 1940s and never completed.

The Food of a Younger Nation unearths this forgotten literary and historical treasure. Mark Kurlansky’s brilliant compilation of these historic pieces, combined with authentic recipes, anecdotes, and his own musings and analysis, evokes a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food and the grocery store was a thing of the future.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Let’s raise our glasses to author Mark Kurlansky…What Kurlansky serves is a five-course literary look at our culinary culture back in the days of two-lane highways.”

    Boston Globe

  • “This extraordinary collection provides a vivid and revitalizing sense of the rural and regional characteristics and distinctions that we’ve lost and can find again here.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “There’s no traditional story, just colors, smells, and flavors transmitted through audio. Listeners can be assured they’ll be hungry during most of the delicious feasts described.”


  • “Vivid and playful dispatches from pre-interstate, pre-fast food America, when food was local and cuisine regional…Fun, illuminating, and provocative.”


  • An AudioFile Earphones Award winner
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • An Oprah’s Summer Reading List selection

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Caroline | 2/20/2014

    " An interesting anthropological read. I especially liked the amusing chapter that gave the translations of restaurant/line cook lingo like the origins of the term "86." I made a chess pie which was a popular dish from my home state of VA. It's a dish that's made with only a few ingredients, staples that you already have in your pantry. I had only eaten before in the Amish country. Surprisingly, it turned out pretty good. It's a shame that the volume was never published b/c of WWII. At times it was choppy b/c some regions weren't as well represented. But still a good picture of that period in time before American fast food. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Nick Klagge | 2/11/2014

    " I had high hopes for this book, given my love of local and homemade food, but I was fairly disappointed. It seemed reasonably clear why these pieces had never been published back when they were created. Most are not that well written, and although it was interesting to read about the different foods, they were almost entirely bereft of characters--which, interestingly, is also a criticism I just read of Kurlansky's own new fiction work. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lynne | 2/5/2014

    " I love the idea of this book. An abandoned WPA project discovered and researched by Kurlansky, then published virtually untouched with essays added by Kurlansky himself. And it is interesting to see how regional foods came into their own. But the book becomes dry at times, due in large part, I think, to the fact that these essays were published in their original form, which in the best case were hastily completed and, at worst, simply a listing of ingredients. But I feel the book's true merit lies in Kurlansky's research and commitment to the project. And for that, I encourage readers to pick this up, read a bit, and discover the true roots of your favorite food. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Victoria | 2/1/2014

    " Wonderful tour through the native food of all parts of our country. I learned how Hush Puppies for their name, why I always call the noon meal dinner and how crabs from California stack up to Maryland. The best part is hearing time and time again about how cooking brought people and communities together. "

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