Like the Food Network it erroneously deems the sine qua non of the American gourmet scene, this book is sloppy, silly, and seems to have been written by someone who cares little about the food scene for those who care even less. The driving impulse seems to be a kind of jokey, adolescent urge to make fun of the obvious, and to that end the writing -- no doubt meant to be breezy and amusing -- is sophomoric, superficial, awash in self-indulgent aren't-I-clever rambling, and not infrequently inane. Sentences like "America has long been enchanted by triploid fruit" and "There are many benefits to eating a food that cannot enjoy sex" abound, as do hyperbolic adjectives like "mania" and "obsession." Also frequent are proclamations like "It must have come as some relief to the growing urban population that somewhere in the American wilderness roamed a giant named Paul Bunyan, who would consume nothing but raw moose meat" -- an example not only of the author's relentless generalizations but his disregard for facts: the best known food stories about Paul Bunyan involve his favorite food, flapjacks. Bunyan was a lumberjack who ate lumberjack food -- pancakes, pea soup, salt pork stew. I doubt any Americans, urban or otherwise, conjured him eating raw moose meat, much less would have found the image comforting. But why let facts intrude when the point the author is bolstering -- that "dissolute gourmandism was a clear indication of the actual frontier's death" is so sweepingly vacuous in the first place?
Paul Bunyan is not the only figure maltreated in this book. The author sites, and often quotes from, all the early samplers of American cuisine -- Bartram, Crevecoeur, Franklin, Irving et al. -- yet misses the point of each one by treating them in the same frat boy manner. The whole thing reads as if the author had lost his research notes in a fire and, locked in a room with a deadline approaching, decided to just wing it. There are no footnotes, nor is there a bibliography.
For a more sophisticated take on the same subject, read David Kamp's The United States of Arugula, which is carefully researched, highly informative, and much more entertaining.