Magazine article Newsweek International

Appetite for America; A New York Times Reporter's Guide to Eating

Magazine article Newsweek International

Appetite for America; A New York Times Reporter's Guide to Eating

Article excerpt

Byline: Dorothy Kalins

The oysters have arrived, sparkling; drawn, the chef explains, from the Chesapeake, where the Chincoteague, the Rappahannock and the York rivers meet. "So they're from the northern neck of Virginia!" Johnny Apple happily exclaims, relieved at having placed the source of his lunch. Provenance matters to this political journalist turned food writer whose just-published book, "Apple's America," is a cultivated, quirky guide for the curious traveler. Its T-shirt motto could be: people can and should be a little interested in everything.

Apple's everything includes knowing the names of the country's hottest conductors and an appreciation of the edgiest new museum architects. Opera matters, as does such social reality as the recent parking-lot clubbing of an African-American in Cincinnati, or that "the rivers of asphalt that Detroit laid down to handle the cars it built... turned out to be the exit ramps for most of the city's white population." Not the stuff of ordinary travel guides, but deft cultural portraits that bring 40 cities to life under his fond scrutiny. Essays tie together deep history, ethnic distinctiveness and cultural differences with the genius of synthesis that made R. W. Apple for decades The New York Times's go-to guy for news analysis.

Now enjoying favored-nation status at the Times as a roving food journalist, Apple opened his little black books to write this one. Out spilled notes made over 40 years of shoulder-rubbing and elbow-bending with local politicos from coast to coast. …

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