This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for April 15, 2017: Some nights you're blessed

Apr. 15, 2017: birthday: Waverley Root

Today is the birthday of journalist and food writer Waverley Root (books by this author), born in Providence, Rhode Island (1903). He worked as a foreign correspondent for 30 years before he turned to food writing. He spent large stretches of his adult life — years at a time — in Paris, but never felt like an expatriate; on the contrary, he felt “fundamentally and unshakably an American.” That didn’t stop him from criticizing American eating habits, however. He wrote, in one of his essays: “One telltale sign that betrays the defective nature of our diet is the fact that the United States is the country of chewing gum. Working the jaws incessantly, uselessly and unbeautifully is an effort to deceive the body into the belief that it is being sufficiently well fed when it isn’t.”

His first books had nothing to do with food. He published The Truth About Wagner (1928), three volumes of The Secret History of the War (1945–46), and Winter Sports in Europe (1956). The Food of France (1958), his best-known book, has never gone out of print. It’s a tourist guidebook, but instead of listing the sights one should see on a trip to France, it suggests foods that one should eat. He also wrote books on the food of Italy, and his last book was titled simply Food (1981). It’s an essay collection and encyclopedia of food and food history. In it, he writes, “Before I left America for France in 1927, you were looked down upon if you ate garlic, and when I returned in 1940, you were looked down upon if you didn’t.”