I think we often forget that part of the American experience, and Route 66 culture is about individual freedom and expression, and there is no better place for that expression than culinary artistry. Along Route 66 restaurant owners and chefs have all expressed their cultures, their regions, their restaurants, themselves, and their love for life on Route 66 via the food creations they have given us exclusive to their restaurants alone. The vibrancy of these food choices in a way is stunning and really tells us something about the true nature of Route 66 and it's personalities.
Over the years eating establishments of all shapes, sizes, genres, and price points have lined the route. Some have established themselves not just as roadhouses for hungry travelers on Route 66, but as respected restaurants that are key to representing their communities. Sadly though, many of Route 66's other unique restaurants have fallen victim to time, chain restaurants, or the interstate bypassing them, but thier legacys are not forgotten. Thankfully, due to the efforts of author Marian Clark, she able to collect many recipes and stories from famed restaurants along the route present and past to bring us The Route 66 Cookbook.
This book is a favorite in my house and is both a great read and source of recipes. Clark did an excellent job bringing us not only the history behind some of the recipes themselves but of the restaurants and regions they where found in.
The book digs deep into the characteristics of the food, and it's influences. The above picture on Navajo Fry Bread and Tacos is an example of this. Here we see how food in Gallup is influenced by its connection to the nearby Navajo lands, and how the recipes where modified to give travelers a taste that was both authentic and with Route 66 appeal.
This book has a ton of great recipes, like The Diamonds Cheeseball, from the former Route 66 Diamonds restaurant in Missouri, Pink Adobe's Apple Pie Recipe from Arizona, and The Polka Dots Potato Pancake recipe from Chicago. There are a lot a great ones that are the real deal recipes from how they are or where made by Chefs and cooks from Route 66's many restaurants and cafés.
Above all that though Clark has given us more then just a cookbook. Her research of the history of Route 66 restaurants, has allowed us to peak into the restaurants themselves as well as their owners. She provides us with insight into how some establishments came to exist, why they choose certain menus, and what lead them to create some of thier most iconic dishes. We also gain insight into why some of these restaurants failed, and the legacys they have left behind. The book is filled with enough interviews, history's and photos to make even more interested in preparing some of the foods from the recipes in order to get a taste what is or was.
So if you want to learn about the routes culinary history, and move away from the cliche ideas of diner grilled cheese, and hamburgers this is a great way to experience it all in your own kitchen. The book will open your eyes to the creative spirit of food providers along the route, give you a new concept of food on Route 66, and allow you to interact with the route right in your own home. Great for these winter nights as you plan you summer Route 66 trips.