David Page’s mantra has always been “live to eat” instead of “eat to live.” The former executive producer and creator of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives has blended his experience as an investigative journalist with his passion for food into one very satisfying new book, Food Americana, scheduled to be released on April 20th.
In this hilariously hunger-driven work, Page explores the evolution of American cuisine today and the influences that have shaped the most popular eats in the United States.
Page sat down with Austin Food Magazine to dish about his latest creation:
AFM: What was your motivation for writing Food Americana?
DAVID: It was the culmination of years and years of a growing interest in food–a combination of its history and curiosity about what’s happening to it now. When my daughter was young, she asked me: “Dad, how come every time we start talking about a place you’ve been, the first thing you talk about is the food?” The light went on and I responded, “Because I really like to eat!”
AFM: What was your biggest takeaway from the research you did for your book?
DAVID: I was surprised by a lot of stuff. The biggest takeaway, I guess, is the vast variety of different foods and cuisines that we have Americanized. I’m Jewish, but they didn’t eat bagels and lox in Europe. And Italians don’t eat spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. We have managed to ingest a remarkable amount of food and make it our own.
AFM: In your book, you write about Texas barbecue, specifically. Do you think Texas has had a significant influence on the world of barbecue?
DAVID: Oh, definitely. For instance, I think the impact of Franklin’s Barbecue on the barbecue industry in America has been astonishing. He basically made everyone up their game. You’ve got traditional barbecue places that are now serving prime meat because Franklin’s serves it. He has inspired such creativity in the barbecue world and he has made it clear that quality really matters.
AFM: What about the trend of food needing to look Instagrammable?
DAVID: It’s funny, because on Instagram there’s this assumption that food should be unnaturally gorgeous. Yes, it should be pleasing to the eye. But I think there’s something wonderful about a messy styrofoam container filled with beautiful tacos from a truck. I mean, that’s how you’re supposed to eat them.
AFM: Any food trends you see happening right now or coming soon?
DAVID: The current trend I see is the homogenization of American food, like barbecue. You once had to go to North Carolina to get the really good stuff. Or to Central Texas for brisket and Kansas City for burnt ends. Now you’re seeing all kinds of barbecue on the same menu, everywhere. It’s terrific for people who want regional barbecue, but it does take the thrill out of traveling to Memphis, for instance, just for the barbecue. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.
Erin Armitage is an Austin-based food writer who enjoys all food whether it’s Instagrammable or not.