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It would be easy to think that the history of gourmet dining in the United States begins with JC— Julia Child, that is. But a new book from Johns Hopkins University Press, “Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961,” assures us that even BJC (before Julia Child, natch) we weren’t all just a screaming mass of convenience-food addicted cooks. There were people who formed gourmet dining societies, took gastronomic tours and read Gourmet. And, as early as 1925, our own H.L. Mencken was criticizing the national cuisine in American Mercury even as he championed regional and ethnic cuisines, including Maryland fried chicken, soft shell crabs and fried oysters. Mencken: critic, philosopher, editor, locavore. —Laura Wexler

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