If we missed
reviewing this book, we wouldn't be doing our job. Republic of Texas Press has
added another exceptional book to its growing library.
The Democracy of Formica
author and photographer have visited 41 establishments from diner to drugstore
to tavern and have interviewed the proprietors, managers, and staff
of these establishments or whatever combination was available. It's hardly an
"interview" type of book, however, and the book's essence is in the observations
of the author and photographer. While the food and drink may vary, what they all
have in common is the counter. The book is a democratic demographic and a few
large cities are included as well as one-café towns.
are no recipes here, for this is not about food. It's about social interaction,
conversation and civilization. It's more fun to read than a travel guide is and
while it could be listed as 20th Century Texas Anthropology, it's anything but
dry. The photographs are sweet icing on a generous piece of cake.
sad that three establishments featured no longer exist, but they were wisely included
to remind us that they are an endangered part of Texas. The beauty of the book
allows us to visit them still.
Using the Counter as a criterion eliminates featuring more well-known places.
it; you're not going to find out a thing worth knowing about Barbecue Depot. Was
it started in desperation during the depression? Is the bartender the grandson
of the founder? Can you still see part of the chalk outline from that Saturday
night in 1978?
Before the book came out we read an excerpt in a magazine. Within the week we
were at the featured place (The Doll House in Cuero).
Not to verify the given facts, but to enjoy the place for what it was.
places range from Hillsboro
and from Smithville
to Bandera. Tex-Mex to Czech. They even invaded Cameron's self-imposed isolation.
Toward the end
of the book's short Forward, they suggest in a pleasant way what we've been trying
to drive into your thick heads: get off the main road. The car on your rear bumper
won't mind a bit.
The difference between this book and other restaurant review books is the difference
between having lunch with your local News anchor-person vs. lunch with Slim Pickens
or Ben Johnson.