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Food Finds

At times it feels as if our national culinary landscape has devolved to an unholy trinity: pizza, tacos and hamburgers. Pessimists survey the American menu and moan that it lacks individuality. The complaint is that you can eat the same predictably (bad) food from Maine to California.

We have a different map of America. It wanders from farmsteads to bakeries to small factories and smokehouses, stopping at the thousands of American food makers creating unique products. Most of these products -- barbecue sauces, cheeses, candy bars, smoked fish, preserves, and more -- have been made for decades and have legions of loyal followers. They operate simply, below the radar screen of national ad campaigns and costly grocery store promotions.

This book is a roadmap to many of our country's superlative foods. Happily, the Internet, 800 numbers, and efficient shipping allow the armchair traveler to acquire them easily. Of course, personal visits are the most engaging way to see their interesting factories and the sometimes quirky production methods.