The Chicken Always Wins

Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin
Forty Years of His Funny Stuff
Calvin Trillin
Random House, $26, 368 pp.

In this grab bag of previously published work, essayist and journalist Calvin Trillin offers a wide-ranging assortment of writings—travel and food pieces, political commentary, poetry, memoir, and excerpts from a novel—united by their ability to make the reader laugh, and laugh hard. For those new to Trillin, this volume is a convenient introduction to his prodigious body of work; for those already familiar with that work, it serves as a reminder of why some view him as one of America’s greatest humorists.

Trillin’s devotion to food serves as the basis for much of his funniest writing. In the essay “Missing Links” he extols the virtues of the Cajun sausage known as boudin, which he first encountered while reporting from the South in the 1960s. Back home in New York City, with boudin in short supply, Trillin secured a regular supply from a visiting Louisiana friend who would arrive with an ice chest full of Cajun foodstuffs. “I was so eager to get my hands on the boudin that I often ate it right in the kitchen,” Trillin writes, “rather than make the experience more authentic by searching for something appropriate to lean against. In Lower Manhattan, after all, it could take a while to find a pickup truck.” In “Eating with the Pilgrims” he argues that since scholars cannot be sure what the Pilgrims ate at the first Thanksgiving, there is no reason for turkey (which he dislikes) to be the default meal for the holiday. As a substitute he suggests spaghetti carbonara—...

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About the Author

Jeffrey Seymour teaches English and history at Masuk High School in Monroe, Connecticut