To fight through the haze of book reviews and find a good book means a bright day. To then discover this good book is on a topic you know little to nothing about but should is a wonderful weekend. If you live out West you’re bound to know something about Fred Harvey, but you are still lucky because this book is a jackpot of revelations you don’t know. Find a bookstore or get on line and buy Stephen Fried, Appetite For America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built A Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized The Wild West.
The author could have written a half-page title and still needed to trim to stay within the half-page. If you love the Midwest and the Southwest, if you love to travel cross country and visit the National Parks, if you enjoy fine dinning and regional cooking, if you admire Native American culture and art, if you thrill at famous resorts and theme parks, then you owe Fred Harvey a thank you. The founder Fred, his son Ford, his grandson Freddy, their in-house architect and designer Mary Colter, art and merchandise maven Herman Schweizer, book merchant Frank Clough, daughter Minnie, and granddaughter Kitty, plus great chefs, business executives, and thousands of Harvey Girls make this a great American saga. Every twist, unexpected corner, train delay, devastating fire, and grand opening adds to the story. There are no bogged down sections in this book.
Southwest collectors will appreciate the research and dates the author brings to the book. I found very quickly that the internet plays loosely with the Fred Harvey name so serious collectors must scream for solid research.
After writing the family biography and business history, the author gives you three appendices he could have packaged as a separate book. Appendix I is The Grand Tour Of Fred Harvey’s America taken on the Southwest Chief by the author and his wife. There is still a lot of Fred Harvey out there to see but you need to know where to look. Appendix II is Meals By Fred Harvey selected for the fun of reading as well as trying out. This appendix begins with the perfect note on How To Make Coffee because the spiritual father of our morning coffee is none other than the founder himself Fred Harvey. These few pages make this a cookbook to keep.
The final appendix will for the Western train enthusiast and historian appear as gold on vellum. It is Fred Was Here: A Master List Of Fred Harvey Locations. The branding and quality control put in place by the founder and carried on by the family and associates continues to give unmeasured pleasure to travelers, collectors, historians, and more than a few just plain Americans.
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe would have left the station without Fred Harvey, but it could not have made the impact it did without him on board, and waiting at the next stop as well. What fun it must have been, riding and eating and looking and buying and singing on . . . . Charles Marlin