The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 154 with Ian MacAllen: Versatile Writer and Creator, Student of Foods and Cultures, and Author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American

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Episode 154 Notes and Links to Ian MacAllen’s Work 


   On Episode 154 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Ian MacAllen, and the two mainly discuss topics and themes revolving around his book, Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American. They talk about, among other things, parallels between Italian immigration patterns and Italian-American food, the evolution of Italian food from “exotic” and “foreign” to an American staple, red sauce in its many iterations as emblematic of this evolution, and slippery notions of “authenticity.”

   Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American, (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). He is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Brooklyn. He is Art Director at The Rumpus, a contributor at America Domani and The Chicago Review of Books, and a member of The National Book Critics Circle. His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IANMACALLEN and is online at IANMACALLEN.COM.

Buy Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American


Ian MacAllen's Website


“Power Ballin’: How Italian Food Became American” From America Domani, November, 2022




At about 7:10, Pete and Ian do the requisite Italian-American thing of comparing family last names


At about 9:50, Ian recounts stories from his visit to his family’s hometown in Bagnoli del Trigno, Molise, Italy


At about 11:45, Ian transitions into speaking of the slippery term, “authenticity,” especially with regards to Italian and Italian-American cuisine 


At about 14:20, Pete references Gustavo Arellano’s iconic Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered the US, and Ian mentions his recent read-the “fascinating” American Tacos: A History and Guide, by José Ralat


At about 17:00, Pete and Ian talk about al pastor tacos and their history as a microcosm of fusion 


At about 17:50, Ian details his early reading and writing and inspirations, including “single-topic food books,” such as Mark Kurlansky’s Salt 


At about 19:50, Ian cites John Mariani’s How Italian Food Conquered the World and its influence on him and the ways in which its focus differs from Ian’s with his book; Ian furthers expands upon his book’s philosophy 


At about 22:40, The two discuss ideas of “pan-Italian” food and Molise as representative of regional dishes and the slipperiness of nailing down a dish’s origins 


At about 26:50, Pete cites the commingling of spaghetti and meatballs through an accident involving Rudolph Valentino, and Pete and Ian cite regional sauce and polpette recipes from their family’s Italian roots


At about 31:35, Ian gives history on marketing “Italian food” in the days of heavy Italian immigration and highlights the relative newness of Italy as a unified country


At about 32:40, Ian discusses ideas of Italian food and its initial stereotyping as “foreign” and “dirty,” as well as later ways in which Italian food-spaghetti-was used as a paragon of “becoming American”


At about 35:20, Ian relates the telling story of his mother’s interactions with her future mother-in-law and its implications about Italian food and its “integra[tion] into American culture” and the “golden age of Italian food” in the US post WWII


At about 38:50, Ira Nevin and his gas-fired oven are referenced as evidence of the convenience culture’s influence on pizza and other Italian-American foods 


At about 42:20, Pete and Ian discuss Ian’s book’s opening regarding some iconic scenes with Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos, and this leads to Ian giving background on the fiery “sauce” vs. “gravy” debate


At about 45:35, Ian uses Stanley Tucci’s life experiences as an example of the changes in the ways Italian food has been viewed by the American culture as a whole 


At about 46:55, Ian discusses Starboard and Olive Garden, in a business dispute, and how the saga is emblematic of the slippery and sometimes-backward ideas of “authenticity” 


At about 49:35, Ian discusses authenticity in terms of associazioni in Italy and beyond that certify pizza, and issues inherent 


At about 51:30, Ian talks about “the end of the red sauce era” and the “evolution” of Italian food in America with regards to pasta primavera, alfredo, etc. 


At about 54:25, Pete highlights the book’s tracing the history of Italians and Italian-América foods and cucina povera and cucina ricci, leading to a fairly-recent embrace of Northern Italian food as more “authentic”


At about 58:00, Ian references penne alla vodka in Italy and Jennifer Lee’s Fortune Cookie Chronicles in talking about foods from the “old country” being Americanized and then exported back to the homeland


At about 59:50, Lidia Bastanivich and Marcella Hazan’s influences and their cooking connections to American food are cited 


At about 1:01:00, Pete reads a probable thesis sentence from the book as the two discuss the “bounty” that awaited Italians upon immigration and the effects on their diets 


At about 1:05:00, Ian cites the recent unification of Italy around the time of much immigration and how language/dialect barriers affected cookbooks and books on food


At about 1:07:45, Ian highlights East End Books,, and I am Books as good places to buy his book


At about 1:09:10, Ian discusses a fun experience in selecting the book’s cover 

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   Please tune in for Episode 155 with Robert Jones, Jr., the New York Times-bestselling author of The Prophets and finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. He has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Essence, and The Paris Review, and he is the  creator and curator of the social-justice, social-media community Son of Baldwin

The episode will air on December 6.

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