Five American writers write about the cultural history of their favourite comfort food. Far from haute cuisine, these choices are a cake, a snack, and a dish in a box, a hearty homemade dessert and a thick gooey ubiquitous spread. The writers explore with delight and authority how these foods became American, they explain why they continue to be iconic and popular and compare regional preferences. None of these foods are good for the waistline but each is so loved that there is little guilt about indulging in traditional mouthfuls of pure heaven.
Novelist Michael Cunningham, best known for his novel The Hours, wonders why he was so more attached to the macaroni and cheese that came in a box, than his mother's cooking. And he's struck by the promise that this instant food conjured up a space age world of endless leisure. He despairs that this humble dish has become an unrecognisable gourmet food in some restaurants.