Though most Americans have some familiarity with the story of The Harvey Girls, we tend to be much less knowledgeable about the man and company for whom the legendary waitresses were named.
Investigative journalist and author Stephen Fried spent years researching the visionary businessman Fred Harvey while writing his book, Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West -- One Meal at a Time. And though you may not know it, Harvey's story has a lot to do with food.
"This is a great foodie saga even if you're not a chef," Fried says.
Harvey may not be so well-known today, but there was a time not so long ago when Fred Harvey was one of the most famous people and companies in America, Fried says. The Englishman came to America in the 1850s and built an extremely successful business running all the hotels and restaurants along the Sante Fe railroad.
At these railroad-side restaurants, Harvey introduced Americans to regional dishes and ingredients, often prepared by international chefs he had recruited to work in his restaurants. Some of the cuisine was "pretty experimental," according to Fried, but diners could also get classic Italian and French fare from Harvey-run restaurants.
The company's eating houses were the first restaurant chain in America, making Harvey the "founding father of the American service industry."
In his book Appetite for America, Fried provides an in-depth look at the life of Fred Harvey and the lasting influence he's had on this country. In the best-selling non-fiction book, which was released in 2010, Fried re-introduces Americans to the man who's been said to have civilized America one meal at a time.
This week the author will return to Phoenix for the third time to participate in two Fred Harvey events.
On Friday, October 24 you can catch Fried at the Heard Museum, where the author will participate in a panel discussion of The New Living History of Fred Harvey, the Santa Fe and the Great Southwest. Fried will be joined by fellow Harvey expert and Heard Museum curator of collections Diana Pardue and Dr. Paul Hirt of Arizona State University, historian of the American West and noted expert on the nature and history of the Grand Canyon.
A book signing at 11 a.m. will precede the panel discussion, which will start at 11:30. Admission is free.
The next day Saturday, October 25 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fried will also speak at the inaugural Food & Thought Speaker Series hosted by the ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. The event, which will be held at the A.E. England Building on the ASU Downtown Campus, will include a presentation on Fried's research into the Fred Harvey Company, as well as "food and entertainment reminiscent of the great Fred Harvey House restaurants." Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased online.
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For more information about Fried and the historical biography Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West -- One Meal at a Time, visit Stephen Fried's website.