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IT’S BEEN 25 YEARS since I began the research that resulted in Dining by Rail: The Hitory and Recipes of America’s Golden Age of Rail- road Cuisine. I’d set out then to do a definitive book, one that would obviate the need for an- other such book (I know, pretty grandiose of me, huh?). And, as you may recall, that proj- ect started in a pretty barren environment. There was Will Hollister’s Dinner in the Din- er, and . . . Well, that was pretty much it. A lot has changed in the intevening quarter century. A current bibliography identifies 30 railroad dining car histories and/or cookbooks to have been published in the time since. Half of them remain in print (happily, Dining by Rail among them). But recent publications reveal a new trend. In the past 18 months, three announced or published rail dining books all take an international view of the subject. Early in 2014 ExpoRail Canada pub- lished the lavish and beautiful 100 Years of Canadian Railway Recipes by Jean-Paul Vi- aud and Marie-Paule Partikian (see ON THE MENU, February 2014). Next, in fall 2014, Jeri Quinzio’s Food on the Rails: The Golden Era of Railway Dining was released (see ON THE MENU, November 2014), with its focus embrac- ing Europe and America. Now comes this email inquiry from one

Sharon Hudgins: “I am . . . working with a UK publisher to develop a book . . . (tenta- tively titled Meals on the Move: Dining on the Legendary Railways of the World). It’s pri- marily a food history book. . . . If you have any suggestions, they would be most appre- ciated.” My response led to an opportunity to talk with Sharon about her work. Here’s what I learned: Meet Sharon Hudgins: Let’s start with education. Trust me, it’s relevant. Sharon holds a bachelor’s degree in Government (So- viet and East European Studies) from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as mas- ter’s degrees in Communications (Radio-Tele- vision-Film), also from UT-Austin, and in Po- litical Science (U.S.-Soviet Strategic Studies) from the University of Michigan at Ann Ar- bor. She worked 20 years for the University of Maryland University College, primarily as a professor in Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, Korea, and Russia, and served as UMUC’s program administrator at two universities in Siberia and the Russian Far East. “I was,” she notes, “among the first Americans to work in post-Soviet Russia.” The result? Sharon has lived in ten coun-

tries on three continents, and visited another 50 countries. She has mined that experience for four works of non-fiction, including a trav- el memoir, plus books on history, travel, and food. Her byline has appeared with more than 800 newspaper and magazine articles. How, you might ask, does that explain writing about railroad dining car cuisine? “My father was a fireman on the Katy,” she responds with a happy lilt. “I took my first train ride when I was six weeks old. My fa- ther’s pass allowed the family to travel Amer- ica by train. When I moved to Europe, I found the trains to be more frequent and the food on board to be better.” Asked what distinguishes

railroad cuisine from other foods, she quickly notes two things: function and romance. “Din- ing on trains, especially long-distance trains, is a travel necessity,” she says, addressing function. “But,” and here comes the romance, “on legendary trains, food is how they attract passengers.” On Russia’s Trans-Siberian Rail- road, for example, “those forces are reinforced by an emphasis on regional foods. That’s how I became interested in food. Exploring what people eat, and why.” Her travel memoir, The Other Side of Rus-

sia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East, includes a chapter on the Trans-Si- berian Railroad, its history, and the route and dining practices she experienced on it in the mid-1990s. Her new book, on the history of dining as practiced on the world’s legendary railway journeys, broadens that view. Chap- ters will be devoted to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the Orient Express, the Santa Fe Super Chief, the Japanese Bullet Train, and others, each written by a noted travel or culi- nary historian. Hence the email. For Example: In December 2014, Sharon,

who had by then added tour group “travel lecturer” to her list of titles, attended a con- ference on railway catering at Francois Ra- belais University in Tours, France, and pre- sented a paper on the history of dining on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The broad outline of food service within that history closely paral- lels development of rail dining in this country, but with several major exceptions. First, the similarities. From the beginning, passengers carried their own creations, or victuals purchased en route to the train, and vednors gathered at stations to offer fresh, home grown fare and prepared foods to arriv- ing train passengers. At key points, station restaurants or buffets catered to those pas- sengers well-off enough to detrain and eat in a dining room (no equivalent to Fred Harvey, though, apparently). Soon, since this history began comparatively late in railroad history — construction of the line covered the period 1891-1916 — trains offered a higher level of service at a higher price, and included dining cars in their consist. The price of service in these cars, however, persuaded many passen- gers to forego meals there. The notable exceptions? First, there’s the

vast distance the railroad covered, 5771 miles between Moscow and Vladivostok, to be exact. The resulting 14-to-16-day trip — today an express train can cover the miles in six to sev- en days — compelled the railroad to restock ingredients en route. That in turn resulted in a variety of cusines and dining practices. Second are some of the practices Hudgins uncovered or encountered. She points out, for example, that service unfolded under three different forms of government — Tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet — each with its own approach to railroading. Further, because the train traversed some destitute regions, provisions for the train might be meager, leaving passengers without food. In addition, some dining car personnel were known to sell their ingredients to those they encounter at stations en route, also leaving the passengers

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