In the late 1800s, Fred Harvey, a plucky but enigmatic English-born businessman, started a string of eating houses along the route of the old Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Over 70-odd years, what essentially became the first chain restaurant, belonging to the first branded American identity, enabled a whole new style of tourism and opened a whole new place—the American West—to the rest of the world.

That, at least, is the premise upon which nonfiction writer and journalist

has based his

,

Appetite for America

. The book's prologue is actually titled "Who the

hell

is Fred Harvey?" so don't be embarrassed if you don't know.

This Sunday, Fried (disclaimer: he was one of my professors in graduate school) will give a

at the New Mexico History Museum followed by a Fred Harvey-style dinner, complete with recipes from the eating houses of yore, at La Fonda. Check back here Monday for a

Q&A with Fried

and coverage of the event.

Sunday, April 11

4 pm

: Lecture by Stephen Fried at the New Mexico History Museum (tickets $50; call 476-5200)

6 pm

: Harvey House dinner at La Fonda (tickets $95; includes lecture)