When I was growing up in Akron, Ohio, in the 1940s, we used to have dinner with my grandfather most Sundays. Sometimes at midday, sometimes in the evening, sometimes at his house, sometimes at the Portage Country Club, but always with him at the head of a long table, holding forth on one subject or another. The eating was good. He introduced me to pheasant, shot on a tiny island in Lake Erie where he and his cronies fished, and to oysters and lobster, which came to the Midwest from Boston in ice chests loaded onto fast trains—and somewhat later to the dry martini. But food and drink were almost beside the point. My grandfather was a bossy, sentimental old Kraut, and he used those weekly gatherings the way football coaches use pregame pep talks. While he was spinning out his war stories (he had fought on the Western Front in 1918) or reminiscing about some best-forgotten cousin or great-aunt or asking us kids how we were doing in school or telling us for the umpteenth time what he thought about Franklin D. Roosevelt (not much) and taxes (even less), he was building clan identity as surely as a storyteller in a tribal village.