American Cuisine: And How It Got This Way
Paul Freedman’s gorgeously illustrated history is “an epic quest to locate the roots of American foodways and follow changing tastes through the decades, a search that takes [Freedman] straight to the heart of American identity” (William Grimes).
Hailed as a “grand theory of the American appetite” (Rien Fertel, Wall Street Journal), food historian Paul Freedman’s American Cuisine demonstrates that there is an exuberant, diverse, if not always coherent, American cuisine that reflects the history of the nation itself. Combining historical rigor and culinary passion, Freedman underscores three recurrent themes—regionality, standardization, and variety—that shape a “captivating history” (Drew Tewksbury, Los Angeles Times) of American culinary habits from post-colonial days to the present. The book is also filled with anecdotes that will delight food lovers:
· how dry cereal was created by William Kellogg for people with digestive problems;
· that Chicken Parmesan is actually an American invention;
· and that Florida Key-Lime Pie, based on a recipe developed by Borden’s condensed milk, goes back only to the 1940s.
A new standard in culinary history, American Cuisine is an “an essential book” (Jacques Pepin) that sheds fascinating light on a past most of us thought we never had.
In this well-researched history, Freedman (Ten Restaurants That Changed America) tracks American eating habits from the colonial era to the present in search of a definitive "American cuisine." Freedman scours decades of dining guides and community cookbooks (sharing recipes throughout) for evidence of regional traditions. He discovers that once Americans could buy "factory-made products at any market anywhere in the country, distinctions among regions and places were obliterated" and mainly lived on in cultural imagination. (Who really eats baked beans in Boston?) Freedman picks apart patterns of appropriation, starting with colonizers' adoption of indigenous crops, from the now out-of-favor "Indian pudding" (cornmeal, eggs, raisins, butter) to the still ubiquitous pumpkin pie. He exposes the efforts of white Southerners to distance their cooking from African-American soul food in the early 20th century and examines "ethnic" cooking in a country shaped by its immigrants (while German food "was incorporated into the American repertoire, Chinese cuisine remained identifiably foreign"). He finds that, though the farm-to-table movement has revived interest in local, seasonal cooking, many Americans still turn to packaged foods that sacrifice flavor for reliability. History buffs will dig into this astute culinary narrative.