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For generations, people have proudly defined themselves and their values through their national cuisine. But American food, like its history, is a world of its own. This enticingly fresh book introduces modern listeners to lost American food traditions and leads them on a tantalizing culinary journey through the evolution of our vibrant cuisine and culture. Covering a hund For generations, people have proudly defined themselves and their values through their national cuisine. But American food, like its history, is a world of its own. This enticingly fresh book introduces modern listeners to lost American food traditions and leads them on a tantalizing culinary journey through the evolution of our vibrant cuisine and culture. Covering a hundred different foods from the Native American-era through today and featuring over a dozen recipes and photos, this fascinating history of American food will delight history buffs and food lovers alike.


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For generations, people have proudly defined themselves and their values through their national cuisine. But American food, like its history, is a world of its own. This enticingly fresh book introduces modern listeners to lost American food traditions and leads them on a tantalizing culinary journey through the evolution of our vibrant cuisine and culture. Covering a hund For generations, people have proudly defined themselves and their values through their national cuisine. But American food, like its history, is a world of its own. This enticingly fresh book introduces modern listeners to lost American food traditions and leads them on a tantalizing culinary journey through the evolution of our vibrant cuisine and culture. Covering a hundred different foods from the Native American-era through today and featuring over a dozen recipes and photos, this fascinating history of American food will delight history buffs and food lovers alike.

30 review for The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Reading “The American Plate” you can’t help but feel that you are reading the source material for a cable TV series on a history or food network. No surprise as the author works for the History Channel and A&E Networks and produces documentaries. Lots of odd and interesting topics are thrown in. (Mmmm, beaver tail and syllabub.) But the “place in history” background for the foods chosen tend to the pretty basic and unnecessary. For example, there’s a section on Cuban food that includes an entire Reading “The American Plate” you can’t help but feel that you are reading the source material for a cable TV series on a history or food network. No surprise as the author works for the History Channel and A&E Networks and produces documentaries. Lots of odd and interesting topics are thrown in. (Mmmm, beaver tail and syllabub.) But the “place in history” background for the foods chosen tend to the pretty basic and unnecessary. For example, there’s a section on Cuban food that includes an entire page describing Cuban history during the Kennedy years at a very high level. If you know any history, you already know big parts of what the author writes about. The food and the history of that food are what make the book interesting. I also noticed that the writing is a lot like narration of a TV show on a cable network. The author mentions herself quite often offering personal opinions or background, including a nice description of her visit with a firehouse in NYC to talk chili. She also sprinkles in snarky comments to make the book more fun to read. And graphics, photos, and even a few recipes are also included to break up the book. She even mentions a few of the recipes don’t seem quite right and offers suggestions for alternatives. This kind of multi-media presentation worked for me. For upcoming editions, I suggest adding a scratch-and-sniff aspect to the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks (non-fiction) for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. I was waffling between a 4 or 5 star review while reading this book, until I got to the last chapter and epilogue. The book is titled, "The American Plate-A History of the United States in 100 Bites", which is kind of what the reader gets, except there is way too much preaching for my tastes. Yes, this country has had a lot of civil unrest with inequality, racism, sexism, etc. I don't see what q My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks (non-fiction) for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. I was waffling between a 4 or 5 star review while reading this book, until I got to the last chapter and epilogue. The book is titled, "The American Plate-A History of the United States in 100 Bites", which is kind of what the reader gets, except there is way too much preaching for my tastes. Yes, this country has had a lot of civil unrest with inequality, racism, sexism, etc. I don't see what quiche has to do with the feminism movement, and the author doesn't really either. She admitted it was a stretch to include it, but she wanted a food to link to the feminism movement, and since it was one eaten a lot at potlucks where the women discussed female power, that was what she chose. Huh? Also, did you know that carrot ginger soup is linked to the AIDS and equality for homosexuals movement? Again, I think it was a stretch. The thesis is that those who suffered from AIDS and were being ignored by society because of their sexual preferences needed nutrients badly and this particular soup is nutrient rich and has great mouthfeel for those who suffered from AIDS. Again, huh? And fried chicken is associated with the black rights movement because Martin Luther King Jr. enjoyed the way a certain person made it. Huh? The end of the book was too much stretching for finding a link between food and the political movements of the time. Also, Tang gets a mention, but KoolAid was completely ignored. Yes, Tang went into space, but KoolAid was around during the Great Depression and is still around. I recall using it to color my hair as a "rebellious" pre-teen. I agree, the civil rights movements were all incredibly important and in America, we should all be equal. I am not disputing that fact at all, but I don't see the link between the foods mentioned and the various political issues that the author was trying to make. In my opinion, the political stretching detracted from what should have been the star of the show, the food. The beginning of the book was very good and had a lot of interesting facts, though it was also somewhat heavy handed on the finger shaking at the European colonists and their descendants, it was just annoying and didn't detract much from the story of the food. As the history progressed closer and closer to the modern day, it started to get suspect and shaky. The recipes sprinkled throughout the book, especially the older ones, were interesting and fun. The strongest part of the book was the older history. It is interesting to see from where our current culinary culture evolved. I did take exception to soy being labeled as a "super" food. Soy is rather negative for the human body, as is wheat. The author discussed vegetarianism/veganism quite a bit, but completely ignored the other more healthy side of the coin, Paleo/Primal lifestyles. That irked me a bit. I would recommend this book with the warning that the last chapter and epilogue should be skipped entirely. It's not a bad work, but the ending detracts from the fun of the rest of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Coenraad

    Dr O’Connell provides a wide-ranging overview of food in the USA, from pre-Columbian days to some comments about trends in the early twenty-first century. The narrative is clear and easy to read, often linking with ideological aspects of USA history. It argues that the USA is a country consisting mostly of immigrants, each group contributing to the complexity of the American plate - which makes us think about what the Trump administration is doing on the southern border of the USA. There are man Dr O’Connell provides a wide-ranging overview of food in the USA, from pre-Columbian days to some comments about trends in the early twenty-first century. The narrative is clear and easy to read, often linking with ideological aspects of USA history. It argues that the USA is a country consisting mostly of immigrants, each group contributing to the complexity of the American plate - which makes us think about what the Trump administration is doing on the southern border of the USA. There are many enticing recipes to try, enriched by the author’s comments about her own experience and taste. A really enjoyable read! Die oorsig oor Amerikaanse kos bied ’n insigryke beeld van die geskiedenis van hierdie groot en komplekse land. Met resepte en opmerkings oor die skrywer se ervaring en smaak tussendeur word dié boek ’n heerlike leeservaring: lig én ernstig, wetenskaplik én toeganklik. Ek beveel dit aan vir kosnuuskieriges én storievrate soos ek!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    It is singularly unfortunate that there should be so much in the way of bad social history being written by people who have no business calling themselves historians [1]. Had the author been more restrained in making dubious claims and advocacy, and less interested in combining the worst elements of decadent moral corruption from the left and elitist snobbery on the right, this could have been a great book. To be sure, there is still a lot about this book that can be enjoyed by those who are fon It is singularly unfortunate that there should be so much in the way of bad social history being written by people who have no business calling themselves historians [1]. Had the author been more restrained in making dubious claims and advocacy, and less interested in combining the worst elements of decadent moral corruption from the left and elitist snobbery on the right, this could have been a great book. To be sure, there is still a lot about this book that can be enjoyed by those who are fond of both good food and have an interest in the history that is tied up in those foods, but this book has so much missed opportunity that it is hard to appreciate it for what it is because one can so easily conceive of how it could be so much more enjoyable and so much less offensive. The author seems dedicated to causing offense, bragging about her supposed greater understanding of history than many, entering clumsily into social and cultural politics relating to immigration, feminism, and sexuality, and then showing a class snobbery that condescendingly looks at the food enjoyed throughout American history by common people while praising the passing fads of wealthy eaters for foods as diverse as eel and mixed greens. The contents of this book are straightforward enough, being made up of slightly more than 100 bites (sometimes multiple foods are discussed in the same “bite,” and the book contains an epilogue that adds chili con carne, superfoods and fad diets, for example. The bites are divided by historical period, starting with supposedly indigenous foods, and then moving on to foods born out of the Columbian exchange, the colonial period, the early American republic, the period from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Guilded Age, the Progressive Era, the interwar period, World War II and its aftermath, and a couple more divisions before 2000, while the epilogue makes some tentative comments about food in the contemporary era. The author mixes food from high culture as well as low culture (tv dinners, microwave popcorn, scrapple, peach cobbler, wonder bread, and McDonald’s, along with southern fried chicken) as she seeks to pinpoint where food became popular and uses the food and a description of how it is made and who makes it as an entrée into matters of usually unwelcome and uninformed social commentary. There are a few aspects that make this book more unpleasant than it would be normally. For example, some of the foods, like ginger and carrot soup, appear not to be culturally important at all, but appear to be mentioned simply so that the author can drone on about political points like the AIDS disease, just as the discussion of quiche appears to be focused mainly on gender politics and the one on granola, to give another example, is done in order to demonstrate the author’s adoption of the hippie aesthetic in her own life. The author’s praise of Thomas Jefferson, given his problematic personal life, and her inability to distinguish between concerns over illegal immigration and the longstanding American pattern of legal immigration that goes back all the way to the first peoples, who were themselves immigrants to this land when they crossed by land or sea mean that so much time and space that could have been spent to talk about food instead is spent listening to an uninformed writer beclowning herself. The book is good enough to show that America’s culinary history is worthy of serious historical investigation, and bad enough to demonstrate that this investigation should be undertaken by someone who is neither a cultural elitist or supporter of our present societal decadence, a tall order given the roster of most contemporary social historians. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I really enjoyed this book! I learned a lot, got some cool recipes, and I was entertained. I really appreciated the author's treatment of delicate issues (like the government-approved slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, women's rights, etc.) I thought she handled it well and appreciated that she didn't shy away from calling out the atrocities. My only issue is that some of the sections talked more about the time period than the food, which is fine, but sometimes it left me wanting to learn m I really enjoyed this book! I learned a lot, got some cool recipes, and I was entertained. I really appreciated the author's treatment of delicate issues (like the government-approved slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, women's rights, etc.) I thought she handled it well and appreciated that she didn't shy away from calling out the atrocities. My only issue is that some of the sections talked more about the time period than the food, which is fine, but sometimes it left me wanting to learn more about the food. Overall, though, I really liked it! I kept sharing interesting tidbits I learned, which is always a good sign.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    I agree with reviewer Jen about the heavy-handed political correctness when it comes to recounting American history. And, this is pretty much a book about American history with sometimes-interesting factoids about the food we eat thrown in. I also agree that the beginning of the book with the facts about the "Three Sisters" corn, beans, and squash being the most interesting and enjoyable part of the book. Fun book to pick up and read here and there. As a whole, it's a lot to swallow. I agree with reviewer Jen about the heavy-handed political correctness when it comes to recounting American history. And, this is pretty much a book about American history with sometimes-interesting factoids about the food we eat thrown in. I also agree that the beginning of the book with the facts about the "Three Sisters" corn, beans, and squash being the most interesting and enjoyable part of the book. Fun book to pick up and read here and there. As a whole, it's a lot to swallow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Short "bites" of culinary history served up with a heaping serving of preachy progressive politics. If you like books where authors spend 4 pages trying to relate carrot-ginger soup to the AIDS epidemic (hint: soup is 'easy to drink' which is nice if you have AIDS, I guess) you'll love this one. Short "bites" of culinary history served up with a heaping serving of preachy progressive politics. If you like books where authors spend 4 pages trying to relate carrot-ginger soup to the AIDS epidemic (hint: soup is 'easy to drink' which is nice if you have AIDS, I guess) you'll love this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    An interesting history of America through the food we eat, and a look at how that food has changed. I see some readers didn't like the social history interspersed with the food history, but I don't see how you could write this book without it, honestly. I mean, how can you talk about colonists' eating habits without talking about the knowledge they gained from Native Americans, and how can you talk about that without acknowledging the atrocities Native Americans suffered at the hands of the U.S. An interesting history of America through the food we eat, and a look at how that food has changed. I see some readers didn't like the social history interspersed with the food history, but I don't see how you could write this book without it, honestly. I mean, how can you talk about colonists' eating habits without talking about the knowledge they gained from Native Americans, and how can you talk about that without acknowledging the atrocities Native Americans suffered at the hands of the U.S. government? And it's the same with Southern food traditions and slavery. And with new immigrants and the food traditions they brought and racism they suffered from. The food and history are wrapped up in the same story, and the book would have been much weaker without acknowledging these parts of history and including them in the narrative. All in all, a really interesting book about the foods we eat, and why. There are some interesting recipes to try in here, and it's already inspired me to try new foods.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The author chooses 100 "bites" to show American history. These are not necessarily one food or one dish, but related items grouped together. Often an entry will have several short essays, showing different aspects of the food item(s) and/or the history the author has paired with them. While she jumps back and forth in time a lot, the organization is loosely chronological. This book just drove me crazy (didn't help that the audiobook reader kept mispronouncing fairly common names and words--how do The author chooses 100 "bites" to show American history. These are not necessarily one food or one dish, but related items grouped together. Often an entry will have several short essays, showing different aspects of the food item(s) and/or the history the author has paired with them. While she jumps back and forth in time a lot, the organization is loosely chronological. This book just drove me crazy (didn't help that the audiobook reader kept mispronouncing fairly common names and words--how do you mispronounce Upton Sinclair?). The information about the food was really interesting, and was why I picked up the title, but the author kept jamming together foods and pieces of history that didn't quite fit. I think she really wanted to write a history book, but couldn't get her proposal picked up, so went with this instead and used it as a platform to mansplain (even though she's a woman) all the unfortunate aspects of US history. I'm certainly not opposed to facts, but seriously, you don't have to pound it into me with a 2x4 that slavery and internment is bad. I can intuit that from the facts and from general cultural literacy. And some of the food pairings with history were just whackadoodle. Carrot and ginger soup as an excuse to discuss the AIDS crisis? Seriously? I just wish this had been more firmly about the food, because all of the food information was interesting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Entertaining. Made me hungry. Some of the history/food links seemed a bit of a stretch to me but I found it a very enjoyable read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicole G.

    This book has its pros and cons. Pros include the ability to pick it up and down at leisure, as the information (or bites, if you will) is separated very easily for that purpose. It was a good book to take on vacation. One big con, for me, was some of the author's source material. She cited Wikipedia quite a few times; now, I'll admit, I will use Wikipedia sometimes for a starter, but any well-sourced article is going to have primary sources you can use to your advantage. That was a bit disappoi This book has its pros and cons. Pros include the ability to pick it up and down at leisure, as the information (or bites, if you will) is separated very easily for that purpose. It was a good book to take on vacation. One big con, for me, was some of the author's source material. She cited Wikipedia quite a few times; now, I'll admit, I will use Wikipedia sometimes for a starter, but any well-sourced article is going to have primary sources you can use to your advantage. That was a bit disappointing, that she chose low-hanging research fruit. The first half of the book is much stronger than the second half, as we approach the modern era. Sometimes it seemed that the author was reaching a little bit in later "bites." Still worth a look, overall.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This is a marvelous gem of a book by Libby O’Connell (chief historian for the History Channel, inter alia), who tells the stories behind the food and drink of America in 100 “bites.” But this is not just a culinary history; it is an excellent account of American history reflected through the lens of what we have been eating all this time, and why. I am very critical when it comes to narratives about American history, but O’Connell pretty much astounded me with her coverage and accuracy, though t This is a marvelous gem of a book by Libby O’Connell (chief historian for the History Channel, inter alia), who tells the stories behind the food and drink of America in 100 “bites.” But this is not just a culinary history; it is an excellent account of American history reflected through the lens of what we have been eating all this time, and why. I am very critical when it comes to narratives about American history, but O’Connell pretty much astounded me with her coverage and accuracy, though the book isn’t that long and is filled with recipes and anecdotes about food. You couldn’t ask for a more interesting way to learn history, although it’s all conveyed as if you are learning about it incidentally. And what interesting things you will learn at this “feast” for the mind. It’s full of tidbits you won’t be able to resist sharing, such as the reason “American as apple pie” is a misnomer, why bourbon became so popular, the origin of the phrase “high on the hog,” the inspiration for Baked Alaska and Oysters Rockefeller, whence the name of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, and the role the Woodstock Festival played in the popularization of granola. In the process, you also get the basics of the history in America of Native Americans (as well as the ironically named anti-immigration “Nativists”), the Chinese who helped build the railroads, the Harlem Renaissance, women’s rights, the Great Depression, the effects of war on food supplies, the effects of inventions on food choices (refrigeration, freezing, canning, etc.) and occasional broader perspectives when applicable (such as the tendency of the Romans to serve stuffed dormice as appetizers in the section on canapés). Not all the recipes are necessarily ones you will want to try, such as an old recipe for cooking beaver tail, but there are plenty of recipes you will be eager to test, such as Strawberry Rhubarb Pie or Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken. As the author writes, a significant part of any people’s history is revealed by what is on their plates. An excellent collection of sources and references is included in the End Notes, and has the potential to occupy your time as much as the book itself. Evaluation: This book is fun, fascinating, and extremely informative. Highly recommended!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I do enjoy the history of food but there are some historical errors and the elitism of the author with her luxury foods, summers on the river in Canada etc really detracted from what could have been an otherwise more interesting read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    M

    Anyone who has read and enjoyed Lila Perl's children's books from the 1970s about American history seen through the lens of the food eaten by our ancestors ought to mosey through The American Plate. It is a fascinating travel through our history from pre-Columban through present-day North America. There aren't many recipes -- only one per chapter -- but the ones chosen are truly representative of the era. They use natural ingredients (no mixes, no Bisquick!) and straightforward in execution. Anyone who has read and enjoyed Lila Perl's children's books from the 1970s about American history seen through the lens of the food eaten by our ancestors ought to mosey through The American Plate. It is a fascinating travel through our history from pre-Columban through present-day North America. There aren't many recipes -- only one per chapter -- but the ones chosen are truly representative of the era. They use natural ingredients (no mixes, no Bisquick!) and straightforward in execution.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    This was a great book. I thought the way they told the history of our country through the food we at was unique. Some of the food mentioned I remember my grandmothers, and great aunts fixing. It was the food of their childhood, and the food they made during the depression when they were trying to keep their families fed. Somehow it became favorite family meals that they only made when everyone was visiting. That part made me realize just how much of our history comes down to us through the food This was a great book. I thought the way they told the history of our country through the food we at was unique. Some of the food mentioned I remember my grandmothers, and great aunts fixing. It was the food of their childhood, and the food they made during the depression when they were trying to keep their families fed. Somehow it became favorite family meals that they only made when everyone was visiting. That part made me realize just how much of our history comes down to us through the food of our ancestors.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I was in nerd heaven when I read this book! The author is the lead historian at the History Channel and the information presentation is comparable to an Alton Brown cooking program. Think of your high school history book (I know *groan*) and think what were people eating during various decades? Read my full review here: http://ivoryowlreviews.blogspot.com/2... I was in nerd heaven when I read this book! The author is the lead historian at the History Channel and the information presentation is comparable to an Alton Brown cooking program. Think of your high school history book (I know *groan*) and think what were people eating during various decades? Read my full review here: http://ivoryowlreviews.blogspot.com/2...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Thielking

    This is like a two and a half star book bumped up to three. I really enjoy food history and this worked as a collection of small easily digestible (pun intended) short stories about various dishes or food concepts. However the author severely overreached trying to link various food to various movements and it honestly just felt like padding to try and fill out the book or to make the history far more dramatic than it really was.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    This was interesting, but ultimately very basic. I would have preferred more in-depth discussion of fewer topics. Also, the chapter on "Ginger Carrot Soup" felt completely tone deaf and was trying way too hard to connect this food to current events. The beginning chapters were much stronger than the later chapters. This was interesting, but ultimately very basic. I would have preferred more in-depth discussion of fewer topics. Also, the chapter on "Ginger Carrot Soup" felt completely tone deaf and was trying way too hard to connect this food to current events. The beginning chapters were much stronger than the later chapters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Taylor

    Not normally a nonfiction reader, this collection of "bites" of information on various foods in American history kept my attention and interest throughout the journey from maize to sushi. Dr. O'Connell's selections of various food to highlight followed a thread connecting one decade and generation to the next. Excellent book for foodies! Not normally a nonfiction reader, this collection of "bites" of information on various foods in American history kept my attention and interest throughout the journey from maize to sushi. Dr. O'Connell's selections of various food to highlight followed a thread connecting one decade and generation to the next. Excellent book for foodies!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    This book is to food what Bill Bryson is to architecture and home life. Full of tasty morsels about the food we eat, it is fun to discover some of our most popular foods and how they came to be. A nibble down memory lane for those of us who remember TV dinners and TANG!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    What a fun book! Very informative. It's set up in "bites" of history, so depending on how hungry you are, you can nibble a bit or take huge bites in a sitting. There are even recipes that I definitely want to try. What a fun book! Very informative. It's set up in "bites" of history, so depending on how hungry you are, you can nibble a bit or take huge bites in a sitting. There are even recipes that I definitely want to try.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    an interesting of american culinary history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Selena Beckman-Harned

    A delicious combination of cultural and culinary history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Prima Seadiva

    Audiobook. Reader was annoyingly chipper and upbeat which did not enhance the book only emphasized the qualities I found annoying in the writing. History book or food book? I like both but the author seemed not to be sure so didn't really excel at either subject or be able to connect them consistently in a way that made sense. My own political leaning is in synch with much of hers but I found some of the correlations of the foods in question and the history to be a stretch. Two of the most glarin Audiobook. Reader was annoyingly chipper and upbeat which did not enhance the book only emphasized the qualities I found annoying in the writing. History book or food book? I like both but the author seemed not to be sure so didn't really excel at either subject or be able to connect them consistently in a way that made sense. My own political leaning is in synch with much of hers but I found some of the correlations of the foods in question and the history to be a stretch. Two of the most glaring examples. As others have noted the Aids crisis and Ginger Carrot soup. Say what? I lived through those times and it made no sense. Feeding the ill did and the creation of groups who did that makes more sense. Quiche and second wave feminism- WTF? Again I lived through those times and not once in my world did quiche come up on the table or in discussions. If anything it represented the emerging well off yuppies of the 80's. She sometimes diverged to her own experiences that went off topic in a way that made me say what does this have to do with the food/history ? I looked at the recipes pdf and nothing really made me want to try many of them or replace my own recipes for the things I already make. While some information was interesting and relevant overall the book seemed to be a "hodge podge" of blog articles or a t.v. history series and I was glad to come to its end including the epilogue. Hodge Podge (noun US and Canada) a jumbled mixture a thick soup or stew made from meat and vegetables Also called (in Britain and certain other countries): hotchpotch

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Caldwell

    Meh. I guess if you’re really into in this kind of thing it’s okay. I was only mildly interested in the history of food going in, and this book failed to pique my interest as I read through it. I‘m not sorry I read it, but after I was about a quarter of the way through, I found myself just reading it for the facts (not the way they were delivered; a pdf would have sufficed and probably better). About halfway through I had to force myself to spend part of my day reading it. It’s just not well-wri Meh. I guess if you’re really into in this kind of thing it’s okay. I was only mildly interested in the history of food going in, and this book failed to pique my interest as I read through it. I‘m not sorry I read it, but after I was about a quarter of the way through, I found myself just reading it for the facts (not the way they were delivered; a pdf would have sufficed and probably better). About halfway through I had to force myself to spend part of my day reading it. It’s just not well-written. It’s (excuse the pun) cheesy. There are all these disclaimers about how prejudice affected blah blah recipe/food and how it’s terrible and so different from today. Okay yeah that’s fine but I think most people know that things are different today and there are a ton of things that happened in the past that are wrong now. And even if they don’t, the clarifying and asserting that things are different now doesn’t have to be repeated over and over as if the author feels horrible and guilty for writing about recipes that have uncomfortable backgrounds. Also this was one of those books where it felt like the writer often used a thesaurus when it didn’t need to be used. Also I didn’t like the little corny (okay, that pun was intentional ha) closing statements at the end of the “bites.” I didn’t try any of the recipes. Maybe it’s better as a cookbook.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    More for the history buffs than the foodie lovers. Depending on what you are expecting when you open this book, it can be either a hit or miss. A book entitled The American Plate denotes chapters about food, aromas, discoveries, and all that tasty stuff. I was also intrigued by the history aspect of it. Where did certain foods come from? How is this an American tradition? Instead of getting a rich and intertwined history of the American Plate, you are instead treated to 100 sections of mini histo More for the history buffs than the foodie lovers. Depending on what you are expecting when you open this book, it can be either a hit or miss. A book entitled The American Plate denotes chapters about food, aromas, discoveries, and all that tasty stuff. I was also intrigued by the history aspect of it. Where did certain foods come from? How is this an American tradition? Instead of getting a rich and intertwined history of the American Plate, you are instead treated to 100 sections of mini histories that are better served as a History channel special: A countdown of America's culinary history. At least then I could have seen some of the food. Many of the chapters I found to be interesting only half the time, and un-engaging most of the time. Some chapters felt like more of a stretch to get it to fit in with the theme. And the extra notes littered throughout the book? Many had nothing to do with food! What was I reading again? This might serve better as a fun reference book to pick up while watching a history channel documentary. But if you're looking for foodie infested fun, then try somewhere else.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I needed to read a book from the 641s for a reading challenge (for all you non-library people, that's food/cooking), and a coworker had talked about this one so I thought I'd try it (especially since I'm rubbish with cookbooks). I found parts of this utterly fascinating. I felt the book was better when the author stuck to the history of the food, and it was weaker when she tried to shove social issues down our throats. Some of the reasons why a certain food was included just didn't make sense. A I needed to read a book from the 641s for a reading challenge (for all you non-library people, that's food/cooking), and a coworker had talked about this one so I thought I'd try it (especially since I'm rubbish with cookbooks). I found parts of this utterly fascinating. I felt the book was better when the author stuck to the history of the food, and it was weaker when she tried to shove social issues down our throats. Some of the reasons why a certain food was included just didn't make sense. Also, it would have been better if she took herself out of the book: I really didn't care how certain foods influenced her life, as I preferred the actual history part. However, learning the history of certain culinary traditions was fun, and I think I greatly annoy my husband with the facts I got from this book. I listened to it on audio, and the narrator had some weird pauses which I didn't like. I kept thinking it was the end of the book or something, but no, just a pause. I think that could have been better. Also, I could never have read this in one setting, so listening to it while I did my daily commute was the perfect way to break it up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Lee

    I really enjoyed this book, and how much effort the author made to acknowledge the darker chapters of history (slavery, racism, Native American genocide, colonial history that only acknowledge white men as true citizens, Japanese internment, Jim Crow laws, Chinese Exclusion, etc...) that don't get the attention they should. Admittedly, there are a few times when the historical ties to certain foods is a bit of a stretch, but I'm still glad O'Connell went there. Other readers have complained abou I really enjoyed this book, and how much effort the author made to acknowledge the darker chapters of history (slavery, racism, Native American genocide, colonial history that only acknowledge white men as true citizens, Japanese internment, Jim Crow laws, Chinese Exclusion, etc...) that don't get the attention they should. Admittedly, there are a few times when the historical ties to certain foods is a bit of a stretch, but I'm still glad O'Connell went there. Other readers have complained about this aspect, claiming that the author should just "focus on the food." I think those readers could benefit by learning about intersectionality... The whole point of this book is that food is intertwined with history because it is deeply entrenched in the customs of people, and for too many people, this history is entrenched in pain and discrimination because of categories like race, class, gender, etc... I've already read plenty of whitewashed history books, thank you very much--bring on the intersectional knowledge!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Crass

    This book solidly defines the origins of “American cuisine”. Only a few pages dedicated per bite, it gives just enough information to keep you interested. The origin of baked Alaska? Celery as a luxury food item? When did eel go out of fashion (not that I am complaining!)? When did California wine take over? How in the world did Cheez Whiz become a thing? The food we eat today is layered with cultural and historical influences. I enjoy food points of view and this was an intriguing American hist This book solidly defines the origins of “American cuisine”. Only a few pages dedicated per bite, it gives just enough information to keep you interested. The origin of baked Alaska? Celery as a luxury food item? When did eel go out of fashion (not that I am complaining!)? When did California wine take over? How in the world did Cheez Whiz become a thing? The food we eat today is layered with cultural and historical influences. I enjoy food points of view and this was an intriguing American history lesson bite by bite. My one complaint is that the later decades (my decades) felt rushed and not as diverse...leaving just enough room for perhaps a book update? “As America continues to grow and change, our food will too. Our cuisine responds to the shifting rise and fall of culture, taste, and desire.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Honestly more of a 3.5, this is a great book to read in brief bursts while watching tv or waiting for a kid to wake up from a nap. I picked it up on pure whim at the library. It’s organized into 100-plus sections on different dishes from American history, chronologically ordered. Especially in the earlier sections, the author explains what a food is, how it was made, and its historical importance. The main reason I’m not rating it higher is because the actual writing isn’t consistently good or ev Honestly more of a 3.5, this is a great book to read in brief bursts while watching tv or waiting for a kid to wake up from a nap. I picked it up on pure whim at the library. It’s organized into 100-plus sections on different dishes from American history, chronologically ordered. Especially in the earlier sections, the author explains what a food is, how it was made, and its historical importance. The main reason I’m not rating it higher is because the actual writing isn’t consistently good or even informative. Some of the later sections are chosen completely arbitrarily, and either don’t seem to connect to any aspect of actual U.S. history, or don’t explain what the food even is. If each section were as good as the best ones, this would be a great book, though!

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