A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America

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Columbia University Press, 2005 - Cooking - 386 pages
7 Reviews

Sugar, pork, beer, corn, cider, scrapple, and hoppin' John all became staples in the diet of colonial America. The ways Americans cultivated and prepared food and the values they attributed to it played an important role in shaping the identity of the newborn nation. In A Revolution in Eating, James E. McWilliams presents a colorful and spirited tour of culinary attitudes, tastes, and techniques throughout colonial America.

Confronted by strange new animals, plants, and landscapes, settlers in the colonies and West Indies found new ways to produce food. Integrating their British and European tastes with the demands and bounty of the rugged American environment, early Americans developed a range of regional cuisines. From the kitchen tables of typical Puritan families to Iroquois longhouses in the backcountry and slave kitchens on southern plantations, McWilliams portrays the grand variety and inventiveness that characterized colonial cuisine. As colonial America grew, so did its palate, as interactions among European settlers, Native Americans, and African slaves created new dishes and attitudes about food. McWilliams considers how Indian corn, once thought by the colonists as "fit for swine," became a fixture in the colonial diet. He also examines the ways in which African slaves influenced West Indian and American southern cuisine.

While a mania for all things British was a unifying feature of eighteenth-century cuisine, the colonies discovered a national beverage in domestically brewed beer, which came to symbolize solidarity and loyalty to the patriotic cause in the Revolutionary era. The beer and alcohol industry also instigated unprecedented trade among the colonies and further integrated colonial habits and tastes. Victory in the American Revolution initiated a "culinary declaration of independence," prompting the antimonarchical habits of simplicity, frugality, and frontier ruggedness to define American cuisine. McWilliams demonstrates that this was a shift not so much in new ingredients or cooking methods, as in the way Americans imbued food and cuisine with values that continue to shape American attitudes to this day.

  

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Review: A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)

User Review  - Todd - Goodreads

Interesting subject matter, well researched but dry, tedious writing style made it a hard read Read full review

Review: A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)

User Review  - Brad Hayes - Goodreads

An excellent piece of historical scholarship. The kind of work I wish I had written back in my grad school days as a history student. Read full review

Contents

Getting to the Guts of American Food
1
ADAPTABILITY The Bittersweet Culinary History of the English West Indies
19
TRADITIONALISM The Greatest Accomplishment of Colonial New England
55
NEGOTIATION Living High and Low on the Hog in the Chesapeake Bay Region
89
WILDERNESS The Fruitless Search for Culinary Order in Carolina
131
DIVERSITY Refined Crudeness in the Middle Colonies
167
CONSUMPTION The British Invasion
201
INTOXICATION Finding Common Bonds in an Alcoholic Empire
241
REVOLUTION A Culinary Declaration of Independence
279
NOTES
323
BIBLIOGRAPHY
357
INDEX
379
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. During the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

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