This American Knife

I'm sure you've caught on, now that I've mentioned it approximately forty-thousand times, but even though I keep this digital repository for the entertainment I consume, food and drink is a far bigger obsession in my life. I try not to be a huge glutton, of course, but I just never get tired of talking about food. And not just the food I (or others) like or dislike. I'm equally into food trends. Recipe tweaks. Restaurant practices. Culinary etymology. And, in this instance, food history.

That's why I was so excited to get my hands on Libby O'Connell's 2014 book, The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites. This is certainly no dry recitation of facts and dates. O'Connell is the chief historian (and the historic food expert) at the History Channel, so she's well-versed in writing for a general audience. The book encapsulates the foods and ingredients that have represented American as a country, from its very beginnings to today.

Sometimes, the representative foods she writes about are quite literal; Native Americans owed a large part of their subsistence to maize and squash. But O'Connell isn't above trading in symbolism, either. Plenty of events in American history, both good and bad, don't have a specific food or drink associated with them, but can be tied to a handy stand-in. For example, there isn't a "Women's Liberation Era" food, but quiche rose in popularity at the same time, and was utilized by both the women who needed a convenient, fast meal so they could get back to their activism, and by the resistant men who pointed to quiche as a sign of namby-pamby oversensitivity.

This book was essentially designed to hit all my sweet spots. It digs into hidden pockets of American history, and the way that earlier generations went about the challenges of feeding themselves. It uses food as a backdrop to explore the topics that Americans are passionate about, and what trends we embrace. It organizes everything into neat capsules. In fact, it appealed to me so much that I bought a copy before I even finished reading the one I borrowed from the library, which is a feat that no other book has ever accomplished.

I've left the food offshoot of this blog lying fallow for a while (time is short, and my obsession is generally kept satisfied by doing the podcast), but this book has inspired me to take on a new eating project, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on the Tastes of Lime. In the meantime, for anyone who takes as much of an interest in American food and its history as I do, this is a must-read, so go track down a copy. You can't borrow mine just yet - there are things to prepare. Happy eating and happy reading!

The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites: A


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime