For generations, people have proudly defined themselves and their values through their national cuisine. American food, like its history, is a world of its own. This enticingly fresh book introduces modern readers 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.
Tracing the history of the United States through a series of 100 iconic dishes and delicacies (or bites), O’Connell offers a unique multilayered overview of the American people and the transformation of their palates. Delicious recipes, menus, photos, and fun historical tidbits are sprinkled throughout: from why politicians incorporate barbecue feats into their campaign tactics to the real reason Americans call a dollar a “buck” and why takeout is not the modern convenience you thought it was! Each chapter and each “bite” stands alone, so it can be read from front to back or just pick a time or food that interests you. It can inspire meals for traditional holidays or observances. Ranging from unusual delicacies like roasted beaver tail to traditional meatloaf, and social edibles like beer and pretzels, O’Connell explores how different cultures and their traditions have shaped our national diet, influenced the foods we eat and cook today; and the indelible footprint they’ve left on the foods we savor.
Each book will include a Monticello bookplate signed by the author.
Hardback, 352 pages.
“The American Plate is an engagingly readable history of American food. It takes us from pemmican to microwave popcorn, from lunch pails to oysters Rockefeller. It’s one of those agreeable books that works just as well if you dive in at random or read every bite in sequence; either way, it is full of treats. Libby O’Connell imparts a great deal of information about changing American foodways with humor and pithiness. She considers such questions as how beavertail and eel – once popular American delicacies - didn’t pass the test of time, while maple syrup and blueberries are still enjoyed, just as they were by American Indians. Oh, and read on to find out the secret ingredient in Brunswick stew.” —Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork: A History of How we Cook and Eat
“O'Connell, chief historian for the History Channel and A&E Networks, has written a book rich in culinary history, sociology, and American culture…This title is not only educational but amusing. Recommended for public libraries.” Library Journal
"The American Plate shows that food is interesting not just because it tastes good, but because it reflects the people who grow, cook, and eat it. Here are the compelling, colorful backstories of national bites as familiar as microwave popcorn and as obscure as pemmican, as enduring as Southern fried chicken and as of-the-moment as seaweed and acai – a buffet of information that revels in the incredible diversity of American cuisine." —Michael Stern, co-author of the bestselling Roadfood series
“Libby O’Connell’s The American Plate presents one hundred well-researched stories on key foods from the obvious–corn, wheat, beef and turkeys-- to the unexpected–soldier’s rations, Lincoln’s favorite cake, Eleanor Roosevelt’s scrambled eggs, and roasted turtles. Every page tells a surprising story about American culinary history. O’Connell’s easy-to-digest prose and modest portions are sprinkled with fascinating anecdotes that make these stories compulsively readable. This book is a wonderful delight.” —Andrew F. Smith, Editor in Chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America
"From maize and barbeque to granola and salsa, Libby O’Connell illuminates the history of America’s palate with fun and engaging tales of how the nation became what it eats. Using anthropology, history, folklore and economics as her ingredients, she cooks up an intellectually delicious buffet sure to please a wide readership. Thoroughly researched, and based upon serious scholarship, this is a wonderful, informative and entertaining book." —Richard Kurin, author of The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects
“Like many miniencyclopedias, this one is studded with often intriguing facts…. O'Connell is a perky companion for this buffet of historical snacks.” —Kirkus
“Succinct, chock full of information, and written with a breezy charm that belies the serious history contained in each “bite,” The American Plate serves up the social, economic and cultural history of the United States. O’Connell’s deft selection of more than 100 emblematic foods provides keen insights into the American experience, and the luscious bonus of illustrative recipes allows us to taste our multicultural heritage, from the Gilded Age’s Baked Alaska to the frontier’s humble Brunswick stew.” Cathy Kaufman, President, Culinary Historians of New York