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Other titles in the Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History series:
A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Arts and Traditions of the Table)
Synopses & 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.
"'[T]he way [colonial] Americans thought about food was integral to the way they thought about politics,' McWilliams persuasively argues in this survey of the creation of American cuisine. The Texas State University — San Marcos history professor explores what the colonists ate and why, how that affected their emerging political and cultural values, how their farms and their rights intersected and how 'food remained at the core of America's Revolution.' At the root of American cuisine, McWilliams finds, is the immeasurable impact of Native American agricultural practices. He explores the effect of the staple crop peculiar to each area of colonial America upon the development of regional foodways, as well as upon their economic and social practices. With remarkable clarity, he delineates the technical aspects of various agricultural tasks, from crop cultivation (sugar cane, rice, tobacco, corn, wheat) to more domestic work (building a kitchen garden, churning butter). The broad range of scholarship, the smooth weaving of political and social history and the full notes and fat bibliography will inform historians, while the lucid style and jaunty tone (the Quakers were 'a people who made a virtue of frugality while making frugality more elaborate than anyone could have imagined') make this accessible to all. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In a colorful and spirited tour of culinary tastes and techniques throughout colonial America, McWilliams portrays the grand variety and inventiveness that characterized colonial cuisine.
A colorful, general history of the development of America's rich and varied culinary traditions from the colonial era to the American Revolution.
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