Synopses & Reviews
Each week during the growing season, farmers’ markets offer up such delicious treasures as brandywine tomatoes, cosmic purple carrots, pink pearl apples, and chioggia beets—varieties of fruits and vegetables that are prized by home chefs and carefully stewarded by farmers from year to year. These are the heirlooms and the antiques of the food world, endowed with their own rich histories. While cooking techniques and flavor fads have changed from generation to generation, a Ribston Pippin apple today can taste just as flavorful as it did in the eighteenth century. But how does an apple become an antique and a tomato an heirloom? In Edible Memory
, Jennifer A. Jordan examines the ways that people around the world have sought to identify and preserve old-fashioned varieties of produce. In doing so, Jordan shows that these fruits and vegetables offer a powerful emotional and physical connection to a shared genetic, cultural, and culinary past.
Jordan begins with the heirloom tomato, inquiring into its botanical origins in South America and its culinary beginnings in Aztec cooking to show how the homely and homegrown tomato has since grown to be an object of wealth and taste, as well as a popular symbol of the farm-to-table and heritage foods movements. She shows how a shift in the 1940s away from open pollination resulted in a narrow range of hybrid tomato crops. But memory and the pursuit of flavor led to intense seed-saving efforts increasing in the 1970s, as local produce and seeds began to be recognized as living windows to the past. In the chapters that follow, Jordan combines lush description and thorough research as she investigates the long history of antique apples; changing tastes in turnips and related foods like kale and parsnips; the movement of vegetables and fruits around the globe in the wake of Columbus; and the poignant, perishable world of stone fruits and tropical fruit, in order to reveal the connections—the edible memories—these heirlooms offer for farmers, gardeners, chefs, diners, and home cooks. This deep culinary connection to the past influences not only the foods we grow and consume, but the ways we shape and imagine our farms, gardens, and local landscapes.
From the farmers’ market to the seed bank to the neighborhood bistro, these foods offer essential keys not only to our past but also to the future of agriculture, the environment, and taste. By cultivating these edible memories, Jordan reveals, we can stay connected to a delicious heritage of historic flavors, and to the pleasures and possibilities for generations of feasts to come.
and#8220;A collection of eclectic information that satisfies, at least temporarily, the most inquisitive and academic of gourmands.and#8221;
and#8220;A must-read for anyone interested in the future of domestic culinary taste.and#8221;
and#8220;Blends . . . history, economics, and other scholarly disciplines with engaging stories of Americans who are trying to recreate or retain local flavors.and#8221;
“Although a lot of books have appeared in recent years about food cultures and foodways, none have analyzed how personal nostalgia and food politics are intertwined, sometimes in mutual support of one another (local heirloom tomatoes) and sometimes in conflict (green Jell-O salad, anyone?). Jordan, who has done exemplary research on how memory shaped modern Berlin, is perfectly situated to examine the emotion work and emotion play we lavish on what we grow, seek, and put into our mouths. Jordan is working in some of the most vital areas in cultural sociology: theoretically, a sociology of materiality and sensory experience; substantively, food studies and cognitive sociology; methodologically, interweaving of the micro-historical (personal) with the macro-historical (developments in agriculture, consumerism, nationalism). This is an important book.”
“Edible Memory reminds us that food isn't just something we eat. It’s something we feel. This realization shouldn't be mistaken to mean these feelings and memories are fundamentally an individual and individuating experience. To feel is to be connected. This book, more than most out there that interrogate food cultures, tells a story about food that helps us understand its deeply sociological underbelly.”
"Edible Memory deftly illustrates the power of food to create indelible, collective links to the past. Jordan's lively prose elicits smells, sights, and even similar flavors as those that the book’s subjects worked so tirelessly to preserve. Scholars, foodies, and the general public alike will all benefit greatly from reading this thought-provoking work.”
“In Edible Memory, Jennifer A. Jordan weaves warm personal testimony with a formidable range of literature on the associations and attachments that make people long and search for certain old-timey fruits and vegetables. The memories she documents are both individual and collective, contemporary and historical, and span multiple landscapes from urban Chicago to rural Austria. Her arguments whet the appetite for more meaning in the way we gather, produce, consume, share, and ‘make’ our food.”
“Edible Memory is a compelling exploration of the lure and lore of foods that have become culinary ‘heirlooms,’ especially some kinds of tomatoes, but also apples, stone fruits, even leeks and turnips. A meticulous scholar and an incisive sociologist, Jordan writes with verve and wit throughout this beautifully nuanced study. Exploring the many varieties of culinary nostalgia, she avoids sentimentality while investigating our sometimes paradoxical yearnings for fruits and vegetables we may not even have eaten in our own lives and our curiously Proustian longings for (even) Jell-O molds and boxed cakes. Her book is an important contribution both to food studies and, more generally, to the history of taste.”
“This study of the recent resurgence of ‘heirloom’ crops—tomatoes, apples, carrots, and more—examines the nostalgia and the prestige that surround them. The long reign of the smooth, bright-red tomato began in the mid-twentieth century, when large-scale farms found that standard sizes and shapes were easier to process and looked more attractive on grocery-store shelves. Meanwhile, gardeners kept growing the varieties they knew, whether green or orange, bumpy or freckly, pulpy or crisp. Jordan’s theme is memory and how food connects us to traditions. We are more emotional about some foods than others. Broccoli, celery, and cucumbers, it seems, exist on a B-list of vegetables that will never be widely appreciated ‘heirlooms.’”
“What isn’t in doubt . . . is the importance of holding on to whatever variation we can in our rapidly homogenizing world. ‘If . . . one orchard disappears, making way for a handful of new houses or a parking lot, a single family’s memory vanishes, as do a few aging fruit trees,’ Jordan says. ‘When this happens on a larger scale, we lose something much bigger.’ If Jordan is right, we risk literally paving over paradise.”
“Jordan writes beautifully and with enthusiasm, reminding us that the crops we cultivate and the food on our table have changed along with social conditions.”
How and why do we think about food, taste it, and cook it? While much has been written about the concept of terroir as it relates to wine, in this vibrant, personal book, Amy Trubek, a pioneering voice in the new culinary revolution, expands the concept of terroir beyond wine and into cuisine and culture more broadly. Bringing together lively stories of people farming, cooking, and eating, she focuses on a series of examples ranging from shagbark hickory nuts in Wisconsin and maple syrup in Vermont to wines from northern California. She explains how the complex concepts of terroir and goand#251;t de terroir are instrumental to France's food and wine culture and then explores the multifaceted connections between taste and place in both cuisine and agriculture in the United States. How can we reclaim the taste of place, and what can it mean for us in a country where, on average, any food has traveled at least fifteen hundred miles from farm to table? Written for anyone interested in food, this book shows how the taste of place matters now, and how it can mediate between our local desires and our global reality to define and challenge American food practices.
"The Taste of Place
provides a delightful and informed read, through the stories and analysis of people and places across the country, of terroir as dynamic; possessing a European-like food ethos but adapting to the American landscape."and#151;Michael W. Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University
"This volume introduces a new and powerful idea into the quickly expanding American literature of food. Amy Trubek is better qualified than anyone I know to offer an American take on terroirand#151;her background as an anthropologist, a chef, an orchardist, and an activist in the local food movement let her understand the idea of taste in all its diverse and wonderful dimensions, and her skill as a writer lets her communicate with great grace what she's figured out!"and#151;Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
"Anyone concerned with the future of food in America should read this acutely perceptive, engagingly written, and, above all, compelling inquiry into the relationship between the taste of food and where it comes from. It is a delight, as well as a revelation, to travel with Amy Trubek as she criss-crosses America and the French countryside, talking to growers, distributors, vintners, chefs, farmers, scientists, and activistsand#151;to the women and men committed to making taste connections matter. Perhaps best of all, The Taste of Place invites us to undertake our own taste adventures, both far and near."and#151;Priscilla Ferguson, author of Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine
About the Author
Amy B. Trubek is Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and previously taught at New England Culinary Institute. She is the author of Haute Cuisine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession and of numerous articles that have appeared in The Boston Globe, Gastronomica, and other publications.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Place Matters
2. "Wine Is Dead! Long Live Wine!"
3. California Dreaming
4. Tasting Wisconsin: A Chef's Story
5. Connecting Farmers and Chefs in Vermont
6. The Next Phase: Goand#251;t du Terroir or Brand?