THREE SQUARES by Abigail Carroll

THREE SQUARES

The Invention of the American Meal

KIRKUS REVIEW

An information-packed history of American eating habits.

"We live in a food environment shaped by culture and history," writes Carroll in her first book, a heavily researched and wide-ranging history of American meals and snacking that takes us from colonial times to the present day. She begins with the “messy” simple meals of the early colonists and Native Americans, followed by the rise of more formal habits and dishes. Later chapters concentrate on the stories behind individual meals. Carroll discusses the transgressive status of snacking in relation to the sacred and patriotic family dinner; the invention of the fast and often cold lunch; and the evolution of breakfast from a simple meal to an indigestible meat-based feast to a lighter spread formed by modern marketing and convenience foods. She discusses home cooking, street food, restaurants, foreign influences, domestic management, kitchen technologies and utensils, the servant problem, and the roles of housewives, health reformers, nutrition scientists and marketers. She ends with a survey of the commonly described dysfunctions and trends of our current food culture, relating them to the past and encouraging a better awareness of our history so that we may make more conscious choices for ourselves. The rich variety of stories and information about the contents, structure, setting and meaning of American meals can be a little overwhelming, and general readers may want to take this book in small bites. On the other hand, there are many anecdotes to enliven the text, and much genuinely original and intriguing information throughout, from the cultivated fasting skills of Native Americans to the tidal wave of new snack foods flooding American life today.

A dense but enjoyable history of American food culture.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-465-02552-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2013




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