A tantalizing look at flavors of the American table that foodies will absolutely devour.



A tasty historical study of flavorful mainstays of American cuisine.

Serving as a culinary archaeologist of sorts, this self-described food historian and blogger raided spice cabinets and pantries across the U.S. to produce this fascinating overview of what she believes to be the eight major flavors of the land: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, garlic, soy sauce, monosodium glutamate, and Sriracha (the only questionable inclusion, but Lohman makes a convincing case). In her ambitious attempt to characterize American cuisine, the author found it essential to identify commonalities among the disparate regions and ethnicities that have flourished here. She accomplished this by combing old cookbooks and researching past and present consumption patterns in the U.S. She admits that there are really 10 dominant flavors in the U.S., but “so much” has been written about chocolate and coffee as to warrant their exclusion here. The author’s decision to isolate popular flavors, as opposed to assessing common dishes or particular cooking techniques, allowed her to focus on the history and growth of their influence on the American palate, making this account often as much about the men and women responsible for introducing each flavor. Thus readers will find a treasure trove of spicy trivia, ranging from staggering statistics on the amount of black pepper sold in the U.S. each year—158 million pounds—or how much garlic is consumed—annually, two pounds per person—alongside entrepreneurial tales like that of the Chili Queens of San Antonio, whose namesake dish sold daily on Alamo Plaza inspired German immigrant William Gebhardt to try to emulate it and led to his invention of a dry chili powder patented in 1897. Lohman also tells the moving back story of how the modern cultivation of vanilla derives from a pollination technique developed by Edmond Albius, a slave, and exposes and attempts to debunk how MSG, the defining savory taste of umami isolated by 20th-century biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, came by its bad rap.

A tantalizing look at flavors of the American table that foodies will absolutely devour.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5395-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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