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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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