A spirited, abundantly illustrated food history.



A celebration of American diversity as seen through its food.

Freedman (History/Yale Univ.; Ten Restaurants That Changed America, 2016, etc.) offers a sweeping, thoroughly researched social and cultural history of America through its changing food habits and practices, from the nation’s founding to the current trend of farm-to-table cuisine. Drawing on cookbooks, culinary histories, advertisements, restaurant menus and reviews, guidebooks, and chef’s memoirs, the author argues convincingly that Americans do have “well-defined and consistent tastes” in food: a “national fondness for sweet, spicy, and salty combinations” and enthusiasm both for regional traditions and for variety. In examining culinary delights from different regions, Freedman points out that “invented traditions infuse regional cuisines, just about everywhere and many ‘traditional’ foods are not as old as most people believe.” If grits and barbecue are unknown in some parts of the South, still, roadside restaurants and cookbooks long have featured dishes—stewed clams from North Carolina and cranberry chiffon pie from Georgia, for example—that evoke particular areas. Variety, though, has been compromised by the rise of agribusiness and supermarkets. Freedman notes that in 1905, 14,000 varieties of apples were grown in the U.S.; by the 1960s, only three were sold in supermarkets. By the end of World War II, processed foods came to be less expensive than fresh ingredients and tempted homemakers with more time for “work, family, and active leisure.” For many decades, consumers accepted processing and lack of diversity as trade-offs for the advantages of “hygienic safety, consistency, [and] affordability.” The author locates the movement against homogenization and standardization in the 1970s, which also saw a decline of French haute cuisine as the ultimate tastemaker. “All the pieces of New American cuisine—farm-to-table, seasonal, and local—were in place by the end of the 1980s,” he writes. Freedman also offers entertaining profiles of many notable chefs, including Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and René Redzepi, whose influences have reformed how many Americans eat.

A spirited, abundantly illustrated food history.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-462-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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