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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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