Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites by Libby O'Connell

History + food=me laying on my couch reading voraciously and getting grossed out by the idea of eating beaver tail.  Yes, it was, at one time, considered a yumalicious treat for trappers.  Full of fatty goodness, it was a good source of protein and best cooked over a campfire.  And I've always wanted to know just what exactly pemmican tastes like, thanks to all that history I read in my earlier years about the West and Native American food. (pemmican is dried meat, berries, and animal fat mixed together for a high protein snack bar).

I'll stick to hamburgers.  If you're a foodie like me ( and I say foodie in a very amateur way), this is the  kind of book that will make you giddy.  100 "bites" of food history, from the early 1400's and the three sisters (maize, squash, and beans), to trendy foods of today's American food scene.  Read a few pages, put it down.  Pick it up, thumb through, and turn to something that catches your eye.  You certainly don't have to read cover to cover, although it does move in a chronological order.  But skipping around is certainly part of the fun.  

O'Connell is the chief historian for the History Channel, and it's evident she's a big fan of history and food.  Her personal asides add to the book, as well as some recipes for dishes you may (or may not) want to try.  This would make a wonderful gift for anyone on your list who likes to cook, or is interested in history--or even is a big fan of Uncle John Bathroom Readers.  Short chapters chock full of those little nuggets of history that remind us how unique and interesting the American plate really is, and how far we've come in our food tastes.  These are the stories that make history so darn fascinating.

I'm hoping with fingers crossed this is developed for the History Channel as a series.  I will certainly be glued to the TV--and probably snacking on popcorn.  

Available in hardcover and e-book.

Rating:  8/10 for short, tasty bites of American culinary history.  You won't be able to resist it!

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