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American Appetite Hardcover – April 6, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st ed edition (April 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380973367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380973361
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,734,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this intriguing, albeit somewhat haughty, culinary treatise, Brenner (1996 winner of the James Beard Award for journalism and the author of several books on wine and food) attempts to discern whether an American cuisine exists. Brenner observes that "Americans love big flavors. As a group, we tend not to have, shall we say, refined tastes," and from there she sets out to define what is American cuisineAmostly from a perspective of culinary sophisticationAas evidenced in what is offered by grocery stores, restaurants and cookbooks. She gives a brief history of the American culinary evolution, from the clever and imaginative cooking methods of the Native Americans and Dutch (which were altered to suit the bland Puritan taste) to Thomas Jefferson's introduction of French foods to the era of industrial canning, which Brenner believes led to the demise of American gastronomy. In a chapter entitled "Xenophobes No More: The Foreign Influence," she lists the contributions that have been made by people from other countries, especially since the Immigration Act of 1965. A chapter on "chic" food informs that celery ruled in the 1860s, oranges gained prominence in the 1870s and vichyssoise came of age in the 1920s. In the end, Brenner states that American cuisine is "alive, it's vibrant, it's hereAthough it's only just starting to come into its own." Although her tone may irk readers not from New England or California ("In many cities and towns across America, the gastronomic revolution has yet to arrive"), Brenner offers a fascinating look into the history of America's cuisine.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Is there such as thing as an American cuisine? Brenner, author of Fear of Wine: An Introductory Guide to the Grape (LJ 10/1/95), attempts to answer that question in an intriguing, detailed look at the changes in American cooking and dining. After delving into Americas culinary history, from the effects of the Domestic Science movement to the origins of contemporary trends, including the celebrity chef, Brenner explores other forces that have influenced American cooking, such as immigrant cuisines and the connection between the growth of farmers markets and todays emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Lightly seasoned with personal anecdotes, American Appetite is filled with fascinating food facts as well as a soupon of information on culinary icons like Alice Waters and Julia Child. Recommended for large public libraries, academic libraries with cookery arts collections, or any library craving a generous serving of culinary wisdom.John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who loves and follows the food scene will find American Appetite indispensible. Trends seem to happen so fast in food these days, but this book charts the course that brought us here, so that we can make sense of our unique food culture. How we can love ketchup and cereal on one hand, and foie gras and salsify on the other. Brenner pins down true trends (e.g., how Julia Child inspired otherwise boxed-in home cooks) sets myths straight (Alice Waters didn't invent anything). Her style is breezy even while the content can be quite studious. In fact, I'd say this book will appeal most to any person who considers him/herself a student of food. It's an invigorating reminder that we are what we eat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book very quickly--a sure sign that it was engaging enough. Still, two things bothered me: the author's concentration on the two coasts and the rambling and repetitive structure of the chapters. While Brenner admits that she has little experience of the middle of the country, that middle provides most of this country's food, and as long as Brenner is writing as a cultural historian, she should take the trouble to gain such experience. That's what research is!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it's because I'm fascinated by food, but this was the first nonfiction book I ever read without putting it down (almost!). Brenner offers a fascinating look at how America became a land of frozen foods and antiseptic supermarkets, and traces how we fell in love with food, then riffs on what it all means. Most interesting to me was that although I knew that Julia Child had done a lot to change the way we thought about food, Brenner actually examines what was going on culturally after World War II that led us to be more open to the pleasures of the table. Also, I was surprised to learn how changes in immigration law in the 1960s affected what we'd be eating 25 years later and how truly influential California cuisine was for the rest of the country. A lesser writer might founder with such a mix of cultural, culinary, and personal history, but Brenner pulls it off with aplomb. I also loved her writing style and stories about her relationship with food as a child. Far from being a dry sort of chronicle, this book is filled with interesting cultural observations; it's also very funny. I've recommended it to all my food-loving friends. As Julia Child would say, "Bon appetit!"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Sprague on May 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Tries to summarize how Americans in the past century have learned to eat better, but could more accurately be called an autobiography. Most of her stories are anecdotal. She summarizes the influence of Julia Child's publishing of a French cookbook in the 60's, Alice Waters' emphasis on fresh ingredients in the 70's, and tons of anecdotes about the effect of an ethnic cooking boom in the 80s and 90s. But no real analysis of any of this. She cites Kellogg and the "Food Science" movement of the early 1900s as a reason for the public acceptance of poor tasting food, but there's no real analysis, nor is there anything other than sketchy hearsay about a rise in the quality and variety of the rest of the food Americans eat. Also would have been nice to objectively compare us to other countries a bit: maybe the French are eating better today too?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Why is there not more buzz being generated about this new American classic? I was lucky to stumble on it...and what a revelation! "American Appetite" is destined to take its place alongside Mark Twain's "Roughing It" and Ring Lardner Jr's "Drinking in America" as a brilliant, satiric illumination of our national character...a very wise overview that chronicles the collective personality of our huge, quirky nation through the history of its oddball eating habits, which include the fall and rise of its cuisine. This book is by turns fascinating, hilarious and ultimately, strangely revealing. It's a keyhole on our ingenious, obsessive culture. What we eat, it turns out, tells us who we are. And the voice of the narrator is both as light and serious as a great souffle. People who love to eat, love to read, love history, love the USA, and especially those who thrill to truth on the page, should all rush out and buy this book.
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