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American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields Hardcover – August 17, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916486
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916487
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Terroir, a French term usually associated with wine, is what James Beard Award–winning author Jacobsen (Fruitless Fall) defines as "foods that are what they are because of where they come from." In a dozen informative and often funny essays spanning breakfast to dinner, Jacobsen deploys an open mind as he travels across North America and Mexico to demystify such curiosities as why the Yakima Valley in eastern Washington State produces a superior apple, how the red earth and algae-filled waters of Prince Edward Island in Canada conspire to create the delicious terroir-driven local dish of mussels and fries, and what makes chocolate "our most complex food." In each case, the answer is ecological and involves the specific interplay of biological, chemical, and geological factors that make an environment and, in turn, its food unique. To underscore that thought, each essay ends with recipes and a resource list. Throughout, Jacobsen cites fellow food writers, including Richard Manning, Michael Pollan, and Hugh Johnson. But beyond issues of slow food and sustainability, Jacobsen's affable, nerdy DIY spirit (he brewed his own mead for his wedding) challenges readers to rethink their relationship to food.
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From Booklist

The belief that individual plots of land can produce significant differences in crops has become an obsession for contemporary gastronomes. Terroir, a French word initially referring to vineyards, now applies to virtually every agricultural product: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Restaurant menus promote their kitchens’ offerings with names of local farms, and consumers demand orthodoxy in sourcing of everything from steak to succotash to salt. Jacobsen documents some of North America’s best growing places and producers. He describes apiculture and honeys in Florida and Arizona. He discovers the best avocados in Mexico’s Michoacán. He finds superior cheeses and maple syrup in Vermont. Northeast Canada yields both mussels and mushrooms. And Jacobsen sources the world’s most esteemed coffee beans from the mountains of Panama. In his travels to these far-flung farms, Jacobsen shows that it is as much farmers’ dedication to their profession that counts as the soil itself. --Mark Knoblauch

More About the Author

I write about food, the environment, and the connections between the two. Ultimately, my subject is how we interact with myriad other lifeforms to sustain our existence, and what that process can tell us about ourselves and our world. Understanding that makes everything we do a little more meaningful, fun--and delicious! Learn more at www.rowanjacobsen.com.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Anyone interested in the nuances of excellent food sources will enjoy this book.
Nancy Mulvany
I learned much more about how food is grown, processed, and affected by its environment that I even realized.
The Local Cook
As an avid reader of Michael Pollan, I also found Jacobsen's humor, knowledge and writing skills delightful.
WCRQ

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Mulvany on November 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book about culinary specialties produced in specific and often small geographic regions. Terroir is often associated with vineyards that produce wine that has a distinct terroir ("taste of the earth"). Rowan Jacobsen takes the concept to its natural conclusion and shares with readers terriors ranging from New England apples and cider to Yukon River salmon.

While most chapters are devoted to specialties of American regions, Jacobsen goes across the northern border to Prince Edward Island (potatoes) and Quebec (forest foraging). Jumping across the southern border we learn about special coffee (Panama), avocados, and chocolate (Mexico). Here in the U.S. Jacobsen presents maple syrup (Vermont), varietal honeys (various places), Totten Inlet oysters (Washington), wines (California), and washed-rind cheese (Vermont).

Each culinary gem has its own chapter. The writing is especially engaging and informative. The first chapter is about producing maple syrup in Vermont. The author is able to describe in wonderful and amazing detail how the sap develops in the maple tree. Producing syrup from sap is a long and arduous process. Chapters end with recipes and resources that are quite useful. Midway through the book is a collection of color photos from the places discussed.

Anyone interested in the nuances of excellent food sources will enjoy this book. Be warned, it will make you hungry. The writing is fully engaging and the book ends too soon.

Unfortunately there is one serious omission. The book has no index. Where is Peet's Coffee? Yes, it's in the coffee chapter, but where? How about the fiddleheads, where are they discussed? Quite frankly, in a book like this the lack of index is inexcusable.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By klockrike on November 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one great book: American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen. One not too thick, not too dense, not too preachy, not too boring, not too silly, not too detailed, not too American book. American terroir (not terror, not terrier, but terroir - as in the land and microclimate that give wines special flavors, "the taste of place") is a book that takes us on a tour around North America to ten great food products, and their greatness are because of where they are grown and the history and climate of the place.

Rowan Jacobsen writes in a funny but detailed way, giving you an abundance of history, science, and culture in short but dense sentences that never become a chore to read. In fact, when I fell asleep reading this at night I was unhappy because I wanted to continue reading it, not go to sleep. This is in stark opposition to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (TOD), which I am struggling to finish after a year of trying to get into it. I ought to like TOD, because I ought to like Michael Pollan and his work for better food and agriculture in America, but I just don't like it that much. This book, this little gem of red rowanberries, this I LOVE!

The chapters deal with the following ingredients and food products: maple syrup from Vermont, coffee from Panama, apple cider from New England and apples from Washington State, honeys from everywhere, potatoes from Prince Edward Island, wild mushrooms and native plants in southeastern Canada, oysters from Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, avocados from Mexico, Yukon River King Salmon, unusual wines from California, cheese from Vermont, and chocolate from Chiapas in Mexico.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Heitor V. Almeida on August 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This wonderful book expands the concept of terroir into diverse and unexpected areas. It changed the way that I drink coffee (no more espresso!), eat honey, chocolate, and many others. It comes packed with information and advice on what to buy and why. For me it is the single most important food book since Matt Kramer's "Making Sense of Wine". If I could, I would give it SIX stars. What are you waiting for?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Local Cook VINE VOICE on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When I first read about American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Forests by Rowan Jacobsen, I thought it was going to be a catalog of what areas are known for what foods. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book goes much deeper than that, calling us to develop a relationship to the foods around us.

Granted, I was disappointed to flip to the index to look for Michigan only to discover that there is no index. Then I started reading. I learned much more about how food is grown, processed, and affected by its environment that I even realized. The other day I started a conversation with my co-workers about potatoes, for goodness' sakes.

At first I was a bit confused by the chapter titles. "The Fresh Young Thing," "Little Truths," "That Totten Smell"-what kind of foodie book was this? Then I realized that the author is calling us to think about foods and where they come from, to respect them, to become friends with them. Each has their own personality.
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