Sophie Coe, anthropologist and culinary historian, gives us a cook's tour of the nuclear areas of New World civilization. Her book is a botanically, zoologically, and nutritionally informed synthesis of information on the New World's contribution to the world's inventory of foodstuffs and, most importantly, on how the use of these foodstuffs coalesced in the culinary cultures of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca. It is the first work of its kind on the past civilizations of the New World. . . . This book is essential reading for Americanist anthropologists as well as scholars in a variety of other disciplines, and it constitutes serious pleasure reading for lay readers who are cooks, eaters, and students of foodways. (American Anthropologist
Provides tantalizing snapshots of Native American cuisine and culture, especially at the first intersection with the Europeans. . . . It must not be missed by anyone professing a serious interest in America's cuisines for scientific or gustatory reasons. . . . Appropriate for any interested reader as well as for the academic consumer, this volume presents a wealth of excellent information and is a marvelous read. (Nahua Newsletter
Hardly anyone who works with food history can afford to skip reading the New World staples and produce chapters, and once started on the book, won't want to stop anyway. Coe's story of the early New World civilizations and their encounters with Europeans is extraordinarily readable, interwoven with descriptions of food, how it was prepared and served, its significance to the people who ate it. Coe treats the New World people respectfully and with dignity, and at times the narrative is unbearably sad as it describes their conquest by the Spanish. (S. L. Oliver Food History News
Sophie Coe . . . was as rare in our time as her hero, Bernardino Sahagún, was in his: a culinary anthropologist who gave equal weight to both parts of that phrase.... However, despite the strong culinary thrust of the text, the 'discovery' of New World foods is an aspect of her story that—although extensively discussed—becomes. finally, almost beside the point. Her real subject is the tragic collision of two worldviews perhaps least likely to understand, let alone appreciate, each other. If mestizo culture remains as volatile and potent as a vinaigrette, it is because, even today, the two continue to coexist less like water and chocolate than oil and vinegar. (Cook Book
About the Author
Sophie D. Coe (1933-1994) held a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University. She researched and written extensively on the cuisines of native Latin America.