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America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking Hardcover – November 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


[A] classic tome." --Choice


This is a serious book for serious cooks. It should be on the shelf of every public library and school library in New England. Every visitor to New England should read it on the plane going home to learn the amazing stories behind the region's hearty chowders, boiled lobsters, Boston baked beans, and broiled scrod.--Joseph Carlin, founder and owner of Food Heritage Press|[America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking] is an ambitious culinary history. . . . Important reading for people interested in the history of New England and its food.--Common-place|If anyone doubts that culinary and cultural history are one, or doubts that cookbooks are documents rich in revelation, let them read this book. Weaving a narrative from the contradictory voices of the past, the authors investigate the cooking of New England in a way that re-evaluates the founding of America.--Betty Fussell |Much that has been written about New England culinary history has been largely based on culinary fakelore invented in modern times. Stavely and Fitzgerald pull together a vast array of research that corrects many of these misconceptions and offers the best evidence of what and how early New Englanders ate and how this changed over three hundred years. America's Founding Food will become a standard work in culinary history.--Andrew F. Smith, author of Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea|Helps us read between the lines of cookbooks as consumer guides. . . . Makes a convincing argument that a very self-conscious New England, proud of its contributions to the establishment of democracy in America, set in the 1800s a foodways pattern much copied across the country. We will become the wiser as we observe how that pattern was overturned in more recent times.--Gastronomica|Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald provide a reliable account of New England cooking and its development.--New England Quarterly|The authors' careful, scholarly account emphasizes social change and its influence on gastronomy.--Times Literary Supplement|Stavely and Fitzgerald . . . provide a thoroughly researched, well-referenced, and fluently written history of New England cooking, largely centered on the colonial through the federalist periods. In doing so, they ask important questions . . . that make the story compelling, more than a survey of foods eaten and cooked. They meet their goal of approaching the subject with 'both appreciation and skepticism' and do so in inventive ways, showing the dramatic cultural and economic evolution of New England foodways. . . . America's Founding Food surveys the legacy of New England food history in an accessible way.--Choice

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807828947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828946
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Don Collins on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My New England bookshelf groans under the weight of historical studies focusing on the politics, theology, intellectual life, industry, and notable people of the region. These are all worthy if well-worn subjects. Then there's the New England tourism industry, selling "ye olde" Boston baked beans, clam chowder, and Indian pudding as vaunted, almost sacred, symbols of the region. Here, finally, is a book that explains the connection between the two, taking both the history and the food seriously.

There are many surprises here, for instance that turkeys were often boiled and garnished with oyster sauce when served for special feasts, and that the first English to settle the region grew corn because their wheat crops mostly failed. This is a careful, food-oriented story, with lots of detail on what people ate, and how it was processed and preserved as well as cooked. It's also interesting to learn what average families wanted to eat when they were dining on their daily pottage.

The authors use memoirs, letters, and novels as well as cookbooks to uncover what New Englanders thought about the foods they ate. This is a compelling account and a detailed study, with lots of good stories to leaven the Boston Brown Bread. Whether you're interested in the ways gingerbread recipes changed from the court kitchens of the Middle Ages to the farm kitchens of New England, or in the reasons why a wallflower cuisine like New England cooking became enshrined as American food, there's something here for you.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on May 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Americans still think particular New England foods and menus, like Thanksgiving dinner, Boston Baked Beans, and boiled Maine lobster, are important parts of our American identity. This highly informative book tells us why these and other New England dishes were important to many generations of Americans, and continue to be part of our American heritage.

With wit and erudition, the authors separate fact from fiction through careful analysis of some hoary traditions. Along the way, they left me chuckling over such food-lore gems as the Adams-Jefferson dispute on when to serve pudding and the controversy concerning the "authentic" way to make Rhode Island Jonny cakes, with one side declaring that the other's was "hick feed."

There's something here for just about everyone interested in American history or the history of food. From a discussion of the economic motivation for setting up those quaint New England fishing villages to the environmental implications of animal husbandry (which the English colonists introduced into New England), we learn to think somewhat differently about New England's past. Along the way, we get a glimpse of American home life as it was lived, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, in New England--the houswife who worries that she's too late bottling her plums and the little boy whose mother's "fire-cake" is such a treat. This book makes you feel like you are in those kithcens. Boiling a hundred oysters to make Oyster Ketchup, helping to butcher a 280-pound hog, these New England cooks were really something!

While it is a history and not a cookbook, this book gives both cooks and history buffs the solid information we need to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of New England food lore. It offers a chance to see what New Englanders ate, and why, and most tellingly, what they thought about their food.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Crofts on March 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a scholarly, nuanced account of the history of New England cooking, with an emphasis on the social meaning of dietary choices. Corn, chowder, baked beans, boiled dinner--foods that are still icons of the region--are among the dishes discussed. Using culinary, historical, and literary sources, the authors put together a fascinating story of invented traditions and other social uses to which even the deceptively plain cuisine of New England can be put.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Terry S. on May 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although we know that armies march on their bellies and that the search for food has played a crucial role in building societies, the writing of history has often neglected this important subject. Only recently has food history taken its place alongside more conventional approaches to history-writing. This book is a fine example of the new interest in food history.

What impressed me as I read it was how little I had known before, and how much I was learning about what New Englanders ate throughout the region's history. We've all heard about Boston baked beans and Indian pudding, but I didn't know about the gingerbread that colonial militamen nibbled on muster days. Nor did I know that bear was considered even better eating than venison by the Massachusetts Bay colonists. One nineteenth-century writer asserted that cod fish was to New England what roast beef was to England. What struck me most, however, was how the authors discuss the colonial revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how that period shaped our ideas of "historic" New England. What we think of as New England's historic foods--the "first" Thanksgiving meal, those Boston baked beans--were partly based in fact but were mostly the invention of the colonial revivial.

The ways that people use their traditional foods to represent their culture are described in fascinating detail in America's Founding Food. There's a wealth of detail here, but also a great story about what food meant, from the settlement of New England to the revival of the region as a destination for those interested in America's roots. This is a substantial, thoughtful book.
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