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Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration Hardcover – January 28, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0674006058 ISBN-10: 0674006054
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this fascinating survey of the eating habits and influences of Jewish, Italian and Irish immigrants, Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University, charts with wit and graceful prose the similarities and differences between these three distinct groups as they encountered mainstream American culture. Italian immigrants, fleeing poverty and a rigid, class-based economic system, found in America the ability to take "possession of elite food associated with the well-off" and to forge a new collective ethnic identity; in doing so they introduced Italian cuisine to America and created lucrative culinary business opportunities. The Irish, fleeing famine, did not possess a complex "national food culture" because they came from a place "where hunger... defined identity." But many Irish women became cooks and servants (and incidentally, were always called "Biddy"), and thereby entered domestic American life and became familiar with its bourgeois foods and customs. Eastern European Jews "lived in a world where food was sacred for all," as well as tightly controlled by religious law. Like Italians, Jews made their food a public statement of identity, and the availability of nonkosher foods in the U.S. exacerbated conflicts between traditional and assimilationist factions. Diner deftly juggles a huge amount of detail and analysis drawing upon memoirs, cookbooks, newspaper accounts, films and studies of consumer culture and provides both political and social insights in a highly accessible social history.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

In this fascinating survey of the eating habits and influences of Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants, Diner...charts with wit and graceful prose the similarities and differences between these three distinct groups as they encountered mainstream American culture...Diner deftly juggles a huge amount of detail and analysis--drawing upon memoirs, cookbooks, newspaper accounts, films and studies of consumer culture--and provides both political and social insights in a highly accessible social history. (Publishers Weekly 2001-11-05)

In Hungering for America...Hasia R. Diner provides a richly detailed, highly original study of the changing food habits of three groups of immigrants--Italians, Irish, and Jews--who migrated to the United States between 1880 and 1920. (Italian Tribune 2002-02-21)

For those with an appetite for an excellent book on cultural history, I recommend Hungering for America. (Jack Fischel Indiana Jewish Post & Opinion 2001-11-28)

Diner's research--into historical accounts, novels, plays, economic studies, personal narratives and vintage demographic surveys--has produced a book jampacked with fascinating bits of Italian, Irish and Jewish food lore...Diner's bighearted attitude toward immigrants and their struggles...along with the rich anecdotal material, may inspire a pang of regret when you're finished. (Robert Sietsema New York Times Book Review 2002-05-05)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674006054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674006058
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,696,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. McKeon on August 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a trully intriguing work about three parallel immigrant cultures, and how hunger for an adequate diet was one of the predominant incentives to them for immigration. What makes this study so interesting is how the importance of food manifested itself so differentially among these separate groups once in the United States based upon the histories of the country of origin.
Being of Irish extraction I learned for the first time, definitively, why unlike my Italian, Jewish, and Latino friends no Irish "ethnic" foods (other than soda bread) were part of my background. And, it helped me to better understand the critical, but differing, importance of food in the Jewish and Italian cultures I grew up along side.
Readers should be advised that this is a serious academic work, one which would be an appropriate college history text. Therefore, the introduction and summary chapters will seem dry and..."academic" to those seeking a purely recreational read. I advise them to walk on the edge and learn something; it's well worth the time invested.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By rat_taxi on June 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've seen the brand Contadini many times in the grocery store, but I never
knew what it meant. I also never realized that spaghetti isn't really an
Italian food. Ms. Diner included some enlightening facts about the
development of immigrant diets and why certain groups of people felt the
way they did about food coming into this country.
I found the information about Irish food culture, or the lack of it, really
interesting. Unfortunately, that section of the book is unnecessarily
lengthy and repetitive. I learned some valuable and relevant information
from Hungering, but I don't see very many people reading the entire thing
if they just pick it up out of curiosity or a passing interest in the
subject matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By river view on February 14, 2015
Format: Paperback
I was looking forward to a class I am going to take that will use this as the core text. After reading it, I'm considering not taking the class. The author notes that it took her at least a decade to write this, and that is with plenty of academic assistance and support. Considering the time and resources put into this book, it is an absolute fail. The redundancy and style are beyond grating. What a rich topic and what potential for an incredible and vivid exploration of it. It's too bad the author totally missed the mark and simply reiterated her same few points ad nauseam.
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