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We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0674001909 ISBN-10: 0674001907

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We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans + 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement + Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674001907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674001909
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Donna R. Gabaccia, a professor of American history, explores how ethnicity has influenced the eating habits of Americans and determines that America is "not a multi-ethnic nation, but a nation of multi-ethnics." Can a country that eats bagel dogs and Thai chicken pizza still find ways to preserve the "original" foods of its immigrants? Is this even a worthwhile task, if the immigrants themselves are eager to assimilate into the larger culture, and the food industry is just as eager to co-opt (and, Gabaccia notes, water down) their native cuisine? Through case studies and anecdotal accounts, Gabaccia takes a look at the state of American cuisine and the curious culinary situation that allows SpaghettiOs to remain a venerable lunchtime standard at the same time that many restaurants strive to produce an "authentic" Milanese risotto. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

How did enclaves of immigrants obtain the foods to which they were accustomed in their new homes in America? How did pasta, tacos, and bagels move from ethnic fare to popular American foods? These are the types of questions Gabaccia (American history, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte) addresses in this well-researched and thoroughly documented volume. Through case studies and anecdotal records she traces the way immigrant groups, from Colonial times to the present, maintained their culinary identity in spite of efforts to Americanize them. Concurrently, entrepreneurs succeeded in mainstreaming many of these same ethnic foods into American households and culture. Gabaccia concludes that we are "not a multi-ethnic nation, but a nation of multi-ethnics." For culinary history and social history collections. (Index not seen.)ASherry Feintuch, East Shore Lib., Harrisburg, PA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
The author of this intriguing treatise examines the evolution of our national identity through the foods Americans have chosen to eat from colonial times to the present. Beginning with the first confluence of diverse European, Native American, and African cuisines in the New World, she shows how ethnic foods gradually transformed American eating habits even as the food itself was altered to meet the demands of an ever-changing nation; indeed, our sense of what it means to be an American has been inextricably linked over the centuries to our dietary habits and preferences. Along the way, the author reveals the fascinating history of many familiar food products and name brands that played surprisingly large roles in shaping our national identity. This well-written and informative volume provides a fresh and insightful perspective on American history.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Lowsen on May 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a moderately interesting discussion of the role ehtnic cuisine has played in the United States through history. I had expected a more focused discussion of specific foods and ethnicities and wider exploration of the interplay between food and culture. This book just doesn't have the depth I had hoped for. The books main focus is on the acceptance or lack thereof of ethnic foods in America. It doesn't explore the impact food has on culture very thoroughly.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Yau on July 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book in hope of mitigating the intensity of reading back-to-back some very tenacious literature and historical fiction. It was a miscalculation. We Are What We Eat, though interesting in the premise, is nothing but a harangue of facts and data. Some cheese were 80 cents to $1.60 a pound. Some 60,000 people in the industry in 1910 produced some 50 million gallons of wine in California. Nationwide, consumers of inexpensive meals spend $29 million in small mom-and-pop restaurants and $23 billion in fast food chains. New Yorkers tend to patronize less on fast food because family values are emphasized more. The facts go on and on.
The book is a tantalizing (well, it really tires) treatise that examines the evolution and identity of our nation through the ethnically diverse food/cuisines Americans intake from colonial periods to the present. The account begins with the "first Americans", namely the first peoples on the continent: the Native Americans, European-Americans, and African Americans. The subgroups of the European Americans formed some of the major food manufacturers and grocery chains that influentially set the so-called American eating-habits (often too ashamed to be known as American cuisine). From there, the book is a tale of mixing and borrowing and intermingling within the recipes and tastes of different cultural groups, between entrepreneurship and connoisseurship.
The book certainly aims higher than it actually manages. While the author substantially focuses on the origins and thus the fortunes of the enterprising immigrant cooks and grocers, the book fails to discuss and pinpoint the crossing between food and culture.
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