- Hardcover: 1584 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 31, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195154371
- ISBN-13: 978-0195154375
- Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 4.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Whether readers make a living studying culinary traditions or just enjoy eating, they'll find this book a marvel. A trove of in-depth information on every aspect of American food and drink—such as holiday food traditions, the Slow Food movement and vegetarianism—the book strives to place its subject in historical and cultural context and succeeds brilliantly. Smith, who teaches culinary history at the New School University, compiles 800 articles and 400 illustrations in a colossal package, resembling Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany in the same way that the kitchen at the Four Seasons resembles the galley of a Manhattan apartment. Under "C," we find "Chickpeas," "Child, Julia," "Clambake," "Cola Wars," "Community-Supported Agriculture" and "Cooperatives"; while "T" offers entries on "Taco Bell," "Tea," "Thanksgiving," "Transportation of Food" and "Tupperware." Readers will be hooked upon opening either of the work's two volumes and flipping to any page. Among the offerings are a Nation article from 1879 that delights in fathers who'd mortify their daughters in social situations by joking about the "frivolousness of napkins"; an entry on the french dip sandwich crediting a Los Angeles sandwich shop owner with inventing the item in 1918 (he accidentally dropped a roll into the roast drippings as he prepared a beef sandwich for a customer); a piece on Rastus, the fictional chef whose image has appeared on Cream of Wheat packages since 1896; and a fascinating exploration of Southern regional cookery. For food lovers of all stripes, this work inspires, enlightens and entertains. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–An authoritative resource that brings together "the best scholarship on the history of American food." Considering the subject from varied perspectives, the 770 articles discuss food and drink within the context of politics; geography; commerce; technology; medicine; class structure; agriculture; and symbolic, spiritual, and ethical values. The alphabetically arranged entries include chronological overviews of events and trends ("Cooking Schools," "Myths and Folklore"); specific foods and drinks ("Po'boy Sandwich," "Coca-Cola"); ethnic, religious, cultural, and racial contributions ("Native American Foods," "Thanksgiving"); biographies ("Lagasse, Emeril," "Pullman, George"); and political and social movements ("Temperance," "Pure Food and Drug Act"). Each entry includes a briefly annotated bibliography and cross references to related articles. Black-and-white illustrations add interest; most of them are historical reproductions with brief identifying captions. The writing is clear, the coverage is thorough, and the index is comprehensive. With entries ranging from "Bialy" to "Borden" (complete with a sidebar on "Elsie the Cow"), and "Vegetarianism" to "Vienna Sausage," this is an encyclopedic smorgasbord where readers can either casually graze multiple offerings or choose a single topic and dig in.–Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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So, unlike Larousse, you are much more inclined to simply read the articles in these volumes for your own entertainment as much as for your need to know something. The articles are filled to the brim with interesting trivia about American food. One favorite item in the article about Spam is the fact that the word `Spam' became associated with junk e-mail on the strength of a Monty Python skit which did the same kind of number on Spam as the movie `Blazing Saddles' did on western films. Another discovery was the renaming of sauerkraut to `Liberty Cabbage' after World War I. In this way, the book follows the style of the Encyclopedia Britannica that leans heavily toward long, detailed articles rather than shorter articles with a greater chance of redundancy, especially with a hundred or more independent contributors.
It would probably take the average foodie about five minutes of searching through these volumes to find something they miss. My first sense of something being missing was when there were articles about Charlie Trotter, Alice Waters, and Rick Bayless, but no articles on Thomas Keller, Jeremiah Tower, or Richard Olney. I would not feel the absence so acutely if the editors had given us biographies on Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, and M.F.K. Fisher and stopped there, as all four of these figures are so obviously at the very top of the heap in their influence on American eating and food writing. On the other hand, Tower and Olney between them are probably as much an influence on culinary professionals in the United States as Alice Waters. While Olney spent much of his life living in France, he was born in Iowa and all of his most influential works, most notably his editorship of the Time-Life culinary series of books in the 1960s was aimed at American audiences. This series is mentioned twice in the long article on cookbooks with no mention of Olney as the editor, a position recommended to the publishers by James Beard. Regarding Keller and Trotter, for example, both have received the James Beard best chef in the country award and of the books attributed to these two chefs, I much prefer the two from Keller than the three from Trotter which I have reviewed. I suspect the difference in the eyes of the editors is Trotter's earlier ascendancy, his substantial charitable activities, and his better than average culinary instruction TV shows.
These quibbles aside, I am genuinely impressed by the overall quality of the writing in the thousands of articles in this work. The biographical articles all begin with a crisp statement of the importance of the subject to American culinary history. In spite of the very large number of writers, all articles seem to share this same matter of factness, with virtually no sentimentality or sensationalism. One joggling act that must have challanged the editors is how to limit the book to `American' subjects. And, they seem to have accomplished this with great good judgment. In place of any mention of French or Italian or Japanese or Korean or East Indian or Chinese subjects, the editors have given us articles on `Italian-American' food and `German-American' food. I know the German-American culinary world better than any other and I give the author of this article high marks for capturing the big picture and not limiting himself to the very easy subject of the `Pennsylvania Dutch' cuisine. Although the Amish and Mennonite communities of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and the Carolinas are at the heart of the German / American food tradition, the greater German influence is much broader, overlapping, for example, the Jewish-American culinary world and even the influences from France and Italy.
By far the best use for this work is as a starting point for serious culinary research or simply noodling around the literature of cookery for fun. In addition to the articles with their excellent bibliographies, there are appendices on general food bibliography, general wine bibliography, list of food periodicals and web sites, major food subject reference libraries, major food museums, food organizations, and food festivals.
Be warned that in spite of the title, wine gets much less than half the volume of ink spilled in these volumes. I also detected a few minor editing mistakes and omissions. The web site for the cable `Food Network' is listed as [...] but this was changed close to two years ago to [...] This little mistake is less easy to understand since the article on Julia Child notes her death which occurred about 6 months ago. Still, this book is a great source of entertainment and information for foodies and foodie scholars.
Expensive, but of high quality as a reference and entertainment.
Unfortunately, while the scope of the OEFDA is wide and many of the articles are informative and interesting, the quality of the writing is not as high as in the OCF. Perhaps Oxford University Press thought it needed to make this book "accessible" to Americans by limiting the authors to writing at an 8th grade level.
There also are factual inconsistencies throughout the book. For example, Ruffles potato chips are said to have been launched during either the 1950's or the 1970's, depending on which article about snacks you happen to be reading. This sort of sloppy editing and fact-checking is inexcusable, especially from a university press.
Bottom line: the OEFDA is an admirable attempt at creating a comprehensive survey of American food history, but there are some glaring flaws. I recommend starting with the OCF.
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