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Ten Restaurants That Changed America Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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“Reading Paul Freedman about America, stalking myself through the taste of meals at eight of his ten restaurants, each sampled for different reasons at different moments in my life, I began to draw the outlines of a world I shared with other people, people more or less like me, and to wonder what ‘like me’ meant when it came to expectations of inclusion, of common flash points of reference, of understanding and participating in the coded language of what we eat and how it is prepared and who is sitting at all those tables around us. I think that’s what Freedman intended us to do. . . . Ten Restaurants is a book as much about the contradictions and contrasts in this country as it is about its places to eat. It is designed to keep you up, thinking, and, as I did this summer, returning to its rich, and often troubling, pages.”
- Jane Kramer, The New Yorker
“Fascinating. . . . In his sweep through centuries of food culture, Freedman illuminates much more than what happened in the front or back of the house of these 10 distinct places (although he does plenty of that). He effectively makes the case that the story of America’s restaurants is one of changing immigration patterns, race relations, gender and family roles, work obligations, and leisure habits. . . . [Freedman’s] insights are shrewd and demonstrate the power of historical study in understanding the world.”
- Joe Yonan, Washington Post
“Impeccable . . . . Inevitably, a book like this will induce a feast of delicious nostalgia in most readers, a longing for all those good ― and even some not so good ― menus and dishes past. But the culinary and cultural journey Mr. Freedman has taken us on demonstrates the abiding qualities in our society ― its openness to new sources and sourcing, its diversity, its restlessness with the same old thing, its capacity for reinvention and assimilation ― all of which bode well for the future of America’s restaurants and its cuisine.”
- Martin Rubin, Washington Times
“Fascinating....Mr. Freedman’s book suggests that it’s not ultimately restaurants that change America―it’s the people in the kitchen.”
- Victorino Matus, Wall Street Journal
“Eminently readable. . . .In a narrative that is intellectually delicious, Freedman presents a new way of thinking about ‘you are what you eat.’ This will appeal widely, engaging readers with both a casual or scholarly interest in food history and its influence on American culture in the late 19th and 20th centuries.”
- Courtney McDonald, Library Journal
“A robust historical trek through America's restaurant cuisine over three centuries. . . . Delightfully illustrated with menus, photos, and other visual accompaniments, the narrative delves into each of the 10 restaurants' unique stories, beginning with America's first restaurant, Delmonico's . . . . Culinary historians, those besotted with food culture, and curious general readers will all find something of value in this well-researched, entertaining social and cultural history.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“The most important and entertaining book on the subject of food that I’ve read in years! Paul Freedman paints a portrait of a culture whose cuisine is only beginning to emerge. Witty, sensitive, surprisingly sensuous―more, please!”
- Molly O'Neill, author of One Big Table
“Paul Freedman, one of the world’s most learned food writers, has focused his extraordinary scholarship on a deconstruction of American dining from the corner deli to Chez Panisse. If you enjoy a brown paper bag of fried clams as much as a fourteen-course tasting menu, and ever wondered how it all came to be a part of daily American life, this is the book for you. Ten Restaurants That Changed America is the most enlightening kind of history, as Freedman takes a fresh look at what we take for granted and reveals the extraordinary matrix of cultural and culinary currents that have made it all possible.”
- Frederick Kaufman, author of Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food
“Pleasure without snobbery: Paul Freedman’s book is itself exactly what the very best American food has always been.”
- Joyce E. Chaplin, professor of early American history, Harvard University
“Spanning over 100 years, Paul Freedman’s engrossing and well-researched exploration of the restaurant as an American institution presents us with a gallery of unforgettable characters, iconic dishes, and unique places. Immigrants, entrepreneurs, chefs, and impresarios all loom large in a narrative that accurately tracks the historical changes in how we eat in public.”
- Fabio Parasecoli, director of Food Studies Initiatives, The New School
About the Author
Paul Freedman is a history professor at Yale University. The editor of the ICP Award–winning Food: The History of Taste and the author of Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination, he lives in Pelham, New York.
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The restaurants selected? Some great names and some surprises. The places: Delmonico's (America's first "great" restaurant), Antoine's (a Creole restaurant), Schrafft's ( a restaurant designed for women), Howard Johnson's I designed to be predictable and dependable as a chain), Mamma Leone's (an Italian restaurant), Sylvia's (soul food in Harlem), Le Pavillon (a major French restaurant from the mid-20th century), The Four Seasons (as Freedman puts it, "The Epitome of Modern"), and Chez Panisse.
One of the themes is the change in fortunes of these restaurants. Some simply did not adapt to a new era, others lost key actors who helped the place flourish. But what makes this special is the detailed description of how each of these worked and the role of key actors/acrtresses for each). There is a personalism that makes this work enticing.
All in all, a fine volume on the tradition of American restaurants and their place in the society of their times. . . .,
The book is very detailed and scholarly. This is for me, a plus and a minus. The information is extensive and well documented. For me this resulted in a book which felt over long and drawn out. Much as I was interested, and wanted to read it, I found myself slogging through it, wishing each section was just a bit shorter. If I were deeply interested in the content, or an academic or scholar I would have reveled in it. As a slightly less engaged reader, I wish it felt somewhat less ponderous.
I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of menus from the various restaurants. As an aside, having read it on a reader vs. a hard copy, the menus were sometimes blurry and difficult to read. This was a source of frustration for me since I found them so interesting.
Each chapter tackles a different restaurant and discusses in depth the history, personalities involved and menus of each restaurant. As mentioned above, there is a restaurant for every type of taste from fine dining (Delmonico's) to trendy (Chez Panisse) to just a place for the working stiff (Automat). The writing is very engaging and the transitions from one restaurant to another are smooth.
Thanks to this book, I now want to go to a very expensive restaurant. Thanks a lot, Mr. Freedman. I blame you.