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Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal Hardcover – September 10, 2013
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This history of American eating habits exposes how both native and foreign influences combined to shape popular folkways and attitudes about feeding ourselves over the course of the day. The first settlers had little choice but to eat much the same as Native Americans. With passing generations, colonists more and more adapted Britain’s familiar fare, including pudding and afternoon tea. Following revolutions on both sides of the North Atlantic, French ideas came to define the expected elements of a proper meal. Foods appeared on tables in courses, and words such as soup, dessert, and even picnic entered common English vocabulary. The greatest transformations of American mealtimes followed the Industrial Revolution’s regularizing of the workday, kitchen mechanization, and the rise of industrial food processing. The evening meal became the day’s most important since workers lacked time to return home in the middle of the day. Carroll also contributes to contemporary debates over family meals and snacking. --Mark Knoblauch
Andrew F. Smith, author of Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine
Why do Americans eat what we eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Abigail Carroll examines the American meal from colonial times to the present in Three Squares, providing delicious insights along the way. Three Squares is superbly researched, delightfully written, packed with insightsand easy to digest!”
Warren Belasco, author of Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food, and Visiting Professor of Gastronomy, Boston University
Combining scholarly rigor with lively storytelling, Abigail Carroll offers a fresh look at American culinary history. Resisting the nostalgia often associated with discussion of family meals, Carroll argues that American dining rituals are relatively modern and are constantly evolving to meet contemporary needs and values. This masterful synthesis will delight both professional scholars as well as newcomers to the exciting new field of food history. Highly recommended!”
A fascinating, readable history.”
"An information-packed history of American eating habits [An] enjoyable history of American food culture."
Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country & Coca-Cola and Uncommon Grounds
In Three Squares, Abigail Carroll has filled a gaping hole in our fetish for food histories. There are books on peanut butter, pumpkins, pancakes, milk, fried chicken, chocolatethe list goes onbut now we have the big picture. Learn here how the Industrial Revolution, television, and Mad Men affected how, when, and what we eat. You'll never look at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between-meal snacks the same way again.”
Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork
I was enthralled by this account of how radically America's meals have changed over time, from dinner pails to TV dinners. This vividly written book makes you see that the American way of life at any given moment has been formed by meals. We meet the stander-uppers' who ate quick cold working meals at lunch counters and the nineteenth-century critics who feared that six o'clock dinner would destroy health.' Three Squares shows that the tradition of an evening family meal, taken at a table, is a relatively recent innovation; but one with the power to improve not just our health but our vocabulary. Family meals, it turns out, are more beneficial to children's word banks than play or having adults read to them.' With warmth and scholarship, Abigail Carroll persuades us that much depends on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as all the snacks in between.”
Barbara Haber, author of From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
As Abigail Carroll so skillfully explains, the pattern of American mealsthree squares a dayis not a static entity but rather a social construction that has changed over time. By using imaginative sources and asking pertinent questions, Carroll traces not only the evolution of meals but of the people who have consumed them.”
Top customer reviews
The only issue I have with this work is for the most part the author ends the story in the 1940s. From my own experience with my family, I know our eating habits did not freeze in place in this period. From discussions with my grandmother (born in 1904) her family subsisted on mostly pork, chicken on special occasions and boiled vegetables in three daily meals; pretty much exactly as Ms Carroll describes for this time period. But then I think to my current family diet which the author only partially explains. So she explains perfectly well why we eat fairly light breakfasts and lunch in place of dinner, but the meals we eat include items my grandmother hardly knew existed such as pineapple, spaghetti, sushi, kimchi, bulkogi. I suspect the change I describe can be chalked up to tech advances such as refridgeration along with cultural infusions, but Ms Carroll only touches on these matters in passing. But even with these omissions, this book will definitely give you the "big picture" of how our eating habits have changed over the years.