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American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  399 ratings  ·  89 reviews
The first guide to the "flavor landscapes" of North America, American Terroir explains how local conditions such as soil and climate affect the flavor of foods such as apples, honey, maple syrup, coffee, oysters, salmon, wild mushrooms, wine, cheese, and chocolate. Complete with recipes and a resource section for finding the best place-specific foods, it's the perfect comp ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published August 17th 2010)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  399 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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This was OK. I like the concept, I like how the author writes, but this was not great, a little conceited, and with the obligatory filler pages of recipes. Interesting facts-- The United States was home to 14,000 apple varieties in the early 1900's as listed by the USDA and is now down to only about 100 different apple varieties-- 13,000+ apples victim to commercialization, loss of small family farms, and the whims of the public. However, the US is home to over 300 honey varieties, more than any ...more
It will help you to know that "terroir" is basically "taste of place"--the unique qualities a place gives the food that grows up there. Sometimes it's mineral in the soil, sometimes it's the surrounding flora and fauna, sometimes we just don't know.
But it's noticeable, and BEING noticed by more and more people these days. It used to be a wine thing, but has now expanded to a far greater gastric range.

I got sucked in immediately, and savored every single page of this engaging, tantalizing, magica
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because it was one of Library Journal's top ten books of 2010, and while I am not sure if I would make the same pick, it is pretty darn good. Jacobsen takes the wine concept of "terroir" and applies it to other food. Terroir is the idea of place imparting a distinctive flavor (and other food attributes, crunch maybe for apples) to wine or food, due to the mineral content of the soil, the growing conditions, climate, etc. So Jacobsen, somewhat like Michael Pollan in The Botany of ...more
Dan Polley
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Author Rowan Jacobsen takes us on a food journey starting in Vermont, telling of why the land is able to produce the finest maple syrup. In each chapter, he not only describes the product, but also tells why and how the land is able to produce such a food -- and why it is not duplicable to other areas.

For instance, coffee grown in Panama is so good because it is grown at such great heights, with the thin air making the beans denser, more refined with flavor. And the higher it's grown, the bette
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book with an awful cover that probably doomed it to poor sales. A strange format oriented around ordering ingredients via mail order distracts from the nuances of the unique edibles of the continent. Well worth a browse at the least.
Gary Lincoff
In the same genre as Raymond Sokolov's "Fading Feast," this book travels across America to find fascinating foods and people who find, grow, or produce them. I especially enjoyed the chapter on a restaurant in Quebec that forages all the food it serves its diners.
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although sometimes Jacobsen's writing was a tad over-embellished for my liking, the book was a good read overall and I definitely learned some things. His likening of wines to strippers and/or farm girls however was really overwrought and slightly sexist...similarly, some of his metaphors just didn't cut it for me (Lovecraft & Vermont cheeses...hmmm...). I liked his dig at Pynchon at the end though and I met the forager Francois Brouillard discussed in his chapter on foraging/mushrooming whi ...more
The Hofs
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another brilliant book by Jacobsen. What a talent he has for making a mundane topic come alive. His books are devoured by many in our home and we often give them away as Christmas gifts. Fun and informative. Thank you Melissa Wiley for the recommendation!
Jacqueline Boss
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-life
Excellent writing that provides an illuminating look into the way food could and should be treated and how that contributes to taste, quality, culture, and enjoyment. I'm now even more interested in supporting and sampling local and quality foods and excited to forage, cook, and ferment more often. I most enjoyed the sections about maple syrup and apples, though we learn about coffee, chocolate, wine, cheese, avocados, wild edibles, and more, and get very intimate behind-the-scenes views of smal ...more
Victoria Cox
Perfectly functional, colorful, occasionally strangely overstretching a metaphor or two in its exploration of unique place-based foods. This one could have easily slid onto your keeper shelf next to Omnivore's Dilemma were it not for the corny-af cover. Read it as an ebook and you dodge both this hurdle and the fact that most of the suggested follow-up reading comes in the form of TYPED URLS.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
A great read for people who appreciate a good meal and like to learn about the nuts and bolts of cuisine. In other words, food nerds. Like me. I listened on audible, which tended to cause me to arrive at work ravenous, but that’s to be expected.
Shawn Bailey
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A good romanticization of culinary roots.
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
American Terroir is a charming book that addresses how soil and climate conditions affect the way different foods grow and taste. It is a nice, easy, and informative read that made me want to travel and eat…a lot.

It includes a number of recipes, all of which look delicious. I made the maple cranberries and maple-caramelized apples. They were both pretty tasty and easy to make. I’m looking forward to trying the other recipes.

The book also includes a nice handful of resources and contacts at the e
I want to go to Montreal. Specifically, I want to go to . The book talks of terroir, but it isn't talking just wine, but a wide variety of tastes of place. The foraged foods of Quebec specifically called me, but the romance of Prince Edward Islands potatoes and mussels has a pull, the cheeses inspired by fungi of Vermont caves, apples pressed in illegal cider mills and a sudden need to taste all the colors of maple syrups has taken up a place in my hindbr ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book by Rowan Jacobsen explains in great detail about the term
Terroir: a French term usually associated with wine is about, in Jacobson’s words “the taste of place.”

You read about the history, science and culture in an entertaining way. It is succinct and imparts the information of how and why some foods taste the way do but it’s not overly scientific.

Almost all chapters of this book are devoted to specific foods in specific regions (terrior) for example maple syrup in Vermont, varietal ho
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-writing
Side note: I'm willing - no, happy - to admit that a lot of food writing is excessive and sanctimonious. Writing about local food can be even more insufferable. A book about great American foods, then, has the potential to be unbearably smug. This was not that book.

Another side note: while Shane was happy to give me this book for Christmas, he takes issue with the concept of terroir - specifically that place and context can play such an important role in the characteristics or quality of specifi
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a neat concept - a book focusing on the terroir (region-specific flavors) of America. I'm fascinated by this core conceit, that certain regions can produce certain flavors due to the nature of the soil, the sun, the seasons, the elevation, and every other variable that is irreproducable in a lab. It's sad that our centralized, homogenized food system has whittled our options down to familiar, typically un-complex fruits and vegetables (when is the last time you've seen more than one variety ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Another great book courtesy of Goodreads Giveaway and the friendly publishers at Bloomsbury USA!

I confess that when I first entered the drawing for this title I was thinking like a typical citizen of the USA - I read "American Terroir" and thought it would be limited to the fifty states. Rowan Jacobsen's definition includes all of the Americas and he even strays beyond those limits. If I want to follow in his footsteps I'll have to leave my motorcycle at home and start racking up frequent flier
Linda Barlow
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like "foodie" books, you'll love it. Much knowledge gained.
Lindsey Duncan
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, wine
Don't be fooled by the title - as I was - into the thought that this book discusses solely or evenly primarily the usual companion of terroir, wine. Instead, American Terroir investigates the geological stresses that make salmon meat so fatty and smooth; the subtle flavors that bees bring to honey depending on the flowers they pollinate; and many other ways in which the landscape influences flavor ... even the economic.

It is a fascinating book, well researched and obviously a great love of the a
Ben Malczewski
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

hold this book at your library!
The terroir food movement has been gaining momentum not just as a reaction to the failings of the industrial food system with its E. coli laden vegetables or single hamburger patties containing beef from multiple states but because a single food should come from a single place and taste like it. Homogenization dilutes purity and ingredients’ focal identities so much that we no longer have any connection to the land we inhabit. Whether apples in Yakima, varietal hon
Iowa City Public Library
In American Terroir, Rowan Jacobsen travels throughout North America to taste the flavors of the continent. And it’s all about flavor. “Terroir,” a term usually associated with French wine, is applied to apples, honey, maple syrup, oysters, and chocolate, among other foods. Jacobsen takes a look at the terrain (and waters) that has made the flavors of these foods special.

For example, terroir is very important to the cheeses (Bayley Hazen Blue and Constant Bliss) from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It was definitely the most fascinating read for me in 2010. I won it on Goodreads and I am so thankful that I did because although the title and subject were a bit interesting to me I probably would have never picked it up to actually read it on my own. I was immersed in this book. It read like a fiction book, with beautiful ease of storytelling woven into each chapter of facts and details of the particular food subject at hand. While I wouldn't have described myself as a "foo ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I think this seals the deal. I must be a food nerd. Having recently read The Art of Fermentation, I was able to read the chapters on coffee, wine, cheese, and chocolate in a whole new light ... it is amazing how much the process of fermentation aids in some of our greater 'delicacies' ... although obviously we don't like to think of it that way, as the vast American culture of food (if we can even call it a culture) would prefer to disavow anything that doesn't taste the same way every sin ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of mildly interesting anecdotes about food with the occasional Wikipedia-esque factoid thrown in. Jacobsen seems to think that throwing in the word "terroir" (the pronunciation of which he generously helps us with in the first pages, much like Nabokov describing lip placement for the pronunciation of "Lolita") at the end of each anecdote makes the book actually about the interaction between the land and the food it produces. He falls short, however, in practically every ...more
Ken Hasner
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok...I make no apologies for this one. I am a foodie and this is a foodie book. If you have an interest in the food revolution in America, especially where it pertains to sustainable, organic, top of the line palate experiences, you will enjoy this. If you eat at McDonald's don't waste your time. This can also serve as a great reference, want to know where to get the absolute best maple syrup on the planet?(after learning all about the industry and how it is produced), this will tell you where t ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
When I first picked up American Terroir, I had a feeling it was going to be about a food snob pressing his views on the reader. While Rowan Jacobsen is well-versed in the subtleties of tasting food, he writes the book in such as a way as to bring you with him in his travels to find food that best represents the land the produces it. He doesn't preach, he teaches and informs as he learns, himself.

Even after the first chapter, I set the book down (reluctantly) with a new view of the food and drink
I found this on a list of best books of 2010 and when I couldn’t find it in my library system I put it on my wish list on Amazon. (Thanks Mom.)

The idea that foods take on the “taste of place” is appealing to me. I want to learn the what and the why and the where of what makes certain foods better when they come from a particular region. And information centered on American offerings is even better—I have a greater chance of getting to try those.

The chapters here are pretty uneven. The maple syru
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
pretty good natural history/foodie/farmer/cooking/eating overview of select foods in north america (and a bit in Venezuela and environs).
Note: please skip introduction or you won;t want to read it! (weird, but true)

very short chapters on oysters (Jacobsen is probably the leading expert in the popsci of oysters), coffee, maple syrup, honey, avocados, chocolate, wine (pretty much just bonny doon wine), apples, forest foraging (cattails, boletes, day lilies etc), cheese, spuds n mussels from PEI,
Joy Weese Moll
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joy Weese by: Rose City Reader
American Terroir is a series of explorations of various foods, where and how they are produced in North and Central America. We start with maple syrup (in Vermont, of course) and end with chocolate (visiting Chiapas in Mexico and Somerville, Massachusetts, the home of Taza Chocolate that makes bean-to-bar chocolate). Each chapter introduces us to people and settings who care a great deal about the product and the environment in which it’s produced. To a person, they care about sustainability, th ...more
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Rowan Jacobsen is the James Beard Award-winning author of A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America, Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, and The Living Shore, about our ancient connection to estuaries and their potential to heal the oceans. He has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, Harper’s, Outside, Eatin ...more