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A Short History of the American Stomach
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A Short History of the American Stomach

2.92  ·  Rating details ·  131 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
The extremes of American eating—our separate-but-equal urges to stuff and to starve ourselves—are easy to blame on the excesses of modern living. But Frederick Kaufman followed the winding road of the American intestine back to that cold morning when the first famished Pilgrim clambered off the Mayflower, and he discovered the alarming truth: We’ve been this way all along. ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 4th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published February 4th 2007)
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Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Not just short but pretentiously uninformative history of the American stomach. Yeah, I get it, Kaufman is trying to be irreverent, funny, hip, and coolly chic; he reads more annoying than animated, more crass than cool. I get it, I just don't like it.

There are some small edible nuggets of information and humor buried amongst the offal, and it doesn't take long to read, so you're only wasting a couple of hours of time to buzz through 194 small pages of "short history" that still manage to seem l
May 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
The short history of the American stomach is a remarkable idea, but it was done in the most unremarkable way. History is best read in chronological order; however, the history the title discusses is jumbled and garbled throughout the entire book. The narrative bounces around way too much and the tone, which I'm sure was meant to be casual and easily accessible, often made it seems like the author was talking down to me, but was trying to make it okay by using the f-word.

Putting aside my total c
missy jean
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After hearing a funny and compelling NPR interview with the author some weeks ago, I was expecting a lot from this book. For me, it didn't deliver. The book had plenty of interesting little tidbits (there are people who engage in competitive eating in categories like butter, mayonnaise, cabbage, cow brains, tater tots and grapes?!), but the narrative as a whole felt unfocused and all-over-the-place. And I was unconvinced by Kaufman's assessment of the Food Network as "gastroporn." I mean, his "e ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I actually really enjoyed how it was organized! Mapping it out historically would have been really difficult to follow, as it would have involved looking at how several ideas evolved simultaneously. I actually thought it was interesting to juxtapose with Pollan, because the author doesn't express any particular central belief about food, save that it should not involve triploid crab. Comparing the food network to porn struck me as apt, although not particularly original.
Nov 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining read, as it wanders wildly throughout various aspects of history to make the author's points about the way food influences our behavior and the USA's character. A lack of notes detailing some of Kaufman's sources was, I thought, a serious omission, since I would have liked to know more about some of his data; thus, more entertaining than scholarly. A fun read..
Jan 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this as the first book to read in 2018 because, with the word "short" in the title, I thought I could read it all in one sitting as we drove home from Christmas vacation. I WAS able to do that, which was good; alas, it was the only good thing about reading this book.

The book had the potential to be amusing and quirky, but instead it was vitriolic and utterly not worth the time it took to read it. Best I can tell, the author hates Jews, despises Christians (and I suspect finds all religi
I wanted to like this book. I listened all the way to the end, hoping that it would get better. It seemed like it would be an excellent social history companion to the recent writings of Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "In Defense of Food". In fact, if you search for this book, you'll often be presented with a special discount if you buy the book in combination with Pollan's books.

I expected better of an author who is supposed to be an English professor. Mr. Kaufma
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, history
In a riveting, often hilarious, and unforgettable account, Frederick Kaufman has written a witty polemical exploration of American history via its culinary history - or rather, to be so blunt, American stomachs - in his "A Short History of the American Stomach". Kaufman's surprisingly terse account echoes the young Tom Wolfe in crafting a most riveting narrative; one which cites the likes of Cotton Mather, Washington Irving, Mark Twain and Julia Child. He demonstrates how cooking can be seen as ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Think American fad dieting started in the 20th century? Think again. Professor Kaufman, takes the reader on an in-depth food tour of America’s obsession with eating, food prepartion, dieting, feasting, fasting, food-related illnesses and food-related treatments for almost every ailment under the sun.

Invoking the names of men and women who’ve made their way into the history books because of food or non-food related matters, the professor digs earnestly into our notions about food and shows us th
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: eating, habits, food
An extremely unfocused book. Kaufman has an excellent topic here, but does little with it. Like with Freakonomics, the book is a series of interesting tidbits that don't really add up to anything. Probably the most interesting thing I learned is that practically every food in America, except those including pork, is probably kosher, even if not supervised by a rabbi. There were some interesting tidbits about the Mather family, but why not go deeper into how their theories affected the average Am ...more
I picked this up because I'd read somewhere that it talks about "food slang," and as a word geek, I like slang (and the amount of it that probably relates to food!). But I flipped through it and did not see anything that seemed related. I did, however, learn that MIT student Hugo Liu has created something called The Synesthetic Cookbook, a database not of ingredients but of emotions. "The New York Times reported that prospective users of said database may not only search for ecstatic cheese, but ...more
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was not exactly what I was expecting, but it was interesting none-the-less. Written in a light-hearted tone with a fair amount of humor and the facts related were fascinating to a point. However, after a while it began to feel like an exhaustive list of things Americans have eaten, are eating, will likely eat in the future... And eventually it began to seem as though the author was claiming that the ruination of the world will come from man's obsession with food (the last two chapters ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Kaufman's slim (196 pp) volume was not at all what I expected when I picked it up "on sale" at the University Bookstore. I thought I would learn his perspective on how the melting-pot population of the United States influenced the stew pot of American gastronomy. Instead, his fascination with regurgitation, nut-ball diets, regurgitation, nut-ball theories of nutrition, genetic manipulation of food sources and regurgitation produced a curious book. I finished reading on Thanksgiving Day, which ad ...more
Aug 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
The author seemed to overly concerned with appearing clever to ever get to a point with this book. The history was unfocused, bouncing back and forth between time periods that made me question any of his points when he chose to make them. The overuse of witty asides was aggravating and made him appear as if he was trying to be the poor man's Sarah Vowell. When he found a favorite subject he just seemed to beat it to death. I had to skip the last half of the first chapter because I just couldn't ...more
Christy Stewart
I got this book from a $1 bin, not because it looked good but because I can't pass up a $1 bin and wasn't too interested in Animorphs novels (I'm not judging, I just have moved into adulthood and this is a tiny step toward getting a job and whatever the female equivalent of a prostate exam is). was a good book. Light reading, not really meaty (cause' I wanted to make a pun), and it was funny. As educational as a 3 minute spot on Nightline would have been but not bad for $1.

And the equ
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: food-essays
I'm not sure that Frederick Kaufman knew where he was going with this book. Its as if, one night he decided that there was some sort of connection between the Puritans and today's food epidemic. Drawing heavily on Cotton Mather and a few other dignitaries he desperately tries to make a meaningful connection about early American history and the food we eat today.

It read like a sophomoric essay that needed to spew x amount of pages to be turned in.

A truly fantastic actual history of American foo
Oct 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I really thought this book had a lot of potential, but Kaufman just never really pulls it together. The chapters are organized in chronological order, but within each section there are a million things going on. Kaufman assigned a general theme to each chapter, but I thought most of them were stretches. Overall, there was just too much random information for me to retain.

I would recommend this book for someone who is already knowledgeable of food systems and policy, but not as an introduction.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it
The American digestive history consists of feasting and fasting, including such diverse habits as eating raw meat and in some cases parading carts of it around town, and drinking urine. Then there is the Food Network which had its debut in 1993 and now offers "Debbie Does Salads".
Chapters focus on things large: competitive eating and 900-pound cheeses. Ending with sad story of the disappearing banana, this book offers fascinating information on why and how we eat.
Rogue Reader
A very readable trace of American foodways from the earliest native and immigrant (English, Dutch and Spanish) peoples, to the massive melting pot of the late 1800s and early 1900s, to big agribusiness everywhere. Why we eat what we eat, personalized by Kaufman's family narratives and culinary experiments. Indexed (good), but references are in text so harder to dig out for later reading.

-- Ashland Mystery

Sep 10, 2008 rated it liked it
An interesting exploration of various aspects of American gastrosophy, essentially viewing the American obsession with food (Cotton Mather as early advocate of purification through vomiting, Giada de Laurentis as food's version of Jenna Jameson) as indicative of our own history. Structure seems odd--historically whiplashing from 2006 to 1624--but some excellent self-contained essays, which would work well in a classroom setting (as I'm planning on using them).
I would give this 3.5 stars if Goodreads allowed half stars.

Despite many reviews to the contrary, I found this to be a short, to the point, overview of American food preferences from colonial times to today. I liked Kaufman's writing style and found this to be a quick and interesting read. I also appreciated that I could put this down for a day or two and pick back up again with no problem.
I love food, I mean, I REALLY love food. I would consider myself to be a foodie but not a snooty foodie so it was just not as interesting to me. I figured I could trick myself into learning some history if there was food involved but it was still a struggle. If their had been more organization and flow to this read, I think that would have helped.
David R.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Kaufman tries to be informative and funny, but I thought both fell flat in this strange treatment of Americans' food philosophies since Puritan times. There's also a little too much elitism for my tastes, if I might use that turn of phrase.
Sandy D.
Puritan puking, 19th century food fundamentalists, oyster breeding, competitive eating contests, Ben Franklin's philosophies on digestion, and raw milk covens in NYC - this little book has it all. Go ahead, gorge yourself.
May 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, non-fiction
I felt like this could have been good, in theory. The topic is something that interests me. But in practice, it was just a bunch of quotes from early American authors about food strung together with no real analysis or cohesion. Bummer.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: microhistory
Funny, eye-opening look at the history of food in the United States. Strange how the more things change, the more they stay the same...
Kristin Pederson
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting perspective on the American obsession with diets, but could have been tighter and better defined.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, food-cooking
The only thing that I will remember from this book is the sentence "Watching food tv is like taking an Ativan". How true!
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
It had some interesting information in it but it was basically a bore.
Feb 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
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