Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine” as Want to Read:
Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,676 ratings  ·  291 reviews
This unique culinary history of America offers a fascinating look at our past and uses long-forgotten recipes to explain how eight flavors changed how we eat.

The United States boasts a culturally and ethnically diverse population which makes for a continually changing culinary landscape. But a young historical gastronomist named Sarah Lohman discovered that American food i
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 6th 2016 by Simon Schuster
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Eight Flavors, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Eight Flavors

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,676 ratings  ·  291 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Navidad Thélamour
Sarah Lohman’s Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine offers an eclectic and thought-provoking survey into American culinary culture and palettes. She traces our culinary roots and, through professional and personal experience, as well as meticulous research, offers up the history of eight spices that can be found in modern American kitchens today. But where did these spices come from, and how did they become so commonly used in our culture? These are the questions that Lohman probe ...more
Every time the author mentioned some of her friends, I grew more envious that I am not one of them. I think she has to be one of the most interesting writers I've run across. In addition to writing, she gives food-related courses (lectures) regarding herbs and spices, which probably fill up within minutes of registration.

What to expect? Each of the eight chapters serves as a jumping off point for a segment on American history along with a botanical examination of the spice itself. Thinking abou
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this unique take on history, food and the immigrant story. Not sure the author's thesis that these flavors were any more important than others really holds up, but the stories of each of the flavors were strong enough independently for me not to care that much. Also I rounded up this 3.5 star review because of her extensive citations. Respect from one historian to another.
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A nonfiction book about the history of American cooking. Lohman organizes the book around eight popular flavors, arranged chronologically as to their appearance in mainstream American food: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and sriracha. Each has a chapter dedicated to it, which Lohman fills with stories of the people involved in the invention or popularizing of a flavor, such as Edmond Albius, a young slave on Madagascar who discovered how to artificiall ...more
Jennifer Stringer
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I actually really enjoyed this book, despite my husband's teasing about its "riveting" subject matter. In this book the author walks us through the introduction of certain flavors in US cuisine. Beginning with pepper and ending with Sriracha sauce, Lohman tells the story of how eight different flavors became part of the American palate. She included recipes from the earliest times of the their introductions and more modern uses. Pepper cookies, Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice-cream recipe, how to ...more
Tamara Evans
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, cooking
Very informative book not only for foodies but those who love to learn know the origin of things. The author explores how eight ingredients (black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sriracha) became staples in America cuisine. After having read this book, I finished with a deeper understanding of the history of food as well as a deeper appreciation for the melting pot that is America and the immigrant influence in American cuisine.

I en
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2017
An eye opening look (we have Martha Washington's cookbook ! It has a recipe for pepper molasses cookies! Ketchup was a replacement for hard to get soy sauce!) at how different flavors have been incorporated into American cooking. Fun, but seemed short for covering food history, immigration, travelogues, and recipes.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, non-fiction
An interesting, enjoyable read about the history of eight different now-American foods, including vanilla, curry, chili powder, MSG, soy sauce, sriracha, black pepper, and garlic. I got so wildly hungry over the vanilla and garlic sections. Recommended if you love food history.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was as fun to read as "Fast Food Nation." I learned a LOT about the history of American flavors. It's not really a cookbook, though their are some recipes.
Allen Adams

In a lot of circumstances, eight isn’t a particularly high number. But according to a new book, the foundation of American cuisine through the centuries can be explored via just eight flavors.

That’s the premise of the aptly-named “Eight Flavors” (Simon & Schuster, $26) by historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman. Subtitled “The Untold Story of American Cuisine,” the book purports to take the reader on a culinary journey across this nation’s food history, f
Aliza Cotton
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very well researched, combined historical facts with good recipes
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Great idea, interesting topic, but mediocre execution. I wasn't a big fan of the author's writing style, the stories seemed at times disorganized or lacking in depth, and there was too much "i went here and ate this and saw this and it was so cool!" The immigrant stories are fascinating but they fell flat emotionally for some reason. Lots of interesting factoids and trivia in this, and a truly fascinating topic though.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found the history of the foods mentioned in this book interesting, but what I loved was the cultural diversity throughout the book. That really is what makes America so great and has been in our DNA since the beginning. When it comes to food, that diversity has given us our own unique American cuisine.
Corinne Edwards
3.5/4 stars

In a country as new as ours (in the grand scheme of countries) and with the mesh of cultures we enjoy, our food customs are as colorful and varied as our citizens. What this book does, however, is lay out eight different FLAVORS that have made themselves an integral part of American kitchens and cuisine. These flavors are as varied as we are and while I was a bit dubious of her choices at first, our author convinced me. By laying out the history and how each flavor became integrated i
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very intriguing book. The eight flavors are, in order of appearance, black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and sriracha. Lohman's approach is to tell us nearly everything it is possible to know about each of these flavors and how they became such an important part of American (U.S.) cuisine.

Lohman includes the science of each flavor, its chemical make-up, and how it acts in and on our bodies. She describes the botany of the plants from which the spi
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love books like this. Being a major foodie, I found the history behind vanilla (most people end up preferring imitation in a taste test due to how often they’ve had it in commercial foods!), sriracha (the beloved $B Huy Fong variety- based around our unwanted red jalapeños- was invented by a Vietnamese immigrant the first MONTH he was in the US!), and MSG (people, truly, EVERYTHING WE EAT is comprised of chemical compounds, it’s the sulfates and sulfites commonly found with the stuff that ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
I loved (like, big-puffy-heart LOVED) reading Eight Flavors. It was fascinating, and well-written, and I really enjoyed how it combined information about the ingredients themselves (how they're made, where they originated) with lots of anecdotes from U.S. and world history. The author doesn't shy away from the unfortunately high number of times that anti-immigration sentiment (against Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, etc.) influenced the way American cuisine developed, and I appreciated how ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book so much I bought it after reading the library copy I read for the GR challenge. I want my own copy.

I learned so much about the food and the flavors, but more about how integrated food history is to our political history.

I would recommend it to anyone interested in food or US History, or to anyone who likes to cook more than white-bread food (the recipes are attractive as well). I already made the Black Pepper Brown Sugar Cookies (amazing) and due to my recent cravings for Ra
Read this after hearing the author speak at a very unique event in Providence, RI. Providence Public Library, Lippitt House and the RI Historical Society all teamed up to offer events around the theme of Relishing Rhode Island. This was a paid event which offered samples of food from the book. I LOVED hearing her speak, she's a dynamo and we were enthralled with the information we got from the book. So, being the librarian that I am, I borrowed the book from my library and started reading but it ...more
Katherine Pershey
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a fabulous book. I loved the breadth of history it takes to trace the way each of the flavors became part of American culture. This is a book about food - but also a book about identity, racism, geopolitics, immigration, tradition, culture... from the first paragraph, in which I geeked out about the author’s association with Hale Farm (#northeastohio), I just loved every page. (If you can love pages when you’re listening to the audiobook version - she did such a great job of reading it, too ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I try not to give books a 5 star rating. In my mind, 3 stars = Eh? You may enjoy it if you have an interest. 4 stars=If this is your genre/style/time period, you should check it out. 5 stars = Everyone should read this book. It achieves everything the author set out to do. Eight Flavors deserves 5 stars. It's fascinating from the first page. Is very well researched and enormously entertaining. You like food, you should read this book.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fun, quick read. If you are a foodie, you will enjoy this book. Interesting take on the origins of popular tastes in our American pantry. No spoilers, but to give you a "taste," early settlers used rose water instead of vanilla in baking. Why? Trade and availability. The French and one of our founding fathers helped bring one of the most popular staples to the American kitchen. Again, worth your time if you enjoy food culture and I am still stinking of garlic!
Sophia Babai
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a sucker for food history -- so much of geography, culture, and science is wrapped up in it -- and this is easily one of the best food history books I've read. Beautifully written, extremely aware of the historical context, and contains genuinely surprising information. The recipes are pretty exciting too!
Well researched and entertaining, this is a good blend of history and food, with some recipes thrown in too. On a few occasions the writing seemed a bit cutesy, perhaps the author worried about being too academic. For foodies who also like history, this is good pick.
Elizabeth R
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
I didn’t expect to like this - and I really did. In a learning sort of way, you understand. It’s great packaging for some aspects of American cuisine as well as a lot of history on immigration in America, in the most palatable way, pun intended. I would never pick this up on my own, but that’s why we have book clubs!
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite to being able to recall half of the flavors 3 days after finishing the book, I enjoyed it. found the history of each flavor and how it came to America very interesting.....some fascinating. Recommend this for any foodie!
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading the historical and political backgrounds of the eight flavors. I wish Lohman's writing style were a little bit more literary and a little bit less hipster though.
Tejas Janet
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ank
A fascinating and fun trip through the culinary flavors dominating the American palate from colonial times to the present.
Karen Treadwell
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I heartily recommend it. 4 1/2 stars.
Jackie Kropp
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful. Can't wait to read more of her work.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Food Fights & Culture Wars: A Secret History of Taste
  • Butter: A Rich History
  • From Hardtack to Homefries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
  • Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes
  • Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird
  • Ten Restaurants That Changed America
  • Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America
  • Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris
  • A History of Food in 100 Recipes
  • American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads
  • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
  • Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads
  • Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine
  • Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture
  • High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America
  • Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America
  • The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South
  • 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust
See similar books…
“Cornell researcher Sherman theorized the antimicrobial properties of these spices is one of the reasons humans like the taste of spicy food. Foods cooked with these spices were better preserved, and in a time before refrigeration, the people who ate them were at a lower risk of food-borne illness. They were healthier and lived longer than people who did not consume spicy food, so they had more children. Natural selection favored those who ate spicy food, because they survived, and the preference for spicy food became a dominant trait in humanity. A” 0 likes
“The great quantity of pepper used here was common in medieval meat preparations, where a protein was crusted in expensive spices—including “sweet” spices like cinnamon and cloves. As I read it, I recalled the grade-school myth that heavy spicing hid the taste of spoiled meat. But as spices were costly in the middle ages, the story can’t be true—someone who could afford to cook with these spices could also afford fresh meat. Instead, the old legend might simply be misinterpreted. The antimicrobial properties of the spices used in recipes like Washington’s—as well as the salt and lemon juice, two other powerful antimicrobials—would have helped to preserve the meat and keep it fresh longer. Lemon-Pepper” 0 likes
More quotes…