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American Cuisine: And How It Got This Way

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  114 ratings  ·  24 reviews
For centuries, skeptical foreigners—and even millions of Americans—have believed there was no such thing as American cuisine. In recent decades, hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza have been thought to define the nation’s palate. Not so, says food historian Paul Freedman, who demonstrates that there is an exuberant and diverse, if not always coherent, American cuisine that ref ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Liveright
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Linda Bond
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s time for dinner and we have a decision to make. Should we have Chinese or Italian, or how about some Thai at that new little restaurant that just opened across the street? Maybe sushi or a sit-down at a fancy French restaurant? So many styles of cooking, but where is American in all this? That’s the question Paul Freedman has set out to answer and he does so admirably. Taking on the history of food in America, he gives us a 200-year course in everything from ethnic foods, to desserts, to gr ...more
Verdude
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found the book to be very readable despite covering a broad away of U.S. culinary regions and time periods. Highly recommend, if you are a foodie and a history buff.

My biggest lesson from this book is how popular gelatin entrees and desserts had once been. Having been born in 1986, Jello meant "jigglers" to me, but I had clearly arrived in the later innings of Jello's assault on American cuisine (the Jello green salad was a headscratcher).

That said, I have a few serious criticisms, and one w
...more
Katie
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Comprehensive nonfiction book about the history of American cuisine from the beginnings of the country to today, including the controversial question of is there even such a thing as "American cuisine".

If you're not that interested in the topic it might come off as a bit textbook-y, but I didn't find it dry at all and thought much of it was quite fascinating. I never heard of a "jonnycake", but it was a fundamental part of early-American New England cooking that has completely disappeared (it's
...more
Patricia
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won this Advanced Uncorrected Proof in a Goodreads Giveaway. As an Advanced Uncorrected Proof, it certainly needed more editing! That is my main reason for the 4 star rating. It still needs a bit of improvement! Still, I managed to get through it all and not lose sight of what was being said in the book. Likewise, I hope my review does not suffer from poor editing. I certainly apologize, in advance, if it does.

As a person who enjoys history and food, I found this book a delightful combination
...more
Ray
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I actually first saw this book in a getpocket.com article suggested article. (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/ho...) I was intrigued by the article and saw that NYPL had this book so I checked it out.

I'm not that much of a foodie so I felt like a lot of the stuff just went in one eye and out the other. However, the historical bits and explanations of how American Cuisine came to be was absolutely fascinating and described in great detail. This was a great book to read over the past few months
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Csimplot Simplot
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!!
John Gustafson
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thanks to W.W. Norton & Company and the Liveright imprint for giving me an advanced readers copy of this book!

This food history dates from colonial times (but focuses mostly on the 1890s and the beginnings of mass food production onward) and provides necessary complications to a number of simple notions about American cuisine. Over the decades, our national cuisine has been conceived of as being traditionless, as consisting of regional dishes, or as reflecting a melting pot of immigrants, and it
...more
Jackie Latham
Oct 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfic
I felt he was a blowhard who has no idea that American Cuisine is a combination of our melting pot culture. He looked his nose down on the weird mid-century recipes & the simple foods of the working class. He completely ignores the midwest.. the land of farming & stockyards because of trains. He continued to go back to Southern foods of junior league women or the upscale restaurants of the east. I got through over half the book & if he didnt mention fried chicken then he mentioned fish of the ea ...more
Michelle
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This is a fun introduction to American cuisine. It's midway between a popular work and an academic work. A good place to start--when you get to a part that particularly interests you, look in the footnotes and see what books were referenced and then read those to go more in depth. The author repeats himself in parts, not just with info but with throwaway jokes, and I think more editing would have gone a long way. Occasionally there are sections where important info seemed to be left o ...more
Sarra
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Meticulously and impressively researched, and written with deep and obvious love for the subject. A thoroughly fascinating read that doesn't suffer much from its intentionally broad scope. That said, I do feel the author dropped the ball in one area - imagine speculating about the impacts climate change might have on American cuisine in the future and utterly failing to mention the obscene resources demanded by all forms of animal agriculture? Not wondering how the utter, undeniable unsustainabi ...more
Kalli
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A long and winding account of the development of modern American cuisine. There’s liberal amounts of social history covered during the journey, from racism to immigrant issues to the feminist movement but it does eventually always come back to food. There are some interesting trivia bits, such as the fact that Duncan Hines was an actual person, but overall I found it a long journey for very little payoff. I’m not sure Freedman ever really proves his thesis—that there is, and always has been, a d ...more
Phyllis
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was very interested in this topic, but ended up skimming most of the book because it didn’t deliver the kind of analysis I hoped for, and the writing was awkward and imprecise. The author overgeneralizes based on limited information, and doesn’t seem to know a great deal about food and cooking. It compiles many superficial details but lacks real depth of analysis or information that would be new to people who know the subject.
Stuart Miller
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-cpl-copy
If you've already read fairly extensively about American food ways, you probably won't learn all that much by reading this title. However, it is a knowledgeable and comprehensive overview of the subject of just what constitutes "American cuisine" [and read "United States" for "American"] which, according to the author, is characterized by regional cooking styles, standardization compliments of large industrial food companies, and a never ending quest for variety and new taste experiences.
Cathy
Nov 26, 2019 marked it as abandoned-couldn-t-bear-to-finish
Just abandoned. It was a little academic and I struggled to get through it before it was due back to the library. Interesting, though not what I thought it would be. Biggest takeaway? There was once vegetable-flavored Jell-O.
Arlene S
Dense historical overview to answer the question I have heard from immigrant friends: "What is a typical American meal." Answer from this author: there is not just one. Detailed, and I couldn't quite finish before it had to go back to public library -- maybe later.
Mike Cross
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
A good history of food and food culture in the United States, focusing on many aspects. Any claim to actually identifying a true American cuisine are skeptical at best.
Melissa
Dec 12, 2019 added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Not really great on audio
Jessica
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone who likes to eat food. Even if you don’t like to cook.

Well researched and thorough..

Paula Keith
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This read was interesting but a little too dry at times. Some parts read more like a textbook.
Kristin
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book. Unfortunately, the length of the audiobook combined with the busyness of my life meant that it took me nearly a month to finish it, and I don't think I benefited from Freedman's argument, which seemed well reasoned and well structured. He also includes many place names, recipes, and other items that would have been easier to appreciate in text form. Still, I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in American food history who doesn't mind a slightly more ...more
Carol
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book covers 200 years of food in America, what we ate, how it came to be, and what the author defines as American cuisine. The author is a Yale history professor and at times this reads like a textbook but a very readable one. There are many pictures, insets, advertisements, menus, recipes, etc. Many interesting stories and facts. This isn't a book I'd read straight through but enjoyed picking it up at times and reading a few chapters.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Re
...more
Rennie
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5. It’s fine.
Linda Swick
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m taking my time reading this book. So far it’s very interesting.
Deborah
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full of flavor! So much fascinating information, even recipes from bygone eras
Carol
rated it it was amazing
Jun 26, 2019
Jessica Easterly
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Nov 24, 2019
Ana Blackstad
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Mar 07, 2020
Sharifah Al-Ghamdi
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Oct 15, 2019
Erica Eckert
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Nov 05, 2020
Becca
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Oct 13, 2020
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Paul H. Freedman is the Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale University. He specializes in medieval social history, the history of Spain, the study of medieval peasantry, and medieval cuisine.

His 1999 book Images of the Medieval Peasant won the Medieval Academy's prestigious Haskins Medal.

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Professor Freedman specializes in medieval social history, the history of Spain, comparative studie
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