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America's First Cuisines

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  11 reviews
After long weeks of boring, perhaps spoiled sea rations, one of the first things Spaniards sought in the New World undoubtedly was fresh food. Probably they found the local cuisine strange at first, but soon they were sending American plants and animals around the world, eventually enriching the cuisine of many cultures. Drawing on original accounts by Europeans and native ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by University of Texas Press
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3.95  · 
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 ·  62 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Coe provides a summary of foods available to the Aztec, Maya, and Inca peoples based off of a mixture of archaeological and historical evidence. Coe talks about how certain foods were domesticated, prepared, and consumed. While this list of foods is not complete in any way, it does provide a general overview of foods consumed on a daily basis. While this work could use an update with recent archaeological work and theory on plant domestication, it is still a highly recommended piece of literatur ...more
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it

Coe is understandably miffed that for a long time no one from across two entire continents received any credit for the many, many contributions they made to the history of agriculture and cuisine.

Coe’s book is a scholarly approach to examining the many foodstuffs of the Americas and the locals who developed them well before the Europeans showed up. However, the book has an emotional edge to it that slightly unbalances the academic tone, but it is a fascinating subject that has long deserved mor
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s appropriate that I finished this book just before Orthodox Lent, during which we are to follow what is today called a vegan diet. The late Sophie Coe was the author of a brilliant book about chocolate, and also wrote this account of the food practices of the Aztecs, Maya, and Incas, and how they interacted with the practices and diets of the invading Spaniards. It turns out that the Aztecs, in particular, fasted, but with different rules, abstaining form chiles and salt rather than from mea ...more
Julia Hendon
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Treats what people ate in the Americas before European conquest as an integrated and sophisticated system. Focuses on Aztec, Mata, and Inca. Out of date in terms of some aspects of the history of domestication but still the only effort to think in terms of indigenous tastes and preferences.
Marla McMackin
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: latin-america
This book aims to describe the culinary traditions of the New World, specifically the practices, customs and beliefs of the three major pre-conquest civilizations – the Aztec, Maya and Inca. Coe first focuses on the agricultural development of staples and produce most familiar to a contemporary palate, explaining why they eventually found a place on European tables. She then delves into more individual studies of how each civilization employed these ingredients, along with others that fell out o ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You can find my review of America's First Cuisines on my book blog, Bastian's Book Reviews.

In summary: America's First Cuisines is a great book. It illuminates an aspect of history and knowledge that most people are probably quite ignorant of. It does so accessibly and reliably. The one thing I would have liked to see included is some recipes, but I understand why there are none: it would have been conjecture, and the book is strictly factual.
Almost all sources on indigenous communities' foodways treats them like livestock feed, trying to analyze how they can possibly get enough protein, whether lack of protein drives their cultural quirks (as in Cannibals and Kings: Origins of Cultures), and why the Inuit eat such gross stuff. Sophie Coe offers a refreshing palliative to that attitude, focusing on the cuisine in which Native Americans combined the vast array of food plants she describes briefly in the first section. Unfortunately, s ...more
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history of pre-contact native foods, and the changes that came when they met European cuisines. Informative, helped me write my story on Ocellated Turkeys, a wild turkey of the Yucatan.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
A Mesoamerican archaeologist friend of mine described this book as something her grandmother might have written. :) It's a good read, though, and informative. I liked it.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very interesting account of food and eating in the Americas.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, food
About the food eaten by the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca around the time of the conquest. Very engagingly written, with an almost snarky sense of humor at times.
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Sophie D. Coe, in full Sophie Dobzhansky Coe (1933-1994) was an anthropologist, food historian and author, primarily known for her work on the history of chocolate.

She graduated in 1955, majoring in anthropology, from Radcliffe College, where she was apparently known for her linguistic prowess (speaking Russian and Portuguese). She continued her postgraduate studies at Harvard and received her PhD