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 is united by eight flavors: black
pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and
Sriracha. In Eight Flavors, Lohman sets out to explore how these influential ingredients made their way to the American table.
begins in the archives, searching through economic, scientific,
political, religious, and culinary records. She pores over cookbooks and
manuscripts, dating back to the eighteenth century, through modern
standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Lohman discovers when each of these eight flavors first appear in American kitchens—then she asks why.
Eight Flavors introduces
the explorers, merchants, botanists, farmers, writers, and chefs whose
choices came to define the American palate. Lohman takes you on a
journey through the past to tell us something about our present, and our
future. We meet John Crowninshield a New England merchant who traveled
to Sumatra in the 1790s in search of black pepper. And Edmond Albius, a
twelve-year-old slave who lived on an island off the coast of
Madagascar, who discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla
orchids today. Weaving together original research, historical recipes,
gorgeous illustrations and Lohman’s own adventures both in the kitchen
and in the field, Eight Flavors is a delicious treat—ready to be devoured.
I always like books like this, and while this wasn't the best one I've ever read it was still an enjoyable read. I especially enjoyed the vanilla section. I learned that the chemical compound found in vanilla and imitation vanilla, vanillin, is synthesized from lignin, C9H1002, which is found in wood. And old book pages can smell like vanilla from oxidizing lignin. So now I know the science behind why old books smell so good.