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Feb 25, 2008 11:13 AM

I'm looking for a book about American food

I recently read Patric Kuh's book, "The Last Days of Haute Cuisine," and I also read "American Food" by Evan Jones. They were good, but now my curiosity has taken another direction.

I'm looking for a book that gives a history of how American food evolved. I'm not primarily interested in regional differences, but rather how Americans developed a taste for Cheeze Whiz and Wonder Bread, and yet can mainstream something that was once considered "exotic", such as quiche or bruschetta. There are so many choices in the average American supermarket, from really good produce to terrible processed junk, all in the same place. I'm curious why the good food hasn't overtaken the bad, sort of a culinary "survival of the fittest."

What got me thinking about this is that I come from a family of excellent Italian cooks who can create stunning dishes from the Old Country, and yet think nothing of doing a jello-and-cool-whip dessert, or a Turkey Noodle Bake with canned mushroom soup.

I've also noticed that mainstream magazines such as Woman's Day and Ladies Home Journal now carry recipes that 20 years ago would have been too "ethnic" or too exotic for the average American.

So are there any books out there that can satisfy my craving for a good history on American food in its best and worst forms?

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    1. James Beard's The American Cookery, gives traditional recipes along with how they developed.

      1. Leslie Brenner, now of the L.A. Times, wrote this book "American Appetite" some years ago which might fill the bill.

        1. An American Place, by Larry Forgione. Here is a link to a pretty cool website that features historic American cookbooks.

                1. re: mudster

                  Yes, this is a great suggestion.