The Story behind the Dish: Classic American Foods

The Story behind the Dish: Classic American Foods

The Story behind the Dish: Classic American Foods

The Story behind the Dish: Classic American Foods


Profiling 48 classic American foods ranging from junk and fast food to main dishes to desserts, this book reveals what made these dishes iconic in American pop culture.


Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the great French “philosopher in the kitchen” who wrote, “Tell me what you eat: I will tell you what you are,” also claimed that “The fate of nations depends on the way they eat.” If he is right, the United States should have a pretty good future.

Brillat-Savarin published his famous aphorisms in 1825. Yet although his book was widely read, it took scholars many decades to consider food worthy of serious study. Until quite recently, histories and cultural studies rarely included food in their accounts. in retrospect, such omissions seem bizarre: what could be more central to daily life than food? And, as Brillat-Savarin well understood, what could be more indicative of individual, communal, and even national identity? Thankfully, those omissions are gradually being filled in. the rise of food studies has seen dramatic, interdisciplinary growth in the study of food.

In America, foodways –the useful term that includes all aspects of how a group produces, prepares, and consumes its food–have changed as the nation has changed. At times, too, foodways have arguably changed the nation. the story of American food is as rich, as complicated, as contradictory as the story of America itself. That fact should not be surprising, since the two stories are so inextricably tied together.

This book tells specific parts of the continuing story of American food; the dishes represented here each contribute to the much larger tradition of food in America. American foodways are so varied and extensive, indeed, that any selection of dishes inevitably seems unrepresentative or incomplete. To select the dishes represented in this book, the editors and author worked to come up with a list of foods that either seemed inarguably American or represented some important development in American foodways. Some choices, in fact, include others: it is difficult to talk about hoagies, for example, without talking about subs, to discuss cobblers without Bettys or crisps.

Some dishes have long histories, sometimes even reaching back into antiquity. Others are recent inventions. Dishes seem to be established in America in three . . .

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