American Food Habits in Historical Perspective

American Food Habits in Historical Perspective

American Food Habits in Historical Perspective

American Food Habits in Historical Perspective


Using dietary information and other pertinent facts, the author assesses the nutritional status of Americans during each historical period. Special emphasis is given to American dietary patterns from the landfall of Columbus to the colonial period, the revolutionary period, the New Republic, and the 20th century. Four categories of American food are identified and analyzed: mainstream cuisine, regional cooking, "regional phenomena" (including ethnic foods), and "Pop" foods. The overview concludes with the finding that, despite delightful differences, there are striking similarities in food habits across time and cultures. By providing increased insights and understanding of contemporary American eating patterns, this book will be a substantive addition to existing texts.


Food habits are not independent entities. They reflect, and are influenced by, the entire ecological milieu in which they occur. Therefore, the study of food habits calls for an interdisciplinary approach, utilizing both the biological and social sciences, including biology, physiology, history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and nutrition (as well as the relatively new science of nutritional anthropology).

This book provides a historical overview of the food habits of human beings over time, with special emphasis on American dietary habits from Columbian times through the present (chapters 4, 5, 6, 9, and 10). Food habits are addressed within the context of the relevant events, developments, and circumstances associated with each era.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the essentiality of food as a source of nourishment for all living things. The basic concepts of nutrition are explained, and significant milestones in the history of nutrition are presented. Finally, the associations between human evolution and changing nutritional needs and diets of human beings are addressed.

Because sufficient food is pivotal to the existence of society, human beings have devoted much time and effort to obtaining an adequate food supply. Chapter 2 describes the various traditional methods of obtaining food, the characteristics of food-gathering and food-producing societies, the elements of food processing, and the universal foods and food products that have been used by human cultures across time. Such information . . .

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