I believe that how you eat and how you choose your food is an act that combines the political-your place in the world of other people-with the most intensely personal-the way you use your mind and your senses, together, for the gratification of your soul.
Alice Waters (1994) 1
Thus wrote Alice Waters, founder in 1971 of Berkeley's famed Chez Panisse restaurant which, along with master chef Julia Child's early 1960s television show, helped to inspire an American cuisine that went beyond the postwar period's canned vegetables, pot roast, fruit cocktail, and TV dinners. 2 If you're over the age of 40 you probably remember those days when adventuresome eating was an occasional pizza or Chinese food, and salad often contained Jell-O®. Now there are many thousands of outstanding American chefs and home cooks creating new flavor and texture combinations using traditional American foods such as tomatoes, corn, and chocolate. Many restaurants feature American-grown ingredients, as well as American wines and locally made beers.
But what makes American cuisine American? In fact, what makes any cuisine a cuisine? What factors are responsible for the particular characteristics of a given cuisine? This chapter will provide you with answers to these questions, as well as with some information about beer and wine tasting. Research described in previous chapters concerning how and why people choose certain foods and drinks comes together in this chapter to help you understand how people end up consuming certain combinations or patterns of specific foods and drinks. Here you'll gain a sense of how scientific investigations-with rats as well as people-can give you both a better understanding of and better enjoyment of the food and drink that