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food history

Thanksgiving with a side of history — WIN these books!

in Potpourri by

This Thanksgiving we’re going to skip the apocryphal tale of the Pilgrims and jump ahead to some tastier American culinary history. After all, a close examination of history tells us that the meal we’ve come to think of as “the first Thanksgiving” most likely included venison, not turkey, and probably geese and even lobster and mussels. However, by the time of the American Revolution turkey was a staple on American dinner tables. President John Adams was intrigued by the origin of the turkey and in 1779 speculated that “the French names [for the bird]…indicate that the fowl was imported from India.” In spite of this odd bit of deduction, there’s no doubt John and his wife, Abigail, enjoyed their turkey…

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Hello, American Pie

in Non-Fiction by

Let us now give thanks for pie. As Thanksgiving approaches, pie is much on our minds, especially if we’re the ones planning the menu. Of course we’ll have pumpkin and apple, but what else? Should we add pecan? Pear? Appease the chocoholics with chocolate-hazelnut? Tweak tradition with cranberry-caramel tart? The possibilities are many on this most American of holidays, perhaps because pie is the most American of desserts. A few years ago, my sister biked across country (yes, over the Rockies and across the Great Plains, but that’s another story). Along the way, she told me later, she was struck by the presence of pie on American menus; it was everywhere, and yet each region had its own specialties—more so…

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How fish sauce traveled the world and became ketchup in The Language of Food

in Non-Fiction by

It took a while for academia to acknowledge the role food of in history. In his 2003 memoir, The Apprentice, Jacques Pépin tells of the long-ago Columbia University professor who forbade him to focus on the history of French food when the then-young chef was studying for his Ph.D. (Yes, it’s Dr. Pépin, to you.) When Pépin became a celebrity chef, he had his revenge: he co-founded Boston University’s gastronomy program, the first of its kind at a major university. Now, of course, food history is hot. There are books and articles on the history of everything from amaranth to za’atar, and you can find classes at top colleges and in your local adult education catalog. The role of food…

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