Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt

Why I read it: Another window through which to read our American history: food.

Summary: How Washington, Jefferson and Franklin (though him not so much, comparatively) affected the history of American foods.

My Thoughts: If he had just used any word but "Foodies." Ugh. But I get his point - what do you use? "Gourmets" is not the correct term. So we move on.

As a sometime gardener, experimental cook and lover of connecting to history in its many forms, I've enjoyed digging into tales like this one. Who championed corn in America? Who salted the first fish? Living in the northeast, I come across many tales of the fishing industry and how it began, but that's on the grand scale. How did a resident of the Isles of Shoals prepare his cod in 1820? What was the drink of choice for celebrations in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775?

So the author carries us through some of the most important moments in colonial American history, sharing with us the stories of Jefferson and his chefs, Washington and his distillery. Other "Founding Foodies" are identified for one-off contributions, but the bulk of the book focuses on the two Virginians.

Best of all, this book comes with recipes. I wanted to try one kind of quickly, and identified a concoction of rum, ale, sugar, nutmeg and eggs drank at the tavern where Washington gave his farewell speech. How's that for extended historicity? As my brother-in-law sipped the warmed brew on a cool September evening, we couldn't help think to themselves, "Dear God, people really drank this stuff?" But it was worth the taste, if just for the name: "A Yard of Flannel." And it wasn't 100% bad. Onto Whipped Syllabub!

What America ate and drank drove us to become the nation we are today. Imagine how we may have turned out on a different diet! It's beyond my head to figure that out, but there has to be a story there.

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