For as long as I can remember, cookbooks have always surrounded me. Everywhere I went as a child (i.e. my house and my grandma's house in midtown) always had massive collections of cookbooks. I have now fallen into the trap of cookbook hoarding myself, though I fully embrace it because now it feels like adult picture books. To be fair, the book hoarding has expanded from just cookbooks to historical narratives on a specific food or the linguistic background on food. I think it's so cool to see the similarities and the vast differences between food throughout the world. Bread, for instance, has been through massive transformations throughout the world due to geographical differences, through regional ingredients and colonization. Food has been both the result of society's changes and the force behind societal shifts.
This section of my site will be dedicated to all books that involve food to varying degrees. This could be a cookbook, novel, history book or anything else where food is the centerpiece. I love working with my hands to create something beautiful and delicious, but at the end of the day, I want to unwind with a book. These will be quickie summaries and reviews of the books I come across.
Three Squares is the book I wish I had found in college to help guide me towards combining food and history. It is the exhaustive version of what I would have been interested in writing about for my senior thesis. With that being said, Carroll's storytelling is informative, but sometimes stiff and academic. If you're looking for a lighthearted narrative, Carroll kind of misses the mark. But before I totally drag this book, some personal interests of mine (enter: carbs) were spectacularly written and explained within the context of American society.
Chapters such as "Reinventing Breakfast" or "The British Invasion" were my favorites because there was a big emphasis on food groups that I adore and the way the foods folded into society was fascinating to me. "The British Invasion" was my favorite chapter of the whole book because of its origin stories of doughnuts, breads and cakes and their place into the United States and eventually into breakfast. Carroll's chapter on the invention of lunch - including its ever-changing terminology due to a growing industrial society- was fascinating. I never knew about women's lunch clubs and their philanthropic influence to their schools and communities. Additionally, I never knew about the existence of communal kitchens and their failed efforts to become a popular way of living.
The conclusion was sadly unsatisfying, especially since the majority of the book had been so descriptive and thorough. To be fair, Carroll is an excellent historian and there is plenty of reading material that discuss the future of the American meal (read everything Michael Pollan has written). While some online book reviewers were lukewarm about the extensive endnotes and bibliography, I'm actually looking forward to browsing through the materials she chose from. This plethora of even more reading material about food is a win for me.