James E. McWilliams recounts the culinary attitudes, tastes, and techniques of colonial America. From the kitchen tables of typical Puritan families to Iroquois longhouses in the backcountry and slave kitchens on southern plantations, McWilliams describes how settlers in the colonies and West Indies integrated their British and European tastes with the bounty of the American environment and developed a range of regional cuisines.
"[T]he way [colonial] Americans thought about food was integral to the way they thought about politics," McWilliams persuasively argues in this survey of the creation of American cuisine. The Texas State University-San Marcos history professor explores what the colonists ate and why, how that affected their emerging political and cultural values, how their farms and their rights intersected and how "food remained at the core of America's Revolution." At the root of American cuisine, McWilliams finds, is the immeasurable impact of Native American agricultural practices. He explores the effect of the staple crop peculiar to each area of colonial America upon the development of regional foodways, as well as upon their economic and social practices. With remarkable clarity, he delineates the technical aspects of various agricultural tasks, from crop cultivation (sugar cane, rice, tobacco, corn, wheat) to more domestic work (building a kitchen garden, churning butter). The broad range of scholarship, the smooth weaving of political and social history and the full notes and fat bibliography will inform historians, while the lucid style and jaunty tone (the Quakers were "a people who made a virtue of frugality while making frugality more elaborate than anyone could have imagined") make this accessible to all. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.