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History of American (U.S.) Food & Cooking

See also: American Food & Cooking and Thanksgiving.


Selected Books

American Food by the Decades
Edited by Sherri Liberman
TX360.U6 A755 2011
Edited by a librarian at the New York Public Library, this book follows the history of American food and cooking in the 20th century, particularly the rise of manufactured food products.
Beahrs, Andrew
Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens
TX633 .B393 2010
Mark Twain composed a list of American foods he most missed when in Europe. Andrew Beahrs takes that list and sets out on a quest to rediscover American cuisine, including canvasback duck, possum, frogs, and turtle.
Chastain, Zachary
Cornmeal and Cider: Food and Drink in the 1800s
GT2853.U5 C53 2011
Part of a series, Daily Life in America in the 1800s, for use in secondary schools to enhance the history curriculum.
Coe, Andrew
Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States
TX724.5.C5 C64 2009
This is a tour of America's centuries-long appetite for Chinese food, from 1784, when the first Americans landed in China, to 1972, when President Nixon's trip to China opened our palates to a new range of cuisine.
Eden, Trudy
Cooking in America, 1590-1840
TX715.E23 2006
Eden (history, U. of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls) provides 240 recipes taken from early American primary sources, presented in their original wording. Recipes are arranged by period and then by their main ingredient and are accompanied by explanations of terminology and context, historical information, and descriptions of ingredients, eating habits, and preparation. This is part of the Greenwood Press' "Daily Life through History" series.
Harris, Jessica B.
High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America
TX715.H29972 2011
This history of African American cuisine by noted cookbook author Jessica Harris follows the African diaspora and traces African foods (yams, okra, black-eyed peas, corn), flavorings, cooking methods, and food rituals, as well as profiling cooks.
Kurlansky, Mark
The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food (The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America)
TX715.F685 2009
"before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional: from the lost WPA files"
This is Kurlansky's abridged version of the New Deal's Works Progress Administration's encyclopedia of American food and food traditions that was never published. Kurlansky worked from the archived material in the Library of Congress.
Laudan, Rachel
The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage
TX724.5.H3 L38 1996
An unusual book from the University of Hawaii Press about the history of Hawaii's food, recounting the influence of the many immigrants from the Pacific Rim.
Levenstein, Harvey A.
Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America
GT2853.U5 L47 1993
In Paradox of Plenty, Harvey Levenstein offers a sweeping social history of food and eating in America, exploring the economic, political, and cultural factors that have shaped the American diet from 1930 to the present. This is the sequel to Levenstein's Revolution at the Table, below.
Levenstein, Harvey A.
Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet
GT2853.U5 L48 1988
In this wide-ranging and entertaining study Harvey Levenstein tells of the remarkable transformation in how Americans ate that took place from 1880 to 1930.
McLean, Alice L.
Cooking in America, 1840-1945
TX715.M47445 2006
This cookbook covers the years 1840 through 1945, a time during which American cookery underwent a full-scale revolution. As the industrialization of the American food supply progressed, commercially produced breads, pastries, sauces, pickles, and preserves began to take over kitchen cupboards and undermine the home cooks' ability to produce their own meals from scratch. This is part of the Greenwood Press' "Daily Life through History" series.
Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving And Savoring The Continent's Most Endangered Foods
Gary Paul Nabhan, Editor
TX715.R42157 2008
An interesting book with essays on specific historical American food plants (and corresponding foodways) from the "Renewing America's Food Traditions" (RAFT) alliance. Some are native American crops and others are heirlooms of European tradition.
Silva, Nikki and Davia Nelson
Hidden Kitchens: Stories Recipes And More From NPRs "The Kitchen Sisters"
TX715.S586 2005
These are stories taken from the National Public Radio series. Read about the Chili Queens of San Antonio or how food is cooked for the crews at NASCAR.
Strauss, David
Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961
Strauss, a professor emeritus of history at Kalamazoo College, traces the emergence of the gourmet cooking movement in America, and particularly the influence of Gourmet magazine and dining clubs, from the end to Prohibition to the publication of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Read more about the book from Michigan Live.
Willard, Pat
America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA: The Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts that Define Real American Food
TX715.W71125 2008
America Eats! was a project by the Works Progress Administration during the Depression that employed out of work writers and journalists to collect and record community food habits in the different regions of the United States. Unfortunately it was discontinued before it was finished but Pat Willard has tried to collect as much as possible from libraries and archives and the result is this book. Read more about the WPA Project on NPR.
Williams, Susan
Food in the United States, 1820s-1890
TX355.W55 2006
The period from the 1820s to 1890 was one of invention (such as tin cans, canning jars, and condensed milk), new trends, and the beginnings of classic American food brands (like Quaker Oats and Coca Cola), regional foodways, and diet fads.
Zanger, Mark
American History Cookbook
TX715.Z36 2003
The historic recipes in this volume are foods that were common in the US from the earliest pilgrims through the 1970s. The chapters, divided chronologically, address broad themes and motifs, including patriotic cakes, early American meals for each of the four seasons, traditional dishes of American slaves, Civil War dishes in the north and south, the Great Depression, WWII, and the Vietnam War. The food history of the period introduces each chapter. The recipes are given in a historic version and adapted to modern kitchens.


Coca-Cola: The History of an American Icon
Behind-the-scenes chronicle will inspire you with the story of a product that began as a dream to find the perfect formula for a soda-fountain drink. When it was coupled with innovative and pioneering marketing techniques, it sparked a social revolution that made Coca-Cola the world's favorite soft drink.
Wolf, Burt
What We Eat: why we put sugar in our coffee and ketchup on our fries
(DVD) GT2853.U5 W495 2003x
Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the last voyage of Columbus, What We Eat, a 13 episode PBS TV series from 2002, explores how the Old and the New Worlds were linked through the exchange of plants and animals during Columbus’ voyages from 1492 through 1502. The four discs cover Old World influence, African influence, Native American influence, and Spanish influence.

Browse the Catalog

For additional titles, browse the library catalog under the subjects:


Web Sites

  • American Diner Museum
    The American Diner Museum is a non-profit organization established in 1996 to recognize the diner's cultural and historical significance as well as its national importance. A permanent home for the American Diner Museum is being established in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • American Folk
    The folklore and pop culture of food. Recipes for tamales (the great Southern California Christmas tradition), stinkbait and more.
  • Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project
    The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online digital collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century.
  • Gourmet Magazine: Archive Search: Southern U.S.
    These are articles tagged with the keyword southern U.S. Among the articles are ones by John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
  • Hidden Kitchens
    This is an NPR (National Public Radio) ongoing series by the Kitchen Sisters that explores "the world of hidden kitchens: street-corner cooking, legendary meals and eating communities come together through food."
  • Key Ingredients: America by Food
    "This is the online educational companion to the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition Key Ingredients: America by Food. Explore the two ingredients that are key to American cuisine – regional traditions and international influences." It includes a history of American food in Flash and the American Cookbook Project with recipes from all over the US. You can add your own recipe and story!
  • Lunch Hour NYC
    This online exhibit from the New York Public Library looks back at more than a century of New York lunches, when the city’s early power brokers invented what was yet to be called “power lunch,” local charities established a 3-cent school lunch and visitors with guidebooks thronged Times Square to eat lunch at the Automat.
  • Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail
    One wouldn't think you'd find tamales in Mississippi but "Tamales have been a menu mainstay in the Mississippi Delta for much of the twentieth century". This website is a project of the Southern Foodways Alliance to document the history, tradition, and culture of hot tamales in Mississippi.
  • Name that Candybar
    Is there anything more American than these candybars?? From the Thinking Fountain at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • National Museum of American History: FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000
    This new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History explores changes in American food consumption and some of the new technologies, influential people and broad shifts in social and cultural life behind them. The exhibition opens to the public on November 20, 2012.
  • Southern Foodways Alliance
    Southern Foodways Alliance is an an affiliated institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture with headquarters at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. The mission of the SFA is to celebrate, preserve, promote, and nurture the traditional and developing diverse food cultures of the American South.
  • Sugar Maple Program at Cornell
    Pure maple syrup is a traditional natural product unique to North America. Learn all about Maple Syrup at this Cornell University website. You can find recipes under information for the general public.