Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

By | December 13, 2016

This unique culinary history of America offers a fascinating look at our past and uses long-forgotten recipes to explain how eight flavors changed how we eat.

The United States boasts a culturally and ethnically diverse population which makes for a continually changing culinary landscape. But a young historical gastronomist named Sarah Lohman discovered that American food is united by eight flavors: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. In Eight Flavors, Lohman sets out to explore how these influential ingredients made their way to the American table.

She begins in the archives, searching through economic, scientific, political, religious, and culinary records. She pores over cookbooks and manuscripts, dating back to the eighteenth century, through modern standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Lohman discovers when each of these eight flavors first appear in American kitchens—then she asks why.

Eight Flavors introduces the explorers, merchants, botanists, farmers, writers, and chefs whose choices came to define the American palate. Lohman takes you on a journey through the past to tell us something about our present, and our future. We meet John Crowninshield a New England merchant who traveled to Sumatra in the 1790s in search of black pepper. And Edmond Albius, a twelve-year-old slave who lived on an island off the coast of Madagascar, who discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla orchids today. Weaving together original research, historical recipes, gorgeous illustrations and Lohman’s own adventures both in the kitchen and in the field, Eight Flavors is a delicious treat—ready to be devoured.

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3 Comments

M. J. Smith on 12/13/2016 at 04:55.

Conversation over lattes with a historical gastromonist This is history at it’s best like a historian friend sharing their great finds over a cup of coffer or a latte or matcha depending upon where and when you are conversing. Sarah Lohman’s interests are infectious – the reader suddenly needs to know why vanilla pushed rose water out of the kitchen; or when garlic became enjoyable rather than medicinal; or why soy sauce entered America twice, failing eventually the first time, or why we think Chinese rather than Japanese. Okay, where I live in the…

Read Yourself to Sleep on 12/13/2016 at 05:24.

Culinary history is fast becoming one of my favorite genres. In the process of learning about one … Historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman uses her background in historical cooking to examine the eight flavors that define American cuisine: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and sriracha. For each flavor, Lohman goes into a detailed account of the flavor’s history in the United States, how it is harvested/produced, as well as provides ways it has been used over time. Each chapter has a few recipes showing the versatility of the ingredient…

Jason Logsdon on 12/13/2016 at 05:25.

Entertaining Deep Dive Into American Flavors and Culinary History I really enjoyed reading Eight Flavors. It was a fascinating deep dive into 8 different flavors, where they come from, and how they got adapted into American cooking. Sarah Lohman manages to share all this info in an engaging and entertaining manner…making the reading go fast while making you very, very hungry!I loved learning about the flavors everyone would consider part of American cooking like pepper, vanilla, and garlic but my favorite chapters were the flavors I didn’t…