The Thousand Dollar Dinner: America’s First Great Cookery Challenge

Becky Libourel Diamond. Westholme, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59416-231-2
Diamond, a journalist and research historian (Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School) specializes in reconstructing 18th- and 19th-century American recipes. This richly detailed chronicle showcases the fantastic dining experience concocted in 1851 by Philadelphia chef James W. Parkinson in response to a challenge from 15 wealthy New Yorkers who claimed their city produced the best meals. Parkinson, an early advocate of American foods, devised a 17-course banquet (including wines) that took more than 11 hours to consume. Diamond dishes out more than the menu of this remarkable meal, deconstructing each course with details of the class mores, cultural habits, and food preferences of elite 19th-century Americans. Diamond adds another layer of richness to her account by weaving in the history of the various foods and the array of utensils, touching on soup’s 5,000-year-old history and heralding “the invention of leak-free containers which could withstand boiling over an open fire.” This tale of a Gilded Age mega-meal will delight culinary historians and anyone wanting a peek at over-the-top consumption. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-59416-260-2
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