cover image Endangered Eating: America’s Vanishing Foods

Endangered Eating: America’s Vanishing Foods

Sarah Lohman. Norton, $28.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-32-400466-0

Historian Lohman (Eight Flavors) examines eight “endangered” foods in this satisfying trek through American culinary history, starting in California with Coachella Valley dates and ending in South Carolina with Carolina African Runner peanuts. Lohman’s quest for foods that “will not be around in another generation or two without immediate action” involved meeting with “farmers, shepherds, fishers, and makers”; attending food-related celebrations and ceremonies (she helped to butcher a Navajo-Churro sheep in the Navajo “Sheep Is Life” festival); and untangling the history of each ingredient, from the influx of “date gardens” in 1900s California to the cultivation of heirloom cider apple trees in Puritan America (and their destruction during the temperance movement, when it was considered “shameful” to have the trees). While the author’s personal musings occasionally butt awkwardly into the historical details, the history is vivid and fascinating, astutely probing the ways that many of these foods have been nearly eradicated by colonization and violence (in the mid-1800s, U.S. troops drove flocks of Navajo sheep off New Mexico land where they wanted their own flocks to graze) or harnessed by Westerners for their own gain (Western-owned distilleries in Hawaii produce rhum agricole—made of Hawaiian legacy sugarcane—using the images and stories of Hawaiian culture for their branding). Part travelogue and part history, this is ideal for curious foodies. (Oct.)