cover image Eight Flavors. The Untold Story of American Cuisine

Eight Flavors. The Untold Story of American Cuisine

Sarah Lohman. Simon & Schuster, $26.99 (264p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5395-9

Food writer Lohman uses eight key flavors to launch an entertaining tour through the tastes that have made American food the “most complex and diverse cuisine on the planet.” The story of America’s embrace of black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG (monosodium glutamate) and sriracha demonstrates how travel, immigration, science, and technology continue to influence what Americans eat. From her opening story of John Crowninshield of Massachusetts, who returned to the U.S. from Sumatra with commercial quantities of black pepper in the early 19th century, to her rousing defense of MSG, Lohman’s thoughtful, conversational style and infectious curiosity make the book wholly delightful. As a bonus for enthusiastic amateurs, Lohman includes well-researched historic recipes, such as Thomas Jefferson’s vanilla ice cream. This Founding Father was responsible for introducing the noble dairy treat to the country, via the French chef he brought home with him in the 1780s. A more modern but equally heroic tale is that of sriracha, invented in California by an immigrant, David Tran. Tran named his company, Huy Fong Foods, after the refugee ship he and his family fled Vietnam on—a Panamanian freighter called the Huey Fong. Lohman’s book gives fascinating new insight into what we eat. (Dec.)