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.
About the Author
Sarah Lohman is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where she began working in a museum at the age of sixteen, cooking historic food over a wood-burning stove. Lohman moved to New York in 2006 to work for New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street, and now works with museums and galleries around the city to create public programs focused on food. Her work has been featured in TheNew York Times, TheWall Street Journal, and NPR, and appeared in the Cooking Channel’s Food: Fact or Fiction. The author of the blog Four Pounds Flavor, Eight Flavors is her first book.
“A unique and surprising view of American history… richly researched, intriguing, and elegantly written.” — The Atlantic
"Engaging...[Lohman] writes with passion and insight." — USA Today
"Very cool...a breezy American culinary history that you didn't know you wanted." — Bon Appetit
"Warning: This book may make you hungry." — Bustle
“It is a nifty idea, cleverly executed and well written — the kind of book that makes the reader annoy her family by constantly exclaiming ‘Gosh! Did you know . . . ?’” — The Financial Times
“In this convivial book, Lohman tells the stories of eight popular flavors….Lohman makes the stories of these flavors fascinating, and by focusing on the influence of immigrants, brings a fresh, original perspective to American culinary history.” — The Christian Science Monitor
"Lively...Lohman will win you over with her detailed exploration of how each ingredient was introduced to the country and how it’s impacted our cooking over time." — Passport Magazine
“In this convivial book, Lohman tells the stories of eight popular flavors….Lohman makes the stories of these flavors fascinating, and by focusing on the influence of immigrants, brings a fresh, original perspective to American culinary history.” — The National Book Review
“Lohman’s thoughtful, conversational style and infectious curiosity make the book wholly delightful… Lohman’s book gives fascinating new insight into what we eat.” — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“This delicious history of these now-ubiquitous ingredients will have readers savoring each page and licking their lips for a taste for more.” — Booklist
“A tasty historical study of flavorful mainstays of American cuisine… A tantalizing look at flavors of the American table that foodies will absolutely devour.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Knowing more about these everyday kitchen items can help us become both better cooks and consumers, plus readers will be able to astound friends and family with newfound knowledge of soy sauce brewing… A lively compendium of facts and trivia about essential ingredients.” — Library Journal
"Lohman's delectable book illustrates the deep connections between culture and food, reminding us that the flavors that enhance our foods represent the people who cook it." — BOOKPAGE
"A compulsively readable, surprising and deeply researched culinary history." — Brooklyn Based
“In this affectionate and insightful history of America cookery, Sarah Lohman tells a story filled with surprising characters, unexpected history - and the occasional irresistible recipe. Eight Flavors is a flavorful delight, start to finish.”“In this affectionate and insightful history of America cookery, Sarah Lohman tells a story filled with surprising characters, unexpected history - and the occasional irresistible recipe. Eight Flavors is a flavorful delight, start to finish.” — Deborah Blum, New York Times bestselling author of The Poisoner's Handbook
"Packed with personality and a journalistic resolve to uncover the truth, Sarah Lohman's Eight Flavors takes deep dives into the history of some of the ingredients that define our modern American cuisine--from black pepper to sriracha to the oft-vilified MSG. You'll find yourself saying "wait, really?" at every turn of the page, ultimately coming out the other end with a deeper understanding of why our food tastes the way it does (not to mention helping you win the Food category at trivia night)." — J. Kenji-Alt, Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats and New York Times bestselling author of The Food Lab
“Eight Flavors is a hunger-inducing culinary voyage through America’s pantries, past and present. Our witty captain, food historian Sarah Lohman, provides us with tasty recipes and unique insight into America’s food landscape, in all its umami-spicy-garlicky-sweet glory.” — Novella Carpenter, bestselling author of Farm City