Yours? Mine? Ours? Yes! We Call It American Cuisine

Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Literature & Fiction,
Collage of American cuisine books
The World—Right Here on Our Tables

Other than indigenous peoples, we are a nation of immigrants, those who came by choice and those who came by force. As our country keeps growing and changing with new people arriving all the time, what we eat changes too. Like our country, American cuisine is never static. It is interesting and exciting and reflects the great, rich diversity that makes it yours, mine, and ours. American cuisine is the world—right here on our tables.

A few thoughts about American food come from one of our own queens of cuisine, Julia Child. In one of her last interviews, she was asked about a favorite food, and what a surprise. She raved about a tomato sandwich made from a sliced, flavorful tomato, on white bread thickly slathered with good mayonnaise, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. She and Jacques Pépin, an immigrant from France, presented an entire TV program on the hamburger. After a big bite from a hefty burger piled with tomato, lettuce, and other fixings, Julia declared, “Good American fare.”

For summer holidays and celebrations, many of us will be gathering together in person, or perhaps digitally, and we’ll be sharing all kinds of foods. The following have become a part of traditional foods for summer festivities: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dips, ice cream, pies, cakes, cookies, watermelon, cold beer, and cold soda. There are many other good things to eat—way more than can be listed. Therefore, we offer a meager list of books about our food history and encourage everyone to check the library’s catalog for more.

The World—Right Here on Our Tables

Book cover for Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
Deetz, Kelley Fanto

Many of the foods, oyster stew, gumbo, finely fried fish, that are taken for granted as being part of an elevated American cuisine, came from slaves. Deetz’s intensive research methods involved delving into historical and archaeological records. She sheds light on how the concept of southern hospitality was dependent on the cooking ingenuity and finesse of enslaved cooks.

Book cover for I Hear America Cooking
I Hear America Cooking
Fussell, Betty Harper

Betty Fussell gives us recipes and history about the foods we eat, and some of the people who created them. “This cultural and culinary smorgasbord offers a tasty collection of recipes as well as a great slice of Americana.”

Book cover for Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook
Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook
Scorsese, Catherine

Many years ago, I discovered this book while browsing the shelves of our great cookbook collection at Central Library. Not to slight the numerous ethnic contributions to American cuisine, this book is for your amusement and edification. “Catherine Scorsese's tomato-and meat sauce was probably the only recipe ever to receive full billing in the credits of a movie when Martin Scorsese starred the sauce and his parents in Italianamerican, his favorite of all his films. Now, for the first time, all the recipes from the family have been written down for this cookbook, with photos and anecdotes that tell the story of three generations of Scorseses.”

Book cover for Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African-American Cooking
Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African-American Cooking
Tipton-Martin, Toni

A book that is generous in size and information about “...enslaved master chefs, free caterers, and black entrepreneurs and culinary stars…“ The full-page color illustrations that accompany the recipes will make you want to get cooking.

Book cover for Rosie's Riveting Recipes
Rosie's Riveting Recipes

Recipes and ideas from the 1940s, when men went off to war, and women worked men’s jobs and managed to feed their families...The women created balanced meals and desserts with rationed food and limited time.

Book cover for Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking
Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking
Cox, Beverly

This book covers the specific cuisines of Native Americans of North America. The foods are divided into geographic regions: southeastern coast and woodlands; northeastern coast and woodlands; Great Plains; the southwest; and the west. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs and black and white drawings of symbolic designs.

Book cover for Stand Facing the Stove
Stand Facing the Stove
Mendelson, Anne

The Joy of Cooking, in its many editions, is the American bible of cooking. It has changed over the years and is now more than a how-to cookbook. The newer editions encompass and acknowledge the diversity of American cuisine. This is the biography of Irma Rombauer, who wrote the first edition, which almost did not happen.

Book cover for The Way We Ate
The Way We Ate

For every year, from 1901 to 2000, there are historical recipes recreated and translated into modern versions by great chefs and food experts.