After I began reading this book, I realized it was not quite what I was expecting. Each chapter is more like an essay on an isolated timeframe or historical event, while the book is cohesive through the running theme of women, food, experience. I did enjoy reading it after I got started. It is slightly more scholarly than I was anticipating and the research into areas of food and sociology was quite interesting.
This book provides a totally different way of looking at history! Women's history, the potato famine of Ireland, cooking during the American Civil War, food of POWs, as well as African American heritage (and more!) are expressed through the food prepared and how people felt about what they ate. A fresh perspective showing a different side of issues we are already familiar with.
R. S. reviewed From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals on
Not a gripping read but interesting nonetheless as it charts periods in American history through cookbooks and the lives of some cooks you might have heard of before but many of whom you will NOT have.
It's also interesting for including recipes that highlight those periods. Some you will want to try. Others you'll be sure you won't. Haber devotes a whole chapter to the Roosevelt's wartime and Depression era housekeeper Mrs. Nesbitt making it abundantly clear what a notoriously *bad* cook she was and then includes 2 of her recipes! But each of the recipes Haber selects for periods when the Irish were immigrating in droves or the Western territories were being settled or former slaves were making their place in American cities makes a time in our past more vibrant and closer to the way we live our day to day lives.
I gave it 4 stars for its sense of social and culinary history. Maybe 2 1/2 for its narrative.
Interesting, but a bit biased - makes you want to read the other side of some of these commentaries. The Essays: The Irish Famine and America; Civil War Nurses and Diet Kitchens; America's Food REformers; The Harvey Girls; Home Cooking in the FDR White House; POWs During WWII; Jewish Refugees Find Friends and Work; African-American Cooks; What Cookbooks Mean.