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OP: I Hear America Cooking

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by Betty Fussell
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Viking, 1986. Hardcover. Near Fine in a Good jacket. First printing.

In I Hear America Cooking, food writer and historian Betty Fussell (1927– ) seeks to define “American food” as an assemblage and summation of its multiple origins and diverse influences. To demonstrate her thinking, she explores six regions within the United States that have distinct culinary traditions, each of them in turn complex in their origins and even actively engaged in an exchange with their varied sources.

In the Indigenous southwest, corn, beans, and squash are the staple crops, and these became the basis for the cooking of the area. But it was not as simple as that. Spanish colonization introduced European elements to the region and, along the way, brought the foods of the Americas to the kitchens of Europe. (Note that the Aztec word for bean, ayacotl, is the root of the French haricot).

On the other hand, regions like the Delta South have come to be defined by the cultural influence of those who inhabited Louisiana, either Natives, European colonizers, or enslaved Africans. Many staple dishes, such as jambalaya and a variety of gumbos reveal French, Spanish, and African culinary and linguistic influences.

Fussell continues the exercise with the Southeast coast, New England, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest.

A meticulous researcher, Fussell frequently refers to early cookbooks, as well as to contemporary experts in the food world. Each chapter begins with an anecdotal and historical essay, and recipes are preceded by detailed headnotes. At just over 500 pages, I Hear America Cooking is certainly for those who savor reading their cookbooks. 

Our 1986 first printing is in Near Fine condition with the exception of a remainder mark on the fore edge. The jacket, classified as Good, is rippled at the head and foot of the spine and missing a fist-sized chunk to the rear, which does not encroach on any text; it has been placed in a mylar sleeve to protect from further damage. Black and white photographs and illustrations throughout.

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