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Publisher's Summary

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.
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 12-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, and Lohman's own adventures both in the kitchen and in the field, Eight Flavors is a delicious treat - ready to be devoured.
©2016 Sarah Lohman (P)2017 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"Her enthusiastic charm and what you sense is genuine Midwestern niceness shine through...Lohman is assiduous in tracking down early recipes and describing cooking techniques." ( New York Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By S. Publicker on 06-13-17


I came away with more respect for American cuisine after listening to this book. Our food is not merely an imitation of other cuisines; it is a complex reflection of history, immigration, and the creation of new foods. The only thing I was sad about was that the audio version didn't come with a print out of the recipes included in the book.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By W. Brian Hall on 07-09-18

History and recipes make for a tasty book

Part cookbook, part history, and part travelogue, this is an interesting look at how different flavors have influence American food from before the founding of the country to the present. As the title states, Lohman examines how eight different items (black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and sriracha) came to be used and influence the foods that Americans love. She uses historical and modern recipes, from Martha Washington's Black Pepper Cookies to Thai omelets with sriracha, to demonstrate how the flavors have been used and so the reader can try them out themselves, if so inclined. She describes her visits to places where the spices are grown, describes the ebbs and flows of the public's taste for these items and delves into the science behind questions like "does MSG cause headaches?"

The only hesitation about the book is that it works better as a print book than an audio book. If you want to try the recipes, you'd rather have them printed out, I'm sure, and if you don't, then it isn't terribly interesting listening to someone read a recipe (and there are a good many recipes in the book).

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