A Foodie Gift: The American Plate

If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or family member who loves to cook, you should have the easiest time buying Christmas gifts for them this year (or any year). Most kitchen tools wear out and fancy NEW tools are always coming out, so no matter your price range, you should be able to find something wonderful to give. (For specific ideas under $15 click here. For ideas over $15 click here.)

In addition to those ideas, I wanted to throw out a different idea: a book.

OK - maybe a book doesn't sound original, but that really depends on the originality of the book!

A standard cookbook is lovely, but most foodies have stacks of them.  If your foodie friend is missing staples like The Joy of Cooking or Mastering The Art of French Cooking, then buy those before anything else.  If you have the extra $500 to buy Modernist Cuisine (the ultimate food porn), by all means, have at it!

However, this year might I suggest something a little more fun?  How about The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites


This book is written by one of my friends and former colleagues from A+E Networks, Dr. Libby O’Connell. Libby is the Chief Historian for History and is a food buff like few others. She has taken a crazy array of facts and insight and packed it into 300 incredibly readable pages.

The book is organized around 100 “bites” or foods from American history, many of which are with us today. Each bite is put into a historical context.

So if O’Connell shares a recipe for Brunswick Stew, she also tells us why the dish worked for Frontier women who were struggling to feed their families. And while the recipe in the book includes squirrel (along with the reminder not to use squirrel brains), O’Connell mercifully shares the appropriate substitute.

When we learn about bagels, we discover how the hole in the middle allows for easy handling for street vendors. If you’re reading about Eleanor Roosevelt’s scrambled eggs, you learn why her lack of cooking skills were viewed as a sign of privilege. Want to know about “Super Foods”? Well, it’s a bunch of hooey!

This isn’t going to be another cookbook to sit on the shelf (many of the ingredients are esoteric), but it will be something your favorite cook, foodie, and/or history buff will devour like a novel.

Such fun!

I’ll be packaging up these books with a set of spatulas, some favorite spices, or a gorgeous wooden salad bowl.

Presto! Done gifts!!

FoodJoy Phenix1 Comment