Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove

This book has been on my shelf for a couple of years, but I finally got to it. I'm glad I did, it's a great book. Written by Laura Schenone, the book covers the history of women and cooking. It concentrates on the U.S., but she touches on other cultures, as well, especially at the beginning. After all, the women cooking in this part of the world a thousand years ago, were not - ahem - Americans.

There are lots of pictures and illustrations, bringing to life the clothing, backgrounds, and tools of earlier eras. I love old pictures. I love seeing people of history, going about their daily lives.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of discrimination in our history. Women have rarely been allowed to function to their fullest potential. It almost seems as if the closest culture to come to it, were the hunter/gatherer societies. Once humanity settled into "civilization," women were tied to the service of men.

In ten chapters, Ms. Schenone talks about how women and food figure into creation myths, shows women moving to new lands and learning the plants and animals to use, and always comes back to the female trait of nurturing.  Whatever women faced, in a world over which they had little control, they always made it their duty to feed everyone. I wonder if this is an extension of our ability to provide the first and only food, for the first six months of a human being's life.

Cooking in America is covered in detail, and even here (especially here) women do not escape bondage. Subject to political will (or lack thereof), male business greed, pollution, weather, and war, American women always prepared food.  They tried to recreate the dishes of their native countries, learned how to prepare the strange plants of their new land, turned over their abilities to "the Experts," and embraced technology in the kitchen.

As with any book about food, I found recipes I wanted to try, especially Grandma Louise's Peach Pie Supreme. Not the Scrapple, though.

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