food / nonfiction

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman


I had to hurry on this one because it couldn’t be renewed and I’m headed to the beach for a few days and need to return it ASAP.

I had some mixed feelings. I liked the eight flavors she chose because they were quite varied and reflected a lot of different cultures and regions. She did a bit of traveling to research the book which I appreciate (see the cake book where she never leaves the Delmarva) which she admits on her blog/Kickstarter for her next book put her in debt. As we all know, I am nosy so that is a detail I always wonder about when it comes to this kind of book. Book advances are not what they used to be which I know stops me from pursuing some cookbook ideas I have. I admit I’m slightly envious of her career combining food and history because they are two of my favorite things and I enjoyed reading about how she moved to NYC to pursue that sort of work. If only Baltimore could support a food historian! Although, I do not envy her having to cobble together a living doing food writing and historical recipes in NYC. At least Baltimore is a pretty affordable city.

Despite the book being basically tailor-made for me, I didn’t love it.  I found the chapters choppy. This was partially due to her inserting recipes into the body of the chapter rather than the end which disrupted the narrative flow and partially to how she interjected herself a bit into the story but only in a superficial manner. Her “voice” wasn’t particularly compelling nor does she really delve into any personal issues (she mentions a few research trips she takes with her now ex-husband but no real explanation of how he became an ex) so I would have preferred if the book was more journalistic or a straight history book if she didn’t want it to be a memoir. Some of the writing came across as more of a dashed off blog post than a chapter in a book.

That said, I did learn some new food history facts and the recipes looked solid. I’m glad I got it out of the library vs. buying it which was my first impulse. I do look forward to reading her next book though, she did a Kickstarter for it and it will combine food with another favorite topic of mine, true crime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s