Simon Majumdar Interviews

Yale Professor and Author

PAUL FREEDMAN

on "American Cuisine

and How It Got This Way"

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Paul Freedman Interview Notes

In this episode our host, Simon Majumdar, interviews his friend, Yale Professor Paul Freedman about his latest book, "American Cuisine and How It Got This Way." During the interview, they discuss the 200-year development of cuisine in America and how it became the melting pot of ideas that it is today. It’s a fun conversation that will change the way you look at the way we eat in the United States.

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TRANSCRIPT

EAT MY GLOBE: THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT FOOD

Simon Majumdar Interviews Yale Professor and Author, 

PAUL FREEDMAN

on "American Cuisine and How It Got This Way"

INTRO MUSIC

SIMON:

Hi everybody. And welcome to Eat My Globe, a podcast about things you didn't know you didn't know about food. And on today's very special episode, I am pleased to reintroduce one of our favorite guests from a previous episode of Eat My Globe. So I'm very pleased to present to you, Professor Paul Freedman.

 

Paul, welcome back.

 

PAUL:

Thank you, Simon. It's always a pleasure speaking with you.

 

SIMON:

Well we obviously didn't scare you off too much last time, so I'm very thrilled that you're back.  Now for those who have not, uh, heard our previous interview and if not, why not? Do go and listen to it – about your really terrific book, “10 Restaurants That Changed America.” Perhaps you can give us all a brief introduction to yourself and about your passion for food history.

 

PAUL:

Right. So I am, by trade, training and what I'm paid for is to teach medieval history. And I teach at Yale University. And I've been teaching medieval history for, uh, some decades, let's say. So the interest in food history as an academic subject is relatively new. I've been, uh, involved in it for about 12 years and I'm come at that through an interest in how people think about their social position. And food is one way people distinguish themselves. Uh, I am a person of sophistication or I'm a regular guy, regular gal or I am Italian and therefore I like certain things or I'm American and therefore I'm one of the few people in the world who likes peanut butter.

 

These are, uh, the parts of food history that first interested me. But I really come at it through menus.

 

My first book on food was on “10 Restaurants That Changed America,” published three years ago. And my motivation to do that was just looking at old menus and wondering why certain dishes were popular. Why there was so much food, so many courses and um, just how people got to eat the way that we do today in restaurants.

 

SIMON:

Absolutely. And if people haven't listened to that interview, as I said, it's in season one of, uh, Eat My Globe, “10 Restaurants That Changed America,” or indeed, if you haven't rushed out and purchased a copy from every good book seller of “10 Restaurants That Changed America,” you really should. Uh, it's a terrific read.

 

I was very thrilled, uh, when we were able to create a dinner around that as well a number of years ago, which was great fun.

 

But your latest book, which I have to say equally honored that you asked me to provide a blurb for – which I was very happy to do – is one that really intrigued me because one of the arguments I have with a lot of people, or one of the discussions I have, is what is American cuisine. And your latest book is called, “American Cuisine and How It Got This Way,” which I thought it was a really fantastic title.

 

But I thought before we went to talk about the book specifically – and I've got lots of questions about that. I thought perhaps, first of all, we could talk about what a cuisine is because that's what people ask me. You know is a cuisine just the list of dishes? Is it a sense of self-expression for a country? How does one define cuisine? Or how did you define it for this book?

 

PAUL:

In part, I started with the definition of the great anthropologist, Sydney Mintz, who said that a cuisine is a set of food practices that ordinary people care about passionately.

 

So, uh, in, uh, the United States for much of its history, the elite ate French food. And they might or might not care about it, but ordinary people did not enter into that. And, uh, in much of American culture talking about food or fussing about food or discussing different people's recipes was not really what real Americans did. Real Americans tended to regard food as a kind of a biological need and something to be gotten over quickly. You know, meals should be efficient.

 

So, um, so think of a cuisine in the way Mintz describes it. Think of discussions over barbecue in various parts of the South or discussions here in the Northeast where I am over pizza. These are the kinds of things that you don't have to be a member of the economic . . .or a supposed intellectual elite to care about.

 

Uh, I'd take a little broader position though that cuisine is to some extent the conscious and unconscious standards that people have. So one aspect of American cuisine is that love of peanut butter that I mentioned before. But, uh, my notion of cuisine is a set of attitudes specifically for the US regional food rather than a national food. A love of processed food and modern food that only recently has started to fall apart. And then a consistent love of variety. Variety. Different kinds of cuisines. What used to be called ethnic cuisines and different varieties within a single brand. Like different kinds of Tropicana orange juice or different kinds of yogurt. Those are the three, in my opinion, basic factors that define American cuisine.

 

SIMON:

I think that's a really interesting way of looking at it. But it does throw up a question to me that I know often gets asked. And it's a question that I just recently had when I did another interview with, uh, the folks at Plimoth plantation. And, uh, it's a, it was a really fascinating conversation because I chatted with their Foodways people who look at – really from the arrival of the first colonists, the first explorers, uh, however you want to define them. And then also with, uh, one of the Foodways people from the Wampanoag who were obviously there already and were a part of the indigenous communities in America. What I'd. . . What I’d like to ask is how you decided what was where the cutoff was and how you built into that the kind of native cuisines that were there beforehand, the influence they had and indeed, whether that would have been classified as a cuisine.

 

PAUL:

I think it certainly would be classified as a set of cuisines. Obviously, the indigenous people had many different kinds of foods, some tons depending on their environment, planes versus lakes versus coast.

 

But, um, yes, I try to begin at the beginning and to, um, uh, describe the formation of the colonists cuisine, which did absorb a lot of the ingredients and knowledge and techniques of the native population.

 

But the colonists, and then later, members of the early American Republic, for a long time, tried to eat in as English a fashion as possible. Uh, they might use corn for everything because corn grew better than wheat in New England and the, um, uh, native peoples taught them how to use corn in a variety of ways – mush, pancakes, fried and so forth.

 

But as soon as they could get wheat bread and afford it on the basis of trade or, uh, other things or the expanding, uh, into regions like Pennsylvania where wheat grows well, they tended to abandon corn.

 

So, I do discuss the kind of interplay between the knowledge of the indigenous people and its grudging acceptance by the settlers.

 

The majority of the book is about the United States and I could have called it really, “United States’ Cuisine and How It Got This Way,” except that United States as an adjective is kind of, um, kind of awkward.

SIMON:

One of the things I'd like to delve into a little deeper there is at what point do you think you could start looking at this as an American cuisine?

 

My understanding is initially it was rather isolated groups of immigrants from different countries. Obviously initially from, uh, the Netherlands, from, uh, Great Britain, but increasingly then from Italy, from Germany over the years.

 

And at what point do you see this beginning to form together into something that is quintessentially American and kind of giving you the big bang of this points? And I know we've talked before about big bangs not always being a good way of looking at this, but it does give us a starting point.

 

PAUL:

Well, but I liked the way you put that. I would say there's a little bang at the beginning of the 19th century when American cuisines starts to look self-consciously different from English cuisine. The big bang is at the end of the 19th century when you start to get those waves of immigrants from Italy, from Eastern Europe, from China. When you start to get, uh, international cuisines and the kind of variety in culinary options that I mentioned before.

 

SIMON:

And you also begin to see there, I know in literature you begin to see references in books of travelers to the United States talking about how interesting and often odd and bizarre the food is. I know references I was reading, uh, from Dickens when he was talking about a tour of the U.S. and he's talking about just how odd he found the American form of breakfast and how quickly they ate, and how much they ate for breakfast, and the kind of dyspepsia that followed from it. So you do begin to get a lot, lot of references, I think, from outsiders saying, this is actually a thing now.

 

PAUL:

That's right. And, uh, they emphasize the speed, the lack of conversation, the way in which Americans seem to regard the meal as a task, and their voracity. The large portion size, uh, the, uh, willingness to consume huge quantities or eagerness to consume huge quantities of food. So that is consistent over certainly the last 150 years or so.

SIMON:

It still might be a view with many people who have not yet been to the U.S. and certainly, and when I first came to the U.S., one of the things you always talked about was how much weight people put on when they came for a vacation to the U.S.

 

PAUL:

The portion size is still scandalous.

 

What I think has changed recently is that one of the consistent criticisms of foreign visitors was this: what is American cuisine? My hosts took me to a Chinese restaurant last night and then to a Greek restaurant. I mean, are these parts of American cuisine or is there simply no core, only periphery?

 

Now, this kind of eclecticism is what young people eat all over the world. I was in France and took a picture that's in the book of a chalk board advertising a restaurant just off the main street in Poitier. And it says, in English, try some real French cuisine, tacos, burgers, panini.

 

SIMON:

[Laughter]

PAUL:

All it's lacking is sushi and bubble tea. But you get the idea that, in France, even as little as 10 years ago, this kind of eclecticism, although it might be widespread, would be, uh, not advertised or lightheartedly presented. Now it's cool. And that comes from America. That kind of, you know, what will it be, uh, Asian, Mexican, burgers, you name it.

 

SIMON:

And the boundaries between those cuisines. And I think that's one of the things that American cuisine has given to the world. The boundaries between Korean and Greek and Chinese and Indian have become so blurred as you have second and third, fourth generations of immigrant families, uh, entering the, the, you know, the culinary world, entering the entertainment world. We're seeing that all the time now, whether it's from Korean bao or fried chicken becoming the hottest thing in the property.

 

Let's have a look at the, I mean. Let's talk more about the book in specific terms because it has a really great narrative strand that I love and obviously you follow from the beginning in commerce through to the modern day. But what I like is that you really looked at it in trends and themes. And I want to look at some of those. But I wanted to ask why you saw some of these themes as just being important or why you thought a thematic approach was important.

 

PAUL:

Yeah, so certain themes like immigrants and food, or women and men, and their different attitudes towards food. Or what originally interested me, upper class, lower class. Or the experimenters, people who we would now call hipsters, but who in the late 19th century were referred to as Bohemians. Um, these kinds of people, groups, um, influences, trends that affected and changed American cuisine are what interested me a lot in this, in this process.

 

SIMON:

Well, let's talk about some of these because you start with regional food, uh, and how it began to develop away from just being a replication of immigrant dishes with local ingredients, which we chatted about earlier. And, and you use this phrase that stuck with me. You called it “the flowering and fading” of America's regional cuisine. So, I'd love to talk about regional food and how it did begin to, you know, flower and fade and, and what you think that means.

 

PAUL:

The logical answer to the statement of foreigners that “there is no such thing as American cuisine,” is to say, there are many different regional cuisines and to point to clam chowder in New England, or gumbo in Louisiana, or, um, tacos in Southern California, as examples.

 

The gumbo part of that equation still works. The best preserved cuisine in the United States is probably that of, uh, New Orleans and of rural Southern Louisiana – Cajun cuisine.

 

But most of these other cuisines, such as that of New England, uh, have disappeared except for a few iconic survivals like clam chowder. But nobody really can expect in New England to have and people's homes a type of food that is particularly different regionally except that there may be more seafood along the coast.

 

What has weakened or caused American regional cuisine to fade is processed food and the whole homogenization, where you could be in a supermarket and not know whether you were in Florida or in Washington, uh, inside a McDonald's that looks the same if it's in Vermont or in New Mexico.

 

The national brands, you know, Del Monte, a tomato sauce, or Nabisco cookies or Kellogg's cereals are the same from one part to the other. That has blurred and then really, in most cases, obliterated regional distinction.

 

SIMON:

And. . . that. . . not just acceptance of industrialized food production and processed – very highly processed foods, in some cases – it's not just something that America accepted. It was, it was really something that they, they welcomed with open arms. And given what we think now often about the health, you know, lack of health benefits of processed food, why was that? Why was there this real kind of welcoming of highly processed foods?

 

PAUL:

A lot of it had to do with health claims, in fact. So, uh, listeners of a particular age will remember products like Wonderbread, which not only claimed to be convenient, inexpensive, uh, hygienic, predictable, but also its slogan was, helps build strong bodies 12 ways. Uh, it was denatured, and the natural vitamins and minerals had been taken out. But new ones had been added and, at the time, scientists thought that was okay, but you just kind of retrofit these kinds of foods of many things that we now tend to be dubious about, like breakfast cereal with sugar was thought to be great. Breakfast cereal was marketed as a health product and the sugar was added both to make it taste better, and uh, but, uh, parents were told that kids love it because it gives them more energy.

 

So, uh, health has a lot to do with it. Convenience. You don't have to, you know, roll your own oats or um, you know, make your own, uh, tedious breakfast of bacon and eggs, which actually requires some work, uh, and price.

 

But even more than that, the image of modernity. The image of modernity was very important to Americans for much of the 20th century. That they were people who, uh, looked to the future and not to the past. And not looking to the past means, um, not caring that you're no longer eating the pancakes and bacon and eggs, uh, or, um, you know, leftover game pie of your ancestors.

 

SIMON:

And how much do you think this was influenced or, in fact, influenced the working practices that were happening in America? And we're talking about, I guess, here, primarily the early part of the 20th century. So you're talking about the impact of the first world war, the second world war, women working in factories during the war, and maintaining that presence in working environment after the war. So there was a very definite change in how people worked, how they earned their money, how family. . . the family situation was. And do you think this impacted or was impacted by the processed food and the highly industrialized food?

 

PAUL:

Definitely. Processed food companies sold their products on to urban people, primarily. White people. Middle-class for whom, uh, health was important. Saving time or, at least, the perception of saving time was important.

 

So there are all sorts of trends that influence this. Uh, the lack of servants. So in 1880, a middle class family would have two or three servants. In 1920, this starts to decline so the housewife – uh, at least in the model that the advertiser used – would be responsible for maintaining the home more or less by herself.

 

Um, gender roles. The fact that women now worked not only in factories but in offices and retail. Uh, the, uh, need for women both to work and to cook. So the perception of convenience. The, um, greater opinion of kids and the identification of advertisers of kids as influential on buying decisions.

 

All of these things play a part.

 

SIMON:

And I think that brings us onto one of the other themes that you talk about there a lot is the role of women in the 20th century. Uh, how do you think their role changed and what do you think the primary reasons – and we've talked about one the war efforts – but uh, what do you think the other reasons were that changed that?

 

PAUL:

Well, some of it was external circumstances and some of it was changes in things like ideal body image.

 

So in the late 19th century, the ideal body image for women was plumper, sort of rosier. Later it becomes slimmer, more athletic. And that requires, you know, a different kind of diet.

 

The degree to which people fuss over diet, the identification of science as important in food decisions, which has both a positive idea that there are these miracle foods. A brand, flaxseed, kale, whatever it is that will bring you a state of radiant good health versus demonizing foods. Foods like trans fats or eggs that, at various times, are thought to, um, uh, cause a terrible disease or ill health.

 

And this goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. Americans have a kind of over optimism and, uh, over phobic attitude towards food and, uh, I think many people who study food attitudes think that if people showed a little more about just eating in moderation and not fussing so much either on one side, you know, the miracles or the demons, uh, or the other, that, uh, that we would have a healthier, um, a healthier public situation.

 

SIMON:

I, I always say when I'm asked about this, that I think America has become affluent enough that food is allowed to become the enemy. And that we're allowed to do really kind of foolish things with food. We’re allowed to create fad diets. We're allowed to create eating systems. We're allowed to talk about food in a way that people who, for whom, food is may be more, um, important, shall we say, to their fueling of daily life, uh, don't have that opportunity. People who have poor. . . People in poor, developing countries, I just came back from one, they're not allowed that kind of liberty, for want of a better word, of being able to say this about food. Whereas, perhaps in the United States, we’re affluent enough that we can be stupid with food.

 

PAUL:

Yeah. Yeah. But you know, of course, not all developed countries or affluent countries have this particular form of oscillation between a fear and over-confidence in science or pseudoscience.

 

SIMON:

Particularly an American thing. I always say it's one of those where, every single day I will read something on the internet telling me that either red wine is good for my health or bad for my health. And it's usually a daily change deciding of whether I'm allowed to have my glass of wine that evening.

 

PAUL:

Exactly. Exactly.

 

SIMON:

Now, you do talk, I know, about the way that we're changing now with the return to, what I call, the craft production of food.

 

And I, I think now in the United States, I'd love to know your thought on this whether you think I'm just being a little bit kind of, uh, kind of, Pollyanna-ish about it. But I do think that we're returning to a, a golden age in the state of food in the United States. And I think that's. . . part of it is this generational change with third or fourth generation, uh, American immigrant children or young people now bringing their skills into the culinary world.

 

I think we're changing now because of the, uh, growth of craft production that I'm seeing now as I travel. And one of the things I do obviously is travel around the United States a great deal. And one of the things I'm seeing is almost an obsession now with a return to craft production of food. And you see this with cheese. You see it with beer. Obviously, spirits. You see it with bread. You see it with butchery. You see it with a return to what people believe – and they might, it might not always be the case – a belief to a return to the previous age of how these things were produced. I wondered what you thought about that movement, uh, and whether you had any criticisms of it, uh, as well as, you know, looking at its positive side.

 

PAUL:

Well, I think you're right. And, uh, it is important to emphasize that it's not just something that is popular in big cities or the East coast and West coast, or in liberal voting areas.

 

It's something that you find a tremendous rediscovery of regional ingredients, if not regional cuisine, craft production in Texas, in Nebraska, in Montana, all over the country.

 

So it's not something that is a temporary fad and it's not something that's limited to a self-satisfied elite.

 

The thing that, I guess I believe, is that we're in both the best and the worst of times because –even though you do see a real change in the direction of craft, just as you said, Simon, and even though the middle aisles of the supermarket are suffering as people buy less processed food – the actual diet of people, the, uh, spread of obesity, the unavailability of fresh food, the degradation of meat through, um, bad practices of animal rearing, this continues to be the dominant thing that, uh, characterizes American food. So, um, I don't know. I think something like 7% of all the food sold in America now is organic. And that has a fairly loose meaning. But on, you know, on the one hand, that's double what it was 10 years ago. On the other hand, that means that 93% of the food is, um, uh, uh, pretty artificially processed before it reaches us.

SIMON:

And how much of that. . . those problems, I know certainly with health – when I did my research for my last book, which was called “Fed, White, and Blue,” where I traveled around the United States trying to find out about what it means to become an American through its food – one of the things I found was the hardest was not necessarily the production of food, but the distribution of food.

 

Uh, how are you seeing that in terms of . . . you're looking obviously at cuisine in a more general term. But the distribution of food to create cuisines is something that I think America has always had a huge problem with. Did you touch on that much in the book?

 

PAUL:

Well, I think, um, uh, yes, I did. Because, for a while, the United States was a model for the equal distribution of a decent nutritional level. Um, immigrants to the United States from places like Italy in the 19th century, uh, uh, say that people at home don't believe that they actually eat meat more than once a week. Uh, that this is, this is like a fairy tale, that this is, uh, a scheme to get people to immigrate. That, uh, the food in the United States might not, uh, mimic the artisanal quality of what they grew up with. But in quantity and sheer variety, it was a cornucopia. It was, uh, a miracle, you know. I eat, can eat, meat every day was something that ordinary people in Europe had never been able to say.

 

So, um, the Cold War was fought psychologically on the basis of the, uh, unbelievably affluent in terms of food consumption, lifestyle of all the ordinary American. So this is the, this is the background to a sense that we used to have of, uh, the great advantage of our way of life. And it explains a reluctance to acknowledge that things have changed. The maldistribution of food is part of the growth of inequality. Not just the growth of inequality in terms of income levels, but the unequal access to things like transportation and the ability to obtain food that now, um, afflicts a lot of people who are poor.

 

SIMON:

Absolutely. And that's something I definitely experienced as I traveled around the country, and something that I, I would hold up as one of the great shames of America in a country that produces so much food and manages to waste over a third of it that people can ever be wanting for food at any point in time, particularly children, but the old, older people, people who are, uh, infirm or sick, um, anybody. . . that anybody should ever be wanting for food in the United States. I think I would hold up as one of its great shames. That. . . that's potentially quite, kind of a dark place.

 

But I wanted to ask you about what you think the future of American cuisine is. Do you think that there's a better light ahead? Do you think people are going to get more healthy? Do you think that this craft, uh, production is going to increase? Where do you see American cuisine going, having researched and got such a great insight into its past?

 

PAUL:

Well, it changes so quickly that there are certain things like the growth of veganism or of impossible burger and other plant-based meats that accelerated from the time I turned a manuscript in to the time it was published a couple months ago.

 

So those are certainly two trends. Um, a trend that I think is logical, but I wouldn't want to predict it, is that people cook more at home.

 

So the trend has been, you know, uh, more and more meals, uh, taken out at restaurants or take out or fast food or most recently, delivery services. And this, uh, since 2015, I believe, means we spend, on average, the average American spends more money on dining out – defined as food cooked by other people outside your house – than on preparing food at home.

 

Well, logically it would seem to me, particularly for young people who are very concerned with um, you know, control, control over what goes into their bodies, control over exercise regimes, a concern with personal health. I don't understand how such people can survive on delivery service and take out, convenient though those may be.

 

Having said that, you know, I don't see. . . The only trend you can sort of see is the intermediate notion of food preparation, food kits, things like Blue Apron. But if anything, I'm not sure that those are actually flourishing and then maybe that they're being replaced by, uh, you know, Uber Eats and other delivery services.

 

So, uh, the thing about being a historian is that you can see logical patterns but they don't necessarily translate into what the future is going to look like.

 

SIMON:

Yes, you could look at the past, it's not always going to reflect in the future.

 

And I'm really interested what you say about food kits and it's something that I've done a number of recipes for organizations before and they have faced a great deal of challenges because it's so easy now. And I’ve been guilty of it myself to say to my wife, “let's just order in.”

 

What we tend to do, we dine out a lot, but that's primarily because I’m also a restaurant critic here in LA for Time Out and I have to go to a lot of restaurants. But we schedule, as I'm doing tonight, we schedule days where I'm at home and I'm cooking and I'm creating recipes to put on my website. But I think the younger people, particularly people where money is tighter and obviously it's become cheap now to eat out at a certain level now that kind of casualization of dining, has made dining out at a very, kind of, affordable level, very, very easy. It's just a more of a convenience as I think processed food was earlier.

 

Now before we let you go and at the end of this episode, I'm going to ask you to tell us how we can find you on social media and where we can buy the book and the publisher and all of that stuff.

 

But we, since we were last here, we said, well, people want to know a little bit more about our guests from a more personal point of view as well as a professional point of view.

 

So, I created these three questions that I've been asking everybody recently. I had some very interesting answers recently from Ken Burns, which I thought was terrific.

 

So, I'm going to ask them of you if you would allow me.

 

PAUL:

Please.

 

SIMON:

So, if, if Paul Freedman was a meal, what would it be?

 

PAUL:

Hmm. Well, I know this is strange, but the first thing that comes to mind is a curry.

 

SIMON:

Oh.

 

PAUL:

I have no, uh, Indian subcontinent, uh, heritage that I know of. Uh, but then again, um, it's a quasi-authentic and not completely authentic dish, or maybe it's authentic to Britain. A Curry with, um, uh, um, maybe lime chutney.

 

SIMON:

Oh, I, well, I have a, uh, an excellent, even though I say so myself, family recipe for hot lime pickle on my website. So if you want to make. . .

 

PAUL:

I’ll look. I love hot lime pickle.

 

SIMON:

Well this is my recipe. I remember going out into the gardens occasionally and turning jars of it in the sun. So, uh, I still do that and make it here now and it's pretty fiery, but it works.

 

And I, in fact, there is going to be an episode on the History of Curry and it does have a fascinating history that takes it all over the world to Japan, to China, uh, usually with a British and Indian influence. So fascinating. So that's a great answer. As a half Indian, I, I approve of that.

 

So question two, if you could select any single meal or any period in history in which to experience a meal, what would it be?

 

PAUL:

Well, here I would go back to the middle ages, uh, which is my academic specialty. Uh, I'd like to have one of those medieval banquets with peacocks and, uh, with all sorts of vulgar dishes.

 

Like, um, uh, there's a dish called coq armé or armed rooster, which is a chicken mounted on a glazed orange suckling pig with a little helmet and a banner, uh, in its, uh, you know, as if it's riding the pig as a horse.

 

So the middle ages has lots of spectacular dishes that are, I guess, you'd have to go to Las Vegas to find anything remotely resembling them. That's what I'd like to experience.

 

SIMON:

Very much the four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie.

 

PAUL:

You got it.

 

SIMON:

That sounds fantastic. I would definitely love to have been part of one of those to see what was going on.

 

And for the third question, and this – I've had some really fascinating answers to this – I think Alton Brown’s, uh, answer was one of my favorites. He said refrigeration. But what would you consider to be the most important food invention in history?

 

PAUL:

Yeah, well, on an, on an maybe over literal level, agriculture.

 

So, you know, human beings have been around for millennia before agriculture was developed. Hunter gatherers, uh, represented a viable way of life. And in fact, some anthropologists think a preferable way of life.

 

What agriculture does is to assure a supply of carbohydrates. The thing that agriculture does is not only does it provide a fairly secure diet of carbohydrates, but it allows social differentiation. With hunter-gatherers, you don't have an upper class. You don't have cities, don't have writing, priests, libraries, statues. That all is made possible by agriculture. And so culture, uh, that's my business and that's uh, something that is to be cherished. On the other hand, agriculture means, for most of its history, that 90% of the people are laboring to feed themselves and to benefit largely the 10 or 5% at the top.

 

SIMON:

Hmm. So pretty, pretty covered to the current day in many ways.

 

PAUL:

Not irrelevant. Even though it has to be said that, in the United States, we're able to feed ourselves with, uh, 1% of the population working in agriculture. And we're able to get by, by spending merely 15 or 16% of the average person's income on food as opposed to most of history and being more like 90%.

 

SIMON:

Now before we go, uh, I would love to let people who A) to urge people to go out and buy your book, “American Cuisine and How It Got This Way,” which I think, again, great title, terrific book, very proud to be associated with it, with my blurb and in any other way.

 

Um, so tell us a bit about, uh, sorry. Tell us by whom it's published and where we can find it and then please do share with us any of your social media because I know I love following your adventures on Twitter and other places, so please do share that with us.

 

PAUL:

Certainly. Thank you Simon. So, it's published by w w Norton and Company and the imprint is Live Right. L I V E R I G H T. Available at the usual places.

 

My Twitter handle is @mornayphf. “Mornay,” like the sauce Mornay, M O R N A Y P H F.

 

I'm also on Instagram and Facebook under my name, Paul Freedman.

 

And um, yeah, I'm, uh, a great follower of yours and all the many media that you appear in as well.

 

SIMON:

Well, Paul, it's been such a pleasure. I always have a great time hanging out with you when we've had chance to work together and interviewing you.

 

And as soon as I saw this book, I knew that I wanted you to be one of the first episodes of this season four of Eat My Globe. Who knew we'd be here so long. Um, and I hope we get chance to work together again very soon.

 

PAUL:

Anytime, Simon. Thanks so much.

 

SIMON:

Thank you very much, Paul. Thank you.

 

OUTRO MUSIC

 

SIMON:

Do make sure to check out the website associated with this podcast at www dot Eat My Globe dot com where we will be posting the transcripts from each episode, along with all the references and resources we used putting the episodes together, in case you want to delve deeper into each subject. There is also a contact button, so please do let us know if there are any subjects that you would like us to cover.

And, if you like what you hear, please don’t forget to subscribe, recommend us to your family and friends and give us a good rating on your favorite podcast provider.

 

Thank you and goodbye from me, Simon Majumdar, we’ll speak to you soon on the next episode of EAT MY GLOBE: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Food.

 

CREDITS

The EAT MY GLOBE Podcast is a production of “It’s Not Much But It’s Ours” and “Producer Girl Productions”

 

[Cheering sound]

 

and is created with the kind co-operation of the UCLA Department of History. We would especially like to thank Professor Carla Pestana, the Department Chair of the Department of History and Doctor Tawny Paul, Public History Initiative Director, for their notes on this episode. Also, a huge thank you to Sybil Villanueva for her help with research and the preparations of the transcripts for this episode, which can be found on the website.

 

Published Date: May 4, 2020

Last Updated: October 1, 2020

For the annotated transcript with references and resources, please click HERE.

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