The invention of the American meal

Thanks to Nicola Twilley of the Edible Geography blog, I learned of an interesting book that was recently published. Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal—which Kirkus Reviews calls “a dense but enjoyable history of American food culture”—examines how breakfast, lunch, and dinner as we know them came to be. As an overview of the book describes,

In “Three Squares,” food historian Abigail Carroll upends the popular understanding of our most cherished mealtime traditions, revealing that our eating habits have never been stable–far from it, in fact. The eating patterns and ideals we’ve inherited are relatively recent inventions, the products of complex social and economic forces, as well as the efforts of ambitious inventors, scientists and health gurus.

Twilley concludes that

the book’s lasting value, at least for me, lies in its reminder that the three-meal structure is “only a cultural heirloom, not an ordinance of nature” — and thus open to intentional reinvention, as well as reactive evolution.

For a teaser of the book, listen to Carroll’s interview with Virginia Prescott on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth. Then check out a chunky excerpt of Chapter 5 on the history of lunch at The Conference Board Review.


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