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234 × 156 mm
374 pages
115 illustrations, 58 in colour
13 Nov 2017
Food and Nations

A Rich and Fertile Land A History of Food in America Bruce Kraig

The small ears of corn grown on the land by Native Americans have become row upon row of cornflakes on supermarket shelves. The immense seas of grass and the animals that they supported are now big farms with regular rows of soybeans, corn and wheat that feed the world. But how did this happen and why? A Rich and Fertile Land investigates the history of food in America, where it comes from and how it has changed over time.

From the first Native Americans to modern industrial farmers, people have shaped the North American continent and its climate based on the foods they wanted and the crops and animals they raised. Bruce Kraig looks at the food people have served up from their kitchens or eaten in public dining places throughout American history, as well as considering the impact of technical innovation and industrialization on the creation of modern American food systems.

Drawing upon the latest evidence from the fields of science, archaeology and technology, this is a unique and valuable history of the diverse and plentiful food of the United States.

EXTRACT: to read and download the introduction from the book please click here.

‘The author of a definitive book on the hot dog is now covering a much bigger topic. Bruce Kraig, a professor emeritus of history at Roosevelt University in Chicago, surveys the food of America from prehistory to the present in A Rich and Fertile Land. Geology, geography, meteorology, agriculture, industrialization, politics, technology and taste are all included, and Mexico and Canada are mentioned when relevant. What could have been a dry treatise is enlivened by individual stories drawn from diaries and other first-person accounts, and by occasional illustrations.’ – New York Times

‘What we eat is an increasingly provocative issue, making A Rich and Fertile Land: A history of food in America a well-timed book. We are endlessly obsessed with food and its relationship with health, environment and economy – so what better way to understand the status quo than by travelling back in time . . . a deeply knowledgable introduction to US food that shows how the environment has been melded to suit human desire since the Native Americans, and how cultural and political beliefs have shaped eating habits . . . Kraig’s broad observations are worth a read for anyone interested in food or American history. More than anything he reminds us that the country is a cultural melting pot; a land of immigrants, and its hamburgers, tacos, frankfurters and schnitzels tell a story not just of a rich and fertile land, but a changing one full of intercultural exchange and goodwill, at the dinner table at least.’ – TLS

‘Bruce Kraig’s A Rich and Fertile Land is a delightfully informative and readable history of American food from prehistoric times to the present. Fluid and engaging, it is an ambitious work written with an historian’s skill and a food-lover’s heart.  Every page is stuffed with insights and surprising connections to American culture. It’s a must read for anyone interested in food or history!’ — Andrew F. Smith, editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink

‘A readable, succinct, and deeply knowledgeable introduction to the history of American food from the multifarious natural resources of the land to the political and religious beliefs that have shaped and re-shaped eating habits from the arrival of the first native American settlers to the present complex multi-cultural society. By effortlessly weaving in quotations from American literature, summaries of controversial issues such as slavery and the industrialization of agriculture, and references to contemporary debates about the food system, the author makes it clear that food has always been at the center of American culture, history and politics.’ — Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

‘The land is the protagonist in this fascinating account of America's food habits and production. The use, misuse and transformation of the landscape are creatively and compellingly related to the everyday business of eating.’ — Paul Freedman, Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, Yale University

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Bruce Kraig is Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University, Chicago. He is the author or editor of numerous books on food history, including Hot Dog: A Global History (Reaktion, 2009).