“Combining a historian’s rigor with a foodie ’s palate, Ten Restaurants That Changed America reveals how the history of our restaurants reflects nothing less than the history of America itself. Whether charting the rise of our love affair with Chinese food through San Francisco’s fabled The Mandarin, evoking the richness of Italian food through Mamma Leone’s, or chronicling the rise and fall of French haute cuisine through Henri Soulé’s Le Pavillon, food historian Paul Freedman uses each restaurant to tell a wider story of race and class, immigration and assimilation. Freedman also treats us to a scintillating history of the then-revolutionary Schrafft’s, a chain of convivial lunch spots that catered to women, and that bygone favorite, Howard Johnson’s, which pioneered midcentury, on-the-road dining, only to be swept aside by McDonald’s. Lavishly designed with more than 100 photographs and images, including original menus, Ten Restaurants That Changed America is a significant and highly entertaining social history.” (Amazon blurb)
Why read Ten Restaurants that Shaped America?
I came across this book in research for The Girl Puzzle, my next novel, due out in the Spring. I was looking for some information about where my characters might eat out in New York in 1887 and again in 1920. Delmonicos, I thought. I need to know more about Delmonicos. Where was it? What was on the menu? Who went there and how much did it cost?
A little info… Delmonicos was established in as a pastry shop in 1827, opened by the Delmonico brothers, two young men originally from Ticino, an Italian part of Switzerland. John and Peter Delmonico (originally Giovanni and Pietro Del-Monico) had no formal training but by 1830 were successful enough to expand their pastry shop into the “Restaurant Français des Frères Delmonico”. Famous for high quality ingredients and expansive menu, Delmonicos various branches were visited by everyone from Oscar Wilde to Louis Napoleon, the Emperor of France.
Despite not being mentioned in the blurb on Amazon (odd since it is a picture of Delmonicos on the cover) I’ve loved this first section of the book. And while I’ve never heard of half the places mentioned above, I’m really looking forward to reading more and finding out about things that I don’t even know I don’t know about ;).