“Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal”
By Abigail Carroll
c.2013, Basic Books
You can just about taste it now.
Imagine: right out of the oven, the traditional dish Grandma used to make and now your sister does. Biscuits from a recipe your mom found in a magazine before you were born. New favorites brought to the family by new in-laws and old friends.
You feast because it’s a holiday, but what about the other days? Find out why your mealtime looks the way it does in “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal” by Abigail Carroll.
When the settlers first came to America some 400 years ago, they were reportedly aghast at Native American eating habits. Not only did tribal peoples ignore the idea of regular mealtimes, they also fasted sometimes for “extended periods.”
That was unheard-of for the settlers, but it isn’t like they had the corner on mealtime rule-keeping. For them, eating was “generally informal, variable, and socially unimportant.” Tables and chairs were rare and, because knives were the only silverware used if, indeed, silverware was used at all mealtime was rather messy.
“For most, food was fuel,” says Carroll, “and eating was less about enjoying the pleasures of the palate than replenishing work-weary bodies”
Early eighteenth-century colonists, of course, were mostly British and “proud of it.” As the hardships of life eased, therefore, they reached for their English roots in the kitchen. Meat comprised most meals and was, in fact, often the only dish; aside from potatoes, vegetable consumption was uncommon.
By the late 1800s, industry had grown and the “shape of work” shifted. This led to the (larger) midday meal being pushed to a later time of day, to accommodate workers who toiled away from home. Dinner became a family event and “an indicator of one’s class status.” Dining rooms were ushered into homes in the Victorian era, and mealtime became reason for strict etiquette, elaborate place settings, and sumptuous foods, including the new mandatory course, dessert. Lunch was “invented” as a bridge between early breakfast and the later meal.
And breakfast? In the mid-1800s, it was still a meat-laden belly-filler that, it was believed, would aid digestion. Some thought, though, that all that food was not healthy, so an itinerant preacher and a health-conscious doctor cerealized things
Now you’re feeling hungry, aren’t you? And curious, too, which means you must take a bite out of “Three Squares.”
In her introduction, author Abigail Carroll says that her initial intention with this book was to look at our habit of snacking, but she quickly realized that she couldn’t do that without looking at meals in general.
The two, as you might imagine, are tied together but they haven’t been (and might not be) for long. The reasoning and the way meals have morphed makes this a fascinating and lively look at all the things we put on a plate.
I ate it up, and I think the pop-culture lover, the cookbook fanatic, and Queen (or King) of the Kitchen will all want this on their shelf. For them, “Three Squares” is a book they’ll devour.
“The Family Christmas Treasury”
By various authors and illustrators
c.2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
How many days left?
Have you been counting them? You probably know the exact number already because you’ve asked Mom or Dad many times. How many days til Christmas?
You’re very excited. You can hardly wait. So maybe you should spend some of that wait-time with “The Family Christmas Treasury.”
Like most kids, you love it when someone reads one of your favorite Christmas stories aloud. You probably enjoy singing Christmas carols, too. “The Family Christmas Treasury” will help you do both by including the words to some of those songs you love, along with several holiday story favorites.
What, for instance, happens when a curious monkey decides to see how many trees are in a Christmas Tree Farm? In the first story here, “Merry Christmas, Curious George” by Margret and H.A. Rey, the man with the yellow hat loses his little best friend while looking for a holiday tree.
But George is just fine! He’s found another adventure, of course, and he makes a very big mess. George has also made new friends including a jolly one who’s wearing a fuzzy red suit.
During the holidays, your family all joins together, along with friends and other people you love. But what if someone was missing? In “Lyle at Christmas” by Bernard Waber, everyone’s favorite crocodile prepares to spend the holidays with the Primm family, Lyle’s mom and Bird, but something’s wrong in the neighborhood.
Old Mr. Grumps just can’t get into the holiday spirit. He’s sad and no matter how hard everybody works to cheer him up, he still has the “holiday blahs.” It gets so bad that Mr. Grumps’ cat, Loretta, runs away.
Christmas just isn’t the same without Loretta, though. Mr. Grumps becomes even sadder, which Lyle just hates. He would do anything to fix it and so he does!
Everybody in the little town of Calabria waits eagerly for their Christmas Eve feast. It’s held at Strega Nona’s house on the hill but this year, there’s a problem. In “Merry Christmas, Strega Nona” by Tomie de Paola, the feast might have to be canceled! Is there anyone who can save it?
Is there anything your child loves better than a modern Christmas classic about now? If not, well, then you need “The Family Christmas Treasury” because it’s filled with classics of all kinds.
Not only will kids find eight stories that feature characters they love characters like Lyle the Crocodile, Curious George, Santa, Tacky the Penguin, and others but this book also includes lyrics and music to eight Christmas carols that will surely be familiar to your whole family.
And if you’ve somehow escaped hearing those Christmas songs, there’s a CD included with this book and a code for free downloads, too. That’s a bonus no child will be able to resist.
If there’s an eager 2-to-7-year-old in your house who’s eager for the holiday to finally arrive, here’s the book to have around. For both of you, “The Family Christmas Treasury” is one you won’t want to be left without.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was three years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.