Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal

Three Squares The Invention of the American Meal We are what we eat as the saying goes but we are also how we eat and when and where Our eating habits reveal as much about our society as the food on our plates and our national identity is writt

  • Title: Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal
  • Author: Abigail Carroll
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 413
  • Format: Hardcover
  • We are what we eat, as the saying goes, but we are also how we eat, and when, and where Our eating habits reveal as much about our society as the food on our plates, and our national identity is written in the eating schedules we follow and the customs we observe at the table and on the go.In Three Squares, food historian Abigail Carroll upends the popular understanding oWe are what we eat, as the saying goes, but we are also how we eat, and when, and where Our eating habits reveal as much about our society as the food on our plates, and our national identity is written in the eating schedules we follow and the customs we observe at the table and on the go.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 Whether we re pouring ourselves a bowl of cereal, grabbing a quick sandwich, or congregating for a family dinner, our mealtime habits are living artifacts of our collective history and represent only the latest stage in the evolution of the American meal Our early meals, Carroll explains, were rustic affairs, often eaten hastily, without utensils, and standing up Only in the nineteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution upset work schedules and drastically reduced the amount of time Americans could spend on the midday meal, did the shape of our modern three squares emerge quick, simple, and cold breakfasts and lunches and larger, sit down dinners Since evening was the only part of the day when families could come together, dinner became a ritual as American as apple pie But with the rise of processed foods, snacking has become faster, cheaper, and easier than ever, and many fear for the fate of the cherished family meal as a result.The story of how the simple gruel of our forefathers gave way to snack fixes and fast food, Three Squares also explains how Americans eating habits may change in the years to come Only by understanding the history of the American meal can we can help determine its future.

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      Published :2019-06-18T12:43:05+00:00

    About “Abigail Carroll”

    1. Abigail Carroll

      Abigail Carroll is author of A Gathering of Larks Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern Day Pilgrim Eerdmans 2017 Her poetry has appeared in the anthology Between Midnight and Dawn A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide Paraclete Press 2016 as well as in a variety of magazines and literary journals, including the Anglican Theological Review, The Christian Century, Crab Orchard Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sojourners, and Terrain Her first book, Three Squares The Invention of the American Meal, was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize Carroll serves as pastor of arts and spiritual formation at Church at the Well in Burlington, Vermont.

    985 thoughts on “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal”

    1. With a suitably relentless editor, this could have been a terrific magazine article on how Americans came to eat what, when, and how we do. As it stands, it reads like a padded-out academic paper. Even though the book is a modest 219 pages (with a fat wad of endnotes and an extensive bibliography filling out another 80 or 90 pages), slogging through to the end became a chore. Which is too bad -- I really had high hopes for this one. Setting aside the dry writing style and the tendency to repeat [...]

    2. I will be moderating a talk with this author at the Newburyport Literary Festival in April. So while this was "assigned reading," chances are I would have picked this up on my own given my interest. Carroll takes a look at the three meals, plus snacking, with a historical look plus an eye to the future. The next time you sit down to dinner and start with salad and end with dessert, that is a nod to our French ancestors! I found it compelling and quite readable for readers not into history and/or [...]

    3. Unlike some food books that trace the story of a single food or ingredient, the book traces the story of what Americans eat from the arrival of the Europeans to New England to the present. Carroll states in the preface that she initially started to write a book on snacks, but it turned out that one can’t really talk about snacks without talking about meals. Thus the book spends quite a bit of time talking about dinner, lunch, and breakfast before getting the chapter (number 7 out of 8) about s [...]

    4. This will seem like an awful pun but this was a really meaty read. The book looks at the history of American meals and snacking and parallels the history of America itself. Meals met the needs to the times – from large, sustaining fueling for long farm days to quick, portable eats suitable for factory and other city workers. There were a few points where the work dragged a bit but I think that was less due to the writing then the fact there were sections that I already knew a bit about. Well r [...]

    5. The topic of this book is utterly fascinating - and there were some surprises in it, in regards to what you would assume to be a fact of history, but that isn't actually true.However, this was written in a very dry and academic tone - it could have done with a co-author, one who is a bit better at writing narrative non-fiction.

    6. I love to learn interesting facts about odd things and that is what keep me reading to the bitter end. Yet I found this to be one of the greatest books I ever read for insomnia. I could not get through a chapter without falling asleep. It was dry and it bounced all over the place. Lots of interesting facts but the format could of been much better.

    7. I learned a lot of interesting things in this book (I had no idea that tables and chairs were very uncommon at the dawn of our country, and that the Victorians believed snacking was a sin), but the final chapter or so of the book came off kind ofeachy. It was talking about the rise of obesity, our obsession with snacking, and so on. Definitely things that tie into this book, but again, kind of preachy.Also, a good half of the book is foot-notes, and references and so it wasn't really the length [...]

    8. Over-long academic thesis on the "American" meal. This seemed like a great topical book about the meals that US (or "American" as the author uses). Why three meals? How did it become to be? How will the meal change? It started off really well, apparently as a project on the concept of the "snack." The author chose to expand it on the history of meals, mealtimes and more in the US. Unfortunately while this could have been so much more, this book really reads like an too long thesis or magazine a [...]

    9. This was an intriguing read. I love social histories and have often wondered how we arrived at the structure of meals we have today. For some time I thought it was due to the changing nature of the family unit and that is true to a point. Author Carroll provides evidence that it was business (agrarian to urban jobs) more than anything that influenced what we now call breakfast, lunch and dinner.She sets out to prove or bust the popular assumptions about the way we eat. Indeed, she points out tha [...]

    10. justtoomanybooks.wordpressThe modern demise of the family dinner is much bemoaned these days. But how long has this really been a tradition? When did it start? Why did it happen? These and other questions are answered in fascinating detail in Three Squares.Caroll takes a historical view of thr American meal, beginning with pilgrim pottages and moving thru Victorian dinner parties and factory lunch pails to TV dinners and our current dinner habits. She draws on first-hand accounts of recipes and [...]

    11. Unlike eating, this book isn't really a pleasure, guilty or not. But it's a fascinating pantry of history, morsels that have held true since the arrival of the pilgrims. Remarkably, the way Americans ate and how their eating habits have evolved have parlayed into Westernized societies that have developed since.Carroll writes with the earnestness of a food historian, but not the ravenous aplomb of a food writer. Feast on the first three-quarters of her book - how baked beans and pies came to be i [...]

    12. It's easy to think that the way we eat, with some minor variatios, is just the way things have always been. This informative little book shows that the concept of the American meal has changed greatly over the past two centuries. Some of our modern meals didn't exist then (lunch), some have moved to different times of day (dinner) and the third has been renovated beyond recognition in several forms (breakfast). And what goes around comes around; it seems that in the past few decades we've re-ado [...]

    13. The book reviews the history of meals (primarily in the US). The first chapters (about the evolution of the main/largest meal moving from the middle of the day to the evening) was poorly written, the author skips around so much time-wise (1700s, 1900s, back to the 1800s, etc.) and country-wise (US, Europe, back to the US, etc.), I almost stopped reading the book. However, I did slog through, and found the later chapters on lunch, breakfast, and snacks much more interesting (and readable). Most i [...]

    14. The history of food and its cultural significance fascinate me. I was excited to read and had high hopes for this book. Indeed, the information is interesting, but Carroll presents it in the least engaging way possible. This book desperately needs a good editor. I caught everything from redundancy and poor sentence structure to completely lazy spelling errors. She would bring up something that sounded fascinating, but dedicate no more than a parenthetical to mentioning it, let alone explaining h [...]

    15. I am really enjoying this different look at American history. It is a little repetitive, kind of like some of our meals, as another reviewer expressed it. I've been reading it fairly non-stop as my schedule allows, but I'm finding that I need to begin another book to intersperse it with this one. I sneaked a peak at the end and am enjoying mulling over the idea that as we become aware of shifts in our history, we can shape our future instead of simply allowing our culinary habits to just happen. [...]

    16. It definitely shows that the author's research on the history of snacks in America ended up getting turned into a book on the American meal. The chapter on snacks is the most well written and thorough in the book. It does feel a bit disjointed from the rest of the book's contents, though. Quite a few interesting historical tidbits are highlighted in this book. I hadn't previously known that the "wonder" of Wonder Bread was that it was sliced. I enjoyed that pictures illustrating historic foodway [...]

    17. A great social istory of the ultimate social event – eating.This book traces the development of the American meal, from the messy subsistance meals of the colonists to the more genteel English-insprired meals, from French influences in the multiple-course meal, to a midday “dinner” that turned into the quick lunch of today.It’s all here, from how utensils and plates developed, how snacking and TVs affected the picture, and more. As with most things “American,” the influences came fro [...]

    18. An anthropologic study of how and what Americans eat is an interesting subject but this execution isn't great. The book is organised in a way that makes the author repeat herself a lot and she focuses on dry facts and only mentions the interesting anecdotes in passing. There were many things I'd have liked to know more about. For example did making an airtight pie crust actually preserve food from spoiling? The last quarter of the book tells us current Americans eat too much junk food - yawn. I [...]

    19. I heard about the book on a Gastropod podcast. Three Squares is a really interesting book that charts the evolution of the American meal, from the concept of snacking to how courses evolved and the way cultural norms dictated how Americans ate. However what is strange is how the book completely omits the influence of immigrant communities on the American meal, or any mentions of foods eaten by African-Americans. It would be one thing if the book doesn't discuss culture at all, but it does - it p [...]

    20. Carroll’s work is somewhat interesting for its historical explanations of food and its origin, e.g foods that are familiar fare for Americans such as Thanksgiving dinner, cold cereals, and “domesticated” pretzel consumption (169). Her exercise in keeping a light tone throughout the text does make this work accessible to a diverse audience. There is something missing though. Maybe the work needs a better editor as other reviews suggest, or just a better focus on what she is trying to achiev [...]

    21. I haven't read such a delightful pinata of fun facts in a long time. The ways that we take meals (as meals) for granted and the social history of how lunch was invented, how dinner became a time for instructional recreation rather than stuffing our mouths, how snacking became stigmatized and then normalized, all of it is really quite fascinating, although I wonder why Carroll, after all of her social construction, seems to advocate the Victorian model at the end: family dinners, and no snacking. [...]

    22. The history of how we got to a weird world between convenience and utter food snobs, starting as colonists (and yes, slaves) who were doing what they could to survive to still being affected by Victorian and 1950s middle-America ideals is rather interesting. But the author seemed to lament the loss of the family dinner which caught me off guard and didn't fit with what I'd read in the book, so I have to give it three stars. If maybe she'd come up with imaginative scenarios for future eating, the [...]

    23. A good history showing how early American meal structure (light breakfast, huge lunch, light dinner, mostly one-pot meals) passed through cycles of simplicity, elegance, abundance and adaptating to the business schedule, plus the transition of snacking from something frowned upon as showing a lack of discipline to being frowned on as the face of increasing obesity. Very good on history, both of meal times and particular food, but doesn't have anything new to say about our current eating (short f [...]

    24. This was a very interesting read! The author clearly and persuasively made the case that American eating patterns have been shaped over time by societal and industrial pressures, and what is normal now in the 21st century has certainly not always been the norm. The idea that family dinner time is sacred, for example, and that dinner is the main meal of the day, is a relatively recent construct. I thoroughly enjoyed the jaunt through American history (starting with the arrival of the Pilgrims) as [...]

    25. I agree with the reviewer below who suggests this would be a better article than book. This is a very shallow take on almost 400 years of American food history. Not nearly enough breadth or details. The author gives us some interesting facts, but it didn't really hold my interest. It ends with two personal narratives, yet fails to mention Michael Pollan, the refutation of the low-fat and low-carb food crazes, or the far to table movement.

    26. A fun read that traces the history of American meals: why, when, how, and what we eat; and, how it has all evolved. The book includes the many cultural and societal norms that have influenced our foods and meals since pre-colonial times through the present day. A great book for anyone, especially those interested in food and American history.

    27. A nice, easy to digest overview of the social history of meals and snacks in the US. Not as much depth/breadth as I expected (for example, immigrant experience glanced over, making this arguably a social history of middle class, majority eating habits) but it didn't bother me so much. A well-researched survey. Sometimes repetitive, but that's alright. Enjoyable, and would recommend to all ages.

    28. This topic is right up my alley, and I'd been looking forward to reading it. Maybe that explains my disappointment in this book. The author does a good job tracking the major changes in the American meal, but some chapters are better than others. The chapter on snacking, which she says was theoriginal focus of the book, is quite weak. 3 1/2 stars

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