3 out of 5 stars
This book was initially published in 1995 and is thus a bit out of date with its food fads ending in the early 1990’s. However the interesting bits are really the 1920’s through the 1970’s, so the book is still quite revelant to the study of American food trends. One of the major drawbacks of the book is that Ms. Lovegren often explains the historical significance of her chosen recipes by referring to modern sources, although she cites many of her recipes from the original contemporary cookbooks. I think the book could’ve been better had she done the research herself from period references. For example, in her chapter on the 1920’s she frequently refers to the book “Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century” by Laura Shapiro. Also, primarily due to the extensive number of food fads she is trying to cover, the book feels a little convoluted and often seems to lack direction. It is, however, a great book to help understand the history of American food. Especially the chapter on the 1940’s and the WWII rationing, one can better understand the growth of Jell-O (this pre-sweetened dessert did not count against your sugar ration points), margarine (real butter was heavily rationed and very expensive), and other food stuffs now generally relegated to bad hospital cafeterias.
Although it appears she tested most of her recipes, the book does not include many pictures of the food. In this era of food porn, I consider this to be a definite drawback. However the book is already almost 500 pages long. My favorite recipe is definitely in her 1950’s chapter: Fruit Cocktail-Spam Buffet Party Loaf, combining the classic fifties ingredients of fruit cocktail and Spam with gelatin, Miracle Whip, and paprika for the ultimate in 50’s cuisine. While it is hard not to make fun of such a dish, Ms. Lovegren’s generally unkind opinion of food fads in the previous decades can sometimes edge on disrespectful toward our grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
All told, this was an interesting book that I easily read over a weekend. However, I have yet to try any of the recipes and personally I would find it difficult to throw a 1920’s party using the recipes supplied in her book as she has purposely picked some of the most garish foods of the time. But, as the title says, it is a book on food fads.