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Given to me as a gift from someone who knows I love cooking and women’s history, this choice was on target. The book, while lengthy, is a comfortably paced timetable with accounts of the impact food, food preparation, and the many roles of women involved with food as it relates to American history. 

 

A Thousand Years is peppered throughout with interviews of women, famous and unknown, and their memories, spiritual and cultural connections with cooking.  According to the author, “Some immigrants came from cultures that elevated food to a spiritual level above life itself, taken seriously by both men and women.  When cooking or baking, many women understood their labors as part of sacred work.” She introduces the reader to Nez Perce women who determinedly continued their ancient ways of digging camas roots while losing the lands that provided nutritional sustenance and Japanese immigrants who pounded mochi (a sweet short-grained rice) for New Year’s celebrations. 

 

Schenone provides the recipes for many dishes such as Maryland Beat Biscuit and Mochi Soup along with the directions for building your own earth oven, a popular tool among many native cooks.  The history of cookbooks, originally done for charity, had me affectionately pulling down the quaint cookbooks in my pie safe bought from churches and women’s societies.

 

“When a woman cooked, she was a custodian of the sacred.  It was her responsibility to take good care of what nature had given because food was both symbolically and literally full of life.” Laura Schenone serves us history rich and spicy. 

 

~by Denise Bell

Author: Laura Schenone

W.W. Norton & Company,2003

412 pages $35

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