Eight Flavors
This unique culinary history of America offers a fascinating look at our past and uses long-forgotten recipes to explain how eight flavors changed how we eat.

The United States boasts a culturally and ethnically diverse population which makes for a continually changing culinary landscape. But a young historical gastronomist named Sarah Lohman discovered that American food is united by eight flavors: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. In Eight Flavors, Lohman sets out to explore how these influential ingredients made their way to the American table.

She begins in the archives, searching through economic, scientific, political, religious, and culinary records. She pores over cookbooks and manuscripts, dating back to the eighteenth century, through modern standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Lohman discovers when each of these eight flavors first appear in American kitchens—then she asks why.

Eight Flavors introduces the explorers, merchants, botanists, farmers, writers, and chefs whose choices came to define the American palate. Lohman takes you on a journey through the past to tell us something about our present, and our future. We meet John Crowninshield, a New England merchant who traveled to Sumatra in the 1790s in search of black pepper. And Edmond Albius, a twelve-year-old slave who lived on an island off the coast of Madagascar, who discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla orchids today. Weaving together original research, historical recipes, gorgeous illustrations and Lohman’s own adventures both in the kitchen and in the field, Eight Flavors is a delicious treat—ready to be devoured.

Eight Flavors Details

Book TitleEight Flavors
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Eight Flavors Reviews

  • Samantha
    Feb 7, 2017


    I didn't love this as much as I expected to, but it's a worthwhile read. I didn't wholly agree with all the flavors chosen (or at least they're not the exact eight I would have said were the most influential on American cuisine), but Lohman does a good job arguing her case for her choi...

  • Gina
    Feb 4, 2017


    Foodie culture is widespread enough that I read about this book in several venues before requesting it from the library. While there are endless tastes that could reasonably called American, but Lohman makes good arguments for these particular eight. Nearly all are ingredients that wer...

  • Stephanie Csaszar
    Feb 4, 2017

    Stephanie Csaszar

    A wonderful blend of the passion and history of food. It will truly inspire you to learn more about flavors and cook more. ...

  • Cindy
    Feb 2, 2017


    The "eight flavors" were: Black Pepper; Vanilla; Chili Powder; Curry; Soy Sauce; Garlic; MSG; and Siracha. I especially loved the MSG chapter - it's been so vilified and without scientific basis! But it was all interesting. I would have thought we'd always loved pepper and garlic, but ...

  • Maggie Gonzales
    Feb 2, 2017

    Maggie Gonzales

    Interesting for any cook. ...

  • Mary Kate
    Jan 30, 2017

    Mary Kate

    I loved the journey through this book. It totally changed my notions of food, and more interestingly, my ideas about why I eat what I do and why I like it. The really compelling (and in some cases mind-blowing) facts are conveyed in the same warm, engaging, and funny style used in the ...

  • Tracie
    Jan 30, 2017


    In its genre, it is definitely a four-star book! Fascinating read. ...

  • Jennifer
    Jan 29, 2017


    I first heard about this book on Gastropod (one of my favourite podcasts on the science and history of food), where the author talked about two of the flavours (pepper and Sriracha), and I got a taste (haha) and wanted to read about the other 6. The flavours she talked about are: black...

  • Megan Kinsey
    Jan 27, 2017

    Megan Kinsey

    Loved her writing style. Lots of history mixed in with interesting side stories. Not just for foodies! ...

  • Whitney
    Jan 26, 2017


    I found the history of the foods mentioned in this book interesting, but what I loved was the cultural diversity throughout the book. That really is what makes America so great and has been in our DNA since the beginning. When it comes to food, that diversity has given us our own uniqu...