Yale historian Paul Freedman on the history of American restaurants and the ‘paradox’ of food

May 5, 2017

How we eat is both ubiquitous and semi-invisible — it is everywhere around us, but we usually don’t think about it as a social marker. Food, however, lets us see who we are and who we are in the process of becoming, according to Yale historian Paul Freedman.

Freedman, the Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, teaches a course on the history of food at Yale, and recently authored a book titled “Ten Restaurants That Changed America.”

Freedman was inspired to write this book in part by seeing an exhibit of restaurant menus at the New York Public Library. “I was struck by how beautiful many of them were in terms of design, as fantasies, and as ways of communicating something more than just a meal as a necessity. I was also amazed at how different the food served at restaurants was in the 19th century from today’s — how many wild game items there were, what seemed to be the most expensive or prized items or the specialties, and how much organ meat was offered compared to now,” says Freedman.

Freedman, who focuses his teaching and research on medieval history, wrote his book on American restaurant history partly due to his interest in food as a way of talking about society and stratification. He based the book on the   ten most influential  restaurants, not in all cases those that had the miost sophisticated food.

Read the full story at Yale News.