Three Squares

Advance Praise


“A[n] enjoyable history of American food culture.”
—Kirkus

“I was enthralled by this account of how radically America’s meals have changed over time, from dinner pails to TV dinners. This vividly written book makes you see that the American way of life at any given moment has been formed by meals. We meet the ‘stander-uppers’ who ate quick cold working meals at lunch counters and the nineteenth-century critics who feared that six o’clock dinner would ‘destroy health.’ Three Squares shows that the tradition of an evening family meal, taken at a table, is a relatively recent innovation; but one with the power to improve not just our health but our vocabulary. ‘Family meals, it turns out, are more beneficial to children’s word banks than play or having adults read to them.’ With warmth and scholarship, Abigail Carroll persuades us that much depends on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as all the snacks in between.”
—Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork

“As Abigail Carroll so skillfully explains, the pattern of American meals—three squares a day—is not a static entity but rather a social construction that has changed over time. By using imaginative sources and asking pertinent questions, Carroll traces not only the evolution of meals but of the people who have consumed them.”
—Barbara Haber, author of From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals

“Why do Americans eat what we eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Abigail Carroll examines the American meal from colonial times to the present in Three Squares, providing delicious insights along the way. Three Squares is superbly researched, delightfully written, packed with insights—and easy to digest!”
—Andrew F. Smith, author Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine

“Combining scholarly rigor with lively storytelling, Abigail Carroll offers a fresh look at American culinary history. Resisting the nostalgia often associated with discussion of family meals, Carroll argues that American dining rituals are relatively modern and are constantly evolving to meet contemporary needs and values. This masterful synthesis will delight both professional scholars as well as newcomers to the exciting new field of food history. Highly recommended!”
—Warren Belasco, author of Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food, and Visiting Professor of Gastronomy, Boston University

“With Three Squares, Abigail Carroll gives us a very long view of American dining habits, beginning with life in colonial times and ending in the 21st century. With sometimes startling descriptions of the ad hoc eating that occurred on either side of a main noon meal in our earliest years, we witness the impact of away-from-home work in industry and commerce that appropriated the middle of the day and left us with ‘cold, quick, and cheap lunches.’ The story of breakfast cereal and snack foods and the erosion of the properly set, middle-class dinner table with everyone minding their manners caps this fascinating narrative.”
—Sandy Oliver, author of Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Food at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century

“You will never look at your three meals a day, or snacks throughout the day, the same way after you read this fascinating, well researched book. For anyone interested in food, this book is a must. It tells the historical stories and elucidates the business forces that underpin our current eating practices.”
—Anne Fishel, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School, and consultant to The Family Dinner Project

“In Three Squares, Abigail Carroll has filled a gaping hole in our fetish for food histories. There are books on peanut butter, pumpkins, pancakes, milk, fried chicken, chocolate—the list goes on—but now we have the big picture. Learn here how the Industrial Revolution, television, and Mad Men affected how, when, and what we eat. You’ll never look at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between-meal snacks the same way again.”
—Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country & Coca-Cola and Uncommon Grounds

Copyright © 2013 by Basic Books