Garden Variety

The American Tomato from Corporate to Heirloom

John Hoenig

Columbia University Press

Garden Variety

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Pub Date: November 2017

ISBN: 9780231179089

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: November 2017

ISBN: 9780231546386

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

Garden Variety

The American Tomato from Corporate to Heirloom

John Hoenig

Columbia University Press

Chopped in salads, scooped up in salsa, slathered on pizza and pasta, squeezed onto burgers and fries, and filling aisles with roma, cherry, beefsteak, on-the-vine, and heirloom: where would American food, fast and slow, high and low, be without the tomato? The tomato represents the best and worst of American cuisine: though the plastic-looking corporate tomato is the hallmark of industrial agriculture, the tomato’s history also encompasses farmers’ markets and home gardens. Garden Variety illuminates American culinary culture from 1800 to the present, challenging a simple story of mass-produced homogeneity and demonstrating the persistence of diverse food cultures throughout modern America.

John Hoenig explores the path by which, over the last two centuries, the tomato went from a rare seasonal crop to America’s favorite vegetable. He pays particular attention to the noncorporate tomato. During the twentieth century, as food production, processing, and distribution became increasingly centralized, the tomato remained king of the vegetable garden and, in recent years, has become the centerpiece of alternative food cultures. Reading seed catalogs, menus, and cookbooks, and following the efforts of cooks and housewives to find new ways to prepare and preserve tomatoes, Hoenig challenges the extent to which branding, advertising, and marketing dominated twentieth-century American life. He emphasizes the importance of tomatoes to numerous immigrant groups and their influence on the development of American food cultures. Garden Variety highlights the limits on corporations’ ability to shape what we eat, inviting us to rethink the history of our foodways and to take the opportunity to expand the palate of American cuisine.
A well-written book that demonstrates that the story of industrial food may not be nearly as linear or as top-down as we have thought. James McWilliams, Texas State University
John Hoenig crafts a clear, engaging, and comprehensive account of the tomato’s journey from an obscure and maligned food to an American dietary staple. This informative book belongs in the hands of all readers curious about the relationships between food, labor, migration, technology, and culture. Jennifer Jensen Wallach, author of How America Eats: A Social History of US Food and Culture
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Early American Tomato
2. The Tomato on the Farm: Culinary and Agricultural Advancements, 1820–1900
3. A Tomato for All Seasons: The Development of the Twelve-Month Fresh and Processed Tomato Industries, 1880–1945
4. Consuming Tomatoes: Culinary Creativity and Expansion in the Age of Industrialization
5. “A Poor Tomato Is Better Than No Tomato”: The Harvester and the Commodification of the Tomato
6. Meet the Farmer or Become One: Challenging Commercial Food Culture
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

John Hoenig is lecturer in history at Pennsylvania State University and also teaches history at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas.