You’d wonder how and why the various regional cuisines developed. Questions would arise. For example: Why is the cuisine of New England so different from the cuisine of the Plantation South when both were colonized by the English, at virtually the same time, and both shared the same indigenous foods and colonial domesticates? Fortunately, in this book you have the advantage of a builtin set of tools that will help you answer such questions. Your toolbox consists of the basic factors illustrated in the box on this page. These five factors apply to regional cuisines not only in America but also throughout the world. No matter which regional cuisine is singled out for study, these five factors almost always come into play.
As you read the American regional cuisine chapters in this book, look for the factor icons in the page margins. These symbols indicate information in the text that relates to one of the five factors. As you notice factor information in the text, stop and evaluate its importance. Note how early or how late in the region’s history that factor came into play. Observe how one factor affects the other factors. In doing so, you’ll get some valuable clues.
In many ways, applying the five factors to the history and food culture of an American culinary region is like reading a mystery story. To arrive at the solution to a mystery, the detective looks deeply into past events, asks the right questions, and critically evaluates the answers. Following the same process enables you, as a student of American regional cuisines, to ask important questions whose answers lead to a sound understanding of the region’s food culture and cuisine.
After you’ve studied several regions, you can also use the factors to compare and contrast one region with another. For example, apply Factor 4 to the cuisines of the Plantation South and New England to discover why today the two cuisines are so different. In order to apply the five factors to America’s fifteen culinary regions, you must understand the concepts behind each factor and know some key terms used in discussing it.