Eight Flavors Book Club Discussion Questions!

If Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine is on your summer reading list, then here are some very official discussion questions to help you along!


  1. Lohman mentions omitting certain prominent American flavors from the book, such as chocolate and coffee, because of the wealth of existing coverage and research on them. Why else do you think she specifically chose to feature these eight flavors? What other quintessential flavors in American food are not featured in this book?
  2. Lohman profiles the individual histories of each of her eight chosen flavors. Which flavor’s story did you find to be the most engaging or interesting? Why?

  3. Which of the eight flavors did you feel you learned the most about? Which did you have the most prior knowledge of?

  4. What was the most surprising thing you learned from this book?

  5. Lohman argues that American cuisine is “the most complex and diverse cuisine on the planet.” Do you agree with this statement and why?

  6. Think about how you personally define the term “American cuisine”, and how Lohman defines it. When does an ingredient imported from another part of the world become “American” and part of “American cuisine”?

  7. How has this book changed the way you think about American cuisine; how it is defined, where it comes from, etc?

  8. Having read this book, would you consider reading more about the topic of American food history (or food history more broadly)?

  9. Has reading this book influenced or affected your tastes in food? For example, do you find yourself wanting to further explore a specific cuisine or more likely to eat or make a certain food than you were before?

  10. Consider the examples of MSG, which Lohman describes as unfairly receiving bad press, or vanilla, which became more widespread with advances in production techniques. What other factors influence how a specific ingredient goes up, or down, in popularity? What gives a foodstuff “staying power” in terms of how popular it is?

  11. In the final chapter of the book, Lohman speculates where the flavor trends of American cuisine might lead us in the future. What do you make of her predictions? Have you noticed other flavors or ingredients rising in popularity that might become the stars of American cuisine next year? What about five, ten, or even twenty years in the future? Do you expect that the flavors depicted in this book will remain enduringly popular?

10 thoughts on “Eight Flavors Book Club Discussion Questions!

  1. I WISH I had a book club that read stuff like this. But coincidentally I did move it up in my queue and this will become my vacation reading in a few weeks; looking forward to it. Any chance of an audiobook version ever coming out?

  2. I loved the book. I’m an enthusiastic historical gastronomist and will be presenting this at our salon for the parched in Palm Springs for our July salon. Of course there are loads of flavors, but Sarah has codified them through the CDC and sets forth her methodology. It was wonderfully written and insightful. I loved the back stories and all the trivia that makes history fascinating.

    Sarah, I do believe you may have been our tour guide at the Tenement Museum a couple years ago. Kudos.

    All my best,

  3. Sarah — I tried the recipe for the red wine chocolate cake in Eight Flavors, and I found the batter really thick and the baked cake somewhat dry. Is 3/4 cup red wine the correct amount? I tried making the cake again and changed a few things (doubled the wine, doubled the butter, and added an egg yolk), ending up with a moister cake. I loved the book! Thanks.

    • There is an error in that recipe in the hardcover book! Should be only 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, not 3 1/2 cups.

      Let me know if that helps!

      • Thanks so much! That change makes your recipe more like the other ones I found on the internet. I will try the corrected version next time I bake the cake.

  4. Hi Sarah,

    My NYC book club is reading your book- each month we meet at a restaurant that relates to our book’s theme- Do you have any restaurant suggestions that you feel capture the flavors of Eight Flavors but won’t break the bank?

    Can’t wait to discuss!



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