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Restaurant Republic : The Rise of Public Dining in Boston (Paperback) (Kelly Erby)
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Before the 1820s, the vast majority of Americans ate only at home. As the nation began to urbanize and industrialize, home and work became increasingly divided, resulting in new forms of commercial dining.
In this fascinating book, Kelly Erby explores the evolution of such eating alternatives in Boston over the nineteenth century. Why Boston? Its more modest assortment of restaurants, its less impressive—but still significant—expansion in commerce and population, and its growing diversity made it more typical of the nation’s other urban centers than New York. Restaurants, clearly segmented along class, gender, race, ethnic, and other lines, helped Bostonians become more comfortable with deepening social stratification in their city and young republic even as the experience of eating out contributed to an emerging public consumer culture.
Restaurant Republic sheds light on how commercial dining both reflected and helped shape growing fragmentation along lines of race, class, and gender—from the elite Tremont House, which served fashionable French cuisine, to such plebian and ethnic venues as oyster saloons and Chinese chop suey houses. The epilogue takes us to the opening, in 1929, near Boston, of the nation’s first Howard Johnson’s, and that restaurant’s establishment as a franchise in the next decade. The result is a compelling story that continues to shape America.