A History of American Food with Libby O’Connell

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We’ve become very disassociated with our food. We go to the store, buy packaged products, and return home and throw them in a pot or the microwave. But where did those products come from? Even if it’s in the produce section, knowing where those potatoes came from is important. Today I’m talking with Emmy-award winning cultural historian Libby O’Connell about a history of American Food.

A history of American Food is the next topic on the Namely Marly Podcast with guest Libby O'Connell, PhD

If you want to be an interesting guest at your next dinner party, you’ll want to read Dr. Libby O’Connell’s book The American Plate (see the link below). You’ll dazzle your dinner companions with interesting facts like the origins of tomatoes.


Because most people think tomatoes originated in Italy, they’re really surprised to learn that through this discussion of a history of American food that tomatoes actually originated here, in North America. They were exported to Europe where they took well to the Italian and Spanish climates.

These kinds of culinary nuggets will impress everyone around you. And that’s what we’re all about. Right?

Dr. O’Connell talks with me about her background and how she came to write this book of the culinary history of America.

The past is like another country. It’s good to visit and try their food. — Libby O’Connell, PhD #namelymarly

The history of food is very  handy for breaking ice. — Libby O’Connell, PhD #namelymarly

The past is like another country and you want try the food their too. — Libby O’Connell, PhD #namelymarly

Chocolate was consumed as a beverage for thousands of years before it was eaten as candy. — Libby O’Connell, PhD #namelymarly

There’s nothing like fresh herbs to brighten the flavors that you’re serving to your family. — Libby O’Connell, PhD #namelymarly

We talk about some of the foods that are outlined in her book, like potatoes, tomatoes, and even some more lesser known ingredients like sassafras.

Our goal at Namely Marly is to provide you with inspiring resources to take on a vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and inspired, energetic living. We hope today’s interview with Dr. Libby O’Connell about her book An American Plate has been helpful and informative.

Go be your best you!

Featured Content – A History of American Food

Here are some of the highlights of my discussion with Libby, where we discuss:

  • Libby talks about her educational background which led her to have a passion for history
  • Libby talks about how she helped found the History Channel
  • We talk about how foods we associate with other countries, like tomatoes, actually originated in the Americas!
  • Some foods went from the Americas to Europe and then 150 years later they bring food back with them
  • We talk about the migration of potatoes…which are not native to Europe
  • We talk about Columbus and the spice he was looking for when he “discovered” America
  • We talk about the Mayian Spicy Drink!
  • We talk about domesticated animals owned by American Indians, which did not include horses!
  • We even talk about sassafras…and a nice trick you can use it for!
  • Did you know about the medicinal value of herbs from a historical perspective?
  • And then there’s the cleaning value of herbs, including Rue
  • We also talk about which herbs you can grow inside
  • We talk about the history of some of our favorite foods…cookies!
  • Libby shares about Fanny Farmer who really began the science of cooking
  • Libby talks about her next book which discusses American Presidents and the food they used to represent themselves to others

This episode includes references to some resources you might find interesting. Here they are:


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That’s it for today’s podcast. As always, thanks so much for joining in the discussion!

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