Cincinnati gets a bad rap for being stuck in the past. We’re slightly obsessed with our German heritage, we’re staunchly proud of our namesake chili, and we’re fiercely loyal to our legacy food makers. Polly Campbell documented this love affair for nearly 25 years as the Enquirer’s food critic, and just before announcing her retirement last fall, she compiled her vast knowledge into a book, Cincinnati Food: A History of Queen City Cuisine (American Palate).
The comprehensive guide offers a glimpse into the lives of Cincinnatians throughout history, through the lens of food. In it, she explores the city’s rise as a major beer producer (and its subsequent Prohibition fall), how our downtown basin open-air markets eventually led to supermarket behemoth Kroger, and of course, Cincinnati’s roots as the meat-processing capital dubbed “Porkopolis.” Campbell beautifully interweaves our past and present, illustrating the enduring influence of the hard-working immigrants who built this city on the folks leading today’s culinary evolution, suggesting we’re not stuck in the past, but we are proud of it. And that’s a good thing.