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The Cambridge World History of Food (2-Volume Set) Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0521402163 ISBN-10: 0521402166 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1958 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521402166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521402163
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.5 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Have the French always enjoyed their renowned cuisine? When did Russians begin to eat pirogi? What was the first Indonesian spice to be cultivated elsewhere in the world? Questions such as these make for good Jeopardy material, but they're far from trivial--just ask anyone with a passion for good food and a curiosity for where that food originated. That person will know instinctively that the best way to approach a culture--and, indeed, the human animal--is through the stomach. For this individual, The Cambridge World History of Food will be something of a bible, and the best of gifts.

A massive scholarly tome in two volumes and more than 2,000 pages, the CWHF encompasses a wealth of learning that touches on nearly every aspect of human life. (It also reveals the answers to the three earlier questions: No, French cuisine as we know it is a 19th-century development; in the 16th century, following the conquest of the Volga Tatar; ginger, in colonial Mexico.) Thoroughly researched and highly accessible despite its formidable layout, the set addresses a groaning board of topics past and present, from the diet of prehistoric humans to the role of iron in combating disease; from the domestication of animals to the spread of once-isolated ethnic cuisines in a fast-globalizing world. Of greatest interest to general readers is its concluding section--a dictionary of the world's food plants, which gives brief accounts of items both common and exotic, from abalong to Zuttano avocado.

The product of seven years of research, writing, and editing on the part of more than 200 authors, The Cambridge World History of Food promises to become a standard reference for social scientists, economists, nutritionists, and other scholars--and for cooks and diners seeking to deepen their knowledge of the materials they use and consume. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

It seems inconceivable that the editors and 224 international experts who contributed to this tour de force would suggest that our Paleolithic ancestors ate healthier than humans did up to 100 years ago, but they bolster their claim with facts: because they were hunter-gatherers, our Paleolithic forebears did not stay in one place long enough to pollute the local water with waste, nor did they come to rely on one primary source of food (and thus limit their access to vitamins and proteins). In addition to looking at the relationship between what we eat today and what humans ate millions of years ago, Kiple and Ornelas explore every type of food and food supplement, the cultural history of food, opposing views of vegetarianism, and related contemporary policy issues such as the argument over food labeling. With information that is up-to-date, a format that is easy to use and a fresh, engaging approach to their subject, Kiple and Ornelas have prepared a magnificent resource. The only quibble a reader may have, which the editors readily acknowledge, is that despite its claim to be a global study, the primary focus of their work is on the U.S. and Europe, but that is because more information on the history of foods in these areas is available than anywhere else. Serious students of health and anthropology, as well as libraries, provide an obvious market for this two-volume treatise. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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These books are well beyond extremely impressive and organized.
Trib
You can easily find various foods on the contents page or look for every single mention of a food in the Index.
Rebecca of Amazon
Buy other great reference books as well to round out your collection and your information.
Jadepearl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nesbitt on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a bumper book, stuffed with good articles by leading authorities in the field. As other reviewers have pointed out, this is a relatively dry volume that concentrates overmuch on archaeology and evolution (well documented elsewhere) and not enough on food history, on which there is a huge amount of misleading literature.
Sadly these volumes require a warning notice for their dictionary of plant foods (a hefty part of the book: pages 1711-1889). Evidently a last-minute attempt to widen the appeal of the book, this is woefully and grossly inaccurate. For example, pink peppercorns are wrongly identified as Piper nigrum, rather than Schinus terebinthifolius (and their mild toxicity is not noted either). Almost every entry in the directory is wrong or questionable. There is further evidence of underinvestment in editing elsewhere in the book; for example, botanical names are not consistent between chapters.
Most readers would fare much better with Alan Davidson's amusingly written, comprehensive and (above all) accurate "Oxford Companion to Food". This Cambridge volume belongs on library shelves - where it will occasionally be very useful.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jadepearl VINE VOICE on December 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you are hardcore into food history this book is for you. The articles are done in a dry academic style but are absolutely full of information. Folks who are into nutritional or food anthropology will have hours of reading before them. Be prepared, the articles are long.
The food dictionary section is not as detailed as say the Oxford Dictionary of Food but it is still good.
The main complaint that may be raised is the fact that there are some foods that are ignored or not given their own specialty article. I was surprised to see only wine was covered for alcoholic beverages in great detail while a general article on "distilled beverages" covered the rest of the alcohol world. Folks hoping to find a detailed discussion on beer or other grain based drinks wil have to look elsewhere.
Do not expect any recipes. Instead, you will find academic articles on a variety of topics all related to food. It is not as comprehensive as one may think but it is very WIDE none the less. It is a monumental work and deserves a great deal of praise.
Highy recommended for the collection, but you will think that there should have been more. Buy other great reference books as well to round out your collection and your information.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Peter E. Harrell on January 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I just got this multi-thousand page boxed set for Christmas, and as a foodie with a growing interest in the broader issues surrounding food, this work has engrossed me for hours on end. To reiterate the comments of the earlier reviewers, do not purhcase this book if you are looking for recipies; nor, needless to say, if you are hoping for a light read.
I just got this multi-thousand page boxed set for Christmas, and as a foodie with a growing interest in the broader issues surrounding food, this work has engrossed me for hours on end. To reiterate the comments of the earlier reviewers, do not purchase this book if you are looking for recipes; nor, needless to say, if you are hoping for a light read.
By and large, the book has all the food history you want to know, and does an excellent job of including articles on a great variety of non-Western culinary traditions. It provides an overview of the culinary history of each continent, and attempts to trace the interactions between them. Its dictionary of plant foods is useful in case you ever feel the desire to know what an African mandrake is (different from the poisonous European one.) Other articles cover a broad variety of food-related issues, like food fads, the history of fast food, the history of government regulation of food, and the history of nutrition. Although the book is billed as an encyclopedia of food, it has articles on current food issues such as regulation and food as it related to health.
One earlier review criticized the book for not having much on alcohol; that, unfortunately, is not the only weakness. It lacks articles on the history of a number of prepared but staple foods such as pasta; the food-focus here is definitely on the raw. Still, I highly recommend the book for those with an interest in food; though the writing can be somewhat scholarly, it is by no means too dull for general consumption. Yes, [the price] is quite a bit for a book. But by and large, this one is worth it.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Part of the dissatisfaction among some reviewers is that this book is not a light, cheerful cook-book/dictionary. For those who want something more along those lines, there are plenty of light-weight volumes that purport to tell the story of this or that cooking tradition with lots of nice glossy pictures and maybe more than three accurate facts if you're really lucky. Try Jane and Michael Stern's road trip food voyages for example.
This two volume set is not for the faint of heart. It is a book for the enthusiast and the professional food historian alike: people who are looking for the social, biological and historical context to the food they enjoy. It is not completely encyclopaedic and there are a few inaccuracies in the identification of plant names and such but these are minor quibbles in the face of the sheer comprehensiveness of the work and the undoubted scholarly care that has gone into its preparation.
I for one appreciated the early chapters on the archaeology of food. People tend to forget the time depth that surrounds eating as a human activity. This is not surprising in a modern world that emphasizes fast food over aesthetics or knowledge. It's my observation that those who are most interested in food purely as a consumable item seem to have little interest in where it really comes from. For example, one of the great tragedies of modern industrial living is the increasing absence of knowledge of or even respect for the fact that real animals died to provide you with your McChicken Burger, or your Poached Sole in Tuscan Orange Sauce.
This book is an invaluable reference. I recommend it to all my students in my Anthropology of Food and Eating class, and I myself use it all the time.
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