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Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – April 3, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A dynamic and exciting book written with the kind of crispness, concision, and eloquence that will make you squirm with delight. (The World of Fine Wine 2014)

"Laudan knows more about the world history of cooking than any other scholar alive . . . organized by a theoretical framework that structures her argument. " (Melanie DuPuis, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 2014).

"Wonderful . . . There is nothing argumentative or prescriptive about her book . . . but in our current American historical moment it seems breathtakingly transgressive . . .What I appreciate about Laudan is her perspective." (Lydia Kiesling in The Millions, 01-28-2014).

"During my forty year culinary career, there have been a select number of books that became touchstones, volumes that seemed to arrive just when inspiration was needed or direction was appropriate, books that somehow enhanced my sense of having found my calling. The newest addition to the list is a work of culinary history by Rachel Laudan."--Virginia B. Wood"The Austin Chronicle, on the range" (10/17/2013)

From the Inside Flap

“A triumph, pointing the way to a wholly new kind of historiography that can hold its own with more familiar work on political, economic, social, and intellectual history.“ —G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books

“Magnificent. . . . Some of Laudan’s ‘diffusion maps’ of particular styles of cuisine are miniature masterpieces of cultural history.“ —Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement

"Rachel Laudan combines an impressive grasp of global history with a deep appreciation of the world's cuisines in all their glorious diversity. Readers who love food will find Cuisine and Empire both informative and entertaining." —Daniel Headrick, author of Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present

"Few writers could tackle the sweeping subject matter of Cuisine and Empire with such grace and authority as Rachel Laudan. She rises to this challenge with fresh insights and a global perspective on our attitudes to food. This book is not to be missed by food historians and lovers of good eating." —Anne Willan, author of The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook

“Rachel Laudan offers a remarkable and always fascinating account of the rise and fall of cuisines, giving equal time to every part of the globe and situating the modern period within the much longer history of how people have gone about preparing food. The focus on cooking and cuisine demonstrates the durability of tastes, but also how such tastes are spread and influenced by political and cultural expansion. Cuisine and Empire is a riveting and unique combination of culinary ideas and exposition on the materiality of eating.” —Paul Freedman, editor of Food: The History of Taste

“In this groundbreaking book, Rachel Laudan takes a distinctive approach to the development and expression of food cultures throughout human history. She describes successive models of foodways that illuminate different periods and places, underpinned by persuasive historical analysis. Both general readers and professional historians will feel challenged by her arguments to integrate food and its culture into their thinking about human history, not just as an afterthought but as an essential tool of understanding and explanation.” —Naomi Duguid, author of Burma: Rivers of Flavor
 
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Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 43)
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (April 3, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520286316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520286313
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The world has long needed a comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date history of cuisine. This is the book--but it is much more. It traces the sweep of cuisine through history: diffusion, trade, religious influences, migrations of peoples, and, of course, empires. Foodways have a history, and it involves world contacts. Globalism is not new; wheat spread over the Old World by 2000 BCE, and maize did the same (a bit later) in the New. Spices were traded from what is now Indonesia to ancient China and to the Roman Empire. Dr. Laudan traces influences over thousands of miles. One conclusion I take away from this is that it's silly to talk about "hybrid" cuisines--cuisines have been meeting and merging for thousands of years, and "fusion cuisine" is a term that could be applied to all of them.
This book is also very well written--Dr. Laudan is a real stylist.
Everyone interested in a thorough, deep history of food needs to read this work!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have ever wanted to understand why the world eats the diverse foods that it does or why some foods seem to have appeal in diverse locales, this is your book. Rachel Laudan manages to write with astonishing depth and scope as she shows how cuisine has travelled with the great religions as they spread from continent to continent. Her style has a windswept quality that entices the reader to feel that they are traveling with the monks, merchants and explorers around the globe.
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Rachel Laudan has given us an important and ground-breaking book. There is profit in it for the general reader who is just curious about the main topic, cuisine; but also for more specialized readers of social history, philosophical anthropology, the history of ideas, and the sociology of religion.
The farmer does not give us food. “A sheaf of wheat is no more food,” she asserts, “than a boll of cotton is a garment.” It is a major theme of the book that farming may give us raw materials, but techniques (and importantly, ideas -- “culinary philosophy,” as she has it) of cooking are what give us food. It is, thus, futile to go on about how “natural” this or that foodstuff may be; we no more tear meat from bone with our teeth than we use them to grind the grass seeds that became our corn (maize, or wheat, or whatnot). Human labor, and ingenuity, stand between Nature and dinner. (This is even true of “raw” foods.)
Laudan suggests that, by definition, all food is processed food -- from developing the techniques of settled agriculture to the promotion (or prohibition) of certain foods according to ideas (nicely summarized in tables 1.1-1.5) about such things as the four humors, the four or five elements, maintaining harmony in the universe, and sacrality -- and, more recently, as the songwriter said, while “We Are Eating Foods for Health.” (Modern theories of health and diet turn out to be just the latest in a whole series of fashions which change with the checkered changes of ideas in science and cosmology, since Babylon as it were.)
Food may be “good to think,” but in any case it is not just material fuel, it is a thing shaped by ideas and their changes.
Read more ›
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An astonishing book -- a masterpiece in fact. Putting the kitchen at the center of history, Rachel Laudan details the battles for dominance among the big powers, over thousands of years. It's easy enough to understand that ascendant civilizations can and do impose their foodways on those they vanquish, but not so obvious that the vanquished may well have a plan for eating their way back to power. Does Empire drive cuisine, or does cuisine drive Empire? This superbly written book prompts you to reconsider everything you know about food and power. As a historian of science, technology and food, with a prize-winning book behind her (The Food of Paradise), Laudan, uniquely, has the chops for a work of this scope. Dazzling! Read it with your mind, heart and soul, and refer to it forever after.
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This history is well researched and written in a 'user friendly' style. It is MUST reading for anyone who wants to know about food and how it got that way AND the amazing interaction it has had with the movement of power from nation to nation and conquest to conquest. It is an amazing accomplishment to bring so many threads together and make it SEEM so easy.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a crash course in world history, told through the development of cuisine in various cultures. It is actually a fascinating study, and a novel theme. More than a history of food movements, it details the evolution of eating and cooking throughout the ages and throughout the world.||Most of the world's cuisines are based on grains, but different ones depending on the geography. Within each area, cuisines of high and low developed; high for the wealthy and powerful, low for the peasant and commoner. Eventually, some areas developed a 'middling' cuisine, one that had more variety and stability, and nutrition, than the low, but nowhere near the expense of the high. As empires rose and fell, cooking techniques and styles, as well as actual food plants and animals, were transported around and across the globe. For various reasons, some techniques and foods were favored and others eschewed, while some cuisines adapted to be more inclusive of new food ways. Exhaustively detailed and thoroughly researched, the text is dense and the book is long, but still surprisingly readable and entertaining. There is a lot of information here, but it is well and engagingly covered. It is a good look at the history of the world from this unique angle.
I received a copy from the San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.
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