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Food Food Is Culture (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231137904
ISBN-10: 0231137907
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A worthwhile indulgence.

(Eve Lichtgarn Associated Content)

To read this disarming collection of brief essays is to witness a superbly stocked mind grappling with matters that are vital to human survival.

(Tim Morris Wilson Quarterly)

Montanari here has provided students of anthropology with a wonderful text... Recommended.

(Library Journal)

Eloquent and shrewd.

(Ken Hirschkop Radical Philosophy)

Review

One of the most significant and well-documented among contemporary writers of food-related history and culture, Massimo Montanari has been a household name for a number of years. This book can easily be called a crowning achievement. It does not deal, primarily, with food from the point of view of nutrition; it is rather the work of an anthropologist who knows food literature (and medical and 'literary' literature) as few others and uses his knowledge as an irresistible invitation to travel through a much frequented and yet not adequately mapped territory.

(Luigi Ballerini, culinary historian and coauthor of The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book)

Montanari writes engagingly about food in ways the general reader is not accustomed to thinking about it.

(Beth Archer Brombert, author of Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat)

If you've never thought of a book on food and culture as a page turner, think again. In short, lively sections of Massimo Montanari's eye-opening study produce riveting perceptions of food in its broadest cultural perspective. His arguments are as fresh as they are learned and are as likely to offer challenging new perspectives as to turn conventional wisdom upside down. There's no question that his ground-breaking work adds immensely to what we know and how we think about the culture of food and gastronomy.

(Carol Field, author of The Italian Baker, Celebrating Italy and In Nonna's Kitchen)
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Product Details

  • Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (November 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231137907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231137904
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on November 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As an American boy growing up in France, we had only to hop it down to the local grocery to find the very best terrine. Massimo Montanari, author of a new compendium of his food columns, has written an exciting book about how and why people (especially in the Wrst) became interested in eating as an aesthetic proposition. Just yesterday here in San Francisco, I had the strange experience of having one of Montanari's columns come to life, as at a festive Thanksgiving dinner, someone brought a heaping box of cranberry flavored biscotti, explaining that the Italian bakeries of North Beach made them only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, for there's no market for them at other times of the year.

Exactly, Massimo Montanari would exclaim. One of his chapters shows how once a dish is associated with Christmas, you never see it the whole year round, and some foods (gingerbread for example) have been unfairly stigmatized with this "Christmas branding," although anybody could enjoy a nice piece of gingerbread in any season except that culturally, it would revolt us and most of us, even if we were starving, shipwrecked with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sun and the rest of the cast of LOST, on a desert island, most of us would turn up our noses at gingerbread. Brillat Savarin said it best, "Tell me what you eat anbd I'll tell you what you are," but canny old Massimo Montanari turns the good Frenchman upside his head to produce a slew of new apercus.

He knows his history backwards and forewards. When, for example, did Europeans introduce the custom of providing salad, sherbet, or just plain still water between courses? Montanari knows!
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Some interesting points to be made but contrary to what the introduction said, that it was user-friendly and non-pedantic, it was just the opposite, an opinion agreed with by fellow students in the short course I did as part of an alumni college program. The kernels of new information were wrapped up in lengthy obtuse language, probably easily accessible to those in the field but not so to us ordinary older age students outside the field. Just like lawyers, businessmen, doctors, etc have their own jargon, so apparently do those in the academic field in which the author was writing, though some of the problem may be attributable to the translation from Italian. Our teacher made the same points in a much more easily understandable and memorable way.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an opportunity for enjoyable and thought provoking reading.
The metaphor of "food as language" proved very versatile for academic purposes.
I have used Montanari's ideas to put together a short introduction to a
Marketing in the Food Sector module. My students can now relate media language with
"food language" in meaningful and imaginative ways.
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Very interesting to look at food as culture
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Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of the books that tie history and food together, so it was with great anticipation that I bought this book. It seemed like it would be ripe with topics, and since it was relatively new, it would be relevant in discussions or even sharing with a class.

The writing is so painfully verbose that I could barely read more than a few pages at a time, and even upon returning to it to browse for more direct statements about the author's pet theories, I had to put it down out of frustration. The author is fond of hearing himself "speak", and as such, uses a dialogue that bores the reader to the point of losing interest in the subject. I am a life-long food and beverage person, with hundreds of books in my collection, each beloved as the next; but, I simply could not in good conscience recommend this book to anyone hoping to be enlightened in the history and relevance of food and cultures. It was egregiously boring.
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