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Food in History Paperback – May 10, 1995
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From the Inside Flap
An enthralling world history of food from prehistoric times to the present. A favorite of gastronomes and history buffs alike, Food in History is packed with intriguing information, lore, and startling insights--like what cinnamon had to do with the discovery of America, and how food has influenced population growth and urban expansion.
About the Author
Reay Tannahill is the author of Food in History and Sex in History, as well as the bestselling novels A Dark and Distant Shore and The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. She lives in London.
Top customer reviews
I like her no-nonsense style of writing and I'm enjoying reading about humanity's
progression from hunter-gatherers to more sophisticated styles of finding and
Although this tome is not too scholarly, it is full of a lot of information that the
average reader may find too esoteric.
It's very interesting stuff and anyone interested in how we got to where we are
today might enjoy finding out how our ancestors' solutions to the daily problem of
finding food gave rise to today's gourmet, foodies and vegans.
The book really does an excellent job putting food in its historical/social context. Most history books will look at the wars and conflicts of the time, this book will give a perspective that we are all used to: prices, wages, luxury goods. While it is not a recipe book, you will enjoy the few historical recipes/menus that are spread throughout the book.
Pick it up and enjoy!
The book is divided into broad time categories - first thousands of years and then hundreds. In each section, Tannahill explores food in different broad areas such as the Americas, Europe, Asia, India, Africa, etc. This is not a cookbook - don't expect historical recipes. Also keep in mind that it's an overview - don't expect details on the evolution of every single regional cuisine. Food in History is very well researched and comprehensively documented. Tannahill has a pleasant writing style, and just when the material threatens to get a bit too dry, up pops an interesting factoid or anecdote to recapture your interest.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in how food has helped shape our history.
Concise sections cover almost every food topic. Sugar, the potato, honey, the tomato, soybeans, rice, corn, spices, tea, the horse, salt, and even pasta are included. Pasta may go back to the Etruscans as claimed, but clearly tomato sauce is newer. The tomato originated in North America and did not arrive in Europe until the Sixteenth Century.
The list of foods originating in the Americas is impressive: the potato, the tomato, corn, avocados, pineapples, haricot, kidney and butterbeans, lima beans, scarlet runners, French beans, chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, red peppers, green peppers, tapioca, and the turkey plus tobacco, rubber, chewing gum and quinine.
Many of the topics could make an entire book. Comprehensive coverage would make an multi-volume encyclopedia. Here, we get a two or three page overview with references. The story of the potato is told in two pages; the Irish potato famine gets two more.
The book covers the globe including China, India, Egypt and South America. The author is from University of Glasgow. British topics seem well covered, but the discussion extends to America too. The story of canning is described in considerable detail, and so is frozen foods, but Clarence Birdseye (modern frozen foods) and JR Simplot (instant mashed potatoes, dehydrated onions, and frozen french fries) are omitted.
This book is a nicely done overview of the subject. It is a handy quick reference to the subject and an excellent starting point for further research. References, bibliography, index.