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Vodka: A Global History (Edible) Hardcover – May 15, 2012
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About the Author
Patricia Herlihy is emeritus professor of history at Brown University and the Louise Doherty Wyant Professor at Emmanuel College, Boston.
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And let me start by saying that when I received this book and picked it up, my first impression was that this is a very high quality publication. The book itself, while relatively small (about 5" x 8", and only 165 pages including the index and appendices), is unexpectedly heavy and you soon see that it has been produced using thick and very high quality glossy paper, with many high quality photos and illustrations, and a quality binding with a heavy and attractive dust cover. In all respects it is a very well done publication, and even before reading it my thought was that this would make a very nice gift for someone who enjoys vodka.
The author is a history professor herself, and from that I am assuming (not being an expert on vodka history) that this is an accurate chronicle of vodka's development over the years.
This is a serious book, providing both the story of the historical development of vodka (the author explains that there is some disagreement between Poland and Russia regarding which country is the rightful "home" of vodka, concluding that there is insufficient evidence one way or another to determine which place was its true birthplace), continuing geographically and exploring the relationship of vodka with the cultures in several countries, Russia in particular. In outlining the history of vodka, the author does not give a pass to the negative effects of the drink, particularly when discussing the early history of vodka in Russia where the government there has used various means over the years to try to control the consumption of vodka and deal with overuse and alcoholism among the population. She then goes on to tell the story of more recent developments in the marketing of vodka as it has expanded into new geographic territories and adapted to evolving tastes with variations such as flavored versions.
I enjoyed reading this and learned a great deal in a short time. It is both very informative and well written, has been produced to a very high standard, and is a nice addition to my own library. And as mentioned earlier it would be very suitable as a gift, something that I will probably come back to when the holiday season is near - I already have someone in mind who I am sure will enjoy this as much as I have!
This publisher of this book has a wide range of volumes on other foods and drinks, all produced to the same standard as this book on vodka. The logical followup for any readers enjoying this volume on vodka would be, I think, either Gin: A Global History,Whiskey: A Global History, or perhaps Rum: A Global History. (And for those wanting something non-alcoholic, how about Sandwich: A Global History,Pizza: A Global History, or perhaps Hot Dog: A Global History)?
Here's a sample, from the Wall Street Journal's coverage of one of Ms. Herlihy's book readings. The article read: "She was there to discuss vodka, a substance 'without color, odor or taste' that marketers have cleverly promoted. 'What is there to say about vodka?' she asked. 'It turns out to be anything you want.' Ms. Herlihy rolled off a litany of market-driven vodka packaging. There is vodka in Russia bottled as Marilyn Monroe with her skirt partially billowing up. If one likes dogs, there is Black Lab Vodka. Kosher vodka is available, as is environmentally made vodka in Wisconsin from organic wheat with its label made on recycled paper. There is even a vodka bottle shaped like a Kalashnikov rifle. ... "
Vodka marketing steamroller aside, though, this book also delivers everything from history (the author is a Brown University Russian history professor emerita) to the process of making vodka to the recipes you can make with it.
Did you know that, czar-wise, Ivan the Great established the first state vodka monopoly and Peter the Great used to force his enemies to drink to excess, "so they soon slumped senseless on the table or simply dropped dead?" No? Nor did your bartender, reader, nor did your bartender...
This would be a perfect gift for any vodka lover!