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Food: The History of Taste

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Food: The History of Taste
Edited by Paul Freedman. (University of California Press, Berkeley: 2007. Pg. 368. 250 Color Illustrations.) ISBN 13: 978-0-520-25476-3.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - November 5, 2007

Throughout history, food has been much more than just sustenance. It has, and still plays, a vital role in the cultural, religious, and even political arenas. Food: The History of Taste takes the reader on a gastronomical tour through the history of food and the various roles it has played throughout time. Gorgeously illustrated with 250 full-color illustrations, this is a unique and satisfying history book that presents invaluable insights into a common but often overlooked aspect of world history.

This volume is part of the California Studies in Food and Culture series and it was edited by Paul Freedman, who is a Professor of History at Yale University and the author of Spices in the Middle Ages. The text consists of ten delicious essays that provide an overview of the history of food throughout time, from prehistory through modern gastronomy. Other essays detail the history of food in ancient Greece and Rome, Imperial China, the Medieval Arab world, and European Middle Ages. Food during the Renaissance, the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are also covered, as is the development of the restaurant. The entire journey is launched by a compelling introduction by Freeman.

The authors of these various essays include many well-respected historians, archaeologist, and social scientist such as Alan K. Outram, Veronika Grimm, Joanna Waley-Cohen, H.D. Miller, C.M. Woolgar, Brian Cowan, Hans J. Teuteberg, Alain Drouard, Elliott Shore, and Peter Scholliers. Combined, their work presents an intriguing overview of the history of food, and provides much 'food for thought' that will make researchers and students take a new look at the role that food has, and still does, play in our day-to-day life and its long term impact on the historical record.

Food: The History of Taste will find a ready place, not only on library shelves, but also in the classroom. It can be readily used as a supplemental text in almost any college-level history course and can be used as the focal point of a dedicated class on social history or the history of food. For those seeking to explore this delectable subject in more detail, you'll find a valuable list of 'further readings' organized by essay. In addition to academicians, readers of all levels with an interest in the history of food, culinary studies, or everyday life in various cultures will find this a readily accessible and edifying book to read.

Related Reviews:

Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, by Lilia Zaouali.
A Concise History with 174 Recipes. The first half of this volume is devoted to exploring the history and practice of Islamic cooking, and the second half of the book is given over to a wealth of original medieval and contemporary recipes.

My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking., by Niloufer Ichaporia King.
165 mouth-watering Parsi recipes, accompanied by insights in Parsi history and culture.

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