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food history

01/18/2017 - 12:09am
Cover to The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary

If you like a good cooking show—and a good story—dive into John O’Connell’s The Book of Spice for a lot of kitchen knowledge, delivered with an English accent. From his first try at tandoori chicken at a family picnic, Mr. O’Connell was hooked on the beautiful differences spices could make.

As seasoned cooks know, spice is very nice, and there are certainly more of them available now, both online and in the supermarket. Indeed, there are so many herbs, spices, and blends that it’s a daunting proposition to select one to try out. Surely it would be better if you understood not only their uses but also their fascinating histories.

02/08/2012 - 3:31am
Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almon

In Candyfreak, Steve Almond makes the typical chocoholic look like a quitter. Almond doesn’t just enjoy the occasional sweet indulgence. He is enamored with candy, especially chocolate candy bars. This infatuation drives his curiosity about the candy industry. It also compels Almond to wax poetic when describing candy’s taste and texture or lovingly tracing the popularity and disappearance of archaic, often regional, candies, such as Caravelle, Twin Bing, Idaho Spud, and Valomilk.

Throughout Candyfreak, Almond refers to his obsession with candy as a “freak,” arguing that the energy he expends thinking about, describing, hoarding, and consuming candy is not inherently different from the more widely accepted obsessive hobbies, such as sports fandom or extreme collecting: “[W]e don’t choose our freaks, they choose us. I don’t mean this as some kind of hippy dippy aphorism about the power of fate. We may not understand why we freak on a particular food or band or sports team. We may have no conscious control over our allegiances. But they arise from our most sacred fears and desires and, as such, they represent the truest expression of ourselves.”

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