food history

Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal

By Margaret Visser

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Presented as a meal, each chapter represents a different course or garnish. Borrowing from Byron's classic poem "Don Juan" for her title ("Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner"), writer Margaret Visser looks to the most ordinary American dinner for her subject - corn on the cob with butter and salt, roast chicken with rice, salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, and ice cream - submerging herself in the story behind each food. In this indulgent and perceptive guide we hear the history of Corn Flakes, why canned California olives are so unsatisfactory (they're picked green, chemically blackened, then sterilized), and the fact that in Africa, citrus fruit is eaten rind and all. For food lovers of all kinds, this unexpectedly funny and serious book is a treasure of information, shedding light on one of our most favorite pastimes.

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Michael Jackson's Beer Companion: The World's Great Beer Styles, Gastronomy, and Traditions

By Michael Jackson

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Anthropologists can't decide which came first - bread or beer, but beer expert Michael Jackson votes for beer. In this combination travelogue and cultural history he identifies forty-one distinctive traditional styles of beer and highlights one hundred-fifty breweries that are benchmarks of excellence. There is even a small collection of recipes that are great companions to beer or that use beer in the dish.
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In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food

By Stewart Lee Allen

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"Deliciously organized by the Seven Deadly Sins, here is a scintillating history of forbidden foods through the ages--and how these mouth-watering taboos have defined cultures around the world. From the lusciously tempting fruit in the Garden of Eden to the divine foie gras, Stewart Lee Allen engagingly illustrates that when a pleasure as primal as eating is criminalized, there is often an astonishing tale to tell. Among the foods thought to encourage Lust, the love apple (now known as the tomato) was thought to possess demonic spirits until the nineteenth century.

"The Gluttony 'course' invites the reader to an ancient Roman dinner party where nearly every dish served--from poppy-crusted rodents to 'Trojan Pork'--was considered a crime against the state. While the vice known as Sloth introduces the sad story of 'The Lazy Root' (the potato), whose popularity in Ireland led British moralists to claim that the Great Famine was God's way of punishing the Irish for eating a food that bred degeneracy and idleness.

"Filled with incredible food history and the author's travels to many of these exotic locales, In the Devil's Garden also features recipes like the matzo-ball stews outlawed by the Spanish Inquisition and the forbidden 'chocolate champagnes' of the Aztecs. This is truly a delectable book that will be consumed by food lovers, culinary historians, amateur anthropologists, and armchair travelers alike."

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Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices

By Andrew Dalby

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"Spices and aromatics--the powerful, pleasurable, sensual ingredients used in foods, drinks, scented oils, perfumes, cosmetics, and drugs--have long been some of the most sought-after substances in the course of human history. In various forms, spices have served as appetizers, digestives, antiseptics, therapeutics, tonics, and aphrodisiacs. Dangerous Tastes explores the captivating history of spices and aromatics: the fascination that they have aroused in us, and the roads and seaways by which trade in spices has gradually grown. Andrew Dalby, who has gathered information from sources in many languages, explores each spice, interweaving its general history with the story of its discovery and various uses. Dalby concentrates on traditional spices that are still part of world trade: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, saffron, and chili. He also discusses aromatics that are now little used in food but still belong to the spice trade and to traditional medicine: frankincense, myrrh, aloes-wood, balsam of Mecca.

"In addition, Dalby considers spices that were once important but that now are almost forgotten: long pepper, cubebs, grains of Paradise. Dangerous Tastes relates how the Aztecs, who enjoyed drinking hot chocolate flavored with chili and vanilla, sometimes added annatto (a red dye) to the drink. This not only contributed to the flavor but colored the drinker's mouth red, a reminder that drinking cacao was, in Aztec thought, parallel with drinking blood. In the section on ambergris, Dalby tells how different cultures explained the origin of this substance: Arabs and Persians variously thought of it as solidified sea spray, a resin that sprung from the depths of the sea, or a fungus that grows on the sea bed as truffles grow on the roots of trees. Some Chinese believed it was the spittle of sleeping dragons. Dalby has assembled a wealth of absorbing information into a fertile human history that spreads outward with the expansion of human knowledge of spices worldwide."

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Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

By Mark Kurlansky

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"A delightful romp through history with all its economic forces laid bare, Cod is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod. As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary. In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question: Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world's folly?"
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Foods and Cooking in Ancient Egypt

By Clive Gifford

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"The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted from around 3000 BC all the way to 30 BC, and despite being built over 2000 years ago many of their grand structures still stand today. The food that drove this civilization to success was as fiery and spicy as the Egyptians themselves. This book contains easy-to-follow recipes from the ancient Egyptian recipe book such as the flavorful, seed-based Dukkah dip."
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The Gallery of Regrettable Food

By James Lileks

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"Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its generous portions of hilarity and ghastly pictures from retro cookbooks. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: 'WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?' It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food. Bon appetit!"
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Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment with Recipes

By Andrew F. Smith

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"For topping French fries or cottage cheese, K rations or school lunches, ketchup has long been an American favorite. In Pure Ketchup, Andrew F. Smith chronicles American milestones in ketchup history, including colonial adaptations of popular British mushroom, anchovy, and walnut ketchups, the rise of tomato-based ketchup, the proliferation of commercial bottling after the Civil War, debates about preservatives, the resurgence of homemade and designer varieties, and a recent challenge from salsa. In addition to the history of ketchup, the book also includes historical recipes."
An electronic book.

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Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

By Mark Pendergrast

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From its discovery in ancient Ethiopia to its role as a millennial elixir in the Age of Starbucks, coffee has dominated and molded the economies, politics, and social structures of entire countries. The second most valuable exported legal commodity on earth, it has sparked revolutions, romances, business deals, and friendships. Uncommon Grounds traces the journey of coffee from its origins on tropical mountainsides cultivated by poor laborers to the coffee bars of the United States, Europe, and Japan, where cosmopolitan consumers pay half a day's Third World wages for one good cup.

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The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee

By Stewart Lee Allen

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"Coffee as history's primary instrument and instigator. What is this elixir that fuels our destiny? Stewart Lee Allen's insatiable, unquenchable thirst for the answer carries him across forbidden borders and several continents as he pursues the precious and little-known catalytic effect of the ambrosial brew upon world empires and mankind. He also documents the unconscionable attempts to suppress coffee. With Paris one 'vast caf,' for instance, Napoleon banned coffee, but then was summarily overthrown and exiled. His last request: a cup of St. Helena's best. Likewise, Germany's long anti-coffee campaigns kept java from offering its solace to the lower classes. In 1930 German workers voted Adolf Hitler into power. In America the military tried for fifty years to produce an easily brewed cup for battlefield use, and did. The perfection of instant coffee triggered a 3,000 percent jump in consumption during World War I and stimulated the rise of the United States to world-class power."

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