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Food in History by Reay Tannahill

Food in History

by Reay Tannahill

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Read this for my Food in History course at college and really enjoyed it. Here and there it's a bit repetitive, so I gave it the four stars instead of five because the writing could be tightened a bit. However, the author if British and hilarious here and there, some of the footnotes she adds are just her own comments. If you're interested in the development of food, farming, meals, cuisine, etc, from really the dawn of time through the 1980s, I'd pick this up, even if you only wanted to read a particular section on Food in Sumer or Fillet of Pegasus. ( )
  Kristin_Curdie_Cook | Apr 29, 2016 |
I read this book a few years ago (softcover book), and it sits as a treasured book in my collection (I'd like to have a hard cover of it one day). This is a fantastic reference book. It begins where humans began, back in the caves, and gives archeological evidence as well as common sense theories on how certain foods likely came to be, such as yogurt and butter were probably discovered because of the practice of traveling with milk in the dried stomachs of animals. And one thing leads to another. The book is full of fascinating points on the usage, origin and development of all kinds of food, and not just covering the western world. Nearly every country is mentioned, though as the author freely admits, written history needs to be taken with a... grain of salt, so to speak.

I have several food history books in my collection - this one is my favorite that I flip through time and again. ( )
1 vote KVHardy | Jan 2, 2015 |
My first Folio Society book and a fascinating one detailing the changes in diet, hunting/gathering/farming of food and its preparation and cooking from pre-history to the beginning of the 21st century. Tannahill not only describes these changes and, for example, regional differences in diet but also explains them, e.g. in hot climates people eat spicy foods which make them perspire which cools them down (and prompts them to drink more fluids).

The book also demonstrates the wide-ranging impact of food-related issues on civilization. Thus science and technology are important (e.g. the effects of the Industrial Revolution on mechanised farming, or indeed simply the invention of the plough, let alone 20th century and later concerns such as GMOs and food additives) as are socio-economic issues - e.g. cookery books are only of general use when literacy is widespread, when people have enough disposable income to be able to afford the books and the ingredients and when they have some knowledge or curiosity about foods from outside the immediate vicinity (itself in practical terms necessitating improvements in transportation).

Changes in food can have long-lasting impacts. This doesn't just refer to the change from hunting and gathering to domestication and farming but also, e.g., in colonization - today's taste for refine sugars (and thus the West's obesity crisis) came from the New World plantations worked by African slave labour.

Sri Lanka's ethnic tensions similarly stem from plantations in the colonies. It was not the tea that the country (formerly Ceylon) is famous for, but instead for coffee, produced by Dutch colonists, that the Tamil workforce was brought to the plantations from India.

A fascinating book tracing food from pre-cooking-with-fire beginnings to modern day preoccupations with obesity vs famine, food buzzwords like 'natural' 'healthy' 'organic', diseases such as BSE and Foot and Mouth, additives and genetic modification. ( )
  stevejwales | Apr 26, 2013 |
Food in History strikes just the right balance between an accurate, well-researched treatise and a readable narrative about our place in the universe. Quotations and endnotes abound, and Tannahill uses that astringent, slightly skeptical tone (you're not just going to believe what that text says, are you...?) that fills you with trust in her and reminds you of a favorite teacher. The subject matter is pure genius: you've learned all kinds of things about world history before a few chapters are gone, while you're snickering over medieval table manners. There's a section on foods which were reputed to give you wind! Why isn't this a standard world history textbook?

There's a lot of speculation in the prehistoric section. Some of that is fine, but at the 10th instance of 'a housewife must have discovered *** when she left *** next to the stove for a few days' I started to wonder what the author was adding to the discussion. I can spend hours speculating how yogurt was discovered just fine on my own.

The last section, on how we're all going to be eating synthetic protein by the 21st century, is a little bizarre. And the liberal use of the word 'housewife' makes the book seem very Jetsons at times. It was published in the early 70s, though, so we'll give Tannahill a break. ( )
1 vote bexaplex | Sep 11, 2012 |
Food in History
Reay Tannahill
Jul 5, 2010 11:07 AM

Another of my purchases from the Folio Society, reflecting my weakness for acquiring fine books. The author set out to write about the history of food, from pre-historic to modern times, in all areas of the world. It is not comprehensive, but readable, with interesting tales. The prehistoric world is mostly speculation, of course, and in ancient times there are mentions of menus and food, but not always recipes, so the tastes and textures of food are a guess. The Romans used a fish sauce, liquamen, and there are some recipes for gathering it from dried and salted fish. The other major Roman spice was pepper, acquired from India, and silphium, a herb, from North Africa. Silphium disappeared from mention and from the markets in the middle of the 1st century, CE, and it is not certain what herb it was. The middle ages cookery was a constant replenished cauldron, and rough bread from mixed rye and wheat flour. India and China have very intricate cuisines, and the new world contributed uexolotl (turkey), potatoes, maize, tomatoes and tobacco. The last part of the book is a bit contentious, remarking on food fads and dieting. Very informative, well written ( )
  neurodrew | Jul 9, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
A fascinating survey of man's diet from earliest cave dwellers, through the first use of fire to heat meat ... to a doomwatch look at chemical additives, fertilizers, synthetic foods and future world demands. ... Quite fascinatingly relates man's development through history to his food.
added by KayCliff | editNational Housewives Register Newsletter, Hazel K. Bell (Sep 1, 1975)
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(Preface): When the idea of Food in History first occurred to me, I was mystified by the fact that no one had already written such a book.
(Prologue): It is an obvious truth, all too often forgotten, that food is not only inseparable from the history of the human race, but basic to it.
In the very earliest times nature was in charge and the problem of the food supply was a great deal simpler than it is now -- although perhaps it would be wiser to say 'must have been simpler', since there are as many theories about prehistory and the pattern of human evolution as there are theoreticians.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0517884046, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Surveys the evolution of man's diverse gastronomic habits, customs, and traditions against their cultural and historical background.

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