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Food: The History of Taste (2007)

by Paul Freedman

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2352115,538 (4.35)2
This richly illustrated book is the first to apply the discoveries of the new generation of food historians to the pleasures of dining and the culinary accomplishments of diverse civilizations, past and present. Editor Paul Freedman has gathered essays by French, German, Belgian, American, and British historians to present a comprehensive, chronological history of taste from prehistory to the present day. The authors explore the early repertoire of sweet tastes; the distinctive contributions made by classical antiquity and China; the subtle, sophisticated, and varied group of food customs created by the Islamic civilizations of Iberia, the Arabian desert, Persia, and Byzantium; the magnificent cuisine of the Middle Ages, influenced by Rome and adapted from Islamic Spain, Africa, and the Middle East; the decisive break with highly spiced food traditions after the Renaissance and the new focus on primary ingredients and products from the New World; French cuisine's rise to dominance in Europe and America; the evolution of modern restaurant dining, modern agriculture, and technological developments; and today's tastes, which employ few rules and exhibit a glorious eclecticism. The result is the enthralling story not only of what sustains us but also of what makes us feel alive. Copub: Thames & Hudson… (more)
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This lavishly illustrated book on food through the ages is a fairly scholarly account. Each of the ten sections is written by a different author, a specialist in the era and area. The editor himself is a history professor, one of whose specialties is medieval cuisine. Starting with hunter-gatherers and early farming, the book takes us through Greece and Rome, Imperial Chine, medieval Islamic foods and customs, the European Middle Ages, post Renaissance and the foods from the new world, the changes that occurred in the 1800s, French cuisine and the changes it has gone through (a LOT of changes) and the rise of the celebrity chef, the development of the restaurant, and the changing face of food in the modern age.

It’s a very interesting read if one is into social history. Because of the multiple authors, there is a bit of a lack of flow between chapters, but this is actually good: the authors come from a variety of countries, so we get to see the international side of things. This is not a cookbook; this is a book about food itself and how it fit into the society, with all its relations to status, religion, and wealth. I found it fascinating, although it did drag in a places. It reminds me of a really good college text book, the kind you find yourself reading ahead in while neglected one’s other classwork. ( )
1 vote lauriebrown54 | Jul 10, 2015 |
Pretty terrific book, with individual chapters on the usual suspects - muslims, medieval bishops, romans etc. and then two wonderful essays, one on the restaurant and another on modern eating habits. Well chosen contributors and nice illustrations as well. ( )
  annbury | Jun 11, 2015 |
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This richly illustrated book is the first to apply the discoveries of the new generation of food historians to the pleasures of dining and the culinary accomplishments of diverse civilizations, past and present. Editor Paul Freedman has gathered essays by French, German, Belgian, American, and British historians to present a comprehensive, chronological history of taste from prehistory to the present day. The authors explore the early repertoire of sweet tastes; the distinctive contributions made by classical antiquity and China; the subtle, sophisticated, and varied group of food customs created by the Islamic civilizations of Iberia, the Arabian desert, Persia, and Byzantium; the magnificent cuisine of the Middle Ages, influenced by Rome and adapted from Islamic Spain, Africa, and the Middle East; the decisive break with highly spiced food traditions after the Renaissance and the new focus on primary ingredients and products from the New World; French cuisine's rise to dominance in Europe and America; the evolution of modern restaurant dining, modern agriculture, and technological developments; and today's tastes, which employ few rules and exhibit a glorious eclecticism. The result is the enthralling story not only of what sustains us but also of what makes us feel alive. Copub: Thames & Hudson

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