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History of Food

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This wide-ranging and comprehensive reference history covers in one volume the history of foodstuffs, the story of cuisine and the social history of eating. From the origins of mankind, and the transition from a vegetable to an increasingly carnivorous diet, the story unfolds of the interrelationship between people and diet, between particular foods and social mores, betwe This wide-ranging and comprehensive reference history covers in one volume the history of foodstuffs, the story of cuisine and the social history of eating. From the origins of mankind, and the transition from a vegetable to an increasingly carnivorous diet, the story unfolds of the interrelationship between people and diet, between particular foods and social mores, between dietary custom and cuisine. A strong theme of natural history runs through the book. Bees and honey are examined and discussed, as are pulses, soya, fungi, cereals and the sources of vegetable oils. Game and meat of all kinds from poultry to horsemeat are described, as are all kinds of sea foods. Domestic animals, vegetable and fruit farming, fish farming and other human initiatives are compared with the economic markets they serve, and the dietary effects they have. Foods of pleasure, from confectionery to wine, from coffee to caviar are also covered. This vast survey concludes with an investigation of scientific issues, including methods of food preservation, dietetics and the importance of vitamins. A selection of significant illustrations is included in the text, and there is a comprehensive bibliography and index. The French edition of this book won the History Prize of the Societe des Gens de Lettres de France.


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This wide-ranging and comprehensive reference history covers in one volume the history of foodstuffs, the story of cuisine and the social history of eating. From the origins of mankind, and the transition from a vegetable to an increasingly carnivorous diet, the story unfolds of the interrelationship between people and diet, between particular foods and social mores, betwe This wide-ranging and comprehensive reference history covers in one volume the history of foodstuffs, the story of cuisine and the social history of eating. From the origins of mankind, and the transition from a vegetable to an increasingly carnivorous diet, the story unfolds of the interrelationship between people and diet, between particular foods and social mores, between dietary custom and cuisine. A strong theme of natural history runs through the book. Bees and honey are examined and discussed, as are pulses, soya, fungi, cereals and the sources of vegetable oils. Game and meat of all kinds from poultry to horsemeat are described, as are all kinds of sea foods. Domestic animals, vegetable and fruit farming, fish farming and other human initiatives are compared with the economic markets they serve, and the dietary effects they have. Foods of pleasure, from confectionery to wine, from coffee to caviar are also covered. This vast survey concludes with an investigation of scientific issues, including methods of food preservation, dietetics and the importance of vitamins. A selection of significant illustrations is included in the text, and there is a comprehensive bibliography and index. The French edition of this book won the History Prize of the Societe des Gens de Lettres de France.

30 review for History of Food

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim Chevallier

    This is pretty much required reading for anyone with a serious interest in comprehensive food history. It is dense with information and carefully organized. My one big quibble is that Toussaint-Samat uses footnotes very sparingly. This is already frustrating when trying to track down some of her sources; it is all the worst when she passes on erroneous information. Which she unfortunately does on a number of occasions - Le Grand d'Aussy's distorted account of Charlemagne's cheese (which she furt This is pretty much required reading for anyone with a serious interest in comprehensive food history. It is dense with information and carefully organized. My one big quibble is that Toussaint-Samat uses footnotes very sparingly. This is already frustrating when trying to track down some of her sources; it is all the worst when she passes on erroneous information. Which she unfortunately does on a number of occasions - Le Grand d'Aussy's distorted account of Charlemagne's cheese (which she further distorts by making assumptions about the exact cheese and region), the standard myth about the croissant being invented at a siege, a completely bogus item about Dagobert II (apparently fabricated by a 19th century writer), etc. She also makes some strange mistakes on her own account, such as confusing Radegund (a saint) with Fredegund (a murderess). So anyone using this work for scholarship should double check information from it. But these, in the overall scope, are minor blemishes in a monumental work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scheherazade W.

    Ramblings of a French woman presented as a global "history" despite lacking consistent scientific and historical citations. I don't mind a thick book, or rambling French women. I do however want to be sure I'm reading something on food history that is fact checked and internationally inclusive (if that's even reasonably possible with such a broad subject.) I did plenty of curious googling as I read, and would say only 60-70% of the information presented here is true. Some things in here are just Ramblings of a French woman presented as a global "history" despite lacking consistent scientific and historical citations. I don't mind a thick book, or rambling French women. I do however want to be sure I'm reading something on food history that is fact checked and internationally inclusive (if that's even reasonably possible with such a broad subject.) I did plenty of curious googling as I read, and would say only 60-70% of the information presented here is true. Some things in here are just out and out made up by the author. The title is also misleading. She has western European food history covered, especially France, but other countries and cultures are presented as a garnish. Don't bother picking this one up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    While this covers a variety of interesting topics and the span of human history, the writing is somewhat stream of consciousness and lacks credibility. If it is as accurate in other areas as in the history of wine, with which I am familiar, it is a mere collection of anecdotes, many of which have been discredited by careful research. I finally gave up after I finished the section on wine in favor of other books on the topic which I hope are better researched and more cogently written.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    A whacking huge brick of a book, but if you're at all interested in culinary history, or want to know where an ingredient was first eaten and when, this book will tell you. Lots of pictures, lots of detail, this is one of my keepers. For the more complete review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/Histor... A whacking huge brick of a book, but if you're at all interested in culinary history, or want to know where an ingredient was first eaten and when, this book will tell you. Lots of pictures, lots of detail, this is one of my keepers. For the more complete review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/Histor...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I agree with a previous reviewer -- the focus is very euro-centric, with North America considered and Asia added as afterthoughts for some topics. However, thoroughly researched and terribly informational. I used it as a reference for a paper and found myself plowing through the rest of it out of sheer curiosity and interest.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    Despite the Euro and Franco-centric scope of the book as broader history, this book contains fascinating food scholarship wrapped into cogent narrative morsels. Many people I know use it as a reference book but I couldn't put it down and read it cover-to-cover. Despite the Euro and Franco-centric scope of the book as broader history, this book contains fascinating food scholarship wrapped into cogent narrative morsels. Many people I know use it as a reference book but I couldn't put it down and read it cover-to-cover.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wm

    A crazy mix of anthropology, history, classical allusions, anecdotes, commentary and cultural history all wrapped up in a robust love for gastronomy and a Franco-orientation. Delightful (and very very long) so long as you don't take as the gospel truth. Quite the fascinating read. A crazy mix of anthropology, history, classical allusions, anecdotes, commentary and cultural history all wrapped up in a robust love for gastronomy and a Franco-orientation. Delightful (and very very long) so long as you don't take as the gospel truth. Quite the fascinating read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    This book is fascinating and comprehensive, but is better dipped into over time than read end-to-end. It's a bit French-centric, and the section on spices is weak (and wrong in a few spots). It also ends abruptly with no effort to pull the full story together. More of a reference book. This book is fascinating and comprehensive, but is better dipped into over time than read end-to-end. It's a bit French-centric, and the section on spices is weak (and wrong in a few spots). It also ends abruptly with no effort to pull the full story together. More of a reference book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jonas Gehrlein

    The book covers most of the history of food consumption and prodution from roman times to 1970 with a strong French focus. So if you are interested in what types of food people where eating in Europe in the past and how food was prepared and stored, this book gives a good general overview even if the authors viewpoint on how good the food is to eat and a few too many digressions into the why french food is the best, but if you want to know more about food history in Europe,this book is highly re The book covers most of the history of food consumption and prodution from roman times to 1970 with a strong French focus. So if you are interested in what types of food people where eating in Europe in the past and how food was prepared and stored, this book gives a good general overview even if the authors viewpoint on how good the food is to eat and a few too many digressions into the why french food is the best, but if you want to know more about food history in Europe,this book is highly recommended

  10. 5 out of 5

    Klemen

    I’ve read many history books and this is by far the hardest to read. Some topics should have been explained more easily and the information seems scattered. I guess it’s understandable the topic might be hard to explain. I’ve also read that other readers are complaining about the validity of the facts. Which is a bit worrysome to say the least.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Actually read this a long time ago when, by chance, I fell into a culinary world--one I didn't know existed. I love this book! It's a great reminder that every food has behind it many stories, a rich history. Food is much more than a nourishment and comfort, it is to be celebrated, savored and never taken for granted. Actually read this a long time ago when, by chance, I fell into a culinary world--one I didn't know existed. I love this book! It's a great reminder that every food has behind it many stories, a rich history. Food is much more than a nourishment and comfort, it is to be celebrated, savored and never taken for granted.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Saba

    writing about this book today while I read it in 2007 that must tell you something , I did purchase it as the edition I read was a library one . Fascinating !!!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joan Porte

    A must read for foodies

  14. 4 out of 5

    Margaretha

    Excellent book on all kinds eatable from histories' most long ago to histories' most recent. Very interesting, very educative. Perfect for the food-nerd you didn't know you were. Excellent book on all kinds eatable from histories' most long ago to histories' most recent. Very interesting, very educative. Perfect for the food-nerd you didn't know you were.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Richards

    Too heavy to lift, honestly. 😅 I think I prefer food micro histories, where you can really dig in on one specific topic.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Luis Alejandro

    A lovely book to read

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cartimandua

    I’m about halfway through, and I’m disappointed. A lot of guesses and anecdotal evidence presented as fact, and heavily weighted in French favour. Hard to take it seriously as a factual piece.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    very western euro-centric, casual racism. Not in-depth, during the vegetable section only 4 (greens, cabbage, asparagus and tomatoes) are discussed. What about carrots, parsnips and cucumbers, I cry!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    There should be an option 'unfinished". Overall, a very impressive collection of facts regarding foods. However it's a heavy read, and more like a collection of small books, each on one topic. I didn't find it entertaining enought to have it on my nighttable. So although I won't read it entirely, I enjoy having it as a reference book on my food & cooking shelves and will have a look at it from time to time when I decide to know more about one food in particular. On the down side... I am having s There should be an option 'unfinished". Overall, a very impressive collection of facts regarding foods. However it's a heavy read, and more like a collection of small books, each on one topic. I didn't find it entertaining enought to have it on my nighttable. So although I won't read it entirely, I enjoy having it as a reference book on my food & cooking shelves and will have a look at it from time to time when I decide to know more about one food in particular. On the down side... I am having some issues with the veracity of some of her statements. For example, she mentions that one of the first letters of the alphabet is after oil or olive (cna't remember). I used to be super interested by the topic of the history of writting and how letters evolved in various civilization. I have checked my books again and didn't find any trace of what she is talking about and I am pretty sure my books are excellent references... So since I am not a food historian, I have to trust her, but still, I am not yet 100% confident that the information is totally accurate. I hope to read here other comments to help me figure out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    SL

    Tried to read this one mainly because JG Ballard had it on his bookshelf but got way too bogged down in it...finally gave up. Just too general, sprawling and scattershot for my liking...perhaps I'll try a more specific food-item book, like "Cod", or "Salt"...hmm, I'm getting hungry all of a sudden... Tried to read this one mainly because JG Ballard had it on his bookshelf but got way too bogged down in it...finally gave up. Just too general, sprawling and scattershot for my liking...perhaps I'll try a more specific food-item book, like "Cod", or "Salt"...hmm, I'm getting hungry all of a sudden...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This had just the information I was looking for -- which is just what Publisher's Weekly didn't like about it. I wanted to find information about French food from medieval through 1800s, and there's quite a bit about that in here. Loved the mix of history and edibles. This had just the information I was looking for -- which is just what Publisher's Weekly didn't like about it. I wanted to find information about French food from medieval through 1800s, and there's quite a bit about that in here. Loved the mix of history and edibles.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Rich

    It's very witty, informative and French, but it's awfully long--sometimes long-winded. Some things were skimmed. A great reference to have on your shelf; not so much a great thing to check out from the library. Something every foodie should own, anyway. It's very witty, informative and French, but it's awfully long--sometimes long-winded. Some things were skimmed. A great reference to have on your shelf; not so much a great thing to check out from the library. Something every foodie should own, anyway.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Rucker

    this one's gonna take me a while... this one's gonna take me a while...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This is more of a reference book, and it's about three inches thick, so maybe it will always stay on my to-read "shelf". This is more of a reference book, and it's about three inches thick, so maybe it will always stay on my to-read "shelf".

  25. 5 out of 5

    S.R. Dantzler

    Great stuff if you are a foodie!

  26. 4 out of 5

    C

    A bit dry... not a book you pick up and walk around with, but a book you pick up and haul to the couch/bed/chair and read...then sleep.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Krysten

    I haven't finished this book but I will finish this book because it is FASCINATING. I haven't finished this book but I will finish this book because it is FASCINATING.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    Delicious! MANY courses, served over many, many, many months! At 705 pages, I'll be salivating over this for some time to come I'm sure! Delicious! MANY courses, served over many, many, many months! At 705 pages, I'll be salivating over this for some time to come I'm sure!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    One of my favorite books - WOW! What a joy to read the history and evolution of food.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Charles Seluzicki

    Just reading this updated (by Betty Fussell!) edition of a classic- Wow!

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