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History of Food

History of Food

by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, Anthea Bell (Translator)
Everything you eat has a story behind it. If you relish savory steaks you'll delight in the story of the Roman emperor who kept his figure by eating 40 pounds a meat a day. According to legend, you may even one day discover the genie of the tea, an ancient Chinese poet. Compiling countless references and illustrations, History of Food serves up delicious


Everything you eat has a story behind it. If you relish savory steaks you'll delight in the story of the Roman emperor who kept his figure by eating 40 pounds a meat a day. According to legend, you may even one day discover the genie of the tea, an ancient Chinese poet. Compiling countless references and illustrations, History of Food serves up delicious research on the common groceries you buy and some not-so-common foods eaten throughout the world.

This well-written volume discusses the historical significance of food and myths surrounding various delectable treats. It describes hunting and gathering, ancient rituals surrounding certain foods, and a vast array of cooking techniques. History of Food is a must-have for your kitchen.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although this voluminous compendium, mixing social and natural history, is a worthy resource, it lacks verve and narrative coherence. Toussaint-Samat, a French journalist and sociologist, is more accomplished at describing the past, such as the origins of hunting and gathering, than the uses of food today and the development of modern cuisine. The author canvasses the world but emphasizes Europe and especially France, which may interest Francophiles for Toussaint-Samat devotes more attention to foie gras than to pasta. The book contains interesting information--on winemaking at monasteries and the role of merchants in the Middle Ages--but subjects like chocolate and chilis beg for more creative exposition. Illustrations. (Dec.)
Library Journal

From hunters and gatherers and the onset of agriculture to the rise of commercial foodways, historian Toussaint-Samat presents not just the historical background but the cultural, religious, and social impact of food. Extensively researched, with quotations from a wide array of historical sources, the volume does tend to focus slightly more on Europe than on other parts of the world, although there is a visible effort to provide balanced coverage. While some areas receive more intense scrutiny-wine, for example, rates over 30 pages-other topics are skimmed over: an entire section of the book covering sugar, chocolate, tea, coffee, and confectionaries, all significant introductions, fills only 50 pages. While not precisely a book to be read from cover to cover, this will be a useful source for students or researchers as a strong first reference point and for anyone with a dedicated interest in food history. Changes include a new preface, epilog, updated bibliography, and chapter addressing recent issues relating to food. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries, although those whose collections include the first edition should not consider it an essential update.
—Courtney Greene

From the Publisher
"This book is not only impressive for the knowledge it provides, it is unique in its integration of historical anecdotes and factual data. It is a marvellous reference to a great many topics." Raymond Blanc, Restauranter Writer

"Remarkable one-volume survey of a vast subject." Stephen Mennell, Monash University

"Indispensable, and an endlessly fascinating book. The view is staggering. Not a book to digest at one or several sittings. Savor it instead, one small slice at a time, accompanied by a very fine wine." New York Times

"Quirky, encyclopaedic, and hugely entertaining. A delight." Sunday Telegraph

"Readable and scholarly, profound and humorous." Ventura County Star Free Press

"One of the most important works on the subject to date and is a comprehensive reference. Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat is an accomplished writer, journalist and historian. Every serious culinary library should include this book. I unreservedly recommend its 801 pages to you." Association Mondiale de la Gastronomie

"The book makes one want to go into the kitchen, to cook and to eat. It is beautifully produced and the price is excellent." Oxford Magazine

"Gorgeous and unusually thought-provoking. I loved it." The Age

"This is a remarkable book, full of information culled from serious research." Nature

"An important contribution to the history of food." The Journal of European Economic History

"A History of Food is a monumental work, a prodigious feat of careful scholarship, patient research and attention to detail. Full of astonishing but insufficiently known facts." Times Higher Education Supplement

"Anyone interested in food, its origins, and how skilled craftsmen and tradesmen held the key to the long evolution of the present day status of food, would enjoy this book." ATEA Journal

"The author is a journalist and cultural historian, whose forte is the medieval and renaissance culture of Europe, especially the domestic economies, food and clothing. This is her eighteenth book and most likely her magnum opus. It is a thoroughgoing, comprehensive and encyclopedic reference book that covers the history of foodstuffs from as far back as the sources would allow, interspersed with the often bumpy road of their acceptance. The book is well organized, following the development of human self-preservation from hunger through gathering and hunting to domesticated animals and settled farming ... The author did a magnificent job of providing information that entailed an incredible amount of research ... The book belongs to every public and academic library, and on the book shelves of all people with curious minds. It rightfully received the History Prize of the Société des gens de lettres de France." International Journal of World Peace

"It's the best book when you are looking for very clear but interesting stories. Everything is cross-referenced to an extraordinary degree, which is great because the information given is so complex and interweaving." The Independent

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"For those of us virtually weaned on this monumental landmark when it was first published, the expanded, updated edition of A HISTORY OF FOOD couldn't be a more welcomed and exciting surprise. While the hefty volume is an indispensable source of valuable facts and information for anyone interested in the worldwide development of numerous foods and the intriguing evolution of man's dietary habits over the centuries, the book also happens to be, quite simply, a wonderful and inspiring read—to be dipped into like a bowl of fresh wild strawberries."
James Villas, former food and wine editor of Town & Country magazine, and author of The Glory of Southern Cooking and Between Bites: Memoirs of a Hungry Hedonist

“This amazing and most entertaining book presents anything you might want to know about the cultural history of food forever and everywhere. It’s a great place to find the symbolic meaning of food myths, legends, and revels, not to mention the dietetics of cherries and other nutritious foods. It should be a welcome addition to the library of every food studies scholar.”
Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat

Meet the Author

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat is an historian, journalist and writer. She has written for a variety of periodicals in France and published over seventeen books on cuisine, history and French regional culture. Her books on the Loire and Perigord received commendations from the Academie Française and the Academie du Perigord. Her principal historical interest is in the medieval and renaissance culture of Europe, in particular the domestic economy, food and clothing. She pursues her research in association with the École des Hautes Études, and is president of the Syndicat des écrivains de langue française.

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