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.
“A richly illustrated historical journey examining why we’ve eaten what we’ve eaten from prehistoric times to today.”
“A lavishly illustrated hybrid reader and coffee-table book that provides a consumption-oriented food history.”
…a weirdly fascinating survey of dietary habits stretching from prehistoric barbecues right up to the "molecular" menu at El Bulli…the essays are generously illustrated with photographs and paintings like Boucher's "Feast of the Chinese Emperor"; not quite a coffee-table book, this feels more like one of those glossy textbooks you can't bring yourself to ditch after college. But its real virtue lies in the big picture. Contributor after contributor links diet to class, colonialism, politics, religion…
—The New York Times