Moveable Feasts: The History, Science, and Lore of Food

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Overview

Food has functioned both as a source of continuity and as a subject of adaptation in the course of human history. Onions have been a staple of the European diet since the Paleolithic era, while the orange is once again being cultivated in great quantities in Southern China, where it was originally cultivated. Other foods—such as the apple and pear in Central Asia, the tomato in Mexico, the chili pepper in South America, and rice in South Asia—remain staples of their original regions and of the world diet today.Still other items are now grown in places that would have seemed impossible in the past-bananas in geothermally heated greenhouses in Iceland, corn on the fringes of the Gobi, and tomatoes in space. But how did humans discover how to grow and consume these foods in the first place? How were they chosen over competing foods? How did they come to be so important to us? In this charming and frequently surprising compendium, Gregory McNamee gathers revelations from history, anthropology, chemistry, biology, and many other fields, and spins them into entertaining tales of discovery, complete with delicious recipes from many culinary traditions around the world.

Among the 30 types of food discussed in the course of this alphabetically-arranged work are: the apple, the banana, chocolate, coffee, corn, garlic, honey, millet, the olive, the peanut, the pineapple, the plum, rice, the soybean, the tomato, and the watermelon. All of the recipes included with these diverse food histories have been adapted for recreation in the modern kitchen.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Mark Knoblauch

“In delightfully readable prose, McNamee considers some 30 assorted foods that make up a substantial part of the earth's comestible bounty.”—Mark Knoblauch, Booklist
Gastronomica - Jonathan Deutsch

"Moveable Feasts is a pleasure to read and serves to highlight the strength of an interdisciplinary approach to studying food."—Jonathan Deutsch, Gastronomica
Booklist

“In delightfully readable prose, McNamee considers some 30 assorted foods that make up a substantial part of the earth's comestible bounty.”—Mark Knoblauch, Booklist

— Mark Knoblauch

Gastronomica

"Moveable Feasts is a pleasure to read and serves to highlight the strength of an interdisciplinary approach to studying food."—Jonathan Deutsch, Gastronomica

— Jonathan Deutsch

Booklist

“In delightfully readable prose, McNamee considers some 30 assorted foods that make up a substantial part of the earth's comestible bounty.”—Mark Knoblauch, Booklist

Gastronomica

"Moveable Feasts is a pleasure to read and serves to highlight the strength of an interdisciplinary approach to studying food."—Jonathan Deutsch, Gastronomica

KLIATT - Shirley Reis
Have you ever wondered about the history of a particular food? Well, here is a delightful book that answers those questions. Each chapter contains a brief history of the food, basic nutritional information and trivia, all related in a conversational tone, followed by several recipes containing the featured ingredient and suggestions for further reading. Some of the 30 foods discussed are: apple, chocolate, coffee, garlic, honey, peanut, plum, soybean, tomato and watermelon. All recipes accompanying these diverse food histories have been adapted for the modern kitchen. Gregory McNamee is the author of 28 books and has also published articles in a wide variety of periodicals including Smithsonian and Sierra. He is also a contributing editor for Encyclopedia Britannica. This is a fascinating book. Reviewer: Shirley Reis
Library Journal

All food is the product of history, but who ate the first tomatoes and garlic, and how did they become so important in our diet and ubiquitous at the grocery store? Writer, journalist, editor, and critic McNamee presents a cultural geography of how food, such as broccoli, corn, rice, and honey, has moved about the planet. Each chapter contains a brief history of the food, basic nutritional information, and trivia, spun together in a chatty, conversational tone, followed by several recipes containing the featured ingredient and suggestions for further reading. While the primary focus is supposedly history, this title is heavy on anecdote with its true focus on storytelling. Recipes seem like a bit of an afterthought and, on occasion, in some ways unrelated to the text. Nevertheless, this amusing volume will likely appeal to casual readers; serious scholars of food history, as well as those writing reports, will want to explore further reading. For larger collections.
—Pauline Baughman

From the Publisher

"Of all the cultivatable ingredients, why have we chosen certain of them and rejected others? McNamee evaluates 30 of the most important ingredients, organized alphabetically, from almonds to wheat. He looks at their scientific makeup and nutritional value, as well as their social and culinary history and cultural relevance….Each entry includes several recipes, culled from a variety of contemporary and historical sources. The author's research is exhaustive, his pages packed with fascinating detail, and he does an excellent job of marrying the historical and scientific aspects of each ingredient….Well-executed."

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Kirkus Reviews

"McNamee asks a question that has occurred to many people while eating artichokes: how did humans come to consume certain foods and why were they chosen over other foods? His answers draw on history, anthropology, chemistry, biology and other fields and describe the adaptation of 30 foods, including apples, bananas, chocolate, peanuts, pineapples, tomatos and watermelons. The descriptions include recipes from many culinary traditions around the world."

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Reference & Research Book News

"All food is the product of history, but who ate the first tomatoes and garlic, and how did they become so important in our diet and ubiquitous at the grocery store? Writer, journalist, editor, and critic McNamee presents a cultural geography of how food, such as broccoli, corn, rice, and honey, has moved about the planet. Each chapter contains a brief history of the food, basic nutritional information, and trivia, spun together in a chatty, conversational tone, followed by several recipes containing the featured ingredient and suggestions for further reading….[t]his amusing volume will likely appeal to casual readers; serious scholars of food history, as well as those writing reports, will want to explore further reading. For larger collections."

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Library Journal

"In delightfully readable prose, McNamee considers some 30 assorted foods that make up a substantial part of the earth's comestible bounty….Recipes accompany each entry, running the gamut from ancient Roman and medieval through contemporary. Culinary traditions include Iranian, Mexican, Italian, and Chinese. McMamee imaginatively brings to life some archaic uses of Earth's bounty. Succinct bibliographies offer readers further satisfaction."

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Booklist

"Moveable Feasts is not an overall history of food; rather, it is an easily readable history of selected foods with some recipes. Starting with almonds and ending with wheat, McNamee discusses 30 foods such as eggplant, cranberry, honey, and olives. Each chapter details the history of their production, culinary preparation, evolution of use over time, some historical and contemporary recipes, and a brief list of articles and books for additional information. This book could be a useful addition to an extensive food history or food science collection….General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates."

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Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803216327
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Series: At Table Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 0.46 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Gregory McNamee is the author or editor of twenty-eight books and has published articles in a wide variety of periodicals, from Smithsonian and Sierra to the Washington Post. He is a contributing editor for Encyclopaedia Britannica, for which he writes about world geography and culture, including food.
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