Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese

Overview

The text begins with a comprehensive theory of cuisine in the introduction and moves to the parallel culinary histories of Italy, Mexico, and China: the independent domestication of crops in each, the social, political, and technological developments that gave rise to each cuisine, and cooking in both professional and home settings. It also compares the internal logic of the cooking style and techniques in a way that will resonate with students. The meat of the text compares and contrasts the three cuisines in ...

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Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese

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Overview

The text begins with a comprehensive theory of cuisine in the introduction and moves to the parallel culinary histories of Italy, Mexico, and China: the independent domestication of crops in each, the social, political, and technological developments that gave rise to each cuisine, and cooking in both professional and home settings. It also compares the internal logic of the cooking style and techniques in a way that will resonate with students. The meat of the text compares and contrasts the three cuisines in chapters on grains and starches; vegetables; fruits and nuts; meat, poultry, and dairy products; fish and shellfish; fats and flavorings; and beverages. Readers are taken on a fascinating journey of discovery, where the background story of mis-transmission, adaptation, and evolution of cooking as it spreads around the globe with trade and immigration is revealed. It answers the big questions, such as, why did the wok prevail in China, while the sautée pan and comal were used in Italy and Mexico, respectively? Why is bread baked in the Mediterranean but more often steamed in the Far East? How are certain ingredients used in completely different ways by different cultures and why? Why is corn transformed into tortillas and tamales in one place and into polenta in another? Why do we find tomato salsa in the Americas, long-cooked sauces in Italy, and tomatoes mixed with scrambled eggs in China? Albala also challenges the notion of authenticity, providing ample evidence that cuisines are constantly evolving, adapting over time according to ingredients and cooking technologies. More than 150 of Albala’s recipes complete the instruction, inspiring readers to learn how to cook in a fundamental way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Historian and gastronomer Albala notes in his introduction, "that every culture discussed here...harbored various and often opposing food ideologies, each of which made their rival claims upon every individual." After the opening chapter's impressively quick-paced historical overview of cuisine in Italy, Mexico, and China, Albala approaches modernity via individual foodstuffs. He demonstrates how all three cultures cook and serve porridge, then moves through vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, desserts, and beverages. The array of information here is potentially overwhelming, and it's clear that some kind of organizing device was needed. However, the choice to present by category instead of by cuisine leads to confusion, and for readers this choice will seem needlessly complicated. Albala's writing lacks dynamism, but perhaps the greater fault is the scattershot nature of the recipes that close each chapter: they're far from comprehensive, and lack standardization. While Albala convincingly asserts that "to claim a single 'correct' form of any dish is to suggest stopping evolution," his measurement-free recipes simply do not provide enough information for anything less than an expert cook to feel confident. With those caveats, this text should be recognized as an impressive, if imperfect, addition to the culinary or history classroom.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jeffrey M. Pilcher
Ken Albala is a leader in the movement to unite academic food studies with the practices of cooking. He offers new understandings of Chinese, Italian, and Mexican cuisines by comparing their historical development and material culture. This is serious history informed by mouth-watering recipes.
Michael Ruhlman
This is a great book for students of culinary cultures and for people who love to cook and [learn about] the ideas underlying cooking. I'm a great fan of Albala and his work. He's an academic and brings that intelligence to the work, but he writes for the cook in us all, and I love how he intertwines, scholarship, passion, cooking know-how, and a love of life and food.
Digest: A Journal of Foodways & Culture
The book offers an opportunity to look at common factors in three culinary traditions that have developed not just within their own national or regional boundaries, but in contact with traditions and new material conditions around the world. ... This is a thought-provoking book that raises a number of questions about universality and common features in some areas of world cuisine.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759121263
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press
  • Publication date: 5/3/2012
  • Series: AltaMira Studies in Food and Gastronomy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 748,693
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Albala is professor of history at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, where he has taught courses on food history. He also teaches in the gastronomy program at Boston University. He is the author of many books on food, including Eating Right in the Renaissance (2002), Food in Early Modern Europe (2003), Cooking in Europe, 1250-1650 (2005), and Beans: A History (2008). His co-authored cookbook is The Lost Art of Real Cooking (2010). Albala has also edited or co-edited a number of works such as the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia and served as series editor for Food Culture around the World and Cooking Up History series. He is the general editor of AltaMira Studies in Food and Gastronomy and the co-editor of the journal Food, Culture and Society.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Recipes
A Note on the Recipes
Introduction: A Theory of Gastronomy

Chapter 1. Historical Background
Chapter 2. Technology, Utensils, and Techniques
Chapter 3. Grains and Starches
Chapter 4. Vegetables
Chapter 5. Fruits and Nuts
Chapter 6. Meat, Poultry, and Dairy Products
Chapter 7. Fish and Shellfish
Chapter 8. Fats and Flavorings
Chapter 9. Beverages

Glossary
Bibliography
Index

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