Required Reading: The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture
by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith
- $420 (US, estimated)
I was lucky enough to take a look at Sol Katz and William Weaver's amazing resource, The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. A three-volume compendium of everything you could ever want to know about the history of food and its effect on human culture, the book is a must-read (well, a must-browse, at any rate).
It's arranged like a typical encyclopedia, with articles in alphabetical order: Volume 1 starts with "Acceptance and Rejection of Food" and moves through "Chicken Soup" and "Food as Weapon of War" all the way to "Food Politics." Volume 2 starts with the "History of Food Production" and ends with "Nuts," covering "Gelatin," "Classic Spice Combinations," and "Leaf Vegetables" along the way. Volume 3 goes from "Oats" to "Zorastrainism," but doesn't forget to cover "Poisoning" (including a section on royal food tasters), "Seabirds and Their Eggs," and "Utensils."
The book covers everything from food biographies to the basics of food preparation, the effects of agriculture on cultural change, and the connection between spirituality, diet, and luxury. Katz and Weaver have an amazing team of article authors and you can open the book at random and still be spellbound, whether the entry is on military rations, nouvelle cuisine, ethnobotany, or world wine consumption patterns.
Don't be frightened by the $420 price tag; many libraries have reference copies, and used editions can be found on Amazon for as low as $80. Whether you're a cook or just someone who eats, this is a resource worth knowing about.
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