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Food in History
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Food in History

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  786 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Spanning over half a million years, this lively account describes the world history of food and the way in which food has influenced the whole course of human development. Full of intriguing information and insights, it reveals how pepper contributed to the fall of the Roman empire; how a new kind of plough helped to spark off the Crusades; why the cow became sacred in Ind ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 10th 1995 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 1973)
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From a fellow bus rider: "So what's that book about: food and history?" Me: "Yes." Him: "So like real stuff that happened and food?" Me: "Yes."
Ingrid Hardy
I read this book a few years ago (softcover book), and it sits as a treasured book in my collection (I'd like to have a hard cover of it one day). This is a fantastic reference book. It begins where humans began, back in the caves, and gives archeological evidence as well as common sense theories on how certain foods likely came to be, such as yogurt and butter were probably discovered because of the practice of traveling with milk in the dried stomachs of animals. And one thing leads to another ...more
Steve Wales
My first Folio Society book and a fascinating one detailing the changes in diet, hunting/gathering/farming of food and its preparation and cooking from pre-history to the beginning of the 21st century. Tannahill not only describes these changes and, for example, regional differences in diet but also explains them, e.g. in hot climates people eat spicy foods which make them perspire which cools them down (and prompts them to drink more fluids).

The book also demonstrates the wide-ranging impact of
Mar 10, 2008 Wayne rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
I put this down for the moment and turned to Roger Osbourne's Civilization: A New History of the Western World, to fill my history needs at the moment.

Thus, far, I've gotten to easily annoyed at some of the sweeping generalizzations and assumptions the author has made about what was chosen as the first methods of food, and the apparent lack of scholarship in how she decided. I'll have to come back to it when I'm less annoyed with her approach to history.

I enjoy food histories and this was no exception. There were a few points that disagreed with other histories, most notably the idea that man once used spice to disguise rancid meat. (Jack Turner's "Spice: A History of Temptation" soundly refutes that idea. ) However, overall I thought it gave an excellent overview and serves as a good companion to other more focused food histories.
Jessy Faiz
Sebuah buku sejarah yang ditulis dengan menarik, ringan, dan mengandung subjek yang menarik pula: makanan.

Dalam buku ini dihidangkan makanan dari masa ke masa, mulai dari masa prasejarah hingga masa keemasan Romawi, Revolusi Industri, dan masa modern.

Lebih dari itu, buku ini juga mengulas hubungan makanan dan keyakinan, trend pada masa tertentu, dan segala macam problema yang hadir karena makanan atau ketiadaan makanan.
One of my alltime favorites. I loved learning about and following the history of ingredients & food that we now take for granted. The life of pepper could be a short story.
But more interesting to me was the description of the different practices cultures have surrounding eating. Banquet versus intimate dinner. A family table. Sacred foods. Topics about food -- particularly the familiy meal -- that I had never considered having had a origin someplace.
I really enjoyed this book. It's written in a very accessible, style, and I appreciated the author's dry wit. She covers the history of food, from agricultural to culinary to cultural aspects, in most of the world's major societies from neolithic times to the late 20th century (the book was last revised in the 1980s). Highly recommended for any foodie history buffs.
This book was a really interesting read that shows how food is the base necessity and catalyst for technological advances, societal upheavals, diplomacy, economics, and much more. Given the geographic and chronological breadth of the topic, the author does a good job at synthesizing information and presenting it in an engaging way. Tannahill also includes historical and cultural information from both Eastern and Western hemispheres, but the latter part of the book focuses more on the West, and t ...more
Wow, a whirlwind but fascinating tour of how food has shaped, well, everything!
Aug 09, 2007 angi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: foodie
reading this book kind of made me want to become a food anthropologist.
May 08, 2007 haley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyne
Shelves: favorites
This book chronicles the history of food for the good majority of human civilization. It pretty much blew my mind. For example, what did caveman eat? Answer: lots of raw meat, and lots of other things, which they discovered more or less by trial and errors over the centuries. One vivid part I recall from the cavemen section was that the human need for protein was so strong, that occasionally an errant neanderthal would kill an animal and crack open, say, an arm bone, and start chowin' down on th ...more
Edit Ostrom
I gave it 5 stars and yet I abandoned it?! Yes, it's a good book, but it gives way more than I ever wanted to know about the history of the human diet. I could read it only up to the ancient Greeks and Romans, then I scanned the Middle Ages and that was it. Yet, what I found out was fascinating.

Another of my problem was that since i skipped some parts, I encountered too many unknown words (of foods) that may have been explained in an earlier chapter but I missed it. For example, some very commo
"Food in History, a panoramic survey of a vast and fascinating subject, will appeal to any and every reader with a general, civilised interest in food and eating. Spanning over half a million years, this lively account describes the world history of food and the way in which food has influenced the whole course of human development. It is packed with intriguing information and insights: how pepper contributed to the fall of the Roman empire; how a new kind of plough helped to spark off the Crusa ...more
The author makes a lot of assumptions about how things must have happened, especially in the early part of the book, but overall this was a very interesting look at how food has evolved over time and influenced history.
A fabulous, broad overview of 10,000 years of the place of food in human history. Tannahill ties together the social, economic, and aesthetic importance of food and draws examples from throughout the world. I can't recommend it enough.
Holy masculine generic, Batman! That shit is hella distracting, and the book is dated in other ways, too.
I love food issues, but this was a bit boring. Except for the part on gas and farts- that was funny.
I really enjoyed this book. The author provided "the history of food" in intelligent, elegant and relevant prose. There was much food for thought here, unlike many of the extremist opinions I've read in the past regarding what we do eat, should eat, and why. It seems we have access to more variety and more abundant food than ever before, but we still haven't figured out how to eat right to be healthy. Maybe Epictetus was correct when he said: "Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat a ...more
Jeff Kissel
Out of date, particularly the ending and some conclusions on the latest health claims of particular processed foods. However, the material is still strong throughout and provides a lot of detail...too much to take in with a single reading. With the scope of the book being so large, it has a somewhat fragmented nature, but generally stuck to a timeline structure. A lot of interesting insights into how regional food cultures may have been developed through practical survival of early humans in the ...more
Tina Ye
Sep 12, 2011 Tina Ye rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: foodies, random knowledge junkies
So far so good... a wildly entertaining read for the commute. (At least for me.) Should be required reading for anyone who wants to sound like a total food geek at cocktail parties. You will be able to casually drop historical anecdotes about food like you won't believe.

EDIT: I finished it!!! (After getting asymptotically slower as I neared the end...) Reay Tannahill (a historian) is a very cautious and sarcastic writer, never to draw any foregone conclusions, but always tempered with a good sen
Read this for my Food in History course at college and really enjoyed it. Here and there it's a bit repetitive, so I gave it the four stars instead of five because the writing could be tightened a bit. However, the author if British and hilarious here and there, some of the footnotes she adds are just her own comments. If you're interested in the development of food, farming, meals, cuisine, etc, from really the dawn of time through the 1980s, I'd pick this up, even if you only wanted to read a ...more
Antun Karlovac
This is a very comprehensive book about food from prehistory to the modern world. Pretty much everything is covered right from pre-farming days, although the book doesn't really go into detail about the modern world. I learned a lot from Food in History, including where the word "Entree" comes from (and why people are actually being ignorant when they mock America's use of it to refer to a main course). While it isn't a microhistory, Food in History is light and easy to read, and never becomes s ...more
Best book I've read in some time. Unequivocal recommend.
Beth Barnett
For anyone as interested in the history of food, diet, and how it relates to history, this is a dense but interesting read. It took me a while to make it through the 370 pages but I learned about nomads in the Gobi Desert who sustained themselves on horse blood, agricultural revolutions, the food eaten on ships in the era of exploration, and even attitudes about "digest wind" in medieval Europe.
This book covers the broad range of history and the role food has played from early days of hunting and gathering through to the Industrial Revolution. There is little time for deeper explorations but enough to intrigue and inspire further exploration of the theme. A good starting place for anyone interested in learning more about how what we eat impacts our lives in so many ways.
"This culture ate this food and this food and this food and here's an interesting tidbit about this food and that food and then this food was on this menu with this food and this food..."

A well-curated book of facts, but its lack of narrative made it a slog. I'm glad to have read it for the sake of having these facts in my brain and knowing where to find them, but man is it dry.
Jean Perry

I really liked the beginning of the book, because i knew little about what primitive people and early historical people ate, or didn't eat and how it effected them. As he got further along in history, i thought the writing got more ponderous, so i do more skimming. It's one of those book i can pick up and read for a bit and then put it down for a couple days.
Diane Ramirez
This was a fun read, well-researched for the scope. I especially liked Tannahill's witty asides and footnotes. Plenty of interesting theories on things you might have wondered such as, when did people begin cooking food, how have people survived in harsh climates or during periods of poor harvest, and just when did people start becoming lushes?
Cynthia D.
I am giving this book five stars because it was one of the first attempts to take food history seriously as an academic subject. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a trailblazing piece of work.
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Reay Tannahill was born on December 9, 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland, where she brought up. Her forename was the maiden name of her mother, Olive Reay. She was educated at Shawlands Academy, and obtained an MA in History and a postgraduate certificate in Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow. In 1958, she married Michael Edwardes but the marriage ended in divorce in 1983, he died in 1990. Until ...more
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