My first Folio Society book and a fascinating one detailing the changes in diet, hunting/gathering/farming of food and its preparation and cooking fro...moreMy 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 food-related issues on civilization. Thus science and technology are important (e.g. the effects of the Industrial Revolution on mechanised farming, or indeed simply the invention of the plough, let alone 20th century and later concerns such as GMOs and food additives) as are socio-economic issues - e.g. cookery books are only of general use when literacy is widespread, when people have enough disposable income to be able to afford the books and the ingredients and when they have some knowledge or curiosity about foods from outside the immediate vicinity (itself in practical terms necessitating improvements in transportation).
Changes in food can have long-lasting impacts. This doesn't just refer to the change from hunting and gathering to domestication and farming but also, e.g., in colonization - today's taste for refine sugars (and thus the West's obesity crisis) came from the New World plantations worked by African slave labour.
Sri Lanka's ethnic tensions similarly stem from plantations in the colonies. It was not the tea that the country (formerly Ceylon) is famous for, but instead for coffee, produced by Dutch colonists, that the Tamil workforce was brought to the plantations from India.
A fascinating book tracing food from pre-cooking-with-fire beginnings to modern day preoccupations with obesity vs famine, food buzzwords like 'natural' 'healthy' 'organic', diseases such as BSE and Foot and Mouth, additives and genetic modification.(less)
The first half traces the development of the alphabet as a system of writing, representing (more-or-less)...moreWhat a fascinating and beautiful little book!
The first half traces the development of the alphabet as a system of writing, representing (more-or-less) one symbol per sound. Specifically it covers the Latin alphabet as used in modern English, rather than, say, modern Greek or Cyrillic, from hieroglyphs though other forms such as cuneiform as they developed around the Mediterranean region, mainly for use in trade. Photographs and illustrations give a clear comparison of the different types of script.
The second half switches from the general system to the specific characters, tracing the development of the 26 letters of the English alphabet as far back as is known. In each case there is a timeline of different representations of the same letter, in some cases as far back as Egyptian hieroglyphs, demonstrating the development of the Roman capital letters and the later hand-written lowercase, with an explanation of the changes along the way.
A fantastically informative and beautiful little book, now sadly out of print, but it's well worth looking for a second-hand copy on eBay!(less)
An entertaining read. Though Fisher sticks to a familiar A-to-Z formula, the choices are not the obvious ones of 'A for Apple', rather she strays from...moreAn entertaining read. Though Fisher sticks to a familiar A-to-Z formula, the choices are not the obvious ones of 'A for Apple', rather she strays from cliché with essays on such such subjects as O for 'Ostentation', N for 'Nautical', Q for 'Quantity', and so on.
Some recipes are very much of their time (such quantities of meat, butter and cream are uncommon in modern cookery books, as are the various tinned vegetable or fruit concoctions) as are some of the opinions (that a woman's nagging is what is most likely to ruin any meal is the most obvious example, but some are all the more relevant now.
On 'Gluttony' Fisher writes, "Probably this country will never again see so many fat, rich men as were prevalent at the end of the last century ... literally stuffing themselves to death". Yet at the beginning of the century after she was writing, the oversized coffins she mentions are again in demand during the current epidemic of obesity in the western world. Plus ça change...(less)