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Food: A Cultural Culinary History

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  620 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Eating is an indispensable human activity. As a result, whether we realize it or not, the drive to obtain food has been a major catalyst across all of history, from prehistoric times to the present. Epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said it best: "Gastronomy governs the whole life of man."
In fact, civilization itself began in the quest for food. Humanity's transition t
Audible Audio, 19 pages
Published 2013 by The Great Courses
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4.28  · 
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 ·  620 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Better Eggs
If you've read any food history books this one will quite likely disappoint you as much as it did me. It isn't anything like as good as Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food in talking about food. The author talks as much about history, often conjectured, as about food. This book was neither history, nor food, nor culture, but a mish-mash of all three, in varying and inadequate amounts.

I gave it up as I didn't want to waste time getting on to my next five star book.
Very disappointing indeed.
Maurício Linhares
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A journey through history showing how food has created, shaped and re-shaped society!

The book covers food since the beginning of agriculture, the effects it had on humanity. Covers food since Mesopotamia to the modern days, not only showing what and how people would eat but the cultural and economical effects food had on these societies.

Food has been a central driver and side effect of human interactions, both when cultures mix and new kinds of food become available as when Europeans destroyed a
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, non-fiction
Interesting and educational. Ken Albala tells the tale of human history through food. I learned lots of things about the past and present and am now considering how food will impact my future.

This is my first of The Great Courses" but it won't be my last.
Based on an actual university course, this is a history of the relationship of the human race to its food. It consists of 36 lectures, and I found it to be very interesting indeed. It covers much more than just food alone. It goes quite deeply into the interrelationships of food with culture, religion, morality, and even the rise and fall of nations throughout human history.
It includes a number of recipes from past ages. I plan to give some of them a try. (Fancy a lamb dish from 35 centuries ago
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a great course/audiobook. It's the history of food, which is also a history of food and culture and religion and morality. Here are a few things that I kept thinking about:

1. There is so much judgement and stigma and classism in food--what you're supposed to eat, how, and when. We still use food to divide ourselves.

2. How french cooking rejected spices in favor of just the essential flavors where Indian and Middle eastern cuisine were all about spices. But french dining was refined cookin
Molly Cinderella
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I "read" this on Audible and very much enjoyed it. It hit upon my favorite historical category (broad overview of a specific topic across time and different cultures) and my favorite topic (food history).

I think that the strongest chapters in the book were the ones focusing on how food cultures adapted to new staples (specifically after the Columbian Exchange). I appreciated that the author tried to include non-European food cultures in the book, although the African cuisine chapters felt a bit
What a wonderful overview of the whole history of food in different times and cultures. Fascinating details, a good speaking style, very engaging personality - I want to listen again very soon! The scope is marvelous, very worthwhile!
This is so good that I would give it another two extra stars if I good. It is pleasant, informative, and gives the listener/reader much to think about food throughout history and how we consumer it now and into the future.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting and informative with a passionate presenter.
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
Very fun book about the history of humanity based on food.
Juniper Nichols
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a real eye opener, especially how much empires and enslavement were built to support the trade of luxury foods.
Sharolyn Stauffer
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite Great Courses lecture series. Albala is so enthusiastic, and I loved listening to the history of food through the ages. I learned so much and plan on listening again!
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at food in its economic, political and cultural contexts. Fascinating!
Tracy Rowan
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are."
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Professor Albala opens with the above quote from Brillat-Savarin, and goes on to prove the truth of it by exploring man's relationship to his food throughout the millennia. This course of 36 half hour lectures covering everything from the food of the hunter-gatherers of the stone age, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance when trade brought exotic foods and spices to the table, to the age of expansionism and
Madison Williams
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fun lecture! I learned a lot about food history and the other topics he sometimes got sidetracked on. I know my friends are going to be delighted to hear me spouting out food facts during meals.
Julie Davis
Ken Albala does a great job when he sticks to the food part of the lectures. I was interested to learn the connection between ancient Roman concepts of "hot" and "cold" personalities which they then tried balancing with "cold" and "hot" foods with our own descriptions of food (spicy peppers as "hot" for example).

However, Albala can't keep his own opinion from influencing his lectures. When talking about how a lot of huge empires fell to smaller, aggressive kingdoms at about the same time, he say
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have always enjoyed books that combine history and cuisine, and this did not disappoint. It was full of many interesting historical tidbits and trivia, but it was presented in a way that made sense, from ancient Egyptian cuisine to the modern world. I liked that there was a global focus in the first half of the book, though I was a bit disappointed when that focus waned towards the end. Still, there was quite a lot of interest to me, and if you are interested in food and history, this is worth ...more
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! Goes through food history from the very beginning and moves through time and cultural regions. So much I didn't know before.

The professor does have an annoying way of laughing at himself a lot. He is a good story teller and inserts lovely little tidbits of personal experience or interpretation.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was fascinating to hear how history has influenced our food and how food has its effect on history. With more than 18 hours of content it covers so many aspects.
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This series was fascinating. My big takeaway is that we still have a lot of eating practices which developed around religious practice (even if we ourselves are not practicing said religion) and/ or royal and aristrocratic practices. I was surprised by how much of what we eat and why we eat foods have to do with things which happened hundreds of years ago. I see how I eat differently than I did before this course.

This is one of my top 5 Great Courses books. It was incredibly engaging and I learn
Jack Hansen
What a glorious trip through history via food choices by peoples throughout the world. The presentation by Ken Albala is upbeat and pleasant. Fascinating subjects can fall flat because of dry narration but not with Food: A Cultural Culinary History.

Culture spreads easily along temperate longitudinal zones making food introduction to new territories possible. Food becomes a major reason for trade between remote places that offer certain fruits, vegetables, spices, and grains. Nobility arises as
Dec 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Holy crap this was bad history. When not directly talking about food the level of understanding of the history subjects referenced was simplistic at best and out right wrong at the worst (This was High school level history bad) and to top it all off the left wing socio-economic slant was just cloying. Mr. Albala knows a lot about food but either knows history at the basic level or is unable to distill his more extensive knowledge into a presentable and correct form.

It was hard for me to get thro
Matt Musselman
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: format-audiobook
Utterly fantastic. I'd give this lecture series 6 stars if I could.

History, like a lock, requires a key to get you in the door. And I think looking at the history of the world through the keyhole of food throughout the ages was one of the best possible approaches for me. I feel like I learned more from this lecture than from all the history courses I've ever taken combined.
David Chan
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very in-depth history of different food cultures, with descriptions of flavors, preparation techniques, philosophies behind food, and even a few recipes here and there.

A good read for anyone who likes to cook or eat, or calls themselves a foodie.
Theresa Donovan Brown
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rich, rich, rich and vast in scope. Very easy to digest! A wonderful historical resource for deeper understanding of our own food-ways and how they relate to other food systems of the world, past and present. I love dipping into this again and again.
Emily Michael
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! Informative and fascinating! This was one of the best Great Courses I've ever listened to.
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Luckily didn't make me too hungry while listening. A great companion the A History in 6 Glasses
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Meh. This was okay. A bit too long and repetitive. I found out I am not that interested in the subject, so I learned something new. Yay.
Jeff Beardsley
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: study, history
This particular Great Courses lecture fits in well with two of my favorite topics in life: history and food. It is amazing to, though not altogether unsurprising when you really think about it, how much history itself has been driven and impacted by the changing ability to cultivate, farm, craft, develop and improve both food itself and its requisite supply chain. The two are clearly linked. Ken Albala does a fantastic job, in an amusing and interesting form, of going through a relatively chrono ...more
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic
I started ths on video, but moved to audio because I could check out the whole series at once. It is very familiar in content to me, because I have read a number of books on this subject before. But in ni way is that a bad thing! I have thoroughly enjoyed the series, learned a few new things,and recommend it to anyone with interest.
Some reviews have complained that it is not a series about food, nor history. This isn't false nor true. It is a broad overview of humans over several thousand years
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Ken Albala, Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA and Director of Food Studies in San Francisco, is the author or editor of 25 books on food. These include academic monographs, cookbooks, reference works and translations. He is also series editor of Rowman and Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy. His current project is about Walking with Wine.