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Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In his new history of food, acclaimed historian Massimo Montanari traces the development of medieval tastes--both culinary and cultural--from raw materials to market and captures their reflections in today's food trends. Tying the ingredients of our diet evolution to the growth of human civilization, he immerses readers in the passionate debates and bold inventions that ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Columbia University Press (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.35  · 
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
If you're hoping mostly for recipes, walk on by - this is scholarly writing about the history of food. (If you are looking for recipes with some history of medieval food, The Medieval Kitchen by Odile Redon is pretty good.)

Note: translated from the Italian, but I suspect it's as dry in its native language as it is in English. (I'm OK with dry, but many aren't.)
verbava
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
багато відгуків на цю книжку (несподівано, але не завжди негативних) розпочинаються з уточнення, що до тексту взялися, сподіваючись рецептів середньовічної їжі. отак, щоб відтворити в домашніх умовах, накрити правильний середньовічний стіл, скликати гостей на тематичну вечірку.
треба бути сильною людиною, щоб із такими очікуваннями не покинути дослідження монтанарі після вступу, де він трохи аж бере на кпини сучасних шанувальників «традиційної» кухні, які вважають, що прив'язати до їжі
...more
Theut
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ottimo studio sull'alimentazione nel Medioevo, davvero interessante e ricco di rimandi (come tutti i volumi di Montanari del resto).
Booknut
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Medieval Tastes is like Vegemite. It's an acquired taste.

Some people will really, really like it. Some people will tolerate it. And some people will not be able to get through the first 'mouthful' of detailed descriptions and archaic terms.

As a lover of ancient history, I admit that the sight of this book on Netgalley piqued my curiosity. Its 18 chapters are a mix of surprising facts and hard-to-pronounce names. I enjoyed the chapter Medieval Cookbooks - as well as a rather intriguing chapter
...more
Please Pass the Books
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'll admit that I initially selected Medieval Tastes thinking it would be a recipe book. Having recently relocated to England and slowly making my way through museum after museum, I have become somewhat obsessed with all things medieval. When I opened the book, my disappointment at it not containing page after page of recipes was quickly squashed. What it did contain was an absolute treasure trove of information about all things culinary during this fascinating time period.

Well researched and
...more
Connie Lindstrom
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a series of essays on food preferences in various medieval areas and times. I found it a helpful read--there are a lot of "medieval" cookbooks around and it can be difficult to understand from reading those how people actually ate--monks versus royalty versus normal people, early versus middle versus late. The essays also help add some perspective on the reasons people ate as they did (e.g. religious motivations, health concerns, taste and gastronomy as it was perceived at the time). New ...more
Sara Thompson
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
My dislike of this book is more my own fault that the authors. What I wanted was an experience. I wanted something light with recipes and a peek into life during the medieval times. I wanted before bed reading.
What I got was more a textbook than fun reading. While it's broken up into categories that are quite specific and delves into its history, I just wasn't in the mood. I didn't want a lecture. I didn't want philosophical debate.
Knowing this, I can't give a great review of this book. It just
...more
Elizabeth
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Insightful look at food culture. Aspires to cover western Europe throughout the Midfle Ages, but very Italian-centered and mainly later Middle Ages. Author's own research centers on Italian cookbooks, which are the best-developed sections of the book.

Translation is competent, but failure to anglicize non-Italian proper names (many of them the names of figures well-known in English-language scholarship and books) is distracting (and potentially confusing when the same name is anglicized in one
...more
Lisa Spangenberg
I reviewed this book for SleepingHedgehog.com

There are three things you need to know about Montanari’s Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table; first that this is an academic treatise, that it was translated from the original Italian by Beth Archer Brombert, and that it is a culinary history, rather than a cookbook. That being said, it’s a very interesting and thoughtful cultural history from an expert in the field who is perfectly willing to share his knowledge with the non-expert.
...more
Chris
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
*Advance copy obtained from Netgalley in exchange for a review*

This is a clear and extremely comprehensive text covering the Medieval view of food and cooking.
In this instance, Medieval covers a period of roughly the 8th to the 1th centuries, and so this is, by necessity, a rather high level view. It’s also a view limited to Western Europe (with brief digressions into North Africa), which is a shame – getting a view of the different cultural traditions governing food and cooking of say, the
...more
Apryl Anderson
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Anyone who enjoys History and eating a great meal as much as I do will discover a feast in this book. It is a venture into today’s trend “To authenticate the present by recalling the past, to legitimize what we are making now by saying that it used to be made long ago,” with an application of a mass of pertinent research that dates back to Roman times.

Not exactly a gripping tale, it requires some fortitude to persevere through every aspect of Medieval food cultivation, preparation, cultural,
...more
Patty
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A nonfiction book on food in the Medieval period – mostly in Italy, but with some attention to the rest of Europe as well. This is an academic book on the meaning and symbolism of food, so there's no actual recipes, but that's fine; I'm really interested in the topic of how food can mark various categories of status – class, region, religion – and how these meanings can change over time. Unfortunately, the first few chapters of the book are taken up with much more abstract theorizing (how can ...more
Julie Dawson
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Massimo Montanari’s Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table is a detailed, well-researched, and insightful look into the evolution of the culinary arts and how our modern concepts of “Medieval” food are, frankly, hilariously wrong. This is not a cookbook, but rather a historical account of the development of cuisine during the medieval period. Montanari discusses not only how our modern ideas of what foods were eaten during the Medieval era is flawed, but also how the foods items ...more
Lisa
Aug 29, 2019 added it
Shelves: food, 2015
There are three things you need to know about Montanari’s Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table; first that this is an academic treatise, that it was translated from the original Italian by Beth Archer Brombert, and that it is a culinary history, rather than a cookbook. That being said, it’s a very interesting and thoughtful cultural history from an expert in the field who is perfectly willing to share his knowledge with the non-expert. Medieval Tastes is a slim book, whose illustrations ...more
Lili
Dec 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
From Netgalley in exchange for a review:

Oh man, I was so excited to read this book, I absolutely love history and gastronomy, they are two of my favorite subjects to read about. Sadly this book is the result of trying to make a meal out of a thesaurus, it is so bogged down in flowery (and very unnecessary) language and condescension that it made a book I should have enjoyed into punishment for daring to be interested in a subject.

I was also disappointed on how Italy-centric the book was, the
...more
Tiz. T.
Mar 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1200, 1300, 1400, not-fiction
I really enjoy reading books written by experts, because that is really the only way to learn about a given topic.

Of course, this means I am NOT an expert of that field and the experts writing to laypeople should take it into consideration.

Most do. Some don't. The latters fall into two category: the first is the one who uses complex, in-field terminology or explanation or take for granted knowledge that most people don't have. It is annoying, but it is, usually, done without malice.
Then there
...more
Glennis
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked this thinking it would have some recipes as well as talking about the food culture during the medieval era. Instead what I got was a very detailed and heavily footnoted book about food and some of the reasons behind what was eaten during that time frame. The book did leave more to the Italian side since it seems the few cookbooks from that time frame were from that area. Every part of food is covered in here along with how some dining customs changed as food changed. An interesting read ...more
Margaret Sankey
Unlike many food histories, which try to make historical food accessible to a modern reader, this one stresses that medieval cooking and eating is a truly lost world--not only will we never have the same breeds of animals or local varieties of plants, but even the strictest re-enactments can't duplicate the equipment and patience for hand labor and even more so, since food was a vital marker of status and health, our consumption of it can never have the same meaning.
Kerry
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
I wanted to really enjoy this book, but sadly it was just a little too much. The subject is fascinating, but it could have been written in a far more relaxed manner. Just because it's written by a professor doesn't mean it needs to be painful. I did glean some interesting historical tidbits out of it so all was not lost.
AlexInWonderland
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit dense, but with a little patience you'll reap a bounty of fun facts about Medieval food and cooking. I always wished we delved deeper into cultural topics in my history classes; this is a book that scratches that itch.

Maggie Hesseling
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A must read for anyone interested in book history or the history of cooking. I'm not a big fan of the writing, as it's a little archaic, but it's interesting. I epecially found the chapter on cookbooks interesting as I'm studying book history at uni.
Jennifer
Mar 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Rather more scholarly than I really wanted, but interesting nonetheless.
Riley Dawson Hushak
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh.
Jbussen
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: cooking
Interesting look through the way back machine. I wouldn't want to try any of the recipes though.
Callista Cassady
Lots of good information, if you can stomach it. For serious studying, not writing research.
Vincent Powell
Definitely a book that requires a lot of patience to read. Very dense, academic writing that focuses more on the sociological importance of food, people's relationships to it, and what eating really indicates about a culture. This more so than the food itself, which you are left wishing the author explained a bit more. What exactly is a blancmange? How would you make a meat torte? Aside from the arduousness of reading, it is hard to fault the author. This is an extremely well researched, and ...more
Mike Salvino
rated it it was ok
Apr 02, 2016
Marek Všelicha
rated it it was amazing
Nov 20, 2016
Gabriele Coltorti
rated it it was amazing
Oct 27, 2015
Ramona
rated it liked it
Feb 07, 2019
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Professor of medieval history at Bologna University who has written widely on food history.