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Why We Eat What We Eat: How Columbus Changed the Way the World Eats
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Why We Eat What We Eat: How Columbus Changed the Way the World Eats

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  92 ratings  ·  18 reviews
of the Americas set in motion a transformation of food cultures around the world, this look at the five-hundred-year revolution in food history explains how Europeans, Americans, and Asians came to eat what they eat today.
Paperback, 254 pages
Published April 5th 1993 by Atria Books (first published September 1991)
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3.79  · 
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 ·  92 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Interesting amalgamation of select food related history.

The books consists of an introduction explaining the author's main thesis - that what we eat changed drastically after Columbus discovered the Americas - and then devolves into chapters focused on important food locales (mostly countries) followed by chapters focusing on specific foods relevant to his main argument. The introductory material was rather strong, but the remaining chapters were not all of equal merit and caused the book to fe
Martin Earl
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
The central thesis of this book is fascinating, though ultimately kind of obvious: the encounter between the Old World and the New changed the way that every person on earth eats. Before Columbus, there were no tomatoes in Italian food, no chilies in Thai or Chinese food, no potatoes anywhere in Europe at all. Likewise, there were no pork or cheese in Mexican cuisine.

Beyond pointing these things out, though, Sokolov gives micro-histories of both regions and dishes. This is a difficult task bec
Linus Williams
The book starts off great--exploring the cuisines of the new and the old worlds around the time of spanish colonization, and how native cuisine influenced/adapted/survived colonization and influenced old-world cuisine. Near the middle, though, the book breaks apart into a collection of semi-related essays , unconnected to the initial premise. Not that they're bad reading, but it just feels like these pieces were written for a magazine and shoehorned in
Angela Bessah
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not only do you learn about foods....but a lot about history as well.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I wish the author had stuck more closely to his stated purpose in writing this book. The book seemed to devolve inti a random jumble.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting. I'm glad I read this selection of food ethnography, but damned if it isn't an odd little book. Based on the title I thought it would be a tracing of commonplace American menus back through history; instead, it opens with chapters on a number of different Spanish countries and their culinary traditions. Okay, I thought, perhaps it's an examination of how Spanish-speaking countries' commonplace culinary habits were formed by los conquistadores - but no, then we start to veer to non-Sp ...more
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I would have given it 5 stars, except for the irritating tic of praising/exculpating Columbus every couple of chapters, as an intro to assessing the impact of his voyage (and the others it is standing in for) on what we eat. This is a book about how eating habits, and food sources, changed after the Columbian "exchange," which is to say, after new world and old world exchanged and fused grains, vegetables, animals, roots, and other edible matters ("exchange" is a euphemism also for slavery, dise ...more
Charles Lemos
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quick and very enjoyable read on global food patterns and how they came to be is Why We Eat What We Eat: How the Encounter Between the New World and the Old Chnaged the Way Everyone on the Planet Eats(published 1991) written by Raymond Sokolov, the former Travel and Culture writer for the Wall Street Journal. This is an easy, accessible entry point for those interested in food history as opposed to the more academic volume by historian Alfred Crosby entitled The Columbian Exchange, written in ...more
Mar 29, 2011 rated it liked it
The title was intriguing (arousing the curiosity or interest of).
On page 237 of my 1991 edition, the book is intended not "For most people
in the world this is of no direct importance, but to food-mad novelty seekers
in the industrial nations" is the presumed intended audience for the book,
and thus a motivation for the style of presentation (and hence the style
of this review).

There is a fair bit of useful information, though most of it is concentrated
in the later pages, where it became (for
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
One of the classics of food history, Sokolov traces the Columbian Exchange through food products and their wide ranging effects--chilies from South America to India via Portugal, corn in Europe with the major downside of pellagra, potatoes, cows and horses on the plains of North America, quinine from cinchona bark, Moorish Spanish food crossed with tropical resources in the Philippines and the long saga of tomatoes.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mouth-puckeringly dry humour... "Columbus may have been history's best example of someone who did great things without knowing what they were." Succinct and acerbic observations about the movement of food across nations, carried by explorers, and how the French tried to take credit for everything. A must-read if you love food and want to know the provenance and politics of what's on your plate.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, self-help
Dapet di toko buku bekas juga, harganya cuma 10 rb perak. Oh no! hahahha... Tertarik ngeliat judulnya en pengen aja membaca sesuatu yang lain. Dan ternyata isinya gak mengecewakan, ternyata makanan pun punya banyak mata rantai..
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Never again will I question the authenticity of food. The author explains how dramatically the world's cuisine changed in just 50 years after Columbus came to the New World. The world is an every-evolving place, even before global warming,airplanes, and the Internet.
Often quite speculational, this book was still richly informational. It was fun to read about a foodie's inspirations and investigations. I've looked at olives, corn, potatoes and newer (to me) foods in a new light. What could be more fun than food?!!
Sep 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
A great, if somewhat verbose, look at how food cross borders and influences culture. Sokolov at one point wonders if the potato famine in Ireland hadn't occured, the course of history in America might have looked quite different.
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
all cooking is fusion
Feb 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Journalist Raymond Sokolov sets out to examine the origins of commons foods and dishes. Fascinating mix of anthropology, linguistics, genetic research, and gastronomy.
May 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: cooks
I've only just started this book and am about 2 chapters in. I'm loving his politics and his perspective on the convergence of "old world" and "new world" foods, language, and culture.
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