This book is a little off the trail of my usual reading but it is about a subject I find interesting – cooking in world history. The author begins the book with her main theme – Humans are the animals that cook. While I am not much of a cook – I do love food and history.
The book is broken down into time periods such as Mastering Grain Cookery 20,000-300 B.C.E., Buddhism Transforms the Cuisines 260 B.C.E. – 800 C.E. all the way to Modern Cuisines 1920-2000. While this book makes a great textbook for a college level class it is still enjoyable for the lay person like me. Every once in a while I like jumping into a book that challenges me to think and take my time to absorb what I am reading. I really found it interesting to follow the author as she explained how cuisine traveled with the spread of religion. This one made my brain work in a very enjoyable way.
The author is currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Check out all about her HERE.
Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world’s great cuisines—from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, to the present—in this superbly researched book. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, she shows how periodic seismic shifts in “culinary philosophy”—beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods—prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe.
Cuisine and Empire shows how merchants, missionaries, and the military took cuisines over mountains, oceans, deserts, and across political frontiers. Laudan’s innovative narrative treats cuisine, like language, clothing, or architecture, as something constructed by humans. By emphasizing how cooking turns farm products into food and by taking the globe rather than the nation as the stage, she challenges the agrarian, romantic, and nationalistic myths that underlie the contemporary food movement.