Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gastronomic Delights: Food Histories in Fact & Fiction

Eating and reading just go hand in hand. We use the same words, to have a voracious appetite for food or for books.
~ Dinah Fried

Why do we eat what we eat?  Why have regional specialities evolved? How do we decide what tastes good to us?  Here are a few books that trace the history of food, in different locales in the United States and in literature.

San Francisco: A Food Biography by Erica J. Peters [eBook]
San Francisco is a relatively young city with a well-deserved reputation as a food destination, situated near lush farmland and a busy port. San Francisco's famous restaurant scene has been the subject of books but the full complexity of the city's culinary history is revealed here for the first time. This food biography presents the story of how food traveled from farms to markets, from markets to kitchens, and from kitchens to tables, focusing on how people experienced the bounty of the City by the Bay. 

New Orleans: A Food Biography by Elizabeth M. Williams [eBook]
Beignets, Po’ Boys, gumbo, jambalaya, Antoine’s. New Orleans’ celebrated status derives in large measure from its incredibly rich food culture, based mainly on Creole and Cajun traditions. At last, this world-class destination has its own food biography. Elizabeth M. Williams, a New Orleans native and founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum there, takes readers through the history of the city, showing how the natural environment and people have shaped the cooking we all love. The narrative starts with the indigenous population, resources and environment, then reveals the contributions of the immigrant populations, major industries, marketing networks, and retail and major food industries and finally discusses famous restaurants and signature dishes. This must-have book will inform and delight food aficionados and fans of the Big Easy itself. 

Covers a wide range of topics, such as ethnic food, regional foods, food advertising, the development of baby food, vegetarianism, special holiday food traditions, popular brands, microbreweries, the wine industry, snack food, fast food, and the Slow Food movement.
~from the back cover

Breakfast: A History by Heather Arndt Anderson
From corn flakes to pancakes, Breakfast: A History explores this "most important meal of the day" as a social and gastronomic phenomenon. It explains how and why the meal emerged, what is eaten commonly in this meal across the globe, why certain foods are considered indispensable, and how it has been depicted in art and media. Heather Arndt Anderson's detail-rich, culturally revealing, and entertaining narrative thoroughly satisfies. 

No recipes, but an assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature. Fried pairs each place setting with the text from that book that inspired its creation. She includes food facts and anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections. 

*all book descriptions are taken from the library catalog, unless otherwise noted 


"Why Fire Makes Us Human" [Smithsonian]

"What It Takes To Cook Some of Literature's Most Famous Meals" [Smithsonian]

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