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Food: A Cultural Culinary History (2013)

de Ken Albala

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Explores the history of how humans have produced, cooked, and consumed food, from the earliest hunting-and-gathering societies to the present.
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AH I love these things. This was a great great courses course. ( )
  Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |
"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 empire when trade empires were created, often on the backs of native people, and finally into the modern age where he discusses food trends, GMOs, nutrition, and counterculture food movements.

Professor Albala is an engaging speaker, so each lecture seems to fly by, and yet each is filled with information about how the availability of food changed human life over and over, beginning with the change from hunter-gatherer tribes to agrarian societies, a change that didn't just have an impact on what we ate, but also on how hard we worked to get it, and on people's roles in society.

He explains the importation of spices and non-native foods to Europe, and how they were costly and therefore exotic and destined only for the nobility. And he explains how falling prices changed tastes, and changed what people spent their money on (tea and sugar.) He also discusses non-European societies and how their cuisines informed and were informed by trade and colonization.

Moving into the present, he explains the process of industrialization of the food chain, the rise of factory farms, and how counterculture food trends have been co-opted by big business. He also does a very good chapter on GMOs, what they are, and why they both are and are not problematic. In the end, Albala is upbeat about the future, discussing what he believes are probable changes for the better. And it's hard not to feel hopeful when he explains his ideas about why our food situation will improve.

This is another terrific course from The Great Courses, and one of the most informative and useful ones I've had the pleasure of listening to. On the strength of it, I'm going to look for more from Professor Albala. ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Mar 15, 2018 |
This is a series of lectures about, well, what the title says. How food has been grown, eaten and used through the ages. In thus covering these aspects of food, much of history is covered as well. The lectures are about 20 minutes long, and although it was very long as is, I could have wished for even more cultures to be covered, and for several of the cultures to be covered in more depth.

Much of the food preparation and migration through history I was familiar with, but there are many details, stories, and even a few recipes I had not known. Interesting to see that food fads as concerns health and proper spiritual eating, as a way to determine social strata, have been around as long as civilization.

Although the last three or four chapters were hard to listen to, as regards what big business has done to not only food preparation, but even the food we have available to us. I did not feel that the speaker was trying to be unfair. Only stating what is and how it got that way. His ideas of the future are bright and happy, and I only hope he is correct.

As regards the speaker himself. He is an enthusiastic puppy, and that is catching. I only hope that someone will teach him how to handle his saliva for future recordings, because his swallowing at times was quite audible. ( )
1 vota MrsLee | May 31, 2016 |
This was a Teaching Company course from Audible. It was excellent. He looks at how people have produced, prepared, and consumed food, the way that society and history affected how people ate, and how food preferences and availability affected society and history. The food history of most of the major cultures of the would is examined. I don't agree with everything he has to say about modern food production, but since I'm involved in modern agriculture myself, I have my own biases.

I liked the professor's voice and enthusiasm, and his speaking speed was perfect for me. He actually demonstrates how to prepare a few dishes, which is rather funny on audio. You can hear the sound of chopping or grinding in the background as he describes what he's doing. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in food or social history. ( )
2 vota SylviaC | Apr 26, 2016 |
The most impressive digital course I've taken -- I'm currently working on a translation of a culinary-history article, so thought I'd listen just to immerse myself in the terminology, etc. But Albala's lectures turn out to be so much fun, as well as truly edifying. An unequivocal 5 stars! ( )
1 vota lulaa | Dec 4, 2013 |
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Explores the history of how humans have produced, cooked, and consumed food, from the earliest hunting-and-gathering societies to the present.

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