The Food We Eat: Cultural Histories

The Kansas City Public Library is hosting events with three authors in January 2009 who have written cultural food histories. On January 6 at the Central Library, Ken Albala discusses Pancake: A Global History. Culinary historian Andrew Smith discusses Hamburger: A Global History on January 13 at the Plaza Branch. And on January 27 at the Central Library, Pierre Laszlo discusses his book Citrus: A History. Read one of these fascinating accounts of the pancake, hamburger, or citrus or check out another historical exploration of the food we eat.

Pancake: A Global History

Pancake: A Global History
By Ken Albala
Round, thin, and made of starchy batter cooked on a flat surface, it is a food that goes by many names: flapjack, crepe, and okonomiyaki, to name just a few. The pancake is a treasured food the world over, and now Ken Albala unearths the surprisingly rich history of pancakes and their sizzling goodness.

Hamburger: A Global History
By Andrew Smith
The hamburger has been a staple of American culture for the last century, both a source of gluttonous joy and a recurrent obstacle to healthy eating. Now the full beauty of the burger in all its forms is explored in "Hamburger," a debut title in Reaktion Books' new Edible series. Andrew F. Smith traces the trajectory of hamburger history, from its humble beginnings as a nineteenth-century street food sold by American vendors, from which it soon spread to the menus of diners and restaurants.

Citrus: A  History
By Pierre Laszlo
Pierre Laszlo here traces the spectacular rise and spread of citrus across the globe: from Southeast Asia in 4000 BC through North Africa and the Roman Empire to early modern Spain and Portugal, whose explorers introduced the fruits to the Americas during the 1500s. Blending scientific rigor with personal curiosity, Citrus ransacks over two millennia of world history, exploring the numerous roles that citrus has played in agriculture, horticulture, cooking, nutrition, religion, and art--from the Jewish feast of the Tabernacles through the gardens and courts of Versailles to the canvasses of Vincent van Gogh to the orange groves of southern California and the juicing industry of today.

Salt: Grain of Life
By Pierre Laszlo
This book provides a fascinating look at a substance that is a necessity for the body, a treat for the tongue, and a commodity that shaped history.

The Turkey: An American Story
By Andrew F. Smith
Food historian Andrew F. Smith's sweeping and multifaceted history of Meleagris gallopavo separates fact from fiction, serving as both a solid historical reference and a fascinating general read. With his characteristic wit and insatiable curiosity, Smith presents the turkey in ten courses, beginning with the bird itself (actually several different species of turkey) flying through the wild.

Pizza: A Global History
By Carol Helstosky
You can pick Chicago deep dish, Sicilian, or New York-style; pan crust or thin crust; anchovies or pepperoni. There are countless ways to create the dish called pizza, as well as a never-ending debate on the best way of cooking it. Carol Helstosky documents the fascinating history and cultural life of this chameleon-like food in Pizza.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World 
By Dan Koeppel
Growing out of a Popular Science feature article, this work combines a pop-science journey around the globe with a fascinating tale of an iconic American business enterprise that takes readers into the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes.


Spice: The History of a Temptation
By Jack Turner
Turner follows the trail of spice back through time, a route charted by the human desire to use it in cuisine, in medicine, in magic, in religion, and in sex. Readers will see spice in myth and literature; in archaeological finds and religious rituals; and in avarice, fantasy, and gluttony.

Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
By Lizzie Collingham
Richly spiced with colorful anecdotes and curious historical facts, and attractively designed with 34 illustrations, five maps, and numerous recipes, this is a delectable history of Indian cuisine, ranging from the imperial kitchen of the Mughal invader Babur to the smoky cookhouse of the British Raj.

Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World's Most Popular Flavor and Fragrance 
By Patricia Rain
The Spanish considered vanilla the ultimate aphrodisiac, the Totonac Indians called it the fruit of the gods, and the Aztecs taxed the Mayans in vanilla beans, using the beans as currency. In this colorful history, Patricia Rain explores the incredibly diverse effect of vanilla on the worlds of food, medicine, psychology, and even politics.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses
By Tom Standage
Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. Six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.

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