Jeffrey M. Pilcher is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Book Snob during the wonderful month of December. Jeffrey is a food historian and he has written a guest post on books about food cooking and history. Read on to learn about food from India, Japan and Mexico. It will make you hungry.
Jeffrey Pilcher's Guest Post
As the holidays approach and we think about presents for family and friends, it seems like there is always somebody on the list who would enjoy a book about food. It’s amazing how many cookbooks are available these days, and how specialized they can get. It seems like as if there is a recipe out there for just about anything you could possibly imagine cooking.
But as a historian of food, I am pleased to say that there are a growing number of scholarly works and historical documents that are at the same time quite readable. One good example of these works is Jean Bottéro’s social history of food in ancient Mesopotamia. He shows that master chefs and snooty diners have been with us since the beginning of written history. The book even contains recipes, translated from ancient cuneiform tablets, for such delicacies as gazelle broth and pigeon baked in pastry.
Another interesting book is Lizzie Collingham’s history of curry, which puts India at the center of world historical movements in trade, migration, and colonialism. She shows how Indian cooks absorbed the foods of successive invaders—Mughals, Portuguese, British—and went on to conquer
Eric Rath has written a fascinating account of what samurai did and did not eat before the Emperor Meiji started Japan on the path to modernity. Not only were many national dishes, like sushi and tempura, absent from the table, but chefs spent much of their time carving inedible food sculptures of fish and fowl for diners to contemplate artistically.
James McCann uses jazz as a motif to understand historical African cooking as an improvisational art form built around deep structures of technique and taste. Moving fluidly between the cuisines of Ethiopia, West Africa, Southern Africa, and the Diaspora, he draws connections and highlights regional distinctiveness.
Encarnación Pinedo’s splendid cookbook offers a unique first-hand account of nineteenth-century California Mexican cookery. It is also an eloquent contribution to Latina literature by a woman dedicated to preserving her culture after ‘49ers lynched eight of her relatives, one of them twice.
Warren Belasco explores the ways people have thought about the future of food, from the Jetson’s meal-in-a-pill to Malthusian fears of mass starvation. By analyzing the long history of debates between industrial food optimists and pessimists, he provides needed perspective on the contemporary “good food revolution.”
If you would like to win a copy of Jeffrey's book Planet Taco please enter here: Planet Taco Giveaway