Culture of the Fork
by Giovanni Rebora,
Albert Sonnenfeld (Translator)
AAUP Excellence in Interior Design; NY Book Show Excellence in Interior Design. We know where he went, what he wrote, and even what he wore, but what in the world did Christopher Columbus eat? The Renaissance and the age of discovery introduced Europeans to exotic cultures, mores, manners, and ideas. Along with the cross-cultural exchange of Old and New World, East and West, came new foodstuffs, preparations, and flavors. That kitchen revolution led to the development of new utensils and table manners.
Some of the impact is still felt -and tasted -today. Giovanni Rebora has crafted an elegant and accessible history filled with fascinating information and illustrations. He discusses the availability of resources, how people kept from starving in the winter, how they farmed, how tastes developed and changed, what the lower classes ate, and what the aristocracy enjoyed.
The book is divided into brief chapters covering the history of bread, soups, stuffed pastas, the use of salt, cheese, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, the arrival of butter, the quest for sugar, new world foods, setting the table, and beverages, including wine and tea. A special appendix, "A Meal with Columbus," includes a mini-anthology of recipes from the countries where he lived: Italy, Portugal, Spain, and England. Entertaining and enlightening, Culture of the Fork will interest scholars of history and gastronomy -and everyone who eats.
Bad translation distracting -- but content is good.
I would have given this book *five* stars, had it not been for the shoddy - literal translation from Italian to English. Being an Italian speaker, I sometimes had to re-read certain sentences with my "Italian" hat on to discern the meaning. This would have been an excellent book if the translation had been both literary and cultural but it is neither. This, unfortunately, detracts from the book a great deal as some references are not explained to the English-reading audience who may not be familiar with Italian history. Since Italians use a great many words to describe something that would only take a few in English- the literal translation makes them read like run-ons and often leaves the reader lost at the end. If you are able to overcome all these obstacles, the content of the book is enlightening and educational. I learned that industrial olive-growing in Greece was implemented when they were under Venetian rule and that the fork, was originally a small spear that eventually became the four-pronged utensil that we now know with the development of newer, longer, slippery pasta shapes.
Reviewer: virtualitalia, from San Mateo, CA USA