Food in History
by Reay Tannahill
An enthralling world history of food from prehistoric times to the present. A favorite of gastronomes and history buffs alike, Food in History is packed with intriguing information, lore, and startling insights--like what cinnamon had to do with the discovery of America, and how food has influenced population growth and urban expansion.
This book is a comprehensive overview of both the history of food and how food changed history. Tannahill describes what people ate all over the world from prehistoric times through the present. The book is divided into the following sections: prehistoric times, 3000 BC to 1000 AD, 1000 AD to 1492, 1492-1789, and 1789 to the present. In each section, there are separate chapters on areas of the world, such as China, India, the Arab World, Europe, and the Americas.
One slightly annoying facet of the book is Tannahill's tendency to shift focus from one time or region to another as she describes a topic in detail (for example, in chapter 12 where she is describing the animals that were kept in medieval towns in Europe, she includes comments about 19th century New York.) Tannahill writes from a British vantage point, and occasionally displays some lack of understanding of American culture, which can be either amusing or annoying for American readers (such as when she suggests that America is "more hygiene-conscious than other countries" "because it played host to so many religious sects that held cleanliness inseparable from godliness"). Nevertheless, these shortcomings are quite small, and the book is extremely informative and interesting to read.
Reviewer: Erika Mitchell, from Dubai, UAE