Culture of the Fork: A Brief History of Food in Europe

Culture of the Fork: A Brief History of Food in Europe

Culture of the Fork: A Brief History of Food in Europe

Culture of the Fork: A Brief History of Food in Europe


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.


As translator from the Italian of this savory of culinary history, I was faced with sixty specifically named Italian words for pork or beef sausage and in English found only sausage and salami. An infinity of constellations of untranslatable pasta shapes further impeded my Promethean climb. My recompense was a keener historical awareness and appreciation of the gastronomic bounty of Bella Italia.

As series editor of Arts and Traditions of the Table, I am delighted to share this readable, insightful, and delightful history by Giovanni Rebora with a broad readership of nonspecialist food-lovers, gourmets, gourmands, and Italophiles.

I had always been convinced that frequent famines marked Europe's Early Modern or postmedieval period. In fact, for centuries, the average Italian peasant had several pounds of meat available to him each week at very modest cost. Why? Because the demand for calfskin and ox- and cowhides for saddles, wineskins, riding gear, and so on, greatly exceeded the supply. So to meet this demand, more and more cattle were bred, creating an oversupply of meat and lowering its price, but also inflating the cost of feed and pastureland.

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