Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

Read

FREE for a limited time

Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

Read

FREE for a limited time

Synopsis

Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world's great cuisines--from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, to the present--in this superbly researched book. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, she shows how periodic seismic shifts in "culinary philosophy"--beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods--prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe.

Cuisine and Empire shows how merchants, missionaries, and the military took cuisines over mountains, oceans, deserts, and across political frontiers. Laudan's innovative narrative treats cuisine, like language, clothing, or architecture, as something constructed by humans. By emphasizing how cooking turns farm products into food and by taking the globe rather than the nation as the stage, she challenges the agrarian, romantic, and nationalistic myths that underlie the contemporary food movement.

Excerpt

Cuisine and Empire takes seriously the fact that we are the animals that cook. Human societies, from sometime early in their history, began depending on cooked food, eating raw foods only as a supplement. Cooking—turning the raw materials of food, predominantly harvested plants and animal products, into something edible—was difficult and time-consuming and required enormous amounts of human energy. It was (and is) one of the most important of our technologies, has always provoked analysis and debate, and is interrelated with our social, political, and economic systems, with health and sickness, and with beliefs about ethics and religion. How, Cuisine and Empire asks, has cooking evolved over the past five thousand years?

A large part of the answer, I suggest, can be captured by tracing a sequence of half a dozen major families of cuisine. These styles of cooking expanded one after the other across wide swaths of the earth’s surface and are still clearly traceable in the world’s culinary geography. Each had its preferred ingredients, techniques, dishes, meals, and ways of eating. Each was shaped by a culinary philosophy that defined what cooking was and how cuisine was related to society, to the natural world (including human bodies), and to the supernatural. Culinary philosophies were always subject to criticism. When those critiques reached a critical point, new cuisines were constructed from elements of the old. Sometimes a new cuisine became adopted as that of a state. Since the states that had the widest reach were empires, this is also the story of the mutual interaction of empires and cuisines, and of how the cuisines of successful states and empires were co-opted or emulated by their neighbors, accounting for their wide dispersion. In their wake followed changes in commerce and in agriculture.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.