Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia

Article excerpt

Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. Ed. by Ken Albala. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood, 2011. 4 vols. acid free $380 (ISBN 978-0-313-37626-9). Ebook available (978-0-313-37627-6), call for pricing.

In his preface to this work, noted food scholar Ken Albala (Food and Faith in Christian Culture, Pancake: A Global History) characterizes his four volume encyclopedia as the culmination of the 20 volume Food Cultures around the World series, a project that he edited for nearly ten years. He and over a hundred food scholars, writers, and chefs expand on material previously covered by the series and add many new articles, as they attempt to summarize the world's food culture. In large part they succeed on account of the resource's treatment of "individual food cultures as discrete units of analysis" (x). Several high quality food encyclopedias, are currently available, but all lack this unique perspective. Katz's Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Scribner's, 2003), is probably the most notable, but differs in that it is organized by topic. Albala's work provides perhaps the only centralized scholarly resource for comparing a single food topic across cultures, making it a first stop for exploring questions such as, how does restaurant culture in Bulgaria compare with that in France?

The four volumes are organized predominantly around geographic and national distinctions. One hundred fifty-four signed, alphabetically organized entries cover Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. Most entries focus on countries, but when appropriate regional distinctions are made. For example the Basque territory in Europe has an individual entry, despite the fact that it crosses national boundaries. …

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