Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

At the Table: Food and Family around the World

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

At the Table: Food and Family around the World

Article excerpt

At the Table: Food and Family around the World. Edited by Ken Albala. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2016. 342 p. Acid free $89 (ISBN 978-1-61069-737-8). E-book (9781-61069-738-5) available, call for pricing.

Humans are losing their tradition of the daily family meal. When everyone in the family works multiple jobs or keeps different schedules, when people never learned how to cook, or when there simply is no money to buy enough food, the challenge of keeping a family intact becomes greater. The family dinner, once a daily ritual in countries around the world, has become a historical relic as well as a cultural phenomenon among cultures that can sustain such a tradition. One can publish a book about the challenges of keeping the daily family dinner alive, or one can publish an encyclopedia of the typical daily family dinner traditions of every culture. While Dr. Ken Albala has the expertise and connections to accomplish both feats, he has struggled to do so in his latest edited volume At the Table: Food and Family around the World.

Albala is professor of history and director of the Food Studies MA program at the University of the Pacific. He has written about Renaissance-era cooking and food habits, global histories of single ingredients or dishes, and modern food trends. He has also edited volumes and encyclopedias on regional and global food cultures and modern food trends. Albala's research and publishing background gives him the expertise to edit a volume about family dinners around the world. The list of contributors selected to collaborate on this publication are academics, independent researchers, nutritionists, and writers who all have researched and written about food in different contexts. Albala had rubbed elbows with multiple contributors at culinary research events such as the annual Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery and meetings of the Association for the Study of Food and Society. This is a both a strength and a weakness of the volume, as Albala has allowed the writers great freedom in structure, focus, and political perspective of their entries, leading to uneven coverage of the topic.

This single volume is an "anti-encyclopedia." In his preface and introduction, Albala states that, on one hand, the focus of the volume is the dinner table as it appears around the globe. …

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