Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The History of Taste

What you see above is an example of a great book: mixing history and food together into a great history of taste as why we eat what we eat. Not so much for the physiology of how we as humans developed a taste for something in particular, but more so how and why people cooked and ate the food they did. I finished this book, just this week with a last chapter focusing on everything from the 19th century until now.

The first chapter or so explains how humans at some point began to have the need for fats in their body, which then help the brain and nerves evolve and grow. It was suggested that the earliest form of fats, was sugar in the form of nectar or wild honey. That started it all as while humans started to evolve they needed more and more nutrients and it was discovered that cooking food made it easier to digest. I know that in the past 20-30 years, there have been a large number of experts who suggest that raw food is better for your body or that no meats or fat are better as well and while I can live with their opinions, history has showed us that humans are meant to eat meats and fats.

Around the middle of the book, it starts to look at food and eating by different cultures. For instance; the ancient Greeks believed that eating meat was obscene and was evil, so they ate mostly lentils and vegetables. The Romans and other cultures had no problem with meat and ate large amounts of it as well as other foods. In ancient China, kitchens were made with a "demon" painted on the wall or decorated somewhere in it. The demon was to represent a spirit who was cursed by eating too much food so when food is eaten and prepared in an ancient Chinese kitchen, the people must take only what they can and will eat and no more, as to not waste it as well.

With information and recipes dating back a thousand years or more, for added insight, the book explains and answers some great questions, like who invented ice cream? The Arabs invented ice cream almost a thousand years or more back. They developed a way to cool water using salt and then to freeze cream and sugar, producing the first ice creams, or to be technical, it was gellato.

It is larger than an average sized book and with about 370 pages in it, it makes for a long read, if you are busy or a good afternoon read if you have the time. Highly recommended:

 Food: The History of Taste (California Studies in Food and Culture)

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