Have you ever looked at a picture like this and asked yourself:
“How did we get here?”
Yeah, so did I. But “get here” we did.
As you all know, I post LOTS of stories about mega food like this:
And I love it all. But, what led us to a time in history when we could pile food up as high as the stars? Well, this Wednesday Bookmobile has your answer with a terrific book that tells you the story of our food – with a very straightforward title:
“Food In History”, by Reay Tannahill
Here is what a reader said about this terrific, comprehensive look at food:
“‘Food in History’ is an excellent introduction to a piece of human history that is probably so obviously important it’s not widely researched: the crucial part that food played and plays in human society.”
And crucial it is, but every time you wonder who exactly came up with the idea of cracking open an Oyster and eating it raw, then this is the book for you!
Author Reay Tannahill was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and wrote many books, including this one published in 1973. She tackled the subject of food around the world and the factors that have influenced what and how we eat.
You will learn about how the spice trade was a leading factor in the “Age of Exploration”, and that the subject of crop rotation in the early Middle Ages “killed more than one child’s interest in history”- as the author rightly points out!
But Tannahill goes much farther than that in a very entertaining way, showing the development of eating habits from neolithic man up to the early/mid 20th Century. Along the way, the author points out some truths that will be unpleasant to the food faddists of the early 21st Century:
Humans ARE omnivores by evolution, and salt is also an evolution-induced craving, innate in us, NOT learned.
In a survey like this one, it can’t do justice to EVERY culture’s cuisine, but it does come close. Roman, Arab, Indian, Asian, and the influence of the Americas on European foods are well covered. The prose is lively, much wittier than I thought it would be given the subject, but also scholastic – so I believed what I was reading.
Look at just a few of the topics covered:
Food And Cooking Before 10,000 BC
Talk about old food! Tannahill digs into life – and eating – in a prehistoric time.
And speaking of “old food”, did you know that the cultivation of the olive began 6,000 years ago along the Mediterranean?
As someone who LOVES olives of all shapes and sizes, it was interesting to get a brief look at where the importance of olives began…and of course, the book discusses another important “food group”:
Yes, at one time in our world’s history, we were ALL on the menu! The book uses all of the world’s history to tell us how and who we ate to get where we are today!
In fact, there are parts of the world that reported cannibalism into the 1970’s, so think about that!
How Drinking Began!
And perhaps the most important chapter of the book: Tannahill talks about alcohol around the world – how and why is was consumed…
Yes, the book includes these words of wisdom:
“Drinke is their whole desire, the pot is all their pride, The sobrest head doth once a day stand needfull of a guide.”
And how can you argue with that? So, dig in to Wednesday’s Bookmobile selection and learn how we ate throughout history!
After the international success of “Food in History”, Tannahill’s publisher suggested a companion volume on the second great human imperative:
“Sex in History.”
It was, of course, a bestseller as well, but it’s not about sex as much as the role of sex, population growth etc around the world.
She published a revised edition of “Food in History” in 2002 as well.
Tannahill died in 2007, but her books are still readily available.
Oh, and about this picture:
Yes, that is one HUGE chicken stick! I posted about this a few years back but it never gets old to me, so if you want more details, dive in here:
Let me know if you plan to dip into the “history of food!”