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Saturday, June 25, 2011


DATES; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 136 pages, ISBN 978-
1-86189-796-1, $15.95 US hard covers) is by Nawal Nasrallah, a
researcher and food writer specializing in Middle East cuisine.
ICE CREAM; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 176 pages, ISBN 978-
1-86189-792-3, $15.95 US hard covers) is by Laura B. Weiss, a New York
City journalist who specializes in lifestyle writing.
LOBSTER; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-
86189-794-7, $15.95 US hard covers) is by Elisabeth Townsend, a
Massachusetts-based food and wine writer.
POTATO; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 142 pages, ISBN 978-1-
86189-799-2, $15.95 US hard covers) is by Andrew F. Smith, who teaches
culinary history at the New School in NYC. His previous books have been
about junk food and "Hamburger", the latter for this current series,
The Edible Series. He's also the editor of the series which now numbers
some 20 books in a uniform format.
Edible is a great series, offering fingernail profiles and engaging
memoirs of foods. You don't need to collect them all: if you hate
lobsters, then just avoid that book. Each book has a selection of
recipes (with both metric and avoirdupois measurements), end notes,
bibliography, and a listing of websites and associations. There are
also terrific full-colour photos and an index.
"Dates" is a straight-forward history, beginning with Mesopotamia and
moving forward with the role that the date palm has played in the
Middle East economy. A lot of the book has anecdotes, etymology,
culture, legends and religious attitudes about dates.
"Ice Cream" is the longest book in the series, but it is also the food
probably most worked over in the foodbook/cookbook genre. It is good,
though, to have some global history of the product before segueing into
American territory. Weiss says that ice cream, began in ancient China
and ends in modern Tokyo. Italian immigrant ice cream vendors played a
big role in North America.
"Lobster" has long been peasant food. Those living by the ocean had to
eat it, to the shame and mortification of those poorer students who
were forced to eat lobster sandwiches for lunch in the school
cafeteria. They were laughed at. Now lobsters are big ticket items,
although coast dwellers still remember their penurious beginnings. This
is a good account of the social history of global lobster eating.
"Potato" is a Western Hemisphere product, rising from the Pre-Columbian
period in the Andes to its role as a staple today. Of course, there's a
fair bit of material about Ireland and the blight/famine. There's even
a mention of poutine. It's easy to grow and is a good choice for
Audience and level of use: culinary historians, food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Popular ice cream flavours in Japan
include green tea, crab, sea urchin, wasabi, beef tongue, eel, and
garlic. The biggest date celebration in the world is the National Date
Festival (Indio, California). Indonesians eat their French fries with
sate sauce, Belgians with mayonnaise, Bulgarians with grated white
cheese, and Vietnamese with sugar and butter. Spiny lobsters adorn an
Egyptian temple from the fifteenth century BC.
The downside to this book: as with any profile, occasionally one may
wish for more detail about certain points.
The upside to this book: good, nifty self-contained books.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

Chimo! AND

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