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Monday, January 9, 2012

FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH! -- from Reaktion Books

2. APPLE; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 132 pages, ISBN 978-
1-86189-848-7, $17 US hard covers) is by Erika Janik, a freelance
writer and producer at Wisconsin Public Radio.
BREAD; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 160 pages, ISBN 978-
1-86189-854-8, $18 US hard covers) is by William Rubel, a freelance
food historian.
CHAMPAGNE; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 136 pages, ISBN 978-
1-86189-857-9, $17 US hard covers) is by Becky Sue Epstein, a
journalist writing about food, wine and travel.
OLIVE; a global history (Reaktion Books, 2011, 124 pages, ISBN 978-1-
86189-868-5, $17 US hard covers) is by Fabrizia Lanza, a food scholar
and owner of a Sicilian cooking school.
These books are all part of the Edible Series; they now number 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 olives (as does a friend of mine), then
just avoid that book. They've all got some traditional history,
cultural history, food history, and some travel/geography notes. Each
volume 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.
"Apple" is everywhere in food lore and history, and Janik includes the
development of cider in her account. While there are thousands of
varieties (and many which are now lost), just 20 types make up 90 per
cent of all the apples eaten in the world.
"Bread" is 160 pages, but it was announced at 224. I don't know what
was left out, but it appears that one-quarter of it was left on the
editor's desk. It should have been a longer book since bread is a
basic, essential food product, a staple of both the rich and the poor.
It has been around since before agriculture, may be 25,000 years ago.
But not covered is the rise of gluten-free flours.
"Champagne" of course emphasizes the wines of one French region, but it
does go to pains to distinguish between sparkling wines and Champagnes.
Most of the book deals with history and celebratory customs. Reference
material here also includes non-Champagne sparklers.
"Olive" is a comprehensive book about the Mediterranean, where the
olive grove pervades culture, history and food. There are also short
sections on the olive outside this region and on the Mediterranean
Audience and level of use: culinary historians, food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Apples came from the mountains of
Kazakhstan. Sparkling wines have an affinity with monks. Olive paste is
a very early use of olives as food.
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.

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