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In Dates, Nawal Nasrallah draws on her experience of growing up in the lands of ancient Mesopotamia, where the date palm was first cultivated, to explore the history behind the fruit. Dates have an important role in their arid homeland of the Middle East, where they are a dietary staple and can be consumed fresh or dried, as a snack or a dessert, and are even thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. In this history, Nasrallah describes the central role the date palm has played in the economy of the Middle East. This informative account of the date palm’s story follows its journey from its land of origin to the far-flung regions where it is cultivated today. Along the way, Nasrallah weaves many fascinating and humorous anecdotes that explore the etymology, history, culture, religion, myths, and legends surrounding dates. For example, she explains how the tree came to be a symbol of the Tree of Life and associated with the fiery phoenix bird, the famous ancient goddess Ishtar, and the moon, and how the medjool date acquired its name. This delightful and unusual book is generously illustrated with many beautiful images, and supplemented with more than a dozen delicious date recipes for savory dishes, sweets, and wine.
Most of us like to look at them, but why on earth would anyone want to eat them? As Constance L. Kirker and Mary Newman show in this book, however, flowers have a long history as a tasty ingredient in a variety of cuisines. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Ottomans, Mayans, Chinese, and Indians all knew how to cook with them for centuries, and today contemporary chefs use them to add something special to their dishes. Edible Flowers is the fascinating history of how flowers have been used in cooking, from ancient Greek dishes to the today’s molecular gastronomy and farm-to-table restaurants. Looking at flowers’ natural qualities: their unique and beautiful appearance, their pungent fragrance, and their surprisingly good taste, Kirker and Newman proffer a bouquet of dishes—from soups to stews to desserts to beverages—that use them in interesting ways. Tying this culinary history into a larger cultural one, they show how flowers’ cultural, symbolic, and religious connotations have added value and meaning to dishes in daily life and special occasions. From fried squash blossoms to marigold dressings, this book rediscovers the flower not just as something beautiful but as something absolutely delicious.
Char-grilled or boiled? Sauerkraut or chili? Mustard or ketchup? Vienna Beef or Sabrett? Only these questions could be raised about one of the world’s favorite backyard, picnic, ballgame, and street foods—the hotdog. Though nearly two billion hot dogs are consumed by Americans annually in the month of July alone, there is absolutely no consensus on which is the right way to serve up a hotdog. In Hot Dog, well known food historian Bruce Kraig recounts the history of this popular “tube steak” from the origin of the sausage 20,000 years ago to its central place in American culture today. Kraig discusses the many brands, including Hebrew National, Pearl, Sabrett, and Vienna Beef, and the regional variations that go along with them—like kosher-style New York dogs loaded with mustard and sauerkraut, New England dogs with Boston Baked Beans, and fully-loaded Chicago style hotdogs, complete with mustard, onion, relish, sport peppers, a dill pickle spear, a dash of celery salt, and tomato slices (but never, ever ketchup). Hot Dog covers the other international sausages, like bologna and bockwurst, as well, and explores some of the apocryphal tales of the hotdog in history—like the origin of its name and whether Queen Elizabeth II was truly served hotdogs on a visit to the White House. Packed with tasty facts and recipes, Hot Dog reveals the rich history and passionate opinions about this seemingly ordinary food.
A lighthearted chronicle of how foods have transformed human culture throughout the ages traces the barley- and wheat-driven early civilizations of the near East through the corn and potato industries in America.
Poet Charles Lamb described the pineapple as “too ravishing for moral taste . . . like lovers’ kisses she bites—she is a pleasure bordering on pain, from fierceness and insanity of her relish.” From the moment Christopher Columbus discovered it on a Caribbean island in 1493, the pineapple has seduced the world, becoming an object of passion and desire. Beloved by George Washington, a favorite of kings and aristocrats, the pineapple quickly achieved an elite status among fruits that it retains today. Kaori O’Connor tells the story of this culinary romance in Pineapple, an intriguing history of this luscious fruit. O’Connor follows the pineapple across time and cultures, exploring how it was first transported to Europe, where it could only be grown at great expense in hothouses. The pineapple was the ultimate status symbol, she reveals—London society hostesses would even pay extravagantly to rent a pineapple for a single evening to be the centerpiece of a party. O’Connor explains that the fruit remained a seasonal luxury for the rich until developments in shipping and refrigeration allowed it to be brought to the major markets in Europe and America, and she illustrates how canning processes—and the discovery of the pineapple’s ideal home in Hawaii—have made it available and affordable throughout the year. Packed with vivid illustrations and irresistible recipes from around the world, Pineapple will have everyone falling in love with this juicy tropical fruit.
Olives are at once a mythical food—bringing to mind scenes from ancient Rome and the Bible—and an everyday food, given the ubiquity of olive oil in contemporary diets. In this succinct and engaging history, Fabrizia Lanza traces the olive’s roots from antiquity, when olive oil was exalted for ritual purposes and used to anoint kings and athletes, to the sixteenth century, when Europeans brought the olive to the New World, to the present day, when, thanks to waves of immigration and the popularity of the healthy Mediterranean diet, the fruit has successfully conquered our palate. Lanza describes the role that olive trees, olives, and their oil have played in myths, legends, and literature, as well as in the everyday lives of people living throughout the Mediterranean. Also included is a global selection of recipes featuring olives and olive oil that showcase the fruit’s culinary diversity. A concise appendix of popular olive varieties, organized by country, rounds out this informative account. Featuring a wealth of historical detail, useful descriptions, and delicious recipes, this book will change how you think about that bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil you reach for out of habit and swirl into the pan.
It is difficult to think of a food more basic, more essential, and more universal than bread. Common to the diets of both the rich and the poor, bread is one of our oldest foods. Loaves and rolls have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and wheat has been found in pits where human settlements flourished 8,000 years ago. Many anthropologists argue that the ability to sow and reap cereals, the grains necessary for making bread, could be one of the main reasons why man settled in communities, and even today the concept of “breaking bread together” is a lasting symbol of the uniting power of a meal. Bread is an innovative mix of traditional history, cultural history, travelogue, and cookbook. William Rubel begins with the amazing invention of bread approximately 20,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and ends by speculating on the ways in which cultural forces and advances in biotechnology may influence the development of bread in the twenty-first century. Rubel shows how simple choices, may be responsible for the widespread preference for wheat over other bread grains and for the millennia-old association of elite dining with white bread. He even provides an analysis of the different components of bread, such as crust and crumb, so that readers may better understand the breads they buy. With many recipes integrated with the text and a glossary covering one hundred breads, Bread goes well beyond the simple choice of white or wheat. Here, general readers will find an approachable introduction to the history of bread and to the many forms that bread takes throughout the world, and bread bakers will discover a history of the craft and new ways of thinking that will inspire experimentation.
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