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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.
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.
Naturally high in essential vitamins and minerals, oysters are one of the oldest known foods consumed by humans. Varying in size from as small as a grape to as large as a dinner plate, the humble oyster has played an outsized role in the building of empires and the discovery of new lands. Consumed by both rich and poor, the oyster has inspired writers, poets, painters, and even lovers--Casanova was said to have started each day with a breakfast of fifty oysters. In Oysters: A Global History Carolyn Tillie delves into the culinary, artistic, sexual, historical, and scientific history of the humble bivalve. She shows how the oyster encouraged immigration and industry in the newly established United States, how it perpetuated slavery among those working in the oyster beds, and how Japan unexpectedly become the savior of the world's oyster industry. Packed with colorful anecdotes, recipes, and more than fifty illustrations, this little book is a delightful introduction to the lore of the oyster.
Look. Swirl. Sniff. Taste. Savor. Whether you’re tasting a refreshing white or an aromatic red, these well-known steps are the only proper way to take the first sip of wine. Oenophiles have never been rare, but over the past decade, wine culture has exploded. Amateur wine enthusiasts join dedicated collectors at tastings and on vineyard vacations, and young professionals pack trendy wine bars. Even Hollywood has gotten in on the action—movies like Sideways, Bottle Shock, and French Kiss relate the deep love we have for a glass of pinot noir, a bottle of chardonnay, and the grapes that produce them. But how did wine surpass all other beverages to achieve global domination? In Wine, Marc Millon travels back to the origins of modern man to find the answer, discovering that this heady drink is intertwined with the roots of civilization itself. Wine takes us from Transcaucasia some eight thousand years ago across the Mediterranean Sea, following wine as it spread along with classical civilization throughout Europe, and showing how, thanks to the myths of Dionysus and Bacchus, many of the major wine-producing regions were established in Western Europe. Millon then details how the Spanish conquistadors first brought European grapes to the New World to develop wines for the Catholic mass, and he depicts how wine production traveled to the distant lands of Australia and New Zealand. Today, it is even part of the burgeoning economies of India and China. Millon also explores the types of wine developed in each region, describing the many varieties of grapes and the process of fermentation and storage. Crisp and concise, with a hint of cherry and a soupcon of citrus, Wine provides the perfect introduction for wine novices seeking to impress at their first tasting while offering an engaging chronicle for experts looking to learn more about this most mysterious and magical of beverages.
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.
Known as the meat of the vegetable world, mushrooms have their ardent supporters as well as their fierce detractors. Hobbits go crazy over them, while Diderot thought they should be “sent back to the dung heap where they are born.” In Mushroom, Cynthia D. Bertelsen examines the colorful history of these divisive edible fungi. As she reveals, their story is fraught with murder and accidental death, hunger and gluttony, sickness and health, religion and war. Some cultures equate them with the rottenness of life while others delight in cooking and eating them. And then there are those “magic” mushrooms, which some people link to ancient religious beliefs. To tell this story, Bertelsen travels to the nineteenth century, when mushrooms entered the realm of haute cuisine after millennia of being picked from the wild for use in everyday cooking and medicine. She describes how this new demand drove entrepreneurs and farmers to seek methods for cultivating mushrooms, including experiments in domesticating the highly sought after but elusive truffles, and she explores the popular pastime of mushroom hunting and includes numerous historic and contemporary recipes. Packed with images of mushrooms from around the globe, this savory book will be essential reading for fans of this surprising, earthy fungus.
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.

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