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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.
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.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In Hindu scripture, the world began as an egg. Laid by a swan floating on the waters of chaos, after a year the egg split into silver and gold halves, with the silver becoming the earth and the gold transforming into the sky. Throughout history, the egg has taken on numerous meanings outside of the famous philosophical dilemma: it was used for curing the evil eye by the Mayans, as protection against lightning in Greece, and to signify rebirth in Christian tradition. In Eggs, Diane Toops offers a fascinating tour of egg history and lore, looking at how its significance has represented the preoccupations of the cultures that consume it. After explaining the many varieties of eggs and the places that favor them, Toops sketches a history of its uses from its origins until the present day, when it has become an integral part of modern cuisine. She explores how eggs are today marketed as a health food and discusses the debates over their nutritional status. Filled with appetizing recipes and beguiling images, this protein-packed book will enthrall anyone with an interest in cuisine or cultural history.
Gravenstein. Coe’s Golden Drop. Mendocino Cox. The names sound like something from the imagination of Tolkien or perhaps the ingredients in a dubious magical potion rather than what they are—varieties of apples. But as befits their enchanting names, apples have transfixed and beguiled humans for thousands of years. Apple: A Global History explores the cultural and culinary importance of a fruit born in the mountains of Kazakhstan that has since traversed the globe to become a favorite almost everywhere. From the Garden of Eden and Homer’s Odyssey to Johnny Appleseed, William Tell, and even Apple Computer, Erika Janik shows how apples have become a universal source of sustenance, health, and symbolism from ancient times to the present day. Featuring many mouthwatering illustrations, this exploration of the planet’s most popular fruit includes a guide to selecting the best apples, in addition to apple recipes from around the world, including what is believed to be the first recorded apple recipe from Roman gourmand Marcus Apicius. And Janik doesn’t let us forget that apples are not just good eating; their juice also makes for good drinking—as the history of cider in North America and Europe attests. Janik grew up surrounded by apple iconography in Washington, the “apple state,” so there is no better author to tell this fascinating story. Readers will eat up this surprising and entertaining tale of a fruit intricately linked to human history.
Lusciously sweet and with a complex texture, figs are both a nutritious culinary delicacy and an important symbol in religion and culture. Associated with Christmas since the time of Charles Dickens—not to mention Dionysus or the Garden of Eden—the fig is steeped in history. In this account of the festive fruit, David C. Sutton places the fig in its historical context, examining its peculiar origins and the importance it has garnered in so many countries. Sutton begins by describing the fig’s strange biology—botanically, it is not a fruit, but rather a cluster of ingrowing flowers—then considers its Arabian origins, including the possibility that the earliest seeds were transported from Yemen to Mesopotamia in the dung of donkeys. Exploring the history of the fruit in fascinating detail, Sutton postulates that the “forbidden fruit” eaten by Adam and Eve was not an apple, but a fig; and he discusses the role figs played for the Crusaders and guides readers toward the wonderful fig festivals held today. Chock full of tasty recipes, intriguing facts, and bizarre stories, Figs is a toothsome book of delights.
From gnocchi to pierogi to wonton, the dumpling has become synonymous with comfort food around the world. Whether stuffed or unfilled, steamed or boiled, many countries have their own version of the dish. In this book, Barbara Gallani looks at the differences and similarities between the ways dumplings are prepared in a variety of cultures, addressing the contrast between the dumpling as an everyday meal and as a food for festive occasions. First examining the etymology of the word and examining just what makes a dumpling a dumpling, Gallani moves on to recount the many ways we have come to love this simple comfort, sometimes even offering up monuments and poetry in its honor. Including traditional recipes for readers to make at home, she shows us what makes the dumpling special in so many ways. A great resource for food and history enthusiasts alike, Dumplings reveals unique insights into this widely consumed and celebrated food.

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