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Description - Culture of the Fork by Giovanni Rebora

We know where he went, what he wrote, and even what he wore, but what in the world did Christopher Columbus eat? The Renaissance and the age of discovery introduced Europeans to exotic cultures, mores, manners, and ideas. Along with the cross-cultural exchange of Old and New World, East and West, came new foodstuffs, preparations, and flavors. That kitchen revolution led to the development of new utensils and table manners. Some of the impact is still felt-and tasted-today. Giovanni Rebora has crafted an elegant and accessible history filled with fascinating information and illustrations. He discusses the availability of resources, how people kept from starving in the winter, how they farmed, how tastes developed and changed, what the lower classes ate, and what the aristocracy enjoyed. The book is divided into brief chapters covering the history of bread, soups, stuffed pastas, the use of salt, cheese, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, the arrival of butter, the quest for sugar, new world foods, setting the table, and beverages, including wine and tea. A special appendix, "A Meal with Columbus," includes a mini-anthology of recipes from the countries where he lived: Italy, Portugal, Spain, and England. Entertaining and enlightening, Culture of the Fork will interest scholars of history and gastronomy-and everyone who eats.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780231121507
ISBN-10: 0231121504
Format: Hardback
(235mm x 132mm x 21mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publish Date: 26-Sep-2001
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Culture of the Fork by Giovanni Rebora

US Kirkus Review » A lively stroll through (mostly southern) European culinary history. Eskimo languages have 50 words for snow, suggesting an important feature of the cultural and physical landscape. In the same spirit, there are "sixty specifically named Italian words for pork or beef sausage," to say nothing of the countless ways of naming noodles. Rebora (Economics/Univ. of Genoa) has a fine time touring through the Italian kitchen, pausing here to offer recipes like the kind Christopher Columbus might have enjoyed as a young man (panned partridge from France, lamprey from Portugal, marzipan from the Baltic), there to ponder the history of the fork (which, he tells us, was invented in Byzantium and introduced in the 14th century in Italy, where some clerics viewed it as a "shocking overrefinement"), and there to tease out the origins of local culinary traditions (French settlers brought couscous to Puglia, where it eventually mutated into orecchiette, the ear-shaped pasta associated with that far-southern Italian region). All this is far from the usual whirlwind tour of food history found in the frontmatter of many cookbooks, for Rebora packs his text with learned asides on the biochemical and cultural bases for lactose intolerance, with the transmission from one region to another of methods for curing and treating meat (which led to all those Italian sausages, to Serrano ham, to Turkish "pasterme", to German "wurstel", and on and on), and other arcane data. He argues that the image of the European Middle Ages as a time of endemic hunger is wrong: "I believe," he writes, "that the people mostly had at their disposal adequate food, produce, and goods"-if nothing like the astounding choice that accompanied the exploration of the Americas and Asia. Nicely balancing recent encyclopedic treatments such as the "Cambridge World History of Food", Rebora's slender volume should be of interest to foodies, cookbook collectors, and historians alike. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Giovanni Rebora

Giovanni Rebora is professor of economic history and chair of the Department of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Genoa. In 1983 he organized the First International Convention on the History of Culture and Food. In 1992 he edited Columbus at Table and has published Medieval Italian Cuisine Between East and West.Albert Sonnenfeld is Chevalier Professor of French and Comparative Literatures at the University of Southern California and is a longtime member of the National Board of Directors of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is the English-language editor of Food: A Culinary History and a frequent contributor on culinary topics to such publications as The Languages of Wine and Food and Ideology.