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Cuisine and Empire

Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

Rachel Laudan
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 482
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  • Book Info
    Cuisine and Empire
    Book Description:

    Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world's great cuisines-from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, to the present-in this superbly researched book. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, she shows how periodic seismic shifts in "culinary philosophy"-beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods-prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe.Cuisine and Empireshows how merchants, missionaries, and the military took cuisines over mountains, oceans, deserts, and across political frontiers. Laudan's innovative narrative treats cuisine, like language, clothing, or architecture, as something constructed by humans. By emphasizing how cooking turns farm products into food and by taking the globe rather than the nation as the stage, she challenges the agrarian, romantic, and nationalistic myths that underlie the contemporary food movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95491-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Cuisine and Empiretakes seriously the fact that we are the animals that cook. Human societies, from sometime early in their history, began depending on cooked food, eating raw foods only as a supplement. Cooking—turning the raw materials of food, predominantly harvested plants and animal products, into something edible—was difficult and time-consuming and required enormous amounts of human energy. It was (and is) one of the most important of our technologies, has always provoked analysis and debate, and is interrelated with our social, political, and economic systems, with health and sickness, and with beliefs about ethics and religion....

  7. 1 Mastering Grain Cookery, 20,000–300 B.C.E.
    (pp. 9-55)

    In 1000 b.c.e., when the first empires were being formed, the globe was home to fifty million or so people, about the population of present-day Italy, or slightly over twice that of Tokyo or Mexico City. Most of them were concentrated in a belt across Eurasia that swept from Europe and North Africa in the west to Korea and Southeast Asia in the east. Some still lived by hunting and gathering. Some were nomadic pastoralists who followed their flocks and herds. A tiny proportion dwelt in cities, most of which were inhabited by fewer than ten thousand souls, and even...

  8. 2 The Barley-Wheat Sacrificial Cuisines of the Ancient Empires, 500 B.C.E.–400 C.E.
    (pp. 56-101)

    The millennium between 500 b.c.e. and 400 c.e. saw the continued creation across Eurasia of large empires. All were now based on barley and wheat, grains that were relatively easy to transport and store and that came as close as any foodstuff to providing a nutritionally complete diet. New varieties of wheat appeared, high in gluten and easier to process because the hull was not bound so tightly to the grain. New and appealing wheat products were developed. By the end of the period wheat had overtaken barley and millet as the source of calories—the human fuel—of the...

  9. 3 Buddhism Transforms the Cuisines of South and East Asia, 260 B.C.E.–800 C.E.
    (pp. 102-131)

    Beginning in the third century b.c.e., questioning of the practices of sacrificial religion and the sacrificial feast began to have an effect. One empire after another abandoned state sacrifices and adopted a universal religion (or a religion of salvation) that offered a path to salvation or enlightenment.¹ Among the most prominent of the religions of salvation, which often evolved from earlier sacrificial ones, were Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Manichaeism, Christianity, and Islam. Boundaries between the religions were frequently fluid, with crossovers between Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Islamic Sufism and Hinduism in Southeast Asia, and Taoism and Buddhism in...

  10. 4 Islam Transforms the Cuisines of Central and West Asia, 800–1650 C.E.
    (pp. 132-165)

    Islamic cuisines began their rapid expansion across western Eurasia at the time when Buddhist cuisines had almost vanished from India, were at their height in China, and were just reaching Japan. Christian cuisine, established in the first to third centuries c.e., had spread over large parts of the old Roman Empire and was the cuisine of the Byzantine Empire. I defer discussing Christian cuisine until chapter 5 because it did not spread as widely as Islamic cuisine until the fifteenth century, and when it did, it was heavily indebted to Islamic cuisine. Thus it makes sense to address Islamic cuisine...

  11. 5 Christianity Transforms the Cuisines of Europe and the Americas, 100–1650 C.E.
    (pp. 166-206)

    “Jesus took bread, and blessed and brake it ... and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and ... they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.”¹ According to three of the four Christian gospels, Jesus of Nazareth performed these acts at the Last Supper, eaten with his disciples before his crucifixion, probably in 33 c.e.

    Backtracking a millennium and a half from the preceding chapter, I now turn to Christian cuisines, the third of our sample of cuisine families...

  12. 6 Prelude to Modern Cuisines: Northern Europe, 1650–1800
    (pp. 207-247)

    The high cuisine of France, historians of food are agreed, changed dramatically in the mid-seventeenth century. As the first sign of that shift, most of them point to the publication in 1651 of Pierre François La Varenne’sLe cuisinier françois(The French Cook) and the many translations and takeoffs that followed it.¹ They are equally of one mind that two factors were central to the change: the disappearance of spices and sugar from savory dishes and the appearance of new fat-based sauces, many thickened with flour. I suggest that this was not just a French affair. It was part of...

  13. 7 Modern Cuisines: The Expansion of Middling Cuisines, 1810–1920
    (pp. 248-307)

    The years between 1880 and 1914 marked the greatest turning point in culinary history since the mastery of grains and the divergence of high and humble cuisines millennia earlier, the culmination of changes that had begun in the mid-seventeenth century and haltingly accelerated from 1810. Middling cuisines, rich in wheat bread or other preferred carbohydrate staples, beef and other meats, and fats and sugars, expanded from the bourgeoisie to two new and rapidly growing social groups: the salaried middle classes and the wage-earning working classes. These formed the majority of the population in the cities of the industrializing countries—particularly,...

  14. 8 Modern Cuisines: The Globalization of Middling Cuisines, 1920–2000
    (pp. 308-360)

    “You can find your way across [the United States],” said Charles Kuralt, journalist for CBS News, “using burger joints the way a navigator uses the stars. We have munched Bridge burgers in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and Cable burgers hard at the Garden Gate, Dixie burgers in the sunny South and Yankee Doodle burgers in the North. . . . We had a Capitol burger—guess where. And, so help us, in the inner courtyard of the Pentagon, a Penta burger.”¹

    By the end of the twentieth century, thirty years after Kuralt’s pronouncement, you could navigate the entire...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 361-392)
    (pp. 393-438)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 439-464)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 465-466)