Holiday Gift Guide | Books for People Who Love Cooking and Eating

Posted in books by Editor on December 5, 2012

As you may have already noticed, this year’s Holiday Gift Guide feature has been scaled back from last year (try searching for ‘holiday gift guide’), and rather than taking up a full week, postings will appear occasionally alongside regular offerings. While the following food books are not exclusively about the eighteenth century, I think dix-huitièmistes interested in food and its history will find something to enjoy. -CH

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From London Calling:

Ralph Roylance, The Epicure’s Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London, edited by Janet Ing Freeman (London: British Library, 2012), 512 pages, ISBN: 978-0712358613, $55.

almanack0001The British Library has published a new edition of the 1815 Epicure’s Almanack, the first ever ‘good food guide’ to London. Listing some 650 eating houses, taverns, coffee houses, and inns, the original Almanack was the work of Ralph Rylance, an aspiring poet and dramatist. This new edition, edited by Janet Ing Freeman, presents his original text together with commentary on many of the establishments and on the wider subject of eating and drinking in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Fewer than 30 copies of the original book are recorded in libraries today. It was never continued nor reprinted, and lack of public enthusiasm for the guide meant that several hundred unsold copies were destroyed two years after publication. Nonetheless, scholars continue to refer to it for descriptions such as that of London’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindostanee Coffee House in Marylebone, where all the dishes were ‘dressed with curry-powder and the best spices of Arabia’, and a room was set apart for ‘smoking from hookahs with oriental herbs’.

Rylance reviewed the eateries and their menus single-handedly and on foot. His book provides an excellent contemporary view of an important aspect of Regency London life, and gives a glimpse of a bygone city, in which the oysterman at the Cock Tavern in Fleet Street busily opens shells ‘with the dexterity of a squirrel’ and more elegant eating houses display their wares in the window, including the ‘fine, lively, amiable turtle’ shortly to appear on the menu.

Larissa Zimberoff reviewed the book for The Inquisitive Eater (21 November 2012).

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From the website for the book:

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat (London, Basic Books, 2012)), 352 pages, 978-0465021765, $27.

Wilson-Consider_TheSince prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

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From Columbia University Press:

Massimo Montanari, Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture, translated by Beth Brombert (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-0231157322, $27.

appKnown for his idiosyncratic, entertaining investigations into culinary practice, Massimo Montanari turns his hungry eye to the phenomenon of food culture, food lore, cooking methods, and eating habits throughout history. An irresistible buffet of one hundred concise and engaging essays, this collection provides stimulating food for thought for those curious about one of life’s most fundamental pleasures.

Focusing on the selection, preparation, and mythology of food, Montanari traverses such subjects as the status of the pantry over the centuries, the various strategies of cooking deployed by humans over time, the gastronomy of famine, the science of flavors, the changing characteristics of convivial rituals, the customs of the table, and the ever-evolving identity of food. He shows that cooking is not only a decisive part of our cultural heritage but also communicates essential information about our material and intellectual selves. From the invention of basic bread-making to chocolate’s acquired reputation for decadence, Montanari positions food culture as a lens through which we can plot changes in historical values and social and economic trends. Even the biblical story of Jacob buying Esau’s birthright for a bowl of lentils is a text full of essential meaning for Montanari, representing human civilization’s all-important shift from a hunting to an agrarian society. Readers of all backgrounds will enjoy these delectable insights and their easy consumption in one companionable volume.

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From Bloomsbury:

Russell Norman, P O L P O: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012), 320 pages, ISBN: 978-1408816790, £25.

9781408816790Tucked away in a backstreet of London’s edgy Soho district, POLPO is one of the hottest restaurants in town. Critics and food aficionados have been flocking to this understated bàcaro where Russell Norman serves up dishes from the back streets of Venice. A far cry from the tourist-trap eateries of the famous floating city, this kind of cooking is unfussy, innovative and exuberantly delicious.

The 140 recipes in the book include caprese stacks; zucchini shoestring fries; asparagus with Parmesan and anchovy butter; butternut risotto; arancini, rabbit cacciatore; warm duck salad with wet walnuts and beets; crispy baby pizzas with prosciutto and rocket; scallops with lemon and peppermint; mackerel tartare; linguine with clams; whole sea bream; warm octopus salad; soft-shell crab in Parmesan batter with fennel salad; walnut and honey semifreddo; tiramisù; fizzy bellinis and glasses of bright orange spritz.

With luminescent photography by Jenny Zarins, which captures the unfrequented corners, the bustling bàcari and the sublime waterways of Venice, POLPO is a dazzling tribute to Italy’s greatest hidden cuisine.

Conference | Face to Face: The Transcendence of the Arts in China

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on December 5, 2012

Face to Face: The Transcendence of the Arts in China and Beyond
University of Lisbon, Portugal 3-5 April 2013

The Artistic Studies Research Centre of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon is proud to announce the organization of the international conference Face to Face: The Transcendence of the Arts in China and Beyond. The conference takes place 3-5 April 2013 at the auditorium of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

This academic event is an opportunity to promote the discussion between scholars affiliated to Research Units, Universities or Museums from Portugal, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, EUA, China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In this conference scholars will present recent research that have been developed in the field of Chinese art and its cultural and artistic exchange with other civilizations across historical perspectives and contemporary approaches in artistic creativity.

The conference programme, paper abstracts and speakers academic background, as well as other useful informations are available at the conference website.

Invited Speaker: Shih-hua Chiu (National Palace Museum, Taipei)
Keynote Speaker: Cheng-hua Cheng (Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica)

Working language: English (no translation will be provided)

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