Friday, September 06, 2013

Booknote: A History of Food in 100 Recipes

 William Sitwell, A History of Food in 100 Recipes. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. ISBN: 9780316229975.

This is the kind of book I enjoy reading; it teaches you a little bit of everything. You get some history of civilization and some curious and interesting recipes along the way. The book opens with the author's introduction, which I did find helpful in setting the tone and structure of the book. It was a good way to draw readers in. The structure and pacing of the book are consistent: you get a food source, recipe, or food description from a historical source, followed by the author's commentary and writing on the history of the item and/or what may have been happening culturally and historically at the time. This goes on for the 100 food items that the author has selected. Recipes and items go from ancient Egyptian bread to modernist cuisine today. The author presents a lot of detail and interesting little stories for each recipe. A neat thing is that you get to learn about food items that you may take for granted today. Who was first to cook an item? Who was first to put together an actual recipe book? Who went on to plagiarize some of those recipes later on? Questions like that and more are answered in this book. There are some recipes you may feel up to trying out, and there are others that you can just admire and wonder how did they eat that.

Readers who enjoy trivia, historical anecdotes, and just a little bit of everything will probably enjoy this book. Foodie readers may enjoy it as well. While the book is a bit lengthy, I think it is worth reading. It certainly is a good browsing book. This will probably make a good book for public libraries, especially if they have foodie readers who enjoy reading about food and its history. Microhistory readers (and I count myself in this category) will probably enjoy this book as well.

Overall, I am giving it four out of five stars, if you ask. 

# # # #

On a side note, and this is not part of my opinion of the book. It applies to the platform I read it in (plus it covers the disclosure note I have to make to keep The Man happy). I read this as an e-galley via NetGalley, which was provided in exchange for an honest review. This draft did have some issues that affected readability, and I honestly hope the powers that be fix them in any future e-book edition. Photos, and the book does feature some nice photos, were often cut in half from one page to the next. Also, photo caption placement and fonts were extremely poor; the captions at times blended right into the main text of the book, making for a confusing reading experience. While I understand this is a galley (i.e. an unfinished proof), making it harder to read can be a little frustrating to a reviewer.

No comments: