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Cambridge World History of Food, The

by: Kenneth and Kriemhild, Conee Orrnelas Kiple

Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press 2000, $150.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-521-4021X & 41215-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2001 Issue: 8(2) page(s): 25 and 26

This costly two-volume history of food is encyclopedic in nature and belongs on every serious food scholar’s and food writer's bookshelf. Weighing in at twelve-pounds, both books include articles written by more than two hundred contributors living in fifteen different countries. Together, both books have two thousand plus pages that provide more than four thousand individual entries and a hundred and seventy additional essays. There is lots of information about Chinese and other Asian foods which explains why these books are called 'fuller than a glutton's larder.'

Together, they detail foods, offer food histories, give synonyms for common foods, provide country by country overviews of food, and ever so much more. Edited by Dr. Kiple and his wife, K.C. Ornelas, the pages overflow with information for every culinary palate. The eleven page article about China and its food, written by Francois Sabban, is wonderful. Read it and the many, many other items detailing things Chinese. These inclusions are so extensive that the index needs almost three pages, three columns each, just to list items relating to nutrition and health and food aspects about things Chinese.

In these volumes can learn what Chinese and other ancestors ate including their staple plant and animal foods. Read about food and drink in other Asian countries and in Europe, the Americas, the Mediterranean, and the sub-Saharan Africa. There are wonderful lists of references, chapter by chapter, a list of other sources, and a name and a thoroughly cross-referenced subject index.

For some, this two-volume set will be beginning and end; the best one-source reference in their libraries. For others, while comprehensive, they will bristle at the omissions, particularly with respect to beasts and beverages. For everyone, they expand what is known through browsing and savoring the offerings, and by devouring the bibliographies. They are a wonderful read loaded with bits and baskets of information about foods and perspectives, cultural and health. Every page is worth packing into your pot of knowledge, I like to read or reread some every day.

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