Eating is an indispensable human activity. As a result, whether we realize it or not, the drive to obtain food has been a major catalyst across all of history, from prehistoric times to the present. Epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said it best: "Gastronomy governs the whole life of man."
In fact, civilization itself began in the quest for food. Humanity's transition to agriculture was not only the greatest social revolution in history, but it directly produced the structures and institutions we call "civilization."
In 36 fascinating lectures, award-winning Professor Albala puts this extraordinary subject on the table, taking you on an enthralling journey into the human relationship to food. With this innovative course, you'll travel the world discovering fascinating food lore and culture of all regions and eras - as an eye-opening lesson in history as well as a unique window on what we eat today.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses
I really enjoyed this lecture series. I eating all kinds of food so naturally a cultural history of food would be fascinating to me. What I found most interesting was how food really reflected major historical changes in human history. Professor Abala was also a very lively lecturer who is obviously passionate about the subject matter and passes on that enthusiasm to his listeners. I learned a lot of great facts about where foods come from that will make me look at all kinds of foods with a greater appreciation! Definitely recommend.
Great topic. A lot of territory (cultures) covered, at times glanced at. Professor Ken Albala's kept my interest and well organised.
Professor Ken Albala is well polished and presents in an very engaging way.
I love food and felt I was comfortably well informed about most things food. A Cultural Culinary History just expanded my Universe in a fun way with an incredibly fascinating wealth of information the evolution of this most common necessity.
Food: A Cultural Culinary History is the first I've heard of Professor Ken Albala's work. And I loved it.
Pillage the Pantry
Professor Ken Albala is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject of food and culinary history. I love his tone and just how comfortable he is with a subject that effects us all whether we know how or why exactly. I'll be listening to this Series again. It was that good.
The professor weaves together the story of food, food production, cooking and eating on various peoples' culture since the beginning to agriculture to today's genetically modified foods.
One of the reasons Martin Luther protested the Roman Catholic Church's ban on consumption of animal products during lent was because the geographic region where Luther was located depended on butter as the main cooking fat instead of olive oil.
I liked everything about his presentation. Excellent story teller and educator.
A must listen for anyone who is interested in food, cooking and history.
Professor Albala is enthusiastic in his delivery and coverage of the topics. He does a fine job and covers various time periods and cultures as well as the routes foods would have traveled. While Albala attempts to avoid an Imperialistic tone, there is a hint of empire in the views he presents as he often acts as an cultural framer for present-day views on various non-white cultures. Also, he does not cover the interchange of culture and foods between Africa and Europe. He does, however, cover the Fertile Crescent, the Roman Empire, India, China, Europe the Middle East, South America, as well as North Africa. The book is as much about culture as food, perhaps more so. I would recommend it for anyone interested in an introduction to food history along with the associated time periods and cultures.
Definitely one of my favorites. I would love to hear more from Prof Albala!
He's just so darn knowledgeable. I really enjoy his excitement about food - everything is just *delightful*!
Resigning myself to the Professor's lisp wasn't hard (considering the topic), and I barely noticed it as the book went on. The professor included a lot of support history, which I found valuable, though on the general history the professor threw-in a lot of his own off-hand conjectures on human dynamics (why people were the way they were or why they did what they did), many of which I found peculiar, or, from my experience, wrong-headed.
The culinary history was first-rate, however, and some of the opulent banquets described were mind-blowing (which has inspired me to embark on a philosophical piece tentatively titled "Opulent Banquets of Primitive Mind" - for people were as philosophically clueless then as they are now). Intriguing was the Lombardian etiquette system that the European elite adopted.
The professor is extremely engaging, interesting to listen to, and full of knowledge. He does a great job at weaving culinary trends and changes into traditional history. He does assume a fairly solid background knowledge; you might be lost if you're not strong in history.
He visits Asia and Africa briefly - the touch is nice, but as he admits, it's a very shallow overview.
Unfortunately, as he moves into the 20th & 21st centuries, the lectures begin to resemble a soap box. He goes off against "so-called labor saving devices," large industries, and modern conveniences (like cans). He has good information still, but it's much harder to take in amidst all the anti-progress views.
I loved how these lectures were focused on connections...how events in history were caused and the ripple effects they had that show up in our communities and on our plates today. The first lecture's subject I found the flatest it starts with mankind's earliest history and works forward, hopping from one civilation to the next, more developed one and eventually to various continents), but once we got into the more developed societies I was totally hooked and couldn't wait to plug in at the end of each workday. Food is the means by which Ken Alba examines the development of societies and their habits-I was ignorant of the role food played in the growth of cities, countries and their politics and then in geopolitics until now. I can no longer eat without my thoughts jumping to each food's role in history. Fascinating stuff! And Ken Alba's humorous lens just added to the entertainment.
This is a comprehensive look at the world history of food. Maybe even too comprehensive. I've listened to about a dozen of the Great Courses and this might be my least favorite. Why? Because it is clearly designed to be watched. There is a cooking demonstration in nearly every episode, meaning that if you're just listening to this, there is about 5 minutes or so of dead time.
But otherwise, a worthwhile listen!
"Informative, interesting and entertaining."
I very much enjoyed this book, a good mix of facts with narrative context. Easy to listen to, informative and full of interesting information. I listened to this book for the most part with my 13 year old son. We listened to chunks at a time and both looked forward to the next section.
"Oh, dear, poor America!"
I find the last chapter particularly afflicting, the author's predictions, mainly for America, will no doubt cause a complete breakdown of society...
The course (as most great courses) is mainly US oriented, and as an Anglo-French European, I pick up so many inconsistencies, inaccuracies and downright errors (sometimes really funny: "Bresse bleu chicken" (doubtless he means poulet de Bresse, when speaking of AOC, or the fact that goat's cheese is always consumed fresh - he should try some of the hard, pungent, aged goat's cheeses in the Touraine...), the inaccuracies are too numerous to mention. The number of times he uses the expression "a whole slew of..." really gets on one's nerves. Well as you can see, I didn't like it, although I did learn a little.
I really enjoyed the delivery and enthusiasm.
Well worth listening to and highly recommended as a source of both education and entertainment
"The history of food."
A good set of lectures, for which I'm great-full as previous ones were less than engaging, which were brought alive by professor Ken Albala. All round enjoyable and reread-able.
Really interesting lectures. A bit American orientated towards the end but still relevant. Good lecture style, made them very accessible. Well worth listening too. Changed my eating habits!
"History through the lens of gastronomy"
This erudite and detailed history of culture and food both inspired and enlightened me! I cannot recommend this highly enough. I chpse this book (or lecture series as it turned out) on a whim but I have savoured the content at my leisure. It is a perfect journey companion, relax or even whilst you cook. I was delighted by the untelligent tone and range of topics. It is anthropology, science, psychology, sociology, creativity and more. Take the chance and try it...
"Enjoyable and informative"
Ken Alba, the lecturer, clearly loves the subject. Every now and then he chuckles at what he's saying and, annoying as that may sound, it's actually quite infectious and you wind up chuckling with him. Recommended.
"Made me appreciate the food more"
these lectures are written and presented with obvious zest and joy. the only change I would love to see - have an actual audience listening to it so we get human reaction to the lecture, not canned applause.
"I loved this"
I want to go east my way through history right now! An excellent listen. It will make you hungry!
"Food for thought!"
Yes - an enjoyable course
NO - the Great Courses are better taken in separate doses, as one would in a university
Good value for money - a topic of perennial interest and lots of interesting facts for someone who enjoys this type of learning
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