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Food: A Cultural Culinary History Lecture

Food: A Cultural Culinary History

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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Jessica WOODLAND HILLS, CA, United States 12-28-13
    Jessica WOODLAND HILLS, CA, United States 12-28-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of my top 3 favorite courses!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Food: A Cultural Culinary History to be better than the print version?

    I love the audio editions of these courses, but would love to have access to some printed materials to go along with it.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I thoroughly enjoyed all the chapters. Some of the stand outs included the chapter on how agriculture and food gathering gave rise to civilization; the section on food in Greece and Rome, and the first cookbooks; the section about food in the Muslim culture, how animals must be humanely killed and a prayer said over them, basically thanking them for sustaining humans by giving up their own life; and the section on French cooking. I really like the way he explained GMOs, making the science simple and easy to understand. Prof Albala also did a great job wrapping up the course with "food for thought," discussing what the future might bring in an world whose resources are dwindling and whose population is growing.


    What does Professor Ken Albala bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Prof Albala is an exceptional narrator and storyteller. Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He really pulls you into the story. And he has a great sense of humor. You never get bored.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Not that it wasn't riveting. It's just that it is very, very long, more than 30 hours. And it was packed with a ton of information, giving an overview that begins with hunter-gatherers, on through to the various ages and cultures, and closing with present food trends and what the future might have in store. I usually listened for 2 or 3 hours at a time and then had to stop and digest the information. I wrote down some of the names of the people and cookbooks he mentioned so that I could do further exploration later on the topics that interested me most.


    Any additional comments?

    If you love food and you love history, you will love this course. I'm a huge fan of the Teaching Company and have purchased about 20 courses from them and Audible over the years. This one ranks up there as one of my top 3 favorites.

    39 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doris 06-03-14
    Doris 06-03-14 Member Since 2015
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    "A Little Over-ambitious"

    Food: A Culinary History covers foodways from the Stone Age to the modern vegetarian and organic movements. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and Prof. Albala certainly covers a lot of ground. For me, it was a bit too much ground. At several points, I felt I was listening to a rapid-fire list of foods, as he attempted to provide as complete an overview of each culture's foods as possible. Peacock's tongues! Pickled goldfish! Gold leaf! Overwhelming detail.
    I think I would have enjoyed it more if he had talked a little less in each culture about the exotic foods the upper classes ate and picked one or two foods that each culture contributed or excelled in and talked in detail about that (as he did with French haute cuisine). More depth, a little less breadth. I've just finished the lecture series, but I would be hard pressed to remember many important details - it seemed like a flood of details, with no strong focus. He clearly knows his material, I'd like to read more of his writings, but preferably on a single topic.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 09-02-13
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 09-02-13 Member Since 2010

    SamanthaG

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    "Very interesting course"

    Wish I'd had college professors like this one. Prof. Albala was animated and enthusiastic about his subject and held my attention. I especially enjoyed the portion about food in ancient Rome and the very early recipes that still exist from there and other places a s well. His discourse puts a human face on the people who preceded us and brings them to life through the very human process of nourishment.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marjee Washington DC 11-19-14
    Marjee Washington DC 11-19-14 Member Since 2012

    An introverted excavator.

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    "What an enjoyable lecture"

    I'm a vegetarian and a foodie and I adored this course. There are so many connections Albala made that I had wondered about before. For instance, I've noticed that preparing Middle Eastern cuisine uses many of the same spices I'll pull out for when we're making Mexican food. I *just* made the connection that this has so much to do with the Arab presence in Spain. I also loved learning about the changes in diet and cooking habits from the time of ancient Greece throughout the Middle Ages and thinking about cuisines I don't normally think about, like what the Vikings ate and where in the world those foods persist.

    This lecture is a blast and I've already started to re-listen to it and use what I've learned to regale colleagues and make small talk at parties. If you love food and enjoy cooking, you'll love this one!

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    colleen ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 05-12-15
    colleen ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 05-12-15 Member Since 2017

    My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos.

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    "A history class reinvented."

    I bought all "The Great Courses" when they went on sale and this one is my favorite so far. Great narrator, interesting facts, and packed with history. Easy and engrossing listen. If you liked Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" you'll probably like this one.

    24 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 08-10-13
    Michael 08-10-13
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    "This is a fabulous lecture series"

    I have been a fan and customer of the attaching company for years. I like this format better.
    dr. Albala has a great command of history, and science. he is an expert guide to a world view of food throughout the ages. I enjoyed his lectures immensely.

    My only complaint is that the chapters are not well separated as usual for the iPhone version.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wbiro 11-04-16
    wbiro 11-04-16 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting - Includes Good Supporting History"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick 08-03-14
    Rick 08-03-14
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    "Have listened multiple times"
    Would you listen to Food: A Cultural Culinary History again? Why?

    Yes, this lecturer is very accessible - easy to listen to and draws you in. The content is rich, and I particularly enjoyed the example recipes he shared across the cultures and time periods described.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meg 07-09-14
    Meg 07-09-14 Member Since 2017
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    "Fascinating"
    Would you listen to Food: A Cultural Culinary History again? Why?

    I'd definitely listen to this again; as with most of the Great Courses, I feel that there is so much information packed into each lecture that periodically circling back for more will be inevitable.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Absolutely.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan C. Lawhorne 06-06-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Excellent history of world through lens of food"
    If you could sum up Food: A Cultural Culinary History in three words, what would they be?

    Informative and entertaining


    Any additional comments?

    An intriguing, panoramic trip through the history of the world through the story of food

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • Fiona
    12/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    France
    11/19/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Elizabeth
    12/13/16
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    "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...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Banana naan
    10/8/16
    Overall
    Performance
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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • David Brady
    7/15/16
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    "I loved this"

    I want to go east my way through history right now! An excellent listen. It will make you hungry!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • K. Pallett
    11/25/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very informative"

    I really enjoyed the delivery and enthusiasm.

    Well worth listening to and highly recommended as a source of both education and entertainment

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Teresa Cooper
    11/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kindle Customer
    Nr Langholm, United Kingdom
    7/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent"

    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!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • jon
    2/13/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Really interesting"

    One of those great audio books you can listen to while doing anything and not get bored off and drift into daydreaming

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    8/28/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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