United Tastes of America

PICKLED, POTTED AND CANNED: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World

Sue Shephard, Author, Sue Shepard, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1633-3

Before the advent of chemically preserved foods, people relied on ingenious natural preserving methods to survive winters. Shephard (coauthor, United Tastes of America), the creator of several food television programs in England, chronicles the history of food preservation in detail, from salt-cured pork, fermented soybeans (an Asian staple), fish buried in sand (in Africa and Northern Europe) and wines made from rice, to Bird's Eye dinners and freeze-dried astronaut food. Shephard argues that food preservation has been integral to human progress, allowing us to advance from subsistence hunter-gatherers to explorers and traders who can travel the globe—and even outer space. While her focus is food, other interesting tidbits emerge: in 1800, archeologists found—and consumed—a jar of honey in Egypt, then discovered the body of a small baby preserved inside. (In fact, from the Neolithic era onward, Aryans, Sumerians, Babylonians and Cretans often buried their dead in honey.) One of the book's strongest sections covers explorations. The preservation of food was vital to early explorers like Marco Polo, who needed supplies to last through long, arduous journeys. (On one American Northwest expedition in 1801, Lewis and Clark brought "193 pounds of portable soup, twenty barrels of flour, fourteen barrels of parched corn, forty-two barrels of salt pork, two hundred pounds of beef tallow, and fifty pounds of pig lard stored in whisky barrels.") Shephard's straightforward tone and accessible scholarship make for a thorough and intriguing history. B&w photos and illus. Agent, Jane Turnbull. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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Paperback - 366 pages - 978-0-7432-5553-0
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