cover image A History of Food

A History of Food

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. Blackwell Publishers, $63.95 (801pp) ISBN 978-0-631-17741-8

Although this voluminous compendium, mixing social and natural history, is a worthy resource, it lacks verve and narrative coherence. Toussaint-Samat, a French journalist and sociologist, is more accomplished at describing the past, such as the origins of hunting and gathering, than the uses of food today and the development of modern cuisine. The author canvasses the world but emphasizes Europe and especially France, which may interest Francophiles for Toussaint-Samat devotes more attention to foie gras than to pasta. The book contains interesting information--on winemaking at monasteries and the role of merchants in the Middle Ages--but subjects like chocolate and chilis beg for more creative exposition. Illustrations. (Dec.)