Food: A Cultural Culinary History : The Great Courses: Better Living

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Ken Albala
  • Series: The Great Courses: Better Living
  • 18 hrs and 22 mins
  • Lecture

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.

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- Jessica

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.
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- Doris

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses