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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.
©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jessica on 12-28-13

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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42 of 43 people found this review helpful


By SamanthaG on 09-02-13

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.

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23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Fiona on 12-07-15

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.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful


By Amazon Customer on 11-19-16

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.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Jacob on 12-18-16

good for factual entertainment and global overview

I wanted more detail and discussion on a few things and it seemed to lose focus a bit at the end. Other than that, informative and enjoyable.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Amazon Customer on 08-16-17

A wonderful series.

Once, while hopelessly lost and driving in the country, miles from anywhere, I came across a pub surrounded by dense forest and a surprising number of parked cars. We went in and found a bustling restaurant, filled to capacity. mystified, for we were hundreds of miles from the nearest city, we asked for a table. The look we received! We were told that it was usual to bookonths in advance. For a country pub? In the middle of nowhere? A table was very generously given to us, located in a far corner of the room. We scanned the menu and ordered what turned out to be the best damn meal of my life. Surprised! Absolutely. We had stumbled upon a great gastronomic secret, known to only an elite few. And what a treat! So why tell this anecdote here? Because it has to do with food, sure. But there is an analogy here, because this lecture series was also a wonderful surprise. Like that jewel of a pub, found by chance and ever after revered, this lecture series is similarly a fortunate discovery, to be treasured ever after. Do not hesitate. Purchase this wonderful series of lectures. It is so much more than what you can possibly expect. Thank you Ken, for this great and enduring gift.

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