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Publisher's Summary

Winning unanimous praise on its publication and now available in paperback from Grove Press, Much Depends on Dinner is a delightful and intelligent history of the food we eat. Presented as a meal, each chapter represents a different course or garnish. Borrowing from Byron's classic poem "Don Juan" for her title ("Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner"), writer Margaret Visser looks to the most ordinary American dinner for her subject - corn on the cob with butter and salt, roast chicken with rice, salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, and ice cream - submerging herself in the story behind each food. In this indulgent and perceptive guide we hear the history of Corn Flakes, why canned California olives are so unsatisfactory (they're picked green, chemically blackened, then sterilized), and the fact that in Africa, citrus fruit is eaten rind and all. For food lovers of all kinds, this unexpectedly funny and serious book is a treasure of information, shedding light on one of our most favorite pastimes.
©1999 Margaret Visser; (P)2007 Recorded Books, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By cristobal on 10-31-17

One of my all time favorite books

I have been in love with this book since forever. It's really what started my interest in the history of food. I know some people might find the subject repetitive or boring, but I am not one of those people.

Regarding the narration, it's great.

This book isn't exactly a page-turner, but it hits every note I'm looking for.

And also, when I can't sleep, this is what I put on. It is warm and comforting, like being read to at night when I was a little kid. I own it in paperback, Kindle, and Audible.

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4 out of 5 stars
By Leon Miller on 10-17-15

Excellent, fascinating.

What did you love best about Much Depends on Dinner?

Wonderful. Margaret Visser posits a dinner (corn, butter, rice, chicken, ice cream, salad with olive oil and lemon) and then provides a sweeping historical and anthropological view of each component. She not only provides a fascinating, even enthralling, history, but also explores the mythological significance of each food and its role in politics and even war.

What did you like best about this story?

It is so fact-rich that with another author, it might sink under its own weight, but Visser’s charming, open style pulls you along. Ice cream is not just ice cream; it’s a history of thermodynamics. Rice is not just rice, it’s the story of political organization. Corn is not just corn; it’s the rise of industrial food.

What does Suzanne Toren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Toren was the perfect narrator for this. She took what might have been a fact-heavy book and turned it into a fascinating story, pulling you along from fact to fact as if each tidbit was a revelation. She was wonderful.

Any additional comments?

Published in 1985, it’s slightly dated and should be read in conjunction with Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which takes the history and anthropology and adds a moral core. Absolutely wonderful and highly recommended.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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