Food History Almanac: Over 1,300 Years of World Culinary History, Culture, and Social Influence (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy)

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9781442227149: Food History Almanac: Over 1,300 Years of World Culinary History, Culture, and Social Influence (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy)

The Food History Almanac covers 365 days of the year, with information and anecdotes relating to food history from around the world from medieval times to the present. The daily entries include such topics as celebrations; significant food-related moments in history from the fields of science and technology, exploration and discovery, travel, literature, hotel and restaurant history, and military history; menus from famous and infamous meals across a wide spectrum, from extravagant royal banquets to war rations and prison fare; birthdays of important people in the food field; and publication dates for important cookbooks and food texts and “first known” recipes. Food historian Janet Clarkson has drawn from her vast compendium of historical cookbooks, food texts, scholarly articles, journals, diaries, ships’ logs, letters, official reports, and newspaper and magazine articles to bring food history alive. History buffs, foodies, students doing reports, and curious readers will find it a constant delight. An introduction, list of recipes, selected bibliography, and set index, plus a number of period illustrations are added value.

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About the Author:

Janet Clarkson, an Australian food historian and writer, is the author of Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year (2009), Pies: A Global History (2009), and Soup: A Global History (2010). Her food history website/blog is at


There are plenty of recent titles on the history of food, but this one has a twist—it is in calendar format. Each day of the year features food trivia related to the date, and a smattering of historical recipes are found throughout the text as well. Noted food-writer Clarkson begins, naturally, with New Year’s Day and a discussion of the many traditions and rituals found across the world. She delves into history, detailing a menu of what was served for dinner in a British monastery in 1493 to mark the day; noting that the Bass Pale Ale logo was the first trademark to be registered in 1875, after an employee spent the night outside the registrar’s office; and revealing that January 1, 1937, was the day that SPAM got it’s name, courtesy of a contest at the Hormel Mansion’s New Year’s Day party. Facts for every day of the year are given in this enjoyable and easy-to-digest manner. Recipes include the first-known published recipe for brownies (published January 7, 1896, and containing no chocolate!). Other examples of the information within include a discussion of the dispute over why New York City is called 'the Big Apple' (New York State officially adopted the apple as the state fruit on July 26, 1976); a recollection of what Lewis and Clark ate on September 1805; what patients ate at London’s Foundling Hospital on November 17, 1747 (the food served there depended on whether or not it was 'pork season' or 'other season'); and a recipe for baked crow, from September 8, 1936. . . . Casual readers and foodies will delight in the myriad of facts and figures found in this almanac. This entertaining and interesting read is recommended[.] (Booklist)

Adding to the growing body of work on the subject, this resource covers over 2,000 years of culinary history and culture in a calendar format. The work spans a range of topics such as food legislation, inventions, and scientific discoveries, as well as recipes and food traditions from all over the world in all environs and social settings. For instance, looking at March 13, the reader learns that Henry Jones received a patent for self-rising flour in 1845 and Juliet Corson opened the New York Cooking School in 1877. The strength of this reference is definitely the variety of topics discussed and the use of primary resources throughout. . . .The book also includes a list of more than 200 recipes . . . The brief further-reading list contains seven books and eight websites. VERDICT Overall, this is a well-researched collection of food facts and events organized by date[.] (Library Journal)

The books are well written and make very interesting reading. . . .The author is well qualified and has written several books on food. The paper and font size are adequate and the binding is extremely attractive. Since we all love to eat, this combination set should be in all major libraries. (American Reference Books Annual)

This enormous work of love and scholarship is a source of serendipitous pleasure. Wherever you happen to open it, random reading about the joys and history of food will be rewarded. So much to know and love in this work, showing that the act of eating is not the only pleasure food has to offer. (Merry White, professor, Department of Anthropology, Boston University)

Delightful. And nothing could drive home more clearly the ingenuity and effort that has gone into the making of food than the juxtapositions on each and every day of the Almanac. (Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History)

Janet Clarkson’s Food History Almanac is pure pleasure for history buffs and food enthusiasts alike. This collection of fascinating facts, anecdotes and recipes vividly illuminates the tastes, textures, aromas, sounds and sights of our collective human history. (Amy Bentley, associate professor, Nutrition, Food Studies, Public Health, New York University)

Packed with historic menus and entertaining anecdotes, The Food History Almanac offers a year-long feast of gastronomic miscellanea that will delight culinary historians and foodies alike. (Rachel E. Black, PhD, Assistant Professor & Academic Coordinator, Gastronomy Program, Boston University)

This is a veritable feast for the food obsessed. A trove of little known but fascinating references gathered with meticulous care. The effort to amass this information was Herculean. I want to curl up with this book and read it cover to cover right now, and then start at the beginning again. (Ken Albala, food historian, University of the Pacific)

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