100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le

100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le

100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today

by Stephen Le

A fascinating tour through the evolution of the human diet, and how we can improve our health by understanding our complicated history with food.

There are few areas of modern life that are burdened by as much information and advice, often contradictory, as our diet and health: eat a lot of meat, eat no meat; whole-grains are healthy, whole-grains are a disaster; eat everything in moderation; eat only certain foods—and on and on. In One Hundred Million Years of Food, biological anthropologist Stephen Le explains how cuisines of different cultures are a result of centuries of evolution, finely tuned to our biology and surroundings. Today many cultures have strayed from their ancestral diets, relying instead on mass-produced food often made with chemicals that may be contributing to a rise in so-called “Western diseases,” such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Travelling around the world to places as far-flung as Vietnam, Kenya, India, and the US, Stephen Le introduces us to people who are growing, cooking, and eating food using both traditional and modern methods, striving for a sustainable, healthy diet. In clear, compelling arguments based on scientific research, Le contends that our ancestral diets provide the best first line of defense in protecting our health and providing a balanced diet. Fast-food diets, as well as strict regimens like paleo or vegan, in effect highjack our biology and ignore the complex nature of our bodies. In One Hundred Million Years of Food, Le takes us on a guided tour of evolution, demonstrating how our diets are the result of millions of years of history, and how we can return to a sustainable, healthier way of eating.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances

by Laura Schenone

Filled with classic recipes and inspirational stories, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove will make you think twice about the food on your plate. Here is the first book to recount how American women have gathered, cooked, and prepared food for lovers, strangers, and family throughout the ages. We find native women who pried nourishment from the wilderness, mothers who sold biscuits to buy their children’s freedom, immigrant wives who cooked old foods in new homes to provide comfort. From church bake sales to microwaving moms, this book is a celebration of women’s lives, homes, and communities. Over fifty recipes, from Federal Pancakes to Sweet Potato Pie, are beautifully presented along with over one hundred images from artists, photographers, and rare sources. A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove is the shared history of all American women and the perfect gift for anyone who ever put food on the table. 140 illustrations.

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe & Michael D. Coe

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe & Michael D. Coe

The True History of Chocolate

by Sophie D. Coe & Michael D. Coe

This delightful and best-selling tale of one of the world’s favorite foods draws upon botany, archaeology, and culinary history to present a complete and accurate history of chocolate.

The story begins some 3,000 years ago in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with the chocolate tree, Theobroma Cacao, and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the Maya, and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it first became the drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffeehouses. Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made chocolate a food for the masses, and now, in our own time, it has become once again a luxury item.

Creamy and Crunchy by Jon Krampner

Creamy and Crunchy by Jon Krampner

Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food

by Jon Krampner

More than Mom’s apple pie, peanut butter is the all-American food. With its rich, roasted-peanut aroma and flavor; caramel hue; and gooey, consoling texture, peanut butter is an enduring favorite, found in the pantries of at least 75 percent of American kitchens. Americans eat more than a billion pounds a year. According to the Southern Peanut Growers, a trade group, that’s enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon (although the association doesn’t say to what height).

Americans spoon it out of the jar, eat it in sandwiches by itself or with its bread-fellow jelly, and devour it with foods ranging from celery and raisins (“ants on a log”) to a grilled sandwich with bacon and bananas (the classic “Elvis”). Peanut butter is used to flavor candy, ice cream, cookies, cereal, and other foods. It is a deeply ingrained staple of American childhood. Along with cheeseburgers, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies (and apple pie), peanut butter is a consummate comfort food.

In Creamy and Crunchy are the stories of Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan; the plight of black peanut farmers; the resurgence of natural or old-fashioned peanut butter; the reasons why Americans like peanut butter better than (almost) anyone else; the five ways that today’s product is different from the original; the role of peanut butter in fighting Third World hunger; and the Salmonella outbreaks of 2007 and 2009, which threatened peanut butter’s sacred place in the American cupboard. To a surprising extent, the story of peanut butter is the story of twentieth-century America, and Jon Krampner writes its first popular history, rich with anecdotes and facts culled from interviews, research, travels in the peanut-growing regions of the South, personal stories, and recipes.

From Hardtack to Home Fries by Barbara Haber

From Hardtack to Home Fries by Barbara Haber

From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals

by Barbara Haber

Barbara Haber, one of America’s most respected authorities on the history of food, has spent years excavating fascinating stories of the ways in which meals cooked and served by women have shaped American history. As any cook knows, every meal, and every diet, has a story—whether it relates to presidents and first ladies or to the poorest of urban immigrants. From Hardtack to Home Fries brings together the best and most inspiring of those stories, from the 1840s to the present, focusing on a remarkable assembly of little-known or forgotten Americans who determined what our country ate during some of its most trying periods. Haber’s secret weapon is the cookbook. She unearths cookbooks and menus from rich and poor, urban and rural, long-past and near-present and uses them to answer some fascinating puzzles:

  • Why was the food in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s White House so famously bad? Were they trying to keep guests away, or did they themselves simply lack the taste to realize the truth? It turns out that Eleanor’s chef wrote a cookbook, which solves the mystery.
  • How did food lure settlers to the hardship of the American West? Englishman Fred Harvey’s Harvey Girls tempted them with good food and good women.
  • How did cooking keep alive World War II Army and Navy POWs in the Pacific? A remarkable cookbook reveals how recollections of home cooking and cooking resourcefulness helped mend bodies and spirits.

From Hardtack to Home Fries uses a light touch to survey a deeply important subject. Women’s work and women’s roles in America’s past have not always been easy to recover. Barbara Haber shows us that a single, ubiquitous, ordinary-yet-extraordinary lens can illuminate a great deal of this other half of our past. Haber includes sample recipes and rich photographs, bringing the food of bygone eras back to life.

From Hardtack to Home Fries is a feast, and a delight.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

by Eric Schlosser

Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser’s myth-shattering survey stretches from California’s subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food’s flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths—from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.

Ratings and Reviews from the Librarians

Bekka rated it ★★★★★ and said, “You’ll never look at meat the same way again…”

Lorna rated it ★★★★.

Why We Eat What We Eat by Raymond Sokolov

Why We Eat What We Eat by Raymond Sokolov

Why We Eat What We Eat: How the Encounter Between the New World and the Old Changed the Way Everyone on the Planet Eats

by Raymond Sokolov

In this lively and informative history of the world as seen from the gourmet’s table, Raymond Sokolov explains how all of us came to eat what we eat today. He sees Christopher Columbus as the most important figure in the history of food as his journeys set in motion the transoceanic migration of food.

Potato by John Reader

Potato by John Reader

Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

by John Reader

The potato—humble, lumpy, bland, familiar—is a decidedly unglamorous staple of the dinner table. Or is it? John Reader’s narrative on the role of the potato in world history suggests we may be underestimating this remarkable tuber. From domestication in Peru 8,000 years ago to its status today as the world’s fourth largest food crop, the potato has played a starring—or at least supporting—role in many chapters of human history. In this witty and engaging book, Reader opens our eyes to the power of the potato.

Whether embraced as the solution to hunger or wielded as a weapon of exploitation, blamed for famine and death or recognized for spurring progress, the potato has often changed the course of human events. Reader focuses on sixteenth-century South America, where the indigenous potato enabled Spanish conquerors to feed thousands of conscripted native people; eighteenth-century Europe, where the nutrition-packed potato brought about a population explosion; and today’s global world, where the potato is an essential food source but also the world’s most chemically-dependent crop. Where potatoes have been adopted as a staple food, social change has always followed. It may be “just” a humble vegetable, John Reader shows, yet the history of the potato has been anything but dull.

Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History

by Mark Kurlansky

In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

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