Synopses & Reviews
In Near a Thousand Tables
, Oxford historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto tells the fascinating story of food as cultural as well as culinary history ecology as well as gastronomy.
At the heart of this engrossing book are what Fernandez-Armesto calls the eight great revolutions in the world history of food: the origins of cooking, which set humankind on a course apart from other species; the ritualization of eating, which brought magic and meaning into people's relationship with what they ate; the inception of herding and the invention of agriculture, perhaps the two greatest revolutions of all; the rise of inequality, which made food an indicator of rank and led to the development of haute cuisine; the long-range trade in food, which, practically alone, broke down cultural barriers; the ecological exchanges, which revolutionized the global distribution of plants and livestock; and, finally, the industrialization and globalization of food.
Near a Thousand Tables reveals what microwave families and tube-fed astronauts have in common with pre-social hominids; why India is the source of street food in Cairo and court food in Isfahan; why the name "avocado" is derived from an Aztec anatomical term.
"A bare-bones sketch of his narrative doesn't begin to convey the originality of Fernández-Armesto's examples or the subversive power of his ideas....Happily for his readers, Fernández-Armesto's dire pronouncements are offered with grace and wit....Fernández-Armesto brings a humanity, civility and excitement to serious food writing that may not have been seen since Brillat-Savarin." Betty Fussell, The New York Times Book Review
"For sheer volume of fascinating facts, this survey of gastronomic lore can't be beat....Fernandez-Armesto writes lucidly and conveys his enormous enthusiasm for his subject....[H]is erudite analysis is always engaging and accessible." Publishers Weekly
"Fernandez-Armesto brings storytelling flair and encyclopedic learning to the task and turns in a highly readable if fact-dense survey....All in all, a pleasure for foodies, and a satisfying read for students of world history as well." Kirkus Reviews
"[S]ometimes engrossing and often maddening....Near a Thousand Tables succeeds in being compact, but it drags not because of too many details...but because it lacks a cogent viewpoint. Near a Thousand Tables is little more than notes hastily conscripted from Fernandez-Armesto's reading, accompanied by underdeveloped ideas about the origins of cooking, hunting and farming." Lorraine Adams, Washington Post Book World
"Throughout the book, Fernandez-Armesto makes no secret of his opinions and presents several surprising but well-supported arguments....His well-written, thought-provoking overview of food history is recommended for academic or special libraries where there is interest in food history." Library Journal
Table of Contents
1 The Invention of Cooking: The First Revolution 1
2 The Meaning of Eating: Food as Rite and Magic 21
3 Breeding to Eat: The Herding Revolution: From "Collecting" Food to "Producing" It 55
4 The Edible Earth: Managing Plant Life for Food 76
5 Food and Rank: Inequality and the Rise of Haute Cuisine 101
6 The Edible Horizon: Food and the Long-Range Exchange of Culture 131
7 Challenging Evolution: Food and Ecological Exchange 163
8 Feeding the Giants: Food and Industrialization in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 187