on 28 November 2000
Like The Bible, this book comes in two massive volumes printed on tissue-thin paper. Hardly light reading, but because the space devoted to each topic is of necessity, small, it's possible to dip in and out with ease. The 'World History' is largely about raw materials rather than food ingredients or processing, so those searching for information on cheese, or kefir or koumiss rather than milk, for instance, will be very disappointed. The illustrations (all black-and white) vary in quality and little thought seems to have been given to their selection. It would be useful to see what those exotic fruit and veg look like, for instance. Instead, we're treated to a barely-visible photo of a melon costing $50, and numerous pictures of dogs - including two mummified ones! Despite the inclusion of chapters on biotechnology, much of the material on recent developments (e.g. BSE, E.coli O157) is already out-of-date. However, if you're looking for a comprehensive treatment in one place there's probably nothing better.
This is an excellent two volume encyclopaedia of food, which contains every possible information on food and its history.
The first volume starts with an introductory chapter, "Determining What Our Ancestors Ate", which looks at archeological evidence, and bioanthropological analysis, in order to determine the 'prehistory' of food. This chapter is very concise and informative. The book then examines each food category in detail and discusses most raw food's origin and history. This encyclopaedia of raw materials is very easy to use and well written. For instance I was looking for the origin of tomatoes and how and when they reached the Mediterranean, for a project I am currently working on, and it couldn't be simpler.
The second volume is divided into four sections: "Food and Drink around the World", "History, Nutrition, and Health", "Contemporary Food-Related Policy Issues", and "A Dictionary of the World's Plant Foods". Each section has a plethora of well written, interesting and useful essays and references for each subject.
The massive volumes are printed on very thin paper and have very few black and white photographs. Definitely not light reading, but extremely useful and valuable, especially for someone who is involved in a food related research.