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A digestible history of foodstuffs
on 7 February 2013
2 factoids per para, one fact. Just like the Economist magazine. I love factoids. This book has a lot of them, some of them new to me but all about what we eat, not about how we eat.
Standage, a distinguished journalist for the Economist magazine (which even has an "Intelligence" Unit), describes a history of food from a global perspective. He covers the main themes, agriculture, the Columbian exchange, miracle rice and GM crops. He ignores cooking.
Cookery may not be be an invention of man. Cookery may have made man. Cooked food delivers up to 50 times the the useful calories of raw food, and our preference for wasp waists may be a consequence of this.
The author spends some pages on spices, agreed to be nutritionally trivial but historically important, since we went to war over them. He does not mention our preference for rot, such as gamey meat, fish sauces etc which may be an even more ancient preference than cookery.
About technology he has surprisingly little to say. The refrigerator made Argentina rich, the grain elevator made the Mid West viable. About the environment he is conventional but says nothing about the microwave oven which is allegedly destroying family life(but uses little energy), about the practice of cooking food for the husband's midday meal which causes huge traffic jams in India or the deforestation of some poor countries that simply need the means to cook.
This book isn't bad, exactly. It just reads as if it was written by an intern. There are better ones about, some of which I've bothered to review.