by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-history

Mar 5 2016

Three books about eating: 3. A Short History

This is the third book about eating I’ve been posting about.  The first two were here and here.

Graham Dukes & Elisabet Helsing.  A Short History of Eating.  The London Press, 2016.

Dukes and Helsing, married couple, English and Norwegian respectively, and friends of long standing, have produced a light-hearted, entertainingly illustrated romp through the history of the human diet, from breast milk (on which Helsing is expert) to bubble gum, based on their research into a wide range of sources, literary as well as anthropological.   The authors quote poems in appropriate places:

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman’s food,

It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.

Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good

Oh! the Roast Beef of old England.

The illustrations display cartoons, ads, portraits, and botanicals.

Here is an excerpt to give you the flavor…

Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the Revolution, is often cited—almost certainly wrongly—as having suggested that since during a famine the starving population lacked bread they should eat cake instead…But if Marie Antoinette truly did propose that the populace eat cake, what sort of cake, familiar in her royal circle, might that have been?  Modern reference sources define a brioche today as a light yeast bread with butter and eggs…A better clue…may be that provided by that infamous rascal of the day, the Marquis de Sade.  In July 1783, from his prison cell in Vincennes…he wrote a letter to his patient wife imploring her to send him: “…four dozen meringues; two dozen sponge cakes (large): four dozen chocolate pastille candies with vanilla….”

Dec 7 2012

Holiday weekend idea: visit a food exhibit!

If you happen to be in Washington DC, take a look at FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000 at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

 

Julia Child’s kitchen is the featured exhibit, but the history of the industrialization of the U.S. food supply is well worth a look.

I especially like quirky collections of food objects.  Here’s one from the exhibit:

 

If you are in New York City, you can see Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture at the American Museum of Natural History and check out the New York Times review so you know what to look for.

Also in New York is Lunch Hour at the New York Public Library.  If you can’t get there, the library has an online version of the exhibition.

If you happen to be in Switzerland and anywhere near Lake Geneva, Nestlé’s Alimentarium in Vevey has a special display of quirky collections: sardine cans, sugar cubes, and fruit wrappers, for example.  You can find it easily from its fork stuck into Lake Geneva.

Food exhibits seem to be the current Big Thing.  I’m trying to take advantage of them while they are around.  You too?