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    Milne, Gustav 2015. The Evolutionary Determinants of Health Programme: Urban Living in the 21st Century from a Human Evolutionary Perspective. Archaeology International, Vol. 18, p. 84.

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An undertaking without parallel or precedent, this monumental volume encapsulates much of what is known of the history of food and nutrition. It constitutes a vast and essential chapter in the history of human health and culture. Ranging from the eating habits of our prehistoric ancestors to food-related policy issues we face today, this work covers the full spectrum of foods that have been hunted, gathered, cultivated, and domesticated; their nutritional make-up and uses; and their impact on cultures and demography. It offers a geographical perspective on the history and culture of food and drink and takes up subjects from food fads, prejudices, and taboos to questions of food toxins, additives, labelling, and entitlements. It culminates in a dictionary that identifies and sketches out brief histories of plant foods mentioned in the text - over 1,000 in all - and additionally supplies thousands of common names and synonyms for those foods.


‘Top of the league … there is enough in the two volumes to keep the curious happy for Christmases to come.’

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‘Anyone looking for something in the ‘oh, you shouldn’t have!’ category could do worse than give The Cambridge World History of Food’.

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‘If you have a very special gourmet in your life, this is the Christmas present for them … This book is so fascinating that you could spend a whole year dipping into it.’

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‘An essential addition to the library of any serious chef, culinary educator, or devotee of fine cuisine.’

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'… if you want to know a bit more about what you're actually cooking, this really is all about food, including its political and social history. Utterly fascinating and a most welcome gift for the sort of person who likes to delve that bit deeper into everyday things.'

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‘In a word: Wow … The World History of Food is part fascinating reading, part essential reference tool. What’s not in here doesn’t exist.’

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‘[A] tour de force. … With information that is up-to-date, a format that is easy to use and a fresh, engaging approach to their subject, Kiple and Ornelas have prepared a magnificent resource.’

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‘This treasure trove of knowledge about food is so interesting and useful that I have only one regret. I wish that it had been available earlier, to spare me (and you) the effort of tracking down hundreds of different sources now summarized here. Whether you are a cook, gourmet, or glutton, an archaeologist, physiologist, or historian, you will be browsing these two volumes for years to come.’

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‘An outstanding new reference source … The Cambridge World History of Food is a remarkable work of scholarship and is highly recommended.’

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‘A magisterial achievement. Food has long been central to humankind’s relationship to the earth, and anyone interested in that relationship will find here an endless source of knowledge and insight. The book’s perspective is sweeping, its ecological and cultural significance is profound.'

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Page 1 of 3

  • V.B - The History and Culture of Food and Drink in Asia
  • View abstract
    All the countries of Middle East and South Asia are on the spice route, which begins in Asia, with the Middle East a conduit for spices on the way to Africa and Europe. This chapter explores general features of food in the Middle East: the imprint of Islam, Middle Eastern table manners, and their basic ingredients and cooking techniques. Iranian dishes have changed little over the centuries, and many of them are somewhat unique in the Middle East because sweet and savory ingredients are often cooked together. Dishes served in Egypt constitute old and simple tradition that goes back to pharaonic times, like the melokhia soup which imparts a glutinous texture. Rice is eaten everywhere in the Indian world. It is the staple food only of the South and of Bengal, where it is boiled and served with a dahl, or perhaps with different curries and fresh yoghurt.
  • V.B.2 - Southeast Asia
    pp 1151-1165
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    A basic eating pattern common throughout Southeast Asia is a heavy reliance on white rice, consumed with smaller quantities of an accompanying side dish, most often fish, prepared with a sauce from grated coconut meat and a variety of spices. In addition to rice, Southeast Asians have eaten a variety of other starchy staples that are indigenous as well as introduced. Notable among them are yams of the Dioscorea species, chiefly Dioscorea alata, and Dioscorea esculenta, both of which are ancient plants thought to have been domesticated in Southeast Asia. Another New World staple, maize, caught on considerably more swiftly in Southeast Asia than did manioc and the potato. The dietary staples of Southeast Asians during the historical era have been primarily rice, fish and poultry. This chapter discusses nonstaple plant foods, and cooking fats and oils. Southeast Asia encompasses the spice islands, alcoholic beverages, and nonnutritive ingestants and inhalants.
  • V.B.3 - China
    pp 1165-1175
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    In modern China, cereals have been assigned the function of nourishing and sustaining life, which has given birth to the model of the Chinese meal. Climatic and geographical diversity make a variety of Chinese cuisines. In China, cooking foods and combining their flavors are thus two equally important operations. Characteristic of cooking in the home is the chopping of ingredients into uniform small pieces, followed by their rapid cooking, usually sautèing in a semispherical iron skillet or wok. China is known as the land of tea, but in fact alcohol has been drunk there longer than the brew of the plant that has conquered the world. Drinking in China is a form of entertainment and a way to shed inhibitions. Lu Yu, author of the famous Classic of Tea, who in the middle of the eighth century provided the Chinese culture of tea with its veritable birth certificate.
  • V.B.4 - Japan
    pp 1175-1183
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    Japanese cuisine has developed the art of providing side dishes to complement consumption of the staple food. The history of the Japanese diet, which is inseparable from rice, started therefore with the introduction of rice cultivation. A unique feature of Japanese dietary history has been the country's various taboos on meat eating. Dried foods for making dashi were developed essentially to add subtle and enhancing flavors to traditional dishes that consisted mainly of vegetables with little intrinsic taste. As a rule, every individual has his or her own chopsticks and a set of tableware. The first record of tea in Japan mentions an offering of prepared tea to the Emperor Saga, in A. D. 815, by a Buddhist monk who had studied in China. The modernization of Japanese food culture after the Meiji Restoration was interrupted by the rise of militarism and World War II.
  • V.B.5 - Korea
    pp 1183-1192
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    The traditional arts of cooking and presentation are said to be fundamental aspects of Korean culture; the proper preparation of food is considered a noble art as well as a science. Generally, the traditional Korean diet features three meals a day in which the foods are divided into two parts: the main dish or staple food, and subsidiary foods or side dishes. Since Korea is surrounded by the sea on three sides and has many large rivers, its supply of seafood has been plentiful and varied. In Korea, hot beverages have been collectively referred to as ch'a, or tea. Ancient sources refer to famines and epidemics, floods, severe droughts, and grasshoppers that consumed all the grain. Given the age-old problem of contaminated food and water, it is not surprising that dysentery was historically one of Korea's more common diseases, to which even members of the royal family fell victim.
  • V.C - The History and Culture of Food and Drink in Europe
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    Current interest in Mediterranean diets that has been stimulated by the unusually low levels of chronic diseases and the longer life expectancies enjoyed by adults residing in certain regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the great wealth of information provided by the Rockefeller report, interest in the health implications of Mediterranean diets begun with the work of Ancel Keys, an epidemiologist from the University of Minnesota. The European Atomic Energy Commission study revealed distinct differences in dietary-intake patterns between the northern and southern Italian regions. Evidence from dietary intake surveys and from food-balance data indicates, however, that dietary patterns throughout the region are changing rapidly, and generally in an undesirable direction. Policies designed to encourage consumption of traditional diets within their country of origin, or to promote the adaptation of traditional models to new locations, will have to address many well-defined cultural, economic, and institutional barriers.
  • V.C.2 - Southern Europe
    pp 1203-1210
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    The basic ingredients that have historically comprised the southern European diet are well known and have recently received much attention for their health promoting benefits. Also central to the culture of food as influenced by Christianity was the development of monasticism. Physicians promulgated a theoretical food system, humoral physiology, which had a profound impact on the culture of food in southern Europe. Major influence on the foodways of southern Europe derives from the social connotations of particular foods and methods of preparation. The influence of the courtly aesthetic declined in nineteenth-century Europe in the wake of popular revolutions, and the democratization of governments ushered in a similarly leveling tendency in taste. Three ideologies of food, Christian, dietetic, and courtly, reveal some of the ways southern Europeans have thought about food and indicate the kinds of considerations that entered into their food choices.
  • V.C.3 - France
    pp 1210-1216
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    The grande cuisine, a style of cooking is offered by highclass restaurants and generally regarded as the national cuisine of France. The earliest known French recipe collection is the Mènagier de Paris from the fourteenth century. Table manners also changed with culinary tastes to become standardized and strictly regulated. During the Middle Ages, everybody shared the same plate and cutlery. The founding of the restaurants was the most important step in the process of changing aristocratic haute cuisine to bourgeois grande cuisine. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the bourgeois grande cuisine was still detached from the traditions of the aristocratic haute cuisine, although not completely so, as is shown by recipes and food decoration. The conscious development of regional cuisines led to popular dishes, beverages, and often cheeses that are frequently pointed to as typical and characteristic of particular regions.
  • V.C.4 - The British Isles
    pp 1217-1226
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  • View abstract
    Once Britain was cut off from the mainland of the Continent and fishing was feasible in the clement weather of the summer, fish became a part of the local diet as meat was in the winter. The Romans raised vines in southern England and grew peaches, apricots, figs, and almonds in sheltered gardens. Fish played a large role in medieval banquets as well. An act of Parliament made Saturday a fish day so as to encourage both shipbuilding and fishing. There were various recipes for an Elizabethan fish-day salad that included herbs and periwinkles, along with white endive and Alexander buds, with whelks to garnish the whole. Beer and ale remained the most popular drinks in Britain until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when home-brewed distilled spirits took over. Since the 1950s, Chinese, Indian, Cypriot, Thai, and Mexican restaurants have grown up throughout the towns and cities of Britain.
  • V.C.5 - Northern Europe – Germany and Surrounding Regions
    pp 1226-1232
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    The northern European environment underwent drastic change several times during the Pleistocene. Reindeer herds proved to be a very good source of food for Paleolithic reindeer hunters, whose widespread presence in northern Europe is well established by excavations. During the Mesolithic, hazelnut bushes spread rapidly to many parts of Europe, as evidenced by pollen diagrams. The transition from hunting and gathering to farming in northern Europe seems to have indeed been a revolutionary process, in which none of the nutritional mainstays of the Mesolithic was incorporated into the Neolithic food-production system. Through trial and error, Bronze Age and Iron Age farmers discovered those crops that were best adapted to the environmental conditions of northern Europe. Wheat, rice, and exotic spices were transported downstream to Roman garrisons and to towns in northwestern Germany and the Netherlands. As the northern European countries have become more prosperous, they have also attracted the peoples of most of the rest of the world.
  • V.C.6 - The Low Countries
    pp 1232-1240
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    An overview of the history and culinary culture of the Netherlands should, perhaps, start with the observation that the Dutch have never succeeded in being proud of their cuisine. A moderate maritime climate in the Low Countries allowed the growing of several types of cereals, including barley, oats, and rye. By the late Middle Ages, the Dutch were also well known for their exorbitant drinking habits. Calvinism helped sustain the country during its revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs, and the great merchants who emerged as the Dutch Republic came into existence were supporters of the Reformation. Industrialization had revolutionizing effects on food and meals in the production of foodstuffs and in the organization of work and the family. World War II shook the Netherlands much more violently than World War I, and the populace experienced the distress of occupation and a scarcity of goods, even the pangs of hunger.
  • V.C.7 - Russia
    pp 1240-1247
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    Traditional Russian cuisine developed in the forest zone but was profoundly influenced by expansion into the grasslands and along trade routes. The eighteenth century was a period of change in Russian diets, particularly among the elite, as many new foodstuffs were introduced. Dietary innovations began to reach the peasantry, the vast majority of the population, only in the nineteenth century. The most important addition to the diets of most nineteenth-century Russians was the potato. Patterns of beverage consumption showed some dramatic changes in the nineteenth century. Kvas, a barely alcoholic product of bread or grain fermentation over a few days, was the basic daily drink and an important part of the diet. As in Tsarist Russia, members of the elite in the Soviet Union enjoyed a far greater variety and higher quality of foods and beverages than the bulk of the population. A final aspect of food history in Russia is mentioned: famine.
  • V.D - The History and Culture of Food and Drink in the Americas
  • View abstract
    The diversity of the natural environment in Mexico and highland Central America has influenced the development of food and dietary patterns. Before the advent of agriculture, hunting, fishing, and gathering provided the nutrients for Mexican diets. The arrival of the Spaniards in Middle America initiated dietary and cultural changes that have continued until today. The blending of indigenous and European foods and food techniques began immediately after the Conquest. The emergence of a comida novohispana, became the basis of Mexican regional cuisines. Patterns of food production and distribution were disrupted by the struggle for independence and subsequent economic dislocations. Like the struggle for independence that began the nineteenth century, the Mexican Revolution created disruptions in the production and distribution of food. The Mexican government has created several programs to counter problems of malnutrition and the negative effects of the globalization of food production and distribution. A much heralded governmental effort was the Sistema Alimentario Mexicano, a program launched in 1980.
  • V.D.2 - South America
    pp 1254-1260
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  • View abstract
    The continent of South America has been a place of origin of many important food plants. The pre-Columbian peoples of South America domesticated 50 edible plants, of which were such efficient sources of food that they subsequently have served as nutritional anchors for rest of the world. Among Europeans in South America, the most desired of Old World foods was wheat. Another basic staple among the Iberians was olive oil, which was shipped to South America for more than a century in the early colonial period. The diets of the peoples of highland South America from Andean Venezuela through Bolivia are heavy in carbohydrates. Contrasting nutritional standards and perturbations in supply add to the complexity of the total food situation in South America. Bottled beer, produced in commercial breweries started mostly by Germans, has become the preferred alcoholic beverage in South America. Of all the South American nations, Argentina and Uruguay have depended most heavily on food export.
  • V.D.3 - The Caribbean, Including Northern South America and Lowland Central America: Early History
    pp 1260-1278
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    The study of prehistoric diet and nutrition in the Caribbean is a relatively recent phenomenon. Lucayan diet can be described as consisting of inputs from five general sources: cultivated roots and tubers, maize, terrestrial animals, marine fishes, and marine mollusks. This chapter describes three diets which are proposed on the basis of data gathered from ethnographic analogy, ethnohistoric reports, ethnobiological analyses, and formal economic models. The carbon isotopes confirm the presence of three distinct diets. One explanation for these differences is that they represent changes in diet breadth through time. The arrival of the Spanish brought dramatic changes to the circum-Caribbean. The Garifuna, often referred to as Black Caribs, presently occupy the coast of Central America from Belize to Nicaragua. The best-known item in the Island Carib diet is human flesh. Caribbean diets were strongly influenced by the diffusion of domesticated plants and animals.
  • V.D.4 - The Caribbean from 1492 to the Present
    pp 1278-1288
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    The arrival of Europeans transformed the ecology of the Caribbean basin, but it did so in an uneven manner. The Taino inhabitants of the Caribbean consumed foods that were quite different from those of Europe. Caribbean gardens and orchards became much more diverse as a result of the Columbian exchange. Sidney Mintz has demonstrated that Caribbean sugar plantations, although worked by slave labor, were managed as capitalist enterprises. Diet-related diseases ran the gamut from protein and vitamin deficiencies to hypertension and lead poisoning. By 1920, when the last indenture contract was canceled, Asians had made a significant impact on Caribbean culture and cuisine. Caribbean slaves, once freed from the plantations, proceeded to form what Mintz has called a reconstituted peasantry. The Caribbean people have been relatively slow to adopt the concept of nationalism, either within individual island states or as a pan-Caribbean phenomenon.
  • V.D.5 - Temperate and Arctic North America to 1492
    pp 1288-1304
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  • View abstract
    Native North American cuisine is important to scholars for its contribution to knowledge about adaptations to tropical, temperate, and arctic environments. In North America, both cultivated and domesticated plants were grown under horticultural rather than agricultural conditions. Although domestic crops in the Eastern Woodlands were grown under horticultural conditions, this does not mean that farming was limited to temporary fields or small garden plots. The area associated with the Mississippian tradition includes most, although not all, of the Southeastern Woodlands. Mississippian cuisine included three types of resources: wild plants, wild animals, and cultivated and/or domesticated crops. A sharp contrast to the floodways of the Northwest Coast and the Eastern Woodlands were the Arctic hunting traditions developed in the far north of the continent by Eskimos, or Inuit's. A study of native North American subsistence strategies is important for the floodways in temperate environments and for an understanding of the importance that such strategies had for European colonists.
  • V.D.6 - North America from 1492 to the Present
    pp 1304-1323
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    The food history of Native Americans before the time of Columbus involved ways of life ranging from biggame hunting to sophisticated agriculture. The peoples of North America, who numbered perhaps million in 1492, dwelled in societies of many different types, with their cultures shaped by their foodways. The New Amsterdam colony, which became New York, and the Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania were two other sites of seventeenth-century colonization, both settled by peoples whose foodways reflected diverse origins. In America, the eighteenth century brought a golden age for the planters of the Chesapeake region. The first cookbook published in America was E. Smith's The Compleat Housewife, a 1742 reprint of a 1727 British volume. The increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables as well as meat and dairy products meant significant changes in the health of Americans. The Great Depression was followed by World War II, which shaped the course of world history for the next 50 years.
  • V.D.7 - The Arctic and Subarctic Regions
    pp 1323-1329
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  • View abstract
    Traditional foodways have played an intrinsic part in the daily lives of Native American peoples in the Arctic and Subarctic. The Native American groups of the Arctic and Subarctic consist of two major genetic and linguistic populations, the Northern Athapaskan Indians and the Eskimo. The majority of precontact Northern Athapaskan groups were interior populations of hunters, fishers, and gatherers, whose seasonal rounds were similar to the patterns of today. Current diets in the Subarctic and Arctic contain a mixture of traditional and Western foods. Ceremonial food use, which also features a variety of traditional and Western foods, is considered in every discussion of food and drink among current Subarctic and Arctic populations. A wide range of traditional foods, featuring both animal and plant items, is served at potlatches. A departure from traditional diets to which they were well adapted has created a frequently life threatening crisis of health for native peoples of the Subarctic and Arctic regions of the Americas.
  • V.E - The History and Culture of Food and Drink in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania
  • View abstract
    This chapter begins with an overview of African 'agricultural origins and dispersals', to borrow a title from Carl Sauer, which were not all by-products of Egyptian influences. It discusses most significant imports, food preparations and eating habits, and most widespread diet-related disorders, excepting famine. Various African communities appear to have been experimenting with yam cultivation along a wide front following the savanna-rain forest ecotone in western Africa. Africa south from the Sahara has depended upon external sources for its most important livestock. The pace of agricultural development in the Sahelian and Sudanic zones of western Africa intensified under competition and population pressure from southward-drifting livestock herders seeking respite from the ever-worsening aridity. In general, the Ethiopian food crop domesticates remained rather narrowly confined to their original environments. The chapter also describes food preparations and eating habits of African food systems. Finally, it focuses on chronic diet-related disorders: protein-energy malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, anemias, and goiter.
  • V.E.2 - Australia and New Zealand
    pp 1339-1350
  • DOI:
  • View abstract
    This chapter describes the environments of Australia and New Zealand, not only because they are notably unique but also because they were so amenable to ecological imperialism. It outlines the indigenous food systems of Australia and New Zealand. In the early nineteenth century, sheep farming for wool production became the lifeblood of Australia. Sheep reached New Zealand a bit later (1833), pastoralism expanded in the 1840s, and by the late 1850s, wool was also central to the New Zealand economy. However, it was sheep farming that firmly entrenched the ration mentality in Australian and New Zealand food culture. In both countries, crew culture was reinforced by the dominant means of cooking: an open fire, whether at a campsite or in a hut or cottage. Fast-food outlets, operated by recent immigrants, have contributed to the diversification of foodways in Australia and New Zealand. The chapter explores contemporary patterns of food and drink consumption among both the immigrants and the indigenous peoples.
  • V.E.3 - The Pacific Islands
    pp 1351-1366
  • DOI:
  • View abstract
    In the Pacific Islands great distances, distinct island environments, and successive waves of peoples reaching island shores shaped foodways, including gathering, hunting, and fishing, agricultural practices and animal husbandry, and modern food distribution systems. Agricultural production systems are closely tied to land tenure, which in most Pacific societies was, and to a large degree remains, communal. Throughout Oceania, eating was governed by taboos based variously on age, sex, marital status, pregnancy, social grouping and rank, illness, and bereavement. The role that cannibalism played in the Pacific has probably been exaggerated, and tales of cannibalism were fabricated by islanders to shock naive Europeans. With a few localized exceptions in the western Pacific, Oceania has had only two traditional drug plants, kava and betel. A great deal has been written about diet, health, and nutrition in the Pacific, with much focus on the nutritional and health consequences that have resulted from incorporation into the global economy.
  • V.F - Culinary History
    pp 1367-1378
  • DOI:
  • View abstract
    Culinary history can be part of a number of avenues of investigation, such as social history, women's history, and anthropological analyses of food habits, systems, folklore, and material culture. Culinary history plays an important role in regional and, later, national social histories, such as those of England, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. French Annales School publications on food in social history, annual Oxford Food History Symposia, and historical analyses of European food folklorists are examples. Cookbooks published by women's voluntary associations often provide obvious links between women's history and culinary history. Nutritional anthropology, considers the distances and means by which food ingredients travel over time; the origins and diffusions of processing techniques; and the routes of commercial or customary distribution of foods from sites of production to final consumption destinations. Culinary historical scholarship draws on conventional documentary sources, such as diaries, letters, and travelogues, and also on less conventional sources, such as cookbooks and anthropological data.

Page 1 of 3

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