Part V comprises a history of food and drink around the world, from the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East to recent excitement generated by the “Mediterranean diet.” It is divided chronologically as well as geographically, which invariably creates anomalies and overlap that invite explanation. Illustrative is the treatment together of South Asia and the Middle East in view of the culinary impact of Islam on both regions. Or again, because of an abundance of available authorities on food and drink in the various European countries (and their many regions), that section could easily have mushroomed to the point of giving lie to a title that promised “world history.” Thus, we have dealt with Greece, Italy, and the Iberian countries under the rubrics of “The Mediterranean” and “Southern Europe.”
For the Americas, we have two Caribbean entries, which might seem somewhat disproportionate. But it should be noted that the chapter that provides a pre-Columbian historical background for the Caribbean region does so for South America and lowland Central America as well, whereas the chapter treating the period since 1492 reveals the mélange of cultures and cuisines of the region, in which those of Africa blended with others of Europe and Asia, even though the dishes often centered on plants originally cultivated by the region’s indigenous peoples.
In Part V, alarm about the danger of the demise of national and regional cuisines is sometimes expressed – triggered, at least in part, by fast-food chains, born in the United States but now reproducing wildly across the globe from Mexico City to Moscow, Bridgetown to Brussels, and Phnom Penh to Paris. It is interesting to note how the standardized nature of fast foods contrasts so starkly with the usage of foods in an earlier period of globalization, which took place during the centuries following the Columbian voyages. Then, burgeoning nationalism ensured that although various cultures adopted most of the same foods, they prepared them differently, just as regional cuisines arose in similar fashion to proclaim a distinctiveness from the metropolis.
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