Cuisine and Empire
Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world’s great cuisines—from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, to the present—in this superbly researched book. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, she shows how periodic seismic shifts in “culinary philosophy”—beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods—prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe.*
Best Book in Culinary History, International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for 2014
Praise for Cuisine and Empire
“Magnificent. Offers a compelling narrative of the rise and fall of the various culinary philosophies. . . a model example of ‘tertiary’ history, drawing together a vast range of specialized studies into a single story about global culinary geography . . . a radically counter-cultural vision of modern food politics.” (Times Literary Supplement. 2013-12-20)
“To her impressively thorough research Laudan brings a lifetime that has included practical experience on the farm, in the kitchen, and in the classroom. This means that her exposition is as lucid as it is authoritative. Her bibliography and notes bear witness to her deep learning, and her book, in its scope and originality, gives deserved prominence to a long-neglected theme in world history. It is a triumph, pointing the way to a wholly new kind of historiography that can hold its own with more familiar work on political, economic, social, and intellectual history.” G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books
“Refreshing, insightful, and well researched . . . Cuisine and Empire deserves a place at any intellectual table devoted to advancing our understanding of food. John F. Donahue, American Historical Review, December, 2014.
“Wonderful . . . There is nothing argumentative or prescriptive about her book . . . but in our current American historical moment it seems breathtakingly transgressive . . .What I appreciate about Laudan is her perspective.” Lydia Kiesling in The Millions, January 28 2014.
“A dynamic and exciting book written with the kind of crispness, concision, and eloquence that will make you squirm with delight. . . A triumphant historical synthesis.” Stuart Walton, World of Fine Wine, 2014.
“Never loses sight of the fundamental political questions that cooking and its development have posed to human society . . . setting a new standard for global culinary history.” Wendell McKay, Repast 30. 2 (2014), 16-18.
“It seems like every time you hear someone mention processed food, it’s accompanied with the words ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy,’ plus a shaking finger. Unless you’re author Rachel Laudan.” (Los Angeles Times Daily Dish 2013-10-21)
“One superb book.” Harold McGee, Author, On Food and Cooking.
“The best history of western cookery ever.” Michael Raffael. Winner, Glenfiiddich Prize for Food Writing
“Fabulous. Read it.” Jennifer McLagan, Author, Fat, Bones, Odd Bits.
“Brilliant. A page-turner. The friendly observant synthesizing guide we all have been anticipating. Thank you.” William Rubel. Author, Bread, A History.
“Reveling in this remarkable book. By the time I finish my holiday shopping CUISINE AND EMPIRE will be wedged between OED and the BIBLE! CONGRATULATIONS.” Molly O’Neill, Former food columnist, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Lifetime Achievement Award, James Beard Foundation.
“The book was the best investment I made this year. Learned (& still learning) so much from the book, with every subsequent browse through the chapters. Thank YOU, Rachel Laudan for this priceless offering!” Panfusine. Global Palate, Indian Perspective.
Rachel…I LOVE your new book! what a brilliant piece of work! Kantha Shelke, President. Corvus Blue.
*The cover picture of Cuisine and Empire, by the way, is a woodcut by the Japanese artist Yoshikazu Utagawa, created ca. 1861, just a few years after the opening of Japan to the West. I chose it for two reasons. It shows cooking and it illustrates the book’s theme that cuisines spread with expansive states or empires. The artist depicts the entry of Western cuisine to Japan with two big, bearded American men cooking on a bench stove and baking bread in a beehive oven. and cooking on a bench stove.