Books on Food and its relation to Colonialism/Imperialism
July 13, 2016 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good books telling the story of imperialism/colonialism through food?

Since reading Guns, Germs and Steel many years ago I have been fascinated with the origins of world food, especially when it highlights untold histories of civilisation. This article on 'How the Chili Pepper Got to China' reignites my fascination.

The fact that garlic was originally cultivated in Korea, or that coffee comes from Ethiopia is endlessly fascinating to me. A book which weaves the origin story of food, and follows those foods through their cultural uptake and imperial histories would be most enlightening.
posted by 0bvious to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
You must read Sidney Mintz' Sweetness and Power. In some ways its the granddaddy of this line of thinking.
posted by drlith at 4:06 AM on July 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

My friend Sarah Lohman has a book coming out along these lines, but from a perspective of American history. The bits I've read and helped with are very much about immigration and how immigrants shape the flavors Americans grow to love. It's called Eight Flavors and comes out in December, I think.
posted by lauranesson at 4:34 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Curry, by Collingham, completely satisfies this itch. It jumps from the typical Indian restaurant menu and provides the intertwined histories and origins of those dishes. Some of the facts were quite eye opening and if it was not well documented I would have doubted. A fun read.
posted by jadepearl at 4:50 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

You might check out Seeds of Change.
posted by gudrun at 6:40 AM on July 13, 2016

Que Vivan Los Tamales is pretty good. It focuses exclusively on Mexico.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:43 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not about food, but And A Bottle of Rum explores the colonial history of the New World through the context of ten cocktails.
posted by Brittanie at 6:52 AM on July 13, 2016

Rachel's Laudan's Cuisine and Empire (also worth looking at her blog)
posted by neroli at 8:19 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sweetness and Power is a great one; another canonical work on the subject being Crosby's Columbian Exchange

Tastes of Paradise

posted by aspersioncast at 8:27 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might find Lily Cho's Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small-Town Canada interesting, but it is an academic title.
posted by synecdoche at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was blown away by Salt, by Mark Kurlansky. He also has several other books in this vein, including Cod, The Big Oyster, and The Basque History of the World.
posted by sockpuppetryarts at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

History of the World in 6 Glasses.
posted by PJMoore at 11:46 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Allison Carruth's Global Appetites is a bit more academic than some of the other texts listed here, but still quite accessible and fun to read.
posted by dizziest at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Geographers do a lot of work with this kind of commodity chain / social science / cultural history / anthropology topic. Googling for "geography food syllabus" produced book lists that include some of the books people have mentioned above, but might spark your interests. Here is one (book list is at the end).
posted by beccasaurus at 10:45 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll give qualified recommendations to:
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
- Civilization and capitalism 15th-18th century in 3 volumes by Fernand Braudel

I give qualified recommendations because "food and its relationship to colonialism/imperialism" is not the central focus of either work. 'On Food an Cooking' is more of a broad study of the history, science, and social conventions of food. 'Civilization and Capitalism' is a socio-economic history of the 15th to 18th centuries that covers a lot of topics in addition to food. It has been a while since I read either work, so I can't get more detailed than that.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2016

« Older Comic with dolphin in exosuit   |   Online courses to improve business communication... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.