Why Food Matters

Paul Freedman

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From the author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America,  an exploration of food’s cultural importance and its crucial role throughout human history

“A rich and fascinating narrative that reaches deep into the historical and cultural larder of societal experience, powerfully illustrating the myriad ways that food matters as an essential condiment for humanity.”—Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack

Why does food matter? Historically, food has not always been considered a serious subject on par with, for instance, a performance art like opera or a humanities discipline like philosophy. Necessity, ubiquity, and repetition contribute to the apparent banality of food, but these attributes don’t capture food’s emotional and cultural range, from the quotidian to the exquisite.
 
In this short, passionate book, Paul Freedman makes the case for food’s vital importance, stressing its crucial role in the evolution of human identity and human civilizations. Freedman presents a highly readable and illuminating account of food’s unique role in our lives, a way of expressing community and celebration, but also divisive with regard to race, cultural difference, gender, and geography. This wide-ranging book is a must-read for food lovers and all those interested in how cultures and identities are formed and maintained.

Paul Freedman is Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale University. He specializes in medieval social history, the history of Spain, comparative studies of the peasantry, trade in luxury products, and the history of cuisine.

“Freedman is a master historian. Methodical and dexterous, he laces historical accounts with analysis and storytelling that informs and delights.”—Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and author of The Third Plate

“A rich and fascinating narrative that reaches deep into the historical and cultural larder of societal experience, powerfully illustrating the myriad ways that food matters as an essential condiment for humanity.”—Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack

"With wit, erudition and urgency, Paul Freedman casts a wide net across history and global cultures to show how we are defined by the food we eat—and ignore it at our peril."—Andrew Coe, author of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States

“Highly entertaining and critically astute, Why Food Matters is a serious look at the evolution of the language of food. We have to turn to history to understand how we want food to look like in the future. Paul Freedman's brilliant telling of historical and contemporary foodways—their successes and failures – provides many laugh-out-loud, shaking head, lightbulb, and aha! moments.”—Elizabeth Falkner, chef and creative director, ChEF Productions

 “Wide-ranging, surprising, and deliciously readable. Paul Freedman conveys his deep knowledge and passion for the history of food in lively, lucid prose, revealing the myriad ways we define ourselves through what we eat.”—Irina Dumitrescu, University of Bonn

“Paul Freedman combines scholarship and readability in the best possible ways.”—Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, author of Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789

“If you are convinced that food is only fuel, do not read this book. You might be upset by realizing how many personal, interpersonal, political implications are hidden in your daily meal—including the world’s future.”—Massimo Montanari, University of Bologna
ISBN: 9780300253771
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
216 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
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Spices and the Medieval Imagination

Paul Freedman

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