And Other Stories About Food and Culture
Known for his entertaining investigations into culinary practice, Massimo Montanari turns his hungry eye to the phenomenon of food culture, food lore, cooking methods, and eating habits throughout history. An irresistible buffet of one hundred concise and engaging essays, this collection provides stimulating food for thought for those curious about one of life's most fundamental pleasures.
Focusing on the selection, preparation, and mythology of food, Montanari traverses such subjects as the status of the pantry over the centuries, the various strategies of cooking over time, the gastronomy of famine, the science of flavors, the changing characteristics of convivial rituals, the customs of the table, and the ever-evolving identity of food. He shows that cooking not only is a decisive part of our cultural heritage but also communicates essential information about our material and intellectual well-being.
From the invention of basic bread making to chocolate's reputation for decadence, Montanari positions food culture as a lens through which we can plot changes in historical values and social and economic trends. Even the biblical tale of Jacob buying Esau's birthright for a bowl of lentils is a text full of essential meaning, representing civilization's important shift from a hunting to an agrarian society. Readers of all backgrounds will enjoy these delectable insights and their easy consumption in one companionable volume.
"The more I cook, the more I realize and discover how the food that we eat is much more than nourishment. It is culture; it is our story as human beings, and Massimo Montanari has made it his life's mission to make that connection. Here, in this informative, intelligible, and delightful book, Let the Meatballs Rest and Other Stories About Food and Culture, Massimo shares those very stories and the resounding message that food is culture, and culture is nourished by food." — Lidia Bastianich, chef, cookbook author, television personality, and restaurateur
"Montanari's erudition is manifest throughout the book. He assiduously avoids both commonplaces and pedantry and provokes thought, thrilling anyone looking to understand on a profound level why we eat what we eat." — Booklist
"...delectable..." — Andrew F. Smith, Times Literary Supplement
"A textured, surprising, and brightly astringent read." — Ted Weesner, Jr., Boston Globe
"Thoughtful and charming. Reading this collection of his brief essays is like eating salted peanuts — you can't stop and each one seems better than the one before." — CHOW Line
"Massimo Montanari, Italy's major food historian and one of the world's foremost authorities on early modern eating practices, presents informative and amusing articles written in the best journalistic style." — Massimo Ciavolella, University of California, Los Angeles
"Letting meatballs rest before cooking them—as Massimo Montanari writes—is like letting thoughts rest: if you wait a bit, they turn out better. Therefore, the kitchen is at once a place to nourish the body and a place to train the mind. Montanari's fascinating book is a cogent demonstration of the relations between the culinary and the sociological." — Pietro Frassica, Princeton University
1. Things and Ideas
2. The Status of Foods
3. Adventures in Cooking
4. The Gastronomy of Hunger
6. Pleasure and Health
7. The Beautiful and the Good
8. Convivial Rituals
9. Table Practices and Manners
10. "Identity" Declined in the Plural
Listen to an interview with Massimo Montanari on Leonard Lopate: