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The Culture of Food


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Table of Contents

1. The Basis for a Common Language. 2. The Turning Point. 3. To Each His Own. 4. Europe and the World. 5. The Century of Hunger. 6. The Revolution.

About the Author

Massimo Montanari was born in Imola in 1949. He teaches medieval history at the universities of Catania and Bologna. Among his other publications are The Medieval Countryside (Turin, 1984) and Food and Culture in the Middle Ages (Rome, 1992).


A history of hunger and scarcity as well as consumption, this account of food in Europe from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, with a glance back and forward, emphasizes class and regional differences in dietary habits. A varied diet has always reflected social status, and Montanari (history, Univ. of Bologna) shows what extremes this has taken. He contrasts royal meals of many dishes with single-food diets and shows how burghers responded to hungry paupers and peasants. In addition, Greco-Roman ideals of moderation are contrasted with Germanic and Celtic ideals of the powerful appetite. There is much about meat and bread, beer and wine, which predated rice, maize, potatoes, pasta (originally a luxury food), tea, and coffee. Though one wishes that Montanari had extended his treatment to the 20th century, this remains a fascinating book that will appeal to curious lay readers as well as scholars. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.-R. James Tobin, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Milwaukee

"Massimo Montanari has sliced through the evidence of anecdotes, novellas, dietary tracts and demographic surveys to show the close and often surprising connections between food as precarious necessity and food as symbol of power, culture and social ambition." Times Literary Supplement

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