Books on comparative cuisine/history?

Can anyone recommend a book that compares food from around the world and tracks how it developed in each culture? I’m thinking of something like Salt: A World History, but broader and possibly shallower. Maybe Guns, Germs, and Steel for food?

I’m looking for a book that answers questions like: what was Italian food like before the tomato was introduced to Europe? Why are noodles so popular in East Asia and how long have they been? How widespread is the use of chopsticks, and why don’t Thai people generally use them?

Try You Eat What You Are: People, Culture and Food Traditions, by Thelma Barer-Stein.

This is a fascinating book - amazon link - a reprint of a mid-19th Century overview of how (and what) meat was prepared around the world…

Thanks for the recommendations.

Wow. Terrific thread. I’ll be looking for You Eat What You Are: People, Culture and Food Traditions. I wonder what Deb Duchon would recommend…

Kurlansky (author of Salt) edited a book called Choice Cuts which is a collection of foodie writing excerpts from pre-Christian times right through to the 20th century, on a wide variety of topics. Lots of stuff in there regarding the contexts of various foods and presentations in various ages.

Not a “read all at once” kind of a book…more of a “snack and sample” book.

While more limited in scope than that requested in the OP this book is absolutely great in covering the subject matter:

Amazon Link to “Mediterranean Feast”

Another good book more closely matching your request would be:

Amazon Link to “History of Food” by Toussaint-Samat

This book is also available in a hardbound version as a Barnes & Noble Bargain Book.

And last but not least is the paperback version of the “Oxford Companion to Food”:

Amazon Link to “Penguin Companion to Food”

This is the exact book as the more expensive hardbound “Oxford Companion to Food”.

Also, I think you should read the reviews submitted on the You Eat What You Are: People, Culture and Food Traditions as all but one review indicates that the author is discussing information that is either 40 years old (despite the book supposedly being updated) or that the author may not have done a very good job researching her subject.

This is an excellent book on the subject

by Reay Tannahill.

Oh, and how could I have forgotten
This is one of the most interesting books I’ve read about food!

It has some very interesting and credible theories about why cannibalism is taboo in most societies but not “savage” societies (has to do with the size and structure of the society), why many people don’t want to eat horsemeat and bugs, etc.

Wow, based on the description and the reviews, this sounds like it’s exactly what I was looking for. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

And thanks Waterman for the suggestions; I’ll check out those as well as the associated links from amazon. Sounds like a trip to the bookstore is in order…

Yeah, the Tannahill is one of the best general food histories that I know of. (I’ve read a metric crapload of culinary history.)

Also check out books by Harvey Levenstein and Margaret Visser.

Calvin Trillin has written several humourous books on food and eating. Not purely factual but very, very funny and still filled with info.

I recently read his “Feeding a Yen” which among other things expounded at length on ceviche and cajun boudin.