Ades, John I. ‘Vergil (Or Aeneas) et Pizza’, The Classical Journal 64 (1969), 268. A jocular one-page attempt to find the origins of pizza in book VII of the Aeneid where Aeneas and his men eat their ‘tables’ – food had been spread out on pastry bases. ‘There you have it: wheaten base – slender cakes – fateful circles of crust crowned with a mixture of food – in this case, fruit, but the dearth of pepperoni in those innocent years can easily account for this culinary felicity’. SY

Andrews, Alfred ‘Acclimatization of Citrus Fruits in the Mediterranean Region’, Agricultural History 35 (1961), 35-46. The author essentially offers a corrective to Samuel Tolkowsky’s classic study of citrus fruits: Hesperides. Andrews covers the arrival of citrus fruits in the Levant, in Greece, in Egypt and in Italy. For the last he makes an overwhelming case that citrus trees were already being grown in the peninsula by the first century AD, leaving their traditional carriers, the Sicilian Arabs, somewhat out in the cold. SY

Andrews, Geoff  The Slow Food Story This charming little volume by Geoff Andrews does an excellent job recounting the pre-history of the Slow Food movement, especially how it emerged from a highly politicized context. Petrini and his cohorts were among those frustrated with the petrification of the PCI, the Italian Communist Party, which in the 1970s seemed more interested in defending its turf and giving out jobs than in preserving cultural traditions. Several anecdotes make the book well worth it, from the description of Petrini’s visit to an ARCI club in Tuscany with its awful food, to the recounting of the historic demonstration against the McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps. My only critique, and this one a mild one, is that at times Andrews seems to be writing a paean to his pantheon rather than concentrating on history, but that’s perhaps to be understood, as Slow Food is nothing if not inspiring.  (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008)  ZN

Ball, Eric L. ‘Greek Food After Mousaka: Cookbooks, ‘Local’ Culture and the Cretan Diet’, Journal of Modern Greek Studies 21 (2003) 1-36

Barilla Company Pasta: History, Technologies and Secrets of Italian Tradition Don’t expect a straightforward hard-sell of Barilla pasta products, as this book is well-researched and full of period photos and literary citations about pasta. Though most of the book is dedicated to the modern methods of pasta production, as well as its nutritional content, there is a thorough section at the beginning that discusses pasta’s origins and history (including, interestingly enough, accounts of workers rebellions against industrialization). (Barilla Alimentare s.p.a., 2001)  ZN

Bober, Phyllis Pray Art, Culture and Cuisine: Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy. Bober’s overriding theory – that there is a link between cooking and more generalised cultural trends – can politely go stew. It is presumably right though it is difficult to demonstrate for many of the periods that the author is dealing with. However, this book, which brings together her musings on food from prehistory to the late Gothic style, makes for one of the best general introductions  to food history: and all written by a wise, opinionated and witty scholar whose love affair with food began in her mother’s kitchen in the entre-duex-guerres and continued in the 1960s at NYU with her food recreation workshops. Italian content includes a remarkable rant on the origins of pasta and the question of continuity from Roman to modern Italian cooking. Her final promise to write ‘in a subsequent volume…’ was not, unfortunately, kept. Death intervened in 2002. (University of Chicago 2002). SY

Bongarzoni, Oretta Pranzi d’autore: Le migliori ricette nei capolavori della letteratura [Authored Meals: The Best Recipes from the Classics of Literature]. Bongarzoni begins with a quotation from Joseph Conrad that, in a very real sense, she spends the rest of the book undermining:  ‘Of all the books produced since the most remote age by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion.’ Certainly she has brought together a curious and potent series of recipes for dishes mentioned by great authors from Tolstoy (raspberry icecream) to ‘Moses’ (manna!). The detective work behind this slim volume (145 pp.) stands in her having sought out credible ingredients and procedures to substantiate fleeting allusions. Italian content low – four authors out of thirty four – and surprising. So there is Lampedusa but also Comisso, Nievo and Tabucchi. (Riuniti 1994). SY

Buford, Bill Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany — Journalist-turned-soux chef Bill Buford describes his “sabbatical year” working with two of the world’s most famous chefs: Mario Battelli and Dario Cecchini (Tuscany’s co-called “poet-butcher”). The interest in the book lies in the descriptions of “Italian food”: early on, describing the work at Battelli’s Babbo, Buford has Battelli recount his own pilgrimage to Italy to find the Italian cuisine…a cuisine which resembles only vaguely what Battelli puts on the table in his restaurant. Buford’s own trip to Tuscany, and his subsequent apprenticeships with Cecchini, occupy the second half of the book. While his portrait of Cecchini is exaggerated, written to make the already larger-than-life butcher look histrionic, the discussion of the (for Cecchini, only relative) importance of the race of a cow to the taste of its meat is interesting. (Vintage, 2006) ZN

Buglione, Daniela  “Il processo d’internazionalizzazione dell’impresa: Il caso McDonald’s una strategia glocale” (The process of the internationalization of the firm: The glocal strategy of McDonald’s) In her as yet unpublished thesis, Daniela Buglione discusses the evolution of a multinational towards a more “glocal” strategy. The abstract of the paper translated into English is available in the main section of the blog. ZN

Camporesi, Piero  Bread of Dreams A rambling, at times intriguing account of peasant life in Europe. Camporesi’s uses contemporary accounts to suggest that the combination of hunger (or its constant shadow) and food that was either intentionally or unintentionally full of psychoactive substances (from wild herbs to ergot rust in rye) left the pre-industrial population in an almost constant state of hallucination. While the premise is interesting, Camporesi’s repetition and extremely long citations cause the reader’s interest to lag. Translated by David Gentilcore. (University of Chicago Press, 1996)  ZN

Canavari, Maurizio. Sergio Rivaroli and Roberta Spadoni “Positioning and Competitiveness of Producers of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena”, Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing 18 (2006), 119-138. A description of the balsamic vinegar trade that in 2006 managed to sell forty two million liters of their product world-wide. The authors examine competitiveness in the market place with a series of highly technical cluster analyses. SY

Ceccarini, Rossella. “Food Workers as Individual Agents of Culinary Globalization: Pizza and Pizzaioli in Japan” in Globalization, Food and Social Identities in the Asia Pacific Region, Ed. James Farrer. Tokyo: Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture (2010). Ceccarini highlights the fact that most studies of “foreign food” in Japan has focused on the consumer as having been glocalized and created the demand for certain food products. While this is an important part of the culinary equation, the author shifts the focus to the actual producers of the pizza, the pizzaioli (pizza-makers). Through interviews with both Japanese and Italian pizzaioli working in Japan, she discusses the creation of cultural capital necessary for pizza-making out of its “native area,” and how environmental and social constraints in Japan have necessitated a process of hybridization. ZN

Cinotto, Simone. “Leonard Covello, the Covello Papers, and the History of Eating Habits among Italian Immigrants in New York”  in The Journal of American History, September 2004, pp.497-521— As Hasia Diner has stressed in Hungering For America, her seminal book on immigrant foodways, Italian-Americans did recreate the food of their poor villages in the United States, but rather invented a common “Italian” cuisine, a culinary koine that tied them together. In his thought-provoking paper on Italian-American foodways and their functions, Simone Cinotto draws on the Covello Papers to draw a much more complex picture of, for example, the “traditional” Sunday dinner, which he suggests is an invention used to reign in the liberal tendencies that swirled around immigrant children. He further shows that food was not necessarily a natural choice around which to organize the pan-Italian identity, but one which was perhaps the least offensive and most apolitical means to do so without antagonizing the dominant wasp culture.  ZN

Crosby, Jr., Alfred W.  The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 It’s not often that an author coins a term that is then used thereafter. Alfred Crosby Jr. did just that in 1972 when his book was published. Crosby knits together the then-overlooked consequences of the biological reuniting of the East and West hemispheres. Though there are chapters on disease (including a fascinating one on the possible American origins of syphilis), the interest for scholars of Italian food lies in the part of the book that discusses the New World products taken back to Europe, the most important being potatoes, mais, and tomatoes. Incidentally it’s worth it to get the new, 30th anniversary edition of the book, in which Crosby reviews his mistakes as well as the parts of the book that have stood up to thirty years of research since its publication.  (Prager, 2003) ZN

Crotty, Patricia ‘The Mediterranean Diet as a Food Guide: The Problem of Culture and History’, Nutrition Today 33 (1998), 227-232. Crotty, an Australian nutritionist, describes the Mediterranean Diet as ‘an ersatz consumption pattern’ – the horror! She makes the obvious but important point that there are many Mediterranean diets, not least within Italy itself. She also makes the case that national diets are rooted in social realities and that they cannot easily be uprooted and planted elsewhere. A readable, sceptical overview with many references to the author’s native land. SY

Curtis, Robert “In Defense of Garum”, The Classical Journal, 78 (1983) 232-240. — Claiming that garum (the Romans’ fish sauce condiment) suffers from bad press, Curtis argues that more than likely the smell was no more offensive than modern day Asian fish sauce, or garlic, or Limburger cheese. Drawing on an extensive body of archeological evidence and clever inference, the author shows that while there were different gradations of price (as in, say wine then and today), garum was both widely available and widely enjoyed. De gustibus non disputandum est (One can’t argue about tastes), as the Romans said. An excellent article on the uses of garum and its related fish products, with a full bibliography. ZN

DeFelice, John, “Inns and Taverns” in The World of Pompeii (eds. John Dobbins and Pedar Foss) A charming essay by  in a volume dedicated to the daily life of the doomed Roman city. DeFelice discusses not only the differences in food offering at a hospitium, stabula, taberna, or popina, but also each establishments place in the Roman social context. The author cites some of the more moralistic Roman writers (e.g. Seneca) and reevaluates the purported connection between popina and prostitution.  The essay also mentions in passing that fast food existed even in the first century C.E., as many Pomepians had to eat out, not having a kitchen of their own. (Routledge, 2008)  ZN

De Lorenzo, Silvia et al., La Cucina nella formazione dell’identità nazionale, 1861-2011. The most recent volume puboished by the Accademia italiana della cucina, La Cucina nella formazione dell’identità nazionale, 1861-2011 (Cuisine in the Formation of National Identity, 1861-2011),  begins with an overview of Italian food history from the mid-1800s to the present day, including even such up-to-date topics as molecular gastronomy and its place in Italian food culture. The volume then proceeds with an in-depth treatment of each of the Italians regions and their contributions to the national cuisine of today, as well as noting where some of these traditions have been relegated to museums.  (Accademia Italiana della Cucina, 2011)  ZN

Dickie, John Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and their Food Don’t make the present reviewer’s initial mistake of taking this for a shallow popularisation. The fact is that Dickie’s book comes with attitude. First, Italian food history begins not with the Romans et alii but with the city states in the Middle Ages. Second, Italian food is urban and has little or nothing to do with idealised Italian contadini tilling the land. Dickie jumps through the centuries with alarming ease: from the possibly Arab origins of pasta to modern myth-making with a final ambivalent nod to Slow Food. And against the odds it all somehow hangs together… The only reliable AND readable narrative of Italian food history in English. (Sceptre 2008) SY

Diner, Hasia  Hungering For America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration Nature abhors a vacuum, and pop culture loves a good story. As an explanation for the pasta&pizza-dominated Italian-American cuisine, pop food historians have hypothesized a link between it and the waves of southern Italians who left Italy after unification. The thesis is that these peasants brought with them their culinary traditions—pizza, spaghetti, and dishes made from game (Chicken Cacciatore)—which then became the basis, albeit today somewhat corrupted, of Italian-American food. In her book Diner dedicates two chapters to the foodways of Italians both before and after they left for America. These chapters demolish the hypothesis that Italian-American food was simply typical dishes of these peasants, carried across the Atlantic like so much baggage. As Diner shows, Italian peasants had a miserable diet based on dark bread made from inferior grains, vegetables, and a diet extremely poor in meat and fats. The second of the two chapters that deals with Italian immigrants in the United States details the processes that contributed to this creation of this new cuisine. The cuisine that the Italians created in the United States was a combination of what they had seen nobles eat (indeed, what they had labored to produce for the middle and upper class) and the relative food abundance in the United States.  (Harvard University Press, 2003)  ZN

Franconie, Hélène, ‘Things from the New World in the European Dialects’, Food and Foodways 9 (2000), 21-58. Desperately impressive linguistic study looking principally at the various European names for maize with an attempt to establish priority and origins for these words. Franconie then attempts to apply this model to other American foods including potatoes and the turkey. Italy naturally figures. SY

Gabaccia, Donna We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans Eschewing the convenient “melting pot” metaphor, Gabaccia chronicles the evolution of American cuisine that despite culinary conservatism from both sides – the “natives”, themselves relatively recent arrivals, and the newest immigrants—was marked by a tendency towards innovation. American food is, as Gabbaccia carefully shows, not simply a sum of national (mostly European) cuisines, but rather a kaleidoscope of dishes that were half-American and half-European. The parts of the book that deal with Italian immigrants underlines this thesis: the reader understands spaghetti with meatballs as a construction of immigrants who only rarely ate pasta and almost never ate meat, the meatballs a symbol of having “made it” in the New World. (Harvard University Press, 1998) ZN

Gentilcore, David Pomodoro! The History of the Tomato in Italy Taking a page from Mark Kurlansky’s book Salt: A World History, Gentilcore follows the wandering path of Solanum lycopersicum from its introduction to Europe as part of the “Columbian Exchange” to its central place as the protagonist of Italian cuisine. Given the tomato’s current importance to Italian foodways, one would guess that it was eagerly accepted soon after arriving via the Spanish from South America: Gentilcore’s book shows otherwise, explaining that it took century’s for the “love apple” to move from its “botanical” to its cultural stage, with industrialization and new preservation techniques fundamental to the process. (Columbia University Press, 2010) ZN

Grieco, Allen J. “Olive Cultivation and the Alimentary Use of Olive Oil in Late Medieval Italy (ca. 1300-1500).” In “Oil and Wine Production in the Mediterranean Area,” ed. M.C. Amouretti and J.P. Brun, Bulletin de Correspondence Hellenique (Supplement 26), 1993. This hard-to-find article’s full title is “Olive Tree Cultivation and the Alimentary Use of Olive Oil in Late Medieval Italy (ca. 1300-1500). It’s most important finding is that the projection of present-day alimentary geography (i.e. where a food product is used presently) is problematic for a number of reasons. Grieco also discusses, in a second, smaller section, the use of olive oil as a food product, and he finds that while there does not seem to be much truth to the much-popularized “butter line,” there is a general correlation with the amount of olive oil used and income.  ZN

Grumett, David. “Vegetarian or Franciscan? Flexible Dietary Choices Past and Present” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 1, No 4 (2007), pp.450-467. While Francis of Assisi is often cited as the medieval forerunner of the modern-day green citizen, Grumett, insisting that “hagiography is alive and well in present-day Western society” suggests that this attribution is misplaced. He contextualizes Francis’ (partial) rejection of meat not only in medieval religious practice (Lent, fasting) but also in a long tradition of food abstention and kindness to animals which derives from the early Christian “Desert Fathers.” The article is interesting to students of Italian food history for its discussion of the medieval Chain of Being and classification of animal foods, as well as a few good Francis stories and some heretics thrown in for good measure.  ZN

Guttman, Naomi, and Max Wall,  “Sausage in Oil: Preserving Italian Culture in Utica, NY” in press for the Proceedings of the 2010 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery,the theme of which was “Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods.” The paper, which will soon be published in the proceedings of that conference, discussed the tradition of making sausages that were then smoked and cured in the attics of houses in Utica, a small city in Upstate New York with a large (though third-generation) Italian population. Four different families and their sausage-making are profiled, each family with a slightly different method and even different social meanings to their food preservation. What is of particular interest is the fact that while most of those involved (i.e. the families as well as the authors themselves) connect sausage-making to Italian peasant traditions, there is some mention of a conscious invention of tradition. As discussed in other posts, meat (whether fresh or cured) was not a part of Italian peasant diets. Interesting as well is the fact that the attic substitutes for the grottoes where the sausages were supposedly cured in the Old Country. A fine ethnographic study of third- and fourth-generation Italians and their traditions.  ZN

Guzzanti, Paolo, Abasso la dieta mediterranea This book purports to be the first “Diet Novel,” and it a mix of polemic against the carbohydrate-laden Italian diet, supposedly the healthiest in the world but in reality, according to Paolo Guzzanti, a recipe for nutritional disaster. The book is a mix of research on the nutritional downsides of eating lots of pasta and pizza and rice and a personal polemic, motivated it seems by Guzzanti’s personal experience with diabetes and the premature death of his father from the same disease. Those expecting a highly analytical critique of the historical veracity of the so-called “Mediterranean Diet” will be disappointed, though the book is a good starting point for an examination of the wisdom of eating pasta every day. Available only in Italian. (Aliberti Editore, 2009)  ZN

Gvion, Liora ‘What’s Cooking in America? Cookbooks Narrate Ethnicity’, Food, Culture and Society, 12 (2009), 53-76 : ‘This paper rests on an analysis of 1,309 cookbooks, published in the United States from 1850 though 1990.’ Exploration of American identity with – naturally given the importance of Italian immigration to the ‘Short America’ – high Italian content. SY

Hammond, Janice H., “Barilla SpA,” Harvard Business School, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2008. A series of four related case studies written by a professor at the Harvard Business School, the focus of which is the introduction of “Just In Time Distribution” (familiar to Americans as Wal-Mart’s “warehouse on wheels” concept) to the Barilla pasta maker’s distribution chain. The first study, “Barilla SpA (A)” is the main part, giving a background of the Italian pasta-making industry (and repeating the Marco Polo origin, underlining however that it may be myth) and the particular problems that Barilla’s old system posed to the company’s profits. Parts B, C, and D present the actual implementation of the JITD and the hurdles that had to be overcome. Combined with the teacher’s packet, this makes an excellent resource for any course that deals with food and business.  The case study series can be purchased for a very reasonable price from Harvard.  ZN

Helstosky, Carol, Garlic and Oil: Food and Politics in Italy Carol Helstosky has written this book on food policy in Italy with the exceedingly rare combination of readability and top-rate scholarship. Helstosky’s theme is Italian cuisine as a reflection of limited culinary choices. The book covers the period from unification in 1861 until 1960, though the conclusion and epilogue bring the reader up to the present day. Two of the most valuable contributions that Helstosky’s research makes is an English-language history of fascist eating, as well as a solid demonstration that what many of us think of as Italian cooking was only possible in the post-war boom era. (Berg, 2004)  ZN

Kertzer, David ‘Politics and Ritual: The Communist Festa in Italy’, Anthropological Quarterly 47, (1974), 374-389. Examination of how the Communist party managed, in its central Italian heartlands, to replace the church, in the post-war period, as the arbiter of feste. This particular study focuses on Albora on the edges of Bologna. Food making and food serving both feature prominently as befits an Italian sagra and there is also an unpleasant game involving pulling a goose’s head off – those with Anglo-Saxon sensitivities will be glad to know that in later years the goose was first killed… SY

Kurlansky, Mark Salt: A World History It’s not surprising that Kurlansky (author of Cod and The Big Oyster) can make the study of a single food commodity so gripping. With Simon Winchester-like prose, the author follows the history of salt and its use from classical times to present, using the vicissitudes of “the only rock we eat” to underline the structural changes in the European economy (especially after the “discovery” of the Americas). My only regret (and this a rather parochial one) is that while there are various mentions of salt in Italy, the Salt War of 1540 (between the city of Perugia and Pope Paul III) is not treated. I suppose if that’s my worst complaint, I can wholeheartedly endorse the book. (Penguin, 2002) ZN

La Cecla, Franco Pasta and Pizza In this charming little volume, originally published in Italian, La Cecla traces how pasta and pizza—two foods not widely eaten until the twentieth century in Italy—came to embody national identity. Both pasta and pizza are treated individually, and both are followed from the Risorgimento through the exodus of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Especially interesting is the discussion of the “creation” of Italian cuisine outside of Italy’s borders. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007) ZN

Leitch, Alison ‘Slow Food and the Politics of Pork Fat: Italian Food and European Identity’, Ethnos 68 (2003), 437-362. The author returns to the site of her doctoral thesis, Carrara, changing focus though from the local quarries to the local food speciality, lardo di Colonnata – pork fat… She follows particularly the efforts of Slow Food to defend lardo from EU legislation in 1996 and the re-remembering of food traditions in the town as lardo production is threatened. The work veers from the frankly bibliographical to the unrestrainedly theoretical and includes a good summary of the leftist background and early history of Slow Food. SY

Luconi, Stefano ‘Becoming Italian in the US: Through the Lens of Life Narratives’, Melus 29 (2004), 152-164. Useful overview of how it was that immigrants to the United States from a non-existent or barely existing country became Italo-Americans as opposed to, say, Lombard-Americans. Answers include ‘being called a wop’, ‘admiring Mussolini’ and, of course, food – ‘[even her mother] found her way back to her heritage… starting in her kitchen’. SY

Minervini, Roberto  Storia della Pizza It’s frustrating to be researching a topic, find a bibliographic reference that seems promising, but not be able to find a review of the book in question. Amazon and Google have done much to resolve this situation but it is still a problem. Those who find Roberto Minervini’s Storia della pizza listed in food bibliographies should beware. The book is very nicely printed: beautiful paper with a sepia-colored ink and delightful pen-drawn illustrations. What the book makes up in charm, it lacks in content. The same old tales about pizza’s origins are recycled, with little or nothing added. To be fair, it doesn’t seem like Roberto Minervini had accademic pretenses, but one still has to think hard while pondering how this book appears in the Works Cited sections of food histories. The book is in Italian, has been out of print for years, and is difficult to come by.  (Società Editrice Napoletana, 1973)  ZN

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History Sugar, like many spices that we now use as condiments, began its cultural life in the West on the apothecary’s shelf. Mintz traces its origins in the Far East but places most of the book’s emphasis on the European colonial period. Sugar, one of the main colonial products, was essential to the proper enjoyment of the “hot beverage revolution”: coffee, tea, and chocolate, and its industrial history (sordid as it is, as Mintz points out) is one of auto-catalytic loops between sugar and capitalism. The author’s long experience with Caribbean colonization allows him to shift to the other side of the master-slave relationship. (Penguin, 1986) ZN

Montanari, Massimo Cheese, Pears, and History in a Proverb This book takes the classic approach of the Annales school in France and applies it to a single proverb: “Al contadino non devi far sapere quanto è buon il formaggio con le pere” (“Don’t tell the farmer how good cheese is with pears”). Montanari, drawing on a wide range of popular sources, attempts to explain the evolution of the social meaning of this proverb in different historical epochs, showing how this short sentence divided classes and reflected medieval and Renaissance thought on “good to eat”. The book is a gem, not only for its analysis but for its use of historical inference applied to popular culture. Translated by Beth A. Brombert. (Columbia University Press, 2010) ZN

Montanari, Massimo Il riposo della polpetta e altre storie intorno al cibo For those of you who just couldn’t muddle through other books by Montanari (I’m thinking of L’azienda curtense in Italia), sit down with a cup of Joe and think of this as your chocolate-filled croissant. The book is made up of a number of Montanari’s reflections about food, and often these reflections take the form of a link between the past and the present. Less dense than other Montanari books but backed up by the same impeccable research and great inductions, Il riposo is aimed at an intelligent public but one that doesn’t necessarily know much about food history. An excellent first book in food history (surpassed only by John Dickie’s Delizia), it’s also unfortunately only available in Italian for the moment. (Laterza, 2009).  ZN

Montanari, Massimo The Culture of Food The publisher’s choice of title for this book is unfortunate, in that Montarnari has also published Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History, Food: A Culinary History, and Food Is Culture. One has to wonder why the original title—La fama e l’abbondanza, easily rendered in English as “Hunger and Abundance”—was not used, given the potential confusion. The book is, in any case, an excellent introduction to European food history from Roman times until the eighteenth century. While Montanari leans heavily on Italian examples, he makes an effort to extend his inquiry to all of Europe. The books lacks the dense, heavily footnoted texts of Montanari’s earlier books and is an easy read. Too bad that Montanari, a medievalist, didn’t bring the book up to the present. Translated by Carl Ipsen. (Blackwell, 1996) ZN

Moss, Sarah and Alexander Badenoch, Chocolate: A Global History Another in the Reaktion series of food books, this work by Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch looks at chocolate from Meso-American origins to twenty-first-century eating habits. Italy is only touched on very briefly – a chocolate sorbet recipe from seventeenth-century Naples – but the European panorama is impressive. The authors have no fear of wading into disputes and wielding common sense to cut through scholarly Gordian knots and highlights include Nietzche and, the demystification of the Marquis de Sade’s chocolate obsession! (Reaktion 2009) SY

Musci, Domenico Abbuffate Reali: La storia d’Italia attraverso i menu di Casa Savoia (2007 Ananke).Almost forty royal menus from the archives employed to show changing food habits in Italy from 16 April 1860, when menus were hand written, through to August of 1939, when they were, horrors, typed. Luscious illustrations and rich introductory material on Italian cooking. SY

Nash, Alan ‘‘From Spaghetti to Sushi’: An Investigation of the Growth of Ethnic Restaurants in Montreal, 1951-2001’ , Food, Culture and Society 12 (2009), 5-24. How do you measure the presence of ethnic restaurants in an important cosmopolitan centre? Why turn to the yellow pages, of course! The author, in any case, employs – after requisite methodological hand-wringing – the old telephone directories of Montreal to measure ethnic cuisine in 1951, 1971 and 2001. It is a fascinating exercise and one that nicely traces the rise of Italian cuisine in North America in the post-war period.   SY

Nestle, Marion ‘Mediterranean diets: historical and research overview’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61 (1995), 1313-1320. Efficient general overview of the Mediterranean Diet – as Nestle takes it the Cretan peasant diet c. 1960 – from the earliest times through EURATOM. Final pages consider consequences of the MD for public health both in the Mediterranean heartlands and in the United States. SY

Palma, Pina ‘Of Courtesans, Knights, Cooks and Writers: Food in the Renaissance’ MLN (2004), 37-51

Pelucchi, Claudio, Cristina Bosetti, Marta Rossi, Eva Negri and Carlo La Vecchia ‘Selected Aspects of Mediterranean Diet and Cancer Risk’, Nutrition and Cancer 61 (2009), 756-766. The Mediterranean diet soldiers on. This 2009 study  from  out of Milan with 10,000 subjects gives strong support to the idea that we might be all better off eating more olive oil, vegetables, fruit etc etc. SY

Petrone, Petronio (Ed.) Curiosa historia della forchetta This little volume (the title in English would be “Curious History of the Fork”) brings together a number of essays on the history of the fork, a sort of anthology with a collection of photos of forks from European museums. The level of writing is up and down–there’s a short excerpt from Wikipedia, as well as an essay on the origin of pasta that uses etymology to prove the Arab origins of pasta instead of the more obvious (and reliable) historical sources–but it’s a useful little anthology of a subject not often treated. Shame it’s only in Italian.  (Alfredo Guida Editore, 2007)  ZN

Pini, Antonio Ivan. “Due colture specialistiche del Medioevo: la vite e l’olivo nell’Italia padana”  in  Medioevo rurale: Sulle tracce della civilità contadina, Eds. Vito Fumagalli and Gabriella RossettiThe paper discusses the vicissitudes of olive oil and vine production in the Po River Valley from the Roman times until the late Middle Ages, much like Allen Grieco’s paper, of which it was one of the primary sources. Valuable about the Pini article though is the author’s list of sources that a historian can use to reconstruct the geography of a certain food product’s production in the past. These include medieval chronicles, literary texts (epic poems, travelogues, bourgeois sonnets), contracts, city statutes, fiscal records, and even toponymy. Pini also discusses religion’s role in both expanding (Christianity-England) and contracting (Islam-Dar-Islam) wine production, as well as the differences between ecclesiastic, noble, and bourgeois wine production. Unfortunately only available in Italian.  (Società editrice il Mulino, 1980)  ZN

Plotkin, Fred Italy for the Gourmet Traveller Plotkin’s Gourmet Traveller has become, since the first edition in 1996, the Bible for the foot-loose hedonist in Italy. As well as seventy odd general pages on eating, drinking and generally having fun in the peninsula the author has put together another six hundred on the best gelaterie, enoteche and ristoranti from the Alps to Palermo. There is something a little obsessive about Plotkin’s work – do we really want to know that the best coffee to be had at Leonardo Da Vinci airport is between gates nine and ten? But there is no other book that comes close to his achievement. And he writes on opera and healthy babies too… (2010) SY

Purcell, Nicholas ‘The way we used to eat: diet, community and history at Rome’, American Journal of Philology 124 (2003), 329-358. The author looks not at Roman foodways but rather at Romans in the late Republic and early Empire looking back at their own historical (and more often legendary) foodways: boxes within boxes, fleas upon fleas… Enjoy Roman writers – including Pliny and most prominently Varro – musing on pre-imperial Roman simplicity, where acorn-belching Romans (glandem ructante marito Juv vi) feasted on pork and roasted turnips. SY

Rebora, Giovanni Culture of The Fork Rebora explores the explosion ignited by the modern era (especially the “discovery” of the Americas) by exploring the changes in various food products in Italy from late medieval times to the eighteenth century. Despite treating these products individually (e.g. grain & bread, pasta, cheese, meat, spices), Rebora makes an effort to link them and ultimately the reader finishes the book with a more or less organic picture of food culture in Italy in specific and Europe in general.  Translated by Albert Sonnenfeld. (Columbia University Press, 2001) ZN

Redon, Odiel, Françoise Sabban, Silvano Serventi The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy Recipe books purporting to recreate medieval or Renaissance cooking for the reader are usually lacking in one or more or the following categories: a reasonable historical introduction and academic commentary, a discussion of class and meals (i.e. that recipes were usually for the rich), and an acknowledgement of the inevitable clash of tastes between a medieval food sensibility and our modern one. Luckily The Medieval Kitchen avoid all three of these traps, with its winning combination of recipes from various medieval sources (Maestro Martino appears frequently) and commentary from food scholars. A glance at the entry for “blancmange in Catalan style” shows the authors’ skill at adapting an ancient recipe to modern tastes while explaining that there was no canonical blancmange. (University of Chicago Press, 2000) ZN

Riley, Gillian  The Oxford Companion to Italian Food From “Abbacchio” to “Zuppa Inglese,” Riley’s encyclopedia, organized in alphabetical order, does not disappoint. The entries are just long enough to give detailed information but short enough to allow for casual (and always pleasurable) perusing. An excellent source for the Anglophone interested in Italian food history.   (Oxford University Press, 2007)  ZN

Roseman, Mary G. ‘Changing Times: Consumers Choice of Ethnic Foods When Eating at Restaurants’, Journal of Hospitality and Leisure Marketing 14 (2006), 5-32. An analysis of trends in modern ethnic restaurants stateside based on 825 interviews carried out in Kentucky 2002-2003. The dominance of the traditional triad of Italian, Mexican and Chinese-Cantonese is established and the author notes how: ‘Italian food in particular has become so familiar to American diners and become so assimilated that its designation as ethnic food has almost been lost’. SY

Scarpellini, Emanuela ‘Shopping American-Style: The Arrival of the Supermarket in Italy’, Enterprise and Society Vol.5 no.4 (2004), 625-668. The first supermarkets in Italy were the product of a combination of American know-how and Italian improvisation. In her fascinating history of the Italian supermarket chain now known as Esselunga, Emanuela Scarpellini shows how the modern food retailer par excellance, the supermarket, was adapted to Italian social and political conditions in the 1960s.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang  Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants This book by cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch has a subtitle “A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants” that says it all. Schivelbusch, concentrating on the modern era, traces the life histories of Europe’s favorite intoxicants (spices, coffee, hot chocolate, alcohol, and tobacco) and shows that their popularity was not universal but rather a function of both social class and economic realities. Particularly relevant to Italy is the story of coffee’s arrival through Venetian pharmacies and its sanctioning by papal bull after a brief controversy about it being the “wine of the heretics.” An excellent read, the text is supplemented by a large number of period images. Translated by David Jacobson. (Vintage, 1993). ZN

Steel, Carolyn Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives This excellent book discusses a relatively overlooked aspect of the wider food sphere: how supplying cities with food affects urban planning and the shape of cities. This summation is an oversimplification of the books content, as Steel discusses many of the contemporary, “hot-button” issues like organic food, supermarket vs. mom&pop stores, and obesity. For students of Italian food history, the discussion of the Roman conception of civilized vs. wild (the cultivated areas around a city, or ager, as opposed to the uncultivated wilderness, the saltus) and how it changed with the “barbarian” invasions is particularly valuable. (Vintage, 2009) ZN

Ventura, Valeria  Agricoltura e condizione contadina in Umbria durante il fascismo (Agriculture and the Condition of the Farmer in Umbria during Fascism) This short monograph, unfortunately published only in Italian, discusses the the plight of the small farmer in the Italian region of Umbria during Fascism (1921-1943). The title belies an attention to more than simply the state of agriculture. Ventura explores how fasciscm sought to reverse the gains of the so-called Red Biennio of 1919-1920. Absentee landlords of large tracts of Umbrian land were among the most fervent supporters of the Fascist regime, which turned back the clock on the reforms in sharcropping contracts won during that period. Ventura also discusses the intentional cultivation by the Fascist regime of the “green Umbria” identity. The extension of cultivation into relatively marginal areas (the sides of the Umbrian Apennines, marshland) was a testament not to the region’s fertility, but rather to a “long, slow, tenacious centuries-old struggle to win land to cultivate from the swamps and forests.” Ventura concludes that the sharecropping system disappeared not so much because of reform but because of technological advances (the tractor) and industrialization in the post-war period.  (Gli Annali della Università per Stranieri, 1991)  ZN

Ventura, Valeria. “Questions agraria e questione mezzadrile in Umbria…” Università degli Studi di Perugia, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, anno accademico 1976-’77 This as yet unpublished undergraduate thesis  takes as it subject the somewhat curious persistence of the sharecropping system in the Italian region of Umbria, surveying agricultural change from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. After surveying both the origin of the sharecropping system (la mezzadria) and the general economic situation in the Umbrian countryside after unification in 1860, Ventura underlines the fact that instead of the arrival of progress with the sale of ecclesiastical properties, it was the opposite: the lands were often sold only in large pieces, allowing only those who were already rich to buy them, and sinking capital in property that otherwise could have been invested in modernizing agricultural systems. Among her conclusions is the fact that despite the inefficiency of the system, sharecropping, while not giving landowners large profits, insulated them from risk. Also included in the thesis is a review of the Socialist party and how the “Biennio Rosso” temporarily changed conditions for sharecroppers while at the same time preparing the way for Fascism. For a longer discussion, see the post on the same subject.  ZN

Zannoni, Mario, Il parmigiano-reggiano nella storia This volume is an exhaustive account of the origins and production of parmesan cheese. It focuses mainly on the period from the first recorded instances of a cheese specifically denominated “parmigiano” (early 1300s, in a Florentine customs ledger) through the early twentieth century, with scant attention given to the post-war period. In a notable digression from the typical Italian books of this sort, the book is rich in images and historical maps that both make easier and complement the text. It is perhaps less than critical, published as it is by the consortium of producers of parmesan cheese, but it is a valuable source nonetheless. Unfortunately the book is only available in Italian.  (Silva Editore, 2006)   ZN