Monday, September 17, 2007

What is Ken Albala reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Ken Albala, Professor of History at the University of the Pacific and author of a new book, Beans: A History.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the story of the bean, the staple food cultivated by humans for over 10,000 years. From the lentil to the soybean, every civilization on the planet has cultivated its own species of bean.

The humble bean has always attracted attention - from Pythagoras' notion that the bean hosted a human soul to St. Jerome's indictment against bean-eating in convents (because they "tickle the genitals"), to current research into the deadly toxins contained in the most commonly eaten beans.

Over time, the bean has been both scorned as "poor man's meat" and praised as health-giving, even patriotic. Attitudes to this most basic of foodstuffs have always revealed a great deal about a society.

Beans: A History takes the reader on a fascinating journey across cuisines and cultures.
Among the praise for Beans:
"A vividly entertaining history of the humble bean takes the reader on a curious, surprising and exciting journey across epochs, continents and cultures."
--Raymond Blanc

"Who ever knew that beans were so complicated and interesting. Told in fascinating detail by Ken Albala, Beans: A History is an instructional book that reads like a novel."
--Charlie Palmer

"Here is the first biography of beans, presented by Ken Albala in vivid prose. Gut-buster or aphrodisiac, lowly legume or savior of civilization, the bean is more significant than we ever realized."
--Darra Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of Gastronomica

"Lucky Beans, who have at last found their Homer. Who knew that the history of the Western world and parts of Asia, could be illumined through the evolution of the lowly bean in its multiple forms from fava to soy? No one is better equipped than this skilled historian to wrap history, science, legend, folklore and fakelore in an entertaining narrative that delights while it informs. This is the most digestible bean dish I've ever encountered and all I want is more."
--Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn and I Hear America Cooking: The Cooks and Recipes of American Regional Cuisine

"Beans is a lyrical book. It is a tale well told, filled with unusual twists and turns, with surprises popping up in almost every paragraph."
--Andrew F. Smith, editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

"Fresh and engaging from the start ... A must have for any serious foodie."
Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific. His other books include: Eating Right in the Renaissance, University of California Press, 2002; Food in Early Modern Europe, Greenwood Press, 2003; Opening Up North America, with Caroline Cox, Facts on File, 2005; The Banquet: A History of Fine Dining in Western Europe, 1520-1660, University of Illinois Press, 2006; and Cooking in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Elizabethan England, Greenwood Press, 2006.

Visit his blog, Ken Albala's Food Rant.

Tracie McMillan interviewed Albala about Beans for Salon.

Writers Read: Ken Albala.

--Marshal Zeringue