Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia might not grab you with a catchy, seductive title, but it’s a new and welcome addition to the food history literature. Published by Greenwood Press and edited by two respected culinary historians — Melitta Weiss Adamson (Food in Medieval Times, Medieval Dietetics, Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe, Food in the Middle Ages) and Francine Segan (Shakespeare’s Kitchen, Movie Menus, The Philosopher’s Kitchen, Opera Lover’s Cookbook), Entertaining journeys through the tables and feasts of history. Entries, written by 64 contributors*, range from a few hundred words to over 5000, and cover 120 topics rich in diversity, including Aztecs, Incas, Baby Showers, Civil War, Russia, Restaurants, Cookbook History, Saints’ Days, Zakuskis, and so on. Just about everything is here, although a glaring hole lies where Arab cuisine should be. Nowhere is the Middle East featured as a main entry, although the index shows three spots in this almost 600-page work where the Middle East comes up: for example, mezze (which should have been a main entry, given its prevalence through the eastern Mediterranean region — after all, “Dim-Sum” exists in the lineup of main topics) pops up under the section on “Buffets;” One article represents Africa, “Sub-Saharan Africa,” while the rest of the continent receives no mention at all. Coverage of Asia includes China, India, Japan, and the Philippines.
All in all, this mostly Eurocentric work provides excellent material for readers looking for encapsulated information. Read-more bibliographies follow the various offerings. Another slightly irksome point, not big, but nevertheless valid: a listing of each contributor’s articles would make a nice addition to the contributors’ biographies listed at the end of the book.
Oh yes, money matters. This 2-volume work retails for $199.95.
[*Note: Yours truly contributed the following entries to Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia — Aztec Entertaining; Books on Entertaining and Dining, History of; Colonial Mexico; Cookbooks, History of; Day of the Dead; Inca; and Saints’ Days. It was a labor of love …]
© 2008 C. Bertelsen