Food: A Cultural Culinary History

Course No. 9180
Professor Ken Albala, Ph.D.
University of the Pacific
Share This Course
4.7 out of 5
118 Reviews
88% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 9180
Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

Eating is an indispensable human activity. As a result, whether we realize it or not, the drive to obtain food has been a major catalyst across all of history, from prehistoric times to the present. Epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said it best: "Gastronomy governs the whole life of man."

In fact, civilization itself began in the quest for food. Humanity's transition to agriculture was not only the greatest social revolution in history, but it directly produced the structures and institutions we call "civilization."

In every era, the unfolding of history has been intimately tied to the need for food, the production of food, and the culture of food. In all major religions, food choice has been an integral part of religious identity. The quest for spices and exotic foodstuffs led to the European discovery of the New World, as well as to the connecting of the entire globe through trade. In 1840s Ireland a single food—the potato—changed the course of history. Modern warfare, from Napoleon's conquests to World War II, was made possible by advances in food technology.

In our own times, more people worldwide now recognize the McDonald's "golden arches" than the Christian cross. Beyond feeding our bodies, food choices and ideologies express social distinctions, as well as our values, concerns, and aspirations. For all of these reasons, food offers a deeply insightful lens on human history, shedding new light on the evolution of social and political systems, on cultural interactions, economic empires, human migrations, and more. Through food culture, we see how primary biological needs have shaped all human lives through the ages. The history of food is the history of human life at its most elemental, its most intimate, its most essential. It's also a story of ingenuity, creativity, and remarkable human behavior to rival any other aspect of culture.

In Food: A Cultural Culinary History, award-winning Professor Ken Albala of the University of the Pacific puts this extraordinary subject on the table, taking you on an enthralling journey into the human relationship to food. With this innovative course, you'll travel the world discovering fascinating food lore and culture of all regions and eras—as an eye-opening lesson in history as well as a unique window on what we eat today.

Incorporating extensive study of historical recipes, food preparation techniques from around the world, and activities you can try at home, these 36 colorful lectures take you through the entire spectrum of food history, from the cuisine of ancient Egypt to the great flowering of European cookery in the Middle Ages, and from the celebrity chefs of 18th-century France to our own Zagat- and Michelin-rated restaurant culture. Along the way, you learn in depth about food production and technology in each era; the social, economic, and political factors surrounding food culture; and thinking on diet and eating through the centuries. The result is a compelling inquiry that will change the way you look at both history and food itself.

Food as a Driver of Human History

As context for exploring humanity's remarkable food cultures, you observe the integral role of food in the unfolding of civilization. From prehistory to our own era, your study includes these seminal subjects:

  • The revolutions of agriculture: Learn how agriculture arose in the prehistoric world and how it spurred the development of urban organization, political systems, social classes, militaries, and trade.
  • Food and faith: Grasp how food practices became core expressions of religious faith in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as in the Eastern traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.
  • 1492 and food globalization: Track the great trading empires of the Venetians, Portuguese, and Spanish, and the "Columbian exchange," where plants and animals from five continents were transplanted across the world.
  • Coffee, tea, sugar, and slaves: Discover how the trade in a group of superfluous luxury items in the era of European colonialism altered the focus of the global economy.
  • Eating in the Industrial Revolution: Learn how capital-intensive, mass food production in the Industrial Revolution forever changed human diet and nutrition.
  • Big business and food imperialism: Observe the vast industrialization of food production in the late 19th and 20th centuries; its economic and human consequences; and the ideologies, movements, and practices that arose to oppose it.   

A Global Richness of Culinary Cultures

At the heart of the course, you delve deeply into classic food traditions around the world. Among civilizations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, your inquiry highlights these traditions: 

  • Status and ritual in ancient Rome: Learn how Roman food reflected social rank, wealth, and sophistication, and investigate the dining habits of the upwardly mobile as well as the gastronomic eccentricities of the emperor Heliogabalus.
  • The exquisite flavors of medieval Islamic cuisine: In a culture with no injunction against pleasure, learn how the medieval Muslims' sensual dishes—richly spiced, colored, or perfumed—reflected visions of a paradise on earth.
  • Aztec food culture: In this unique New World tradition, discover the Aztec way of life—the indigenous foodstuffs, eating rituals, and "signature" foods, from chilies to chocolate.
  • Sumptuous dining in the Renaissance: Study the sophistication and complexity of Renaissance-era food culture in the writings of Platina, Ficino, and Messisbugo, and witness the extravagance of banquets at the court of Ferrara.  
  • The genesis of French haute cuisine: Grasp the aesthetics of French 17th-century cookery, based in refinement and pureness of flavors and study four Gallic cookbooks that revolutionized culinary history.
  • "Scientific" cooking in the 21st century: In our own diverse era, encounter the phenomenon of "molecular gastronomy"—technology-enhanced food creations designed to titillate and amaze the palate.

A Colorful and Diverse Learning Experience

Expanding on the lectures and in-studio demonstrations of food preparation techniques, the course guidebook presents a series of 39 hands-on activities—where you can learn how to make everything from Egyptian beer to Elizabethan "Chickin Pye"—that give you direct experience of how people cooked, ate, and thought about food in past eras. You also practice medieval eating rituals, track the rich evocation of food in art, and immerse yourself in the poetic ambiance of classic Japanese dining.

Across the span of the centuries you sample important food writing from many cultures, from the world’s first surviving recipes written in cuneiform to the lavish dishes of Apicius of Rome, and from the classic medieval cookbooks of Taillevent and Chiquart to the 19th-century Guide Culinaire by Escoffier.

And, throughout the series, the lectures pulsate with surprising and intriguing details of the human adventure with food:

  • Dinner knives with rounded tips were developed to reduce the threat of violence at the table.
  • The English word "dinner," from the Latin disjejunare, literally means "break-fast."   
  • The banana, which we know as a single fruit, actually exists in hundreds of diverse varieties.
  • The world's first restaurant-based food culture was Edo-era Japan.
  • The separation of sweet and savory flavors that we know today is relatively recent historically. Before the 16th century, meat and fish were often cooked with sugar, fruit, and syrups.
  • The Middle Ages produced some of history's most outlandish and theatrical presentations of food, such as gilded boars' heads; "invented" creatures, mixing parts of different animals; and cooked peacocks spewing flames.

Food: A Cultural Culinary History offers you an insightful and startlingly different view of our civilization that you won't find anywhere else, revealing the development of societies and cultures through the single factor that has driven human life more than any other. In the process, you discover the stunning richness of world cultures as seen in their distinctive food traditions, and greatly broaden your own enjoyment of fine food.

Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Hunting, Gathering, and Stone Age Cooking
    Consider food as a major catalyst in human history, and what food choices reveal about our values and ambitions. Then study food culture in prehistoric times—our ancestors’ wide-ranging diet of everything from mammoths and seafood to acorns, insects, seeds, and grasses—and the ways in which how they ate directly drove evolution. x
  • 2
    What Early Agriculturalists Ate
    The transition to agriculture was perhaps humanity’s single greatest social revolution, with mixed results. Explore the factors surrounding the rise of agriculture, how plants and animals were domesticated, and why agriculture directly led to civilization as we know it. Learn how the menu of foods favored by agricultural societies came about. x
  • 3
    Egypt and the Gift of the Nile
    Ancient Egypt’s prosperity, court culture, and isolation from conflict led to a sophisticated food tradition and the first “elite” cuisine. Study the archaeological evidence of their food customs, the religious significance of foodstuffs and animals, and the components of their cuisine, encompassing grains, wine, bread, numerous vegetables, and wild game. x
  • 4
    Ancient Judea—From Eden to Kosher Laws
    Practices regarding food were deeply integral to the lives of the ancient Hebrews. Explore prescriptions regarding food in Genesis, and consider that the Fall itself was an act of eating. Then learn about the Hebrew rituals and meaning of sacrifice, and note the Hebrews’ complex food prohibitions, rooted in what was considered clean and unclean. x
  • 5
    Classical Greece—Wine, Olive Oil, and Trade
    Grasp how the ancient Greeks’ need for arable land led to their imperial and mercantile system, and consider what we learn about their food culture from Homer, Hesiod, Pythagoras, and Plato. Observe the role of food in the rituals of festivals, religious cults, and symposia, and study simple components of the classical Greek diet that later influenced the rest of the world. x
  • 6
    The Alexandrian Exchange and the Four Humors
    Alexander’s conquests heralded an era where previously unconnected cultures mixed on a large scale. Trace the diffusion of foodstuffs over vast trade networks in the Hellenistic period. Study early dietary regimens based in Galen’s famous theory of the body’s “humors,” and the influence on food culture of philosophical schools such as the Stoics and Epicureans. x
  • 7
    Ancient India—Sacred Cows and Ayurveda
    Ancient India gave birth to culinary traditions that still carry wide influence. Learn about the culture of the Aryans, whose religion prefigured Hinduism; food customs relating to caste; and the traditions of vegetarianism in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Also study the dietetic system of Ayurvedic medicine and the components of Indian cuisine. x
  • 8
    Yin and Yang of Classical Chinese Cuisine
    Chinese culture produced what is arguably the most complex, sophisticated, and varied culinary tradition on earth. Trace the rise of civilization in China from the Hsia to the Han dynasty, the social and technological factors underlying China’s elaborate food traditions, and the role of Taoist thought and Chinese medicine in diet. x
  • 9
    Dining in Republican and Imperial Rome
    Here, delve into intriguing contrasts in the dining habits of the ancient Romans. From the simple food customs of republican Rome, follow the expanding empire and how exotic food became a status symbol. Examine a cookbook aimed at those eager to flaunt their wealth, see how the satirist Juvenal responded, and witness the bizarre gastronomic decadence of the late empire. x
  • 10
    Early Christianity—Food Rituals and Asceticism
    Food and its symbolism played a distinct role in the development of Christianity. Observe the role of food in Jesus’s parables and miracles, as well as in the ritual of the Eucharist. Learn about early Christian and monastic dietary prescriptions, practices regarding ritual fasting, and the significance of purification through self-denial. x
  • 11
    Europe's Dark Ages and Charlemagne
    The fall of Rome and the rise of Germanic tribal kingdoms brought marked culinary changes to Europe. Study the “barbarian” diet and the culture of “fast and feast” rooted in the opposing ideals of Christian asceticism, meat-eating virility, and classical moderation. Trace Charlemagne’s dynamic rule and his impact on food culture. x
  • 12
    Islam—A Thousand and One Nights of Cooking
    The rise of Islam brought a new way of thinking about food. Contemplate the Muslim cultural values that permitted pleasure, the cultivation of the senses, and the creation of an exquisite cuisine. Study Islamic eating rituals and Persian-influenced culinary techniques, such as perfuming food and cooking meat with sweets. x
  • 13
    Carnival in the High Middle Ages
    In the wake of the Crusades, learn about the great innovations in medieval cooking spurred by contact with Islamic civilization, based in the sophisticated use of exotic spices and herbs. Trace the food rituals and exuberant indulgence of Carnival, and grasp the symbolism of outlandish folktales relating to food. x
  • 14
    International Gothic Cuisine
    Ironically, the plague in 14th-century Europe produced societal shifts that led to a resplendent era in food. Assess the influence of three seminal cookbooks and the craze for spices and sugar in the flourishing of “Gothic” cuisine. Study specific recipes, cooking techniques, and the culture of medieval court banquets. x
  • 15
    A Renaissance in the Kitchen
    The Italian Renaissance brought a new aesthetic approach to cookery, featuring great complexity of presentation. Uncover some of the era’s extremes in books by food writers Platina, Ficino, and Messisbugo, and note connections with the self-conscious sophistication of Mannerist painting. Study menus and recipes from the staggeringly elaborate banquets of the court of Ferrara. x
  • 16
    Aztecs and the Roots of Mexican Cooking
    Contemporary with the European Renaissance, Aztec culture produced a unique food tradition that survives today in Mexican cuisine. Learn first about Aztec society, its indigenous foodstuffs, and distinctive diet. Also study descriptions of lavish Aztec banquets; “signature” foods, from avocados, beans, and chilies to chocolate and maize; and the Aztec philosophy of balance and moderation in eating. x
  • 17
    1492—Globalization and Fusion Cuisines
    Humanity’s desire for spices and other luxury items eventually connected the entire globe. Track the powerful trading empires of the Venetians and Portuguese, the Spanish conquest of the New World, and the “Columbian exchange”—where plants and animals from five continents were globally transplanted, changing eating habits around the world. x
  • 18
    16th-Century Manners and Reformation Diets
    Across Europe in the 1500s, witness new dynamics in culture that brought the use of cutlery, elaborate tableware, ritualized behavior at table, and food ideologies distinct from courtly fashions. Also observe the effects of the religious Reformations on eating habits, seen in new dietary freedoms, fasting practices, and moralistic thinking about food. x
  • 19
    Papal Rome and the Spanish Golden Age
    Here, explore the rise of distinct regional and national cuisines, focusing on Italy and Spain. Review the monumental culinary writings of Bartolomeo Scappi, bringing together specialty dishes from all of Italy. Then study excerpts from two classic books of Spanish cookery as they vividly evoke Spain’s rich food culture. x
  • 20
    The Birth of French Haute Cuisine
    In the mid-17th century, France assumed a preeminent position in the art of cooking. Here, grasp the aesthetics of the new French cuisine, based in subtlety, refinement, and pureness of flavors. Discuss four French cookbooks that revolutionized culinary history and set the context for a variety of cuisines that follow. x
  • 21
    Elizabethan England, Puritans, Country Food
    English cookery’s unflattering reputation conceals a rich and varied culinary past. Consider the religious and political factors that produced a “schizophrenic” gastronomy, contrasting native and foreign influences, courtly and country cooking. Learn about the wide range of British foodstuffs, and compare recipes using odd, baroque embellishments with ideologies promoting simple, traditional fare. x
  • 22
    Dutch Treat—Coffee, Tea, Sugar, Tobacco
    The 17th and 18th centuries saw the rise of European colonial empires, where trade in exotic foods abetted slavery and forced labor. Follow the conquests of the Dutch, British, and French, and grasp how the trade in a group of entirely superfluous luxury items changed the focus of the global economy. x
  • 23
    African and Aboriginal Cuisines
    In this lecture, learn first about distinctive African foodways that predated extensive outside contact, encompassing traditions such as rich stews and “fufu” (starch-based porridges), regional eating rituals, and important indigenous foodstuffs. Then review the surprising variety of Australian plant and animal species used in aboriginal cookery but never adopted by European settlers. x
  • 24
    Edo, Japan—Samurai Dining and Zen Aesthetics
    Contemplate the traditional Japanese reverence for nature as reflected in their respect for the natural flavors of all foods. Study the elements of Japan’s refined and elegant cuisine, the origins of sushi, and the aesthetics of ritualized manners, decoration, and presentation in the world’s first restaurant-based food culture. x
  • 25
    Colonial Cookery in North America
    Eating habits in the American colonies incorporated a wide variety of cultural influences. Contrast the culinary fashions of Virginia, modeled on the English gentry, with the mercantile, Puritan ethic of New England; the varied foodways of the Dutch settlers, Germans, Quakers, and Quebecois; and the unique cuisine of Louisiana. x
  • 26
    Eating in the Early Industrial Revolution
    The Industrial Revolution brought far-reaching changes in food production and culture. In the British Isles, observe how the advent of industrially organized farming, urban labor, and mass production led to artificial modification of food and a decline in the quality of diet, as well as human-made disasters such as the 1840s potato famine. x
  • 27
    Romantics, Vegetarians, Utopians
    In the 19th century, food-conscious social movements reacted against the ills of industrial society. Delve into new dietary ideologies that stressed purity, backed by both quasi-scientific and religious thought. Follow the rise of vegetarian societies, Utopian social experiments, and health reform movements that gave us graham crackers, breakfast cereals, and granola. x
  • 28
    First Restaurants, Chefs, and Gastronomy
    European culinary art blossomed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Learn about the West’s first true restaurants in 18th-century Paris and the formalized structure of meals served in multiple courses. Follow the exploits of four of the first celebrity chefs and the development of “gastronomy”—the science and art of eating well. x
  • 29
    Big Business and the Homogenization of Food
    Here, investigate the process by which late 19th-century food production became a vast industry. See how technological developments such as freezing, canning, and pasteurization gave large companies increasing control over food production. Trace the fortunes of the peanut from health food to junk food, and the global implications of industrial food processing. x
  • 30
    Food Imperialism around the World
    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European colonialism expanded across the entire globe as a form of economic empire building. Grasp how Western powers came to control massive production of export crops in nonindustrialized countries, and how political maneuvering enabled large companies to dominate global markets in foodstuffs. x
  • 31
    Immigrant Cuisines and Ethnic Restaurants
    This lecture explores the significant ways in which American eating habits have been shaped by immigrants. Investigate the social phenomenon of immigration, and how food cultures are imported and adapted. Learn how Italian, Jewish, and Mexican foods entered the American mainstream, and what accounts for their wide and sustained popularity. x
  • 32
    War, Nutritionism, and the Great Depression
    In early 20th-century America, discover how World War I changed the way civilians eat. Observe how corporations dictated the American diet, and witness the advent of chain supermarkets, junk foods, the marketing of food with health claims, and the government’s new role in food supply in the wake of the Depression. x
  • 33
    World War II and the Advent of Fast Food
    Food technologies developed to aid the war effort became the template for American eating in the postwar era. Follow the proliferation of freeze-dried and convenience foods, TV dinners, and chain restaurants as they shaped food culture. Study the phenomenon of fast food and the McDonald’s business model that became a global phenomenon. x
  • 34
    Counterculture—From Hippies to Foodies
    Explore the revitalization of food culture in the late 20th century, beginning with the health food movement and new dietary ideologies. Track the vibrant new era in food reflected in the work of influential food writers and cooks, artisan food producers, “slow food” culture, and farmers’ markets. x
  • 35
    Science of New Dishes and New Organisms
    Science is transforming both how we prepare foods and the foods themselves. First, witness the meeting of science and fine dining in the ingenious creations of “modernist” cuisine. Then grasp the principles of the genetic modification of foods, its promise and potential dangers, and the implications of technologies such as cloning and hydroponics. x
  • 36
    The Past as Prologue?
    Conclude with Professor Albala’s intriguing predictions on the future of our food culture. Contemplate potential trends in food supply, industrial processing, agriculture, and food delivery. Also consider the projected obsolescence of our forms of shopping and home cooking, and possible successors to traditional cutlery, plates, and kitchens. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 36 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 304-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 304-page course synopsis
  • Photographs
  • Historic recipes
  • Culinary activities

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Ken Albala

About Your Professor

Ken Albala, Ph.D.
University of the Pacific
Ken Albala is a Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he won the Faye and Alex Spanos Distinguished Teaching Award and has been teaching for more than two decades. He holds an MA in History from Yale University and a PhD in History from Columbia University. He is the author or editor of more than two dozen books on food, including Eating Right in the Renaissance; Food in Early...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Food: A Cultural Culinary History is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 119.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course This was my favorite Great Courses selection. The professor was amusing and knowledgeable. I enjoyed every minute of the couse and was sorry it was over.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I found this course well laid out and one lecture flowed into the next lecture. The lectures were interesting and presented in an interesting way. The cooking demonstrations by Professor Albala didn't really add anything to the course since I was familiar with the techniques demonstrated. Some of the lectures, I have listened to multiple times and some lectures, I will return to later. My only critique would be that I found the last lecture, where Professor Albala speculates on the future lacking - maybe because, I prefer facts over speculation.
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great presentation The title sounded interesting so I ordered the course. The presenter was very engaging and easy to understand. He was plain spoken about wealth of information. The course gave me a slightly different slant on history in general. It5 presents a whole different way of looking at the facts. Finian Blake
Date published: 2020-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Try this at Home Both the lectures and the course guidebook have plenty of unfamiliar techniques, ingredients and recipes to try at home—at least one of them not recommended as to the final taste. For me I’ll take Professor Albala’s advice and leave well enough alone (although I do plan on trying a couple of the experiments). This is a course both for foodies and non-foodies with an interest in history that uses as its basis food. For me, Dr. Albala succeeds masterfully in his objective. Some reviewers have found the course structure and individual lectures to be not well organized, but even a casual look at the titles of the individual lectures shows that his approach is well thought out. The course takes a mostly historical timeline approach with an occasional lecture devoted to a specific topic (e.g. lecture 24 focuses on Japan during the Edo period). At several points Dr. Albala uses a major point in history such as the Dark Ages or WWII to comment on how our food prep and eating habits are changing and changed according to what is happening in the world at large. At other times we get food trends following along with societal movements (such as the introduction of restaurants or the vegetarian and other dietary trends during the romantic and utopian ideals of the 19th century). For sure Professor Albala has a perspective. His take on fast food is reasonable and balanced even though it was clear to me that he does not care either for the food or the nutrition that it provides. For example, he clearly states that it is successful because it tastes good and fits in with our lifestyle of the times. He follows this up with a discussion on the “slow food” movement, another trend with which some disagree, but is real nonetheless. He also does not shy away from the controversial topics of GMO ingredients and industrial agriculture. For sure he has a perspective, but for the most part this view is backed by current data and research. I thought that the course made good use of visual material and I am glad that I took the video version, although some reviewers thought that audio was just fine. The delivery was spot on, even if one disagreed with the content from time to time. Finally, I am well used to Biblical literalists taking strong dislikes to the courses presented by Dr. Bart Ehrman, but to give this course a negative review simply because a lecture describes some Biblical events as myth (while at the same time not allowing Dr. Albala to use the term “myth” in a way that he defines) is less than interesting, at least as a review for a food-based course, not one on religion. For me at least, rating a food history course on Biblical interpretation makes as much sense as rating a course on the Old Testament based on the food prohibitions found in Leviticus.
Date published: 2019-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is the best! It’s a treat to watch and listen to the chapters of this course. I look forward to the private time learning about my other favorite pastimes of cooking and eating. Thank you Great Courses, this ones a winner!
Date published: 2019-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most interesting course Professor Albala is interesting and has a great sense of humor. I nominate him for Best Lecturer ever award. He is, besides being a great teacher, cute in his actions, lucid in his talk and fun to watch. My favorite course - with out doubt!
Date published: 2019-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating journey through time and food This course was superbly interesting; I was eager for each new lecture to begin. The course helps you begin to see the critical role that food has played throughout human history and how, in many cases, food issues changed history. As a teacher of nutrition and cooking skills, I have found it to be great for enriching my knowledge of the subjects I teach. However, anyone who is interested in food or history should find this course interesting. The instructor has a nice presentation style which held my attention throughout the course. Would definitely recommend!
Date published: 2019-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A energetic speaker Not all the way through the course yet but what really strikes me is how the speaker actually makes this presentation so interesting! With pictures and history of our species he Carrys this way beyond my expectations.
Date published: 2019-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation, well-researched! Focusing on food and cooking traditions is a delicious way to gain an overview of the history of various cultures throughout the world. The presenter Is enthusiastic about the subject and gives a thorough and enlightening interpretation of the various food preferences, the influence of ruling groups on dietary practices and the enrichment of cuisines through global contacts. I would enjoy viewing more by this professor.
Date published: 2018-12-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not About Food, About Ego I suppose there has to be a few lemons mixed in with the rest of the fresh produce. We bought this as my wife was embarking on a career in wine, and we both wanted to deepen our knowledge of food for the purpose of intelligently pairing food with wine. I can and sum up the course for you this way - 1.) Professor basically argues that what humanity has consumed for food has evolved as our species has, supposedly, evolved. Therefore, professor argues that almost up until modernity, mankind ate primarily leeks and tubers, and meat only rarely, and typically only if the person were of royal blood. This "scholarship" from professor is in conflict with what any schoolchild can read in the inarguably ancient text of Exodus, chapter 16 where it is recorded that the liberated Israelites complained to Moses that they wished they had never left their lowly status as slaves in Egypt since at least "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted". 2.) With this point about leeks and tubers remade during most of the lectures, then the professor goes onto to tell you about the culture he is targeting for that lecture, which is really just a framework for him to share his alleged knowledge about just about everything under the sun. He manages to comment on just about everything in human history, managing to editorialize a good bit too. It's like having a know-it-all uncle over for Thanksgiving dinner who holds forth at table for long hours about all he supposedly knows. 3.) Lastly, about five to ten percent of each lecture is actually devoted, in a desultory fashion, to what the course is supposed to actually be about. In short, I think professor ageed to make this course so as to display his vaunted knowledge about everything, and was little motivated to talk about food. In fact, I think he communicated little passion about food throughout.
Date published: 2018-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was my first course from Great Courses. I enjoyed it so much I have ordered 9 other courses for myself, and just recently purchased this course for my son.
Date published: 2018-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nice course. More than expected. I'm only on the second disc but have enjoyed it so far. The prof does a nice job mixing good natured commentary with a clear presentation. Unlike many these days he appears to be delivering his lecture the old fashioned way. Not reading it off a prompter. Very refreshing. And what makes the course more than expected is that he includes a nice bit of history, philosophy and religion in as background for the food of various cultures. Interesting and entertaining course.
Date published: 2018-08-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty good, except... I've been enjoying the audio version, especially the earlier lectures on history and various cultures. However, lecture 35 delves ito the 'GMO' issue, and Albala is worse than wrong. Perhaps the lecture was recorded before there was much good science readily available to non-scientists, but the errors he promulgates here are inexcusable today. He simply parrots the organic marketing industries scare-mongering lies as if they were established fact. For some real perspective, listen to the Talking Biotech podcast, or look at the Genetic Literacy Project website. Professor, either fix this lecture or drop it from the course!
Date published: 2018-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! This is the best class I ever took. He is exciting, engaging and explains things in a way that is easy to understand. I didn't want it to end and wish he taught more courses.
Date published: 2018-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful information! I'm am so enjoying "Food: A Cultural Culinary History"! Not only am I learning about how the development of different foods but, also, the history/geography/customs that helped these foods go from plain sustenance to enjoyment as recipes and religions became more organized and shared.
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely Interesting Loved this lecture. A part of history that I haven’t heard before. Whole lecture series was very well organized as well.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! Great presentation style and it answered so many questions that I thought would never get answered. It was an honor to be imparted with this information, thank you Professor Albala!
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but not the best TGC offering This is an interesting course but I found it not well organized. It certainly had a lot of interesting stories but I would have a difficult time outlining some of the lectures. Professor Albala's presentation is more like a discussion at a cocktail party than a college class room. If you like that kind of presentation, fine. But I found it hard to capture and follow the major point of some of the lectures. The guide book contains some interesting recipes and food-related activities. However, this is another TGC course that begs for a glossary in the guide book but it is not there. I, like some other reviewers, have an issue with some of Professor Albala's comments on religion; particularly referring to Islam as "not a religion of peace". That comment has no place in a course on the history of food. I can overlook those things and just wish the discussion would stick to food issues. Religious customs play a role in what people eat; but there is no need to make a judgement on a particular religion. That issue does not affect my 3-star rating. What does affect my rating is the manner of presentation and the course value compared to all the other TGC courses I have taken. If the 4 and 5-star reviews sound like the kind of course you want; buy it. I used the DVD version. I think the CD version would do just fine.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from just wonderful I love history, food and cooking. This great course has all of these ingredients. The enthusiasm , knowledge and ability to communicate a total passion is just fantastic. This is yet another great course I will watch again, and then again
Date published: 2018-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it The first course I bought here, and still my favorite!
Date published: 2017-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great info, great instructor... We just binge watched this course and couldn't stop. Mr. Albala delivers complex information in a fun and charming way while making it relevant for today. Highly recommended for those who want to understand food's key role in human history and it's rapid change in our time.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive connection between society and food! This course connected society, culture civilization... to the foods that were available at the time. Gave me a much richer and deeper respect for our food and traditions and simply just "family events" like Thanksgiving. Teacher is a talented speaker and keeps you engaged throughout the entire llecture. kudos great course !
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful introduction to food history I've been developing an interest in food history and while there are many excellent books on the past couple of centuries, most of the books I've been able to find that cover periods before the 17th century are often too academic and can be quite turgid to readers outside the author's discipline. Dr. Albala's approach is very welcome - conversational yet at the same time comprehensive. In particular, he established an organizing framework early in the course and hung nearly all the material throughout the course on that framework. This kept the viewer in touch with the overall place of the individual stories in each lecture. There is one issue that I have and that is that near the end of the course, the material became a little too Euro/US-centric, which may also have resulted in an over-focus on the gastronomic/celebrity end of things. Throughout the course Dr. Albala went to great lengths to include cuisines from all continents and, to me, the lectures on miso-American food and Chinese food were among the strongest. Yet in the last few lectures, the focus got stuck. For one example, in terms of the history of food and its role in culture, what is more important - molecular gastronomy or changes that improved standards of living have brought to Indian and Chinese food production and consumption? For another, is providing bios of a handful of brilliant, innovative, and celebrity chefs preferable to discussing urban food deserts and the response to them? I'm nitpicking, though. A great course and highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! This Is a Fantastic Course! I am very impressed with this course and highly recommend it if you are interested in food, history, or entertainment. Entertainment? Yes. Prof. Albala is very entertaining without ever resorting to bad jokes. This man is a font of knowledge and makes this course fascinating from the first lecture through the last. How can anyone be this knowledgeable? I loved the history of food but there is so much more. He throws out ancient recipes, the history of restaurants, background on micro-breweries, and the history of fast food. He even gets into 'industrial food' and molecular food. This course held my interest at a high level all the way through. I haven't been this excited about a course in a long time. This is an A+ course. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. I used the audio version and it was perfectly fine until the very end when conducted an experiment that cannot be seen. But he describes it so well, I was ok with that.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tasty Intellectual Feast Have you ever wondered how certain countries developed their distinctive cuisine? What accounts for the differences in Italian, Chinese, East Indian, French, and Japanese food? What types of food were eaten in Egypt, Classical Greece, Elizabethan England, France in the 17th century, aboriginal and African cuisines? Have restaurants always existed? If not, how did they come to be? Where did the idea of driving to get a drink and a sandwich from a window come from? How did food influence the construction of highways? These and many more questions about food are answered by Professor Ken Albala in his course, Food: A Cultural Culinary History. The course is delivered in an engaging style which is clear and effortless. Dr. Albala's mastery of his subject makes listening and learning from him a delightful and enriching experience. The next time you eat, the pleasure you experience will be greatly enhanced by your awareness of the what, when, where, how, and why of the cultural history of food. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I watched these a couple of years ago and found the information so interesting.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great good information, well presented and organized, interesting topic.
Date published: 2017-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from food: a cultural history Very interesting, both as a history of food and a cultural history.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Connecting the love of food, history and culture I bought this course when it was released and immediately watched it in its entirety. It was a topic that I had submitted as a suggestion to TGC, maybe a coincidence or maybe I got lucky that this course was created! Overall, I was not at all disappointed with this course and found it quite dynamic. If you are looking for a course that takes you on a trip through the ages, with a focus on different cultures in history and an absolute love for food, you won't be disappointed. It is quite densely packed with information and is enjoyable to watch without feeling like too "heavy" of a course. Great evening/dinnertime :) watching. As someone who saw this course a couple of years ago, at this point I would probably be ready to take it off the shelf and rewatch. Good course, engaging professor and a wealth of interesting information. It's definitely a course that is rewatchable and a great addition to your TGC library as a repeat view course.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! As a Registered Dietitian with a lifelong interest in culinary history and a passion for cooking, I found this series fascinating. Dr. Albala's lectures were fact filled and his presentations were engaging and interesting. Time and money well spent.
Date published: 2017-03-26
  • y_2020, m_8, d_13, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.10
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_4, tr_115
  • loc_en_US, sid_9180, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 63.77ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Buy together as a Set
Save Up To $321.00
Choose a Set Format