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. Featuring a new preface from author Ken Albala, Beans: A History takes the reader on a fascinating journey across cuisines and cultures.
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Ken Albala is Professor of History and Director of Food Studies at the University of the Pacific, USA. He is the author of The Food History Reader and A Cultural History of Food in the Renaissance, both published by Bloomsbury.
List of Recipes
Preface, Acknowledgements and a Note on Recipes
2. Lentils: Fertile Crescent
3. Lupines: Europe and Andes
4. Fava Beans: Europe
5. Peas, Chickpeas and Pigeon Peas
6. Oddballs and Villains
7. Mung and the Vignas: India
8. Black-eyed Peas: Africa, Soul Food
9. Phaseolus vulgaris: Mexico and the World
10. Limas and the Lesser Phaseoli: Andes
11. Tepary beans: Native Americans
12. Soy: China, Japan and the World
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 * Charming. * New York Times * I would strongly urge a reading of Beans by Ken Albala which entertainingly unravels that most complicated of legumes through space and time. * The Guardian * Fresh and engaging from the start ... A must have for any serious foodie. * The Telegraph * Extraordinarily detailed and amusing. ... It is a totally endearing mixture of expertise and whimsy and should, by rights, be a bestseller. * The Times * Albala's range of geographical, historical and cultural references is extremely impressive. * Ian Sansom, Saturday Guardian * A great read, full of exotic and intriguing information and thoroughly recommended. * Times Higher Education Supplement * Albala traces the histories of a wide range of beans and the result is an enthusiastic book which deploys commendable scholarship with the lightest of touches. * History Today * 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 * 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 * 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 * In this delightful, informative bean biography, the author unravels the history, science and culture of beans across the world. * Sainsbury Magazine * Surprisingly readable and full of fascinating detail. ... Beans: A History would make a valuable addition to the bookshelf of anyone hungry to know the cultural and gastronomic history of the food on their plate. * Oxford Vegetarians * I was immediately hooked. What a great combination of scholarly commitment and good humour! * Jane Bowler, The Vegetarian * There appears to be very little Ken Albala doesn't know about the humble bean. ... an authentic and inclusive history. * Australian Gormet Pages Newsletter * A light-hearted and entertaining narrative. * Artisan * With not a pod left unshelled, Beans is just plain fun to read thanks to author Ken Albala's sense of humour, devotion to scholarly detail and breezy writing style. * The Roanoke Times * By successfully integrating history, geography, botany, and politics into understanding beans, Albala demonstrates the wonder of liberal education itself. * The AAG Review of Books *
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