One of my favorite things about being a blogger is that stuff randomly arrives at my house for me to review. Look what recently showed up in the deRosier mailbox:
I could not wait to dive into Food Fight: A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages (affiliate link). I don't know the author, Tanya Steel, but she is obviously a kindred spirit of mine. This book could not be more Cindy! Seriously, a delightfully-illustrated National Geographic Kids book about food through history? It's pretty much all of my favorite things in one!
It turns out that Ms. Steel is the former editor of Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. She started the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids' State Dinner that Michelle Obama hosted for five years at the White House. Tanya Steel has written award-winning books and is considered a global food industry leader. And, as it turns out, she's very interested in the history of food.
Food Fight is organized into 15 chapters, starting with the prehistoric era and ending with predications about the food of the future. Each chapter has a well-written introduction to the time period, then talks about food through the lens of the culture, politics, economics, and technology of the time. There are sections about table manners during each time period, as well as "Yucky Habits of Yore." Fun anecdotes about food and charming illustrations are sprinkled throughout. Each chapter has two kid-friendly (and kid-tested) recipes either inspired by, or actually from, the era. At the end of each chapter is a multiple choice quiz.
Having cooked my way through US history with many fifth graders over the years, I was particularly drawn to Chapter 8 called 'America Revolts.' How fun to read about much of the same material I'd taught! But I was even more interested in the other chapters, as the material was new to me, for the most part. I'd never given much thought to what the Mongols ate along the Silk Road, for example. Nor did my history teachers cover much about kitchen tools, table manners, or foods eaten by different social classes during ancient Rome. I wish they had!
I tried a recipe from the Rome chapter. It was adapted from a fourth-century cookbook called Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome and was written by Apicius, one of the world's first cookbook authors. Wow. Basically, you combine milk, honey, pepper (!), and sliced apricots and let them sit out for awhile.
Then you drain the apricots and bake them until they're soft. Then you serve the warm apricots with Greek yogurt. Yum!
It was so neat to reflect on the fact that I was preparing and eating a 1600-year old recipe.
So obviously, I really like Food Fight: A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages and think you should buy it. It's packed with interesting information and is so engaging, both in the way it's written and the way it's illustrated and laid out. I really enjoyed it. However, I do have a few complaints about the book. First, I am not a fan of the "Food Fight" part of the title. "A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages" would have been a better title, even if it is a bit wordy. Even calling it "A Mouthwatering History" would be much better than "Food Fight." My second criticism is equally small, but still worth mentioning. I love that there are quizzes at the end of each chapter, but I found some of the multiple choice options to be (intentionally, I'm sure) ridiculous. One question asks,
What didn't the prehistoric humans invent?
C) fur coat
E) needle and thread
Not only is Choice D obvious to all but the dullest of kids, but it is going to date this book. Another question gives Taylor Swift as a possible choice for someone who influenced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in the French Revolution chapter. Taylor Swift and iPads and a few of the other silly answers aren't necessarily going to have meaning to kids in a decade or so. Better to choose more timeless silly options; Beethoven and Elvis will probably both be recognizable to kids long after Taylor Swift is forgotten (no offense, Taylor) and a television or airplane might be a better choice than an iPad for the invention question.
All in all, I am happy to recommend Food Fight. I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes and revisiting some of the fun facts. I have a little challenge in mind for myself based on something from one of the chapters, so stay tuned for that....