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234 × 156 × 27 mm
336 pages
109 illustrations, 57 in colour
01 Apr 2014
Foods and Nations

Al Dente A History of Food in Italy Fabio Parasecoli

Pasta, pizza, parmesan cheese – we have Italy to thank for some of our favourite foods. Home to a dazzling array of wines, cheeses, breads, vegetables and salamis, Italy has become a mecca for foodies. Outside Italy, cities around the world are home to Michelin-starred Italian restaurants and television chefs extol the virtues of Italian cuisine, presenting it as a model of fresh and healthy eating. Taking readers across the country’s regions and beyond, Al Dente explores how Italy’s cuisines became what they are today.

For centuries, southern Mediterranean countries such as Italy fought against food scarcity, wars, invasions and an unfavourable agricultural environment. Lacking meat and dairy, Italy developed foodways that depended on grains, legumes and vegetables until a stronger economy in the late 1950s allowed the majority of Italians to afford a more diverse diet. The last half century has seen new packaging, conservation techniques, industrial mass production and more sophisticated systems of transportation and distribution, bringing about profound changes in how the country’s population thinks about food.

Including historical recipes for delicious Italian dishes to enjoy alongside a glass of crisp Chianti, Al Dente is a fascinating history of what is perhaps the world’s favourite cuisine.

‘Parasecolis knowledge of his subject is encyclopedic . . . the sheer volume of information packed into Al Dente makes it a valuable contribution to the field.’ — TLS

‘In this fascinating guide, Fabio Parasecoli takes us through the history of Italys relationship with food, right back to the Romans, discussing the origins of olive oil and the importance of sun-ripened tomatoes . . . the stories that are interwoven into the pages are essential reads for any budding connoisseur or general foodie.’ — Italia Magazine

‘dense with passion and expertise, written exquisitely with the perspective of exhaustingly detailed research. But dont get me wrong, [it is] infinitely enjoyable and perusable and will enable you to cook your heart out and feel enlightened all at once . . . destined for classic status . . . as Italian cuisine has proven to be one of the most relevant, if not prevalent, cuisines in the world, Parasecoli, a native of Rome, explores the myths and realities of Italys gastronomic narrative.’ — Huffington Post

‘This ambitious volume places discussions of food and food-related customs in the context of Italian history from the Neolithic to the present. Parasecoli leads readers on an engaging journey through time and geography. The author peppers the account with anecdotes and historical tidbits ranging from whether or not there was food scarcity during the Middle Ages to how changes in female empowerment have caused adjustments in portion sizes in the twenty-first century. Recommended’ — Choice

‘Reaktion Books continues to expand its presence in the world of food studies with a new series,Foods & Nations. Its first two titles relate to Germany and Italy, both are worth the purchase and your close attention. Nicely produced, with Reaktions usual attention to the melding of words and image, they will each provide a thought-provoking launchpad for the curious . . . Fabio Parasecoli has done a good job on Italy. Perhaps because of the complexity of Italian history, he has elected to weld the gustatory to the political narrative. This makes it rather useful for the epicure who knows nothing of Italian history, and it puts a nice slant for the political historian on his daily bread and butter. It might be said that this is a book about food issues rather than food, but its none the worse for that, and is full of most enjoyable illustrations and nicely untoward information. Good stuff.’ — Petits Propos Culinaires

‘Fabio Parasecolis Al Dente: A History of Food in Italy is an early entry in a promising new series, which offers a sweeping reading of history through food. Parasecoli provides an intensely detailed historical construction of food, culture, and identity in Italy from the development of the Roman diet through the globalized consumption of food and culture today. The book is part of an important direction in food studies, extending beyond the field itself to address broad questions of commoditization and culture. Parasecoli engages with an extensive knowledge of European and world history and the work is of interest to scholars and students in history and in the sociological study of cities, immigration, globalization, or culture. In addition to his main historical and social observations, Parasecoli includes dozens of recipes, pictures, and interesting asides on topics such as Wine in Ancient Italy and Food Fights in the Global Market’ — Food, Culture and Society

‘This cool analysis of the geopolitical background to the delights of Italian gastronomy is a welcome addition.’ — Gillian Riley, author of The Oxford Companion to Italian Food

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Fabio Parasecoli is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Food Studies Program, The New School, New York, the author of Bite Me! Food in Popular Culture (2008) and co-editor of the six-volume Cultural History of Food (2012). 

Introduction: The Food of Italy: Beyond Myths and Stereotypes
1. A Land in the Mediterranean
2. Invaders
3. Rebirth
4. Fragmentation and Unification
5. From War to Miracle
6. Now and the Future
7. The Globalization of Italian Food
8. A Nation of Town and Regions: Italian Campanilismo

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Photo Acknowledgements