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A History of Cookbooks provides a sweeping literary and historical overview of the cookbook genre, exploring its development as a part of food culture beginning in the Late Middle Ages. Studying cookbooks from various Western cultures and languages, Henry Notaker traces the transformation of recipes from brief notes with ingredients into detailed recipes with a specific structure, grammar, and vocabulary. In addition, he reveals that cookbooks go far beyond offering recipes: they tell us a great deal about nutrition, morals, manners, history, and menus while often providing entertaining reflections and commentaries. This innovative book demonstrates that cookbooks represent an interesting and important branch of nonfiction literature.
Henry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.
"Notaker’s impressive work of research calls for cookbooks to be read and valued the same as literature . . . . A History of Cookbooks also serves up a wonderful history of publishing, since that first printed Italian cookbook coincides with the advent of Gutenberg’s press"—Print Magazine
“This astonishing book brings thoroughness, discipline, and a new level of scholarship to the history and the nature of one of the commonplaces in our lives. Henry Notaker examines the cookbook through a meticulous dissection of the roles of all those who participate in its creation. He traces the complex process, from the inventive mind of the cook to the responsibilities of the writers, designers, printers, and even those who ultimately see to the distribution of a physical volume that might be found in kitchens anywhere. This is not, however, some kind of simple behind-the-scenes-at-the-zoo tour; it is a profound exploration of a cultural product through a rigorous exploration of the many contexts in which it comes into being. And, beyond that, it is marvelous to read—serious but companionable and rich with good stories. This is a treat for food lovers and for those who love reading about books.”—Nach Waxman, Kitchen Arts & Letters, New York City
“An absolutely magisterial and meticulously researched study of printed cookbooks from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The details revealed are immense and the author’s grasp of the material astonishing.”—Ken Albala, author of Beans: A History
“An innovative and original literary history of the Western cookbook that is extraordinarily broad in its range—from the social status of cooks to the evolution of time-keeping devices.”—Barbara Santich, author of Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage