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Beans: A History [Hardcover]

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Item Number 332792  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   261
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 6.25" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 4, 2007
Publisher   Berg Publishers
ISBN  1845204301  
EAN  9781845204303  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Whether refried, baked, falafelled, or complementing a nice Chianti, the humble bean has long been a part of gourmet and everyday food culture around the globe. As Ken Albala shows, though, over its history the bean has enjoyed more controversy than its current ubiquity lets on. From the bean's status as seat of the soul (at least, that's what Pythagoras thought) to seed of sin (or so said St. Jerome, who forbade nuns to eat beans because they "tickle the genitals"), Beans is a ripping tale of a truly magical fruit.

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More About Ken Albala

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ken Albala is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of the Pacific.

Ken Albala was born in 1964.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Jane Grigson Award  Oct 21, 2008
Beans is the winner of the 2008 International Association of Culinary Professionals Jane Grigson Award and was also a finalist for the food writing award.

My apologies for posting a review of my own book, but I saw no other way of getting this information onto this site. I hope you enjoy it. Ken
What is the author's point?  Oct 19, 2008
I loved Kurlansky's COD and very much liked his SALT. I found Foster and Cordell's "CHILIES TO CHOCOLATE: Food the Americas gave the World" fascinating. And I love eating beans, from garbanzos to black beans to lentils.

So, I like the genre to which "BEANS: A History" belongs as well as the subject itself.

However, I found myself wondering, "What is the point the author is trying to make?" or perhaps "What is the direction of this book?".

The table of contents implies that this book is focused around a "bean by bean" approach. However, only the chapter on soybeans seems to fit that bill. None of the other chapters seem to be a coherent discussion about each bean (or group of beans). Instead, the chapters seem to meander around, seemingly without direction, excepting for the author's fixation on the historical association between the eating of beans and being poor. Honestly, it seems that well over a third of the book is dedicated to making this single point, with endless quotes to support it, often obscuring the boundaries between chapters.

What I craved in this book is closely approximated by his final chapter, which is on Soybeans. Here he starts with its known beginnings, how and why its use morphed over time and varied from place to place. He discusses (but does not fixate upon) its role in society. He gives interesting facts about its biology. At the end of the soy chapter he does, alas, wander off-topic into a confusing discussion about the pros and cons of genetically modified foods -- an interesting topic, but one that should be reviewed by someone more expert and not discussed parenthetically as it is here; similarly, he meanders briefly off into the field of medicine, where mistakes are definitely made(including confusing the findings of scientific medical studies with non-science based/unstudied proclamations), and he sometimes contradicts himself.

Finally, the recipes seem strewn in almost randomly. Sometimes they illustrate points, but other times not. Some interesting from a cooking-in-your-own kitchen standpoint, sometimes from a historical standpoint, and sometimes ????

In the end, I was rather disappointed by this tome. There are interesting nuggets to be dug out.... but I would like more from my reads than that.

Steven Mlodinow
Praise for Beans  Apr 7, 2008
This book was excellent. It provided detailed information about the history of the domestication of several members of the Fabaceae. I would suggest it to anyone interested in domestication or beans in general.
5 star Fun Informative book  Feb 18, 2008
We are a bean eating family, where beans are consumed 3-4 times per week in some form. We used to go to the Bean Festival down in Tracy, CA so we never get tired of eating or learning about beans.

Which makes this book one anyone who loves food archeology, or bean cuisines should at least read if not own. No it doesn't cover everything about beans, but it covers enough to make it worth a read.

After all how many Americans know that virtually every culture has some type of bean dish? Or that beans as a food source goes back thousands of years?
A Paean to Beans  Feb 8, 2008
This is a wonderful book that is both scholarly and entertaining, a good read as well as a valuable reference work. It consists of a series of "biographies" of beans or groups of related beans by region, including the Middle East, Europe, India, Africa, Mexico, South America, North America, and China and Japan. Each "biography" includes a description of the bean's origin and history, philosophical and political dimensions, methods of preparation, and recipes (nearly sixty in all) with many anecdotes and literary references. I never really thought about it before, but in most parts of the world beans are associated with poverty and low social status with the exception of two civilizations: India and China. In order to truly understand beans, the author resolved to eat beans every day during the book's creation, ideally a new species or variety every day. He has assimilated his subject matter well!

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