Cover image for You eat what you are : people, culture and food traditions
You eat what you are : people, culture and food traditions
Barer-Stein, Thelma, 1930-
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Willowdale, Ont. ; Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
544 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
GT2850 .B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material

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You Eat What You Are details how the food we eat is an integral part of understanding our social and political history, religious rituals and domestic life. It makes a significant and original contribution to understanding other cultures and how traditions are passed on from generation to generation.

Author Notes

Thelma Barer-Stein is an author, publisher, and former dietitian. She lectures at universities and has hosted her own cooking program on television. She lives in Toronto.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The second edition of a work published in 1979 explores more than 170 cultural groups' food habits, preferences, specialties, and methods of preparation. Three new chapters ("Indonesian, Malay, Singaporean," "Thai," and "Tibetan") have been added and resources updated. This is an unusual book, minus recipes but rich in commentary on how food habits change and are central to social life. Food diversity is stressed as a value of all cultural groups. The author has been working on this subject since 1973, in addition to being a former dietitian, college lecturer, and hosting a television cooking program. Her audience is stated as students, professionals, gourmets, and travelers. The book begins with a table of contents indicating alphabetical organization by country. An introduction explains the title and related themes of migration of foods, changes from culture to culture, and modern influences such as the extensive presence of processed foods. A page of instruction for using the book ensues. Also noted is the problem of variant spelling for items, with the most common form used throughout the book. All entries are organized the same way. Chapters begin with historical, regional, and cultural overviews complemented with small locator maps. Sections on "Domestic Life"; categories of food commonly used, such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and the like; "Meals and Customs"; "Special Occasions"; "Cooking Methods"; and "Regional Specialties" follow. Glossaries of foods and food terms complete each chapter. Bold print sets off these content portions so that it is easy to browse in the chapters. The book concludes with a list of sources and resources for each chapter and an index. This is an impressive volume for a single writer to attempt. The author's enthusiasm and interest are exhibited in the very readable nature of the book, and she invites readers to communicate omissions to her. The methodical organization of each chapter helps make the book a fine summary for students, in spite of the lack of a pronunciation key to the foods and terms used. There are some problems, however, with this reference work. The bibliography is lumbered with far too many older references, such as the repeatedly cited Funk and Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia (1967); Encyclopedia Canadiana (1970); and Myra Waldo's Travel and Motoring Guide to Europe, 1974. Additionally, the bibliography does not present a general list of pertinent books, such as Raymond Sokolov's Why We Eat What We Eat (Summit Books, 1991) and Jeremy MacClancy's Consuming Culture: Why You Eat What You Eat (Holt, 1992). The bibliography also seems unbalanced, with Canada (the author's home) receiving two-and-one-half pages of sources and a number of other countries having less, especially Wales, with only two sources. With the exception of guinea pigs (Peru) and lizards (Australia), the content seems to be sanitized of apparently unpalatable items such as insects, worms, dogs, and cats. Other missing items include chutneys and the cuisine of Puerto Rico, which appears to be unique. American readers will be disappointed by the relatively skimpy chapter on the U.S. The index presents some other difficulties. There are general index entries, such as beer and beverages; but listed under these are countries, not specific foods. An index of foods by category would be useful. In spite of these problems (the most serious being the sources and resources list), this book is helpful as an introduction to cultural groups' cuisines and food habits. School and public libraries should benefit from this well-organized reference tool, which provides more detail than standard sources, such as Lands and Peoples [RBB Jl 97]. Reference Books in brief The following is a list of additional recent and recommended reference sources.

Library Journal Review

Originally published in Canada in 1979, this newly updated and expanded work will be a valuable addition to any reference collection. Its 55 sections cover approximately 170 different cultural groups, with each section providing a culinary historical overview of a country, information on a particular culture's domestic life with reference to food and cooking, a survey of commonly used ingredients and foods, a section devoted to special occasions and the role food plays in them, and a glossary of unique culinary terms and foods. While it is difficult for a single chapter to capture every nuance of the complex cuisines of some countries, e.g., France or China, the author often adds regional culinary details for larger countries and does a credible job of distilling the basic information. The occasional grouping together of certain countries or regions may seem a bit strange, but an excellent index and good cross-referencing within the book itself should guide readers to the sections they need. The only thing missing is information on Native American culinary traditions. Even if your library has other standard culinary reference sources, such as Larousse Gastronomique, which does have recipes but provides fewer details on individual countries, you will still need the range and depth of information Barer-Stein's practical book offers. Highly recommended.ÄJohn Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

According to the introduction, this book has been updated, had three chapters on additional cultures added, and is " . . . a documented study of ethnocultural food traditions." Although footnotes were used in the first edition (You Eat What You Are: A Study of Canadian Ethnic Food Traditions, 1979), they have been dropped from this version. All sources listed are secondary, most dated before 1979, and excellent (and possibly better) secondary sources were not used. Though political history does affect food habits, the space spent on it could have been better used to explain cultural influences and the introduction of new foods. It is often confusing what food item is meant; for example, in both the chapter on Africa ("maize" and "corn"') and the chapter on America (sweet potatoes and yams), two names are used for the same foods with no explanation. Some information is repeated, almost verbatim, in different sections of the same chapter. In general, the chapters are 20 years or more out-of- date, although the implication is that current customs are being described. Broad historical patterns of foodways may be gleaned from this book. Recommend for a library that collects everything on food habits. General readers; undergraduates. N. Duran; Illinois State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 12
Introductionp. 13
How to Use This Bookp. 17
Africanp. 18
Albanianp. 31
Americanp. 34
Armenianp. 41
Australianp. 46
Austrianp. 51
Baltic Peoples: Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanianp. 55
Belgianp. 60
Belorussianp. 64
Bulgarianp. 67
Canadian: Atlantic Provinces, First Nations, Quebecp. 71
Chinesep. 88
Czech and Slovakp. 103
Danishp. 108
Dutchp. 113
Egyptianp. 118
Englishp. 125
Filipinop. 136
Finnishp. 143
Frenchp. 149
Germanp. 164
Greekp. 175
Hungarianp. 186
Icelandicp. 196
Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankanp. 201
Indonesian, Malay, and Singaporeanp. 215
Iranianp. 226
Irishp. 233
Israeli and Jewishp. 239
Italianp. 257
Japanesep. 271
Koreanp. 282
Latin American: Argentinian, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Chilean, Colombian and Venezualan, Peruvianp. 291
Maltesep. 304
Mexicanp. 310
Moroccanp. 316
New Zealandersp. 325
Norwegianp. 330
People of the Fertile Crescent: Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, and Syrianp. 337
Polishp. 346
Portuguesep. 352
Romanianp. 359
Russianp. 365
Scottishp. 375
Southern Slavs (formerly Yugoslavian): Bosnian-Herzergovian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Slovenianp. 381
Spanishp. 393
Swedishp. 402
Swissp. 408
Thaip. 414
Tibetanp. 422
Turkishp. 428
Ukrainianp. 436
Vietnamesep. 443
Welshp. 450
West Indianp. 458
Sourcesp. 469
Indexp. 496