Cover image for Art, culture, and cuisine : ancient and medieval gastronomy
Art, culture, and cuisine : ancient and medieval gastronomy
Bober, Phyllis Pray.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xix, 442 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX637 .B58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In Art, Culture, and Cuisine, Phyllis Pray Bober examines cooking through an assortment of recipes as well as the dual lens of archaeology and art history. Believing that the unity of a culture extends across all forms of expression, Bober seeks to understand the minds and hearts of those who practiced cookery or consumed it as reflected in the visual art of the time.

Bober draws on archaeology and art history to examine prehistoric eating customs in ancient Turkey; traditions of the great civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome; and rituals of the Middle Ages. Both elegant and entertaining, Art, Culture, and Cuisine reveals cuisine and dining's place at the heart of cultural, religious, and social activities that have shaped Western sensibilities.

"Using gastronomy as its focus, lacy language as its style, and illustrations to enchant, Art, Culture, and Cuisine researches exactly those subjects from the time of the 'first hominids' to the 15th century. . . . The writing is extremely witty, and the dinner menus with recipes are esoteric, delightful, and mostly doable."-- Library Journal

"An ambitious attempt to find culinary echoes of visual and sociological movements throughout history. In sturdy, robust prose . . . the author marches us through every major civilization from prehistory through the late Gothic."-- New York Times Book Review

Author Notes

Phyllis Pray Bober is the Leslie Clark Professor Emerita in the Humanities at Bryn Mawr College and coauthor of Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This minutely researched volume explains in detail the cookery of the European and Near Eastern world before Columbus' voyages. As Bober notes, our early ancestors must have figured out ways to attain a balanced diet despite their ignorance of dietary laws. She gives hero status to the first people to consume shellfish, mushrooms, and other foods that may have initially appeared either unappetizing or downright dangerous. Prehistoric art and archaeology have left a record that at least hints at what ancient tribes ate. Egyptian, Roman, and succeeding civilizations left writings that form a more complete record. Bober has compiled recipes that approximate the foods of those eras and civilizations, and they are a gold mine for school projects. A comprehensive bibliography makes the book indispensable for the scholar. --Mark Knoblauch

Library Journal Review

Using gastronomy (not "cookery"!) as its focus, lacy language as its style, and illustrations to enchant, Art, Culture, and Cuisine researches exactly those subjects from the time of the "first hominids" to the 15th century. The chapters in this academic work by a humanities professor follow a time line: prehistory, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the "Hellenic Experience," ancient Rome, the early Middle Ages, and "Late Gothic International Style," which covers the Crusades to 1400. There is so much historical fact that only Bober's steady fidelity to her theme keeps this book from being too diffuse. Although we are dealing with solid scholarship (there are many pages of notes and bibliography), the writing is extremely witty, and the dinner menus with recipes are esoteric, delightful, and mostly doableÄeven if one must accept substitutes like sheep's stomach in the absence of an available "sow's womb." Highly recommended for large public, special, and academic libraries.ÄWendy Miller, Lexington P.L., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Bober offers yet another book about food and culture that includes some pictures of artifacts and art. She discusses the eastern Mediterranean area and then Europe from prehistory to about 1400. The book's strength is that Bober does not assume that all ancient cuisine was unpalatable. For example, the Roman garum is equated with the Vietnamese nuoc mam. Bober has also managed to address several of the common myths that usually accompany food history with more correct information. The confusion over food items where the same name is used for more than one item is generally explained. There is too little space to address more than an overview of any time period, and what is given generally applies to the upper classes. There are directions for preparing six meals that would resemble the foods of the six historical times discussed. All illustrations are black-and-white; color would have enhanced many of them. Extensive endnotes and long bibliography. Recommended for any library with a section on food history. All levels. N. Duran; Illinois State University

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 Prehistory
2 Ancient Egypt
3 Mesopotamia
4 The Hellenic Experience
5 Hellenistic Transformations
6 Ancient Rome
7 Early Middle Ages
8 Late Gothic International Style
Appendix: Menus and Recipes