WORDS TO EAT BY by Ina Lipkowitz


Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language
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Lipkowitz (English/MIT) cuts through the flesh to expose the culinary history of five foods and how the five senses assisted their evolution in the English language.

The author engages readers in the introduction using an anecdote that demonstrates how our perception of words influences our appetites. Her initial response, as a New Yorker, when invited to a Labor-Day-Pig-Pickin’ in North Carolina was one of repulsion. “What I saw on that sticky September afternoon was a big dead animal sprawled belly up across a huge metal barrel drum,” she writes. “What I smelled, however wasn’t bad in fact, it smelled good, very good.” Lipkowitz goes on to explore the origins of apples, leeks, milk and dairy, meat and bread in a mix of culinary and linguistic history that ranges from the shores of the Roman Empire to the modern kitchen of celebrated chef David Chang. She forces readers to take a closer look at the verb furor, meaning “to have pleasure” or “to enjoy” via Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights in her deft dissection of original sin and the temptation of the apple. She delves into the medicinal value of the leek and how Hippocrates prescribed what some might consider a stinky weed as a remedy for nosebleeds. Lipkowitz also examines how milk progressed, “from the Latin word for breast, mamma,” to artisanal cheeses and crème fraiche. She also looks at why we prefer “tenderloins to entrails” and explores how bread made its way into the Lord’s Prayer. Includes illustrations and a smattering of recipes adapted for the modern chef.

Brings a depth of historical and linguistic relevance to the table.


Pub Date: July 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-66218-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2011


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