A genial journey through history that will leave readers both satiated and ravenous.




A husband and wife—he is French; she, American—move briskly through the history of France with a picnic basket full of information about the connections between history and gastronomy.

The research underlying this account is sturdy and impressive. Hénaut, who has had a long, diverse career in food, and Mitchell (War Studies/King’s Coll. London) take us on a tasty chronological journey, beginning with the Gauls and ending with McDonald’s (France is “the second most profitable market for McDonald’s worldwide”). In a series of brief chapters, most only a few pages long, we learn about a variety of iconic French foods; when, why, and how they emerged; and what their status is today. The authors discuss baguettes, brie, honey, champagne, vegetables, fruit, salt, vinegar, sauces, chocolate, crêpes, and chicken. We see the emergence of table manners and customs, from sitting while eating to wielding a fork. Readers will enjoy learning how certain historical luminaries are associated with the popularity of various foods: Charlemagne and honey, the Black Prince and cassoulet, Louis XIII and chestnuts. The authors also show clearly the effects of warfare on cuisine. The World War I trenches in France featured a sustaining cheese for the beleaguered troops. We learn, too, about the integration of foods originally from external sources—e.g., couscous from Algeria is now a fond French favorite—and we see the effects of improved transportation on the French diet. The authors do not float lightly over the darkness of history. They write bluntly about the egregiousness of colonialism, slavery, warfare, and inhumanity of all sorts. They also work hard to separate fact from legend, which is not always an easy task. The authors chronicle the emergence of certain brands we associate with France—like Gray Poupon mustard—and discuss the lack of popularity of peanut butter.

A genial journey through history that will leave readers both satiated and ravenous.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-251-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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