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Search tags: cultural-history
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text 2018-02-20 16:30
Most Enjoyable
Food: A Cultural Culinary History - Ken Albala

I am enjoying listening to this series of lectures so much that I don't want to stop to listen to the couple of chapters of Cosmos that I just promised myself I would intersperse with my other reading. I'm enjoying it so much that I can almost forgive this college professor his frequent mispronunciation of words like "arbiter." It is not "AR-bite-er. 

 

Food is essential to our being (without it we died) yet when we study history in the classroom, we rarely approach events in anything but political terms, so it is very interesting (and myth-busting) to approach our past from the point of view of what was being hunted, gathered, cultivated, traded and consumed. Please don't think that this is just a fluffy series of lectures; it is well grounded in events and contemporary original texts.

 

BTW, this may also be about food and eating but it is nothing like Consider the Fork, which I also read recently. They compliment one another.

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review 2017-08-17 20:32
How to be a Victorian
How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life - Ruth Goodman

How to be a Victorian, like Ruth Goodman's How to be a Tudor, which I read in January, is a fine study of a foreign country - in this case the Britain of roughly 150 years ago.

 

It is filled with strange, often horrifying or amusing details. For example, that genteel ladies might want to take exercise, but were deathly afraid of being caught at it.  (Their solution was to either take long walks, with a package under their arm, to suggest *really* being out on a charitable - and thus socially acceptable - errand, or to perform calisthenics, which would not disturb their movable wombs, in fashionable suits in the privacy of their own bedrooms.)  That doctors were not against corsets, but only "tight lacing," which some particularly fashion-obsessed ladies used to reduce their waists to as little as 13 inches.  That a large proportion of the population, most or some of the time, were hungry, and their nutrition was actually made worse by the rise of the Temperance movement.  (The lure of the cities, even of their slums, was that you might eat better than poor in the countryside.  Even if that "better" wasn't very good.)

 

It is also an excellent study of why regulations are a necessary part of society, for the protection of all of us.  We want laws saying we can't be forced by our employers to work 12 or more hours a day.  We want laws mandating safety equipment in factories.  We want laws saying the makers of food and drugs can't lie in advertisements about what's in their products, and sell us watered chalk as milk, and opium as a safe and gentle herbal baby care treatment.  We want laws preventing industrialists from hiring six-year-olds as coal miners.  Because the Victorians had to fight for each and every one of those protections.

 

Let's not forget them, or their achievements.

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text 2017-07-13 04:39
Science Buddy Read Book Club coming soon!
Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind - Richard Fortey
Atoms Under the Floorboards: The Surprising Science Hidden in Your Home - Chris Woodford
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World - Mark Miodownik
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History - Cynthia Barnett
The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science - Sandra Hempel
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks
What Really Happens If You're Swallowed by a Whale, Get Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara...and Then You're Dead - Cody Cassidy,Paul Doherty
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher
My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs - Brian Switek

Our current buddy read of The Invention of Nature is going well enough that when it's finished, we're going to convert the book club into a general science buddy read club.

 

We definitely need a snappier name for it.

 

In the meantime, the current members are going through their shelves and coming up with possible titles for future reads; we'll likely read one book every two months, as non-fiction is generally a more time consuming read and we don't want to burn anyone out with too much of a good thing.  

 

I've gone through my Planning to Read shelf and shelved all the science books onto the science shelf (something I generally don't do until I've read the book - more out of laziness than anything else) and I've included a few here to see if any of them look interesting to anyone else, or are maybe already on their shelves.  

 

I have 16 all up; if anyone has any interest in seeing them all, I have confirmed that if you go to my shelves (or anyone else's for that matter) and click on Planning to Read, and then click on my Science shelf, you'll only see the Science books I have that I haven't yet read.  BookLikes has a bit of boolean searching power it's been keeping under its hat.

 

I've stuck with hard sciences (left out philosophy for example), but as a member of the group I'm open to interpretations.  

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review 2017-01-28 20:13
How to be a Tudor
How To Be A Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life - Ruth Goodman

How to be a Tudor is exactly what it is labeled as - a "dawn to dusk guide" to the Tudor era.  It covers some of the same ground as Ian Mortimer's Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England, but discusses much that book does not, and covers a wider timespan, from 1485 to the start of the 17th century.

 

And it is excellent.  We start with getting up in the morning, at cock's crow, which in summer would be about 4 AM, and a discussion about beds, and why Shakespeare leaving his wife the second best bed wasn't an insult.  (Beds were among the most valuable things people owned, probably second only to land, if they owned any.)

 

We then go through the Tudor day, dealing with everything from prayers to meal times (aristocrats were very sniffy about the lower orders starting to eat breakfast), and what people ate.

 

What did people eat?  They ate bread, and they spent far more (proportionally) on food than we do.  Consider what you eat today.  How much of it is made of items not grown in Tudor England (basically anything from the New World, from chocolate to corn)?  Substitute bread.  How much of it is available to you this time of year, in a world without refrigeration?  Substitute bread.

 

That's a lot of bread.

 

As with anything, some of the subjects covered are of more interest to me than others - but a truly comprehensive and fascinating book.  Recommended to anyone interested in the period.

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text 2016-09-19 23:36
Well, you've got to support your local independent bookstore
The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe - Michael Pye
Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry

"Fort Lauderdale is sometimes called The Venice of America by people who have clearly never been to Venice."

 

Picked up the Dave Barry book for my husband, and somehow the Michael Pye book just fell into my basket. Don't you hate it when that happens?

 

 

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