The Taste of Empire
How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World
Author Lizzie Collingham
Narrated by Jennifer M. Dixon
Published by Tantor Media
Publication date Oct 3, 2017
Running time 12 hrs 4 min
In The Taste of Empire, acclaimed historian Lizzie Collingham tells the story of how the British Empire’s quest for food shaped the modern world. Told through twenty meals over the course of 450 years, from the Far East to the New World, Collingham explains how Africans taught Americans how to grow rice, how the East India Company turned opium into tea, and how Americans became the best-fed people in the world.
In The Taste of Empire, Collingham masterfully shows that only by examining the history of Great Britain’s global food system, from sixteenth-century Newfoundland fisheries to our present-day eating habits, can we fully understand our capitalist economy and its role in making our modern diets. https://tantor.com/the-taste-of-empire-lizzie-collingham.html
New England is supposed to be blizzard-bound today – if I don’t return comments immediately, it’s probably because I cannot.
Sometimes brilliant academic works make great popular non-fiction. I think Lizzie Collingham’s THE TASTE OF EMPIRE is probably a good print read in this way. There’s so much information and history, and so many figures in that history that, as an audiobook, it was hard to follow and lacked the pizzazz needed for it to function well as an audio. The narrator may read fiction wonderfully; she has a very proper accent — as I imagine a Victorian governess might sound, but I felt as if she were reading a class lecture — a very long lecture — to a group of bored students. And, I was, sadly and ashamedly, bored.
Since I was involved with a Colonial-Era house museum where the kitchen and food were featured, I usually love information on food and history and make connections that help round out my fiction reading and general understanding.
This ambitious tome takes on the course of British exploration from salted fish to almost the present day. It’s best point is how much actions of one country, and sometimes just one person, can affect the lives of millions politically, socially, culturally and economically. The entire course of history of what we eat and how it is grown, manufactured and distributed was influenced hugely by Britain’s quest to feed its population. It is a lesson in cause and unforeseen effect and repercussion. Salted fish fed the navy and the nation, sugar made the slave trade and ruined teeth back in England and the slave trade changed what was grown wherever the slaves were sent, tea, coffee and chocolate all affected the economy and culture.
I do not, usually, sit down and listen to books — I paint, exercise, clean, etc. — so I found myself replaying chapters over and over. If you have the ability to sit and listen like a rapt student with a deep fascination with the history of the empire, economics, and food then I would definitely suggest this as an audiobook. For the less aurally attentive, but still interested, I would probably suggest reading it in a print format.
AUTHOR INFORMATION: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/people/honorary/collingham/