Monday, September 17, 2007

Ken Albala

Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific.

His new book is Beans: A History.

One thing he did not include in the book but mentioned in a Salon interview (and which elevated my estimation of his palate): "I still don't care much for is lima beans..... [I]n cartoons there are a lot of things about beans, and in one cartoon I have, as a torture device, they feed people lima beans -- like that's the worst thing you could do to someone."

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I've read about a dozen food books in the past year which one might categorize as "lighter fare" - almost wholly without merit, until I stumbled by accident on Ayun Halliday's Dirty Sugar Cookies. The title and blurbs are hardly inviting, nor the cover, but the author has an absolutely incisive wit, and a remarkably deft way with words. I think we must be about the same age, because her recollections of life seem to parallel my own in so many ways, but more importantly, you come to genuinely like her as a person. I am fairly tempted to track her down in Brooklyn and invite her out for a drink. Or maybe make spanakopita for her. I haven't finished the book yet, but it's 5:45 AM and I am looking forward to a few chapters this morning.

For serious reading I am about to start Kate Colquhoun's Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking. She wrote a splendid review of my own new Beans in the Telegraph last week, and I literally bumped into her at the Oxford Symposium this weekend. My instinctive reaction upon seeing her was to deliver a kiss - and she is gorgeous. I anticipate that the book will be just as enchanting.
Albala's other books include: Eating Right in the Renaissance, University of California Press, 2002; Food in Early Modern Europe, Greenwood Press, 2003; Opening Up North America, with Caroline Cox, Facts on File, 2005; The Banquet: A History of Fine Dining in Western Europe, 1520-1660, University of Illinois Press, 2006; and Cooking in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Elizabethan England, Greenwood Press, 2006.

Visit his blog, Ken Albala's Food Rant.

--Marshal Zeringue