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Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide (Atlas Obscura)

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Maybe when it gets on to Western Europe (next section), I will be enthralled by all the food I didn't know of and want to try? From the creators of Atlas Obscura comes a lavishly illustrated guide to esoteric and eccentric cuisine from around the world, embracing everything from English bog butter to China's sacred mountaintop tea house. My main issue here is that I don't think the title of authors for Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras is genuinely justified. The section dedicated to the US is huge, and if I ever find myself on the east coast in late September, you better believe I’ll be making the detour to West Virginia’s annual roadkill cook-off.

But free-range only legally in the US means the chickens have access to outdoors - a small concrete yard is fine. This is perhaps most apparent when it comes to food, which is a visceral reminder of how our cultures simliar and how they are the same. And it is now serving up the best of it in a lavishly illustrated food-lover’s gift of nearly 500 dishes, ingredients, traditions, and experiences. No – in that it’s a big and beautiful hardback about food that has come out just in time for Christmas.In these pages, you'll find riveting stories of human culture ancient and present, history, climate, mythology, commerce and geography — all through the lens of that thing you thought you already knew: food. For example, a section on Australia includes a collection of information about a melon festival, a coconut cult, the world's oldest emu farm, and wild rice conversation art.

I have a physical copy of ‘Gastro Obscura’, a weighty tome of 438 pages, which organises foods from across the world according to their region. But far more than a menu of curious minds delicacies and unexpected dishes, Gastro Obscura reveals food's central place in our lives as well as our bellies, touching on history-trace the network of ancient Roman fish sauce factories. What could be more important in this moment in time than to be so delightfully engaged in the many ways food cultivates—through sometimes eccentric means!The richest were then eating such extravagances as glasses moulded from sugar, as well as cakes, pastries, jams, preserved fruit, sugared almonds, marzipan, gingerbread, pastries, cakes and jellies. I liked that the book goes beyond what is often the “signature” food/dish of a place, but gave me a behind scene lesson into lesser known food patterns/habit.

Perhaps because it is Great Britain and Ireland and I am familiar with these countries and their food that the book lacks interest? Festivals - chase a wheel of double Gloucester at Britain's annual Cooper's Hill cheese rolling competition. In the Middle Ages, the bestiary a type of book which recorded and illuminated both real animals and imagined monsters in wonderful pictures.Or, ‘The History of the World in 100 objects’, by Neil Macgregor which records important individual archaeological finds throughout history. For example, there's a two-page spread on "Yoshoku" (Japanese versions of western food) and another on Italian food in the former colony of Eritrea (East Africa). But far more than a menu of curious minds delicacies and unexpected dishes, Gastro Obscura reveals food’s central place in our lives as well as our bellies, touching on history–trace the network of ancient Roman fish sauce factories. As someone who plans what and where she’s going to eat, as a priority when planning any trip, this seemed like just my cup of tea.

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