Food: A Cultural Culinary History

Learn how the entirety of human civilization—war, trade, politics, art, religion, and more—has been shaped by our interaction with food, in this delicious podcast.

Ken Albala in a circle frame

Presented by Professor Ken Albala

I teach about food, I write about food, I love to cook, I read about food for leisure—what better recipe is there for happiness than to make work and play completely seamless? 

Dr. Ken Albala is an award-winning Professor of History and Chair of Food Studies at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He is also a Visiting Professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. He has written or edited over 24 books on food.

Hunting, Gathering, and Stone Age Cooking

In episode one of Food: A Cultural Culinary History, we’re going to consider food as a catalyst in human history, and what our food choices reveal about our values and ambitions. […]

What Early Agriculturalists Ate

The transition to agriculture is perhaps humanity’s single most important social revolution – and one that was not without its tradeoffs. In episode 2 of Food: A Cultural Culinary History we’re going to explore the factors surrounding the rise of agriculture, how plants and animals were domesticated, and why agriculture directly led to civilization as we know it. […]

Egypt and the Gift of the Nile

Ancient Egypt’s prosperity, impressive court culture, and their isolation from conflict led to a sophisticated food tradition and the emergence of the world’s first “elite” cuisine. […]

Ancient Judea—From Eden to Kosher Laws

Practices regarding food were deeply integral to the lives of the ancient Hebrews. In episode 4 we’ll explore prescriptions regarding food in Biblical Genesis, and consider that the Fall of Adam and Eve itself was an act of eating. […]

Classical Greece—Wine, Olive Oil, and Trade

In this episode, we’ll discover how the ancient Greeks’ need for arable land led to their imperial and mercantile system, and we’ll consider what we learn about their food culture from such sources as Homer, Hesiod, Pythagoras, and Plato. […]

The Alexandrian Exchange and the Four Humors

Alexander the Great’s conquests heralded an era where previously unconnected cultures mixed on a large scale. In this podcast, we’ll trace the diffusion of foodstuffs over vast trade networks in the Hellenistic period. […]

Ancient India—Sacred Cows and Ayurveda

In this episode, we’re going to learn about the culture of the Aryans, whose religion prefigured Hinduism; we’ll discuss food customs relating to India’s caste system; and we’ll even touch upon the traditions of vegetarianism in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. […]

Yin and Yang of Classical Chinese Cuisine

Chinese culture has produced what is arguably the most complex, sophisticated, and varied culinary tradition on earth. In this podcast we’re going to trace the rise of civilization in China from the Hsia to the Han dynasty. […]

Dining in Republican and Imperial Rome

In this episode we’re going to Ancient Rome, where we’ll delve into some intriguing contrasts in the dining habits of the ancient Romans. We’ll examine the simple food customs of republican Rome, and then trace the expanding empire and learn how exotic food became a status symbol. […]

Early Christianity—Food Rituals and Asceticism

In today’s podcast we’re going to observe the role of food in Jesus’s parables and miracles, as well as in the ritual of the Eucharist. […]

Europe’s Dark Ages and Charlemagne

The fall of Rome and the rise of Germanic tribal kingdoms brought significant culinary changes to Europe. In this podcast episode we’re going to examine the “barbarian” diet and the culture of “fast and feast” which emerged from the opposing ideals of Christian asceticism, German meat-eating virility, and classical moderation. […]

Islam—A Thousand and One Nights of Cooking

In this podcast we’re going to examine the Islamic take on food and cooking. We’ll contemplate the Muslim cultural values that permitted pleasure and the cultivation of the senses, and we’ll look at their creation of an exquisite cuisine. […]