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The Secret Life of Food.

The ancient Greeks did not need a word for wedding cakes. They merely instructed the bride-to-be to bake cheese cakes in the shape of a woman's breast. The cake-eating ceremony took place before the wedding for the friends of the groom.

Vermicelli means "little worms" in Latin. Spaghetti means "strings" in Italian.

Milk originally meant "to stroke," and referred to the act of milking a cow.

These and other amusing facts permeate a book passionately devoted to the romance of food. Nor does the author confine himself to trivia. There is the deep psychological truth that certain foods have mystic powers. Cannibals believe that by eating their enemy they can absorb the enemy's power. In our culture, there are many who believe eating meat infuses the diner with strength, and that fish is "brain food." In antiquity there were people who believed walnuts eaten during pregnancy would produce highly intelligent children because the nut is shaped like the brain.

The author's fascination with food spills over to his amazement that so much of our speech has become colorful by personifying it: honey, or sugar, expresses tenderness or love. Babies are the "apple of their parents' eyes." A successful man "brings home the bacon," provide a "nest egg" for their brood. We feel "sheepish" if we are embarrassed and "eat humble pie" in atonement.

Food is also the stuff of which many myths are made. For centuries, yogurt acquired a mythology. Wherever travelers wandered, the sight of very old people still working in the fiolds inspired tales of the power their favorite food possesed. Great coincidences became gospel truth. In the early 1500's, when the King of France, Francois I, was on his deathbed, a Turkish doctor prescribed yogurt. Miraculously, and coincidentally, the monarch recovered. Since then, the grateful French call it "the milk of eternal life."

Mr. Elkort laments the gradual disappearance of gournet cooking. As he views the rise of fast-food restaurants, the proliferation of meals that are cooked in microwave ovens in seconds, and the brutishness of the modern palate, he probably hopes for more tributes such as his book will become. Tributes to one of humanity's great love affairs -- with food.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vegetus Publications
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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