Originally posted on 01 Apr 2023

1 minute read

My folks got me this book for this past Xmas and it finally bubbled to the top of the to-read stack.

If you’ve ever wondered about the relationship between macaron, macaroon, and macaroni, then this is the book for you. Jurafsky delves into this and other language-related food questions, taking the reader on a worldwide tour through history.

One thing I especially enjoyed about the book was the lack of whitewashing. Jurafsky, like any responsible academic, seeks out the truth even when it may not be especially popular. Perhaps opinions have softened a bit, but when the book was released in 2014, a fair number of readers may have been taken aback to learn how much of their “European” food actually has roots in the Middle East.

Something I found annoying about the book was the constant referencing of the San Francisco food scene. Yes, you live in Bernal Heights. Yes, you regularly head down to the Mission to eat. Yes, SF has a lot of food options. Speaking as someone interested in food (and as a former SF resident): I don’t care. I’d rather those words had been used to tell me more about unfamiliar cultures in far-flung places, not humble bragging about the author’s abundance of culinary options within a short walk from his home.

Still, as nits go that one’s pretty minor. I still recommend the book to anyone who enjoys food, language, and their intersection.