A Linguist Reads the Menu
W. W. Norton & Company
On Sale: September 15, 2014
Hardcover / e-Book
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Non-Fiction Cooking / Food
Stanford University linguist and MacArthur Fellow Dan
Jurafsky dives into the hidden history of food.
Why do we eat toast for breakfast, and then toast to good
health at dinner? What does the turkey we eat on
Thanksgiving have to do with the country on the eastern
Mediterranean? Can you figure out how much your dinner will
cost by counting the words on the menu?
In The Language of Food, Stanford University professor and
MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky peels away the mysteries from
the foods we think we know. Thirteen chapters evoke the joy
and discovery of reading a menu dotted with the sharp-eyed
annotations of a linguist.
Jurafsky points out the subtle meanings hidden in filler
words like "rich" and "crispy," zeroes in on the metaphors
and storytelling tropes we rely on in restaurant reviews,
and charts a micro-universe of marketing language on the
back of a bag of potato chips.
The fascinating journey through The Language of Food
uncovers a global atlas of culinary influences. With
Jurafsky's insight, words like ketchup, macaroon, and even
salad become living fossils that contain the patterns of
early global exploration that predate our modern
From ancient recipes preserved in Sumerian song lyrics to
colonial shipping routes that first connected East and West,
Jurafsky paints a vibrant portrait of how our foods
developed. A surprising history of culinary exchange—a
sharing of ideas and culture as much as ingredients and
flavors—lies just beneath the surface of our daily snacks,
soups, and suppers.
Engaging and informed, Jurafsky's unique study illuminates
an extraordinary network of language, history, and food. The
menu is yours to enjoy.
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