The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, first published in 1999, became, almost overnight, an immense success, winning prizes and accolades around the world. Its combination of serious food history, culinary expertise, and entertaining serendipity, with each page offering an infinity of perspectives, was recognized as unique. The study of food and food history is a new discipline, but one that has developed exponentially in the last twenty years. There are now university departments, international societies, learned journals, and a wide-ranging literature exploring the meaning of food in the daily lives of people around the world, and seeking to introduce food and the process of nourishment into our understanding of almost every compartment of human life, whether politics, high culture, street life, agriculture, or life and death issues such as conflict and war.The great quality of this Companion is the way it includes both an exhaustive catalogue of the foods that nourish humankind - whether they be fruit from tropical forests, mosses scraped from adamantine granite in Siberian wastes, or body parts such as eyeballs and testicles - and a richly allusive commentary on the culture of food, whether expressed in literature and cookery books, or as dishes peculiar to a country or community.
The new edition has not sought to dim the brilliance of Davidson's prose. Rather, it has updated to keep ahead of a fast-moving area, and has taken the opportunity to alert readers to new avenues in food studies.