Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Words to Eat By

Words to Eat By

Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language

Ina Lipkowitz

St. Martin's Press




You may be what you eat, but you're also what you speak, and English food words tell a remarkable story about the evolution of our language and culinary history, revealing a vital collision of cultures alive and well from the time Caesar first arrived on British shores to the present day.

Words to Eat By explores the remarkable stories behind five of our most basic food words, words which reveal fascinating aspects of the evolution of the English language and our powerful associations with certain foods. Using sources that vary from Roman histories and early translations of the Bible to Julia Child's recipes and Frank Bruni's restaurant reviews, Ina Lipkowitz shows how saturated with French and Italian names the English culinary vocabulary is, "from a la carte to zabaglione." But the words for our most basic foodstuffs -- bread, meat, milk, leek, and apple -- are still rooted in Old English and Words to Eat By reveals how exceptional these words and our associations with the foods are. As Lipkowitz says, "the resulting stories will make readers reconsider their appetites, the foods they eat, and the words they use to describe what they want for dinner, whether that dinner is cooked at home or ordered from the pages of a menu."

Contagious with information, this remarkable book pulls profound insights out of simple phenomena, offering an analysis of our culinary and linguistic heritage that is as accessible as it is enlightening.


Fruit and Apples
"Dare to Say What You Call Apple"1

Infants sought the mother's nipple as soon as born; and when grown, and able to feed themselves, run naturally to fruit.—John Evelyn, Acetaria:...


Praise for Words to Eat By

Words to Eat By abounds with...delicious historical detail. Ms. an appealing mixture of scholar and foodie, and she has written a toothsome study of the relationship between English-speakers' culinary and linguistic heritage.The sum effect is a hymn to the comforting, honest pleasures of food and at the same time a perceptive account of the ways in which many of our tastes were determined hundreds and indeed thousands of years ago.” —The Wall Street Journal

“...a lively blend of linguistics, culinary detail (including ancient recipes), religious and cultural works, and Lipkowitz's own vigorous's hard to imagine reading a menu quite the same way again after reading this elegant, thoughtful book.” —The Boston Globe

“...a delectable culinary sampler. This feast for foodies everywhere is chock-full of unexpectedly tasty tidbits of information in support of the author's premise that the manner in which we prepare, enjoy, and communicate about food speaks volumes about our cultural and linguistic heritage. Enjoy!” —Booklist

“...[a] winsome, delightful, and appetizing romp through the development of our language regarding food.” —Publishers Weekly

“Brings a depth of historical and linguistic relevance to the table.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ever wonder about the origin and social life of food words and their ability to evoke powerful reactions, both positive and negative? Ina Lipkowitz takes us on a fascinating journey through the history of names for various foods and the reasons why some prevail in Northern European languages while others proliferate in the south; why some refer to the animal in the field and others to the food on the plate. Here is one delicious rumination for lovers of the gastronomic lexicon, ranging from apples and leeks to milk, beef and bread. Nothing less than an etymological feast.” —Ken Albala, author of Beans, Eating Right in the Renaissance and The Lost Art of Real Cooking

“na Lipkowitz's passion for food and language leaps off every page of Words to Eat By, as she lovingly dissects the relationship between the food that goes into our mouths and the words that come out. The combination of two such rich subjects means the result is packed with tasty morsels.” —Tom Standage, author of An Edible History of Humanity and A History of the World in 6 Glasses

“What an engaging book! Words to Eat By is not just for foodies; it is a lively account of the history of words and of our intersections with different cultures, so appropriate for any history lover. Lipkowitz's narrative is fascinating, reminding us that what we eat is shaped by attitude and imagination and the power of language. It is an important contribution to the literature of food and our relationship to the different cultural languages of the edible world.” —Janet Theophano, author of Eat My Words

“A thought-provoking book that savors the primordial stew of our language.” —Nichola Fletcher, author of Charlemagnes's Tablecloth and Caviar: A Global History

In the Press

Read the Kirkus Review of WORDS TO EAT BY Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language. Lipkowitz (EnglishMIT) cuts through the flesh to expose the culinary history of five foods and how the five senses assisted their evolution in the English language. - Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Ina Lipkowitz

INA LIPKOWITZ teaches fiction and biblical studies in the literature department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, she has taught English, French, and German literature at Harvard University. Words to Eat By is her first book. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Ina Lipkowitz

Gary Epstein

Ina Lipkowitz

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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