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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Dining Out

A Global History of Restaurants

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Dining Out

A Global History of Restaurants

A global history of restaurants beyond white tablecloths and maître d’s, Dining Out presents restaurants both as businesses and as venues for a range of human experiences. From banquets in twelfth-century China to the medicinal roots of French restaurants, the origins of restaurants are not singular—nor is the history this book tells. Katie Rawson and Elliott Shore highlight stories across time and place, including how chifa restaurants emerged from the migration of Chinese workers and their marriage to Peruvian businesswomen in nineteenth-century Peru; how Alexander Soyer transformed kitchen chemistry by popularizing the gas stove, pre-dating the pyrotechnics of molecular gastronomy by a century; and how Harvey Girls dispelled the ill repute of waiting tables, making rich lives for themselves across the American West. From restaurant architecture to technological developments, staffing and organization, tipping and waiting table, ethnic cuisines, and slow and fast foods, this delectably illustrated and profoundly informed and entertaining history takes us from the world’s first restaurants in Kaifeng, China, to the latest high-end dining experiences.

304 pages | 80 color plates, 78 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2019

Food and Gastronomy

Sociology: Social Institutions

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“Unlike many books that delve into the history of restaurants and begin with France (or wayside taverns elsewhere), the academics who have written Dining Out, a compelling volume, start in the Bronze Age. Their definition of a restaurant is elastic, referring to places where strangers might have gathered to eat and drink, including the symposiums of ancient Greece. Long before social upheavals gave rise to the modern restaurant in France, there were what we would consider to be restaurants in twelfth-century China; the authors cite a traveler’s memoir of a huge dumpling house with more than fifty ovens. (The influence of Chinese restaurants globally is significant.) The book discusses the economic and technological evolution of restaurants; restaurant service and hierarchy; tipping; the influence of transportation; sexism; chain restaurants; and food writing up to the present day.”

Florence Fabricant | New York Times

“This book is for the dedicated foodie, a comprehensive social history of eating out, from the bronze age to modern times. There’s much to nibble on: for example, the word ‘restaurant’ was originally a popular restorative broth sold in France in the 1700s. By the 1780s it had morphed into what we now understand as a restaurant. There are about 150 photographs, about half in color, and the authors include interesting archival excerpts from journals, documents, and literature.”

Sarah Murdoch | Toronto Star

"As the world economy grew more complex and specialized, workers’ enhanced mobility gave them time, money, and need to dine out. What sets Rawson and Shore’s contribution apart from other histories of restaurant culture is their insight into not simply European restaurants, but their even more ancient Asian counterparts. Appearing in China in the twelfth century, restaurants developed at a time when Chinese cities held three times the population of European capitals. Expansion of trade routes meant that businesspeople ended workdays far from home, and travelers from Sichuan yearned for familiar food even in northern provinces. Japan inaugurated ritualized, sophisticated food service, and women waited tables long before Harvey Girls appeared on the American frontier. Today’s foodies may be surprised to discover that farm-to-table cuisine appeared as early as nineteenth-century Manhattan, when Delmonico’s started its own Brooklyn farm to supply fresh produce. America’s burgeoning cities introduced an astonishing culinary range of ethnic foods, experimental chefs, and today’s ubiquity of fast food. Ancient and modern illustrations and bibliographic notes supplement the text."


"While the book is broad in scope, as its title suggests, it is intentionally not encyclopedic.The authors choose particular sites, cases, stories, and moments to represent broader trends in the evolution of restaurants and restaurant culture. Their source material includes menus, firsthand accounts, and review of scholarly sources, as one might expect. Most surprising, and delightful, however, is the inclusion of 148 illustrations, including photographs, advertisements, paintings, and other ephemera. . . . The authors write well and clearly, sometimes with humor, and the addition of visual material makes for an enjoyable read. . . . A readable general reference text for anyone interested in the long and vast history of dining out."

Food, Culture & Society

"A fascinating read for anyone who is in the industry and loves learning about the history and culture of restaurants."

Elwood Restaurant Blog

"In their sweeping history of the restaurant, Rawson and Shore are at pains to stress that the very social context in which public eating takes place invites competitive distinction, commercial wiles, the display of prestige, an atmosphere in which the customer is encouraged to feel as though he—and then, much later in history, she, too—is being feted. . . . Dining Out is written with accessible lucidity, its passage eased by Reaktion’s characteristically generous approach to illustration. If you are boarding a long distance train to the family Christmas, expecting to be consigned periodically to the lumbering trolley and its cargo of carbs and sucrose, the photographs herein of the gilded dining cars of the great era of American railroad travel will feel as smart as salt in the wound."

World of Fine Wine

"A truly international survey of restaurant history. Flavorful and scintillating."

Paul Freedman, Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, Yale University

“Rawson and Shore offer a tantalizing trip through the history of eating out from the first restaurants up to today. We meet the restaurant as a place that bristles with innovation, as an institution that has fundamentally altered the ways in which food is prepared, served, and consumed, and one that has itself undergone profound social transformations—in the kitchen staff, the service personnel, and the diners. This lavishly illustrated book and its lively text makes the reader hungry for more.”

Susan Pollock, professor, Freie Universität Berlin, and professor emeritus, Harpur College, State University of New York at Binghamton

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