Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Around the world in spices and herbs

On supermarket shelves, we are given a mind-numbing array of choices to select from. Shall we have some peppercorns on our macaroni, some cinnamon for baking, or a bit of rosemary with roast pork? Five hundred years ago, however, cooking with herbs and spices was a much simpler choice.

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Twelve interesting facts about chocolate

Did you know that 7th July is International Chocolate Day? This is, of course, a day to eat that extra piece of chocolate or bake (and then eat) a cake just for fun! But while you savor each bite of chocolaty goodness, keep in mind that behind the sweet flavor is a long and dynamic history that has traveled across oceans and transcended cultural boundaries.

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Does climate change spell the end of fine wine?

Fine wine is an agricultural product with characteristics that make it especially sensitive to a changing climate. The quality and quantity of wine, and thus prices and revenues, are extremely sensitive to the weather where the grapes were grown. Depending on weather conditions, the prices for wines produced by the same winemaker from fruit grown on the same plot of land can vary by a factor of 20 or more from year to year.

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Food economics: a reading list

Agriculture is a means of living for a large percentage of the world’s population. Agricultural economics looks at the utilization and distribution of farming resources and aims to apply the principles of economic theory to farming and the production and allocation of food in order to optimize such processes. This month the annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Society is taking place.

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Disparity in the restaurant industry [infographic]

If someone were to tell you that the restaurant industry is one of the lowest paying sectors in the US economy, the types of jobs that might come to mind include those in the fast food segment. Not surprisingly, workers from all parts of the restaurant industry—tipped and non-tipped—live in poverty.

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The romance of chocolate

Is chocolate an aphrodisiac? Gifts of chocolate are given usually with that intent at this time of the year. Does it work? Well, maybe; gastronomy is known as the sister art of love. Women often crave chocolate. In 1648, according to the diary of English Jesuit Thomas Gage, the women of Chiapas Real arranged for the murder of a certain bishop who forbade them to drink chocolate during mass.

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“The experience of chocolate craving”- an extract from The Economics of Chocolate

It is indisputable that chocolate consumption gives instant pleasure and comfort, especially during episodes of ‘emotional eating’, which involves searching for food (generally in large amounts) even if not physiologically hungry in order to get relief from a negative mood or bad feelings (e.g. stressful life situations, anxiety, depression). The pleasure experienced in eating chocolate can be, first of all, due to neurophysiological components.

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Ten facts about snack foods from around the world

Did you know that in the United States, February is National Snack Food month? In 1989 a need was seen to increase the sales of snack food in the usually slow month of February, and so National Snack Food month was born. To celebrate we’ve collected together 10 surprising facts about snack foods from around the world, all taken from The Oxford Companion to Food.

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In memoriam: Sidney Mintz

Professor Sidney Mintz passed away on 26 December 2015, at the age of 93. “Sid” as he was affectionately called by his acquaintances, taught for two decades at Yale University and went on to found the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins. His best-known work, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, was published in 1985.

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How much do you know about wine? [quiz]

The world of wine is developing rapidly, so much so that the updated fourth edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine has added 300 new entries, including wine apps, aromatics, minerality, social media, and tasting notes language. The wine map as a whole has changed with countries like Hong Kong and many in Northern Europe developing as substantial wine producers.

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Renaissance of the ancient world

The Eastern Mediterranean, comprising Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey, is politically one of the most divisive regions in the world. Greece and Turkey have had their historical differences; the tiny island of Cyprus is still divided and Israel and Lebanon’s last altercation happened all too recently disrupting the harvest in the Galilee and Bekaa Valley respectively.

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Do you know your NYC food and drink?

Suffice to say that New York City has a smorgasbord of all types of food from all over the world. You want food from the southern coast of mainland China? Or maybe you’re feeling some British pub food? NYC’s got you covered.

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New York City: the gastronomic melting pot

My father was from New York City, and he made very sure that we were from New York City too. I was born in Queens, and no one in my family ever mentioned the possibility of living anywhere else. Although we were an African American family living in a largely African American neighborhood, when we were kids, we did not eat quite like other Americans.

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Wine and DNA profiling

In ampelographic collections, about ten living plants of each grape variety or clone are kept alive for future studies or plantings, which requires a large amount of time and money. Yet, in every collection we estimate an average of 5% of labelling errors. They can now be identified with DNA profiling and duplicates can be eliminated, thus saving time and money.

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