A taste of history: Speaker at Prescott Valley library explores backstory of our cuisine

Gregory McNamee (Courtesy photo)

Gregory McNamee (Courtesy photo)

From the taco and hamburger to baked Alaska and ratatouille, each dish that comes from the kitchen to the dinner table has a story.

What's more is the food of a specific region speaks to the area's cultures, whether they be the native culture or a culture that immigrated.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Gregory McNamee, speaker for the Arizona Humanities Council and the author of "Moveable Feasts: The History, Science and Lore of Food" will explore the foods that speak to the cultures of Arizona at the Prescott Valley Public Library's auditorium, 7501 E. Civic Circle.

McNamee has written for various outlets on food history and food chemistry, such as the Cornell Health Sciences Institute, which published the food pyramid. Keeping the interest alive over the years has led to an accumulation of a number of facts that resulted in this talk and the writing of two books, McNamee said.

He enjoys conveying the fact that food eaten every day has history, McNamee said.

"It doesn't just spring up from the earth, it doesn't just show up out at the supermarket. It has, in many cases, a very complicated story behind it," McNamee said, noting that the talk he gives centers on the taco as a vehicle for that idea. "If you load up a taco with most of the stuff we put on tacos - cheese and lettuce, meat - by the end of that taco, you have involved just about every continent, dozens of cultures, over centuries. So each taco in essence is a bit of world history."

The talk is free and opens with food such as hamburgers, hot dogs, French Fries and other staples, McNamee said. However, since the focus is on the food of Arizona, three big traditions are presented: Mexican or Spanish, Native American and the Anglo-American, he said. Those three traditions constitute Arizona culture and without one, there is no Arizona culture.

The entire talk is quite the appetite stimulator, McNamee said.

"If they're having trouble getting the pumps primed, then they come out, hear the talk and they always leave hungry," he said. "No matter whether they've just eaten or not."

By Jason Wheeler. Follow reporter Jason Wheeler on Twitter @PrescottWheels. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2037 or at 928-642-5277.