AtoZ World Food Database: A Feast of Information

The library recently subscribed to a tasty new database: AtoZ World Food. This resource provides food culture information, as well as more than 7,000 recipes, for 174 countries around the world.

Food is an integral part of cultural identity. If you want to learn about a culture, food is an excellent way to start. Through the lens of food, you can learn about a culture’s:

  • Geography—A country’s traditional foods consist primarily of foods native to the area, such as coastal countries that incorporate seafood or tropical climates with an abundant variety of produce.
  • Values—Italians place such value on sitting down to enjoy a meal that the only socially acceptable food to eat while walking is gelato. Brazil practices “conscious eating,” which places focus not only on nutrition, but also the social and aesthetic aspects of dining. Many countries value meals, especially dinner, as daily family time.
  • Religion—Many religions observe dietary restrictions. In India alone, food traditions are shaped by Muslims (who don’t eat pork), Hindus (who don’t eat beef) and the fact that many Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains are vegetarian.
  • History—A startling amount of history involves tea. In India, masala chai was created as a symbol of resistance because the addition of traditional spices reduced the amount of British tea leaves needed. For several centuries after the French Revolution, tea was disdained by the French as elitist. The Swedish government has tried to ban tea and coffee several times since the 1700s but has never succeeded. And of course, early Americans protested unfair taxation by dumping crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

Here’s how to navigate the database to start your own culinary exploration…

Browse by Country: From the home page, simply select a country from the map or the alphabetical list. Each country has a menu which includes Food Culture (national cuisine, classic dishes, daily meals, dining etiquette, special occasion foods, and a “Did You Know?” section), Beverages (tea culture, mixed drinks, national beers, and national liquors), and a variety of recipes (appetizers, soups, salads, breads, main courses, side dishes, desserts, and snacks).

Browse by Ingredient: From the navigation bar at the top of the page, select Ingredients. Pick a category and then a specific ingredient to learn about its origin, varieties, flavor profile, nutrient profile, preparations, seasons, and highlighted recipes, along with some fun facts.

Browse Reference Topics: While each country’s profile contains reference information, you can find more in-depth and comprehensive reference topics under the Reference tab. Some of the topics covered include: dietary philosophies, historical timelines, cooking conversions, food inventions, and more. Reference topics may be found under the Reference tab.

Featured Counties: Each day, AtoZ World Food features a country on its homepage. If you’re looking to broaden your food culture horizons, or you’re looking for cooking inspiration, check out whichever country is featured that day. (As I write this, it is February 17; Kosovo is the featured country because it’s their Independence Day.)


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