Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery Oral History Project

Interview with Ken Albala



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Technological University Dublin


Ken Albala was born in New Jersey to first generation American parents but his grandparents were Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Greece who met in New York. He recalls his grandmother always cooking but his father was in the clothing business. He studied history in Columbia University and did his PhD on Renaissance dietaries which led to his first book, Eating right in the Renaissance. From there, his research interests moved to cookbooks and culinary topics, food and religion, food and art and food and fine dining. He first came to the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery around 1995 when it was in St Antony’s and he soon began to present papers at the Symposium. He has been Professor of History in the University of the Pacific in California since 1994. He became editor of Food Culture Around the World series for Greenwood Press and recruited many of his authors at the Symposium. After five years as books editor with Food, Culture and Society, he became joint editor of the journal with Lisa Heldke. In 2015, he became a trustee of the Oxford Symposium and feels his time involved over the years has been very positive with all the friends and professional connections he has made. Twenty years, and over twenty books, on from Alan Davidson telling him to write a book on aphrodisiacs, he has finally signed a contract with Reaktion Books on same.

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gastronomy, history, food, writers


Food Studies



Interview with Ken Albala