Cooking Across the Ages

Watch Cooking Across the Ages

  • 2020
  • 1 Season

Cooking is an age-old tradition and a consistently evolving art that impacts every part of life. Ken Albala explores the recipe of culinary history through the renowned series, Cooking Across the Ages from The Great Courses Signature Collection. In this television show, Ken Albala, a celebrated professor and food historian, takes his viewers on an eye-opening journey through the ages of food. By delving deeply into history, he unearths how different cultures and cuisines evolved and how dishes that we enjoy today came into being. With an exceptional knack for storytelling, Albala blends tales of culture and custom with innovative cooking techniques and recipes.

The series airs over several installments, with each episode exploring an era in history, starting from ancient Egypt to the modern era. Through the show, we gain a compelling insight into the significance of food throughout human existence. We observe the changes in production, technology, and preferences through the years, providing a much-needed perspective on how the culinary arts progressed.

In Cooking Across the Ages, Albala takes an interdisciplinary approach to exploring history through food. He explores the impact of natural phenomena such as weather, counteracts the impact of the diseases, politics, and economics of certain periods and portrays how these scientific, social and cultural factors have affected the cuisine. The host employs his vast knowledge of anthropology, history, and molecular biology to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the human civilization has shaped its diet over time.

Not surprisingly, Albala also donned the hat of an accomplished chef to give invaluable cooking tips to all home cooks. With his knowledge of ancient and modern cooking methods, he shares secrets for making mouth-watering meals from the past – like bread made ancient Egyptian sourdough – and modern favorites too, like macaroni and cheese. He simplistically demystifies confusing culinary terminologies and techniques, making it easy to execute complex dishes.

Albala's enthusiasm for food is infectious, and it is contagious through each episode. His in-depth knowledge of food history is evident through the series, and he brings his passion for the subject to the forefront in every episode. He not only explores the different eras but also the variation of cuisine throughout the world. From the gastronomic diversity of the Mediterranean and the Middle East to the intricate flavor profiles of Asian cuisine, the series serves up plenty of inspiration for home cooks looking to expand their repertoire of recipes.

The show’s attention to detail is remarkable, from the beautifully filmed cooking segments to the tremendous graphics that accommodate the history discussed. The theme's apt as it iterates throughout, giving it a well-thought-out experience that follows through its entire 36 episodes.

Overall, Cooking Across the Ages from The Great Courses Signature Collection is a fantastic series that brings out the best of food history, provides valuable insights into the evolution of human diet and culture, and offers plenty of innovative cooking techniques and recipes that viewers can put into practice. Ken Albala's passion and knowledge make the series a fascinating journey into the past and present. Already a memorable series, Cooking Across the Ages is destined to be a classic in food history for years to come.

Cooking Across the Ages is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on April 24, 2020.

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The Foodie Era: Cooking with the World
24. The Foodie Era: Cooking with the World
April 24, 2020
In the 1980s, when cooking became an official leisure activity and mark of cultural status, Nathalie Dupree, Jacques Pepin, and Martin Yan each had a television cooking show. These programs exposed people to great cooking and encouraged them to step into their own kitchens. Learn to create Dupree's macaroni pie, to bone a chicken Pepin style, and to cook the chicken thighs in a wok as Yan taught.
America's Can-Opener Cookbook
23. America's Can-Opener Cookbook
April 24, 2020
Discover the 1954 Can-Opener Cookbook, a reflection of the mid-century focus on all things convenient: a time when having a can on the pantry shelf was considered easier, more dependable, and more hygienic than fresh food. Follow the recipes to create quick crab meat Lorenzo, jambalaya, and a light blancmange made with instant vanilla pudding mix.
Brazil and West Africa: Black Bean Stew
22. Brazil and West Africa: Black Bean Stew
April 24, 2020
Explore the rich cuisine of 19th-century Brazil with its indigenous American, West African, and Portuguese influences. From the Cozinheiro Imperial, first published in 1838, learn to cook vatapa with mandioca flour, green beans and shrimp, and a delicious black bean stew using every part of the pig, including tail and ears.
Imperial Russia's Piroshki and Coulibiac
21. Imperial Russia's Piroshki and Coulibiac
April 24, 2020
Examine A Gift to Young Housewives by Elena Molokhovets, published during the Russian empire in the final decades before the revolution, featured the foods eaten by the Russian elite. Learn to make pirozhki iz vermisheli, Salad Olivier (known simply as Russian salad outside the country), and the delicious sweet Blinchiki for dessert.
Imperial Germany's Cabbage and Sauerbraten
20. Imperial Germany's Cabbage and Sauerbraten
April 24, 2020
Henriette Davidis wrote the most popular German cookbook of the 19th century, Praktisches Kochbuch (Practical Cookbook). For the first time in history, with urbanization and the birth of a working class, she knew German women might not have learned to cook before marriage, so she wrote this book for them. Follow her recipes for a delicious red cabbage, sauerbrauten, and bread dumplings.
Victorian Working-Class Meals
19. Victorian Working-Class Meals
April 24, 2020
Alexis Soyer, author of the 1855 Shilling Cookery for the People, gained popularity initially as the chef at a fashionable club in London, but later as an inventor and philanthropist who started soup kitchens during the Irish potato famine. Explore his recipes for vermicelli and macaroni, fried fish Jewish fashion, and beef pudding.
The French Canadian Tourtière Meat Pie
18. The French Canadian Tourtière Meat Pie
April 24, 2020
La Cuisiniere Canadienne, published in 1840, was the first Canadian cookbook. The authors created the recipes they imagined the early 17th-century Quebec settlers would have eaten (and once in writing, they became the tradition). Discover the extraordinary flavors of the tourtiere, a meat pie traditionally served on Christmas or New Year's Day.
Early America: Johnnycake and Pumpkin
17. Early America: Johnnycake and Pumpkin
April 24, 2020
Amelia Simmons, universally recognized as the first truly American cookbook author, wrote recipes for all grades of life, from elegant households to the most humble farmer, in the democratizing spirit of the early Republic. Explore her recipes to create a cornmeal-based johnnycake, a type of corned beef, and a predecessor to the pumpkin pie.
China's Last Dynasty: Elegant Simplicity
16. China's Last Dynasty: Elegant Simplicity
April 24, 2020
Explore the fascinating cookbook of the great Qing Dynasty poet Yuan Mei. Writing Recipes from the Garden of Contentment as a reaction to the elite dining of the Chinese court, his recipes are relatively simple, traditional, and made to highlight the natural state of ingredients. Learn to cook his pork tenderloin, wheat gluten, and a simple rice porridge typically eaten for breakfast.
Post-Puritan England: Hippocras and Cookies
15. Post-Puritan England: Hippocras and Cookies
April 24, 2020
Did Lettice Pudsey create all the recipes in the 17th-century manuscript attributed to her? Or do as many as 13 others also deserve credit? Whatever the answer, Pudsey had great culinary skills and she wanted her peers to know it. Explore her hippocras, a delicious spiced wine, and the astounding flavors of her capon in whit broth.
The Birth of French Haute Cuisine
14. The Birth of French Haute Cuisine
April 24, 2020
In every account of the birth of French haute cuisine, credit is given to Francois Pierre de La Varenne for charting the course forward. Among his innovations was the creation of the roux, a combination of fat and flour used to thicken a sauce. Follow his lead in creating a flavorful bouillon from beef, mutton, and fowl; a potage of chickens with asparagus; and soft cakes without cheese.
Vegetarian India: Jackfruit and Rice
13. Vegetarian India: Jackfruit and Rice
April 24, 2020
Explore the ethical vegetarianism of the Jain people in 16th century Kallahalli, today's southwestern India. As reflected in recipes from the Soopa Shastra, a cookbook commissioned by the local magnate of the area, the Jains used fresh, local ingredients to their best advantage. Learn to cook a stuffed cake, tamarind rice, eggplant, plantain, and a jackfruit soup.
Portugal and Japan: Cakes and Katsuobushi
12. Portugal and Japan: Cakes and Katsuobushi
April 24, 2020
Explore the fascinating decades of exchange between Portugal and Japan in the 16th century, and discover which Portuguese foods are still part of Japanese cuisine today. Explore the process of creating fine dried fish flakes from skipjack tuna, and learn why the dried blocks of this fish are so prized that they're often even given as wedding presents.
Dining with Don Quixote in Imperial Spain
11. Dining with Don Quixote in Imperial Spain
April 24, 2020
Spain became a gastronomic model for much of Europe in the 17th century, with its culinary influence becoming widespread even after suffering military defeat. As you cook its olla podrida, discover the riot of flavors (lamb, beef, pig's feet, chestnuts, turnips, and more) in this rotten pot that became popular throughout Europe.
Papal Rome: Meat Rolls and Eggplant
10. Papal Rome: Meat Rolls and Eggplant
April 24, 2020
Explore the encyclopedic wonders of the Opera, a 1570 cookbook by Bartolomeo Scappi. Unusual for its time, Opera was a cookbook written specifically to teach cooking. With directions and recipes from the Late Renaissance style, and using lavish and contrasting flavors, you will create delicious meat rolls, salami, and an eggplant dish.
Aztec Tortillas and Chocolate
9. Aztec Tortillas and Chocolate
April 24, 2020
While no written recipes exist from Aztec culture, we can infer what they ate and cooked from other literature that did survive, and by studying the ecology of the area. Master the secrets of an Aztec specialty: drinking chocolate poured from on high to create a special froth, as well as their turkey tamales.
Crafting Aphrodisiacs from the Renaissance
8. Crafting Aphrodisiacs from the Renaissance
April 24, 2020
Renaissance medicine promoted the idea that some foods made you hot, some cold, some promoted healthy libido and reproduction, and some not. Explore the 1560 cookbook of Domenico Romoli, which combined recipes with medical advice. Learn to make his chickpea fritters, zeppole, and sofrito of chopped beef.
Renaissance Italy's Sweets and Pasta
7. Renaissance Italy's Sweets and Pasta
April 24, 2020
Explore the earliest printed cookbook, composed in the early 15th century and printed around 1470 (making it one of the first generation of books in print on any subject). Learn to create its blancmanger, a combination of capon breast, white flour, rosewater, sugar, and almond milk that still exists in Turkish cuisine. And discover how to make pasta by feel and texture, no measurements allowed.
Medieval France's Touch for Sugar and Spice
6. Medieval France's Touch for Sugar and Spice
April 24, 2020
Meet Guillaume Tirel (known as Taillevent), the first celebrity chef who served in the 14th century as master chef in the French imperial courts. His Le Viandier was not an introduction to cooking but served as an aid to help people remember how to cook the classics. Dive into his recipe for a polysavory white stew of capons, along with individual tarts with banners for your guests.
Feast like a Viking with Meat and Beer
5. Feast like a Viking with Meat and Beer
April 24, 2020
Explore the oldest-known cookbook in Medieval Europe, the 13th century's Libellus de arte coquinaria. With its terse recipes of meat, fowl, fish, and sauces, it seemed to be written for a noble audience, not the common cook. Learn to make hunter-style fish pie with animal bones, as well as beer (much safer than drinking water at the time).
Medieval Egypt: Chickpeas and Phyllo Dough
4. Medieval Egypt: Chickpeas and Phyllo Dough
April 24, 2020
From 14th-century Egypt, explore recipes that reflect the interchange between the many cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean of the time. Learn to make the sweet Byzantine specialty known as himmas kassa, and a super light and flaky phyllo dough stretched to the size of a table, just as Professor Albala remembers his grandmother doing.
Imperial China: Soybeans and Dumplings
3. Imperial China: Soybeans and Dumplings
April 24, 2020
Examine the Chinese Wei dynasty's Qi Min Yao Shu, an encyclopedic manual containing essential techniques to benefit the people, and learn about Chinese agricultural practices going back to antiquity. Explore the fermentation practices of the time, using both bacteria and mold, and follow a scaled-down recipe to create an intensely flavored fermented black bean dish.
Ancient Rome: Cooking with Apicius
2. Ancient Rome: Cooking with Apicius
April 24, 2020
Are the recipes in De re coquinaria (the oldest complete recipe book in the Western tradition) bizarre and disgusting, or do they reflect a time of elegance and luxury? Historians have expressed a gamut of opinions. As you explore its sala cattabia, minutal of apricots, and botellum, you might be surprised to find three delicious, and even somewhat familiar, dishes.
Understanding Culture through Cooking
1. Understanding Culture through Cooking
April 24, 2020
What can you learn about different cultural groups of people through the lens of their cookbooks? A lot, as Professor Ken Albala illustrates by looking at two chicken recipes 200 years and a continent apart. Learn to cook a recipe from the 1748 French cookbook Le Nouveau Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, and another from The Can-Opener Cookbook of 1953. #Better Living
Where to Watch Cooking Across the Ages
Cooking Across the Ages is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Cooking Across the Ages on demand at Apple TV Channels, Amazon Prime, Amazon and Kanopy.
  • Premiere Date
    April 24, 2020