It’s clear that people have been eating well — and cooking well — for centuries. The evidence isn’t only in old cookbooks, which are a fabulous paper trail of their own. It’s also in novels, art, poetry, and song. But what exactly people think defines good food — and good cooking — isn’t easy to tease out, because it’s always been bound up in broader cultural notions about what is familiar and what is exotic, what is healthful or harmful, what goes together and what doesn’t. And of course, it shifts over time. No cuisine is static. Innovations in technology, transportation, and agriculture, currents of trade and migration and urbanization — all of these factors shift cultural preferences over time.