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Taste : The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking
A beautifully illustrated and produced social history of Britain through its food, from Roman times to the age of the celebrity chef.
Along the way, Kate Colquhoun asks and answers a fascinating range of questions from the weighty to the lighthearted. Did the Romans use pepper? How did the Black Death lead to the beginning of rural baking? Why was the sale of fruit banned in 1569? What linked roasted meats and morality in the 1790s? When did we move from serving everything at once to the succession of courses we know today?
From the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution, the Romans to the Regency, few things have mirrored society or been affected by its various upheavals as much as the food we eat and the way we cook it.
In an age of convenience and waste, in which Delia Smith has written a book telling us how to boil an egg and Jamie Oliver has become the guardian of our children's diets, Kate Colquhoun explores two thousand years of our rich culinary heritage, uncovering the ebb and flux of fashions that have both linked and distinguished different societies throughout the ages.
Celebrating every aspect of the history of our cooking - from Anglo-Saxon feasts and Tudor banquets, through the skinning of eels and invention of ice cream, to Dickensian dinner-party excess and the exponential growth of frozen food - Taste tells an intimate as well as formal story as rich and diverse as a five-course banquet. Filled with unusual facts and beautifully illustrated, it is as much about the invisible hoards who influence cookery as about culinary stars and equipment. It is nothing less than an involving and immediate history of the British people, told through the ways we have prepared and shared food down the centuries.
Starred Review. A history of British cooking may sound like the setup for a joke, but what Colquhoun has written is an invaluable work of social history and one of the more fascinating kitchen-related books to cross the Atlantic since the Oxford Companion to Food. Colquhoun (The Busiest Man in England) begins her march through culinary Britain in the pre-Roman era, sifting through archeological evidence on the Orkney coast, and moves steadily toward the present day. Yet what could have been as dry and stale as a biscuit soon yields one interesting fact or minihistory after another. The Roman conquest brought liquamen, a fermented fish condiment and forerunner of Worcestershire sauce. The Middle Ages contributed pastry crusts, and in the court of Elizabeth I there was a total of 13 forks. Spoons, ale, fish, sugar, each makes its appearance in the kitchen or at table, and so, at various times and through various personages, did manners, morals, affectations and decadence. As the pace of innovation and progress accelerates, Colquhoun slows to take in the information, allowing the reader to linger over the provenance of sticky puddings and damask napkins. Her supple BBC-Four-meets-Julia-Child voice is just one of the book's pleasures; another is her interest in etymology. This is a triumph to savor. (Nov.)
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October 28, 2007
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