British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History

Overview

This a revised and updated edition of an award-winning book, recognised as THE authoritative work on the subject of British food. It is a breath-taking attempt to trace the changes to and influences on food in Britain from the Black Death, through the Enclosures, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Capitalism to the present day.

There has been a recent wave of interest in food culture and history and Colin Spencer's masterful, readable account of our culinary...

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British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History

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Overview

This a revised and updated edition of an award-winning book, recognised as THE authoritative work on the subject of British food. It is a breath-taking attempt to trace the changes to and influences on food in Britain from the Black Death, through the Enclosures, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Capitalism to the present day.

There has been a recent wave of interest in food culture and history and Colin Spencer's masterful, readable account of our culinary history is a celebrated contribution to the genre. There has never been such an exciting, broad-scoped history of the food of these islands. It should remind us all of our rich past and the gastronomic importance of British cuisine.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
British food, renowned for its lack of appeal, provokes gentle chortles of derision when mentioned in juxtaposition with a word like extraordinary. These two books disabuse readers of the notion that this has always been the case. British Food describes the glories-and the decline-of the nation's cuisine over the centuries, while Shakespeare's Kitchen translates a particular era for modern cooks. Spencer, former food editor of the Guardian and author of several cookbooks, intriguingly suggests that early modern British cooking was more influenced by Mediterranean and Arab fare than French. For example, the technique of cooking with almonds to create white dishes was the gift of returning Crusaders. Spencer traces the country's lamentable decline in cuisine through the Reformation, Puritanism, and the Industrial Revolution, noting that Britons gradually lost a knowledge of wild foodstuffs and the time in their day to gather and cook more than the most convenient foods. Modern Britons would not recognize the impressive lists of ingredients their ancestors used. Readers may, thus, find the glossary and appendixes of British edible flora and traditional dishes to be particularly valuable. Segan, a food historian and contributor to the New York Food Museum, offers a lavishly illustrated cookbook that goes beyond the usual ingredients and step-by-step instructions. Drawn in by a photograph, readers will not only encounter a tempting recipe but also an accompanying text on the provenance of the dish and how it was modernized. Better still, Segan frequently offers the original recipe from Elizabethan texts, allowing one to compare the styles of written recipes. Name-dropping Shakespeare is a marketing gimmick, perhaps, for while the recipes include quotations from the Bard, the book is about Elizabethan cooking, not food from Shakespearean works. The reader who has first enjoyed Spencer's book will recognize much found in Segan's book and likely appreciate it all the more. British Food would fit well in academic and public libraries for its unique view of British history, while Shakespeare's Kitchen is recommended for public libraries.-Peter Hepburn, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Times Literary Supplement
A stimulating work.... What did the Brontës dine on at Haworth Parsonage? How did Jane Austen's family cook prepare the sauce? Colin Spencer will tell you. His book is a joyous, lively mine of information.
London Times
A book so absorbing it may even stop the reader from falling asleep after Christmas dinner.
Scotland on Sunday
One of the most fascinating and riveting reads this year. Go buy.
Daily Mail
Never has there been such a breathtakingly comprehensive, wide-ranging and fascinating food history as this stonking great tome by Colin Spencer. The amount of research involved makes the brain boggle.
The Independent Magazine
Sure to become a classic.
Washington Times
[Spencer] ably covers a millennium and more, reflecting intelligently on the dramatic, and often sudden, dietary developments wrought by political and economic change... Spencer's rich lode of information about British food justifies his subtitle's claim that its present vigor caps off 'an extraordinary thousand years of history.'

— Claire Hopley

Choice

Spencer's interesting book is a worthwhile addition to the food history literature. Recommended [for] all levels.

Waitrose Food Illustrated
Ten reference books every food loer should own...#10 British Food
Time Magazines Literary Supplement
A stimulating work.... What did the Brontës dine on at Haworth Parsonage? How did Jane Austen's family cook prepare the sauce? Colin Spencer will tell you. His book is a joyous, lively mine of information.
The IndependentMagazine
Sure to become a classic.
Washington Times - Claire Hopley
[Spencer] ably covers a millennium and more, reflecting intelligently on the dramatic, and often sudden, dietary developments wrought by political and economic change... Spencer's rich lode of information about British food justifies his subtitle's claim that its present vigor caps off 'an extraordinary thousand years of history.'
Choice
Spencer's interesting book is a worthwhile addition to the food history literature. Recommended [for] all levels.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781908117038
  • Publisher: Grub Street
  • Publication date: 8/14/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Spencer is an author and playwright and was food editor for The Guardian for thirteen years. He is the author of Vegetarianism: A History and co-author of The Faber Book of Food.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Ch. 1 Prologue: The Land 11
Ch. 2 Anglo-Saxon Gastronomy 23
Ch. 3 Norman Gourmets 1100-1300 36
Ch. 4 Anarchy and Haute Cuisine 1300-1500 69
Ch. 5 Tudor Wealth and Domesticity 100
Ch. 6 A Divided Century 134
Ch. 7 Other Island Appetites 169
Ch. 8 Glories of the Country Estate 208
Ch. 9 Industry and Empire 244
Ch. 10 Victorian Food 269
Ch. 11 Food for All 293
Ch. 12 The Global Village 328
App. I Wild Food Plants of the British Isles 344
App. II Traditional British Cooking 352
Notes 356
Glossary 372
Glossary of Conversions 380
Picture Credits 381
Select Bibliography 382
Index 387
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