Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking

Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking

by Kate Colquhoun
     
 

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A fascinating history of how Britain learned to cook, from prehistory to the modern age.

Written with a storyteller's flair and packed with astonishing facts, Taste is a sumptuous social history of Britain told through the development of its cooking. It encompasses royal feasts and street food, the skinning of eels and the making of strawberry

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Overview

A fascinating history of how Britain learned to cook, from prehistory to the modern age.

Written with a storyteller's flair and packed with astonishing facts, Taste is a sumptuous social history of Britain told through the development of its cooking. It encompasses royal feasts and street food, the skinning of eels and the making of strawberry jelly, mixing tales of culinary stars with those of the invisible hordes cooking in kitchens across the land. Beginning before Roman times, the book journeys through the ingredients, equipment, kitchens, feasts, fads, and famines of the British; it covers the piquancy of Norman cuisine, the influx of undreamed-of spices and new foods from the East and the New World, the Tudor pumpkin pie that journeyed with the founding fathers to become America's national dish, the austerity of rationing during World War II, and the birth of convenience foods and take-away, right up to the age of Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, and Jamie Oliver. The first trade book to tell the story of British cooking—which is, of course, the history that led up to American colonial cooking as well—Taste shows that kitchens are not only places of steam, oil, and sweat, but of politics, invention, cultural exchange, commerce, conflict, and play.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[A]n invaluable work of social history and one of the more fascinating kitchen-related books to cross the Atlantic since the Oxford Companion to Food...one interesting fact or minihistory after another. [Colquhoun's] supple BBC-Four-meets-Julia-Child voice is just one of the book's pleasures...This is a triumph to savor.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Refreshingly free of jokes about British cooking, her text uses cookery through the ages to explain everything from the British Isles' waves of invaders and immigrants to class conflict and consciousness, patriotism and terror during World War II rationing…[a] fascinating history of an empire…Colquhoun can reach passionate heights...A thoughtful and detailed book to be savored--but not on an empty stomach.” —Kirkus Reviews

Ian Jack
The story is well known, and Kate Colquhoun tells it well in Taste…Colquhoun is a writer of lively detail…the real delight of her book lies in the abundance of illuminating and curious facts.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Adult/High School In whole or in part, this accessible tome has high appeal to both history buffs and foodies. Colquhoun approaches her topic with the skill and energy of a raconteur, providing clearly drawn contexts in natural science, political history, and technology's developments against which to examine aspects of food and dining customs in a manner that is both engaging and entertaining. The book is organized chronologically from prehistory to the late 20th century, and each era is described in terms of domestic economy, the health effects of both the popular and upper-class diets, and efforts to guide cooks and hostesses through such means as prescriptive handbooks. Readers may not be surprised to discover how long ketchup (or catsup) has been valued, but they will be properly intrigued by the debates about the relative merits of faddish table manners. Both social science and health curricula can be enriched by this title, either by teachers in the classroom or students utilizing it for research; however, its slog-free nature assures that some will simply devour it for pleasure.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia

Kirkus Reviews
The history of British food, beginning with a tough grain that was all the rage among Neolithic farmers. That was einkorn, in 4000 BCE. From there, Colquhoun (The Busiest Man in England: A Life of Joseph Paxton, Gardener, Architect & Victorian Visionary, 2006, etc.) moves through Roman feasts calling for ample servings of flamingo, sumptuous Georgian meals relying heavily on melted butter, the class-inflected foodie mania of the mid-1980s and the increasingly processed, commercialized foodstuffs we rely on today. Refreshingly free of jokes about British cooking, her text uses cookery through the ages to explain everything from the British Isles' waves of invaders and immigrants to class conflict and consciousness, patriotism and terror during World War II rationing. The prose is occasionally stiff and often overly formal, but it thoroughly recounts the fascinating history of an empire. And Colquhoun can reach passionate heights, as in this passage about Victorian celebrity cook Eliza Acton, who "turned away from melted butter to its French equivalent-rich, unguent mayonnaise made by working drops of oil carefully into whisked egg yolks to form a smooth custard, coloured green with parsley juice or flavoured with a pea-sized piece of bruised garlic or a drop of tarragon vinegar." As it seems most modern books about food must, this one laments meals gone by. "We buy green beans from Kenya and asparagus from Peru without considering its absurdity," notes the author, who wonders whether this generation will be the last to know fresh fruits picked straight from the vine or bread collected that day from the baker. In discussing Britons' tormented relationship with eating, Colquhoun points outthat "we spend more on the slimming industry than we do on aid for the starving." They're not alone: Americans fork out an estimated $30 to $40 billion annually on weight-loss programs and products. A thoughtful and detailed book to be savored-but not on an empty stomach. Agent: Caroline Dawnay/PFD

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596914100
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
10/30/2007
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author


Kate Colquhoun is a journalist and the author of The Busiest Man in England: A Life of Joseph Paxton, Gardener, Architect, & Victorian Visionary. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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