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Ian JackThe 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
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
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
Posted June 28, 2009
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