A book about food! Tasteful in every sense, the history and progress of eating through several centuries, across many countries, linked closely with etiquette and class differences and explored with skill in this enjoyable volume. Peppered with recipes and sugared with humour, quirky obscure facts, surprises and anecdotes, this is a book for anyone who eats!
As a Scot I was thrilled to read that Dr. Samuel Johnson, never hesitant in his criticisms praised my country as it ‘excelled’ in wonderful breakfasts! That was in the 1700s food when Britain was not renowned for good food. France, even all these years ago, had the reputation for fine food. The male chefs of the continent received more accolades than the cooks, mainly women, who laboured in this country.
The gradual arrival of foods from across the globe makes interesting reading with the resulting increase in the herbs and spices added. This last 100 has seen sweeping changes in food patterns, choices and tastes. Many foods once only seen in grand homes are now affordable and available to all.
Traditions and etiquette, linked to social standing are discussed and highlighted, spiced up amusing events when guests or hosts perhaps tried too hard! References to table manners strikes a chord as when we were young families sat around the table under strict instruction as to when to eat, what tools to use, even ending the meal with ‘please may I leave the table’. We each had our own napkin, but they lost favour as the use of the same one over a few days was considered unhygienic! Fashion in implements has changed and I cannot be the only person with a boxed set of fish knives and forks lying unopened and unused! This writer is to be commended for the intense research involved in revealing long forgotten habits that brought a smile to this reader. History it is, but also a trip down memory lane and a most enjoyable one.
Reading this book made me consider if we have discarded too many of the old manners and the formality of eating together as a family for a more random approach to meals. Dinner midday is now lunch, often eaten on the go; tea is dinner; high tea is long gone. Afternoon tea and Brunch are used as a substituted often for two meals.
I loved this book and highly recommend it. A good choice for a writing group where it is certain to instigate lively discussion.
Read it through or dip into it, this is a great read. Then ask yourself if the changes in our eating habits an improvement? When we consider the general health of the country it makes one wonder.
Reviewed by Sheila Grant
Personal Read 5*
Group read 5*
Atlantic books isbn 9781786 hardback