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Cooking and Dining in Medieval England Hardcover – June 15, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 557 pages
  • Publisher: Prospect Books (June 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903018552
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903018552
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,528,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

If you have any idea of how people ate in England six hundred years ago, you may well have gotten it from Hollywood productions featuring castles in which rollicking banqueters dined exclusively on whole suckling pig, and practiced their belching and food-throwing at table. It won’t come as any surprise that what makes good movies can make bad history. If you are interested in food, cooking, and historic recipes, and you want to get a more accurate picture than Hollywood offers, Peter Brears is your man.' (Rob Hardy)

This is an important and authoritative book.' (Constance B. Hieatt Speculum 1900-01-00)

...a work of great erudition...' (Gastronomica 2010-01-00) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Peter Brears was formerly director of the museums at York and Leeds and has worked all his life in the field of domestic history. He has written extensively on traditional foods and cookery in Yorkshire, as well as a groundbreaking illustrated catalogue of domestic and farmhouse materials in Torquay Museum. He supervised the reconstruction of several important historical kitchens, including those at Hampton Court, Ham House, Cowdray Castle and Belvoir Castle.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have any idea of how people ate in England six hundred years ago, you may well have gotten it from Hollywood productions featuring castles in which rollicking banqueters dined exclusively on whole suckling pig, and practiced their belching and food-throwing at table. It won't come as any surprise that what makes good movies can make bad history. If you are interested in food, cooking, and historic recipes, and you want to get a more accurate picture than Hollywood offers, Peter Brears is your man. He started work in British museums fifty years ago, and worked in the excavation of various castles. He not only catalogued domestic artifacts but used reproductions of the old tools, old stoves, and old foodstuffs to bring forth authentic medieval banquets. In a massive study, _Cooking & Dining in Medieval England_ (Prospect Books), Brears looks at every aspect of the subject, from kitchen design, tools, and techniques to what happened to the leftovers when all was done. The chapters, each of which explains a specific office of the kitchen like the bakehouse or the saucery, have recipes included, so that those who want to eat like knights and their ladies can do so. Each chapter is also richly illustrated with useful line drawings by the author himself, making this a particularly good-looking volume.

Kitchens were integrally planned within medieval castles and houses. These ancient structures were planned out, not thrown together, and we even know the names of some of the architects. Since the kitchen was a central core of domestic effort, the architects took its situation into consideration, first with detached kitchens and then with those integral within the castle. The architect had to plan for security of food and utensils, efficiency of food preparation, and cleanliness.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rob Hardy's wonderful review says it all--almost. I want to add that anthropologists like me will LOVE this book--it's both archaeologically and culturally sophisticated, and even has some biological anthro (nutrition levels) and linguistics (lots on Middle English), thus hitting all our "four fields." In particular, it's an archaeologists' dream, correcting a lot of mistakes in the archeo literature and adding much to knowledge.
Historians will also benefit. The old nonsense about Europe being boorish and uncouth in the Middle Ages, with kings wiping their hands on passing dogs or throwing food at each other, is still very much with us, and Norbert Elias' nonsense about "civilizing missions" is still taken seriously. This book corrects all that, going into great detail about medieval manners, which, for the elite, were more persnickety than anything today, and even for the ordinary people were pretty refined. The fact is that there has never been a society without table manners. Even small hunting-gathering bands have their etiquette and taboos.
It is worth noting that Brears is such a good writer that the reader never tires of even the most minute descriptions of buckets, knives, and tablecloths. Especially if the reader is an archaeology junkie (as I am), but I should think anyone who cares about food would be interested.
The recipes are modernized and thus much more usable than the originals, which never bother with things like quantity or preparation details.
Overall, the reader gets an amazing sense of what real life was like in that world. Brears quotes the old proverb "the past is a different country," and indeed the English middle ages was little like anything today--though many of the high points of this book are Brears' reminiscences of his experience with ancient customs still practiced in remote corners of Britain in his youth.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Julia Morris on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book, all 484 pages with an additional 120 of bibliography and indices, is very well researched and organized. the scholarship is outstanding with numerous drawings of floorplans to illustrate the text. the 'recipes' are clear with thorough and interesting commentary on both the ingredients and purpose or rationale behind the technique. the author also explains how these early foods have morphed into more common current dishes.

A really great read for anyone interested in medieval domestic life, early european food history or the evolution of european domestic architecture
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca McPhearson on June 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loved the historical and anthropological aspects of this well-researched and well-written book. The recipes are a bit difficult considering our modern pantry shelves aren't stocked with many of the items, but they are doable, and for the most part, much healthier than our meals today. A very nice resource for the discerning cook who is also interested in the origins and methods of that day and age.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sera on January 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is so easy to read Peter Brears does a wonderful of job of explaining the process, food, kitchen and everything that is need to research and understand medieval cooking. I have barely put it down since I have opened it up. If your interested to learn history and how food affected it and how to truly cook medieval this book is a must have.
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