From 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.)
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“[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