Favorite Food History book?

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
4,314
351
Joined Oct 5, 2001
We were just sent a copy of The Cambridge World History of Food and I have to say it is pretty incredible. Has anyone read it? I can't imagine reading it as it is more of a reference due to it's shear fastness (two volumes, and both are well over a thousand pages each). This set is quickly becoming my favorite set of history books, although my all time favorite food history read is still The Physiology of Tasteby Brillat Savarin. What are your favs?

------------------
Thanks,

Nicko
ChefTalk Cafe Administrator
[email protected]
www.cheftalk.com "A food lover's link to professional chefs!"
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
4,509
998
Joined Oct 7, 2001
One of my favorites is "Fabulous Feasts". It is about cooking and eating in medieval times with a great section on laws used to regulate the food trade in 13th century London and some very interesting recipes. It even has a section on how to throw an authentic medieval dinner.
 
1,908
274
Joined Oct 28, 1999
Evan Jones' American Food is a good read. It explores the origins of some classic American dishes as well as weaving in some dishes that were favorites of historical figures. Also, some good words on crops, animal domestication and the import of some items. A good read, but definetly not the Cambrige collection.
 
62
10
Joined Jul 6, 1999
At the moment I am reading 'The Selected Soyer'. On a day that you feel you have workrd hard and long it is interesting to read how much he put into his life. Such diverse directions with his cooking skills. Such dedication. Has any one read it?
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
4,314
351
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Pete, I will have to take a look at the book you mentioned about medieval cooking. I once attended a medieval dinner party where everyone had to dress up in costume and it was complete with a wench who served ale. The food was incredible and the meal lasted for about 5 hours. The finale was a suckling pig with an apple in the mouth. By far one of the best dinner parties I have ever been to.

------------------
Thanks,

Nicko
ChefTalk Cafe Administrator
[email protected]
www.cheftalk.com "A food lover's link to professional chefs!"
 
4,508
32
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I use a number of books for reference. One I would recomend is The Encyclopedia of Creative cooking. The book was compiled by Jane Solmson and Edited by Charlotte Turgeon the Editor of Larousse Gastronomique and the creative cooking course.When preparing or reserching breads my Fav is special and decorative breads. This book is written by roland Bilheux, Alain Escoffier,Danial Herve and Jean-marie Pouradier. I thnk this is one of the best books dedicated to bread in the world,everything is covered
 
2
10
Joined May 22, 2013
Fabulous Feasts was the best that there was twenty five years ago.  However, Cosmer fudged the redactions and made undocumented substitutions.  Maggie Black's the Medieval Cookbook is very good.  So is Cindy Renfrow's Take a Thousand Eggs or More.  There has been a great deal of research done by both historians and foodies is available on line and in print. 

Having said that, my favorite is Peter Brear's All the King's Cooks.  It is more about the organization of a royal kitchen than just recipes.  But I am an Anglophile and his study of Hampton Court is outstanding.
 
1
10
Joined Oct 31, 2010
I do not own any food history books, but have been enthralled in The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America. It is my first real culinary book and I am loving it! The only other technical food book I own is the "Gluten Free Food Science and Technology".
 
1,730
28
Joined Aug 18, 2007
At the moment I am reading 'The Selected Soyer'. On a day that you feel you have workrd hard and long it is interesting to read how much he put into his life. Such diverse directions with his cooking skills. Such dedication. Has any one read it?
Judy, I have his shilling cookery for the people...What an amazing insight to the life of of an incredible man. Chef at the Reform club

My book starts as letters to his friends, describing his dealings with the "labouring classes" in the 1850's. and continues as a kind of narrative all the way through.

He wanted to teach the working classes and ignorant poor to cook.(his words not mine) And had a bloody good go at it.

A lovely chapter is where Soyer introduces the latest in vogue utensil for todays batchelor...The frying pan.

He is both informative, patronising and condescending, often within one paragraph, but mostly entertaining wouldnt you say?
 
9
10
Joined May 8, 2013
It's hard to pick just one book as there is so much ground to cover and some writers do it far better than others. I personally find "The Oxford Companion to Food" and "Food: The History of Taste" to be great reads.
 
2,259
859
Joined Jan 8, 2010
I recently read "consider the fork" , and found it quite fascinating. It is more about the history about kitchen appliances than cooking though.
Has anyone else read it?
 
8
10
Joined Jun 5, 2013
Food in History by Reay Tanahill is an awesome read - it tracks the history of cooking from prehistoric man and the times of boiling animals in their skins up to when it was published in the seventies, with more of a focus on what food can tell you about the changing habits of people and the growth of civilization. If you want an in-depth study of the evolution of cooking styles and tastes, this might not be for you - but I learned a lot about how farming has evolved and shaped the history of man. Readable enough to open at any page and get immediately immersed. 

Will be trying out some titles in this thread :) 
 
2
10
Joined May 22, 2013
Please be aware that Fabulous Feasts does not provide any documentation for the recipes in the book. It was written over 30 years ago and the corpus of doumented dishes and period practices has exploded since then.  There are several good on-line souces as well.  I recommend www.godecookery.com  as a start.

I have been recreating medieval feasts for over 30 years for the Society for Creative Anachronism, an educational/recreational organization that researches the medieval and renaissance eras. 

The professional food historian has also acheived a much higher level of respect in the academic community in the last two decades.

Susan

Culinary Historian by Avocation
 
55
10
Joined Dec 2, 2011
Nicko, what an awesome topic!

Mind you, I might be somewhat biased as this is what I study (currently completing my MA in Culinary History before moving on to the PhD)

I'm surprised no one has brought up Sydney Mintz's "Sweetness and Power" stellar book about the growth of the sugar trade and imperialism, absolute must read! There's a fantastic theoretical backing to it which extends to defining cuisine and haute cuisine vs. simple food distinguishing the culture of food from the need to eat. Auguste Escoffier's memoirs are also lovely, Judy (and all the other Soyer fans) you might want to check out "Relish: The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer, Victorian Celebrity Chef" by Ruth Cowen. Otherwise "Short Life And Long Times Of Mrs Beeton" by Kathryn Hughes it's also pretty fantastic! For those of you interested in the luxury aspect too, there are still a few copies of Marie Ritz (Cesar Ritz's wife) biography of her husband published in 1938 floating around. Super interesting and discusses the rise of French-style fine dining in Britain based on Escoffier, though I caution that her stories should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt!

I'd best stop now before I flood the thread but should anyone be interested, I had to acquire and read about forty secondary historical sources on my period (late 19th, early 20th century) for my MA thesis and I have the booklist floating around!
 
3,147
41
Joined Jan 5, 2007
the Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill.



This isn't fine dining, but well written and researched, if a little old-fashioned.
I have my Granny's first edition, which is well-thumbed, so my husband bought me a recent edition, so I have been able to retire Granny's.
 
1
10
Joined Oct 16, 2012
Thanks, I'll have to look for it. I'm always amazed of the heritage behind foods. For myself, I haven't read many anthologies or general inquiries on food history. But rather more focused books, like Cod and Bagel... two books I enjoyed and pass on whenever possible.
 
12
22
Joined Nov 30, 2015
I really enjoyed the Great Courses lecture "Food: A Cultural Culinary History" by Ken Albala. It's a great overview of the topic and nice not to have to break out a tome to learn something new. 
 
12
22
Joined Nov 30, 2015
I'm kind of in love with Everyday Food, a textbook from the 1930's. I find the way we viewed food then very interesting. 
 
12
13
Joined Jun 21, 2015
Fabulous Feasts has a reasonably good history section, and a HORRIBLE recipe section.
There's a lot better and newer books on the food of that time period, IMO.
 
Top Bottom