Wednesday, 16 November 2011

CUISINE REVIEW: A History of English Food - Clarissa Dickson Wright

Release Date: 13/10/11


In this major new history of English food, Clarissa Dickson Wright takes the reader on a journey from the time of the Second Crusade and the feasts of medieval kings to the cuisine - both good and bad - of the present day. She looks at the shifting influences on the national diet as new ideas and ingredients have arrived, and as immigrant communities have made their contribution to the life of the country. She evokes lost worlds of open fires and ice houses, of constant pickling and preserving, and of manchet loaves and curly-coated pigs. And she tells the stories of the chefs, cookery book writers, gourmets and gluttons who have shaped public taste, from the salad-loving Catherine or Aragon to the foodies of today. Above all, she gives a vivid sense of what it was like to sit down to the meals of previous ages, whether an eighteenth-century labourer's breakfast or a twelve-course Victorian banquet or a lunch out during the Second World War.

Insightful and entertaining by turns, this is a magnificent tour of nearly a thousand years of English cuisine, peppered with surprises and seasoned with Clarissa Dickson Wright's characteristic wit.


England is a country that has been invaded and amalgamated by many nations so far that we no longer know what is traditionally an English dish and what has its inspiration from farther afield. In this book by Clarrisa, we explore the dishes down the ages through well researched documents and where possible, suggestions so that the reader can get a taste of the past in the modern age.

Readers will be astounded by the sheer variety and whilst for some reason we have a reputation amongst other countries for tasteless food that’s boiled to mush, I’ve yet to find out where that originated especially considering that we’ve had access to spices for centuries that have not only added to our own stock of treasures but also to our larders in many varieties. Look at dishes such as almond cream which was available in the High Middle Ages or even Hippocras, a wine spiced with ginger and cinnamon, honey and Chinese pepper. We have exotic tastes and yet we’re still stuck with the rather poor reputation.

Add to this influence from expanding of the Empire (with the first Curry shop opening in London in 1810 by Sake Dean Mahomed) alongside other migrant’s dishes and it’s a country of variety, of adventure and something new around every corner. A wonderful book all in and one that I’ll enjoy reading time and again especially with the additional extra of some of the recipes in the appendices. Cracking.

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