Vegetarian food blog featuring nourishing home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

A History of Food in 100 Recipes – a review

Book Reviews | 23rd July 2012 | By

As the title suggests, A history of food in 100 recipes is a collection of stories elaborating on the history of food from a Western perspective. The book begins with a recipe for bread in Ancient Egypt from about 2000 BC and journeys through the ages right up to the present day where it ends with a recipe for meat fruit by Heston Blumenthal. Each chapter commences with a recipe – of sorts. These are taken from sources of the period so are not necessarily easily understood or recognisable as a modern recipe. This then leads into the chapter proper which is connected in some way with the recipe. The book is an engaging way of reconnecting with our food and where it comes from. It’s a treasure trove of fascinating facts, a history book written in a light, humorous and accessible style. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

The Author William Sitwell is a food critic, journalist and presenter. He currently edits the food magazine Waitrose Kitchen amongst a plethora of other activities including gardening and being the resident expert on BBC TVs A Question of Taste. He has by no means covered the whole history of food, but has picked out the stories which particularly appeal to him.

Of course the first chapters I jumped to were the chocolate ones and I had two of these to revel in. Both interesting, both very different. The first was Hot Chocolate and recounts the well known “discovery” of chocolate by the conquistador Hernan Cortes. During his stay with Montezuma he learnt the secrets of the cocoa bean, so highly prized it was used as currency. And he enjoyed many a brew of spiced frothing hot (sometimes cold) chocolate. Cocoa beans went back with him to Spain where the drink soon became revered for its health giving properties. The second was Chocolate Cake, a chapter that was more about the first modern supermarkets than it was chocolate, but which featured an interesting chocolate cake recipe using bread flour. I shall certainly be trying that out at some future date. This chapter tells the remarkable story of Clarence Saunders in the USA and the founding of his chain of self service stores, Piggly Wiggly, in 1916.

Being a vegetarian, I was fascinated to learn in the chapter Cauliflower & Cheese, that the Vegetarian Society was formed as far back as 1847 with a surprising 150 members signing up at its inception. The first vegetarian cookbook was published as far back as 1812, Vegetarian cooking by a Lady (anonymous in other words). Amazingly, by 1897 there were seven vegetarian restaurants in London. I had always assumed that early Western vegetarians had chosen this diet for health reasons rather than ethics, but I was wrong. As far back as Pythagoras, vegetarians were also also motivated by animal welfare. This chapter is not for the faint hearted and perhaps should come with a warning; there are some very gruesome descriptions of animal brutality.

The book is a wonderful mix of facts, stories, interesting characters and recipes. It currently resides on my bedside table as it is a great book for dipping in and out of and the chapters are very short. By the time I get to bed, I can hardly keep my eyes open, so having a chapter which is just three to five pages long is ideal. Never has the term bite sized chunks seemed more appropriate.

This book was sent to me for review purposes and as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Debby
    23rd July 2012

    This book sounds fascinating Choclette. Amazing insight…I had no idea that there vegetarian restaurants so far back. I’d love to know what was on the menu…Is there information about that in the book?

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      It’s a really good read Debby and so much to learn. Sadly no menus provided. It did talk about the recipes in one of the earlier vegetarian cookbooks though – which were mostly boiled veg!

  2. Leave a Reply

    Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours
    23rd July 2012

    Lovely review of such an interesting book which re defined our view of a 5* ratng

    I am really enjoying how all the reviews are picking out different things from the book. Makes me need to go and readed parts.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      Yours is the only review I’ve seen so far Helen. Will have to look out for others.

  3. Leave a Reply

    Debs Dust Bunny
    23rd July 2012

    Sounds like a fascinating book, but if I’m honest, I really want to know about that chocolate cake! You will be featuring it on your blog soon…I hope!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      You are a woman after my own heart Debs! I can’t promise soon, but I will be featuring the chocolate cake at some point.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Jacqueline
    23rd July 2012

    It is interesting to learn about the start of the veggie society, but I don’t think this is one for me.

  5. Leave a Reply

    May
    23rd July 2012

    Nice to read the review. Didn’t know what this book had in it as it’s not obvious on the cover. But it sounds really interesting. Will add to the reading list.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      Hi May, this is most definitely worthy of being added to a reading list šŸ™‚

  6. Leave a Reply

    Ellen B Cookery
    23rd July 2012

    I think it’s great to know the history behind each food. Could shed some light on why foods are getting modified today.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      You have a good point Ellen, sadly so many know so little about the food we grow and eat šŸ™

  7. Leave a Reply

    Vanessa Kimbell
    23rd July 2012

    It’s a superb book Really I would have thought it would be a best seller instantly because it’s so readable.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      The history of food is really the history of us and our culture, so it is a fascinating subject.

  8. Leave a Reply

    Dom at Belleau Kitchen
    24th July 2012

    i’ve loved this book since I received a copy but am finding it really hard to review… yours in an excellent review… I think I must try and find a recipe and then use it… there are some really bizarre ones from it that i’m sure would go down well in Belleau Kitchen x

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th July 2012

      Thanks Dom, you can come again, the excellent word always goes down well. Bizarre Belleau Kitchen – bring it on šŸ˜‰

  9. Leave a Reply

    Karen S Booth
    24th July 2012

    I am with Dom – I LOVE this book but am finding it so hard to write a succinct and good review….I am going to take a leaf out of your book and hone in on a recipe…..and then take it from there! Karen

  10. Leave a Reply

    All That I'm Eating
    25th July 2012

    Well I certainly need to get my hands on this book! It sounds really interesting, can’t believe the Vegetarian society was formed so long ago!

  11. Leave a Reply

    Alida
    25th July 2012

    Looks like a very interesting book, lots of new things to learn in there!

  12. Leave a Reply

    Rachel
    25th July 2012

    I often go to bed with a good cookery book to read but this sounds really interesting – I’d love to find out more about the history of food. šŸ™‚

  13. Leave a Reply

    Blomberg designed fridge
    27th July 2012

    As a history buff and foodie this is going to be a really interesting read for me. I can just imagine how exciting it is to prepare a dish served some 2000 years ago. I would definitely fancy a copy of this book.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>