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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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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on 31 October 2011
"Englishmen," Samuel Pepys believed, "love their bellies above everything else." Food historian Clarissa Dickson Wright traces the nation's changing relationship with food from the mid-twelfth century to the present day. She uncovers the changes in diet influenced by new foodstuffs (many of our current food favourites have in fact been around for centuries) and cooking methods, such as the popularity from the mid-seventeenth century onwards of grand (ie French) 'cuisine' as opposed to plain (English) cooking.

Her breadth of knowledge is impressively wide-ranging (did you know that Telford's Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was partly glued together with sugar?) and her approach is refreshingly hands-on: she has tried many of the old recipes, including those for lamprey ("so delicious that I can see why Henry I died from eating a surfeit of them"), seal ("disgusting"), rook ("not unpalatable") and calves' feet ("they make a very sticky sort of stew"), but not puffin ("they seem too cute to eat"); and seen traditional cooking methods in action ("I once remember coming across a rather unpleasant cheese made from skimmed milk which was blued by having an unclean horse harness dragged through it").

Clarissa's passion for food is the vital ingredient in this marvellous mélange in which she uncovers how "food tells us so much about the nature of society at a particular point in time".
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on 22 December 2011
A book to read from cover to cover or to dip in and out of, just like a recipe book in fact.

A good mix of food facts and historical anecdotes, it is not just a list of recipes through the ages. It is well researched and manages the blend of 'food recipes' and historical exposition in a well balanced way.

Well written, Dickson Wright's style is such that you can imagine her speaking directly to the reader in her enthusiastic yet intimate way.

Certainly not a dry read which occasionally "The History of..." books can become, the author maintains a lively entertaining pace throughout.

A thoroughly enjoyable and informative read.
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on 20 October 2011
After seeing Clarissa's TV interview, I couldn't resist adding this to my collection of cookery books, but it is much more than that.. It is informative and amusing,and much like Keith Floyd's books you can hear the writer's voice throughout. Most enjoyable, and a book I shall refer to again and again. Well worth it!
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on 23 April 2012
What a charming book! Charting the development of English food in chronological order from very early on it provides an interesting view on the evolution of food through the ages and the contributing influences.

What I like best is the fact that she quotes old recipes in the book, so it can actually be used as a cookery book. A little tip, take a small pad of post it notes and put in menu bookmarks as you go along. In this way you'll be able to retrieve the menus quickly from this large book.

The other thing about it is the length, it's a big book and just keeps on giving. Nothing worse than a book that ends too soon when you're really enjoying it.

This was bought for me as a present and I really like it, makes a perfect present for anyone who is faintly interested in food. Strongly recommended.
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I love social history, and the history of food in our country really is an interesting one.

I listened to Clarissa narrating her own book, and while she's a personable enough reader, the material does get somewhat dry at times. Maybe reading on paper would be a better way of connecting with and taking in everything she has to impart.

Some really fascinating insights - I found the Middle Age/Tudor, Victorian and the 20th Century sections the most, there is a lot there I never knew before - the history of potatoes through to fish and chips, the truth about Walter Raleigh, the health (or otherwise) of peasants through the ages, when certain foods came to our country.

Not one for everyone, but if you are interested in viewing our history through what we've eaten over the centuries, you may really enjoy this.
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on 8 January 2015
What can I say about the last book that Clarissa wrote. She had a masterly understanding of both food and history, with a lot of very funny asides which makes this book such a joy to read. I have learned lots of history without realising it, and some very funny facts about certain foods. What a wonderful reading companion she is. A great loss to su all.
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on 19 July 2015
Love this book, I can hardly put it down, it's fascinating. It's huge, it's going to take weeks to read! But it's well written, easy to read, full of anecdotes as well as facts. If you like food & history it's a great read
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on 16 November 2014
Clarissa never did disappoint, and will be sadly missed. This massive tome is a very good and interesting read for anyone even vaguely interested in the history of what we eat, and covers the ordinary people, not just the well funded kitchens . I've been nose-in-book ever since it arrived. Recommended to all foodies.
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on 30 September 2014
The book arrived during what for me, was a busy week. I have only managed to read the first chapter, the writing style is very good, reads more like a novel. I feel some regret I have only just discovered her work.

The book that came was the hard back version, a thick, very impressive looking book. I am sure that it is the sort of book you can pick up and put down, looking forward to it being 'winter reading'. There are recipes to be experimented with too.
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