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Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking Hardcover – 1 Oct 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st edition 1st issue edition (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585763
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 297,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Colquhoun's previous non-fiction titles were shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize 2004 and longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. Her most recent book Mr Briggs' Hat was shortlisted for the 2011 CWA Daggers: Non-fiction Prize. As well as writing for several newspapers and magazines, she appears regularly on national radio and television. She lives in London with her two sons.

Product Description

Amazon Review

There is nothing new under the sun. As Kate Colquhoun’s utterly fascinating Taste proves, this nation has always been fascinated by food and cookery, even though it's the more recent explosion of media interest that has made the subject seem omnipresent. Subtitled The Story of Britain through its Cooking, Colquhoun’s brief is to take us on a mesmerising journey from the Roman era right up to the age of bullying TV celebrity chefs.

The book arrives emblazoned with recommendations from such august cookery figures as Marguerite Patten, and mixes sharp social history into its examination of 2000 years of culinary experimentation and achievement. The early Britons enjoyed wild boar feasts, and such delicacies as olive oil and spices were introduced in Roman Britain, and there have been few periods when the English have not been trying to tickle the taste buds in new and inventive ways (even in the straightened times of wartime rationing, great invention could be found in utilising what few ingredients were available).

Colquhoun poses (and answers) a massive range of intriguing questions such as: what was the common factor between roast meat and morality in the 18th century? And why did the Black Death inaugurate new conditions for rural baking? Colquhoun set herself a daunting task with this ambitious book, but Taste succeeds triumphantly in both entertaining and informing. If you read it, you'll be able to enlighten (or bore) friends with a million and one arcane facts about food and cookery. But the thing that most of us will take away from the book is the realisation that the novelties of modern cooking that we pride ourselves on are not quite as novel as we thought -- our ancestors were very imaginative in the kitchen. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Charming details appear on every page of this fluently written survey." -- Bee Wilson, Sunday Times Culture

"Read Taste when you are hungry-by the end you will feel very, very full." -- Jenny Uglow, Sunday Telegraph (Seven)

"Taste is a treat. Stuffed with scholarly information yet whisked up as light as a soufflé."
-- Jenny Uglow, Sunday Telegraph (Seven)

"The book teems with pleasing insights." -- Paul Levy, Observer

"This is a fascinating book, brilliantly researched and involvingly presented." -- Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

'Kate Colquhoun is the perfect combination of a meticulous social historian and gifted writer, one who combines information with anecdote to make this a readable history of Britain through its food.' -- The Bookseller, July 20, 2007

Every page is packed with good things, historical and cuinary, peppered
with personalities and salted with wit... Colquhoun makes each period
swim into view through little snapshots of the people and their
culture... We learn of generations of cooks and kitchen maids and
boys, follow the development of technology from Roman cauldrons and
Tudor spits to tinned foods and microwaves and trace the fashions and
shifts in meal times, utensils and place settings. From the mead halls
of Beowulf to 1960s cocktail parties, Taste is a treat, stuffed with
scholarly information yet whisked up light as a souffle... -- Jenny Uglow, The Sunday Telegraph

Every page is packed with good things, historical and cuinary, peppered with personalities and salted with wit... Colquhoun makes each period swim into view through little snapshots of the people and their culture... We learn of generations of cooks and kitchen maids and boys, follow the development of technology from Roman cauldrons and Tudor spits to tinned foods and microwaves and trace the fashions and shifts in meal times, utensils and place settings. From the mead halls of Beowulf to 1960s cocktail parties, Taste is a treat, stuffed with scholarly information yet whisked up light as a souffle...
-- Jenny Uglow, The Sunday Telegraph

Kate Colquhoun's delightfully savoury stamp through the past shows the
history of British cooking, like that of our language, has been one of
adaptation and imitation... not only is it a fascinating and surprising
story; it says more good things about the British than we might
imagine... Crucially, in such a history, Colquhoun excels at evoking
the smells and tastes of the past... this is z book that delights in
overturning our notions of the past... A fascinating book, brilliantly
researched and involvingly presented. -- The Telegraph

`Kate Colquhoun has done an engaging and admirable job of exploring one of food history's richest areas, British food. To understand Britain or understand the central role of food in history, read this book.' -- Mark Kurlansky

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 30 Oct 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating, scholarly - but immensely readable - history of British cuisine, from a starter of prehistoric 'bog butters' and gritty bread cooked on hot stones, through sumptuous medieval feasts, Samuel Pepys's boeuf -a-la-mode dinner (price 6 shillings) in a swanky French restaurant, and to follow a slice of Jane Austen's rabbit pie picnic ... in fact, it's a centuries-long historical banquet progressing to M&S ready-meals and Nigella's 'ironic' cup-cakes. It is crammed as full of interesting details as raisins in a Christmas pudding. And for all that British cuisine has oft been derided, I found myself thinking several times through the centuries, "Oh, I wish I could have tasted that!'
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bluebell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you're interested in cooking and eating this makes an interesting and entertaining read. The book is not just about tastes in food across the ages, but also weaves in technological changes that affected cooking and refers to the influence of political and religious factors on food habits and availability of products.

There are lots of facts about how names of dishes arose and how sayings connected with food came about. One is reminded how recently some of our familiar foods were introduced and how food fads and avoidances are not new. The author, quite rightly, emphasizes the huge gulf that existed until well into the 20th century between what the well-to-do were eating compared with the majority barely keeping body and soul together. The book is thus, inevitably, also about social history.

I finished the book very grateful to be cooking in the modern era and with enhanced respect for those who cooked in the past.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Norfolk on 13 Dec 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Taste" by Kate Colquhoun tells the story of Britain through what Britons have cooked and consumed through the ages. It begins with a prehistoric rubbish heap and ends with the flashy cuisine of the 1980's; this is a fast-paced and wide inquiry. Along the way the author unearths plenty of weird facts and anecdotes - washers-up protecting their hands with mutton fat, how Henry VIII accidentally changed our relationship with fish - but the story is what sweeps you along. New foods are imported, like the pineapple, or come back into favour (the tomato - people used to think they were poisonous). Different techniques and gadgets make you wonder how people lived without them in the first place. No refrigerator? Either dig a thirty foot hole and fill it with ice or rub salt into meat to stop it going off. No microwave? It's a charcoal brazier or nothing. This book doesn't just tell you about how people used to live, cook and eat, it makes you re-think how we do these things now. It's a fascinating story, and almost makes you want to cook the stuffed cow's udder on page 203. Almost.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RobertMonkey on 31 Aug 2012
Format: Paperback
Highly recommended for anyone interested in how British eating habits have changed over the centuries, or who would like to read an alternative history of Britain, or who loves food and reading about it.

This book is great - it's a fascinating investigation into the history of British food and how, as society, politics, and science have changed, so has our food. It's funny, interesting, and informative, and the writing style is very engaging. I felt as though people from centuries gone by were brought to life through her lively narrative (where *do* you seat the pope's parents at the dinner table?).

My only criticism of the book is how hungry it makes me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. V. Barker on 29 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I consider this a super buy - full of well-researched info on food fads through the centuries. As a teacher of History I've used the book as a resource to enhance studies of the medieval period. Apart from that I've enjoyed casually dipping in and out of the book when in need of a light but informed read.Have purchased copies as gifts for like-minded friends.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By K. Ypres-Smith on 24 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm only just over halfway through this book but I have to give it five stars now.

Not only is it extremely well-researched, it is written in a very approachable style that has had me laughing out loud at times. It is packed with facts, useless information, stomach-turning moments that make me grateful I'm a vegetarian (dishes garnished with cockscombs and sweetbreads) and flashes of pure envy (early ice-creams moulded into painted fruits).

My partner is waiting to read "Taste" after me, despite being constantly regaled with my snippets of it, as it is a fantastic piece of social history. The only tiny criticism I can offer is that is would be even better if it was counterbalanced by a bit more information about the cooking habits of the lower classes, but it's a fascinating read nevertheless.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kerrypickle on 17 Oct 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A jolly good read if youre interested in food cookery and the origins of recipes and how they have evoleved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Penny M on 30 Jan 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm very pleased I bought this book. It is amazing to think where all our culinary inspirations originate from. I would have liked to see some actual recipes, but the historical detail is still interesting. It's a good to keep on the coffee table.
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