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Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking [Hardcover]

Kate Colquhoun
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
Along the way, Kate Colquhoun asks and answers a fascinating range of questions from the weighty to the lighthearted. Did the Romans use pepper? How did the Black Death lead to the beginning of rural baking? Why was the sale of fruit banned in 1569? What linked roasted meats and morality in the 1790s? When did we move from serving everything at once to the succession of courses we know today? From the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution, the Romans to the Regency, few things have mirrored society or been affected by its various upheavals as much as the food we eat and the way we cook it. In an age of convenience and waste, in which Delia Smith has written a book telling us how to boil an egg and Jamie Oliver has become the guardian of our children's diets, Kate Colquhoun explores two thousand years of our rich culinary heritage, uncovering the ebb and flux of fashions that have both linked and distinguished different societies throughout the ages. Celebrating every aspect of the history of our cooking - from Anglo-Saxon feasts and Tudor banquets, through the skinning of eels and invention of ice cream, to Dickensian dinner-party excess and the exponential growth of frozen food - "Taste" tells an intimate as well as formal story as rich and diverse as a five-course banquet. Filled with unusual facts and beautifully illustrated, it is as much about the invisible hoards who influence cookery as about culinary stars and equipment. It is nothing less than an involving and immediate history of the British people, told through the ways we have prepared and shared food down the centuries.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585763
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 501,277 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

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

About the Author

Kate Colquhoun is the author of A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton (2003). It was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize 2004 and longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. She reviews regularly for the Daily Telegraph and has written for The Times, the Financial Times, BBC History Magazine, Saga Magazine, The (RHS) Garden and Country Life Magazine

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We were what we ate... 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting 1 Jan 2008
By Bluebell TOP 100 REVIEWER
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
5.0 out of 5 stars We are what we've eaten 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab fun for foodies and cooking nerds 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting 30 Jan 2012
By Penny M
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
This is a very interesting and informative read and it is highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in history and food.
Published 9 months ago by Melani
4.0 out of 5 stars So hungry!
Delightful and delicious read. A journey through British culinary achievements and weird recipes (flamingos?!). Pots and pans and their development through the centuries. Read more
Published 12 months ago by lovereading
5.0 out of 5 stars super
I bought this book for my husband and he has loved it and recommended it to a friend.
A great history and factual information about British cuisine.
Published 15 months ago by laura
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading it then bought a new one as a gift
This is a lovely educational book,I would have enjoyed history much more if there had been more information about the way people lived which obviously includes what they ate and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Rhian Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed
Would have been better if recipies or even quantities were included so people could have a go at making the food themselves
Published 19 months ago by TC
3.0 out of 5 stars Book
Full of good information. Not bedtime reading but interesting to dip in and out of. Again rather not have to write an essay.
Published 21 months ago by S A Almey
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating book
Haven't finished the book yet, as it is the kind you can dip in and out of (which is perfect for my Kindle). Read more
Published on 3 July 2012 by silk painter
2.0 out of 5 stars A history of cookbooks
This book is handsomely produced and Colquhoun's prose is serviceable. Unfortunately she is totally lost as soon as she leaves the kitchen or the dining hall. Read more
Published on 5 Sep 2010 by James-philip Harries
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