5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A generous dollop of history and a good sprinkling of humour!
I made rather a mistake ordering this book from the library instead of buying it as it would perhaps be a better book to dip in and out of rather than read through from beginning to end, as I am having to do.
Having said that, it does make for a fascinating chronological read and William Sitwell is the most delightful guide to this altogether charming history...
Published 16 months ago by Sue Kichenside
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I was very disappointed to find that 42 of the 'recipes' are from 1902 and later! I also feel let down by the fact that there are few modern interpretations of the older recipes which is what I was really looking for, it's more about the people and their times than the recipes, a misleading title I think.
Published 10 months ago by Me
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A generous dollop of history and a good sprinkling of humour!,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)I made rather a mistake ordering this book from the library instead of buying it as it would perhaps be a better book to dip in and out of rather than read through from beginning to end, as I am having to do.
Having said that, it does make for a fascinating chronological read and William Sitwell is the most delightful guide to this altogether charming history of food. I have learned so much - and had lots of chuckles along the way!
The reason for my 4* rating rather than 5* is because there are several typos in the book (surprisingly) and also because I am none too keen on the style of illustration (historical illustrations excepted, of course).
If you like your food served with a generous dollop of history and a good sprinkling of humour, do buy this book rather than borrowing it and read it at your leisure.
And if you enjoy reading about food, I can warmly recommend this extremely good memoir from New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton Blood, Bones and Butter: The inadvertent education of a reluctant chef.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun romp through the history of food over the last 4000 years,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)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.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down. I sat up in bed reading until my eyeballs could take no more.,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)No self respecting foodies bookshelf should be without this book sitting in a prominent position on their bookshelf Why? Because it is fabulous, witty, informative, unique and incredibly readable as well as being a really beautiful object in it's own right.
Descended from a long line of writers William is acknowledged as one of the UK's best food writers as the editor of Waitrose Kitchen, there is not much he doesn't know about the British food scene. From the moment I got my copy of The History of Food in 100 Recipes I couldn't put it down. I sat up in bed reading until my eyeballs could take no more. There are moments in history that jump out as being key .. From bread making in ancient Egypt, cheesecakes in ancient Greece, the discovery of chocolate all the way to to the invention of the Kenwood chef and Nigella's cupcakes each chapter is a story in it's own right and William has brought these game changing moments together in this lovely looking book. It is meticulously researched .. it is full of the most interesting stories about passionate foodies . Whilst I'll admit that I have always found history dry and dusty as a subject William brings it all to life - It is fresh, colorful, delicious, funny in places, easy to read yet there is serious depth to it .. I love it.
It really is absolutely the best book I've read in years. It would be the most perfect gift for any food lover and if you only buy one recipe book this year make it this one and keep it at the front of your bookcase!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force history of cooking.,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)Food writer William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Kitchen magazine has written this book; I assume the inspiration was the British Museum's excellent History of the world in 1000 objects radio series and book.
Whilst there are 100 recipes in the book, it isn't really a recipe book as such. It's more a chronological meander through the history of cooking, starting with bread in ancient Egypt and ending with a simple recipe for stewed rhubarb using protected designation of origin forced fruit from the rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire.
None of the recipes are by Sitwell - sources range from the walls of an Egyptian tomb to an iphone app; the level of detail in recipe reflects the source. Each recipe is accompanied by a few pages discussing the source, and how the dish reflects a change in the way that we, as human beings, eat. So, for example, the recipe for a souffle discusses the career of Antoine Beauvilliers, the first restaurateur to offer his guests a choice of dishes from a menu, and who wrote L'Art du Cuisinier in 1816. Incidentally, it seems as though Antoine had some difficulties with his souffles, as there is apparently much discussion in the book about getting them to the table quickly, before they collapse.
The thing this book reminds me most of is Google. Not in a "do no evil" kind of way, nor in a "if you don't know the answer, Google will be able to tell you" kind of way, but in a "it's amazingly simple to get sidetracked" kind of way. The book is liberally cross referenced, so that, for example, you start with a recipe for apple pie, then follow a reference to turkey, and from there to hot chocolate, and so on. It's a real delight; I particularly found the early chapters fascinating, although I have to admit that I have limited interest in Virgil's recipe for roasting a goat.
In particular, the chapters from the 1970s hammer home the point of how lucky we are to be in an era when the importance of real food is returning, rather than ghastly frozen meals warmed up in an "unfreezer" - aka microwave. Life is so much better when olive oil is available from shops other than a chemists.
This book is essential for anybody with a passing interest in the history of food and cooking, and redefines what five stars should be. The main trouble I've actually had while writing this review is being disciplined enough to actually put the book down and get on with writing.
This book will solve many Christmas present problems, although I feel it would be unfair to make the recipients wait so long for a copy.
5.0 out of 5 stars My wife's birthday present.,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)She thinks it is very good. Now I have to think of another twelve words before this can be submitted.....
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)This is clearly a product of love, much research and thought and hopefully the reader will cherish it with similar affection. Despite its title, there are not 100 recipes and neither are many of the recipes something you will probably try for a family meal, but don't let that put you off!
Here the author delves back through time and a myriad of recipe books and food books that have been published, wryly noting that many contain similar boastful, self-indulgent claims about their breadth, uniqueness or completeness as those that often appear today. The fruits of the author's labour are presented as a celebratory, knowledgeable, information and yet concise look at 100 dishes, many of which are still popular today (albeit with some modification at times) and many that may have fell by the culinary wayside.
Starting from Ancient Egyptian bread and working in a chronological order the reader is treated to such items as Roast Goat (30 BC), Pasta (1154), tips on party planning (1420), Hot Chocolate (1568) and even a revelation as to how the Englishman discovered the fork (1611). Time and food development marches on and in the past century featured dishes include Strawberry ice-cream soda, Toad-in-the-Hole, Omelette, Cheese Fondue, Fairy Cakes and Sweet and Sour Pork. For one reason or another, which will become clearer to the reader, the author has selected each recipe and pinned it to a specific place in the chronology for a reason. It might be due to an historical event, a "new" cook book or other writing, a new development or even due to a craze.
Truly a quirky, interesting, innovative and thought-provoking series of friendly, informative mini essays. Not every recipe from earlier times had been committed to paper, instead being often passed word-of-mouth or depicted in other forms such as tapestries. As such, the author has been forced to recreate and salvage these recipes and much information from many disparate sources. For the curious gastronome, this shall be no problem. It is clear that you are not going to use this book as a centre for your family meal planning, yet the curious may use this as a base for recreating meals from the past and maybe even be encouraged to undertake similar culinary detective work. Not every recipe has necessarily been found under a layer of metaphorical dust, as there are some contributions and takes on older food from many modern-day top chefs and cooks such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Marco Pierre White, Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal.
It is hoped that the author nor publisher are being done a disservice by saying that this is a book that the casual browser may pass by. The book (based on viewing a digital version rather than receiving a physical copy) gives the impression of being a little subdued. Not quite a dry academic text book but one of those "hard to categorise, hard to promote" books. Yet those with an interest of food (or a general curiosity) will miss out on a treat if they pass this one by. Even if you read one mini-essay per day you will have many months of a "daily boggle" to keep you and your friends and family amused and amazed.
A fairly extensive "select bibliography" (running to several pages) and a great index complete this book. As stated, if you are a curious sort of person, perhaps love food more than just the taste of it and wish to broaden your horizon this is the sort of book for you. For reading at home and for reference purposes the physical book will probably be best, but its size might make it less desirable as a travel companion. Fortunately, there is a eBook available - but with current pricing and market conditions you will be buying the same thing twice. That is a decision for you and a thought for the publishing industry at-large...
5.0 out of 5 stars The History of Food,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)This is a wonderful book to buy and read yourself and would make a great present for the foody in your life.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an essential addition to any food-lover's bookshelf,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)It was the serependipitous purchase of some antiquarian cookery books that prompted culinary expert William Sitwell ("the one person I would trust to tell the ultimate story of the history of food" according to Raymond Blanc) on this personal odyssey to discover the story of food from prehistory to the present day through a hundred landmark recipes "that help to tell its story". Sitwell admits that his choices are "partisan" and are sometimes surprising, but all are argued for and explained in his charmingly erudite and occasionally tongue-in-cheek descriptions of "the biggest characters, the occasional culinary villain and some of the most delicious food in history".
All in all, an essential addition to any food-lover's bookshelf.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of Food,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)This book looks wonderful - I have had a quick glance through it - but I have bought it as a present, so don't want to do more than this in case it gets damaged. (This has required serious self-restraint.) There was an excellent review in The Times Weekend section, which put me on to it in the first place, and gave me the idea of buying it for friends who love history and cooking. If it comes out in paperback - I hope so! - I will hope to buy a copy for myself.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed,
This review is from: A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Hardcover)I was very disappointed to find that 42 of the 'recipes' are from 1902 and later! I also feel let down by the fact that there are few modern interpretations of the older recipes which is what I was really looking for, it's more about the people and their times than the recipes, a misleading title I think.
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A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell (Hardcover - 12 April 2012)