TIME TRAVELLING IN THE KITCHEN,
This review is from: The British Museum Cookbook (Hardcover)This is a very nice cookbook, inspired by the exhibitions of the British Museum. The book attempts to recreate the dishes enjoyed by the civilisations whose art works are displayed in the museum today. The book has a brief general introduction and it provides complete menus and recipes for each of the following periods of history; Ancient Persia, Classical Greece, Ancient Egypt, Imperial Rome, Anglo-Saxon Britain, Pre-Conquest America, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Georgian England, and Imperial China. Each period is accompanied by a brief but useful introduction with information about the lifestyle, the customs and of course the food of each era.
The recipes are taken from contemporary sources whenever that is available, or invented based on the foods found at that particular time in the region and the cooking techniques used by the people of the period. When there are no documented recipes the author speculates creating the recipes, but although supposedly, only foods that were available at the time are used, that is not always the case. For example recipes like the Persian fruit salad "Khochaf", and the Egyptian "Melokhia" soup and "Ful Madames" are relatively accurate. However, I believe that the Ancient Greeks did not have "shortcrust pastry" for the otherwise delicious "Honey Cheesecake" nor were their "Sausages" made like stuffing balls, using breadcrumbs and eggs. Sometimes, the author mentions how a specific dish was probably made, but offers substitutes like the "Aztec Chocolate" which was made with cocoa beans, water, vanilla and honey but for the book it is adapted using milk and even eggs. Wherever written recipes exist, they are adapted for modern cooks and it is very interesting to recreate actual dishes, like the Roman "Puree of Lentils & Chestnuts" or the "Cold Breast of Poussin with Asparagus Sauce" by Apicius, the Medieval "Fenkel in Soppes" from the 1399 "Forme of Cury", the 1740 Italian Christmas cake "Certosino", the Georgian "Eliza Smith's Salmon Pye" and "Peppermint Water", and the Chinese "Royal Concubine Drunken Chicken" with its sad romantic story.
This cookbook, although not always accurate, is very interesting, with well written and easy to follow, tasty recipes and fascinating trivia. Sadly, it is illustrated with some small line drawings which was a bit disappointing and I would much prefer actual photographs from the British Museum's exhibits from each period.
If you like time travelling in your kitchen, as much as I do, you might also like; Food Fit for Pharaohs: An Ancient Egyptian Cookbook, The Medieval Cookbook and The Jane Austen Cookbook, also by the British Museum.