Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking

Kate Colquhoun, Author . Bloomsbury $34.95 (460p) ISBN 978-1-59691-410-0

A history of British cooking may sound like the setup for a joke, but what Colquhoun has written is an invaluable work of social history and one of the more fascinating kitchen-related books to cross the Atlantic since the Oxford Companion to Food . Colquhoun (The Busiest Man in England ) begins her march through culinary Britain in the pre-Roman era, sifting through archeological evidence on the Orkney coast, and moves steadily toward the present day. Yet what could have been as dry and stale as a biscuit soon yields one interesting fact or minihistory after another. The Roman conquest brought liquamen, a fermented fish condiment and forerunner of Worcestershire sauce. The Middle Ages contributed pastry crusts, and in the court of Elizabeth I there was a total of 13 forks. Spoons, ale, fish, sugar, each makes its appearance in the kitchen or at table, and so, at various times and through various personages, did manners, morals, affectations and decadence. As the pace of innovation and progress accelerates, Colquhoun slows to take in the information, allowing the reader to linger over the provenance of sticky puddings and damask napkins. Her supple BBC-Four-meets-Julia-Child voice is just one of the book's pleasures; another is her interest in etymology. This is a triumph to savor. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/27/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 460 pages - 978-0-7475-8576-3
Paperback - 460 pages - 978-0-7475-9306-5
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-59691-969-3
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4088-3408-4
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