It is rare to recommend a food book as a holiday read, but
History of Food in 100 Recipes
Sitwell (Collins) is just such a book.
As soon as you turn its pages, you find yourself waylaid by curious
facts and entertaining snippets of culinary information.
Iíd never considered congee (a
porridge-like rice dish) as the perfect sustenance for sword-wielding ancient
Chinese warriors, or pondered on the deeper meaning of Virgilís mention of
roasting goatís entrails on hazel sprigs in his poem
case you wondered, the latter was written at a time when Epicurean Philosophy
was very popular, so enjoying the simple things in life was very
a la mode
As you might guess from the title, the book is divided into
a hundred short chapters. William Sitwell has ordered these
He begins with a
Ancient Egyptian bread
from an inscription on the wall of Senetís tomb in Luxor, 1958-1913bc and
ends with the Heston Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer Watts version of
(foie gras and chicken liver parfait encased in a mandarin jelly)
from the opening menu of Hestonís restaurant Dinner in 2011. This is not so
much a cookbook, as a miscellany of intriguing food related subjects.
Each chapter begins with a quote and is filled with
Sitwellís amusing reflections on his chosen subject. In
discovers the fork
, for example, he starts
with a quote from
(1611) on the use of forks in Italy, follows with an introduction to the
eccentric Thomas Coryat, including his observations on Italian umbrellas,
before discussing European attitudes towards using a fork in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Perfect for travelling, as you can read it in short
bursts and retain your
Better still, this is one of those rare food books that
engages the imagination.
laze on the beach, you can ponder about what life must have been like in Italy
before tomatoes were widely accepted in the seventeenth century; or brood over
the origins of eggs Benedict as you read about tales of Charles Ranhofer, a
once famous head chef of the equally famous Delmonicoís, in New York.
He was the first man to write down a
Eggs ŗ la Bendick
You might even feel inspired to make a holiday list of
further foodie reading for your return.
Once home, leave this book lying around for others to discover.
Itís far too engaging to be tidied on
to a shelf.