Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food
After the positive reception to my first book review; A History of Food in 100 Recipes I decided to share a very different, but equally enjoyable piece of work by author Nicola Humble. Nicola is an experienced lecturer at Roehampton University and quite obviously holds a passion for food literature.
Unlike ‘A History of Food’ this book was purchased by myself on a whim. Occasionally I develop an overriding desire to find something new and this urge is so overwhelming that, despite there being no more room in our home for more culinary literature, I can focus on nothing else until I have fulfilled the craving. I picked up the beautifully covered Culinary Pleasures on one such foraging trip. Sadly though, I then seem to have placed the book on my shelf without actually reading it, and it became one of those books I would glance at guiltily thinking, ‘when I have time, I really must pick you up.’
A recent retreat to a log fired, countryside cottage became such an opportunity and I did not regret choosing Nicola Humble as my companion for a week of reading and eating. The book introduces you to a variety of food writers beginning with the infamous Mrs Beeton and the food of Victorian England, and ending with the phenomenon of the celebrity chef and the food trends seen at the time the book was written, 2005. If nothing else it serves as an excellent reference for budding foodies wishing to explore influential writers of the last 100 years. This is the least of it’s achievements however. Culinary Pleasures has the academic confidence that you might expect from an university lecturer but this is carefully tempered with an open, honest style which allows the reader to feel that they are standing in a room with Nicola, the cookbooks wide open on a table in front of them. In the process you are also guided through the development of the British diet and how, from two World Wars to Salmonella and B.S.E, the food we eat is irrevocably tied to the social and political issues of our time.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and, whilst the topic of food writing is one I am bound to be attracted to, feel that it is Ms Humble’s skill as an author which really makes this book stand out to me. It is a shame that she doesn’t seem to have published any more work since ‘Culinary Pleasures’ was released in 2005 as she seems to have a real flair for relating to the reader in a clear, but amusing manner.