31 January, 2015

A history of food in 100 recipes by William Sitwell [Briar, Manukau Library]

When I was in my teens I was obsessed with non-fiction books. I read any book I came a across, just as long as it seemed interesting. I read a book on how to raise donkeys, and how to spin dog hair ( ... yes I did read it, all the way through, and I didn't know how to spin ... ). Looking back I think it all started when I read a children's library book called 'Pot Luck: Cooking and Recipes from the Past'. I was 8 or 9, and I just loved discovering the way people in the past lived their ordinary everyday lives. It even had recipes! I borrowed this books so many times I might as well as have bought it. I think it was then that my future career was set.

It was when I was thinking about this book the idea suddenly came to me to return to the library and re-discover the topic of food history. 'Put Luck' is long out-of-print, but I found a fascinating replacement in A history of food in 100 recipes. As the author William Sitwell explains the title is a misnomer.  The book is divided into over 100 short chapters, and while each is headed with a recipe most of them are not replicable by any modern standards. What it is is even better. Each chapter delves deeply into an aspect of food history. 'Cauliflower & Cheese' discusses the history of the vegetarian movement, from Pythagoras to today, and 'Welsh Rarebit' delves deeply into the lives (and food habits) in the 19th Century slums of London. William Sitwell seems to have just as much passion for this subject as 9-year-old me, and you can tell a lot of love went into researching each subject. It is the kind of book you dive into, but I know by the time I return it I will probably have read it cover to cover.

And I managed to find a copy of 'Pot Luck' online. I figured it was worth it for a bit of my personal history.

Title: A history of food in 100 recipes
Author: William Sitwell
Published: London, UK: Collins, 2012.
ISBN: 9780007411993

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