PPC 97 (January 2012)
PPC 97 (January 2012)
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
MAGGIE ARMSTRONG lives now in southern Italy but for many years drove barges on the great waterways of Europe. She is a photographer. GAY BILSON is a legend in Australian cookery, restauration and food-writing in her own lifetime. She lives in New South Wales. OPHELIA DEROY is at the Centre for the Study of the Senses, Institute of Philosophy, University of London. VICKY HAYWARD lives in Madrid. She has worked as a publisher’s editor and has written much about food in Spain. CHARLES SPENCE is Professor of Experimental Psychology and a fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. His publications in the field are manifold. He is the director of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory. JANE STEVENSON is Regius Professor of Humanity at the University of Aberdeen. She is also a novelist and has written a life of the artist Edward Burrough. With Peter Davidson, she edited Prospect’s edition of Sir Kenelm Digby. DAVID THOMSON is a cook who is trying to explore a career in food both inside and outside of the kitchen. He is currently working at Rose Bakery, Dover St Market, but soon to move in to school cookery with a keen interest in food media from writing to radio.
LIFE IN GENERAL
We have had a busy televisual autumn. In November there was the documentary about the life and work of Dorothy Hartley. You will have not been honoured with my glorious comments which were excluded from the final edit. However there was much to delight the eye as well as the mind. Not much later, but for transmission in the Spring, there was a crew here with the great lady of British baking, Mary Berry. We had a most enjoyable day and I look forward to the fruits of it come transmission. If you’re hunting for Christmas presents, I can but urge you to buy one of the two following titles; they are both excellent and I particularly like the watercolour that we used for the Caroline Conran cover (the author being the artist).
CONGRESS AT RENNES
The 138th Congrès des Sociétés Historiques et Scientifiques is announced for the 22–27 April 2013. It is being held at the Université Rennes 2, Campus de Villejean. You can find out more at <www.cths.fr>. The subject of the congress is ‘Se nourrir: pratique et stratégies alimentaires’. I’m afraid that we are too late to ask you to contribute pieces for inclusion in the programme, but those of you who would like a few days in Rennes, a town which I unreservedly recommend, with at least one good restaurant, and one very good bookshop, here’s your chance. They say that the cost of attendance is €70.00 for the whole event and if you are unemployed (does this mean a pensioner?), it’s free!
Geraldene Holt kindly sent me a handsome leaflet describing the recently unveiled tryptich by the artist Benjamin Sullivan of the college staff at All Souls. It brings to mind the staff portraits at Erddig. The tryptich is currently on display at The Ashmolean so may even now still be visible. It is a wonderful piece of figurative art and portraiture – reminiscent to of Stanley Spencer.
Boydell are bringing out a paperback edition of The Medieval Cook in Spring 2013 in time for the medieval conference at Kalamazoo.
The whole house is reading, or waiting to read, John Saturnall’s Feast, this author’s latest astonishingly complex and detailed historical novel, this time concentrating on food and cookery in seventeenth-century England. You will have to wait for an opinion. I have sent a copy out for a proper review. He tips his hat to Kenelm Digby, Robert May and John Evelyn but fails to observe that decent versions of these can be obtained from Prospect Books. A failure redoubled when he prints a list of his ten best books in the Guardian and still fails to point out where they may be obtained.
FOOD IN HISTORY
A Conference has been announced by Institute of Historical Research on this topic for 11–12 July 2013 at the Senate House in London. They are calling for papers now. They describe their topic as follows: ‘From famine to feast, from grain riots to TV cookery programmes, dieting to domesticity, food features in almost every aspect of human societies since prehistoric times. At its annual summer conference in 2013 the Institute of Historical Research aims to showcase the best of current scholarly writing, research and debate on the subject. Our plenary lecturers include Ken Albala, Susanne Freidberg, Cormac O’Grada and Steven Shapin. The conference will include a publishers’ book fair, policy forum, film screenings and a historic food recreation event. Bursaries will be available enabling postgraduate students to attend. Panel proposals (three papers each plus chair) and individual paper proposals are invited on topics across the full range of food history from ancient to contemporary times, and from all areas of the world: for example: food technology and regulation; global foods and the globalization of food trade; migration and culinary culture; restaurants; food religion and status; diet and nutrition; individual commodities; agriculture, distribution and markets; retail, advertising and consumption. Early career researchers are particularly encouraged to participate. Please send your proposal to <FoodinHistory@lon.ac.uk> by 15 December 2012. The finalized conference programme will be published in January 2013. For any queries, please visit <www.history.ac.uk/aach13> or contact the IHR Events Office using the above email address or on 0207 862 8756.’
A BOOK FOR COOKS
This is a book published by Merrell, written by Leslie Geddes-Brown. It is an illustrated catalogue of 101 classic cookbooks in her library (or not, sometimes the books have been borrowed). Each title gets a short blurb and a couple of photographic spreads. These look nice, but cannot be used (in the case of recipes) because they do not necessarily illustrate a discrete section or instruction. What really irritates is that she fails to note where current editions of any of her choices may be obtained and that the actual books chosen for photographic treatment are not necessarily the first or best edition – just what happens to be on her shelves. Anyway, what’s the point of listing Alan Davidson, Patience Gray, Kenelm Digby and Hannah Glasse if you don’t give an up-to-date bibliography. Our colleagues at Grub Street must be even more irritated. And what’s the point of these random lists? They tell you zilch that you didn’t know before or, worse, they misinform: her commentary on Hannah Glasse manages an error at every turn.
The attentive reader will recall that we used photographs by the late C.V. Hancock to illustrate Di Murrell’s article on narrowboat cookery in the last issue, and that I had discovered more about the photographer, whose albums I purchased at a post mortem sale. I had got as far as establishing that he was an intrepid fly fisherman and Literary Editor of the Birmingham Post. Imagine, therefore, my delight in receiving from Harlan Walker the minutes of a dinner in memory of C.V. Hancock enjoyed by The Buckland Club at the University of Birmingham in February 1973. Hancock was a founder member and the first secretary of this esteemed body of curious gourmands (Harlan Walker is now the Life President). It flourishes still. I give below edited extracts from the minutes which I think evocative of a recent past which seems on occasion more distant than expected.
Before dinner we drank sherry. As we were told later, C.V. Hancock loved sherry. He envied Falstaff who was able to buy two gallons for five and eight pence, but he did not insist that it came from Spain – indeed on one occasion he apologised for only offering Spanish sherry. We enjoyed our sherry, an amontillado from Spain and also envied Falstaff. We went into dinner and the Chairman … then explained to us the implications of an unexpected problem. That afternoon, for the first time, the Staff House was struck by the gas strike. There was no gas in the kitchen, so while boiling was still possible, they could not roast or bake. The effect on the menu will be referred to in due course. … After the hors-d’oeuvres the sponsor raised a doubt in our minds as to whether this really was the Club’s 21st birthday as apparently there had been a dinner before the first dinner. Members were however not too perturbed as they were already beginning to suspect that they were going to enjoy an especially agreeable evening; their expectations were to be fully realised. The sponsor had considered all C.V.’s interests and wondered whether the dinner should be geographical, topographical, historical or literary. There was in any case no doubt that it should be partly piscatorial but otherwise he decided on a compromise including references to the Club’s history and some of C.V.’s favourite dishes, if these could be ascertained. We ate poached Severn salmon with hollandaise sauce and drank Puligny Montrachet 1970. The fish really came from the Severn though the sponsor had not been fortunate enough to catch one for us himself. C.V. had loved the Severn and when he founded the Midland Flyfishers he was looking forward to the Severn’s revival as a salmon river. Several of the splendid quotations printed in the menu were repeated and elaborated by the sponsor. The quotation from the Club’s Minutes referring to, ‘outlandish dishes from the remotest margins of the Celtic fringe’ had seemed at the time to be merely an apt and witty phrase. Members now learned that it was inserted to annoy Professor Bodkin. Returning to salmon, the sponsor told us that the quotation from the Berwick Advertiser of 1891 was probably the result of the eating of kelts by the unwise or perhaps the hungry. Buckland of course was neither of these, but in his usual spirit of scientific enquiry, he certainly ate a kelt. We do not know the effect on his digestion. Members then learned that C.V. did not like Champagne. He was even inspired to verse on the subject: The wine is full of gases. To me it is offensive. You like it, silly asses, Because it is expensive. Then came the first course to be affected by the strike. Instead of roast saddle of lamb, we had boiled saddle of lamb with caper sauce. Many members felt that this dish, which they had never had before, was delicious. In any case there was no doubt that Mr. Reynolds and his staff had risen splendidly to the occasion. We were then told of what turned out to have been a fortunate decision. The original choice for this course had been roast sucking pig as C.V. had eaten it in Yorkshire and found it excellent. When he returned the following year and asked for it again, he was told that, ‘this year the litter all lived’. Many members were glad of the saddle of lamb, doubting the pleasures of boiled sucking pig even with caper sauce. C.V.’s favourite wine was Pontet-Canet. An uncle advised him at an early age that it would ‘never let you down’. C.V. asked for it wherever he went. The sponsor thought that there were probably fishing inns in the West of Ireland still trying to get rid of Pontet-Canet ordered for C.V. when he stayed there. Some members, even non-fishermen, intrigued by the thought of a surplus of old Pontet-Canet, perhaps being sold off cheap, made a mental note. On this occasion however we did not drink Pontet-Canet. The secretary does not quite know why not. Perhaps its reputation for not letting you down has spread and it is too expensive. We drank claret from a neighbouring vineyard, Grand Puy Lacoste 1962 and very nice it was. We went on to our next course affected by the failure of the gas. C.V. would have had much to say on such a subject. Instead of ‘Grand Marnier Soufflé’, we had ‘Peaches with Orange Sorbet’. Well done Mr. Reynolds again. The sponsor then told us more about C.V. and his investigations for the dinner. He had approached C.V.’s sister, who had kept house for him for many years, to ask about his preferences in food. All he had succeeded in getting from her was that, ‘he was very fond of fish’, which of course Scott Atkinson did know. So it is strange that, with one exception which we will come to, our first secretary, in many ways the person who most created the atmosphere and pattern of our dinners and who was undoubtedly seriously and keenly interested in the pleasures which we enjoy here, has left us very little about his personal tastes – one wine and ‘very fond of fish’. It doesn’t seem much. However the exception is important, even if it didn’t help in the planning of our dinner. His views on the packed lunch are worth quoting in full: ‘It is a fallacy to suppose that the inner angler requires no nourishment during a long day’s fishing. On the contrary he requires plenty of nourishment and of two kinds. Let there be no nonsense about sandwiches and drinking from the spring. The ingredients of a well composed packed lunch are: a cold chicken, fresh young lettuce, salt, butter, bread, a pot of strawberry jam, a plum cake, a camembert cheese, a bottle of port, three syphons of soda, a bottle of whiskey and two handsome cigars to smoke on the way home.’ Our sponsor could say of C.V. that ‘fishing was his life’, that ‘his erudition overflowed into everything that he wrote’, that he was one of the last Bible Scholars of All Souls, that he was outstandingly clubbable – he founded two fishing clubs, a photographic club, a literary club, a railway club and was one of the founders of this club – that, like Frank Buckland, he had an insatiable curiosity about life as a whole and about its parts. Those of us who knew him were reminded and those who did not were illumined by many splendid anecdotes told by our sponsor. C.V. was of course a confirmed bachelor and once sitting next to a lady journalist at a public banquet there was apparently not much successful communication. Over coffee she remarked, ‘ Mr. Hancock, you’ve never married.’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Oh, I do think it so right of you!’ she said. On another occasion he lost his glasses and through some error they were returned to the Birmingham Prison instead of the Birmingham Post. They ultimately reached him with a note that they had ‘a Hancock but these are not his initials or his glasses’. C.V. replied, ‘I am sorry that you have a Hancock but I am glad that they were not his glasses.’ Our menus terminated with the brief and cryptic phrase ‘kiss wife’. Most members were willing even though it did not say whose wife. It appeared though that C.V. told of a fisherman who had a list of jobs to be done before going fishing. This was the last item. C.V.’s habit of tying flies of various locally obtained materials led to his procurement of locks of hair from the wives and daughters of his friends and also to the disappearance whenever he arrived of a cat from the house of another friend. … We drank port, Cockburns 1955. ‘Fishermen are partial to port.’ So are members of this club. We are not in the habit of drinking formal toasts, but on this occasion we were happy and proud to drink to our first secretary and the inspirer of the club, C.V. Hancock.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra writes from Holland to say that her book Het Nederlands Bakboek has been well received in her home country and shortlisted for Cookbook of the Year. She came to Prospect with her Windmills in my Oven, of which the Dutch is a much improved translation/revision (and very handsome too), because she despaired of it seeing the light of day in Holland. One raison d’être for our existence is revisiting old masters, another is maintaining the flames of the living, a third is to give deserving first-timers a chance to show their quality. I never expect them to do a second book with us, what they need to do is make shedloads from the commercial publishing world. Recently, Sally Butcher did this with her great success, Veggiestan, published by Pavilion. And now she is followed by Gaitri. Bravo!
I am grateful for the following learned communication from William Sayers: ‘William Woys Weaver’s recent article in these pages, ‘The Lughnasa Platter: The Celtic Origins of Christmas Frumenty’, invites us to consider the harvest festivals of pre-Roman Gaul and how the year’s crops might have been incorporated and served on ritual or festive tableware such as the large first-century ad platter of Samian ware found in northern Africa but likely manufactured in southern Gaul.1 Weaver suggests that frumenty, a potage made of boiled hulled wheat mixed with animal broth or milk, might have figured in such festivals dedicated to the divine figures that decorate the rim of the platter. His speculations raise the interesting question of which other elements of continental Celtic cuisine might have been absorbed into Gallo-Roman culture, survived into medieval French cooking and dining, and ultimately have been brought to Britain with the infusion of French language and French cooking that followed the Conquest. Weaver notes that the name frumenty is to be traced not to a Gaulish word but to Latin frūmentum ‘wheat’.2 Before exploring the fragmentary Gaulish evidence, let us follow frūmentum forward to early pre-modern times in France and Britain. As it happens, the first written evidence for the dish comes not from France itself but from Britain. In the late thirteenth-century, Walter of Bibbesworth wrote a treatise on the French vocabulary required to effectively manage a country estate. His closing section is devoted to the arrangements for a feast in the lord’s hall.3 Bread, wine and beer are the staples. The first course features a boar’s head, with the snout decorated. Then follows a course of game (venesoun) with formenté. This is only the beginning, and cranes, peacocks, swans, and wild geese follow. For Walter’s full text, see Andrew Dalby’s recent translation.4 Other Anglo-French texts also associate frumenty with game, mutton, and porpoise (considered a fish during Lent).5 This may represent the niche it occupied in a full-scale banquet menu.6 However, one can easily imagine it served in other, less formal contexts. The association with game supports Weaver’s linking of frumenty with the cereal harvest and hunting season but not his imagined scenario of pork, ham, and sausages being served with Gaulish frumenty (57). The Norman-French term frumentee was absorbed into Middle English, which began to find written expression around 1300. In the so-called alliterative Morte Arthure (Death of King Arthur), from about 1400, we find ‘Flesch fluriste of fermysone with frumentee noble’ (‘venison fattened up in the season closed to hunting, with fine frumenty’).7 Medieval recipes focus on the care needed with the cracked wheat and milk and there is no mention of fruits that might be added. An often-cited recipe in Middle English from 1381 begins: ‘For to make Furmenty. Nym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyt yt til it breste … nym fayre fresch broth and swete mylk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al … messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton’.8 Here, too, the pairing with game continues, although instances of the term cited in the Oxford English Dictionary suggest that this lessened over time, until the dish was gradually eclipsed in the late nineteenth century. Frumenty plays a key role in the plot of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, part of the West Sussex period atmosphere. In France, too, fromentée continued to be served as a rustic dish into the nineteenth century.9 Now, to turn now our culinary telescope in the opposite direction, what more can we learn of cookery in Gaul? A comprehensive statement on the contribution of Gaulish, via Gallo-Latin, to the French language is problematic. Given the multiple parallels between Gaulish and Latin vocabulary, it is often difficult to state unequivocally that a French word is of Celtic origin. The historical evidence of Gaulish is restricted to epigraphical texts (charms, curses) employing a circumscribed choice of words in a variety of alphabets, plus numerous personal and place names. While new finds of inscriptions continue to be made and the most difficult texts are now yielding their secrets, major additions to the Gaulish corpus seem unlikely. Some etymological triangulation is possible, when Irish, Welsh, or Breton words bear a sufficient similarity to a recorded Gallo-Romance word to authorize the reconstruction of a Gaulish term. Many French or Provençal words of putative Gaulish origin are attested only from rural dialects, e.g., Gaulish buta ‘hut, simple dwelling place’ but boye ‘sheep shed’ in nineteenth-century French rural dialects.10 Since the golden age of the compilation of French dialect glossaries and word-lists is now past, thanks to technological advances and the spread of standard French, little new evidence can be expected from this quarter. Nonetheless, the last decades of scholarly effort devoted to the vocabulary of Gaulish have resulted in the identification of about 170 words that can be reasonably posited as at the origin of French words, standard, dialectal, and archaic. The names of domestic animals have been preserved, e.g., banuos ‘young pig’, bo ‘cow’, caerac- ‘lamb’, damos ‘deer’, oxso- ‘ox’, but none for the meat served as food. Tree and plant names are similarly restricted. While we recognize English apple in Gaulish aballo- (although there is no direct filiation), French has pomme. Gaulish cnoua- ‘nut’ has a faint resemblance to French noix but the immediate source for the latter is Latin nux. Gaulish cularon ‘cucumber, gourd’ survives as culara, a dialect term in the French Dauphiné, but standard French courge (whence courgette ‘zucchini’) is drawn from Latin cucurbita. Nor, apparently, were other Gaulish terms such as bracis ‘malt’, curmi ‘beer’, mesgos ‘whey’ preserved in the Latin of Gaul. Gaulish ceruesa is, however, reflected in Spanish cerveza and Italian cervògia, while French cervoise is an outmoded term for barley beer. Gaulish medu ‘mead’ shares with the English word a descent from the Indo-European source of many European languages but did not leave a mark on French, where hydromel, modelled on Greek, is the standard term. The Gaulish contribution to the vocabulary of French food culture must then be judged minimal. This does not, of course, preclude the existence of a Celtic dish of cracked wheat boiled in milk, flavoured with fruit, and served on platters decorated with grapes, figs, and hares, but in later Gallo-Romance it came to be called by the name already assigned in Latin culture. Put more bluntly, there is no compelling evidence for the filiation implicit in Weaver’s sub-title, ‘The Celtic Origins of Christmas Frumenty’. This said, there is interesting evidence for the centrality of potages and gruels in the cuisine of the early Celts. The word iutta and lexical root iutu- are found in several tribal and personal names, perhaps as an element reinforcing the image of a people having ample food (Delamarre, 194). Asterix had a historical compatriot in Ioturix, the ‘Gruel King’. Iutta was adopted in Late Latin as iotta, a term referencing a soup or gruel cooked with milk. This is, evidently, far from frumenty and Latin frūmentum, and left no known trace in French, but does have interesting cognates, nearby and farther afield: Old Welsh, Old Cornish, and Old Breton iot, Old Irish íth, gruels made of cereal or pulse, Latin iūs ‘soup, broth’, Sanskrit yūs ‘meat soup’, and Lithuanian jūšė ‘fish soup’. Other evidence suggests that the Gauls, once conquered by Caesar, quickly turned to Latin as a communications medium that assured social advancement, as is paralleled in the later histories of speakers of the Celtic languages in the British Isles. Cuisine and culinary vocabulary may have been early victims to this upwardly mobile striving. Thus, tracing English frumenty to Gaulish ritual platters and moving between material culture and language may involve more than one slip ’twixt cup and lip. 1. William Woys Weaver, ‘The Lughnasa Platter: The Celtic Origins of Christmas Frumenty’, Petits Propos Culinaires 96 (2012), 53–58. 2. Weaver also mentions sops of bread that may have been used with the platter and frumenty. These he associates with the Gaulish term embrekta, but embrecton is currently understood as referring to fermented drinks (cf. bracis ‘malt’); Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental, 2nd ed. (Paris: Errance, 2003), 162. 3. Walter de Bibbesworth, Le Tretiz, ed. William Rothwell (Aberystwyth: Anglo-Norman Online Hub, 2009), vv. 1105–1135. 4. The Treatise of Walter of Bibbesworth, trans. Andrew Dalby (Totnes: Prospect Books, 2012). 5. Examples are listed in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, eds. William Rothwell et al., 2nd ed. (Aberystwyth: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2005), s.v. frumenté, now also accessible at The Anglo-Norman Online Hub. All these are from utilitarian texts such as cook books and we have no narrative scene with the dish being served. We may be surprised to see game at the head of the menu. Placement aside, game may have been prized at banquets as the product of aristocratic sport. By beginning with game, then proceding to exotic dishes with imported spices, medieval diners were also replicating the history of human culture as they may have understood it, from the open, savage wilderness to the language, law, and social order of the structured noble hall. But this, as is said, is mere speculation. 6. Sample menus in The Good Wife’s Guide = Le ménagier de Paris: A Medieval Household Book, trans. Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009). 312. 7. King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure, ed. Larry Dean Benson (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), v. 180. See, too, Wynnere and Wastoure, ed. S. Trigg, (London: Early English Texts Society, 1990), vv. 334–35: ‘Venyson with the frumentee / and fesanttes full riche / /Baken mete therby the burde sett’. 8. The Forme of Cury, ed. Samuel Pegge (London, J. Nichols, 1780), 91. 9. George Sand, Le Meunier d’Angibault (Brussels: Cans et compagnie, 1845), 57. 10. The increasingly negative connotations of the term – slipping from house to byre – have a milestone in late thirteenth-century poor laws from the Belgian town of Tournai, in which bute is a synonym for ‘public house’ – a locale where the poor should NOT be spending their alms; see William Sayers, ‘Gaulish in French Lexis and Lexicography: The Case of buta “hut, small dwelling”’ (forthcoming).
LEEDS SYMPOSIUM 2013
The 28th annual meeting of the Leeds Symposium on Food History will be held on Saturday 27 April at the Friends Meeting House, Friargate, York. The theme will be Fruit (part 2 of our ‘five-a-day’ duo). The full programme will be available around mid-January 2013. Anyone who is not on the regular mailing list, and would like to receive a copy, please write to C. Anne Wilson, c/o Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT.
OXFORD SYMPOSIUM 2013
The subject this year is Food and Material Culture. Anyone interested in presenting a paper should submit a proposal of 500-1000 words by 1 February 2013 to Mark McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org and include their contact information. While the subject ‘material culture’ is open to wider interpretation, paper-presenters are asked to confine themselves to the phenomena and paraphernalia surrounding food as applied to preparing, cooking, serving and eating. Material culture can be viewed as what results when an artefact fulfils the purpose for which it’s intended – the kettle is of no value if it can’t be used to boil water. While keeping the primary function of any given object in mind, we might discuss the whisk but not the egg, the freezer but not the ice-cream, the spoon but not the soup, the cupboard but not the items stored, the menu but not the meal consumed. Within these wide parameters, the organizers welcome contributions on serving-dishes, microwave ovens, ice-houses, chicken-bricks, chefs’ uniforms, fish-drying racks, appurtenances of beverages such as tea and coffee, menus as guides and appetite-stimulators, kitchen and restaurant designs – anything that relates to things culinary. Agricultural instruments and laundry-equipment are ineligible, as not being part of a food-transformation process. Excursions are also invited into the psychological and emotional effect of presenting foods: on golden dishes or in silver tureens, or on delicate bone-china or rustic earthenware, or the stimulating effects that come in the form of a puff of perfumed air. Consideration might also be given to the influence of TV cookery programmes on domestic habits, the effect of the restaurant experience on home-cooking, the influence of photography on the way we serve our meals. If what we eat is altered and shaped by the artefacts we use to transform what nature provides, material culture matters. For further information consult the website at <http://oxfordsymposium.org.uk/>.
We have not got number 1 of this new journal from New Zealand, but as I write I heft number 2 in my other hand. The Aristologist is subtitled An Antipodean Journal of Food History. It contains material presented to the N.Z. Food History Symposium, but offers much more than that. It is produced, edited, typeset and created by Duncan Galletly, a gastronomic medical man (an important sub-species of Homo gastronomicus). Everything about it is to be applauded. The articles, as might be expected, concentrate on New Zealand’s history but are never parochial. For example, Galletly’s own contribution, on the history of Spanish Cream (1658–1930) ranges widely, even if the dessert itself is now an Antipodean favourite. Contributions include enticing facsimiles such as The ‘Balloon’ Baking Book produced by Hudson’s ‘Balloon’ Brand Baking Powder (1917–19), and an there is an interesting piece on kitchen equipment in the 1920s from the pen of Helen Leach. And there is much, much else besides. I do hope there are sufficient enthusiasts in the southern hemisphere to ensure its survival. I have searched in vain for a price for this masterpiece but for those who wish to delve further, the website is the thing: <www.nzfoodhistory.org.nz>.
GIN & IT
Another journal that is about to appear comes from the stable of Fire & Knives. This one, edited by Kate Hawkings, is to concern itself with drink. The first issue is under construction. It describes itself as, ‘A quarterly journal of new writing for drinkers and thinkers, barflies and winos, lounge lizards, tipplers and geeks.’ A year’s subscription is £34. More information may be obtained from <http://www.fireandknives.com>.
FOOD & SURVIVAL
Another conference about which we have news is being organized in New York by Arien Mack and Fabio Parasecoli on behalf of the journal Social Research and the New School’s Centre for Public Learning for 18–19 April 2013. The topic is broadly that of food in the context of migration and migrant workers, with the emphasis being on the American experience. Further information may be obtained from: <www.newschool.edu/cps>.
RISK, FREEDOM AND CREATIVITY
Ann Rycraft from York kindly sent me this item: ‘Readers who are going to Barcelona this autumn or winter might like to know of an excellent exhibition, Risc, llibertat i creativitat, little publicized outside Spain. It celebrates the work of the Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, inventor and developer of the fusion of cookery, science, and philosophy now generally known as ‘molecular gastronomy’. The exhibition tells, through an extensive archive of photographs, letters, menus and other exhibits, the story of the restaurant El Bulli, from its beginning as a beach bar in the early 1960s, to 1987 when Adrià took charge. His work at El Bulli and the gradual development of his individual style, is described in detail. The experiments with taste, smell and texture, the infusions, hot and cold foams, croquants, spherification, and other gastronomic introductions are all covered. There is a video of a day in the restaurant kitchen. El Bulli closed at the end of July 2011, and the exhibition ends speculation about Adrià’s future plans. He hopes to create an El Bulli foundation ‘a creativity-generating universe’ devoted to experiment and development. This ‘boundary-pushing marriage of sustenance and science’ will be based in new buildings on the spectacular north Catalan coast where El Bulli itself was. There may be food, but not a regularly opened restaurant. The exhibition is in the Palau Robert, in central Barcelona, a few steps from Diagonal Metro station. It is organized by the Generalitat de Catalunya and is free. It closes on 3 February 2013. A booklet on the exibition can be found on the Generalitat’s website, www.gencat.org. There are plans for the exhibition to travel to New York and London. A film El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a year in the life of Ferran Adrià was released in the United States last year. Reports are varied!’
Fuschia Dunlop: Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking: Bloomsbury, 2012: 352 pp., hardback: £25.00. In 1945, the British academic Joseph Needham was able to write these words about the delights of the different foods of China while on a diplomatic mission to support Chinese universities: ‘Nothing could ever make me forget doujiang with bing tung and you tiao taken in the open air on a spring morning at Ganxian in Jaingxi, or the you zha bing of Guangdong straight out of its boiling oil, or in a Lanzhou winter, the huo guo and the bai gan’er to warm even the soul while the icy wind blows through the torn paper of the windows.’ (From Bomb, book & compass: Joseph Needham and the great secrets of China, Simon Winchester; doujiang = soy bean milk; you tiao = a long fried donut; bing tung = pork ‘tortillas’; you zha bin = fried filled pancake; huo guo = hot pot; bai gan’er = I haven’t found what this is.) In spite of these regional variations Chinese cuisine, even today, is represented in the West predominantly by that of the province of Guangdong, or Canton. Cantonese cooking at its best can demonstrate a commitment to freshness, in the use of steaming, as well as the use of flavoursome condiments, such as oyster sauce, and the widespread use of pork and seafood. At its worst, particularly in some restaurants and take-aways, it produces the lurid colours and dull tastes of floury sweet and sour dishes. However, Guangdong is just one province of the vast nation of China which, unsurprisingly boasts a range of regional cuisines. These are defined by different cultures, climates, ingredients as well as by the political, social and economic interactions between the regions. Alongside this there are the strong centralizing tendencies of the Chinese state, demonstrated early on by the annual tributes, often in edible form, paid to the Emperor. These have helped give rise to something we can perhaps call a distinctively ‘Chinese’ taste. It is the regional differences in Chinese cooking that Fuschia Dunlop has explored in her extensive work on Chinese food, which includes many articles, a blog and website, and this, her fourth book. Dunlop will be known to most readers as the first Western woman to train at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, as told in her lovely memoir Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper (Ebury Press, 2008). Her first book Sichuan Cooking (Michael Joseph, 2001) is an insightful guide to the cooking of Sichuan province, known for the spicy nature of its food and perhaps unknown to many Westerners used to Cantonese cooking which tends to dominate Chinese take-aways in the UK. In this book Dunlop is trying to introduce us to the varied nature of ‘ordinary’ Chinese food across a number of regions and to suggest that it is simple and easy to prepare. That is the aim; how does it work in practice? I tried five of the recipes, including the fish fragrant aubergine recipe which also appeared in the two books already mentioned (why do food writers often repeat recipes they have already published?). The dishes I tried included black bean chicken, pak choy with mushrooms, replacing the shiitake with ordinary mushrooms, and the ‘Twice Cooked Swiss Chard’. All were well received by the friends that tried them with just a couple who couldn’t take the tingling heat of Sichuan chilli paste. All the dishes had fragrant layers of taste, from the smoky sourness of Chinese vinegar to the classic garlic and ginger combination. The clean flavour of the pak choy and mushrooms comes partly from blanching them before stir frying; a process which retains their juiciness. I also took to heart her advice to ‘improvise’. Whilst on holiday in France earlier this year I tried out her ‘Braised chicken with dried shiitake mushrooms’ replacing the latter with fresh wild mushrooms, and the Shaoxing wine with a mixture of a mid-priced red Burgundy and cider vinegar. As she implies, this sort of thoughtful improvisation seemed to work. However for those of you not familiar with Chinese ingredients or techniques I would recommend reading the introductory pages which give you a basis for any straying from the recipes you may wish to try. One concern with the book is that her menu ideas don’t give any indication of how long they take to put together – I spent nearly three hours on a five-dish menu for the nine people I cooked for; not a problem for the dedicated cook but not something you would expect for an ‘ordinary Chinese’ meal. I suggest you try out one or two dishes before tackling the menu ideas, to give yourself an idea of what you can manage. It is also well worth reading the side commentaries to each recipe to give an idea of how to adapt them while they also offer some background to their origins. As with much cooking, once you have mastered the basics that Dunlop describes, this book gives you a great opportunity to use those techniques to great effect; don’t bother with the take-away, just stock up from your local Chinese store, or supermarket, and while away an afternoon having spicy fun. TIM HARRIS Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi: Jerusalem: Ebury, 2012: 320 pp., hardback: £27.00. Any book with the title Jerusalem is a challenge for both authors and readers, given the complexities, misrepresentations and confusing images inherent in that city. For the visitor, first impressions of Jerusalem, perhaps to do with the light or the architecture, give way to questions, about the different cultures and their histories, and then on to concerns about how these cultures mix (or rather, don’t) particularly in the context of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. And then, beyond these concerns, come others less obvious, but which surface from time to time. The line that divides Palestinian East Jerusalem from Israeli West Jerusalem is now marked by dual carriageway built about 20 years ago. When it was opened we witnessed the curious sight of Israeli Border Police trying to manage a stone-throwing mob of Haredi Jews from the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Meah Shearim protesting against the use of the road on the Sabbath. They were watched from across the road by a small group of Palestinians, who were more often the objects of the Border Police’s attention. In a bizarre way this encapsulated the complexity of life in one of the weirdest cities in the world. And this is reflected in the food of the city wonderfully and beautifully brought to us in this lavish book by Yotam Ottolenghi and his business partner, Sami Tamimi. The co-authorship is in itself a symbol of what the book attempts to achieve. Ottolenghi is known as the owner of the London restaurant bearing his name, as well as a food writer on the Guardian: he is an Israeli Jew originally from Jerusalem. Tamimi is a Palestinian from Arab East Jerusalem. Coincidentally both left the city as the dual carriageway mentioned above was being completed, the same time I left after working there for over three years. The book captures in the text and the evocative pictures the foods of the different cultures in Jerusalem; the aromas of Sabbath-eve cooking in Meah Shearim, the smell of Palestinian flat breads being cooked in the communal bakery down the road from our flat, the fresh colours of the vegetable market just inside Damascus Gate in the Old City, the rich odour of Palestinian cardamom-scented coffee and the vast barrels of herbs and spices along the narrow alleys of the Old City. All these and more came back to me reading the book. And it was wonderful to find a recipe for the sticky, sweet krantz cakes. I was introduced to these by an old Jewish friend who took me to find them in Mahane Yehuda market in West Jerusalem in his slippers. Perhaps inevitably this book does not cover the significant role of food and its production in the politics of the region. The contrasts are stark: Israel with a per capita GDP of US$29,800 produces water-loving fruit and vegetables, much of it for export to the West, with the water for their irrigation coming from aquifers under the Palestinian West Bank. Meanwhile Palestinians in the West Bank, a few minutes from Jerusalem, live on about US$2,900 per year, many dependent on handouts from the UN. Palestinian agricultural land in the West Bank has been subject to confiscations and vandalism, leading to the loss of well-established olive groves, for example. So the abundance illustrated in the book is only one part of the story. However, Ottolenghi and Tamimi have made a brave attempt to use food to make some sense of this city, suggesting that perhaps food can be a source of reconciliation across the cultural, political, national and religious divides. Given the current state of play in the region this is unlikely, but the book gives an opportunity for us outsiders to savour the authors’ take on the produce and cuisine of this remarkable, if still divided and divisive place. The recipes may be recognized by anyone who knows Palestinian or Jewish cooking, although many are, as the authors acknowledge, ‘loosely inspired by the flavours of Jerusalem.’ And, given the food of that city and its many cultures, they are exciting to make. I think the key to their success is the interesting combinations they introduce to us. The flavours and ingredients reminiscent of Jerusalem are given a gentle twist, for example, balsamic vinegar (not a Jerusalem staple!) and sweet potatoes, butternut squash and tahina, prawns and feta. These combinations seem to work, although you may find you need to adjust the quantities to suit your own tastes – I used slightly less tahina with the butternut squash recipe, and added a little olive oil to the sauce to make it work for me. The kohlrabi and watercress salad with a cream dressing proved popular and a good way to use that unusual vegetable (although I diced it smaller than suggested). Fenugreek cake – helbeh – was lovely; the earthiness of fenugreek worked surprisingly well in a sweet cake and was even enjoyed by the teenagers who tried it! Clementine and almond cake has also proved popular, particularly when topped with chocolate, as suggested in previous versions of the recipe. It also works with gluten-free flour if you are faced with that allergy. But the gentle twists of combinations rarely stray too far from traditional Jewish or Palestinian dishes: I remember being fed mansaf, a festive dish of lamb and rice in a Palestinian village, which uses the tahina and yoghurt combination mentioned in various recipes. I also recall the wonderful mix of flavours, colours and textures of Palestinian mezzes, eaten under vine-covered terraces at various places across the West Bank. The salads and spreads in the book are refulgent with similar tastes. Many of these recipes reflect the simplicity of Jerusalem cooking, although sometimes they look a little complicated. They are actually not that tricky; I think that sometimes the authors have added a little too much detail. So the recipes work and give us great insights into the food and flavours that may be experienced. Any shortcomings on history and cultural matters may be criticized, given the amount of material available about Jerusalem, but, by the time you have tried the food, they seem less important. TIM HARRIS Claire Macdonald: Lifting the lid, a life at Kinloch Lodge, Skye: Birlinn, 2012, 258 pp. hb, £20.00. This is a spirited record of triumph over adversity, the central focus being that of the successful establishment of the renowned Kinloch Lodge hotel on the Isle of Skye from the beginnings in the early 1970s through to the present day. Within the narrative of the hotel development and personal events in the Macdonald family runs the author’s own story as an accomplished, essentially self-taught cook, leading the hotel kitchen in the earlier days, and also developing a substantial demonstrating and writing career with a long list of published works and regular cookery columns in the Scottish press. From the beginning, she aimed for a high standard of dinner-party-style cuisine and acknowledges appreciatively the inspiration of the weekly issues of the Cordon Bleu partwork published at the time. Tribute is also paid to the writings of the then cookery writer for The Times, Katie Stewart. Each of the four sections of the book is followed by an attractive selection of recipes for the decade covered. She writes frankly about the considerable difficulties, including the financial crisis of 2008, which have been encountered over the forty years of her tale. Her evident energy and talent have been assisted through the decades by loyal family and friends, along with valued staff and suppliers, and she is generous in her praise. However, she does not spare those she sees as opposing interests or obstructive elements, which have included the Clan Donald, lawyers and bankers and, at times, even members of her own staff. The remote location of Kinloch, these days a year-round attraction for guests, contributed to early problems for its owners. A key element from the start was the desire to source food locally as much as possible, often frustratingly difficult to achieve. Other frustrations over the years have arisen in dealings with those within the Scottish tourist industry who did not share her enthusiasm for the vigorous promotion of local food as an essential ingredient of the appeal of Scotland. The book concludes on a positive note with the passing of the management of the hotel to the Macdonalds’ second daughter and her husband. A lively and interesting read! JENNIFER STOREY Katz, Sandor Ellix: Wild Fermentation. The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods: Chelsea Green, 2003: 188 pp., paperback, £19.95. This is an unexpected and inspiring book. I come late to it. The author suffers from AIDS and finds his enthusiasm and taste for fermented foods has contributed (along with retrovirals) to his present acceptable health. His spirit is infectious. He has undertaken plenty of reading and lashings of practice. He eschews (thank the Lord) any deep science, but takes the pragmatic route, accepting that ‘Our perfection lies in our imperfection’. This means that the many recipes, for everything from kimch’i and sauerkraut to beer, wine and bread, are not difficult to follow, though of course success may vary. I find his approach sympathetic because whenever faced with a fermentable project, I myself get very uptight that I am doing it ‘wrong’ when instead I should be just doing it and tasting the consequences. Our ancestors, after all, had but their experience to guide them. I am off to chop up cabbage in the morning. Danièle Alexandre-Bidon: Une Archéologie du goût. Ceramique et consommation (Moyen-Âge–Temps modernes), foreword by Hervé This: Espaces mediévaux, Picard, 2005: 302 pp., paperback, £40.93. Another book to which I have come late, but certainly worth a look at for those who are interested in medieval pottery for the kitchen: how it was used, of what it was made, and what effects it had on culinary activity. The text is quite dense, but her reading and her exploration of contemporary sources (written and pictorial) are exemplary. She stresses to what extent archaeologists have ignored the practical life of pots, concentrating only on their form, typology and other characteristics of little import to cooks or consumers. She attempts to redress this imbalance. She is eloquent on matters such as where in the fire the pot was placed; how far the use of pots inhibited subsequent use because of tainting; how far different bodies were employed for different functions; to what extent pots were thrown away rather than washed because of the absorbent nature of terracotta, and a whole host of other practical matters. Very revealing. Sean Takats: The Expert Cook in Enlightenment France: Johns Hopkins UP: 2011, Hardback: 203 pp., £31.50/$60. The publisher’s blurb makes bold claims for this book: the author ‘takes readers down into the kitchen’ to examine ‘the men and women behind the food’ and reveal their ‘contributions to eighteenth-century intellectual life’. The introduction repeats these claims, pointing out that histories of French cookery have relied almost exclusively on analysis of the recipe books, ignoring the cooks who produced the food. This is not entirely true: Takats fails to notice such French studies as Dominique Michel’s Vatel (1999), or Georges Bernier’s Antonin Carême (1989). One reason for cooks’ invisibility, according to Takats, is that they operated in a hidden world, outside the organized structure of a guild; as mere domestic servants, their low status almost guaranteed that the producer would disappear behind the product. Furthermore, by failing to fit exclusively into any of the recognized categories which the modern historian relies on (domestic service, urban trades, professional medicine), cooks have been largely ignored in recent scholarship. The author’s preoccupation is to rescue the cooks from obscurity, and to demonstrate that they too contributed to the Enlightenment, by promoting a theory of modern taste and by seeking to establish themselves as serving the interests of health. This is not quite as new an idea as the blurb and the introduction suggest: in 1977, Alain Girard made precisely these points in his article, ‘Le triomphe de La cuisinière bourgeoise’ (Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 24, 1977, pp. 517–521). Takats’ agenda involves studying the cookbooks as well as the archival documents which give access to the world in which cooks operated, and indeed, the last two of his five chapters are very much concerned with the discourse of the cookbooks, the first three being devoted to the cooks themselves, the kitchen, and its equipment, of which the most important item is said to be the pen. I was hoping for plenty of solid information on cooks’ working conditions, pay, status, and even self-fashioning, given the array of archival material and the wide range of literary and pictorial sources promised by the introduction. I was disappointed to find the author constantly veering between the factual material from the archives, the prescriptive texts of the cookbooks and conduct manuals, and the descriptive and imagined pictures painted by fiction of whatever type. The result of this mix is that the reader is constantly frustrated by the sense that there is far more to be got out of the sources (especially the archival sources) than appears here. It is as if the project led the evidence, rather than the reverse, and Takats seizes upon anything that will contribute to his argument, without paying due attention to elements which might run counter to it. There are several problems in Takats’ approach. The first is his insistence that the servant cooks formed a discrete group: in his view, men and women were both part of a single labour force, even though he himself points out the enormous gap between the man cook working with a large kitchen staff in a mansion in Paris, and the single woman servant cooking for a modest household in the provinces. One consequence of this idea is that the author blurs the gender boundaries in his own discourse: after a discussion of the very high wages of chefs de cuisine compared to lesser kitchen staff in aristocratic households, he goes straight on to refer to the cook as ‘she’ (p. 29), and later there is a similar shift from male case histories to generalizations about female cooks (p. 40). The same effect appears when Takats discusses cooks’ literacy and numeracy, which may have been virtually universal in the upper echelons of professional cooks; but below that level, these skills were less certain. Takats very rightly points out how often cooks themselves were the authors of kitchen accounts, thus demonstrating that literacy and numeracy rates were probably very much higher amongst cooks than amongst most other domestic servants, but his examples once again show a hidden gender bias. After a discussion of the more-or-less elaborate form accounts might take, Takats goes on to describe the more elaborate version, the livre de compte, and the scribe is ‘she’ (p. 77), despite the fact that all the text’s subsequent examples come from grandees’ houses where the accounts were kept by men. Only one simpler example, of daily totals then totted up for the month, comes from a woman cook (p. 79). Takats’ conclusion that women followed the same accounting practices as men seems rather sweeping in the light of his own evidence. Another problem is the failure to present the primary sources in an adequate manner. For instance, we are told that the author has used 628 employment advertisements, from seven cities over a period of thirty-five years (p. 9), but he also tells us that in Paris, the press ‘carried dozens of advertisements posted by servant cooks each month’ (p. 14). And yet this wealth of information does not seem to have been examined, given the figures cited. Although Takats points out the fragmentary nature of the documentation, and the difficulties this presents, one senses that he could have made more of the material. It is disappointing to find no systematic breakdown of the figures from the 628 employment advertisements studied here; occasional percentages turn up in the notes, but there are no tables, and nothing to inform the reader of any significant differences between Paris and the provinces. In fact, some of his most interesting points are derived from secondary sources, such as his assertion that cooks’ wages increased dramatically during the eighteenth century, just as cooks were busily promoting the nouvelle cuisine of the mid-century (p. 28, with a reference to the study by Maza). Sometimes a secondary source is preferred to a primary one, as when Takats relies on Fernand Braudel rather than Louis-Sébastien Mercier for the reputation of cooks from the Languedoc as the best among the men (p. 30). Similarly, when he comes to consider the physical realities of the kitchen, Takats offers no comments on the target audience of the architectural writers of either the seventeenth or the eighteenth centuries, and the discussion does not distinguish between town and country houses, although comments in the text suggest that the focus is on urban developments for the wealthy – this perhaps explains the omission from his bibliography of Mark Girouard’s Life in the French Country House (2000) which contains discussions of the development of the dining-room and the organization of the kitchen. The chapter also moves from architects’ manuals, to representations of the kitchen in literature and engravings, before returning to the practical problems of lighting, water supply and waste disposal. The general thrust of the chapter is that the kitchen was seen as a threatening space of potential corruption, whether that corruption was moral (servants cheating their masters), sanitary (the kitchen as a place of filth and stench), or sexual (the cookmaid as dangerous seductress or victim of predatory males). The result of this mix of evidence is an unconvincing chapter. Are Takats’ examples really so specific to eighteenth-century France? He suggests that architects began to take a serious interest in the kitchen only in the eighteenth century. And yet the preoccupation with the creation of a secure and hygienic space is one which Peter Brears has shown was shared by late-medieval castle planners in England (Cooking and Dining in Medieval England, 2008, pp. 178–194); Takats’ summary (p. 54) of the recommendations made by one architectural treatise in 1780 tally exactly with the decisions made by Brears’ planners. There is no reason to think things were different in France. When it comes to representations of the kitchen and of cooks, one must again question whether the lurid images of the disorderly kitchen and the seduced or seductive cookmaid are specific to eighteenth-century France. The kitchen was a place where appetites were released, and the association of women and food in paintings is extremely frequent. Genre paintings had been showing kitchen scenes with cookmaids amid disorderly piles of food, replete with sexual innuendo, all over Europe for many years (think of Vincenzo Campi, Bernardo Strozzi, Pieter Aertsen, Peter Wtewael, Nathaniel Bacon, Frans Snyders). How far such stereotyped images contributed to contemporary attitudes is a moot point: after all, there were also images of cookmaids in homely interiors (such as Chardin’s genre scenes), absorbed in preparing simple food. Takats says that the image of the cook as a thief is ‘decidedly unique to the eighteenth century’ (p. 90), but we find the same image in Audiger’s La Maison réglée (1692; reprint in L’Art de la cuisine au XVIIe siècle, 1995, p. 520), and in Molière’s L’Avare (1668): when Harpagon discovers the theft of his money-chest, his suspicions immediately fall on his cook (Act V, sc. ii). The most important task Takats sets himself is to show how cooks contributed to the Enlightenment. That cookbooks contain features which chime in with the eighteenth-century pursuit of encyclopaedic, systematized knowledge is not in doubt. But Takats’ claims go much further than this: by their writings, cooks conducted a ‘passionate campaign … to theorize their work’ (p. 95). But not all cooks (if, indeed, any) participated in this enterprise. The authors Takats mentions were all men: no woman cookbook author emerged into print before the last decade of the century (Mme Mérigot, La Cuisinière républicaine, 1794–5). Prefaces cannot be assumed to be by the cook-author. One example appears in the various editions of Massialot’s Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois (1691): the preface refers to the author of the recipes in the third person, and was very probably produced by someone else at the behest of the bookseller. Furthermore, the most striking of these prefaces were certainly not by the cooks – the preface to Marin’s Les Dons de Comus (1739), once attributed to the Jesuits Brumoy and Bougeant, is now thought to be by Meusnier de Querlon (for the new attribution, see the exhibition catalogue Livres en bouche, 2001, p. 205), who was also the author of the preface to the Suite des Dons de Comus (1742); the preface to Menon’s Le Maître d’hôtel, cuisinier (1749) was by Foncemagne; the preface to the anonymous Dictionnaire des alimens (1750) was inspired by the Dons de Comus. Only the first of these outside contributions, with the Brumoy-Bougeant attribution, is mentioned in the text by Takats, and when he presents quotations from these sources, the attribution is to the cook rather than to the real author. All this (albeit still with the earlier attribution to Brumoy and Bougeant), with comments on the quarrels between Ancients and Moderns, and the tension between philosophical and practical matter in the cookbooks, has been very well documented by Beatrice Fink in the introduction to her Les Liaisons savoureuses (1995), a book which is curiously absent from Takats’ bibliography. Another problem for the cooks’ assertion of their new status as theoreticians as well as mere practitioners, and the reception these claims received, is the diffusion of their works. A trawl through Vicaire’s bibliography and the pages contributed by the Hymans to Livres en bouche reveals that of the 177 editions of books containing recipes printed between 1701 and 1800, 116 were reprints of the works by La Varenne and Massialot, and editions of Menon’s Cuisinière bourgeoise. By contrast, the other books by cooks which are cited in Takats’ chapter, ‘Theorizing the Kitchen’, circulated in 27 editions for the century, which does not suggest that the idea of the cook as agent of the Enlightenment can have penetrated very far into the public consciousness. But there are some interesting ideas and analyses here. Takats’ analysis of the historical narrative of culinary superiority constructed by French cooks offers an explanation for the origin of the myth that French cuisine had been inspired by Italy, Italian food culture having been imported by Catherine de’ Medici: French cuisine needed a genealogy to justify its claims to supremacy, and the reference to the Ancient world via Italy supplied this. Takats is also interesting on the subject of the shift away from the seventeenth-century cooks (and their books) as vectors of aristocratic tastes, to the eighteenth-century model of cookbooks as vehicles for open, systematic knowledge that would enable other cooks to create new dishes without a long process of trial and error. Other points raise more niggles. Takats tells us that cookbooks proposed a variety of systems, ‘from seasonal to alphabetic to natural’ (p. 109). Quite what this ‘natural’ system was (apart from a cookbook’s use of the term as a rhetorical device to justify its ordering according to the double progression through the meal and from gras to maigre, quoted p. 113) is never defined. In fact, the eighteenth-century writers refined and developed the modular system of French cooking which can be seen in earlier form in La Varenne and others, and this gradual development of a system of cookery leads directly to a system of presenting recipes. The same problems of attribution mar the chapter on cooks and medicine: the claims which Takats attributes to the cooks were not made by them. All the quotations used in the first section of the chapter under the heading ‘Dietetics’ (pp. 118–130) come either from the prefaces not written by the cooks, or from books written by doctors. The argument that cooks’ new pretensions led to public fear of their power over diners’ health mobilizes denunciations of the cooks’ art as a form of poison, either because cooks were dirty, or because their transformation of food created delicious dishes which were a slow poison to the diner. The latter accusation, often emanating from medical men, is closely linked to debates about nature and civilization, simplicity and luxury. The same complaints were often voiced in English medical handbooks – see, for instance, the diatribes by George Cheyne (An Essay of Health and Long Life, 1724, pp. 28–29) and William Buchan (Domestic Medicine, 1769, p. 68). Such debates were not confined to France, and in England as well, it is easy to find lurid accusations against cooks. The book’s conclusion sets out Takats’ findings, with a fair degree of hyperbole to season the whole. In his view, employers lived in a constant state of fear of their cooks, who were a threat not merely to their material well-being, but to the social order as well. Once again, we are told that in their published books, cooks proposed ‘a total reinvention of cooking’s role in society’ (p. 144) although the vast majority of such claims were made by the authors of the prefaces. So did French cooks really ‘play … a surprising role in eighteenth-century intellectual life’ (p. 145)? The texts of French cookbooks did engage with the debates of the Enlightenment. How far the cooks themselves were responsible for this is another matter. Of course cooks sought to bolster their own status, but this was nothing new: cooks had been doing this since the Middle Ages. As Bruno Laurioux points out, written recipes affirmed the prestige of the employer and the status of the cook, and one fifteenth-century cook’s text refers to not omitting anything of the ‘science of the art of cookery’, thus uniting mechanical art and theoretical science (Laurioux, Le Règne de Taillevent, 1997, pp. 221, 230). Perhaps we should say that the Enlightenment took upon itself to engage with cookery, rather than that cooks took themselves to the Enlightenment. GILLY LEHMANN Joan Fitzpatrick, ed.: Renaissance Food from Rabelais to Shakespeare. Culinary Readings and Culinary Histories: Ashgate, 2010: 182 pp., hardback, £55. In 1618 a great comet cruised slowly across the heavens literally putting the fear of god in to all who saw it. This seems a wholly appropriate reaction as, against the familiar backdrop of the economy of Western Europe teetering upon the brink of total collapse, the vast majority of the population viewed it as a portent for their imminent death either from starvation or from the inevitable plague. All in all, whether or not the celestial visitor occasioned the cultural ‘big bang’ as suggested by this collection of essays, few of the contemporary watchers would have cared much either way. Nevertheless the suspicion that this collection has been written by a conglomeration of academics who should get out more, is partially dispelled by their several citations of Ken Albala’s Eating Right in the Renaissance. In his own hugely enjoyable paper Albala explains that the reason why food prepared according to the dictates of theoreticians tastes so disgusting, is the ‘tendency of academic food historians to misunderstand specific food references in historical, literary and artistic texts, stemming from unfamiliarity with the practical conditions of historical kitchens.’ He counters this by giving us seven practical examples of how to achieve palatable results by precisely following the original texts rather than messing them about to fit in with modern concepts. It can not be entirely coincidental that this divergence between the theoreticians and practitioners is a recurrent theme in the book. Although its origins date from considerably earlier, a significant change in the status of those who did, as opposed to those who merely thought, occurred in the early years of the seventeenth century. As Chris Meads points out, the credit for much of this enhanced status belongs to the super-talented artists and polymaths such as Michelangelo and Leonardo who possessed an ‘ingegnoso’, a practical genius inherent within themselves rather than picked up from some external source. In spite of Meads using Robert May’s life story as an exemplar of this progress, it is hard to see how it applied generally in the kitchen, when ‘it was more likely for Renaissance writers to have drawn their conclusions about cooks from their knowledge of Plautus’ whose stereotypes possess ‘a propensity for theft, a talent for scurrilous abuse and occasional physical violence.’ Not only did these dodgy characters of classical Greece survive through the Renaissance, but they pop up again today as the Muppets’ demented Swedish chef and Skinner, the sinister chef in Ratatouille. ‘Change’ is a central theme in Elizabeth Spiller’s thought-provoking essay in which she describes the evolution from the Galenic concept of looking upon food and medicine as a single entity to regarding food preparation as a skill in its own right. She argues that the pivotal factor was the 1618 publication of the Pharmacopoea Londinensis which eventually inspired a flood of recipe books. For the first time these included the accurate weights and measures which were to be codified in law the following year. The demand for precise dosage had been necessitated by the dangerously potent chemicals employed in the newly fashionable Paracelsian medicine. However I would suggest that this part of her thesis at least, is scuppered by Jerry Stannard’s comment in 1961 that ‘formerly it was believed that the internal use of minerals was the direct result of the Paracelsian revolution of the sixteenth century but, …the internal use of minerals was already well established in the Hippocratic corpus’, that is by 400 bc. Again, Messisbugo was publishing fairly detailed recipes at least seven decades prior to the appearance of the Pharmacopoea Londinensis, though like some modern authors he was inclined to forget the odd essential ingredient. ‘The Pharmacopoea Londinensis,’ she writes, ‘was intended to prevent the dissemination of knowledge and practice at least as much as it was designed to encourage it,’ and it was not until the 1650s that new private collections of ‘secrets’ were printed again. Spiller attributes this resurgence to the publication of Culpeper in 1649 but admits that most culinary historians link it to the appearance of French cook books notably La Varenne’s 1651 Le Cuisinier françois. This invites the question of who read these books and did they make a blind bit of difference? As late as 2010 the renowned Bristol chef Stephen Markwick wrote, ‘it’s difficult for chefs to write recipes because we are not used to measuring anything exactly.’ On the other hand, Culpeper, which doesn’t contain a single culinary recipe, has never gone out of print. Again, unlike a minority of cook book writers and collectors, but in common with modern couch-potatoes, there is little indication that the general populace of the seventeenth century cared whether they were eating a diet according to healthy Galenic principles or not. According to Diane Purkiss’s splendid paper, the seventeenth-century European taste was for ‘dark slow-cooked meats … rich spicing, heavy wine and meat-based sauces, relatively few salads or vegetables,’ which to a limited extent came to be displaced by bland white, sugary foods. She refers to this as ‘the largest taste change ever in world history and it only occurs in England.’ Thankfully neither the hedonistic English nor Continental diets she describes, either before or after the ‘revolution’, accord with what two thousand years worth of jobsworths and nanny-staters tell us what we should be eating. For those who enjoy something really unhealthy, Tracy Thong gives an account of ‘The Banquet Course in Early Modern Drama.’ There was little consistency in the form of banquets beyond the facts that they were served in a different setting to the main feast and provided access to unlimited drink, fruit, sticky confectionary and loose women. Thong quotes Romeo and Juliet which evokes ‘the titillating promises of erotic stimuli associated with nibbling on sugary aphrodisiacs.’ The banquet also provided a means for the host to snub an unwanted guest by depriving him of a chair or even shunting him out into the garden (in the rain with or without a woman?). Unfortunately, in her brief paper, Thong has insufficient space to cover the banquets of Webster and Ford’s Restoration dramas in the course of which worse things could happen, including getting assassinated (in ’Tis a Pity she’s a Whore). Ford sums up the ephemerality of banquets in his The Broken Heart, warning his audience that ‘Thoughts of ambition, or delicious banquet, with beauty, youth and love, together perish.’ Only Joan Fitzpatrick, the editor of this collection, has a word of comfort for the pure in heart. She quotes Apemantus in Timon of Athens suggesting that ‘the eating of basic food signals a healthy distance from the corruption located in sophisticated feasts,’ and, ‘we get the message that sinners eat fancy foods,’ though this message was probably unappreciated by the impoverished and not-so-silent majority of groundlings. Indeed Chris Meads refers to the ‘impotent hostility’ of Ben Jonson and his fellow playwrights toward ‘the nature of, and discernment shown by, audiences (which was) a perennial source of frustration for the dramatists.’ Fitzpatrick’s token pauper, Caliban in The Tempest, has to make do with acorns, pignuts, berries and anything edible washed up on the shore, the sort of things familiar to those who have suffered a modern-day survival course but with Shakespeare’s novel bonus of marmoset to contribute a bit of protein to the island diet. She suggests that conditions had to be really bad before one stooped to the kinds of food eaten by Continental papists and even worse, by the Irish who consumed hawks, horses and even one another. The changes described in this challenging book reflect not so much a big bang, but the culmination of a slow boil, a brief efflorescence after which medicine and drama would never be viewed in the same way again. Whether anything has changed more than superficially with regard to the availability and quality of food in our still-divided society is more debateable. ANTHONY LYMAN-DIXON Florent Quellier: La Table des Français. Une histoire culturelle: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007, 270 pp., paperback, €20.00. This book is just wonderful. M. Quellier has written before on the cultivation of fruit in early modern Île-de-France (2003) which I think I noticed in an earlier issue. He is now a lecturer at the University of Rennes 2. In 270-odd pages he manages to summarize the chief traits of French culinary history with plentiful references to its modern bibliography. This is really useful. There are many books which we don’t know enough about which he usefully guides us towards. Five what might be thought of as chronological chapters discuss the historiography of food history; the nutrition of peasants and the lower classes; the broad outlines of liquid nourishment; and the development of haute cuisine and the exception française. He then moves to consideration of dining-rooms, kitchens and restaurants; the eating cycle as determined by nature, the Church, and popular feasts; the supply of food to urban and rural populations; the influence of medical men; the impact of the New World; and, finally, the significance of cookery books, the expansion of French culinary influence, and regional styles within the Hexagon. All this is expressed in limpid and comprehensible prose. Full marks, Professor. Kindstedt, Paul S.: Cheese and Culture. A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012: 254 pp., hardback, $24.95. Paul Kindstedt is professor of food science at the University of Vermont and co-author of American Farmstead Cheese. His work allows him unrivalled knowledge of cheesemaking techniques (he is co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese) and he is also well versed in the minutiae of regulation and international trade. This means his book feels authoritative on matters of technique and current fact and that it is replete with information. It is also a consequence of his teaching a module on cheese and culture and the result of much reading on the history of the world in case it has any bearing on cheese. This gives rise to chapter titles such as ‘Caesar, Christ and Systematic Cheese Making’ – a mouthful indeed, as well as a mind-full. His canter through world history (back a long way to catch the first curds) will probably raise a few eyebrows but may be speed-read until the meatier sections which give good accounts of specific cheeses and their development. It is a pity he does not touch on English blue cheeses, but his work is perhaps cut out dealing with the dozen other sorts (in Italy, France, Holland and Britain or America) with which he does engage. Read it alongside Andrew Dalby’s Cheese (Reaktion’s Edible Series). Kushner, Barak: Slurp! A Social and Cultural History of Ramen – Japan’s Favourite Noodle Soup: Global Oriental, 2012; 290 pp., hardback, €65.00. Those long nights when sleep evades you and the mind runs along less tranquil corridors of the mind, one room repeatedly visited is full of books I should have published. This is one of them. It is most excellent (with a tiny proviso as to price). The history of ramen is a beacon to guide us through an appreciation of change in Japanese taste and cooking; to understand what Japanese food was like a long time ago; to how regional tastes have affected the development of Japanese cooking; to see how war has left its mark on all aspects of the Japanese table; to wonder at the depth of foreign influence on Japanese cooking (where silly old me had thought they were an isolated people). I could go on and on. Mr Kushner writes clearly, thankfully with no jargon, and entertainingly. His illustrations are intriguing, his reading is wide. The book has footnotes. Emphatic recommendation. Verdier, Yvonne: Façons de dire, façons de faire. La laveuse, la couturière, la cuisinière: Paris, Gallimard, 1979. Here is another cracking book. I have failed so far to find anyone who has also read it, but I recommend you go and find it. Astonishingly, it has not been translated. It is an evocative, allusive, well-written and informative study of three feminine occupations in a small village north-west of Dijon. Ethnology, anthropology, call it what you will, of the highest order. If you Google a bit, you will find a review of it (late in the day as well) by Mary Douglas. This should be praise enough. Evidently, though not to my acquaintance, it is something of a talisman in European circles. You discover so much about the recent history of the French countryside. Utterly first-rate. Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby: Fish and Ships! Food on the voyages of Captain Cook: Whitby, 2011: 68 pp., illus., paperback: £11.50, obtainable by post (free, but rest of the world pays £14.50) from the museum, Grape Lane, Whitby YO22 4BA <http://www.cookmuseumwhitby.co.uk> This is a handsome catalogue mainly relating to Captain Cook’s voyages and food: either the provisioning of ships, the prevention of scurvy, or the foods that the voyagers met on their landfalls in the Pacific. There is a slight diversion in a final essay on fireworks – which navigators were wont to let off as a reciprocal display when entertained by the resident populations. The authors are Janet Macdonald (provisioning), Brian Vale (scurvy), Nancy J. Pollock (Pacific foods) and Simon Werrett (fireworks). The illustrations are handsome, the essays are to the point and informative. A rewarding small book. Andrew Dalby and Maureen Dalby: The Shakespeare Cookbook: The British Museum Press, 2012: 144 pp., paperback, £10.99. This book is well-produced with wide margins, clear headings and many full-colour illustrations. The ‘wrap-around’ covers are handy bookmarks. I began reading with some trepidation: mining Shakespeare for particular topics has long been practised – flowers, women, the classics, religion, race, the law, science – the list is endless, and the results are usually desperate attempts to drag every possible allusion to the various topics out of Shakespeare’s works, often out of context. But this is not one of those books. As the authors say in their introduction, food was important to Shakespeare – there is much eating and drinking in his plays. The authors have, with very few exceptions, drawn only on contemporary sources for their information. The introduction sets the scene, with notes on mealtimes and notes on ingredients. The analysis of the Shakespeare plays in the seven opening chapters is erudite and fits well into the subsequent discussion of food. One very small quibble – ‘I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter, Parson Hugh the Welshman with my cheese, an Irishman with my aqua-vitae bottle, or a thief to walk my ambling gelding, than my wife with herself’, this is described as a jibe at foreign food, rather it is an acknowledgement that these foods, which are also English, are firm favourites of the nationalities listed. The plays introduce descriptions of foods and recipes. Each food/dish is given historical context. For instance the sixteenth-century concept of ‘cake’ – subtly different from today’s, is carefully explained – more like flavoured bread or even biscuit than today’s sweet cakes. Or ‘coffin’ – a deep pastry-case containing a ‘meat’ filling, ‘meat’ being then used as a general term for food, so the filling could be pieces of animal, vegetable, or fruit. The illustrations, a mixture of pictures and photographs of food-related artefacts, are well reproduced and support the text, almost all being of objects and pictures of Shakespeare’s time. (Most are from the British Museum, with which the book is associated.) It is a pity, though, that so few are English in origin. Only twelve illustrations out of 45 are English; seven of these are artefacts. It is often difficult to find suitable English pictures but they do exist, the painting of Lord Cobham’s family at dessert for instance, or Hoefnagel’s Wedding Feast at Bermondsey, William Lawson’s picture of bee hives in the corner of his garden, and Thomas Hill’s woodcut of three gentlemen dining in an arbour in The Gardener’s Labyrinth. ‘Further reading’ has a good summary of readily available contemporary and secondary sources (although perhaps the reprints of Sir Hugh Plat’s Delightes for Ladies (1602) could have been mentioned). Taken together with details of quotations and references, and an index, the book feels like a serious piece of work, not just a museum-related picture-book. A book pleasant to handle, to browse through looking at the illustrations, and to read, with food history both to entertain and inform, it should whet the appetite of those who wish to know more about food in Shakespeare’s time. MALCOLM THICK
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