5 books that will get you passionate about food history

Five recipe books

If you are interested in food and history you are probably OVERWHELMED by the choice of books.

To help you I’ve made a list of the five books that I’ve found most useful.

Some will give you a historical background, some will inspire and other just let you produce incredibly tasty historical food.

My list of books will inspire you to enter the world of historic recipe cooking.

Ready to begin?

Food history overview in one book

A Taste of History 10,000 Years of Food in Britain.  Peter Brears, Maggie Black, Gill Corbishley, Jane Renfrew and Jennifer Stead. English Heritage in association with British Museum Press. 1993.

This book  is a great place to start as it provides you with an overview of Brtitish food history. The book covers social history, kitchen technology and recipes over 10,000 years.

This book is intended both as a history of food and as a guide to cooking authentic historic meals. In each chapter, the author has recreated dishes from archaeological evidence, or adapted recipes from early manuscripts, Georgian household cooker books, Victorian magazines or government pamphlets from the Second World War…The reader can now trace the continuing affection for certain old dishes throughout the centuries.

Introduction to A Taste of History 10,000 years of Food in Britain.

Historic Inspirations for a feast

Charlemagne’s Tablecloth – A piquant history of Feasting. Nichola Fletcher. Phoenix. 2004.

If you want to read about asbestos tablecloths, black banquets and a feast where the food wasn’t touched this is the book for you. Charlemange’s Tablecloth offers a captivating selection of triumphant successes as well as dismal failures. From the eccentric to the touchingly ordinary.

A book of adapted historic pudding recipes

Pride and Pudding. Regula Ysewijn. Murdoch Books. 2015

The joy of this book is that you get both the original recipes and the author’s adaptations. It’s the story of puddings, savoury and sweet, original recipes and historical background. It’s visually beautifully but also incredibly well researched and written.

The recipes are easy to follow and through reading it you can learn how recipes are adapted. So you can learn to adapt your own.

Original recipes from 1747 – Hannah Glasse

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Hannah Glasse. Dover Publications. 1747/2015.

This is the book you need when you first start experimenting with original recipes. I first used when I needed to cook in the Regency kitchen.

The recipes are easy to follow once you decipher some confusing terms. Moist sugar, for example, means soft brown sugar. Tricky historical words is something I will cover in future blog posts.

Try chocolate tarts the Hannah Glasse way – wonderfully delicious!

Original recipes from 1845 – Eliza Acton

Modern Cookery for Private Families. Eliza Acton. Quadrille. 1845/2011

Given to me at Christmas, it’s a bright orange book. It’s a complete reprint of the original with all the recipes. Eliza Acton is the first cookery writer to list all the ingredients needed separately . Before her ingredients were included in the main body of the recipe. This makes her recipes easy to follow. Her recipe for superlative mincemeat is the one I use every Christmas. Her mincepies were the first thing I EVER cooked in the Town House’s kitchen.

These 5 books will give you a good start in food history but I’d love to hear your own suggestions for food history books. What books do you recommend? What are your favourites? Do let me know.