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Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  302 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
A colorful social history of Britain chronicles the culinary evolution of its food, tracing the development of both aristocratic tastes and street food across the country; looking at kitchens, ingredients, equipment, and preparation techniques from pre-Ro
Title: Taste
Author: Colquhoun, Kate
Publisher: St Martins Pr
Publication Date: 2007/10/30
Number of Pages: 460
Binding Type:
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published October 1st 2007)
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May 19, 2008 Jennifer rated it liked it
the beginning part was fascinating - reading about feasts that included dolphin and whale and the huge variety of insane food that was eaten in the middle ages. and i never really realized just how extensive rationing was during wwII. but the more recent the history, the less interesting and it felt as though the author herself was less interested in the modern chapters. which is understandable. Stuart-era dining habits are cooler t than those of the 1970s.
Feb 23, 2008 Becka rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Shira, Kara
Recommended to Becka by: Michele K
Shelves: england, food
Absolutely wonderful read for Anglophiles and foodies. It's a considered a reference book, so it may prove too dense for some readers, but it was worth it. It would help to already be familiar with some British dishes, as the author doesn't always explain what they are. Also, I couldn't read more than 10 pages or so without getting hungry - so bedtime reading may not be favorable.
May 20, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-food

An excellent microhistory, using England’s (surprisingly) changing menu to explore its history.

From Neolithic farmers’ proto-breads to today’s on-the-go worker’s take-out curry, England has seen the food on the table constantly evolving with new inventions and new imports.

We see here how the history of food is a much the history of immigration and out-of-the-box thinking as much as it is about what is available in the backyard, so to speak.
Jun 04, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it
I am no chef. I most certainly do not read cookery books. But I found this most interesting. Perhaps, because I have not read anything like this before it captured my attention. If you read this, then read it alongside: ENGLSIH SOCIAL HISTORY by G.M. Trevelyan. How we lived coupled with what we eat, fantastic.
Shawn Thrasher
Oct 29, 2013 Shawn Thrasher rated it really liked it
This was a gift, and ended up being a fortuitous one. Not necessarily something I would have picked up on my own, but I found it quite good.
Nov 10, 2008 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
An absolutely fantastic history of food in England, beginning in the Stone Age up through the ages as the British learned to cook and refine ingredients.
Jun 29, 2012 caitlin rated it really liked it
Any book that offers a recipe for flamingo...
Martin Willoughby
Sep 17, 2016 Martin Willoughby rated it liked it
Great for food lovers and writers needing to research food. Not so much for anyone else.
Sherry Mackay
Jul 06, 2014 Sherry Mackay rated it really liked it
Very informative book. I enjoyed lots of it but struggled with the later chapters. It just didn't seem as interesting as the medieval ones for instance. There are many fascinating facts and stories about food and eating habits of the English and French (since they were intertwined). It is a great book just for delving into now and then if you can't take the time to read it all at once. It was amazing to find out that modern eating habits of 3 separate courses is a fairly modern invention. Also t ...more
Jul 31, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it
A bit more than I'd planned on , but interesting nonetheless.

I picked it up for a refresher on TudorBethan and to fill in some detail on the Victorians, but I ended up reading most of it anyway. I found the section on rationing and the World Wars to be fascinatingly new.

It can be a bit "British" for American readers. I'm a Anglophile, but the author lost me for a bit while waxing rhapsodic over the scent of a freshly-boiled pudding and I'm still not entirely sure what Salad Cream is. The rise an
Janine Skeoch
Jun 14, 2014 Janine Skeoch rated it liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
A very interesting read if you love food and have an interest in the origins of cookery. I agree the first part was more fascinating than some of the later chapters. I can't believe some of the food that was consumed, and how elaborately it was presented. As for hygiene and safe cooking practices right up to relatively modern days ... well, many people must have become mighty sick, and possibly died! So much of the food, particularily varieties of "meat", we would never, ever, consider eating to ...more
Jun 25, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it
This book is an historical undertaking tracing the history of British cooking from the Neolithic to the present. Through this book I learned that food changes every few generations. The lost dishes of my youth are part of the historical cycle of constantly changing tastes and new ideas as to what constitutes a good meal. If you are an American as I am you may need a dictionary as the book is filled with Briticisms especially as to defining what is on the author's table. Very readable and very en ...more
Jakey Gee
Feb 07, 2014 Jakey Gee rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Well researched and with enough anecdote to feel like decent, leisurely social history. Can still feel rather 'one damn thing after another' (from sweet and savoury to savoury; from many ingredients to few ingredients; from heavy sauces to light sauces; from X court chef to Y).

I would have liked a bit more weight on the twentieth century (though nice to see Abigail's Party in there) - any account surely needs to mention George Bowling eating a sausage in 'Coming Up For Air'.

But enjoyable. NB I
Feb 01, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, food
This is an English book written for an English audience. I'll admit that I didn't know many of the dishes and names mentioned, and can only assume that a typical Brit (or an Anglophile) would.

I found many surprises in here, one of which was how long ago "traditional" English cooking seemed to have ceased being popular, at least in the cities. I was also astonished, and saddened, at the plight of the poor during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and how little was done about their lack of susten
Jun 23, 2012 Chrys rated it liked it
A thoroughly diverting trawl through the history of Britain through food. The waves of invaders adding their spices, dishes and methods, the weird food fads, what the people of the time wrote about food and how it was prepared and eaten. Although chapters sometimes have the tendency to launch into long lists of food (sometimes hunger inducing sometimes definitely not) it's fascinating to see the evolution of what we have available to satisfy our appetites after centuries of development.
Sep 12, 2012 Deodand rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, europe
Like others who read this book, I occasionally had to close it and go get something to eat. There are some tasty-sound descriptions of food going back to British prehistory. Occasionally the book devolves into lists of types of food but Colquhoun does her best to keep it interesting. You can tell she enjoyed writing about the high-class Medieval tables of infamy with their double-digit courses.

I was surprised to learn how old are some of the everyday dishes we eat.
Jul 07, 2010 Gillian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Food/cookery geeks.
Recommended to Gillian by: Nobody - it called my name in Borders one day.
I keep coming back to this book whenever I want something really interesting and thought-provoking to read! It's quite a hefty read but I've still managed it several times and would highly recommend it to any food/cookery geeks as it gives surprising insight into social history through the food that we ate and the methods in which we prepared it. Certainly some food for thought anyway (muahaha!).
Dec 28, 2013 Johanne rated it liked it
Enjoyable look at the changing nature of arguably English rather than British cooking. Some of the areas I'd never considered - the shift from sweet and fruit based "savoury" dishes, the evolution of formal dining and of course the differentiation of male chefs versus (largely) female cooks. Recommended for anyone with an interest in food and cooking
Oct 01, 2009 Jan rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting book. I learned a lot about what people ate/eat, how food is prepared, served and why down through the centuries. I have always felt you can learn a lot about a country by going grocery shopping and this book takes that concept a whole lot further by exploring the history. I mean we all have to eat. I am very glad I happened upon this book.
Mar 28, 2016 Brunilda rated it liked it
Shelves: storia
Un lunghissimo viaggio attraverso la gastronomia britannica, con proposte non sempre appetitose per i palati moderni. Interessanti banchetti medievali e rinascimentali, un po' frettoloso il Novecento.
Sep 06, 2013 Min rated it really liked it
this took months for me to read, one page at a time. densely packed with a ton of information, although to be honest the writer definitely started flagging the moment it went past ww2 and excising those sections would've made it a stronger book overall. mock turtle, anyone?
May 16, 2009 Regina rated it really liked it
The popular dishes or the display of social standing through foods at the table is eternal. My kids were fascinated when we visited older friends who had marrow scoops in their silverware drawer. They were fascinated that a roasted bone could be an important course in a meal.
Rather than being a well written and researched piece of work, this is simply a compendium of other books- one long quotation after another. It is interesting, but it quickly gets tedious as well. I think some explanation worked in amongst the excerpts would have made it more palatable. Ouch.
Jan 07, 2016 Kristin rated it liked it
A very in depth and pretty interesting overview of the evolution of food and cooking in Britain. I particularly liked the chapters about pre-Victorian cooking, the later chapters didn't grab me quite as much.
Carole Blake
Mar 22, 2014 Carole Blake rated it it was amazing
History and cooking - two things I love. This is a brilliant narrative history of Britain through cooking - ingredients, taste, methods, habits - extremely readable and hugely informative. Highly recommended.
Mary Storm
Oct 04, 2013 Mary Storm rated it liked it
Shelves: research, cookbooks
Interesting subject, with many intriguing references to arcane food lore, but hampered by clunky writing. The ebook version I read did not include an index or glossary, which would seem essential in a well researched book.
Nina Chachu
Jul 28, 2013 Nina Chachu rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Better on the historical detail than the contemporary ones. Tended to gloss over what happened during World War II which was a little disappointing, especially as the author did admit that the population as a whole emerged better fed, despite the rationing.
Aug 17, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing
I'm a confirmed anglophile, and also love to cook. This book recounts parts of British history I haven't read before and the fascinating and sometimes disgusting things they have eaten through time. Especially wonderfully are the chapters on the Roman and Norman influences on English food.
Mar 26, 2008 Phil rated it liked it
Sometimes fascinating overview of the evolution of the culinary in Britain. It has a ton of cocktail party-worthy nuggets, although there are bits that strained my credulity a bit. It can be a slog in parts, but generally the light tone and broad sweep keep it interesting and entertaining.
Sep 16, 2010 Lorri rated it really liked it
So interesting! I feel like I learned so much from reading this although it is one of the only food books I've read without salivating as I read. However, by Kate Colquhoun's descriptions, British banquets were a feast for the eyes!
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Kate Colquhoun was born in Ireland in 1964. She is married to literary agent David Miller and lives in west London. They have two sons.
More about Kate Colquhoun...

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