Not really a great read, but definitely a fascinating one. The focus on Lyon's book gives Rowley's a focus that differentiates it from other, similarNot really a great read, but definitely a fascinating one. The focus on Lyon's book gives Rowley's a focus that differentiates it from other, similar histories of Prohibition, as well as keeps it from just being a recipe book. Frankly, most of the recipes here seem prohibitively difficult for the casual enthusiast.
One thing the book did make very clear for me (although I've encountered the idea elsewhere) was the cultural cost of Prohibition. It's easy to think of that period strictly in terms of the criminal or financial cost, but reading here about how different America's relationship with alcohol used to be and about the many types of alcohol that mostly have not reappeared since Repeal, really made me think about how much can be lost when society's internal arguments become overly one-sided. ...more
Funny, although fortunately, the comedy is applied sparingly. This seemed a natural follow up to A History of the World in 100 Objects, but in truth,Funny, although fortunately, the comedy is applied sparingly. This seemed a natural follow up to A History of the World in 100 Objects, but in truth, it suffers a lot by comparison. This book makes me appreciate MacGregor's work a lot more, specifically the way that his disparate group of objects added up to one coherent story. Sitwell's writing feels more like a random collection of essays about recipes (at least it does at the halfway point). It's probably not entirely his fault, as it doesn't seem like he has quite as much material to draw from, and the material he does have is mostly drawn from similar sources.
That said, this is still a very enjoyable work. Sitwell's playful tone complements his subject matter very well, and he's managed to dig up a lot of interesting material, even if it seems like a lot of the information about how food preparation has evolved throughout human history isn't really accessible in the form of recipes.
Having finished the book now, It seems pretty clear that Sitwell is more interested in modern food history, although I can't tell if that's just a consequence of there being more material to choose from. I suspect the gimmick of using recipes was a bit of a mistake. There just don't seem to be enough older recipes, and the later entries don't seem much interested in exploring the recipes, so much as they do in talking about people. I'd like to see a similar book with a broader reach. More material from non-English cultures, and taking inspiration from more than just recipes. ...more
To be fair, I'm not sure that bitters really merit their own book; large swaths of the book feel fairly redundant, especially given that most of the bTo be fair, I'm not sure that bitters really merit their own book; large swaths of the book feel fairly redundant, especially given that most of the bitters and drink recipes are identical processes with different ingredients.
But, the book is beautiful, and Parsons makes me wish that I had the time, opportunity, and palate to walk in his footsteps. And that's really the bittersweet truth of the matter; I'm never going to try most of the bitters that he describes, and even if I did, I'm not so sure I'd really be able to differentiate among them. I love cocktails, but my ability to really appreciate their finer qualities is tenuous at best.
The funny thing about the book is that while the drink recipes look very appealing, it's highly doubtful that I'll ever make the effort to obtain the more obscure ingredients they call for. So it's the food recipes in the cocktail book that seem more likely to get used in my kitchen....more