How the British Fell in Love with Food
by The Guild of Food Writers
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781847376497, Year: 2010
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

How the British Fell in Love with Food is a collection of articles drawn from the archives of the British Guild of Food Writers. The Guild was formed back in 1984 when a group of British food lovers and writers came together to form an association of food writers. Originally a small group, the Guild now has some 400 members. This book celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Guild’s establishment. At first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking that this book is simply a vehicle to promote the Guild of Food Writers and its authors’ publications. Nonetheless, the book is primarily an interesting sample of articles from among the Guild’s authors written from the 1970s to the present.

Full review

The articles provide an interesting historical perspective on modern food history in Britain. Articles deal with topics ranging from the then recent arrival of the avocado as an everyday fruit (M. Joseph, 1978), to the campaign for real bread (M. Bateman, 1980) with its number one aim of “improving the variety of bread sold in shops” (possibly still a relevant cause?). Among others, there is a recipe for good old-fashioned steak, Guinness and mushroom pie, as well as an article by Marguerite Patten on food rationing during World War II, originally published in a book of recipes from the war years, describing how “to release ships and seamen on the fighting front, you on the kitchen front have the job of using food to the greatest advantage”. There are also a number of articles on cuisine from other parts of the world (French, Italian, Chinese to name a few) which have influenced British eating habits.

A small editor’s introduction is included at the beginning of each author’s article. This is particularly useful given that younger readers or those not familiar with the world of British food writing and its authors might not recognise the writers or context, despite some writers’ stature.

At the end of many of the articles is a recipe illustrating the topic explored, and most of these have a photo, which many readers may find helpful when attempting unfamiliar dishes. The background information might also give you that added impetus to try the recipes out.

The articles and essays are presented in chronological order, with the first section devoted to those written before the formation of the Guild. The final chapter contains a collection of articles on the future of food writing, including one on (and in favour of!) blog writers. Despite the range of topics and the diversity of authors (from Jane Grigson and Deh-Ta Hsiung to Mark Hix and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and many between and beyond), How the British Fell in Love with Food lacks a feeling of purpose — were these articles groundbreaking? Significant? Some articles are nothing more than a recipe.

The chapters and the authors are listed in the table of contents, which is helpful if you know which author you’re looking for. The index lists all the topics of the articles, though it seems to be missing some basic keywords for some.

Neither the articles nor the recipes attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of any given area of cooking. Instead, the interest lies in the array of topics presented, as well as the good variety of writing styles (and presumably the authors) sampled. As the title suggests, the book is very UK-centric, so it may be of less interest to audiences abroad, although many of the trends and topics discussed in the book are relevant to other countries.

How the British Fell in Love with Food is the sort of book you could either read from cover to cover, or simply pick up casually from time to time to read a chapter or two. As mentioned, it’s not a comprehensive view of British food/eating, so you might be disappointed if you go looking for something specific. Instead, it would appeal to a general audience who enjoys food and reading about it.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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