English Food: A People’s History

By Diane Purkiss

‘An absolute gem’ Sunday Times

‘A mouthwatering history’ The Guardian

In this delicious history of Britain’s food traditions, Diane Purkiss invites readers on a unique journey through the centuries, exploring the development of recipes and rituals for mealtimes such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to show how food has been both a reflection of and inspiration for social continuity and change.

Purkiss uses the story of food as a revelatory device to chart changing views on class, gender, and tradition through the ages. Sprinkled throughout with glorious details of historical quirks – trial by ordeal of bread, a fondness for ‘small beer’ and a war-time ice-cream substitute called ‘hokey pokey’ made from parsnips – this book is both an education and an entertainment.

English Food explores the development of the coffee trade and the birth of London’s coffee houses, where views were exchanged on politics, art, and literature. Purkiss introduces the first breeders of British beef and reveals how cattle triggered the terrible Glencoe Massacre. We are taken for tea, to the icehouse, the pantry, and the beehive. We learn that toast is as English as the chalk cliffs. We bite into chicken, plainly poached or exotically spiced. We join bacon curers and fishermen at work. We follow the scent of apples into ancient orchards.

A rich and indulgent history, English Food will change the way you view your food and understand your past.

The table is set, have a seat, and tuck in.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 10 Nov 2022
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-855140-7
Diane Purkiss is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford and fellow of Keble College. She is the author of the much-admired The Witch in History, Troublesome Things, and the acclaimed history, The English Civil War.

Praise for English Food : -

”'An absolute gem… English Food is a fabulous read. I devoured it with gusto… My review copy will find a permanent place on my bookshelves… a richly entertaining and enlightening social history of England… Superb” - Sunday Times, Christopher Hart

”'Every page brings astonishing revelation… acerbic, witty, opinionated and devoid of pomposity… This book is about food, but it’s more importantly about how food defines us” - The Times, Gerald DeGroot

”'A mouthwatering history… A sumptuous survey of English cuisine leaves no morsel untasted… liberally seasoned throughout with literary references, from Anglo-Saxon poetry to Michael Ondaatje… fascinating… There’s an awful lot of good stuff to get your teeth into here” - The Guardian, Felicity Cloake

”'What a delectable banquet of a book this is… This magnificently readable and engaging book (which is also very generously illustrated) sets the record straight and should whet appetites for the attentive, seasonal cooking and gamier flavours of the past” - Literary Review

”'[A] fantastic book” - Evening Standard

‘A remarkable book, scholarly, entertaining and fascinating. Purkiss is extraordinarily well read, articulate, and writes beautifully. She goes under the skirts of convention to strip bare the many presumptions that surround what we eat and why. Mandatory reading for anyone involved, however peripherally, in food and what we now refer to as the food chain. Simply a brilliant work’The Guild of Food Writers Food Book Award judges -