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The Taste of Britain
by Laura Mason and Catherine Brown

The Taste of Britain This fascinating and entertaining book is a must-have for any chef’s, foodie’s or historian’s library. In fact, anyone who loves to tell a good story over a meal will treasure this book. Replete with well researched details, it’s a book you will want to delve into again and again. The book celebrates British culinary specialties, regional gastronomic gems, food plants, drink, and people into small scale production and folk cooking. It’s a literal treasure trove of British traditional food and drink history and cooking techniques past and present. What it is not is a recipe book.

To be included by the authors the dishes/food had to have a history of preparation in the same manner for a minimum of 75 years, be a local or regional specialty, and need special skill or knowledge to prepare. If you’ve ever wondered what laverbread, huffkin, or scratchings are, you will find your answer here. Did you know a Cornish Fairing was “a roughly circular biscuit, 50mm in diameter, 7mm thick. Weight 20g. Colour: dark brown wit an irregular, rough surface Flavour: sweet, distinctly spicy.” You’ll have to read the book to discover where its name originated. Then there’s the Dorset Knob, Bath Chaps, Black Bullets, and Stotty Cake, to mention only a few of the 400 entries. More familiar foods like the clootie dumpling, cock-a-leekie, medlar, and patum peperium are not neglected.

The information is organized by regions of England, Scotland, Isle of Man, and Wales with a map showing the regions. A section, ‘Enjoying British Food’, suggests a cheeseboard, picnic hamper, afternoon tea, and Christmas hamper all packed with the quintessential foods. A further thoughtful addition is an address book of trade associations and interest groups organized by category. The bibliography will lead foodaholics to further reading. The detailed index is helpful in finding those all important details.

We recommend this book very highly. It’s a true delight. To quote food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the preface: “this book is so timely, so necessary—and so brilliantly useful. . . This book is a thorough and splendid answer to the question ‘What is British food?”. Buy it and you won’t be disappointed.

The Taste of Britain
Harper Collins
ISBN 0007241321
495 pages; coloured and black and white sketches
£20

Purchase in the UK at Amazon UK for £16.50 with free delivery (Feb. 2007)
Purchase in the US at Amazon US used books only as of Feb. 2007
Purchase in Canada at Amazon Canada for $35.25 (Feb. 2007)
Or buy from most booksellers retail.

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