Course overview

This day school is a condensed version of a full ten-week course on the history of British cookery, from the Stone Age up to the present day. We go through the historical timeline, examining major changes in food technology and sources, where food came from, how social history affected food and vice versa, how it was served, and how food has affected our language. While clearly I can’t fit all the details into a single day, I’ll try to pick out the parts that are “good stories”. This is a purely theoretical course, intended for beginners, and no experience of cooking or knowledge of history is needed (though experience of eating would help!).

Course description

A look through the history of British food, from the point of view of a reenactor rather than a historian. We’ll start with how cooking has altered the way we speak (if we still ate raw meat, you wouldn’t be able to say “Norfolk”), some Stone Age techniques that are also the height of recent fashion, and move on through prehistory discovering what was introduced when, and how archaeology is probably lying to us. Then we get some documentation as the Romans arrive (no, I don’t expect you to read Latin). They brought in new foods, and so did the Normans – you’ll be surprised at how many of our “native” species aren’t. The Middle Ages bring us the first real cookery books (no experience of reading Middle English required, but we’re going to have fun trying). And we move on through the centuries, looking at American imports (how the potato first reached Europe is a fun story, as is how the French persuaded people to eat it), the East India Company that helped us conquer half the world in pursuit of interesting food, and various Napoleonic and Victorian innovations. Finally a brief look at the Second World War will explain why Norfolk is full of sugar beet and blackcurrants.

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