Another foray to the Hungerford Antiques Arcade on Thursday - en route to lunch with a dear friend; lots of little 'bits and pieces' picked up - but also two very interesting books, for just a couple of pounds each, on the cultural history of food and food-writing.
It's a field which fascinates me, both because I am interested in all aspects of life in the past, but more particularly since we bought the house next door to Autumn Cottage 20 years ago, when we 'inherited' a boarded up fireplace, which turned out to hold an inglenook plus the entrance to the beehive oven which was already visible on the outside of the house. It looked intriguing but I had no real idea of how a bread oven had worked; once I had my own, I hunted down books on the subject (Dorothy Hartley's Food in England was a treasury of information on the topic) and was also lucky to see one in use at my neighbour's house. She had restored her oven to working order and held a 'baking day' especially to demonstrate how it was practically operated. (a third, more prosaic reason for buying both books is quite simply that I love finding, eating and sharing good quality, interesting food - surely one of the great pleasures of life?)
The two books I brought home with me were Marwood Yeatman's 'Last Food Of England' - a survey of both the historic sources, preparation and serving of food through history in England, but also a survey of those whom he considers the best purveyors at the present time of the best quality foods in the country. It is a book written by someone who clearly feels strongly about the quality of good food and preservation of its availability by the continued existence of small local producers and shopkeepers; There is much more about the book here and also a description of his home, which illustrates his philosophy of lifestyle here
The second book - Mark Kurlansky's 'Choice Cuts' - is a more general anthology of food writing from the Romans onwards - a lovely book to dip into along with a cup of tea and a piece of cake, more for entertainment than inspiration, though I suppose the one often leads - directly or otherwise - to the other!
I cannot end without mentioning - again - one of my favourite blogs - The History Girls - and yesterday's post on their site by Michelle Lovric, regarding the upcoming 500th anniversary celebrations of Aldo Manuzio, publisher and printer of Venice. Books, Printing presses and Venice - what more could you ask me to leave you with! Off you go, to savour the whole delicious article here