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Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England
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The first volume of Peter Brears’ history of English cookery covered the Middle Ages. It was so good that it won outright the Andre Simon Award for the best food book of 2009. This will be even better. It treats of an heroic period in English history when new foods were reaching our shores from the New World, and new styles of cooking were being adopted from France and Italy. Even more important, it’s a period that has barely been touched upon by previous accounts. What is unique about Brears’ book is that he combines an account of the cookery with a close look at the practical arrangements, the kitchens and dining-halls, where that food was cooked and consumed. His prose is enlivened by his drawings – as accurate as can be – which lay bare to the modern reader just what was going on in places like Hampton Court palace, as well as in humbler homes throughout the land. There are plenty of recipes for those who like to try things for themselves, all properly tested by the author, who is a historic food consultant to TV and country house owners.The era begins with the near-medieval styles of Henry VII and VIII, with special attention to Henry VIII’s propagandizing banquets and feasts for foreign monarchs; progresses to the reign of Elizabeth, the effects of new foodstuffs from America, and treats of some of the great houses of the Tudor aristocracy; and finishes with the first two Stuart kings, James I and Charles I under whose rule we began to move towards a more modern style of cooking and when we also started to produce cookery books in large number.
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