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Top 5 food histories, chosen by Diane Purkiss

The author and food historian selects five food histories that explore cooking and eating through the ages

1. The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775 by Steven Laurence Kaplan

The American who saved French bread with his passionate historical investigations, which include a full awareness of the horrifying industry conditions and the reason that lack of bread eventually brought down a king. 

2. Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book

Yes, it is a recipe book, but each chapter begins with a history of the vegetable on which it focuses. There wasn’t much that Grigson didn’t know about her subject matter, and she writes beautifully here and in all her other works.

3 Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, transcribed by Karen Hess

This is the recipe book of George Washington’s wife, but what makes this edition exceptional are the notes provided by Karen Hess, which exemplify picky food history at its most rigorous.

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4 The Medieval Cook by Bridget Ann Henisch

Unlike most medieval food histories, this takes us beyond palaces and country houses and into market squares and orchards and kitchens. Who knew that boys took their girlfriends out for waffles in the public square once upon a time?

5 Great British Bakes: Forgotten Treasures for Modern Bakers by Mary-Anne Boermans

English Food: A People’s History by Diane Purkiss

This food history is as tender as the softest cake. Her account of the English Civil War-era escape of one of the princes is sweet indeed; the woman who helped the child brought him his favourite cake to sustain him on the journey. 

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English Food: A People’s History by Diane Purkiss is out now (HarperCollins, £30). You can buy some of these titles from The Big Issue shop on bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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