A Visual History of Cookery – A Review

Some time back in December I was asked if I was interested in reviewing A Visual History of Cookery published by Black Dog Publishing and with a past as a teacher of the history of book illustration, I just couldn’t say no and last week it finally arrived. I have tried my best to repress the academic in me because this is not an academic work but I can’t help it, it pops up now and then. Let me make it clear that I like this book even though I feel that it could be improved; I think it is refreshing to see a richly illustrated book about the history of cooking and there are many very nice illustrations in it, I can tell you that. It covers the gastronomical history of France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and the U.S. in words and pictures, taking us back as far as Roman times, covering the historical ground of the following centuries leading us up to modern times presenting our times great chefs and their signature dishes to us. There are essays and abstracts from authors like Elizabeth Davies and Brillat-Savarin among others but the main part of the text is written exclusively for the book but here we stumble over one of the first things that I feel critical about, there are no authors, nor editors mentioned to pin the texts to and I do find that a bit disturbing. Another point that could be improved is the quality of several of the images, some are blurred and some photos have such weak colouring that they seem far older than they in reality are, after all it is a work that is built on images. I also would have loved to see more of a history of food illustrations, I think that would be a wonderful journey through social history and visual arts – I wonder if there are any publishers out there that are interested in printing that?
On the whole I think this is a great book to spend interesting hours with and I know that I will return to it to eat with my eyes (sorry, I just couldn’t resist that!)
And as a special offer to my readers, to get 40% of all orders of A Visual History of Cookery just email jess@blackdogonline.com quoting “Lucullian Delights Offer” in the subject line.


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