Diane PurkissAug 18, 2023
A Social History of England Told Through the Food on Its Tables
William Collins 2022
A rich and indulgent history, English Food: A Social History of England Told Through the Food on Its Tables (William Collins, 2022) by Dr. Diane Purkiss will change the way you view your food and understand your past.
Dr. Purkiss uses the story of food as a revelatory device to chart changing views on class, gender, and tradition through the ages. Sprinkled throughout with glorious details of historical quirks – trial by ordeal of bread, a fondness for ‘small beer’ and a war-time ice-cream substitute called ‘hokey pokey’ made from parsnips – this book is both an education and an entertainment.
English Food explores the development of the coffee trade and the birth of London’s coffee houses, where views were exchanged on politics, art, and literature. Dr. Purkiss introduces the first breeders of British beef and reveals how cattle triggered the terrible Glencoe Massacre. We are taken for tea, to the icehouse, the pantry, and the beehive. We learn that toast is as English as the chalk cliffs. We bite into chicken, plainly poached or exotically spiced. We join bacon curers and fishermen at work. We follow the scent of apples into ancient orchards.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.