A Visual History of Cookery - Book Review

Written by: Georgina Ingham | Posted: 07-04-2010

So often food and in turn, cookery books are often thought to be just about pleasing the stomach, however, many of us buy our cookery books as much for the pleasure of reading them, sometimes they sit ready to be leafed through and salivated over, and, yet never make it into the kitchen to be actually ‘used’.

A Visual History of Cookery is one such book, it is a true feast for the eyes. Presented on thick, glossy paper it feels almost luxurious. The kind of book you want on show, available at all times for an impromptu read while sitting back with your feet up relaxing. It is a book to take your time over and devour slowly.

Billed by the publisher as “a stunning look at food and its visual representations throughout time.” A Visual History of Cookery explores the historical progression of cookery, the global food journey, the development of food branding, and the culture of celebrity chefs; providing the reader with a beautiful look at how culinary imagery has changed over the centuries.

The book, perhaps essentially as the history of food covers many tantalizing courses, covers only the interconnected gastronomic histories of five Western nations: England, France, Italy, Spain and America. Its compilers are far from being fussy eaters: with the book including such wide ranging dishes from foie gras to cornflakes, while both El Bulli and McDonalds are among the referenced to restaurants.

The historical time frame takes us back as far as Roman times, and then covers the historical ground of the following centuries leading us up to modern times presenting our great chefs and their signature dishes to us.

Topics covered range from snippets about recipes and specific food stuffs, to geographical influences on the growing of food, to the impact religion has had on our food culture, to the rise of fast food and the supermarket and their impact on our current psyche.

The main feature of course has to be the stunning artwork and photography, but, it is peppered with such delights as essays from esteemed writers and chefs such as A A Gill, Elizabeth David, Anthony Bourdain and Roland Barthes, and a few recipes to boot – not that I’d expect you to be using this gorgeous tome anywhere near the kitchen mind you – Ruth Pinch’s Beef-Steak Pudding is one that I’ve already bookmarked to try.

The one criticism I have is that although the essays are accredited to their rightful authors, the main part of the text is written exclusively for the book but here there are no authors, nor editors mentioned to pin the texts to and I do find that a bit disturbing.

All in all this is a lovely book and it feeds the social historian in me well. Should a ‘volume 2’ be published detailing other countries or generations, ahh well I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a copy.

With thanks to Black Dog Publishing for the review copy.

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Black Dog Publishing (11 Jan 2010)

Language English

ISBN-10: 190615550X

ISBN-13: 978-1906155506

RRP: £29.95

As a special offer Black Dog Publishing are offering this book to my readers at a 40% discount. All you need to do is email Jessica at Black Dog Publishing ( ) quoting “A Visual History of Cookery – Culinary Travels Review” in the subject line and she will place the order for you. An invoice will then be sent with your book.

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