I've finally found a little time to organize and think about my lovely set of Penguin Great Food books. Now that I've got several longish reads behind me I think I'm ready to begin my next reading project. The set consists of twenty slim volumes spanning some four hundred years of domestic life and cookery. I have tried to put them into a loose chronological order. A few volumes are made up of essays published over a number of years so I had to fudge a little bit, but I think I've got them more or less listed by publication date. I've decided to start at the beginning and moving through time to see how food, kitchens, domestic life, and social history in general (it's amazing what you can learn from books like these) has changed over time. If I find myself bogged down, however, don't be surprised if I throw all caution to the wind and choose randomly.
This is a project with no set rules, and I'm in no hurry to read through these. Most of the books are about 100 or so pages and the longest appears to be just under 150 pages, so they should read relatively fast--depending of course on whether or not I get sidetracked by something I read and want to veer off the trail a bit. It would be great fun to try a recipe from each book, though I make no promises (I have yet to try to make anything from A Little Dinner Before the Play, but there were several that I might just be able to attempt). I've even got a tab at the top of the page all ready to go and will start filling up the page with links and quotes and (hopefully) pictures of my own cooking attempts, as well posts about each book.
The order I've come up with:
The Well Kept Kitchen by Gervase Markham, 1615
The Joys of Excess by Samuel Pepys, 1660-1669 (based on Pepys' diaries)
Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving by Hannah Glasse, 1747
Recipes from the White Hart Inn by William Verrall, 1759
The Pleasures of the Table by Brillat-Savarin, 1825
The Elegant Economist by Eliza Acton, 1845
The Chef at War by Alexis Soyer, 1857
The Campaign for Domestic Happiness by Isabella Beeton, 1861
From Absinthe to Zest by Alexandre Dumas, 1873
Notes from Madras by Colonel Wyvern, 1878
Buffalo Cake and Indian Pudding by Dr. A.W. Chase, 1887
A Dissertation Upon Roasting a Pig and Other Essays by Charles Lamb, 1888(?)
Exciting Food for Southern Types by Pellegrino Artusi, 1891
A Little Dinner Before the Play by Agnes Jekyll, 1922
Love in a Dish and Other Pieces by M.F.K. Fisher, 1929(?)
A Taste of the Sun by Elizabeth David, 1950(?)
Murder in the Kitchen by Alice B. Toklas, 1954
A Middle Eastern Feast by Claudia Roden, 1968
Eating with the Pilgrims and Other Pieces by Calvin Trillin, 1977-2010 (essays appearing mostly in The New Yorker)
Recipes & Lessons from A Delicious Cooking Revolution by Alice Waters, 2007
I've already got one book under my belt (out of order but that's okay...the urge had to start somewhere). I'm really looking forward to this--I think it'll be great fun, and I'll be sharing as I read. First up is Gervase Markham's The Well-Kept Kitchen. I'll be transporting myself back to 1615 and will let you know soon what I discover there!