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Arabella Boxer's book of English food

by Arabella Boxer

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451564,941 (4.25)3
Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food describes the delicious dishes - and the social conditions in which they were prepared, cooked and eaten - in the short span between the two World Wars when English cooking suddenly blossomed. The food in these wonderful recipes comes from the great country houses, where little had changed since Victorian times, the large houses in London and the South, where fashionable hostesses vied with each other to entertain the most distinguished guests at their tables, and less grand establishments, like those in Bloomsbury where the painters and writers of the day contrived to lead cultured and civilised lives on little money.… (more)
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This is a revised version of the original 1991 edition. It is most easily tagged as gastronomy, but it is also memoir, history and recipe book.

There is no denying that, even among people who should know better, English cooking has a poor reputation. Boxer's thesis is that this is unfair. Between the wars there was a move away from stodgy Edwardian cooking, driven by a shortage of servants and the introduction of modern cooking equipment. (We are not talking about the working class, whose diet remained atrocious.) The momentum was lost after the Second World War, with Elizabeth David beginning a vogue for foreign cuisines that has not abated until very recently.

Boxer was born in 1934, and the introductions to each chapter include reminiscences from her own upper-class childhood, setting the food in its cultural context. The recipes are all sourced from books of the period; a great many of them are familiar to anyone raised on what I like to think of as "good plain cooking" of the British style (Boxer cannot avoid Scottish recipes, being Scottish herself).

Recommended to anyone with an interest in social history, or in unfussy, delicious recipes. If, like me, you are interested in both, you are in for a real treat. ( )
  dajashby | Jul 10, 2012 |
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Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food describes the delicious dishes - and the social conditions in which they were prepared, cooked and eaten - in the short span between the two World Wars when English cooking suddenly blossomed. The food in these wonderful recipes comes from the great country houses, where little had changed since Victorian times, the large houses in London and the South, where fashionable hostesses vied with each other to entertain the most distinguished guests at their tables, and less grand establishments, like those in Bloomsbury where the painters and writers of the day contrived to lead cultured and civilised lives on little money.

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This book is a review of British food in the 1920s and 1930s. It attempts to be part social history and part cookery book, it sets out to describe the dishes - and the social conditions in which they were prepared, cooked and eaten - in the short span between the two world wars. It contains 200 recipes, mostly drawn from cookery books or from magazines of the period, from family sources or from talking to survivors who still remember those days. All the recipes have been tested and adapted, where necessary, for modern use. The dishes reflect the different trends from simple "nursery dishes" that were served in country houses, the elegant "dinner party" food that was popular with the London hostesses and the informal French cooking that also had its own following. This period of time was followed by almost 15 years of food rationing and restrictions, so that once freedom of choice was restored the English preferance was for something new. With the publication of Elizabeth David's first book in 1950, a passion for Mediterranean food swept the country. The author of this book is a former Food Writer for "Vogue" and the author of "First Slice Your Cookbook" and "The Sunday Times Complete Cookbook".
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