Three books about eating: 3. A Short History
This is the third book about eating I’ve been posting about. The first two were here and here.
Graham Dukes & Elisabet Helsing. A Short History of Eating. The London Press, 2016.
Dukes and Helsing, married couple, English and Norwegian respectively, and friends of long standing, have produced a light-hearted, entertainingly illustrated romp through the history of the human diet, from breast milk (on which Helsing is expert) to bubble gum, based on their research into a wide range of sources, literary as well as anthropological. The authors quote poems in appropriate places:
When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good
Oh! the Roast Beef of old England.
The illustrations display cartoons, ads, portraits, and botanicals.
Here is an excerpt to give you the flavor…
Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the Revolution, is often cited—almost certainly wrongly—as having suggested that since during a famine the starving population lacked bread they should eat cake instead…But if Marie Antoinette truly did propose that the populace eat cake, what sort of cake, familiar in her royal circle, might that have been? Modern reference sources define a brioche today as a light yeast bread with butter and eggs…A better clue…may be that provided by that infamous rascal of the day, the Marquis de Sade. In July 1783, from his prison cell in Vincennes…he wrote a letter to his patient wife imploring her to send him: “…four dozen meringues; two dozen sponge cakes (large): four dozen chocolate pastille candies with vanilla….”