In this day and age of celebrity chefs and food porn, the recipes and illustrations from historical cookbooks can appear quaint, bizarre, revolting, or downright absurd.
From the frugal to the fantastical, The Curious Cookbook features the most unusual and fascinating recipes from historical cookbooks dating from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. While all of the featured recipes can be recreated, they also offer fascinating insights into the cultural, economic, and regional aspects of the eras.
The Forme of Cury, published in 1390 and the oldest known English-language cookbook, details how to cook whale, crane, heron, seal, and porpoise. An early eighteenth-century cookery shares the Queen's recipe for "cosmetick water to collar eels"; The Boke of Kokery provides all of the details for recreating "soltete," an elaborate Bible-themed sugar sculpture first made for the 1443 ordination of the Archbishop of Canterbury; The Hard Time Cookery from 1941 explains how to make mayonnaise without eggs, using "1 tin sweetened milk, an equal amount of vinegar, 1 tbsp salad oil, 1 tbsp made mustard, salt."
Never before have examples from so many rare and exotic cookbooks been available in a single volume, promising entertaining and informative recipes for cooks, as well as history buffs.
Peter Ross is the principal librarian at the Guildhall Library, London. He is in charge of historical cookery books, of which Guildhall Library holds the largest public collection in the United Kingdom.
Chef Heston Blumenthal is best known for The Fat Duck Restaurant, where his innovative menus have resulted in three Michelin stars and awards for Restaurant of the Year, Best Restaurant in the World and Best Restaurant in the UK. He is also the author of several cookbooks.
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