How Britain’s food grew up

Polly Russell’s pick of the foods, technologies and trends that began Britain’s culinary revolution

'White Heat': page after page of self-conscious masculinity
©Charlie Bibby

‘White Heat’ by Marco Pierre White

Our History Cook revisits the bad-boy author, in all his sweaty, cheffy, macho glory

Victorian Christmas pie, with turkey, duck and forcemeat, cooked by Ivan Day
©Sophie Gerrard

Best of 2014 - The hosts of Christmas past

Polly Russell toasts three centuries of Christmas food

Image of the book, 'Lovely Food: a cookery notebook', by Ruth Lowinsky (1931) from the British Library Collection
©Nina Mangalanayagam

Lovely Food – A Cookery Notebook

A mouth-watering take on food for the society wife (or, rather, her cook) to serve at theatre suppers and shooting parties

©Nina Mangalanayagam

Le Cuisinier François, by La Varenne

This 17th-century cookbook eschewed the spices and sugar of medieval food and introduced regional and seasonal ingredients. It is the precursor to today’s classic French canon

The history cook: ‘Jewish Cookery’, by Florence Greenberg

Most postwar Anglo-Jewish households owned a copy of this book, a perfect mix of eastern European staples and ‘new’, continental fare

Cover page of 'Mediterranean Seafood' by Alan Davidson
©Nina Mangalanayagam

‘Mediterranean Seafood’, by Alan Davidson

How a Foreign Office diplomat with a ‘pretty depraved taste’ for ketchup and Spam became one of the 20th century’s great cookery writers

Book cover of 'Fancy Ices'
©Nina Mangalanayagam

Fancy Ices

What to serve for dessert at a Victorian ‘ball supper’? Try an ice-cream swan or a frozen soufflé tower, says ‘ice queen’ Mrs Marshall

Sophia Loren in her cookbook 'Eat with Me'
©Nina Mangalanayagam

Best of 2014 - History Cook: ‘Eat with Me’ by Sophia Loren

When Sophia Loren wrote her ‘gastronomic autobiography’, age 37, it was every bit as bizarre – and sulphurously sexy – as you’d expect

Rum baba: a typically sumptuous Carrier presentation
©Nina Mangalanayagam

The history cook: Great Dishes of the World

American food writer Robert Carrier was the Liberace of domestic kitchens, persuading the housewives of postwar Britain that cooking was fun


How a 14th-century recipe for frumenty ended up on the Christmas menu of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant Dinner

The Joy of Slimming

This calorie-counter’s guide is richly evocative of the 1970s, but it owes more to a Victorian ‘Letter on Corpulence’ than ‘The Joy of Sex’

The English Bread Book

The poor of Victorian Britain lived off bread and little else, made cheaply and sold dearly by commercial bakers

The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food

How the Soviet Union tried to persuade its people that they were living in a culinary paradise – and failed