Food in England

Food in England by Dororthy Hartley 

Introduced by Lesley Arrowsmith

It’s the time of the year when people are offering windfall apples at their garden gates, and I’m filling up my freezer using a recipe adapted from Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England.

It’s far more than just a recipe book, though – it’s a loving and vastly detailed meander through the history of traditional food in England. If you want to know what an eighteenth century coaching inn would have served to the passengers of the coach and six, or the rules of conduct for a medieval banquet, it’s all here, along with how to fill a cauldron most efficiently (with diagrams) compared with a bargee’s pail, different sorts of hearths, how to scald a pig, and how to smoke meat of various sorts.

There are recipes, of course, but there’s also a description of a woman’s day in Elizabethan England, and how plants were brought from the New World to grow in English gardens. She explains how to make almond milk and roast chestnuts, and describes what young girls emigrating to New Zealand in 1800 would have had in their luggage, and what they would have eaten on the voyage.

If you want to know how to roast a conger eel, or make an omelette over a camp fire, she can tell you, and she also explains how to roast a swan, what to do with goose grease, and why puffins could be eaten on fast days in the Middle Ages (by a convoluted logic, they counted as fish, which was permitted).

She shows how formal dining changed over the centuries, and describes how the foot of a hare was used as a cosmetics brush … it’s all here, a treasure house of resources for historical novelists, or even for people who want to live a more self sufficient lifestyle now.

And all through the winter I shall be enjoying a mixture of apple, raisins, honey and cider, topped with fresh cream, thanks to Dorothy Hartley.


Food in England: The Lost World of Dorothy Hartley

Last week BBC4 aired a new film on Dororthy Hartley and her book, ‘Food in England’. On Lucy Worsley’s website she shares insights into the life of Dorothy Hartley, the book and the making of the film:

food in england

One thought on “Food in England

  1. Many thanks Lesley! Sounds like a fascinating book! AND – you’ve just given me the theme for my next bleak mid-winter party! (Though methinks will eschew scalding a pig and roasting a swan….) Shall be picking up Food in England post-haste!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s