Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Taste of Empire (Lizzie Collingham)

Lizzie Collingham’s charming The Taste of Empire is a well-researched history of the British Empire and its growing appetite. In this context, it truly was a growing appetite for food -- the author shares the evolution of British diet, the impact that the British had on colonial diets in places it controlled, and how it set about the growth of a global trade network.

Collingham weaves historic recipes and stories of life in Britain’s varies colonies into her book, taking readers on a global journey to nearly every continent as the country's empire grew over the centuries. The author's writing about British diets, first with naval soldiers but expanding to include various levels of society, shows the evolution of British tastes, the impact of legislation and global events on trade and food, and how increasing quantities of food became more readily available to those in England’s middle and lower classes as time progressed. This all had a cost, however, as diets of many indigenous individuals suffered through the introduction of crops from various parts of the world as part of the global trade network. However, the forced and voluntary migration of millions of individuals around the world blended tastes and diets, leading individuals in South America to eat curry and individuals in Britain to drink tea that was cultivated in India and Sri Lanka.

Collingham’s journey through time, tavern, and various dinner tables is an extremely interesting insight into our evolution of culinary tastes. Your appetite for history (and for dinner)
will certainly appreciate this work.