Historic Heston / Jas. Townsend & Son

Posted in books, resources by Editor on January 1, 2014

This discussion with Heston Blumenthal, Ivan Day, and Bee Wilson is one of the events I would have most liked to have attended in 2013 (I’m a huge Bee Wilson fan). Alas, Blumenthal’s tome is available for purchase. Paula Forbes provides a thorough review at Eater (16 October 2013), with this brilliant summary: “if Willy Wonka ran Hogwarts, Historic Heston would be the history textbook.” -CH

As noted by Barley Blyton at the British Library’s Social Science Blog, “Historic Heston at the British Library” (29 November 2013) . . .

[On November 8] as part of the Georgians Revealed exhibition, the British Library hosted a discussion between Heston Blumenthal—one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs and exponent of the egg and bacon ice-cream—and Ivan Day—food historian, broadcaster, writer and confectioner. Centring on Heston’s new book and using the Georgian period as the frame for their discussion, Blumenthal and Day wound their way through history and their own pasts, expertly guided by food writer and historian Bee Wilson as Chair. . .

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Heston Blumenthal, Historic Heston (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 432 pages, ISBN: 978-1620402344, £125 / $200 (currently discounted to $125 on Amazon).

486128_1_v1British gastronomy has a grand old tradition that has been lost over time. Now England’s most inventive chef is out to reclaim it. Heston Blumenthal, whose name is synonymous with cutting-edge cuisine, nonetheless finds his greatest source of inspiration in the unique and delicious food that the sceptered isle once produced. This has been the secret to his success at world-famous restaurants The Fat Duck and Dinner, where a contrast between old and new, modern and historic, is key.

Historic Heston charts a quest for identity through the best of British cooking that stretches from medieval to late-Victorian recipes. Start with thirty historic dishes, take them apart, put them together again, and what have you got? A sublime twenty-first-century take on delicacies including meat fruit (1500), quaking pudding (1660), and mock-turtle soup (1892). Heston examines the history behind each one’s invention and the science that makes it work. He puts these dishes in their social context and follows obscure culinary trails, ferreting out such curious sources as The Queen-like Closet from 1672 (which offers an excellent method for drying goose). What it adds up to is an idiosyncratic culinary history of Britain.

This glorious tome also gives a unique insight into the way that Heston works, with signature dishes from both The Fat Duck and Dinner. Illustrated by Dave McKean and with some of the most superb food photography you’ll ever see, Historic Heston is a book to treasure. You think you know about British cooking? Think again.

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If any of this gets you in the mood for exploring eighteenth-century food, you might also be interested in the blog Savoring the Past along with the accompanying video series 18th-Century Cooking with Jas. Townsend & Son. Both are connected to the Indiana-based, online retailer Jas. Townsend & Son. With food goods comprising only a portion of the company’s business, the store, has “helped historical reenactors, movie makers, theatrical companies, pirates, and regular people find items including clothing, tents, books, knives, tomahawks, oak barrels, and lots of other goods appropriate for 1750 to 1840,” for over 35 years. Perhaps just the thing as you get ready for ASECS in Williamsburg . . .

Here Jonathan Townsend makes mushroom ketchup:

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