Vintage Kitchenalia / Cooking Up History by Emma Kay (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on October 19, 2017 No comments

I don’t normally review more than one book in a post but at theses are by the same author, albeit on different subjects, I thought I would make an exception on this occasion.

What is the essence of each book?

Vintage Kitchenalia is an homage, if you like, to the humble kitchen utensil. So often these items are taken for granted. Kay charts their evolution from salamanders to springerles (a German biscuit mould) with lots pictures of the vintage kitchenalia that she has amassed herself.

Cooking Up History: Chefs of the Past is a series of biographies and historical accounts of some of the most celebrated chefs, like Escoffier, through to some of the lesser known like Thomas Davey, once heralded as ‘London’s most famous cook’.

About the author

Kay has many years experience of working in museums as well as a sound academic background in history and archeology, so she is the ideal person to write these books. She contributes to discussions on food history on her website https://museumofkitchenalia.com and is about to launch a series of historical cooking courses (which I for one will be eager to sign up for). Her passion for food history is evident in her earlier books Dining with the Georgians and Dining with the Victorians and continues to shine through these latest publications.

Who will like it?

You don’t have to be a die hard food history buff to appreciate these books although I think they will mostly appeal to people who already have an interest in this area. Vintage Kitchenalia is particularly interesting as I think most people, irrespective of their culinary or historical expertise, will be able to relate to many of the objects Kay discusses. If you want to learn more about the chefs from our past whose names are bandied around by the likes of Heston Blumenthal then Cooking Up History is a great place to start.

Who won’t like it?

Whilst both books contain a few recipes they are not cookbooks so if you are looking for an introduction to historical food from a practical sense, these books are probably not going to satisfy that itch.

What do I like about the books?

Kay has delivered just the appropriate amount of information in each book to pique and, in most cases, satisfy the reader’s curiosity. They are easy to dip in and out of and at no point do you feel overburdened with detail (which can occur in some academic books). That is not to say they have been inadequately researched. Far from it. Kay has expertly judged what the reader needs to know about both subjects and has an approachable, informal style when communicating it to her readers.

Is there anything I’m not so keen on?

Despite what I’ve said above, and speaking as a food history buff, both books left me wanting to know more (which, let’s face it, is a positive rather than a negative).  In my opinion, each chapter in Cooking Up History could have been a book in it’s own right.

Where can you buy it?

Vintage Kitchenalia by Emma Kay (Amberley Books £13.49)

Cooking Up History: Chefs of the Past by Emma Kay (Prospect Books, £12)

Sam BiltonVintage Kitchenalia / Cooking Up History by Emma Kay (Book Review)

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