The Take-Away in Literature

It was a nice little dinner …being entirely furnished forth from the coffee-house 
(Great Expectations, Charles Dickens)

Until I visited Pompeii – during a holiday on the Amalfi coast a few years ago – I had always assumed take-aways were a recent invention.  But in the ancient Italian city devastated by the  volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD the streets were lined with thermopolia, service counters opening onto the street where people could buy food to take away.  There were more than 200 of these in Pompeii, and the remains of houses show few traces of kitchen and dining areas, suggesting that cooking at home was unusual. Continue reading “The Take-Away in Literature”

Falstaff: The first literary foodie?

A few posts back when I was still on the Middle Ages I wrote about Geoffrey Chaucer’s innovative literary creation of a cook as a storyteller – see here  Now that I’ve moved onto Shakespeare, I wonder if there’s another literary first here: the first foodie in English literature, Sir John Falstaff.  Continue reading “Falstaff: The first literary foodie?”

Spicing it up

The history of ginger in English cookery and literature is similar to that of sugar – see here.  Like sugar, ginger is not native to England; its origins lie in South Asia, and over time its cultivation spread to East Africa and the Caribbean.  As with sugar, it is thanks to the Crusades that ginger was brought to the west.  And like sugar, ginger was expensive – a pound of ginger was the same price as a sheep – though nowhere near as expensive as black pepper, which cost more by weight than gold.  Used for medicinal and culinary purposes, including in wine, ginger was also commonly imported in a preserved form and made into sweets.  Continue reading “Spicing it up”