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Food & Drink

Narsai David Book Review: A History Of Food In 100 Recipes

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BERKELEY (KCBS) – William Sitwell’s History Of Food In 100 Recipes is an utterly fascinating hybrid of a cook book and a history book.

Of course, no two people trying to write the history of food would pick exactly the same recipes. Here are a few of Sitwell’s choices that really caught my attention.

 
KCBS Food and Wine Editor, Narsai David:


 
First is a recipe for pear pie flavored with Saffron by Taillevent, who wrote one of the earliest French cookbooks. The restaurant of the same name in Paris remains my favorite of all time.

In the middle of the 15th century, there’s a ravioli recipe for non-Lenten times. By the mid-17th century in England, there’s a roast filet of beef.

Around the same time in 1679, an Englishman named Denis Papin invented the pressure cooker, an idea that took centuries to catch on. He died in poverty, but of course people made a fortune when pressure cookers became popular in the 1970s.

Stillwell has a note on ice cream, which was probably independently invented in several different parts of the world. He mentions Dundee marmalade and Eggs Benedict.

Then there’s Peach Melba, named by the French chef Auguste Escoffier for the actress Nellie Melba. This brought to mind a visit to Berkeley by his granddaughter.

We created a dessert in which I poached a pear and covered it with a chocolate sauce to present her with a dish named Poire Belle Elaine, something like her grandfather had done for the actress.

Stillwell informs us that chocolate cake was invented by the owner of the Piggly Wiggly stores in America. And Alice Waters and Thomas Keller pop up near the end of the book.

This book published by Little, Brown and Company offers some great dishes and insight into the people who invented techniques that influence all of us in the kitchen.

A History of Food In 100 Recipes
William Stillwell
Little, Brown and Company

Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the Bay Area spanning four decades. You can hear him Saturdays at 10:53 a.m., 12:53 p.m. and 4:53 p.m., and at 2:53 a.m. Sunday on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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