Book review – Food Britannia

07 September 2011 by
Book review – Food Britannia

Food Britannia
By Andrew Webb
Random House Books, £25
ISBN 978-1-84794-623-2

There is no denying that the demand for foods with recognisable provenance has exploded in recent years. Not only do we like to consume ingredients that have few food miles, but we are also inspired by romantic notions of the artisan cheesemaker who produces an award-winning product from his garden shed or the forager who scours seashores and forests for a region's natural bounty.

But how often can the staff at a pub or restaurant chat knowledgeably about the person and production methods behind the local rapeseed oil? With the publication of Food Britannia, help is now at hand.

Across 500 pages, food journalist and photographer Andrew Webb provides a wonderful insight into a plethora of dishes, recipes, ingredients and producers across the British Isles. More than 300 entries include the fascinating histories behind much-loved household staples such as Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, as well as one-man-band operations such as what must be the UK's smallest microbrewery - the Tunnel - hidden behind the Lord Nelson pub in Astley, Warwickshire.

Webb's interest in all things culinary was sharpened when he was commissioned by Channel 4 to present The Big British Food Map. Following seven months spent travelling from Land's End to John O'Groats making the programme, he went on to conduct further research in order to produce this extensive and riveting read.

The selection of foodie businesses and topics featured is highly eclectic. Alongside widely known indigenous produce such as Cornish sardines and Worcester Pearmain apples, there are entries on the likes of what, to me, were the previously unknown Loaghtan sheep from the Isle of Man, which produce a rich, ruby coloured meat akin to venison.

Divided into 11 geographical regions, the book also features some novelty entries. Who knew that Bosworth jumbles, originating in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, were a kind of medieval pretzel, or that love in a heart is a stuffed calf's heart sitting in a pool of tomato sauce from Herefordshire?

This is a treasure of a book which confirms the extent of deliciousness to be found throughout the British Isles. It's a must-read for anyone who takes pride in preparing and serving food, whatever the style or level of establishment they work in.

By Janet Harmer

If you like this, you'll love these:
Rick Stein's Food Heroes Rick Stein, James Murphy and Craig Easton
Rick Stein's Food Heroes: Another Helping Rick Stein
British Regional Food: In Search of the Best British Food Today Mark Hix
A Green Guide to Traditional Country Foods Henrietta Green

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