It began with a problem. I became a Food History Information Junkie.
It began innocently enough, many years ago when my children were quite small ….. It was one of the regular post-party whinges of “But WHY cant we have Christmas pudding/ Easter eggs/ Birthday cake/ Anzac biscuits/ EVERY day?” that triggered it. I couldn’t answer the question immediately (I was too tired from the party cooking), but something was set in motion.
The idea that evolved was along the lines of: “Well, just as surely as the sun is always over the yardarm somewhere in the world, it is just as surely rising somewhere else on a feast or a festival.” It seemed like a good idea at the time - a single project with a dual purpose: educational fun for my children, and culinary fun for me.
Well, my children are grown up now, and I don’t know if the first goal was ever achieved, but the second one certainly was. I started with national days, and saints’ days (only the ones with a foodie relevance of course), and then I could not stop. It grew like yeast on steroids. I collected all sorts of food history events, menus, recipes, biographies, articles, quotations – anything at all, as long as it applied to a specific day of the year.
Before I realised it I had thousands of entries to what my head was now calling my “Food History Almanac”. Things were clearly getting out of control when I started to have a fantasy of it all being published one day. However, a mass of data does not a published volume make. Bridging the gap between the two requires (apart from talent), a lot of time and an interested publisher – which are several fantasies in themselves. And I do also have several “real” jobs.
So, I decided to shrink the project down, and just concentrate on finding a historic menu for each day of the year. I did this. But I did not stop collecting. I now have information on well over 4000 menus, not including the Christmas ones which are in a separate file. I also confess that I could not quite, exactly, stop “finding” bits for the Almanac. It was crying out for a glossary too, and contemporary recipes to add interest to the menus. And if there is to be a menu for each day, why not a historic recipe published for each day of the year?
I made one problem into two problems.
So what did I do about my problem? Being a pragmatic person, I thought that some redemption, or at least relief, might be obtained by putting this pile of “stuff” to use. Fun is useful, right? Not to sound too kinky though, I thought some discipline was in order, so I decided to write 400 words every weekday on a food history topic related to the actual day, and ending with a historic recipe - because ultimately eating is what it is all about, isn’t it?
I began writing these little stories on
To my astonishment and delight, it all worked and I am as addicted to keeping up with my blog as are many of my loyal readers. I think I have proven that food history can be accessible and interesting to “the general reader.”
UPDATE: December 2008.
Along the way this Food History Information Junkie became a Food Historian, and the blogger became a Food History Writer.
The most amazing thing is that the discipline of regular writing, and the great exposure have meant that although the Food History Almanac itself remains unpublished, I have indeed graduated formally, I think, as a food history writer. I write a regular column in a bakery trade magazine, have been on radio talking about food history, and now have two books about to be published, and a third in the pipeline.
The books are The Pie: a Global History, by Reaktion Press in the
– to be released about mid-March 2009, and Menus from History: menus and recipes for every day of the year, by Greenwood Publishing in the UK – to be published in May 2009. USA
The book that is pending is also part of Reaktion Press’ Edible series, and is on Soup.