A History of English Food
with Clarissa Dickson Wright
at The Savoy Hotel, London
Reviewed by Shelley East
The evenings press event on "A History of English Food" was held at the remarkable luxurious 5 star Savoy Hotel located on the River Thames in London. The majority of the evening was held in the River Restaurant. It was an elegant art deco setting with views over the sparkling River Thames. The iconic British hotel in 2010 underwent a very ambitious restoration of over £100 million pounds. I walked through the revolving door to the main entrance of hotel and my eyes widened. The hotel was stunning with English Edwardian and art deco interiors that sparkled with marble floors and huge chandeliers. The hotel was dominated by style, class and elegance I have never experienced before. On arrival was a champagne reception and canapés. The staff were faultless, constantly circling the bar with bottles of champagne and canapés making sure that everyone was relaxed and the drinks were definitely flowing. We were escorted to the Riverside Restaurant and all sat in small groups whilst the executive sous chef gave a talk on the evenings events, the history of the hotel and the world famous French chef Auguste Escoffier who invented the classic dessert Peach Melba at the Savoy Hotel to honour the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. It was during this talk I realised that the history of food event and the location of where we were dining was definitely not a coincidence. The food was delicious, the silver service was excellent and I felt very privileged to be dining at the Savoy.
After the meal Clarrisa Dickson Wright gave a talk on why she wrote her book "A History of English Food". I found her highly amusing and witty. She told lots of funny stories about her experiences whilst writing the book. She was very open and honest and I found myself transfixed with interest as she gave a vivid talk on what it was like to sit down to the meals of the medieval kings and the comparison of the cuisine of the present day.
The book entwines two of Clarrisa 's greatest passions of food and history. A magnificent tour of nearly a thousand years of English cuisine. She explains how ingredients have arrived here due to the influences of immigrant communities and how food has made a massive contribution to the life of our country. The book is crammed with historical information of the medieval larder, the Elizabethan years, the world of the Victorians, the Second World War and the years of austerity. Inside is lots of images of the times and era's and I was very fascinated to see the difference in the diet of today. At the back of the book there is an appendix of historical recipes. I have been inspired to make my own "real" mince pies this year for Christmas following Clarrisa's recipe. A truly amazing, very well educated lady who definitely realised her gift very early on in life. An evening I will never forget. Just hope my family love the mince pies at Christmas!
You can buy the book from Amazon here.