Pickled, Potted & Canned - Sue Shepard (2000)

This book, with the somewhat stilted subtitle How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World, is an overview of food preservation methods from antiquity to the modern day, with some speculation thrown in about pre-history as well. It is arranged roughly chronologically with "primitive" methods first, then moving on to things like canning, freezing and freeze-drying.

What can I say? I loved it. For food geeks, especially food geeks with an interest in historical cooking and foodways (see my review of Le Ménagier de Paris), this is a great little book. The style is fairly light, and liberally sprinkled with anecdotes, but there is a good bibliography and the quotes in the text contribute to an overall feel of scholarly accuracy.

The book is very readable, even for those who aren't food geeks, and is packed with bits and pieces of information which even food geeks may find new. As a survey, it touches on preservation in a wide variety of cultures and climates, and the comparison is particularly useful for those who are more tightly focussed.

The history of food also provides an insight into social history, a window into the lives of people in bygone ages, even if those ages are only a hundred years ago - remember fresh-frozen foods and Clarence Birdseye? That's an extremely recent innovation.

In short, this book is very highly recommended for foodies, and highly recommended for everyone else. Bon appetit.

Overall Grade: A

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