Historical Resources

Characters have to eat, right? Although food should never be the scene’s focus, it can provide wonderful touches of worldbuilding. A Victorian character who’s eating a hot dog sounds a discordant note that yanks the reader out of the story. While that’s an extreme example, most of us want our characters to eat food that would have been available to them.

If you’ve ever seen the film Tom Jones, you know what other dimensions food can add to a scene.

A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century

trans. and edited by Tania Bayard. This is a treatise on married life and household management in the medieval period.  Discusses wifely virtues and deportment, care of husbands, gardening, management of servants, and care of clothing along with other topics.


The English Housewife

by Gervase Markham, edited by Michael R. Best McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1986 Markham, who lived in the from about the mid-16th to early 17th centuries, set down the virtues and knowledge expected of a housewife and discussed such tasks as brewing, distilling, the making of dairy products, and cooking. The book contains instructions for numerous […]


Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking

edited by Hillary Spurling Penguin Books, 1986; reprint, 1987 Organized by months, this book discusses which kitchen chores were performed at what points during the year.  It also contains selected recipes translated for the modern reader as well as discussions of Elizabethan cooking.


Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks

by Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler University of Toronto Press, 1976; reprint, 1987 Contains a short discussion of medieval cooking and extensive recipes, with advice on using them.


Seven Centuries of English Cooking

by Maxime de la Falaise edited by Arabella Boxer; Barnes & Noble reprint by arrangement with Grove Press, 1992 Mostly a recipe collection with some historical background.  The periods covered range from the 14th century to about the mid-20th century.


Food and Feast in Medieval England

by P. W. Hammond Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1993 Contains many black-and-white illustrations using reproductions of period artwork.  Hammond discusses agriculture, animal husbandry, and availability of food.  He then discusses the eating habits of those in the country, those in towns, and the gentry as well as nutrition, food adulteration, and table manners.  Feasts have […]


Food in History

by Reay Tannahill Penguin Books, revised edition, 1988 Discusses food as a factor in social development and history across various cultures from the classical period to the late 20th century.


The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners

by Margaret Visser Penguin Books, 1991 The title pretty much says it all.  However, Visser does address such questions as the origin of the pot luck dinner, children’s behavior at the table, and proper conversation in Europe with some references to Asian customs.


A Taste of History: 10,000 Years of Food in Britain

edited by Maggie Black English Heritage 1993 A survey of food in Britain from prehistory to the late 20th century.  This book contains contributions from five food historians addressing available foods and beverages, cooking methods, tableware, and recipes, though not all sections contain all these sub-headings.  Recipes have been adapted for the modern cook, according […]


The Food Chronology: A Food Lover’s Compendium of Events and Anecdotes, from Prehistory to the Present

by James Trager Owl Books, 1997/Henry Holt Reference 1995. This book is as the title represents it to be, a collection of miscellaneous information organized chronologically.  Topics covered include transport of food and beverages, dishware, crop yields, food imports, food discoveries, and a host of others.


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