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The Course of History*

For Foodies and History Buffs

What a fun idea for a book! If you like food and enjoy history, what’s not to like about this book? The author has chosen 10 different meals that have preceded an important event in history. The book starts chronologically, beginning with the meal that came before the Battle of Culloden. Each chapter gives the relevant history around meal, both what happened before and the aftermath of the event itself. Each chapter ends with recipes for the pivotal meal. These may or may not have come from documentation of the actual dinner, but they all do reflect what would have comprised such a meal at that point in time.

I found the historical context of these meals to be a fascinating, and the author actually succeeded in making them a riveting read. As a history buff, I knew about many of these events, some in good detail, but I learned much from each little snippet of history. For instance, I went to Scotland last year and visited the amazing visitor center at Culloden Moor. While I learned much of the events that came before the battle and the social milieu through the amazing exhibits there, this book showed me more about the disparity between the existence of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highlanders. I also liked how the second chapter pointed out the seeds of rebellion for the American Revolution, as the host of that meal was the first to recommend to those back in England that the colonists should be taxed.

My only quibble with the book is I thought it should explore the aftermath of the historical event in more detail. The author is fantastic at the set up for the meal, but I felt something was lacking in the description of the actual reverberations of decisions made at these pivotal meals as they rippled out through history. For instance, in the Culloden chapter, we hear in some detail about what happened to Bonnie Prince Charlie after Culloden, but we don’t hear a lot about how this changed the course of Scottish history forever and perhaps even laid the basis for the American Revolution because the Hanoverian Dynasty was in desperate need of cash after fighting wars on several fronts.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you enjoy history or are a foodie, you might enjoy this historical slice of life around pivotal events in the last 300 years.