Stuffed: A History of Good Food and Hard Times in Britain by Pen Vogler - review by Lucy Lethbridge

Lucy Lethbridge

Jam Yesterday

Stuffed: A History of Good Food and Hard Times in Britain


Atlantic Books 464pp £22 order from our bookshop

Following the success of Scoff, her study of food and class in British history, Pen Vogler expands her theme in Stuffed to examine the history and culture of British food through political, social and global upheavals, including land enclosures, the shift from tillage to pasture, the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation, technology (and adulteration) and war. Some of this is familiar territory, but Vogler has a knack for making startling connections across historical eras, linking, for example, the sugar addiction of our own time to the child-rearing philosophy of John Locke in the 17th century. The book is separated into thematic sections which are then subdivided into chapters on separate foodstuffs – each with its own charm – such as carp, herring, worts, oatmeal, Yorkshire pudding, tea and pumpkin pie. These conclude with recipes (for havercakes, barley broth and fried beans, for example) from the ‘receipt books’ of the cooks of the past and Vogler’s own, modernised versions. 

It’s not quite chronological, each chapter taking its subject through some labyrinthine historical twists and turns. But the book more or less works its way from the Norman Conquest to the mid-20th century, kicking off with the enclosing of common land after 1066, when the new overlords seized the forests

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