Academics cook up online recipe collection to showcase Britain’s diverse flavours
Dr Rachel Rich’s research has looked at the eating habits of King George III’s household to examine European identity and what it meant to be British during the 18th century.
She will present findings from the project ‘Europe Cuisine and British Identity in the Age of Nationalism, 1760-1837’ as part of the nationwide Being Human festival.
Dr Rich will be assessing 250 years of British cuisine and uncover the nation’s changing tastes as part of an online panel discussion alongside research partner Dr Lisa Smith from the University of Essex on 13 November.
From the occasional peacocks that graced the dining tables at the court of King George III to the chicken tikka masala we know and love today, the food we eat is rooted in Britain’s connections to its international past.
This will then form part of The New British Cookbook, an online collection which will serve as a snapshot of what people in the UK are eating currently.
Audience members are invited to share their own recipes, which will appear in the New British Cookbook, but the site will remain open indefinitely for contributions.
It’s also hoped that people will visit the site and get inspired to try something new or at least think differently about the definition of British cooking.
Dr Rich, a Reader in History in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at LBU, said:
“British food often has a reputation of being all about roast beef, and that was indeed a popular dish.
“But as we will show, there was a wealth of food with influences from all over Europe being served, and a surprising number of vegetables, which makes sense given that King George III was very interested in agriculture and the palace served a lot of food grown on their own estates.
“People will learn a bit about the history of Community Cookbooks, and about how we are trying to tap into that tradition to create our own New British Cookbook and showcase the widely diverse things people cook in the UK today.
“This may be particularly timely, because ever since the first lockdown, in March, people have had to think a lot more about home cooking, as well as turning to baking as a leisure activity within the home.”
Dr Rich, Dr Smith along with Dr Adam Smith (UCL) and Dr Sarah Fox (LBU) have been digitizing and analysing menus from King George III’s royal household.
For every day that the King and Queen Charlotte were in residence and ate at London’s Kew Palace, a record written by steward William Gorton was kept of the dishes served in the form of menu ledgers from 1788 to 1801.
They reveal that even though England and France were often at war in the 18th century, the British royal family still ate a lot of French-inspired dishes.
The collection of menus from the National Archive also show that popular royal dishes such as pigeon pie mirrored recipes found in contemporary cookbooks which were readily available to the general public at the time.
During the process, the team found that dinner for King George III often consisted of up to 18 dishes which were served à la Française – a style of service where numerous dishes are served at once, then removed and replaced by a second course, also made up of a large number of dishes.
Academics also noticed that the king - whose reign lasted for 59 years - was a huge fan of asparagus and there was even reference to Turkish kebabs in the 250-page long menu ledgers.
For dinner on Christmas day 1788, King George III was served 21 dishes which included roast beef, duck, pheasant, Christmas pie and mince pies.
For more information or to book a place to view the free online British Academy event, visit here.