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First Catch Your Gingerbread

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by Sam Bilton
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The history of gingerbread in England

The origins of gingerbread are lost in the fog of history, but in First Catch Your Gingerbread, Sam Bilton, an English food historian who has worked with The National Trust, makes a game and engaging effort to trace its arrival on the Sceptred Isle with the Romans and its evolution down through the centuries.

Tracing its transition from food of the wealthy, who could afford ginger and other exotic spices, into celebratory fare for fairs and holidays, to an everyday item that now has something of a rustic aura, Bilton cites a wide range of sources, from Shakespeare to suffragist fund raisers. We learn of a dizzying array of highly regional gingerbreads from York and Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Lancashire, and that pigs were once a popular shape alongside gingerbread men.

Despite the fact this this volume is listed as part of Prospect Book's The English Kitchen series, Bilton recognizes the need for a wider context, including recipes and commentary on gingerbreads and their equivalents from the likes of 19th-century Russian domestic advisor Elena Molokhovets and Book Seven of the fourth-century work attributed to Apicius. Just a way of underscoring the perpetual appeal of this simple pleasure.

Paperback. Color photographs throughout.

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