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Dec 20, 2013 06:15 AM

Historical Recipes the Next Big Thing

So it seems that chefs are mining the past/returning to roots in search of the next trend.

While there's an awful lot of different comments you could make on this not-quite-yet-trend, the first thought that comes to my mind is, "Uh, oh. Here's the next simple thing that chefs will fetishize and take to crazy extremes."

Should I be worried or happy that there may be return to "real" food?

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  1. I had the same reaction but have decided to be relatively pleased, especially if it gets us back to food that resembles something to eat. My new motto: old is the new new.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      agreed -- if it gets us away from "open a can of mushroom soup" it can't be bad. (with apologies to Campbell's)

      1. re: sunshine842

        The OP article isn't about home cooks who can't cook trying 'historical recipes'. It's about restaurants exploring history, as an alternative to fusion cooking and molecular gastronomy. It's about going back and trying old proven recipes rather than feeling the pressure to constantly innovate.

        1. re: paulj

          not many restaurant trends manage to avoid becoming popular for the home cook.

    2. Heston Blumenthal had a series a few years ago on that very subject. He researched historical recipes to create updated versions:

      2 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        And his latest restaurant, "Dinner", features the reworkings of historical dishes.

        1. re: ferret

          HB seems to always be a couple of years ahead of the 'chef' crowd.
          I have some old cb's from the thirties/forties. Just for fun I'm going to try a few recipes.

        2. This reminds me of Historical Masterchef on Horrible Histories. Too funny!

          (Hope this link works but not sure.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Kat

            This looks like a great show, is it really made for kids?

            1. re: coll

              It is made for kids about 10 and up based on the Horrible Histories books. But, it is a great show for adults too and some of the humor is clearly just for grown ups. For example, there is a musical skit about Charles Dickens and the depressing nature of some of his novels which is sung in the very distinctive style of Morrissey and made me nearly laugh my pants off!

              1. re: Kat

                Sort of like Soupy Sales? I don't think they do that anymore around here ;-) I bookmarked the site for next time I have insomnia....sounds like fun.

          2. Check out the british show "Supersizers" from a few years ago.
            The spend a week eating in the same way as they did in various points in history.

            1. Definitely a resounding YES. There are a bunch of books on this, including Heston, Ballymore Cooking School and others (they seem to be coming out of the UK). Real food means better health and a focus on simplicity--not necessarily in the recipes themselves (after all, who wants to go track down a wild pheasant except Marco Pierre White?) but in the general concept of making food from scratch. Not only is that fun--in my book--but it could be helpful in teaching young people & kids where the heck food does come from.

              5 Replies
              1. re: sandiasingh

                Historical cooking is not necessarily simple, and isn't (necessarily) more real than modern ones.

                Nor is it necessarily healthier. On Supersizers most eras produced a decline in various medical lab measures. Fat, meat, alcohol consumption was generally higher. Fruits and vegetables were not all that common; raw or lightly cooked ones even rarer. WW2 with government promotion of a frugal but healthy diet was the exception.

                1. re: paulj

                  Of course it would depend on the era and class involved, but on the whole I think modern Westerners eat better than their great grandparents

                  I read recently that the poor of Paris in the 18th Century subsisted on bread bought at local bakeries. That was their staple. They didn't eat anything else.

                  My dad told me once that his family (farmers in Arkansas and later Oklahoma) at dried bean all winter. I suppose they had some sort of root cellar to supplement. An orange was considered a sufficient Christmas gift, and was no doubt a luxury.

                  I know that in my mother's and grandmothers' day, canned veggies were the norm especially in the winter. And I doubt anyone was making and baking whole wheat bread either.

                  I just don't think generalizations about older recipes being better is necessarily factual.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    Medieval rations were several pounds of bread per person (plus beer). Starches that we take for grantedlike potato, rice , even pasta, were unknown. Those who could afford it ate a lot meat.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Yes, and turnips were not a widely grown crop until the late Middle Ages and then they were mainly grown for cattle feed. Then they became food for peasants.

                      I really think we live in a great time for cooking and eating.

                      But I also think that "historical" recipes would be fun, but without all the romanticizing.

                  2. re: paulj

                    I remember reading in a history book that the typical middle class family in 19th century Britain spent more on their annual butcher's bill than they did on their servants' wages, combined.

                    Not only does it say a lot about how cheap servants were but it also implies how much meat the middle and upper classes ate.