Features & Stories

Florence White and the history of food in England

The British Library hosts an annual Food Season of talks on food writing and food history. These talks often feature cookbooks and authors close to ckbk’s heart, and we are delighted to help spread the word about the series. For the second year running, the Food Season is happening online, meaning the events are open to an international audience. 

Featured event

Food in Service. In the Service of Food  Wednesday 12 May, 19.30-20.30  (£5)

Join food historian Dr Annie Gray and food writer Sue Quinn in a conversation chaired by Dr Polly Russell about Georgina Landmere, who cooked for Winston Churchill, and one-time governess and shopkeeper Florence White, who started the English Folk Cookery Association. Learn about what their lives tell us about food, cooking and eating in the times they lived.

ckbk has 20 free online tickets for this event. If  you would like one, just send an email to hello@ckbk.com with the subject line “Florence White”. First come, first served!

About the speakers

Dr Annie Gray is a historian specialising in the history of British food and dining from c.1650-1950. She works as an author, broadcaster, and consultant. Her books include Victory in the Kitchen: The Life of Churchill's Cook; The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria; The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook and How to Cook the Victorian Way with Mrs Crocombe. Annie is the resident food historian on BBC Radio 4's award-winning culinary panel show “The Kitchen Cabinet” and has worked as a consultant and presenter on such programmes as “Victoria and Albert: The Royal Wedding,” “A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley,” “The Sweetmakers,” and “Victorian Bakers” (all BBC Two).

Annie works as a consultant to museums and heritage sites, advising on the presentation of food and dining-related spaces as well as the use of live interpretation, having run the costumed team at Audley End House (English Heritage) for many years. She's also a popular speaker. Annie is a research associate at the University of York.

Sue Quinn is an award-winning food writer, journalist and cookbook author. Her articles and recipes regularly appear in leading national newspapers and magazines, including The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, delicious., The Washington Post and BBC Good Food magazine. In 2018 Sue won a Guild of Food Writer’s Award, and in 2016 received the Fortnum & Mason Online Food Writer Award. She has written 14 cookbooks on a range of topics, and her latest, Cocoa: An Exploration of Chocolate, was published by Quadrille in 2019 to wide acclaim. In 2019 she was awarded a bursary from the Guild of Food Writers to research the life of British Food Writer Florence White.

About Florence White and her book, Good Things in England

Florence White’s Good Things in England (available in full on ckbk) was first published in 1932 and is a key document for English culinary traditions.

The book was one of The Observer’s all-time top 50 cookbooks and has also been a popular choice for contributors who shared their own Top 10s with the 1000 Cookbooks project. Food writer Felicity Cloake said, “This book is one in the eye for anyone who claims Britain doesn’t have an indigenous cuisine,” while author Regula Yswejin (whose books on historic English puddings and baking are some of the most popular titles on ckbk) credits Florence White’s book with sparking her own interest in culinary history.

Encompassing many hundreds of recipes, Florence White’s thoroughly researched book brings together English classics from across the centuries, from Shrewsbury Cakes to Yorkshire Parkin (no fewer than eight parkin recipes, in fact!).

In the author’s own words: “This book is an attempt to capture the charm of England's cookery before it is completely crushed out of existence. It is an everyday book. The recipes are simple and practical, and arranged for the convenient use of beginners as well as a speedy reference for the accomplisht cook."’


More upcoming talks in the 2021 British Library Food Season

From Fish Knives to Fish ‘n’ Chips Tuesday 27 April, 19.30-20.30 (free)

Come and explore how our eating habits are, and always have been, loaded with centuries of class prejudice. With Pen Vogler, whose recent book Scoff: A History of Food and Class in Britain reveals how food and eating have long reflected and have been used to enforce social difference, joined by writer Ruby Tandoh and campaigner Dee Woods to discuss eating, culture and identity in modern Britain. Chaired by Babita Sharma, BBC journalist and author of The Corner Shop.

Simply Raymond Saturday 1 May, 15.00-16.00 (£7.50)

Join legendary chef Raymond Blanc and award-winning food-writer Felicity Cloake as Raymond shares a lifetime of stories about food, his love affair with British produce, and talks about his latest cookbook, Simply Raymond: a collection of his favourite home-cooked recipes inspired by his beloved mother, Maman Blanc.

The Rise of New Food Media Wednesday 5 May, 19.30-20.30 (free)

Four leading food writers, podcasters and editors at the forefront of the rise of contemporary food media discuss how different voices, agendas, and publishing tools are disrupting and revitalising the conversation about food. Food writer Melissa Thompson leads the discussion between three exciting voices in new food media and debates: founder and editor of Vittles online magazine Jonathan Nunn; Stephen Satterfield of US-based Whetstone magazine and podcast; and writer, academic and commentator Anna Sulan Masing.

Exhibiting Excess: Food through Art and History Friday 7 May, 19.30-20.30 (£5)

Consultant food historian Ivan Day meets the curators of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge’s Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe (1500-1800) and the Louvre-Lens’ The Tables of Power: A History of Prestigious Meals talk about the journeys they took to bring these incredible food exhibitions to life.

See Ivan’s top 10 historic cookbook recommendations on ckbk.

Lunchtime Legends: Jill Norman with Rosie Sykes  Fri 14 May 2021, 13:15 - 14:00 (Free)

In this edition meet publisher and food-writer Jill Norman who as an editor, nurtured the careers of luminaries such as Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. She discusses their work and legacies with chef Rosie Sykes, and together they cook Provençal pork with prunes and leeks.

Jill Norman is an advisor to ckbk. Her book Winter Food is available on ckbk in full. Jill also acted as series editor for the Sainsbury’s cookbooks of the 70s, 80s and 90s, a number of which are now also available on ckbk.

Food Scribes, Food Lives Tuesday 11 May, 17.30-18.30 (free)

Join three British Library curators as they select their favourite historical food manuscripts from the collections. From medieval recipes written on vellum to the varied food ingredients described within our Turkic collections, this session will examine what these items can tell us about cooking, diet, attitudes to food and how manuscripts offer wholly unique insights into food histories across time and place.

The People and Places of Caribbean Cooking Wednesday 26 May, 19.30-20.30 (free)

Part of a wider oral history project, which is recording and archiving Caribbean food memories and stories, this event will tap into stories of migration, belonging and community organising. Panel members include food writer Riaz Phillips, independent scholar researching the African presence in Yorkshire Joe Williams, cookery writer, former restaurateur and community cook Rosamund Grant, and project-lead on Caribbean Foodways at the British Library, Naomi Oppenheim.

If this talk is of interest, you might also like Ramin Ganeshram’s cookbook Sweet Hands, in which she recalls the Trinidadian food of her childhood, not forgetting Levi Roots’ ever-popular Jamaican recipes.

Find full details of the season on the British Library website.