About the Blog
Hello and welcome to British Food: A History, my blog that attempts to tell the history of Britain through its food and food cultures. In addition to all the history, I also want to provide plenty of recipes to try and that actually work – even if sometimes the ingredients are a little to strange to our modern tastes. I also hope to be able to show you some basic (and not so basic!) cooking techniques so that you can increase your own arsenal of culinary skills.
For those interested in history, cooking food from the past is the closest thing one can get to a time machine; assuming you know how things were cooked and what the ingredients were like at the time in question, then you get to experience something just like our ancestors did. Nothing else can do it in my opinion!
One of the most interesting topics for me is that of sustainability. When it comes to home cooking, this does not mean living on a diet of wholegrain gruel with a few green leaves strewn over it. It does, however, mean giving a thought to the foods we eat, asking where it has come from, how it was produced and how food waste can be reduced. I like to eat meat, and don’t really want to stop, so I eat it infrequently and when I do, I don’t use a prime cut. After all, a lamb did not die for its shanks, sweetbreads or kidneys, but its racks, rump and hindlegs. There are recipes for stocks to that carcasses, offcuts and vegetable peelings can all be put to good use by being the ingredients of a second meal from last night’s dinner.
To help with this we just need to look at our forebears’ habits: things were not wasted, even in well-to-houses, and no one turned their noses up at a dish of devilled kidneys!
My name is Dr Neil Buttery and I have been writing on the history of British food for over ten years and through the process of writing and cooking I have become a professional chef specialising in cooking food from our past. Prior to this, I was a secondary school teacher and then a research scientist, researching social evolution, a branch of ecology and evolutionary biology.
I starting original blog, Neil Cooks Grigson, all the way back in 2007 as a way to help me practise writing for my PhD at Manchester University. I didn’t take long however for me to become hooked on the food and history writing. So much so, that when I moved to America for my first research job, I started up this blog too!
One day the penny dropped and I realised I had taught myself a wide range of skills, especially when it comes to preparing and cooking unusual cuts of meat, offal and game. I moved back to Manchester and started up my own food business, even running a small restaurant for two years.
I then went onto specialising in banquets and taster menus; I even turned my house into a makeshift restaurant several times, serving up five-course menus of British food and getting nominated for Manchester Food & Drink Award in the process! And then I opened my first restaurant The Buttery in Levenshulme with a certain Brian Shields (trouble!). Unfortunately it had to close after two years but I have lots of other things going on.
I feel very lucky too; the blogs and the cooking have attracted attention and I have had the opportunity to appear on Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns, Radio 4’s The Food Programme, as well as in a Telegraph cookery competition for food bloggers (where I came second!) I also cooked the food for a scene in Monkman and Seagulls’s Genius Adventures, and became offically cool when I ended up in a Vice article.
Then in 2020 I made the first season of my podcast – hopefully season 2 will be out in 2021. I’d love to get it out sooner, but at the moment I am writing a book for Pen & Sword History on the dark history of sugar.
I have a sweet tooth and another passion of mine is cooking traditional puddings. Every so often, I pop up somewhere for one my Pud Clubs – a seven-course spectacular of classic desserts.
Sometimes, I cook these banquets at other people’s houses for dinner parties with a bit of a difference. These are often themed, past banquets include a Victorian dinner party and a banquet through time.
I do hope you enjoy the blog and find it interesting, and that it inspires you to cook some of the dishes I post about.
Please send your comments and questions – I love getting them and replying to them.
Thank you for reading!
Last updated: September 2020