“Such books aren’t just a repository of the weird and niche. Often they are a record of the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Glasse touches on everything from depilatories to the dangers of being cheated by the butter merchant. “Do not trust to the taste they give you,” she cautions the unwary reader, “lest you be deceived by a well-tasted and scented piece, artfully placed in the lump.” For the keen-eyed gourmand, each page of a cookbook is a fascinating hotchpotch of historical titbits, from the culinary style en vogue - French food was all the rage during the Restoration, eastern European fare a surprise hit between the world wars - to the audience that it seeks to entice.
One of Britain’s oldest surviving examples, The Forme of Cury, came from the kitchens of Richard II in the 1390s and was designed as a giant boast. It followed soon after a similar enterprise from the French court; each carefully rendered calfskin page screams, “My monarch’s got better taste than yours.””