New Art of Cookery by Juan Altamiras – Vicky Hayward (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on September 15, 2017 No comments

What is the essence of the book?

The New Art of Cookery was originally published in 1745 by Spanish Franciscan friar and cook Juan Altamiras. It remained a hugely influential cookbook until the early 20th century and went through some 20 reprints. Unlike other cookery books of its time, both in Europe and in Britain, New Art focused on simple every day cuisine rather than the elaborate food served at court. It does contain meat recipes but also a good selection of vegetarian recipes which reflects the food eaten by his fellow monks (and a large proportion of the populace) during leaner periods of the year such as fast days. Vicky Hayward has translated and adapted Altamiras’ recipes so that they can be enjoyed by English speaking audiences in the 21st century.

About the author

Vicky Hayward is a British writer and editor who specialises in Spanish food history. She was awarded the The Jane Grigson Trust Award in 2017 for this work prior to it’s publication and I have been eagerly awaiting it’s arrival ever since.

Who will like it?

If the tastes of the Iberian peninsula tickle your fancy I think you’ll enjoy this book, even if you’re not a history buff. It’s easy to trace the roots of modern Spanish cuisine in this book and the recipes, like lamb & pepper stew and tuna fishcakes with raisins are surprisingly modern. If you are just getting into historical cooking this would be a good book to start with as Hayward has done the hard work of adapting the recipes.

Who won’t like it?

Sorry food porn evangelists. There are no sumptuous pictures in this book so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

What do I like about the book?

New Art is unlike any English cookbook I have come across from the 18th century. Not only are the recipes simple but they utilise ingredients our homegrown cooks shied away from during this time (like tomatoes and garlic). The result is flavoursome food which it is hard to conceive monks would have eaten. Hayward provides a translation of Altamiras’ original recipe which is often followed by a little commentary on how this relates to modern Spanish food (and sometimes a wine recommendation, which is always a nice touch in my opinion). Hayward then provides an adaption of Altamiras’s recipe, therefore removing the hassle of trying to decipher the archaic language, terms and vague measurements used by 18th century cooks. Not only is this book fascinating but it contains recipes you really will want to cook – the descriptions alone are enough to make your mouth water.

Is there anything I’m not so keen on?

Not really. The vast majority of my vintage cookbooks do not contain pictures but I know some people will find this a bit of a turn off (which is a shame).

Would I cook from it?

Already have (you can see the recipe for Lamb & Pepper Stew from the book here on this blog) and there are several pages book marked with recipes I want to try.

Where can you buy it?

New Art of Cookery by Juan Altamiras – Vicky Hayward (Rowman & Littlefield, £29.59 on Amazon)

Sam BiltonNew Art of Cookery by Juan Altamiras – Vicky Hayward (Book Review)

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