Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Wednesday 23rd August 2017 | Manchester, UK

Heston’s Feasts reviewed

In today’s world culinary television shows, it seems unlikely that you would ever need a historical perspective. And yet, with remarkable accuracy Heston Blumenthal has managed to combine the art of cooking with historical fact in his show, Heston’s Feasts.

The first season is a 5 part series that sees Heston explore and recreate some astounding historical dishes in which the food, presentation and dining experience are all made to match a historical time. He then serves these dishes up in an astonishing and sometimes shocking fashion to a group of six celebrity guests, entertaining them with ideas and ingredients ranging from whale vomit to roasted dormice. It is truly a show not for the faint hearted when it comes to dining.

Over 5 episodes Heston explores a Victorian feast with Alice in Wonderland at the very heart of it, a medieval meal with amazing theatrics, a Tudor banquet featuring a completely new animal, a Roman spread where the ideas of eating and sexuality are explored and a Christmas feast which borrows each of its courses from a different time period. It’s not all cooking however, as Heston goes into some very detailed research both in the library and by talking to experts, whose subjects range from edible insects to lamprey fishing in Estonia. And just to keep the die-hard historians going, there’s a whirlwind of facts throughout each episode concerning cooking in certain time periods.

Heston manages to turn even the most fanciful historical recipes into a delicious course. In the Tudor feast, Heston sets out to recreate a Cockentrice, a spliced animal that was turned into a meal by joining a cockerel and a pig together. As he does throughout the series, Heston experiments with the original concept and then modernizes it to make it more appetizing for his guests. After several experiments not only with Pig and Cockerel, but also with Zebra and Kangaroo meat (amongst others), he opts for traditionally English animals and forms a creature with the head of a pig, the crest of a chicken, the body of a lamb, and the wings and end of a goose, stuffed with all four meats melded into one! This is just one example of the absurd dishes of Heston’s Feasts.

So if you are a budding chef with an appetite for history or vice versa, then Heston’s Feasts will certainly dish you up a dollop of cuisine, a touch of antiquity and a splash of the ridiculous.

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