Pancake – A Global History by Ken Albala – review

pancake a global history Another soon-to-be classic from the Edible Series by Reaktion Books. Pancake – A Global History is just one from that long list of titles that will shortly be available. There are two other volumes already in book stores, Hamburger and Pizza.

The author of Pancake – A Global History is Ken Albala. You might remember his name as the author of Beans – A History, that I recently reviewed. He is a witty writer who has a talent for giving a thorough overview of a subject but also adding well-researched specifics. Always amusing and edifying.

I have a love-hate relationship with pancakes. I love eating them but hate the sporting nature of the dish. What, dear reader, is the sporting element of the pancake story? It’s the British institution of the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. It’s an event that involves a lengthy trot whilst carrying a frying pan garnished with a pancake, this being periodically tossed. I have indeed participated (under coercion) in such an event and I conclude that pancakes are better left to satisfy hungry diners in the comfort of either home or restaurant.

The humble pancake is a truly international dish which has represented either a hearty breakfast for working men (a pile of thick pancakes with bacon and maple syrup) or a refined touch of luxury in the case of caviar-topped blini. The ingredients change according to geographic location and availability of flour but the principal cooking method remains common. Ken has been kind enough to include a number of recipes for some of the classic varieties of pancake like blini and Crêpe Suzette.

Ken suggests that “Pancakes taste best consumed in periods of sloth on protracted weekend mornings. They must be savoured without hurry or premeditation, ideally in dressing gown and slippers, at the kitchen table or maybe even in bed, and preferably in excess, just to the brink of nausea.”

This is another rollicking read from Ken Albala. His style of writing is always accessible. There is a stack of information here and it’s evident that he enjoyed the subject. It isn’t an over-academic and heavy book but it’s fascinating to anyone interested in the history of the ever-popular pancake.

Pancake – A Global History
Author: Ken Albala
Published by: Reaktion Books
Price: £8.99
ISBN 978-1-86189-392-5


Food history book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


See more books by Ken Albala here