Take a culinary trip through time and sample the best food and drinks from the ancient Romans, medieval feasts up to the 19th century French Revolution.
Let’s Cook History is a five-part documentary series searching for interesting cuisine throughout history. Each episode thoughtfully depicts the evolution of tastes, customs and world trades that have shaped each contemporary cuisine.
Episode 1: The Roman Banquet
The Roman empire was a time of power and brutality, fuelled by violent games and bloodbaths. However, it was also abundent in refinement and extreme sensuality.
Food and cooking was an key indicator of success, with quality and abundance of dishes the primary measure. As the first and largest european civilisation, Rome was at the epicentre of culinary innovation, with an acute emphasis on vegatables, meat and spices.
From eating lying down, to watering down fine wines, Rome had unique practices when it came to dining. Techniques are examined, and strange staples, such as a fish intestine sauce that was the Roman equivalent of ketchup, are revealed.
We explore the taste laboratories of Epicius, the master behind Rome’s cooking prowess, and source of inspiration for the best chefs today.
Episode 2: The Medieval Feast
The Middle Ages are often widely regarded as times of squalor, where inequality amongst common people reigned. However, medicine, architecture, masonry and algebra were all spawned then, and recipes recorded in the form of cook books were developed and handed down to our ancestors.
The value systems and attitudes towards, bread, cheese, meat and fish, meant that they provided identities for the consumer. Spices from far away countries, and traders of these valuable commodities heavily influenced dishes at the times.
We examine the aspirations of squires, the indulgence of monks, recipes that acted as the time’s pharmaceutical prescriptions and learn about the bodily, as well as the palatal pleasures of Medieval citizens.
Episode 3: The Renaissance Meal
The table became a battlefield in the 16th Century, as religious conflicts were transposed to the dining room, and table manners and etiquette were imported from places like Italy.
We learn about innovation in the Renaissance, with cities like Venice and Florence at the helm of European eating, changes in the arts and sciences lead to a new outlook in eating habits. Vegetable gardens became horticultural laboratories, recipes were published thanks to the likes of Gutenburg and table etiquette became the obsessive subject of social standing.
The 16th Century was a time of conflict within the church of Christianity, and the conflict spread from the battlefield onto the dining table, with the philosophies of Da Vinci and Luther creating divides amongst followers.
The chef became the true master of ceremonies in the courts. The sugar craze, use of spices and table manners guide of Erasmus are aspects of Renaissance gastronomy that are still in place today.
Episode 4: Enlightenment Dining
Episode four expores what people used to eat in the 17th Century. We discover the origins of the first ever sandwich, see the developments of coffee houses, a desire for dining out in restaurants and the tendency for sauces to accompany dishes.
Investigate the realm of Louis XIV, the palace of Versailles: unparalleled banquets, fuelled by Cantini’s horticultural innovations in the palace’s gardens, were the foundations for the quality-emphasised dishes provided for the aristocracy.
For the less rich, artists such as Molière made do with soups and hearty broths, to provide the sustenance for their creativity.
Episode 5: An Eating Revolution
What did people eat after the revolution in the 19th Century?
As well as a period of radical social and political upheaval, the 19th century in Europe was a period of gastronomic progression, with trends as susceptible to change as French ruling.
The conflicts caused many social changes, which influenced the desires for certain foods and the way they were consumed. From the monarchs’ silver spoons to the sooty mits of the miners, the changes in food consumption, preservation and presentation are documented.
The philosophies of war lords, artists and of course cooks are scrutinised to determine what tickled the temporamental taste buds of this volatile time period and how they influence the best chefs today.
- Release date2006
- Full runtime
- Director(s)Philippe Allante
- Production companyJava Films