Bravura Breakfasts . . . Power People . . . and a Demure Critic.

Author:Skinner, Peter
Position:Special interest books - Book review
 
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Work Title: Bravura Breakfasts . . . Power People . . . and a Demure Critic

Work Author(s): Peter Skinner

Columns

Byline: Peter Skinner

For millions, World War II crippled the great English breakfast: food and fuel rationing reduced it to costive sludge, insulation against damp rather than nutrition. Though today's diet-consciousness will preclude Devonshire White Pudding ("take a pound of pork fat, a half-pint of clotted cream, a quarter-pound of sugar and six egg-yolks"), caviar, broiled sweetbreads, etc., from burdening the table, Kaori O'Connor has gloriously resurrected these and other delights in her splendid book The English Breakfast: The Biography of a National Meal with Recipes, (Kegan Paul, 498 pages, illustrated, hardcover, $110, 978-0-7103-1222-8).

Dr. O'Connor, an American-born anthropologist at University College, London, traces the evolution of the meal that, from the mid-seventeenth to the late twentieth century, fortified far-flung servants of Empire, fox-hunting aristocrats, merchants and---with more boiled beef than Scotch woodcock---the average laboring Briton. Big breakfasts came in slowly; until about 1500 most people below the squirearchy had only a snack before the noontime meal---though the Romans and other invaders had enriched the national larder.

The three nineteenth-century "breakfast recipe books" that Dr. O'Connor reproduces in full astound by their gastronomic excess: lobster cutlets, sheep's tongue, and anchovy canapes are standard fare. This volume is a must-bring for any health-spa stay where Melba toast and low-fat milk reign supreme. Adding to its voluptuous content, many recipes, and useful bibliography is the book's handsome Victorian design and typography---recalling an era when breakfast was a serious matter.

In his rewarding book It (University of Michigan Press, 260 pages, 25 illustrations, hardcover, $60.00, 978-0-472-09936-8; softcover, $19.95, 978-0-472-06936-1) Joseph Roach, a professor of theater at Yale, provides an intellectual feast. He explores the elements, operation, and durability of the "It" factor---that indefinable magnetism some individuals project---in theater or on the stage of public affairs. He ranges from the Restoration, with Charles II, Nell Gwyn, Pepys, through such early Hollywood powers as Elinor Glyn and Clara Bow, to Mrs. Thatcher and Princess Diana. All became larger than life, magnified by the white heat of the popular interest they ignited.

"It" is essentially a...

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