As read on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.
The fascinating story of how we have gone out to eat, from the ancient Romans in Pompeii to the luxurious Michelin-starred restaurants of today.
Tracing its earliest incarnations in the city of Pompeii, where Sitwell is stunned by the sophistication of the dining scene, this is a romp through history as we meet the characters and discover the events that shape the way we eat today. Sitwell, restaurant critic for the Daily Telegraph and famous for his acerbic criticisms on the hit BBC show MasterChef, tackles this enormous subject with his typical wit and precision. He spies influences from an ancient traveller of the Muslim world, revels in the unintended consequences for nascent fine dining of the French Revolution, reveals in full hideous glory the post-Second World War dining scene in the UK and fathoms the birth of sensitive gastronomy in the US counterculture of the 1960s.
This is a story of the ingenuity of the human race as individuals endeavour to do that most fundamental of things: to feed people. It is a story of art, politics, revolution, desperate need and decadent pleasure. Sitwell, a familiar face in the UK and a figure known for the controversy he attracts, provides anyone who loves to dine out, or who loves history, or who simply loves a good listen, with an accessible and humorous history. The Restaurant is jam-packed with extraordinary facts, a book to listen to eagerly from start to finish or to spend glorious moments dipping in to.
It may be William Sitwell’s History of Eating Out, but it’s also the definitive story of one of the cornerstones of our culture.