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The books behind The Supersizers

One of my favourite, televised guilty pleasures is the BBC’s The Supersizers Go…, which was rebroadcast on The Food Network in Canada.

The show combines my love of cooking, history, and humour into several episodes of gastronomical adventure and hilarity.

In the spirit of Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Supersize Me’, the two hosts immerse themselves in the spirit of a particular era for one week, and then analyze the effect on their health.

Hosts Giles Coren and Sue Perkins dress and try to act the part as they eat their way through different eras from Elizabethan to 1970s England.

Sue and Giles dressed for a 1970s party

Many fascinating and rare reference books and manuals are used for the research behind these episodes.

One of my favourite episodes features the diet and lifestyle of ‘homefront’ England during World War II with food prepared by Chef Allegra McEvedy.

The stark differences between the average person’s rations and Winston Churchill’s feasts are highlighted.  Staples such as National Loaf, Special Margarine, Woolton Pie, Skilly, and Ersatz Coffee are also discussed.

Pamphlets and books on the importance of eating well and exercise to maintain health were made readily available to the general public.  One of the main references was Eating For Victory.

Another entertaining episode featured 1970s England.  Alcohol appears to be a key factor in almost every era featured, none more so than in the 1970s.  In his Action Cook Book, novelist Len Deighton gives instruction for liquor dispensation and consumption at a standard cocktail party.  The host was meant to ensure that enough hard liquor was available so that each person might have half a bottle for the first two hours and three quarters of a bottle for each subsequent two-hour period.

Of course, a trip back to the 1970s would not have been complete without many references to TV chef Fanny Cradock and her culinary influence during that time.

Each time I watch an episode, I can’t help but find myself drawn in to the romance of each period, the charm of the hosts, and the interesting differences and surprising similarities between these culinary eras and modern times.

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