Saturday, May 14, 2016

Illustrations of Eating

George Vasey - Illustrations of Eating (1847) direct link 
Open Library main page

Though there are a few drawings these illustrations are mainly verbal.  Illustrations of Eating exists in an area between travel book and proto-anthropology, the goal being to explore food more how it actually exists than as the artistic "cuisine", though it's not particularly scholarly.  The author reports what he has witness or accounts from what he considers reliable sources though since one of the latter describes Chinese eating grubs, earthworms, dogs and cats these probably aren't quite that accurate.  He also embarked on this book believing that "national food forms the national character", giving as an example the "smooth, slippery, and volatile character of the soup-, snail-, and frog-eating Frenchmen".

The book was published under the pseudonym "A Beef-Eater" who is identified by most sources as a George Vasey.  The only source I find for this is Samuel Halkett's Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature, Volume 3 (p132).  There was a botanist George Vasey (1822-1893) but this isn't listed in any bibliography for him and he moved to the US as a child so thus unlikely to consider himself a Beef-Eater.  So my guess is a different person by that name.  Since Open Library has two other books (1867's The Charms of Elocution and 1875's The Philosophy of Laughter and Smiling) with London locations those would appear to be from the same person.  There are some stray references so with time I could probably track down more information but, well, there are other things to work on.