The Joys of Excess by Samuel Pepys

11890801This is another volume from the Penguin Books Great Foods Series.  Samuel Pepys was a noted diarist, an adminstrator for the Royal Navy, and a member of Parliment who lived from 1633 -1703.  This book is a compilation of diary entries primarily focused on food and as such can be rather choppy to read.  It is a celebration of Samuel Pepys’ love of food and indulgence, actually overindulgence and celebration of food to the point of gluttony.  The sheer quantity of food and drink that he regularly cataloged in his diary is overwhelming, often eating to the point of vomiting and illness the next day.  Even horrible historic events don’t seem to put him off his appetites.  In one entry, he mentions going to see a man being drawn and quartered and stopping off at the tavern to have oysters.  Other entries casually mention the plague killing hundreds, midst discussions of his meals.

Some interesting facts that popped up.  He discusses being introduced to a new drink from China, tea in 1660.  I didn’t know that was when tea was brought over from China.  In another entry, he states that he saw his first women acting on a stage in 1661. He was also not shy about discussing his extramarital affairs or the embarrassments of his guests.  He even discusses his home renovation projects.  It is an interesting look into the life of a man, who happened to be a “foodie” before the word was coined.  I do think the book would have benefited from the addition of a time line for those of us who have been out of school for many years and don’t remember all the historically significant events for the years of the diary.


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