...[a] joyously delicious account of Britain’s gastronomic influence on the world ... original and supremely captivating ... In British terms, she is Henry Mayhew and Mass-Observation rolled into one — a stellar observer of the day-to-day and the mundane, a social historian of extraordinary talent ... From such lavish depictions we derive with infinite pleasure a pointilliste picture of the world’s food economy in all its magical complexity.
...an energetic and refreshing account of a little considered aspect of British history. By examining what people ate, Collingham skilfully provides a full account of complex, even chaotic international connections ... It’s hard to think of a more ingenious way of treating imperial history ... This book’s treatment of food in the empire is innovative and exciting; to bring such vibrancy to an old topic is a remarkable achievement.
The book maneuvers as deftly as possible through this densely interconnected subject. Sorting chapters by meals allows for a certain focus, though it's still such a vast topic that every so often the scope is overwhelming. But even when it's imposing, it's absorbing. This is, at heart, a story about how, 'having eradicated the peasantry at home, Britain had acquired an enormous peasantry abroad' ... There's a certain academic remove that can make Collingham's discussion of particularly unsavory aspects (violence against Native nations and African slaves in particular) seem a little distant...But The Taste of Empire is so direct about the impact of colonialism that the overall effect of the tone is that Collingham is simply assuming a sympathetic reader ... facinating reading.