How Food Shaped the Course of the First World War
Among the numerous books that have been written about the First World War, this work stands out for its focus on the role of food in this bloodiest and most gruesome of conflicts. Dutch historian Rick Blom, has created a fascinating and absorbing narrative from a wide range of source material, including personal diaries by active servicemen and civilians, historical accounts, interviews and conversations with the last veterans still alive at the time of writing, food manuals, and recipe books.
Direct quotes from diaries are deftly interwoven into an account of the war’s progress from the standpoint of the three principal nations involved in the conflict (Britain, France and Germany). Interlaced are vivid descriptions of the author’s own attempts at experiencing at first hand what it must have been like to be active in combat. He takes part in a re-enactment (working as a sous-chef in a recreated field kitchen) and later spends three cold, hungry, solitary days and nights in a restored trench. Throughout, the focus remains firmly on food, or rather the lack of it, and everything related to it: production, distribution, preparation, quantities and how it influenced the outcome of the war. Recipes from war-time sources conclude each chapter.
Hunger makes for a gripping, at times harrowing read. Written by a historian from a country that was neutral during the war, this work offers a new perspective on the conflict at the centenary of its end.