St Albans authors reveal milestone menus from over the millennia

Vince Franklin and Alex Johnson have collaborated on a new book, Menus That Made History.

Vince Franklin and Alex Johnson have collaborated on a new book, Menus That Made History. - Credit: Archant

Do you know what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate after landing on the Moon? How the last meals served on RMS Titanic dramatically differed between the classes? Or what was served up at Elvis Presley’s wedding breakfast?

The answers are served up in Menus That Made History, a new book from an unlikely pairing of St Albans authors who conceived the concept over a few games of snooker.

Independent journalist Alex Johnson is well known for his ongoing mission to promote Shedworking, but has also penned works on improbable libraries, towns made famous by their plethora of bookshops, the pets of famous writers and a fun and informative look at bookshelf design.

He is joined in his latest endeavour by actor Vince Franklin, who has been seen on screen in the likes of Bodyguard, Happy Valley, The Thick of It and Gentleman Jack.

The two old friends and neighbours devised their collaboration after discussing Alex's previous work A Book of Book Lists, which featured lists including what books IKEA uses as display props and what was on Bin Laden's bookshelf. Vince suggested they do something similar about interesting menus, revealing the stories behind the dishes.

They put toegether a collection of the world's 75 most iconic menus, revealing not only the story of food, but also casting a new eye over periods of history, famous works of literature, notable events and celebrity figures from prehistoric times to the present day.

Alex explained what the book aims to do: "For me, one of the most interesting segments of the early series of The Great British Bake Off was when Mel and Sue looked into the history of the dishes the contestants were making. I hope this book provides something similar, including a few terrible jokes, some intriguing insight into famous meals and events, plus some amazing facts to entertain your family and friends with."

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Vince revealed his favourite menus: "It's difficult to pick just one or two but it's fascinating to see what a fish and chips menu can tell us about the industrialisation of Britain, how Parisians were forced to eat their own zoo and why George IV's guests ended up hurling capons at his coronation banquet.

"While I was first drawn to those menus that included the most extraordinary food - roast heron or supreme of narwhal - in the end it's the ones that have great stories behind them that proved the most satisfying. It's hard not to develop a soft spot for a man who travelled half way around the world to open Britain's first Indian restaurant and ended up working for two kings."

Menus That Made History is available from all good bookshops, including St Albans' Waterstones.