Food and Fiction Revisited

Ref: C2342489

Chaucer's monk loves to eat roast swan, Shakespeare's Sir Toby Belch prefers 'cakes and ale', and Dickens concludes 'A Christmas Carol' with a glass of Smoking Bishop shared by Scrooge and Bob Cratchit. Food can be a key to character, part of the atmosphere of a story, even an essential plot device, and social history comes alive in these descriptions of how people obtained, prepared, and relished their meals. This is a course for anyone who loves reading or eating - or both.

Course aim

The course enables students to explore food history from medieval to late Victorian times, as mirrored in the work of great writers.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course contains some new material (from food historians and other writers) which makes it suitable for students who have completed 'Food and Fiction' before.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give an outline in broad terms of some changes in eating patterns between 1400 and 1800.
  • Offer examples from the course of how writers use food for literary effect, e.g. to create atmosphere, character or humour.
  • Suggest examples of the above from my own reading or viewing of filmed or televised literature.
  • (Optional) Research, discuss and possibly prepare a dish from a pre-1900 recipe.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • Active involvement will include preparation and cooking of actual dishes at home, but this will be optional.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • A final session will take the form of a literary and actual feast, where students will be asked to bring to class either an actual dish or a description of one; the tutor will appraise these as part of the final assessment.

What else do I need to know?

  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Many books on food history are available second-hand and well worth browsing for; a very readable general history is 'Taste' by Kate Colquhoun (Bloomsbury, 2007)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • The course provides an incentive to experiment with older recipes.

Download full course information sheet

Food and Fiction Revisited

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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