A subject for a gifted cook with the instincts of a trained historian. On the first count Ayrton is generally satisfactory, on the second uneven. She is an assembler of facts and recipes, some very interesting but most presented without consistent insight or perspective. Her regional survey of English cooking contains seven geographical-historical essays, each followed by a collection of recipes. The regional essays (and the general introduction) rely heavily on colorful quotations and descriptions of medieval banquets; they are erratic or worse on more mundane details. Mrs. Piozzi is blithely identified as Doctor Johnson's mistress; Dickens is described as the owner of ""Garshill Place""; English agricultural leader Arthur Young is merely ""a certain Mr. Young"" who complained about the prices at eighteenth-century inns. These lacunae and lapses are all the more unfortunate because Ayrton has collected so much genuinely valuable material. The recipes, though wanting in any explanation of how the originals have been adapted, are a noble array: oxtail soup, ham and egg pie, jugged hare, ""oyster loaves"" (hollowed deep-fried rolls stuffed with an oyster mixture), pepper pot (not to be confused with the Philadelphia variety). The measurements are given in British and metrical units; despite a small glossary, a fair number of misunderstandings may await the unwary American cook. All considered, two cheers.