As autumn approaches so does the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival at Woodstock, which gets under way at Blenheim Palace from September 12 to 16. This year, the festival is staging some excellent food and drink events, including coffee, tea and chocolate tastings which will be taking place at The Feathers Hotel. Obviously, some excellent cookery books, such as William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Collins, £20) will be featured too.

William is the grandson of the English writer Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, who was the youngest brother of the poet Dame Edith Sitwell. He came to prominence in the food world in 1999 when he joined the Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine, which has now been renamed Waitrose Kitchen, becoming its editor three years later. Apart from also writing about food and drink for a variety of magazines and newspapers, he is making forays into television, appearing on BBC2’s A Question of Taste and Masterchef.

He will be attending the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival at Woodstock this year along with Henrietta Green, who is widely regarded as the founder of the farmers’ market movement. Together they will discuss many of the recipes that William has uncovered for his book, beginning with an ancient bread recipe from Egypt, painted, rather than written, on the walls of a tomb near the ancient city of Thebes. The recipe for roast fillet of beef as written in 1671 by Robert May, who William describes as an exacting, professional, opinionated and overbearing chef, just had to be included too. It was May who roasted his meat on a complex rotisserie system called a spitjack, which collected the cooking juices in a tray. No list of influential recipes would be complete without contributions from modern culinary stars such as Marco Pierre White, Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal, all of whom have made a considerable impact on today’s cuisine.

Although William now lives in Northamptonshire, he spent ten fantastic years of his youth in the lovely village of Shilton on the edge of the Cotswolds. He is greatly looking forward to the festival and returning to an area he once called home.

William describes his book as a foodie romp through history. While there are 100 recipes in the book, it isn’t really a recipe book as such, more a chronological meander through the history of cooking. As the first printed cookery book didn’t appear until 1473, William has had to rely on drawings and hand-written books for his early recipes, which makes them all the more delightful. What’s fascinating, however, is that some recipes, such as ‘Muscules in shelle’ (mussels in white wine sauce) from the 15th-century hand-written Boke of Kokery differs very little from the recipe for the dish that we enjoy today. Both call for the mussels to be cooked with minced onions, wine, seasoning and a little vinegar until the shells open, after which they are served in the cooking broth.

Cauliflower cheese is included, mainly to give William a chance to discuss the Vegetarian Society, founded in 1847, and people who abstained from eating meat, including Leonardo, Pythagoras and Hitler. Obviously Isabella Beeton had to be included, and although it must have been tempting to highlight her over-boiled vegetables, it’s her roly-poly jam pudding taken from Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which was a publishing sensation of its time, he has selected as recipe number 54. William admits that most general readers will be hard pressed to use many of the featured recipes as he has published them exactly as he found them, only translating some of the trickier terms and old spellings.

His aim in writing this book was to take the reader on a journey where each stop provides an insight into the food scene of a particular period. It certainly is not a cook book which has needed a team of cooks to triple test the recipes and seek out similar ingredients to those originally mentioned. There are no sleek colour photographs either, for obvious reasons. You can meet William and Henrietta Green on Sunday, September 16, when they will be in conversation in the Marlborough Room, Blenheim Palace, at 2pm.

Tickets can be obtained by phoning 01865 305305 or by going to the website www.blenheimpalaceliteraryfestival.