App-a-Eye-rev-art - 4/11/08
Appetite-and-Eye-Review. A review by Mistress Jadwiga Zajaczkowa of "The Appetite and the Eye: Visual Aspects of Food and its Presentation within their Historic Context." edited by C. Anne Wilson. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991).
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2007 14:05:33 -0400
From: Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise <jenne at fiedlerfamily.net>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Another review of a leeds book, with excerpts
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>, East Kingdom Cooks
Guild <EKCooksGuild at yahoogroups.com>
"The Appetite and the Eye: Visual Aspects of Food and its Presentation within their Historic Context." edited by C. Anne Wilson. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991).
Papers from the Second Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions, April 1987, with additional papers.
This one didn't really rev me up until I started reading it out loud to my housemate, but then it hatched a plan to do late-period table service as a performance-category competition entry. (Why yes, we were driving home from Northern Lights at the time.)
Table of Contents
Ritual, Form and Colour in the Medieval Food Tradition, C. Anne Wilson.
From Mediaeval Great Hall to Country-house Dining-room: The Furniture and the Setting of the Social Meal, C. Anne Wilson.
Decoration of the Tudor and Stuart Table, Peter Brears
Ideal Meals and Menus from the Middle Ages to the Georgian Era, C. Anne Wilson
Keeping up Appearances: The Genteel Art of Dining in Middle-class Victorian Britain, Dena Attar
Illusion and Illustration in Cookery-books since the 1940s, Lynette Hunter
Wilson's "Ritual, Form and Colour" seemed to be the most medieval-relevant item and it certainly had lovely tid-bits, such as the roman era descriptions of Celtic feasting, references to food spectacle, and food coloring. Her article on Furniture and Setting has some lovely illustrations of furniture, and a solid assertion of the era by which glass drinking vessels had come into fashion in England (late 1500s). This is all excellent background reading. It's especially enlightening in the ways it shows the historiography of food-- information that is alluded to in later books, about coloring and ways of combining foods-- is laid out plain. An excellent followup to "Plain Delightes" for those who started there.
Brears' "Decoration of the Tudor and Stewart Table" however, is a fascinating document. Though in some cases he contradicts himself (talking of diners cutting meat for themselves, when elsewhere Brears clearly agrees with other food historians that meat was cut up by the carver into eatable chunks) the detail and description here should not be missed. Illustrations of particular value include three sixteenth-century pottery 'salts' and a number of silver salts, a progression of types of knives and forks, images of trenchers, plates, chargers and a ewer and basin. For those searching for material about garnishing, Brears has a whole section which includes a salad-as-centerpiece (complete with rosemary branches stuck in half-lemons and hung with cherries) from 1638. For my purposes, his description of the ewery service was excellent. He quotes this description of fancy handwashing:
"Lupold von Wedel recorded how Elizabeth I: 'rose and turned her back upon the table, whereupon two bishops stepped forward and said grace. After them came three earls . . . These three took a large basin, which was covered like a meat dish and of gilt silver and two of the older gentlemen held the towel. The five of them then advanced to the Queen and knelt down before her. They then raised the lid from the basin . . . The third poured water over the Queen's hands, who before washing her hands drew off a ring and handed it to the Lord Chamberlain. After washing her hands she again drew on the ring.' [p. 94-95; quoting
_Dining with William Shakespeare_]"
Wilson's "Ideal meals and their menus" would only be a disappointment to a foodie for the fact that she didn't give more menus. However, the information about both period menus and dietaries is handy. It does, however, cause the reader to wonder whether vegetables were eaten in England between 1400 and 1600, a question that vexed medievalists a century ago. Howsomever, there is this lovely excerpt of the feast for a Franklin out of John Russell's _Boke of Nuture_, circa 1450:
"A Franklin may make a feast improberabille,
Brawn with mustard is concordable,
bacon served with peason
Beef or mutton stewed serviceable,
Boiled chicken or capon agreeable,
convenient for the season;
Roasted goose and pig full profitable
Capon bakemeat or custard, costable
when eggs and cream be geson [scarce].
Therefore stuff of household is behovable,
Mortrews or jussel are delectable
for the second course by reason.
The veal, lamb, kid or cony,
Chicken or pigeon roasted tenderly,
bakemeats or dowsets with all.
Then following, fritters and a leach lovely;
Such service in season is full seemly
to serve with both chamber & hall.
Then apples and pears with spices delicately
After the time of year full daintily
with bread and cheese to call,
Spiced cakes and wafers worthily
With bragot & mead, thus men may merrily
please well both great and small."
Wilson makes the important point that these menus in cookery-books cannot be proven to have been cooked at any time, though some of the notations to the menus in Le Menagier suggest that some of them came from particular events Le Menagier hosted. Of course the majority of the article is post-1600 in scope.
Post-1600, also, are Attar's "Keeping up Appearances" and Hunter's "Illusion and Illustration . . . since the 1940's." Still, the second article in particular sheds light on the books we love to browse, and Attar reflects on the use and disguise of left-overs in Victorian times (a process we sometimes thought was strictly 20th century). How many people, confronted with their first chicken croquette, would identify it as a way of using up left-overs? I certainly did not, despite-- or perhaps because of-- its popularity in large scale food service.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to recruit a stunt table-serving team. :)
-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net