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Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe 1500-1800

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by Victori Avery & Dr. Melissa Calaresu
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Drawing on the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum and other institutions, many nearby in Cambridge, England, this richly illustrated book presents paintings, woodcuts, period books, cooking equipment, decorative and functional tableware, correspondence, and other means of depicting three centuries' worth of attitudes about how food was produced, presented, and consumed in Europe, primarily for and by the wealthiest classes.

Editor Victoria Avery is Keeper of Applied Arts at the Fitzwilliam Museum; editor Melissa Calaresu is a Lecturer in History at Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge University. Together they offer a broad survey that addresses everything from the recreation of a confectioner's window display from the eighteenth century to the pride taken in local butters, which were prized for what might now be called their terroir.

Brief essays shed light on subjects as varied as food as gifts, wedding banquets, religious celebrations, fasting rituals, and gluttony. English-made items predominate but you'll find reproductions of pages from Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, a porcelain cook holding a larded hare produced in the Meissen factory in Dresden, images from a linen folding manual published in Nuremberg, decorative ewers attributed to sixteenth-century French metalsmiths, and an intricately decorated pillow from eighteenth-century Bulgaria that was used for reclining during a Seder.

While this is not a systematic analysis, it is absorbing and well-documented (there are footnotes!). One could easily be inspired to set off on countless explorations given the breadth of context provided here.

Paperback. Color photographs throughout.

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