Charlemagne's Tablecloth: A Piquant History of Feasting

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9780753819746: Charlemagne's Tablecloth: A Piquant History of Feasting

Feasts, banquets and grand dinners have always played a vital role in our lives. They oil the wheels of diplomacy, smooth the paths of the ambitious and spread joy at family celebrations. Nichola Fletcher has selected the most colourful feasts in history to give a captivating account of why we enjoy gathering around a table to eat, drink and be merry. There is the extravagance of the high medieval and Renaissance, swallowing fathoms of blubber in North America, the exquisite refinement of the Japanese Tea ceremony - an eclectic collection of feasts from the flamboyant to the eccentric. Why did Charlemagne use an asbestos tablecloth at his feasts? What is the connection between Salvador Dali and the Aztecs? What links caviar to quinces? Nichola Fletcher answers these and many more questions in her compelling investigation of the feast in all its guises.

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About the Author:

Nichola Fletcher is an active member of the Guild of Food Writers and was awarded the 1994 Scottish Food Achievement Award by the Sunday Times. She writes widely on food and runs an upmarket mail order service for venison.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. We all eat, but how many of us know how to feast? If Fletcher, a food writer and occasional feast designer, has her way, we'll all be reconsidering our party habits. True, we're not likely to offer cannibalistic banquets (she discusses those of Fiji, New Guinea, the Aztecs and others), or platters of cats with rats (a dish from the 1870 siege of Paris), or Kwakiutl-style blubber-eating competitions. Even the complex Ruskin feast that Fletcher herself catered (seviche of wood pigeon, wild greens, Coniston char, and roast venison with wild bramble sauce, all served on pollen-inspired ceramic platters, with readings from Wordsworth and Ruskin) for a scholarly set of foodies in the middle of a British forest at sunset seems best left to its designated guests. But as Fletcher describes Roman, medieval, Renaissance, Persian, Japanese and Chinese feasting traditions, some universal elements emerge. Feasts often celebrate key life events and feature symbolic foods like eggs (for birth and fertility) or candied almonds (bitter and sweet, like life). Nature is either evoked or revoked, but rarely ignored. Fletcher serves her culinary history buffet-style; thematic chapters on meat or fish are followed by palate-cleansing pauses to examine oddities like 18th-century French food writer Grimod's funeral banquets or Mr. Billings's horseback dinner in 1903, followed by chapters on Victorian banquets and modern Day of the Dead rituals. This is a veritable cook's tour of a mesmerizing social custom. Photos. <
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