Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy: From Kitchen to Table (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy)

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9781442227187: Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy: From Kitchen to Table (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy)

Renaissance Italy’s art, literature, and culture continue to fascinate. The domestic life has been examined more in recent years, and this book reveals the preparation, eating, and the sociability of dining in Renaissance Italy. It takes readers behind the scenes to the Renaissance kitchen and dining room, where everyday meals as well as lavish banquets were prepared and consumed. Katherine McIver considers the design, equipment, and location of the kitchen and food prep and storage rooms in both middle-class homes and grand country estates. The diner’s room, the orchestration of dining, and the theatrical experience of dining are detailed as well, all in the context of the renowned food and architectural scholars of the day.

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About the Author:

Katherine McIver is a professor emerita of art history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the author of Women, Art, and Architecture in Northern Italy, 1520-1580: Negotiating Power (winner of a Society for the Study of Early Modern Women Book Award), the editor and contributor of Wives, Widows, Mistresses, and Nuns in Early Modern Italy: Making the Invisible Visible through Art and Patronage (2012), and has also written about dining in Gastronomica and New Perspectives on the Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior.

Review:

McIver sets her culinary history in the late-medieval period and concludes in the 1600s. The author explores the roles and duties of cook, steward, under cook, and apprentice. She takes readers through upper- and middle-class kitchens, pantries, wine cellars, and dining spaces. McIver cites historical documents to highlight how favored foods were prepared and served. . . .McIver’s research is impressive. She does a does a good job recounting culinary changes across time, such as how, in the 16th century, a festive meal’s 'sweet pastries, candied fruit, confectioneries, and sweet wines' were replaced by a cold salad course; her descriptions of wedding feasts and banquets are also remarkable, especially the one held in honor of Emperor Charles V in 1536. (Publishers Weekly)

As the title suggests, this book is a general overview of the habits of cooking and eating in Renaissance Italy. McIver includes useful citations to letters, menus, inventories, and other historical documents from the period. The authorial style is unusual in that sections are frequently introduced with questions such as 'How did the cooks at Castel Gandolfo or at the Palazzo del Te come up with their menus?' Then selected citations from historical documents are used to answer and expand on the topics raised in the questions. . . .the examples are compelling. . . .The details about the eating habits of well-known historical figures (such as the Duke of Urbino) and menus for significant events are interesting and accompanied by black-and-white illustrations. . . .The book also contains many details about methods of serving and the relative cleanliness of plates. . . .Summing Up: Recommended. . . .General readers. (CHOICE)

Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy From Kitchen to Table is a culinary history recommended for college-level collections strong in food studies and Renaissance times, and traces how food was cultivated and moved from garden to table. It isn't so much a recipe collection (other medieval recipe collections are on the market) as it is a discussion of how food in this period was prepared and how it evolved, surveying everything from medieval shopping lists and methods to how servants pictured in the preparation process, how recipes evolved, and how ingredient availability lent to innovation (or not). From medieval communal eating to food etiquette, this is a solid survey that uses a range of resources to reconstruct the history and evolution of not just Italian food, but Italian traditions. (Midwest Book Review)

This avid researcher gives us menus and recipes and a tour of extravagance. (Bibliotheque D'humanisme Et Renaissance)

Katherine McIver’s book, a magisterial and delightful history of food habits and the organization of the meal in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, looks at both from a novel perspective: that of the people for whom those meals were prepared. Private letters and household inventories reveal the fascinating details of the social and ritual practice of eating, ranging from the banquets of the Este family to the working class kitchens. The reader invited to their tables in this book will enjoy a stimulating and satisfying cultural feast in our gastronomic past. (Laura Giannetti, professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Miami)

With zest and intelligence Katherine McIver chronicles the history of people in all classes of society who organized, cooked, and dined in Renaissance Italy. Her deep familiarity with archival and printed sources enriches our knowledge of their world. It is a pleasure to read. (Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, Honorary Curator, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University)

Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy provides a treasure trove of information about how food in this fascinating period moved from the garden through the kitchen to the elaborate rituals of dining among the elite. In addition to seeing famed historical figures such as Leonardo de Vinci in a new light, readers discover the rich culinary world of the past – from medieval shopping lists to mythological figures sculpted in sugar; from the dress codes of servants to the strangely guarded conviviality created when guests brought their own knives to dinner parties; from choreographed banquets complete with carvers who juggled food to simple meals cooked over a fire. McIver narrates the shift from medieval communal eating to a budding modern interest in individual food consumption, complete with a premium placed on hygiene and etiquette. (Wendy Wall, Director, Kaplan Institute for the Humanities; Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities and Professor of English, Northwestern Unversity; author of Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen)

Drawing carefully on a range of sources, McIver reconstructs the experiences of the cooks and the stewards, as well as the people sitting down to enjoy their meals, during this key period in the culinary history of the West. By exploring the complex network of relationships that supported this highly refined food culture, she builds a fascinating and entirely convincing picture of elite dining during the Renaissance. (Alison Smith, professor of history, Wagner University)

McIver’s book is an excellent resource for teachers and students addressing the topic for the first time. All aspects of food preparation and consumption in Renaissance Italy are covered thoroughly with richness of details and information. McIver efficiently uses a variety of sources (cookbooks, letters, inventories) to offer a multifaceted view of the Renaissance kitchen. The division in chapters and sections makes it anyone to learn more about this fascinating period of culinary history. (Barbara Garbin, Visiting Assistant Professor, Skidmore College)

Renaissance Italy’s art, literature, and culture continue to fascinate. The domestic life has been examined more in recent years, and this book reveals the preparation, eating, and the sociability of dining in Renaissance Italy. It takes readers behind the scenes to the Renaissance kitchen and dining room, where everyday meals as well as lavish banquets were prepared and consumed. Katherine McIver considers the design, equipment, and location of the kitchen and food prep and storage rooms in both middle-class homes and grand country estates. The diner’s room, the orchestration of dining, and the theatrical experience of dining are detailed as well, all in the context of the renowned food and architectural scholars of the day.

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