Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver: Stories of Dinner as a Work of Art

Young, Carolin C.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2002
ISBN 10: 0743222024 / ISBN 13: 9780743222020
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Synopsis: An invitation to twelve historic dinner parties from a dining historian who gracefully traverses ten centuries of Western history in answer to the question, what does it mean to dine? Carolin Young believes that eating is biological and that dining is what makes us human. APPLES OF GOLD IN SETTINGS OF SILVER is a celebration of this philosophy, where the universal impulse to dine elegantly is on exquisite display. Each of these twelve time-travelling banquets offers an opportunity to dine with some of Europe's most fascinating personalities; to sample the food and music, the wardrobe and etiquette that marked such infamous occasions as Casanova's seduction diners, Talleyran's foreign-affairs soirees, and the entertainments of bell epoque Vienna, inspired by the ancient Egyptian adage, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." In the telling emerge such important developments in the history of dining as the European discovery of porcelain, the introduction of the fork, and the arrival of turkeys from the New World.

Review: "To dine is not merely to eat," says Carolin C. Young, whose Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver explores dinner as social document--the ambiance, manners, diners, settings, and cooking of 12 feasts spanning 900 years of European history. These meals, which Young dubs art, range from Peter the Venerable's 11th-century Clunic feast in Burgundy to a 20th-century surrealistic picnic, and include dinners populated by the likes of Casanova, Titian, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali.

The premise is a fascinating one--who wouldn't be interested in the introduction of the fork, for example, or the arrival of turkeys in the Old World from the New? Unfortunately, Young seems compelled to tell everything she's learned. This results in meandering scene setting and lengthy digressions (for example, a chapter on Count Heinrich von Brüel's 18th-century feast halts over an investigation of Meissen porcelain) that drain her narratives of interest. The book's contextual "wealth" also makes some of the dinners, sometimes insufficiently documented by history anyway, seem more ghostly than they otherwise might. (Lacking specifics, the menus themselves are also sometimes evoked in terms of typical period fare.) In addition, Young is given to observations that are suspect ("But once the idea of hell reached its creative zenith with Dante's Inferno, fascination with gluttony began to wane," for example) or risible (such as, "When the yearning to obtain a desirable flavor incites theft, gourmandizing has execrably devolved into gluttony"). These objections stated, the book still gives readers a chance to acquaint themselves with something of the sweep of social history while providing the opportunity to meet figures made immediate through a discussion of their tables. With black-and-white and color illustrations. --Arthur Boehm

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Title: Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver: ...
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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Young, Carolin C.
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