Cover image for Feast : a history of grand eating
Feast : a history of grand eating
Strong, Roy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Orlando, FL : Harcourt, 2003.

Physical Description:
xvii, 349 pages; 24 cm
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published: London : Jonathan Cape, 2002.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
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Material Type
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TX737 .S884 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Sharing a grand meal has always been a complex social event. Feasts have been used to celebrate significant occasions, to parade rank and hierarchy, and to flatter and influence people. There has always been a theatrical element to the feast as well-from the nude dancers who entertained dinner guests in ancient Greece to the restrained rigors of the Victorian dinner party.
Sir Roy Strong examines this cultural phenomenon with knowledge, wit, and style-beginning with the ninth century B.C., when a Babylonian emperor discreetly invited seventy thousand guests for a ten-day celebration, and ending early in the twentieth century, by which time feasts had become somewhat more modest. Always attuned to how these celebrations mirror the societies that hold them and to the way they reflect shifts in power and class, this beautifully illustrated book offers a lively and illuminating history of grand eating.

Author Notes

Tomaz Salamun was born on July 4, 1941 in Yugoslavia. He studied art history at the University of Ljubljana. He edited the literary magazine Perspektive and was briefly jailed on political charges. His first collection of poetry, Poker, was published in 1966. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 40 collections of poetry in Slovenian and English including The Four Questions of Melancholy, Feast, The Book for My Brother, Woods and Chalices, and On the Tracks of Wild Game. He won the Jenko Prize, Slovenia's Preseren and Mladost Prizes, and a Pushcart Prize. He died on December 27, 2014 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

British historian Strong (The Story of Britain) turns his attention to the history of feasting and the grand occasion. Formal eating has historically been a complex way of uniting and dividing people on many social levels. Power, position and the dishes served indicated status or lack of it throughout the centuries, Strong notes. From ancient times to the Victorians, encompassing the Romans, the medieval court, the Renaissance, French pomp and ostentation, food and the ceremony of dining provided a theater for marking marriages, victories, coronations and funerals, or for influencing and impressing. Strong thoroughly tackles the complex mechanisms of this social area of life, imbuing it with atmosphere while conveying enough scholarly detail to make this a comprehensive and authoritative history. He depicts not only the food eaten but also the setting, from the design and development of rooms for dining to the clothes, utensils, people and etiquette. Dividing the volume into eras, Strong describes the emergence of cooks and cookbooks in the Middle Ages, the advent of service ? la fran?aise, the decline of formal eating during the French Revolution (Napoleon ate his dinner in 10 minutes) and the re-emergence of the formal dinner party in Victorian times and service ? la russe, which we would recognize today. Drawing on contemporary sources and liberally sprinkled with illustrations, the volume fills a gap in social history, and while seeming pompous at times, it's sure to charm and inform. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

British cultural historian Strong describes major European feasts throughout the ages. Presented in historical sequence, they reflect many changes over time in food, room arrangement, and place settings. Strong talks about manners as well. His book is, of course, about the wealthy and royal groups who could afford to present feasts. The author discusses royal public dining (especially in France), where the king was often the only one eating. There is no discussion beyond Europe; the book focuses especially on France and England, and the Roman and Greek influence on those countries. Strong ends by showing that the feast has disappeared in modern times in private homes, and has now moved to restaurants, hosted by the new moneyed rather than the political elite. This scholarly presentation is well done, with some interesting discussion of changes--and the lack thereof--over time. The book is a useful addition to the literature on European feasts, related table manners, and methods of presentation. Food is not discussed in detail, but changes in eating and serving utensils are traced over time. A number of illustrations enhance the text. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. N. Duran Texas A&M University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xv
Chapter 1 Convivium: When in Rome ...p. 3
The Greek inheritancep. 8
The age of Apiciusp. 18
Cena and conviviump. 24
Public and imperial banquetsp. 36
Disintegration and survivalp. 39
Chapter 2 Interlude: Fast and Feastp. 45
Cuisine: the silent centuriesp. 47
The Christian table and the birth of mannersp. 50
Feast as powerp. 55
A reconciliation of oppositesp. 69
Chapter 3 In the Eye of the Beholderp. 73
Cooks, cookery books and cuisinep. 78
The triumph of conspicuous consumptionp. 87
Manners maketh manp. 101
Enter the entremetsp. 116
Chapter 4 Renaissance Ritualp. 129
The refinement of cuisinep. 138
Pliny relived and the reinvention of the dining-roomp. 147
Convivium revivedp. 157
The Renaissance banquetp. 162
Feast into fantasyp. 184
The collation and banquetp. 194
Meals and the mystery of monarchyp. 202
Chapter 5 From Court to Cabinetp. 211
The triumph of illusionp. 215
A culinary revolutionp. 224
Service a la francaise and tablescapesp. 231
The salle a manger and eating roomsp. 242
Manners into etiquettep. 246
Messieurs, au couvert du Roi!p. 249
Food and festival at Versaillesp. 258
The quest for informalityp. 262
Chapter 6 Dinner is Servedp. 269
From revolution to the return of ritualp. 274
The century of Caremep. 280
The proliferation of the dining-room and shifting mealtimesp. 288
The dinner partyp. 292
Service a la francaise to service a la russep. 295
The ritual and etiquette of dinnerp. 300
The way we live nowp. 308
Postscript: The Eclipse of the Table?p. 309
Notes and Sourcesp. 313
Indexp. 341