Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe

Article excerpt

Early Modern European The Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe. By Ken Albala. [The Food Series.] (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 2007. Pp. xviii, 223. $40.00.)

This engaging book utilizes the culinary literature of early modern Europe, from the 1520s to the 1660s to be precise, to describe the food consumed by the ruling elites, primarily in Italy, but also in France, Spain, and England. Of course, the elites consumed some of this food at banquets, but The Banquet is a misleading title, as is the use of Late Renaissance. Ken Albala begins by apologizing for The Banquet of the title, commenting that "some have their titles thrust upon them," for most of the book deals with what the elites ate, banquet or no banquet. Albala next tries to justify the use of Late Renaissance,"because no other suitable term for this time span exists," but then the "late Renaissance" almost disappears from the text and is replaced by "early modern Europe" or the "sixteenth and seventeenth centuries." I have no problems with this attempt to make the book more marketable, but as a reviewer, I feel obligated to inform readers of the text beneath the title.

Readers "who are interested in what European elites ate in the early modern period will not find a more erudite, more interesting, or better-written treatment. Albala is not a "foodie" dabbling in history but a professional historian with an enormous knowledge of food, as indicated by his previous books Sating Right in the Renaissance, Food in Early Modern Europe, and Cooking in Europe, 1250-1650. Most of this book focuses on ingredients, with chapters on wild food, dairy products, spices and garnishes, vegetables and fruit, starches and pasta, and wine and alcohol. …

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