Feast by Sir Roy Strong
'Only the puritan - or the seriously dyspeptic - could fail to enjoy this book.' Sunday Telegraph'We are all interested in food, but for anyone curious about its history, this book is a must.' Alan Davidson Toenails cut while dining, meals served to wax effigies of the dead, napkins concealing singing birds, dishes descending from the ceiling- these are just a few of the more exotic aspects of everyman at table. From the stupendous banquets of the Ancient Babylonians, Feast covers five millennia of formal eating. Sharing a meal, in particular a grand one, has always been a complex social mechanism for uniting and dividing people. Such an event could signal peace, a marriage, a victory, an alliance, a coming- of- age, a coronation or a funeral. The feast was a vehicle for display and ostentation, for the parade of rank and hierarchy, for flattering and influencing people as well as providing a theatre in which to exercise the art of conversation and the display of manners. FEAST offers a fascinating and, at times, a highly unusual mirror of society. It gathers together for the first time all the ingredients which contributed to the phenomenon of the celebratory meal- the people, the clothes, the food, the setting, the action and its circumstances. In an age which has virtually abolished the shared meal as a central feature of daily living, FEAST presents a revelatory picture of a world we have lost. Beautifully illustrated, it traces fashions in food and the etiquette of eating, taking the reader from the elegancies of the Roman villa to the austerities of the monastic refectory, from the splendours of the Renaissance banquet to the rigours of the Victorian dinner party.