Fine dining, Renaissance-style

“In June 1473 [Cardinal] Riario gave a six-hour banquet for the daughter of the King of Naples that made the jaws of even world-weary observers slacken in amazement. The cardinal’s guest was housed in a wooden palace erected before the Church of the Holy Apostles. This lavish temporary structure was painted to resemble stone and included a courtyard, fountains, a theatre and a vast banqueting hall furnished with tapestries, gold-embroidered carpets, gold brocade, silk and mountains of silverware. The banquet was the centrepiece of the Neapolitan princess’ stay in Rome: more than forty dishes were served, including roast stags, herons, peacocks, and even a full-grown bear. Naturally, the menu was as much about show as consumption: the bread was gilded.”

The peacock was served “…so it still seemed to be alive. The trick is to kill the bird by slitting its throat, then make a shallow incision running right down to the tail. Peel away the skin and feathers in one piece with the legs and head. The carcass can then be stuffed with herbs and spices, studded with cloves, and put on a spit. The neck should be wrapped in linen which has to be dampened continually during roasting to prevent the meat from drying out. Once cooked, the peacock is reclothed in its own skin and plumage, reunited with its head and legs and attached to a serving board with concealed nails and wire.”

Another observation which made me laugh:

“Cooking does not necessarily follow the same chronology as other fields of creative endeavour. People did not start eating with more perspective in the Renaissance. Nor, for that matter, did they dine more ornamentally in the Baroque period, or more rationally during the Enlightenment.”

 John Dickie, “Delizia! The epic history of the Italians and their food”

I’m trying to imagine dining with perspective…Maybe a plate of spaghetti laid out in straight, converging lines, with other ingredients of gradually decreasing size the farther away from you they are on the plate?


4 thoughts on “Fine dining, Renaissance-style

  1. Erik R. July 22, 2009 / 12:05 pm


    I suppose Cubism Cuisine isn’t that hard to imagine.


    • simonlitton July 22, 2009 / 7:52 pm

      Maybe it’s not clear, but all the passages quoted above are from the same book.


  2. J July 26, 2009 / 4:13 am

    That meal kind of reminds me of Babbette’s Feast. 🙂


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