Pratiques, techniques, rôles sociaux
Experiential Research in Culinary History: Reconstructing 16th Century Techniques: (Ken Albala)
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University of the Pacific, Stockton, California
I began analysing historic recipes of the Renaissance several years ago, initially with methodologies not substantially different from other food historians. That is, through contextual clues, examining ingredients and cooking methods, considering potential readership, such texts can be very revealing about the social meaning of food, the kinds of values and aspirations cookbook authors espoused either in a domestic or courtly setting, and what the daily experience of cooks might have entailed. Typically such analysis does offer concrete details about class, gender, sometimes ethnicity or nationality but it misses in a very fundamental way the aesthetic basis of historic culinary practices. In the end it was as if a music historian had never actually heard the compositions performed on period instruments, or if the art historian could not see the paintings in their original setting. Truly understanding the culinary arts of the past would take a good dose of soot from the hearth, a practical hands-on approach to reconstructing recipes with authentic ingredients and antiquated cooking technologies.
There is a breed of culinary historian, foremost those at living history sites such as Plymouth Plantation and Williamsburg in the US, or Hampton Court in Britain, who have done an admirable job presenting the overall milieu of domestic cooking for spectators to observe, but they do not, and in fact can not for legal reasons,...
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