January 2020: a Taste of “Before ‘Farm to Table'” Part III

Dear Recipes Project community,

Happy 2020! This month we’ll mark the new year by highlighting some discoveries from the Before “Farm to Table”: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures project, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Several of this month’s posts feature products from the BFT team, all of which were featured on the Folger’s Shakespeare & Beyond blog. Produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare & Beyond covers a wide range of Shakespeare-related topics: the early modern period in which he lived, the ways his plays have been interpreted and staged over the past four centuries, the enduring power of his characters and language, and more. The Recipes Project is delighted to partner with Shakespeare & Beyond as we explore recipes in Shakespeare’s world.

What can you expect to learn? Michael Walkden will discuss early modern European ideas about mushrooms: edible or poisonous? Nutritive and tasty, or actually the “excrements of the earth?” And next up, below: Jack Bouchard discusses beer-drinking, beer-making and celebrations around beer in early modern Europe.

-The RP Editors
*****

By

Willem Delff. “Cask of Heidelberg.” 1608. Folger Shakespeare Library.
Willem Delff. “Cask of Heidelberg.” 1608. Folger Shakespeare Library.

From Prince Hal and Falstaff’s hearty embrace of tavern fare and drinks, to the Duke of Clarence’s death in a butt of malmsey, alcoholic beverages are woven throughout Shakespeare’s plays. But what do we know about food, drink, and culture in the German-speaking heart of central Europe?

The tradition of Oktoberfest, celebrated among other places at its birthplace in Munich, Germany, and across the US, seems to invoke something universal and timeless about German society writ large (surely, one might think, Martin Luther and the Habsburg emperors must have enjoyed beer and pretzels each autumn). But in truth, Oktoberfest only began in 1810, and it is essentially regional, reflecting the distinct culture of Bavaria in southern Germany. The Folger collection’s wide variety of material from German-speaking lands in the 15th and 16th centuries offers a more complex story.

There was no early modern Germany, as we would understand it today, and no unified German culture. For early modern German speakers, the ways that they drank and celebrated were quite diverse. Sausage and bread varieties might differ from town to town and season to season, and wine often replaced beer in the south and west. This divided world is epitomized by an illustration in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle by doctor and scholar Hartmann Schedel. Schedel chose to portray his native land not with a map, but with a stylized image of 12 imperial city-states embedded in an imaginary countryside. Here was “Germany” as Schedel and others lived it in the early modern age: distinct and squabbling communities, stretching from Metz in modern France to Salzburg in Austria.

The modern notion of Oktoberfest, however, does capture some important aspects of older German foodways. In the early modern world, autumn was the season of plenty. A 1587 print by the Flemish artist Adriaen Collaert shows Bacchus reveling in a cornucopia of fall produce, as farmers reap the harvest in the background. In this age of communal farm labor, harvest festivals were common, and across the German-speaking lands there were festivals, prominently featuring beer and wine, in September and October. If there was no Oktoberfest, there were a variety of October-fêtes.

Autumnus. Adriaen Collaert. 1587. Folger Shakespeare Library.
Autumnus. Adriaen Collaert. 1587. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Drink was as seasonal as the food, and one of the most popular homemade beers was Märzen, a lager prepared in March and stored in a cold cellar to slowly ferment all summer long. (Summer heat could make brewing risky, so early spring was the latest that most households made beer.) The casks were taken out and enjoyed as an accompaniment to the harvest work and communal celebrations, producing what is today marketed as Oktoberfest-style lager. The drink had a wide appeal: The Folger collection includes a later English recipe for “March Beer,” brewed on the same principles.

Want to learn more about beer in the early modern world — and get a glimpse of that recipe for “March Beer”? Read the rest of Jack’s post at Shakespeare & Beyond: https://shakespeareandbeyond.folger.edu/2018/10/30/in-the-spirit-of-oktoberfest-food-drink-and-changing-times-in-early-modern-europe/

…still thirsty for more? Listen to this Spotify playlist of drinking songs from early Germany curated by the Folger Consort!

 

January 2020: a Taste of “Before ‘Farm to Table'” Part II

Dear Recipes Project community,

Happy 2020! This month we’ll mark the new year by highlighting some discoveries from the Before “Farm to Table”: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures project, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Several of this month’s posts feature products from the BFT team, all of which were featured on the Folger’s Shakespeare & Beyond blog. Produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare & Beyond covers a wide range of Shakespeare-related topics: the early modern period in which he lived, the ways his plays have been interpreted and staged over the past four centuries, the enduring power of his characters and language, and more. The Recipes Project is delighted to partner with Shakespeare & Beyond as we explore recipes in Shakespeare’s world.

What can you expect to learn? Michael Walkden will discuss early modern European ideas about mushrooms: edible or poisonous? Nutritive and tasty, or actually the “excrements of the earth?”  And next up, below: Julia Fine explores the ways in which the general public contributed to and engaged with the Folger’s First Chefs exhibition.

-The RP Editors
*****
Food culture and First Chefs: Appreciating the layers of meaning behind food in Shakespeare’s world and our own

By 

In Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio grabs a leg of roast mutton and throws it to the ground. Doing so, he exclaims, “it engenders choler, planteth anger,/ And better ‘twere that both of us did fast.” As food anthropologist Leigh Chavez-Bush writes of this statement in Atlas Obscura, this line was not a throwaway. Rather, “eating the right foods in the proper quantities, 16th-century Britons believed, balanced mind and soul.” Here, Petruchio is invoking this idea of balance, referring to the notion that food could imbalance the humors which were thought to impact the body. In Shakespeare’s plays, then, “roasts, ales, and pies are not props, but clues to characters’ souls, moods, and motivations.”

Whether we look to Shakespeare’s world or ours today, food represents something more than mere sustenance. Food is instead a universal ritual, one in which everyone takes part. Thus, food and eating, according to Sidney Mintz in his pathbreaking work Sweetness and Power, act as “foci of habit, taste, and deep feeling,” across different cultures and times. In this sense, eating is about more than just nutrition; food evokes the feelings, memories, and stories baked into each bite.

The Folger’s First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas exhibition, which ran from January through March of 2019, demonstrated the different functions that food served in the early modern British Atlantic world. The exhibition shared the stories of several First Chefs, people like Hannah Woolley, the first English-language woman food writer, and Hercules, a chef enslaved by George and Martha Washington. After encountering these stories, visitors were invited to reflect on their own experiences with food in a special area of the exhibition devoted to food and memory, and many wrote down their favorite food reminiscences, recipes, and stories.

The textual and culinary delights that guests shared with us spanned time and space. We received recipes in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Mongolian, written by children and grandparents alike. Some detailed how food shaped their lives, acting as a catalyst to immigrate to America; others discussed yearly rituals surrounding food that united their families. Some people left recipes for cookies passed down for generations; others detailed the joy of opening a box of Kraft mac and cheese.

Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

To give you a taste, here are some of our favorite food memories shared at the First Chefs exhibition. As you read, we ask that you reflect on what stories, beliefs, and histories are encoded within these texts. What does food tell you about people’s lives and cultures? What information can you glean even from the most straight-forward of recipes?

Want to learn more about our visitors and their responses to First Chefs? Read the rest of Julia’s post at Shakespeare & Beyond: https://shakespeareandbeyond.folger.edu/2019/11/01/food-memories-culture-first-chefs/#food-memories

Around the Table: Museum Exhibitions

By Sarah Peters Kernan

This holiday season, many museums internationally are highlighting the histories of food, medicine, and science in special exhibitions. If your travel plans take you to any of the cities below in December or January, consider stopping by an exhibit. Be sure to check the websites for full exhibit descriptions, as well as visitor information such as hours, fees, and directions. We also welcome readers to share your trips to any museums and exhibits of interest to the Recipes Project community on Twitter or Facebook!

What Why How We Eat

Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK, USA)

Through 12 January 2020

What Why How We Eat tells the changing story of food culture in Alaska—from the subsistence whale hunt in Point Hope to the Halal market in Anchorage—through filmed interviews, art installations, utensils, tools, recipes and food. The exhibition highlights multiple cultures and food traditions within Alaska communities, providing an interactive space for learning about how food is produced, preserved and shared within Alaska’s diverse communities in both rural and urban areas. Food-oriented public programming and a book of food essays with companion cookbook of Alaskana recipes for dishes commonly made in Alaska’s kitchens are among the ways the What Why How We Eat project connects Alaska food culture with other cultures around the world.

The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine (International Tour)

The Berlin Museum of Medical History, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Berlin, Germany)

Through 2 February 2020

The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine, an exhibition developed by the Melbourne Medical History Museum, is on its last stop on an international tour after first on display in 2018-2019. Prints and paintings by Indigenous Australian artists are juxtaposed with historic specimens from the Berlin Museum of Medical History’s permanent display. The contemporary works of art depict healing practices and medicines from the artists’ own Indigenous communities and cultures. Through their depictions of medicinal flora, the artists celebrate a long tradition of healing which predates Western medicine by tens of thousands of years. This exhibition was curated by Jacqueline Healy, University of Melbourne Medical History Museum and Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum Senior Curator.

Food Fit for Kings County: The Culinary History of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Public Library (Brooklyn, NY, USA)

Through 3 January 2020

This exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library examines the borough’s social and cultural history through food and drink. The exhibition displays a variety of sources, including menus, images, books, and other material objects. Visitors can see a range of cultures, cuisines, and exhibited objects across Brooklyn’s history, including 1896 letterhead from the India Wharf Brewing Company, images from picket lines at Ebinger’s Bakery in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, and menus displaying the juxtaposition of immigrant food cultures, such as one advertising “Sheesh Kabab” alongside spaghetti and meatballs. For a preview of Food Fit for Kings County, be sure to visit the exhibit’s website before your visit.

Resetting the Table: Food and Our Changing Tastes

Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnography at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Through 28 November 2021

The Peabody Museum’s new exhibition, Resetting the Table, explores food choices and eating habits in the United States, including the sometimes hidden but always important ways in which our tables are shaped by cultural, historical, political, and technological influences. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 1910 dinner for Harvard freshmen featuring Cotuit Cocktail, beef, imported champagne, an elaborate Eastern European cake called “Mocca Tree,” and cigarettes. Visitors not only encounter this meal set on a great oak dining table, but also explore the historical and cultural roots of each set of foods on the menu, and the privileged context of their presentation. The exhibition objects, culled from nine institutions, reveal the long history of many iconic American foods, across multiple cultures and thousands of years. These objects will include prehistoric oyster shells, turkey bones, Budweiser cans excavated from Harvard Yard, and an intricately fashioned nineteenth-century eel pot from New England. Stunning Central American tools and ceramics will signal the New World origins of corn and chocolate. The foodstuffs introduced to North America from other parts of the world include sugar, coffee, rice, and grape wine. Visitors also encounter a life-sized diorama of an early twentieth-century kitchen showcasing the preparation of foods before it is consumed and introduces objects of food preparation from around the world. This exhibition was guest curated by Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History.

Brewing Up Chicago: How Beer Transformed a City

Exhibition organized by the Chicago Brewseum, hosted by the Field Museum (Chicago, IL, USA)

Through 5 July 2020

Brewing Up Chicago traces the growth of the city in the nineteenth century through the lens of its brewing industry and the immigrant community who built it. The German-American community in Chicago, initially regarded as ethnic outsiders, gradually came to be viewed as respected citizens, due in no small part to their contributions in brewing. The exhibition consists of four sections: The Raw Ingredients (1833-1850); The Mash (1851-1870); Fermentation (1871-1885); and Maturation (1885-1893). Each section details Chicago’s development, the German-American brewers’ experiences, and the stages of the brewing process. Brewing Up Chicago illustrates how beer is more than just a beverage; it is a strong cultural force capable of building community and making change.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus, a portrait depicting Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the seasons, c. 1590-1. Skokloster Castle, Sweden. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Revisiting Arcimboldo

La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie (Lyon, France)

Through 31 May 2020

This immersive visual and auditory experience celebrates the paintings of the Italian Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. His portraits play a visual game with the viewer, merging food and portraiture. This exhibition features Arcimboldo’s works revisited by contemporary artists in a surreal and surprising experience. Revisiting Arcimboldo is displayed in the newly-opened La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie in Lyon. This space, housed in the restored Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital, is devoted to the theme of gastronomy at the crossroads of food and health. The space houses permanent exhibitions on the history of Lyon’s gastronomy, a digital space presenting the gastronomic meal of the French, terroirs and the making of meals, temporary exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and more.

Making Marvels: Science & Splendor at the Courts of Europe

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, USA)

Through 1 March 2020

Joachim Friess, “Automaton in the Form of Diana and the Stag,” ca. 1620, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In early modern Europe, lavish spending, displays of precious metals, and the possession of artistic, scientific, and technological innovations conveyed power and status. These innovations were often highlighted in elaborate court entertainments. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition, Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe explores the complex ways in which the objects collected and displayed by early modern European monarchs expressed these rulers’ ability to govern. The exhibition features approximately 170 objects, including clocks, automata, furniture, scientific instruments, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, print media, and more, from The Met collection and over fifty lenders. Some of the objects on display include the largest flawless natural green diamond in the world (weighing 41 carats and in its original 18th-century setting), the alchemistic table bell of Emperor Rudolf II, and a fountain bearing the coat of arms of the Madruzzo family of Trento to be used to spurt wine or water during court festivities. The exhibition will be divided into four sections dedicated to the main object types featured in these displays: precious metalwork, Kunstkammer objects, princely tools, and self-moving clockworks or automata. The exhibition site includes links to videos showing the movement and functionality of several Making Marvels objects. Making Marvels is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, the Marina Kellen French Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life

Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Through 15 March 2020

Albert Francis King, Late Night Snack, ca. 1900, Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of the R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

Emerging in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, the still life genre documented the objects and symbols of wealth and status among the flourishing merchant class. This exhibition, A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life, celebrates this genre, exploring nearly 250 years of the tradition from the seventeenth century to America’s Gilded Age. Featuring items as diverse as foods, flowers, animals, scientific instruments, books, and more, the arrangements were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also symbolic of the moral, religious, and social structures of the time. The exhibition features the museum’s first seventeenth-century still life painting, a recent bequest from the late Drue Heinz, as well as loans from the Detroit Institute of Arts and several local collectors. A Delight for the Senses is curated by Akemi May, Assistant Curator, Fine Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art.

If you’d like to feature a museum exhibition or collection on the Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.

Touching the Perfect “Noir de Flandres”: a visitor’s experience at the Museum Hof van Besleyden

By V.E. Mandrij

The colour black is the reason why I became an art historian specialising in Netherlandish oil painting. From the backgrounds of 17th-century still-life paintings, to nocturnal representations with strong chiaroscuro and portraits of rulers dressed in fancy velvety clothes, black shades are omnipresent and mesmerizing. I always wonder: How can a colour be so deep, intense, and vibrant?

If painters could represent in painting cloths with black pigments, it means that people in the past could dye their fabrics in such dark tones. Which materials and processes can produce this colour so rare in Nature? The Museum Hof van Besleyden, in Mechelen, tries to answer these questions in the research-driven exhibition “Back to Black”. This  exhibition presents some of results reached by the interdisciplinary research project ARTECHNE.

Black as a Time Machine

After walking for a while in the museum, which is dedicated to the history of Mechelen, visitors are welcomed in a small room by old portraits of Flemish dignitaries. Their elegant black clothing and severe glance remind us of the power they once held. A little further, the visitor encounters a contemporary installation consisting of long and irregular pieces of black wool suspended from the ceilings. There is a common thread between these artworks: the flaps’ colour is produced by a similar dying process to the one used five centuries earlier to dye the clothes depicted in the paintings.

This room informs us about the making of black dyes that has been transmitted in French, Dutch, German, and Italian over the centuries through recipes and through masters in artists’ workshops. The choice of Mechelen as a location for this exhibition is perfect:  the city was well-known for its production of “Burgundian Black”, or “Noir de Flandres”, in the 16th century.

Installation by Claudy Jongstra. Image credit: Sophie Nuytten

Artistic Process, Natural Ingredients

Objects and documents illustrate the transhistorical voyage of European knowledge regarding black colour technologies. On one side of the room, a sample book with pieces of silk, wool and linen dyed in black shows the results of (re)enactment of historical techniques learnt and tested during workshops organised as part of the ARTECHNE project. The dyed fabrics are presented together with the list of ingredients and the illustrated recipes providing these shades. The black colour offers a wide variety of nuances depending on the recipes’ components, materials’ reaction while drying, and the fabric.

On the other side of the room, jars with ingredients such as plant-based materials necessary for the experimental reconstructions of black dyes are displayed on shelves. For the 21st-century viewer, who tends to forget how and with which materials the final products sold in stores are manufactured, it is useful to remember that it originally comes from natural elements!

Recipes and samples. Image credit: Sophie Nuytten

Recording the Making

A short movie shows footage shot during the Burgundian Black Collaboratory in Claudy Jongstra’s atelier in Friesland, where the artist has been experimenting for a long time with dying techniques involving natural ingredients. Dressed in winter clothes, participants are stirring liquids in boiling cauldrons, while other are mixing together strange ingredients. As if it were a secret rally of alchemists, apprentices follow directives of experts, artists, practitioners, and dye specialists, who master old techniques. This video provides visitors with an overview of the different steps to follow in order to obtain the results they have in front of their eyes. Moreover, this recording reminds us that the success of a recipe does not only rely upon one’s ability to understand textual sources, but also on the discussions with knowledgeable and experimented people, as participants described in previous posts.

Touching Black Stuff

The curators offered visitors the thrilling opportunity to touch objects in the museum. On a table, pieces of black fabrics invite them to give their opinion about the final products by manipulating the samples and filling a questionnaire. Viewers can decide which textile looks and feels the most expensive, elegant, or beautiful. This interaction between people and objects in the context of a museum provides an agreeable feeling of playing a role in the research. Alongside, visitors can write down on paper cards some concepts that they associate with ‘black’ to create a contemporary overview of the collective imagination connected to this colour.

Visitors touching samples of black fabrics. Image credit: J. Boulboullé

Binding Together Academic Research and Public Institutions

For those who find academic research difficult to grasp, bringing the results of interdisciplinary projects into a museum builds bridges between public institutions and academia. Moreover, it highlights the importance of collaborating with different protagonists of the art world, such as art historians, artists, artisans, conservators, curators, and art technologists.

This exhibition is therefore likely to attract a large public to the museum. The black colour remains a favourite colour in the textile industry nowadays and continues to fascinate people. Furthermore, the focus on the technical making allows a large potential of interactive activities.

In brief, I left the museum with a mind full of new sensations and an impression of having participated in something special.