The author answers the question "what does it mean to dine?" by focusing on twelve historic dinner parties, deconstructing each to describe the personalities who attended each banquet, the food served, and the general ambience.
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"To dine is not merely to eat," says Carolin C. Young, whose Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver explores dinner as social document--the ambiance, manners, diners, settings, and cooking of 12 feasts spanning 900 years of European history. These meals, which Young dubs art, range from Peter the Venerable's 11th-century Clunic feast in Burgundy to a 20th-century surrealistic picnic, and include dinners populated by the likes of Casanova, Titian, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali.
The premise is a fascinating one--who wouldn't be interested in the introduction of the fork, for example, or the arrival of turkeys in the Old World from the New? Unfortunately, Young seems compelled to tell everything she's learned. This results in meandering scene setting and lengthy digressions (for example, a chapter on Count Heinrich von Brüel's 18th-century feast halts over an investigation of Meissen porcelain) that drain her narratives of interest. The book's contextual "wealth" also makes some of the dinners, sometimes insufficiently documented by history anyway, seem more ghostly than they otherwise might. (Lacking specifics, the menus themselves are also sometimes evoked in terms of typical period fare.) In addition, Young is given to observations that are suspect ("But once the idea of hell reached its creative zenith with Dante's Inferno, fascination with gluttony began to wane," for example) or risible (such as, "When the yearning to obtain a desirable flavor incites theft, gourmandizing has execrably devolved into gluttony"). These objections stated, the book still gives readers a chance to acquaint themselves with something of the sweep of social history while providing the opportunity to meet figures made immediate through a discussion of their tables. With black-and-white and color illustrations. --Arthur BoehmAbout the Author:
Carolin C. Young earned her B.A. in European history from Oberlin College and was awarded a Royal Society of Arts Diploma from Christie's Education in London. She has done public relations for Christie's, New York, and has researched antique porcelain, silver, and glass for James Robinson, Inc. She lives in New York City, where she lectures on dining history at Sotheby's Institute of Art.
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