Follow the turkey on its fascinating journey from America to Europe to the Mughal and Ottoman empires, through early modern trade networks.
Posts Categorized: Early-modern-life
Learn about the early modern precursor to turducken (a huge turkey pie with duck but no chicken) and make your own mini pies using this adapted recipe.
Lavish dinners—and the cookbooks and instruction manuals for how to execute them—were popular during the Renaissance, and they emphasized the art of food, in addition to—and at times, over—its taste. Peacocks were thus an ideal banquet food because their colorful plumage made for artful display. But over the early modern period, turkeys came to replace peacocks as the customary food of ceremonies and holidays.
Where do you turn for answers to pressing questions? You might glance at a weather forecast, the latest political polls, a book of theology or philosophy—or flip a coin. People living in the early modern period likewise had their ways of seeking solutions to life’s puzzles and finding guidance in the face of uncertainty. Besides prayer, a common practice was to turn to astrology and read the heavens for their influences upon human agents. Indeed, it is hard to overstate how pervasive astrological belief was during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At once esoteric and yet imminently practical, Renaissance astrology touched upon all sectors of early modern lives.
Even though the combination of eggs and sugar along with butter and flour forms the cornerstone of baking, the idea of poaching eggs in sweet wine, or adding sugar to your scrambled eggs, might seem heretical to many. But this is exactly how egg dishes were often prepared in the upper-class households of early modern England. In a time when sugar was still a luxury commodity, enmeshed in colonial trade networks, and purchased at the cost of countless human lives, its inclusion in practically every dish became a marker of wealth and status among elite households across Europe. The two recipes presented here will strike many modern readers as unusual.
Nightmares and ominous dreams are used to great dramatic effect in plays such as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Act I of Shakespeare’s Richard III ends with the murder of the Duke of Clarence, presaged by the dream of drowning he recounts at the start of the scene. Just as the dream is about to end, howling… Continue Reading »
Why was herpetophagy (eating reptiles and amphibians) linked with madness in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”? Unpack the cultural anxieties involved in early modern English encounters with unfamiliar dietary norms.
In Act 1, Scene 3 of Othello, the manipulative Iago urges Roderigo, a wealthy Venetian recently disappointed in love, to join him in a plot to humiliate Othello. Reveling in the destruction he plans to inflict upon Othello’s romance with Desdemona, Iago declares that “The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts… Continue Reading »
Shakespeare’s plays are full of references to food and cookery, but they’re not always very appetizing. In Hamlet, the ghost of elder Hamlet describes the effect of the poison that Claudius pours into his ears, how it winds its way through the veins of his body and suddenly “doth posset / And curd, like eager… Continue Reading »
In 1608, famine plagued England. Preachers responded with sermons begging the gentry to show compassion for the poor, King James I responded with royal proclamations against grain hoarding, and Shakespeare responded with Coriolanus, a Roman revenge-tragedy. Likely composed in 1608 and staged c. 1609-1610, Coriolanus opens with starving citizens storming the stage with rakes, pikes,… Continue Reading »