Posts Categorized: Early-modern-life



Before the Thanksgiving turkey came the banquet peacock

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.


Hating on star-gazing: Early modern astrology and its critics

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.


Eggs in moonshine and spinach toasts: Two early modern recipes for a sweet breakfast

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.






Cursing Coriolanus and combating cornhoarders

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 »