|The Dinners at the Oxford Symposium, in the Authoress's humble opinion|
exceed all Conference Fare in both Flavour and Company
What did people think about the "foodie" of 18th century England, if such a type even existed? I'm only just beginning to research this topic, but it appears as if he was hardly any less controversial than today. Scholars of 18th century Britain will know that contemporaries cast an equivocal eye upon connoisseurs of all sorts: "virtuosos" "collectors" and "dilettantes." The "epicure" –– I use it here to mean indicate a connoisseur of food –– was anything but exempt.
|The periodical ran through 1754-1756|
It was published on a weekly basis
Anyway, in 1756, an entire article was devoted to the travails of the bon-vivant. "There are a sort of men," remarks the author, "whose chief pride is a good taste (as they call it) and a great stomach: and the whole business of their lives is included in their breakfast, dinner and supper."
But what sort of qualities did this 18th century "epicure" possess? The Connoisseur brings up three points:
1) The 18th century epicure always seems to be male; in my research thus far, I have yet to run across a woman revealed to profess proclivities for fine food. And while women gathered in salons (Elizabeth Montagu's coterie of Blue-Stockings being one of the most famous) the fare described was usually limited to tea and an assortment of light "dainties" hardly akin to the exquisite dinners enjoyed in all-male dining clubs convening in bustling London taverns.
|Thomas Rowlandson, "The Glutton"|
|Glasse's chef d'oeuvre:|
Look like food porn to you?
For thousands of years, the communal meal has been conceived of as a fundamentally "sociable" activity. Yet it appears that the entry of the foodie into metropolitan life turned ideas about "polite sociability" –– a traditional hallmark of 18th century culture –– upside down.