Friday, October 19, 2012

Banqueting in History

These are from Larousse Gastronomique, via Conor Friedersdorf:
  • The Banquets of the Egyptians -- "Boy and girl musicians provided music on the harp, lyre and tambourine, blending the harmony of their instruments with the fragrance of the dishes and the measured movements of the dancing girls. Sometimes even acrobats and pantomimes performed their comic or daring turns during or after the meal... In order to inspire guests to enjoy all the terrestrial pleasures to the full, a coffin was brought in at the end of the meal, with an imitation skeleton in it, so that in front of the image of death, more value was set on the joys of the table in particular." 
  • The Banquets of the Assyrians and the Chaldeans -- "The doors of the palace remained open to all comers for seven days. Multicolored draperies were hung on the walls, transforming the courtyards into immense banqueting halls. People crowded into them from morning till night, stretching out on state couches or sitting on seats, ordering whatever they liked. The slaves had been ordered to refuse than nothing, but to bring everyone whatever they desired."  
  • The Banquets of the Hebrews -- "At the time of the Kings, Hebrews sat down to take their meals. Later they adopted the habit of reclining on couches to eat. Then they perfumed their wine added fragrant essences to it... As soon as the guests arrived at the house prepared for the banquet, holy water and perfumes were poured on him, he was crowned with flowers and took his place according to his rank. Glass vessels with relief design on them were placed in front of him and utensils of bronze, gold and silver were set on the table."
  •  The Banquets of the Persians -- "The Persian kings tables' were lavish, if we are to go by what Athenaeus says: 'one thousand animals are slaughtered daily for the Kings table; these comprise horses, camels, oxes, asses, dear and most of the smaller animals. Many birds are also consumed, such as Arabian ostriches... geese and cocks. They sometimes used to roast animals whole. The Book of Esther describes a banquet given by Ahasuerus, at which Queen Vashti's fall from favor was proclaimed... This magnificent banquet, served in the palace gardens, lasted seven days. White, green and hyacinth colored tapestries were attached with cords of fine scarlet linen and silver rings to marble columns. The couches were silver and gold on floors of porphyry, alabaster and streaked marble. Drinks were poured into gold cups of different shapes and there was an abundance of wine. The manner of drinking was as ordered."

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