Photography

Sugar comfits: the original confetti

a table in the Feast & Fast exhibition on at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The exhibition describes itself as presenting novel approaches to understanding the history and culture of food and eating.

This is a table in the Feast & Fast exhibition on at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The exhibition describes itself as presenting novel approaches to understanding the history and culture of food and eating. The explanation for the table is interesting

A Sugar Banquet for an English Renaissance Wedding

Combining historic objects with replica food items, this recreation of an early 1600s banquet by food historian lvan Day explores some forgotten English dining and bridal traditions. In Renaissance England, a ‘banquet’ meant both a large formal dinner and the confectionery course afterwards, often served in a small garden building called a banqueting house. Sugary preserves, candies, comfits, figurative gingerbreads, wafers, and biscuits — like those shown here made from original moulds or designs — were eaten with a sweet spiced wine called hippocras. The centre of the table was adorned with a sugar paste or marzipan ‘conceit often in the form of an animal, bird or Duilding, here a miniature version of the banqueting house at Melford Hall, Suffolk, surrounded by a marzipan knot garden after designs in William Lawson’s The Country Housewives Garden of 1618.

Renaissance banquets were full of anusement and games. Songs and poems were painted onto the underside of wooden trenchers, like those displayed here, or included with small gifts inside some of the food. some banquet table items were designed to deceive. Here the fashionable footed stands (tazze) and blue-and-white Chinese dishes are not made from porcelain but sugar paste, so they could be eaten alongside the ‘real’ food. But even some of this was fake: the walnuts and their shells, and the bacon and eggs are from sugar. The sugar-paste gloves (mimicking the perfumed kid gloves traditionally given to wedding guests), the silver-gilt cup with gilded rosemary tied with ‘bride’ knots, the pair of bride knives (given by the groom to his bride), and the Sugar comfits (the original confetti thrown over the happy couple) are forgotten English wedding traditions.

Sugar comfits (the original confetti thrown over the happy couple) – that is something I learned. And that a ‘banquet’ meant both a large formal dinner and the confectionery course afterwards, often served in a small garden building called a banqueting house.

Busts On Plinths

I took this photograph because it seems to me that the people depicted have not been afforded the dignity they deserve, even though they are dead and not aware of how they are being treated. They are to the right of a door leading to a gallery, at the top of a wide staircase. They were dignitaries in their day, and now they are shunted off to a corridor. It doesn’t seem too far a stretch to ‘heads on pikes’. Well, that is too melodramatic, but still.

You might not see it that way, of course.

Because I am interested in etymology, I looked up plinth and bust.

Plinth: a heavy base supporting a statue or vase, from the Greek plinthos, squared brick or stone.

Bust: a sculpture of the upper torso and head, from Latin bustum “funeral monument, tomb,” originally “funeral pyre, place where corpses are burned.

I didn’t expect the derivation from funeral pyre to the upper torso and head.. How did that come about? And who burned corpses? Was it a Greek habit? I thought the Greeks buried their dead.

The Metropolitan Museum says as follows:

The Greeks believed that at the moment of death, the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind. The deceased was then prepared for burial according to the time-honored rituals. Ancient literary sources emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity (Iliad 23: 71). Relatives of the deceased, primarily women, conducted the elaborate burial rituals that were customarily of three parts: the prothesis (laying out of the body, the ekphora (funeral procession), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. 

So when would the body be cremated? Plainly the text envisages that they were cremated, and not ‘burned’ as in an accident, in a fire, but the bodies burned.

Misty In Cambridge This Morning

Not only was it misty, someone had gone around and edged the leaves in white and put little dots of white along the veins of the leaves.

Which reminds me of a poem, half remembered that I wrote when I was about fifteen. My parents, grandparents and I would go out in the car. We lived a long way from the countryside, and really it would not have made much difference had we been nearer. You could drive in the countryside and you could get out in a lay-by and eat sandwiches and drink tea from a flask. But you couldn’t get into the countryside, not really into it. This is England: You couldn’t and you cannot just get out and walk.

Well, you could if you went to a National Park, but they don’t grow on trees. So I wrote this poem that was odd really because I am not sure exactly what it was speaking to. I don’t remember the whole poem, but it was a series of records of things you could see in the countryside, in nature. I remember the very end of the poem because of the last two lines.

So imagine the poem started with a line about what you could see. Then there was a list of things, and then the penultimate line, the last in the list of things you could see, was something like ‘the veins on a leaf caught in the sunlight’, and then the last line.

So the poem went something like this:

You can see
….
….
The veins on a leaf caught in the sunlight
But not through a car window.

Stepping Out Cool In New York

I came across this photo in my files while I was look for something else. It’s a crop of a street scene in lower Manhattan in New York. I am on the pavement and two men are walking across the street towards me on the crossing. Both wore hats and one was Asian. I couldn’t see the other man because he had dark glasses on, but maybe Hispanic. The trilby that the Asian man was wearing was a fashion statement. All their clothes were, and looking at it when I came across the photo took me back to think about when I was still at school.

I had a pair of Hush Puppies, brown suede. I think I wore that brand from my mid to late teens. I thought they were cool. I wonder what word I used to describe them, because I doubt whether it was ‘cool’. Then I developed a whole thing about revolting against looking cool and that included not cutting my hair or my beard. The idea was not to be or to look artificial or the product of artifice in any way. It’s a forlorn hope, but the intent was there.

I know I took this photo because I thought the men looked both cool and at the same time slightly ridiculous. Just a little bit, because it is a free world and maybe it is fun to dress up. As long as it doesn’t become a straight-jacket that controls thought and experience.

Hair Styles

Here is my big thought. Hair styles are what set human beings apart from the animals. Start with the hair style and everything else flows out from them.

Tamara and I knew a woman (she is dead now, G-d rest her soul) and she had a great French cut, hair shaped and tapered in on the back of her neck. She had a very experience-filled life, fleeing countries and ending up in arty England. Despite her age she looked great with that well-cut style.

Bottom line – Tamara keeps telling me to buy some clothes – get rid of my mall-man fleece and buy some decent clothes. And I don’t know what to get.