These are Acanthus leaves, not that I knew it when I photographed them in the Fellows’ Garden at Christ’s College today. I asked one of the gardeners and he referred me to the head gardener who was repotting a bush. The bush was one of two bushes, a pair, that had been in pots that dated from 1642 (or some similar date). One of the pots had broken into nine pieces and we agreed that four hundred years was pretty good going for a pot. So, because one of the two pots had broken apart, the gardeners had to repot both bushes in new pots.
So they were repotting the bushes and I asked what the plant was (I had taken a snap on my phone so that I could show him). When he said it was an Acanthus, my mind span off into my schooldays, being taught the elements of Greek architecture, with Acanthus leaves decorating Corinthian columns. Could I still trot out Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, the stages in Greek column design? Almost.
Here are the shrubs, min-trees, (?) in the pots. I looked at them again today and if I had to say what they are I would hazard a guess that they are Yew. But I am not sure. I looked for a gardener to ask but couldn’t find one. Maybe next time.
And here is a leaf I felt and bent over. Thin as paper, bends easily, not what I expected – I expected something stiffer.
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.