In Britain a fashion for sculptural food can be traced back to Medieval Royal feasts and the use of sotelties moulded in the shapes of people, animals, and mythical creatures in wax, marzipan or sugar. These in-between courses showstoppers were accompanied by texts or verses that revealed their allegorical nature, for example an angel accompanied by a text: ‘Thanke all, god, of this feste’.
By the nineteenth century such ostentatious trionfi di tavola (triumphs of the table) were deemed excessive. Urbain Dubois, chef de cuisine to Wilhelm I of Prussia, created sculptures that reflected the Kaisers two greatest passions: warfare and hunting. A sculpture depicting the pleasures of the hunt in the form of a boar’s head and miniature stags, made from fat, must be one of the most ghastly food sculptures ever made. More attractive were the huge Gothic sugar centrepieces, such as that recreated by food historian Ivan Day at www.historicfood.com
~ How to Make A Solomon’s Temple in Flummery ~
Take a quart of stiff flummery and divide into three parts. Make one a pretty pink colour with a little cochineal, bruised and steeped in brandy. Scrape an ounce of chocolate and mix with another part of flummery to make a stone colour. The third part must be white. Then fill your mould first with pink flummery for the tower and then white for the turrets. Fill the base with chocolate flummery and let it stand for one day. Then loosen it round with a pin and shake it out gently. When you set it out, stick a small sprig of flowers into each tower, which will strengthen it and also give it a genteel appearance.
Extracted from THE PENNY HEART by Martine Bailey, to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2015.
Martine Bailey’s debut historical novel, AN APPETITE FOR VIOLETS, is available now in trade paperback and as an eBook from Hodder & Stoughton. Find out more on the Hodder website here, by visiting Martine Bailey’s website and by following her on Twitter.