Food and the Rites of Passage
Baptism, marriage, childbirth, death: these are the milestones of life, invariably marked by a feast or comforting rituals founded on food and drink. Some of these habits flourished, then died away - think of the cups of wine passed around the gossips gathered at a lying in; others have gone on to be industries in their own right - the wedding cake, which has slowly but surely evolved from the giant flat discs of bride cake illustrated in the sensational full-colour cover of a fete in Bermondsey by Hofnagel in the seventeenth century, to the many-tiered and icing-bedaubed monuments of today. The book consists of six essays by recognised food-historians, each taking in turn one of these milestones, sometimes (but not always) with a certain north-country bias: Peter Brears writes on funerals; Dr Layinka Swinburne writes on childbirth; Laura Mason on wedding cakes; Ivan Day on old marriage customs; and Professor Tony Green on the sociology of the modern wedding celebration. There is also an overview of Irish food customs, with reference to these rites, by the well-regarded young Irish food historian, Regina Sexton.
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