Food and the Rites of Passage

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Laura Mason
Prospect Books, 2002 - Cooking - 166 pages
1 Review
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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One of the outcomes of the excellent Leeds Symposium, it has to be said that this is not a light read but a collection of academic essays. Ivan Day's essay on bride cakes is detailed and enlightening ... Read full review


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About the author (2002)

LAURA MASON is an independent scholar who lives in York, England. She writes on aspects of British food culture for various publications.

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