News Article

Food 101

EW reviews two new food titles -- We take a closer look at ''Charlemagne's Tablecloth'' and ''A Revolution in Eating''

EW reviews two new food titles

Nichola Fletcher's book, Charlemagne's Tablecloth, unfolds like a richly threaded, jewel-encrusted tapestry, so fabulous is her research on different kinds of feasts throughout history. She describes one held in September 1465 for the Archbishop of York with a menu of 41,833 items of meat, including 4,000 rabbits, 1,000 egrets, and 400 peacocks; King Midas' funeral feast in his tomb in 700 B.C., which was almost perfectly preserved from the desert heat; and a 15th-century wedding in Italy in which ''the entire table service was made out of sugar: plates, cutlery, and even wineglasses.'' James E. McWilliams' subject in A Revolution in Eating, while less glamorous, is still fascinating: an examination of what colonial Americans ate, whether they were natives, slaves, or immigrants, and how those cooking traditions have evolved ever since. He examines the ever-changing recipe for the rice-and-beans dish ''hoppin' John'' and the influence of scrapple, the Pennsylvania Dutch dish of cornmeal and pigs' innards, writing engagingly, though with an occasional dollop of academic dryness. Still, anyone curious about the cultural history of that meatloaf on the dinner plate will gobble it up. Tablecloth: A- Revolution: B+Tina Jordan

Originally posted Aug 05, 2005 Published in issue #833 Aug 12, 2005 Order article reprints