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FAIRFAX HOUSE 1997
THE PLEASURES OF THE TABLE

This exhibition focused on the eighteenth century dessert course, its principle feature being a re-creation of a 1750s table setting. Peter Brown, the director of Fairfax House and curator of the exhibition, sourced a remarkable assemblage of contemporary silver and glass tableware. Ivan Day and Tony Barton produced the sugar sculpture for the plateau. The dessert foods consisted of a typical array of eighteenth century English luxury items made from contemporary recipes. These included diablotins or diavolini (comfit-covered chocolates), gooseberries as hops, apricot knots, coffee wafers and chocolate puffs. The sources for these recipes were works on confectionery by Edward Lambert, Hannah Glasse, Elizabeth Price, Bernard Claremont and Hannah Robertson.

A view if the sugar sables parterres. The are made with pasteboard covered with chenille and filled with coloured sugar 'sands'. The red sugar was stained with cochineal, the green with spinach and the yellow with gum gamboge.

The sorceress Circe turns Odysseus's men into swine.


Literature: Peter Brown and Ivan Day, The Pleasures of the Table. Ritual and Display in the European Dining Room 1600-1900 York Civic Trust 1997 ISBN 0948939 117


All photographs on this page - courtesy of Fairfax House

Although there are descriptions of English plateau desserts of this kind, there are very few images of them. Ivan therefore turned to a French source as a model - Menon's La science de maître d’hôtel confiseur (Paris: 1749). The building is a palace of Circe, the sorceress from Homer's Odyssey. Circe is turning Odysseus's carousing men into swine, a parable of greed that would not have been lost on the diners.
Menon's sugar parterre designs

Menon's design for the Palais de Circé

Click on the thumbnail to see more images from The Pleasures of the Table

 

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