Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts

Dining in Victorian America

  • Author(s): Williams, Susan
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1996-04-03
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $30.00 | Buy Now

Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts offers a delightfully flavorful tour of dining in America during the second half of the nineteenth century. Susan Williams investigates the manners and morals of that era by looking at its eating customs and cooking methods. As she reveals, genteel dining became an increasingly important means of achieving social stability during a period when Americans were facing significant changes on a variety of fronts—social, cultural, intellectual, technological, and demographic.

Focusing on the rapidly expanding middle class, Williams not only examines mealtime rituals, but she looks at the material culture of Victorian dining: the furniture, the furnishings, and the growing array of accouterments—from asparagus tongs to sardine servers and lace doilies—that supported genteel expectations for table side behavior. She also explores changing ideas about meals—how they fit into the daily schedule and what kinds of food and drink came to characterize specific meals and menus. Complementing Williams’ analysis and descriptions is a lavish array of illustrations, as well as a rich sampling of recipes from the diaries and cookbooks of the era. The result is at once an informative look at life in Victorian America and a sumptuous celebration of a key moment in the country’s culinary experience.

For this new paperback edition, Williams has updated the bibliography and included a new introduction that summarizes trends and advances in the study of dining since the book’s first publication in 1985.

The Author: Susan Williams is assistant professor of history at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts.