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Extreme eating and attitudes to food today

Extreme eating and attitudes to food today

Cambridge Festival of Ideas highlights links between historical and current attitudes to eating

A fascinating event at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas explores our complex relationship - and that of past generations - with food and eating.

Extreme eating: fasting and feasting in early modern Europe 1500-1800 on 20th October provides a sneak-preview of a ground-breaking exhibition coming to the UK in 2019.

For the event, co-curators Vicky Avery and Melissa Calaresu will lay out the idea for the exhibition with a focus on extreme feasting using some examples from the courts of Charles I and Louis XIV, followed by criticism of feasting in the early modern period, in particular, from religious reformers. It will then move on to discuss extreme fasting - part of an early Christian tradition which then got picked in the 16th and 17th century by Protestants, who in turn became interested in dietary regimes such as vegetarianism.

The exhibition, scheduled to run from late autumn 2019 at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, builds on the huge success of the 2015 Treasured Possessions exhibition which also involved a collaboration between museum curators and University of Cambridge historians.

Avery and Calaresu say that, while the 2015 exhibition introduced cutting-edge research on the history of food within the larger story of consumption and material culture, the new exhibition will focus exclusively on food and present novel approaches to understanding the history and culture of food through objects, images and texts, the majority of which comes from Cambridge collections and highlights ‘hidden treasures’ not normally accessible to the public.

Linking to current preoccupations with food, it will explore controversial themes such as overconsumption in times of austerity, the origins of food and food safety, our relationship with animals and animal welfare, as well as issues concerning diet, nutrition and food angst. Each exhibit will be historically contextualised, linking the past with the present.

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas runs from 15th to 28th October and is packed with over 200 events, exhibitions, talks and performances, many of them free.

The Festival sponsors and partners are St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Cambridge Junction and Cambridge University Press. The Festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.

For more information, contact Mandy Garner on 07789 106435 or email mandy.garner@admin.cam.ac.uk. Full details of the programme can be found on www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas. #camideasfest

*Picture credit: Joris van Son [1623-1667]: Still life with a lobster [1660]