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The Cabinet of Culinary Curiosities

Edited by Ning Huang and Zenia Malmer

 

A column dedicated to the fascinating study of food history, with an emphasis on its material culture. Led by two design history students who are passionate about food, this online platform aims to address a wide range of food history themes from a design historian’s perspective, including: food as a designed thing, tools used in the preparation of food, food technologies, packaging, advertising and more. Photo essays, interviews with relevant ‘foodie’ academics and exhibition reviews will complement this column.

Would you like to contribute? Email us at:
zenia.malmer@network.rca.ac.uk / ning.huang@network.rca.ac.uk


 

A year later…

Zenia Malmer    You could say that the ‘The Cabinet of Culinary Curiosities’ started out as an experiment. An opportunity for Ning and I to explore what the combination of food history + design history would yield, and if this had a life beyond the formal assignments that the V&A/RCA History of Design course demanded.

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How Readers Interacted with Culinary Recipes in the Latter Half of the 19th Century: Some Musings

Zenia Malmer   In a time when recipe books targeted towards amateur or inexperienced cooks proliferated, a question that many scholars have asked, is how these publications were perceived and used. Ken Albala, food historian, rightly underlines that ‘we still have much to learn about the modes through which cooks as readers interact with culinary

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The Architectural Design of Wedding Cakes: Part 2

Zenia Malmer   This month’s post further explores the intersection between architecture and wedding cakes, following the publication of the first segment in May. In this post, I turn my attention to evidence that reveals how important it was for a confectioner or domestic cook to showcase his or her talents by creating cakes inspired

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The architectural design of wedding cakes: Part 1

Zenia Malmer   Currently on show at the V&A is an exhibition documenting the development of the ‘fashionable white wedding dress’ and its interpretation by fashion designers, from 1775 to today.[1] Highlights include the nuptial garments worn by celebrities such as Kate Moss and Dita Von Teese, as well as intricately made lace veils and

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Jōnamagashi: Japanese Sweet of ‘Tea Taste’

Ning Huang   It has been more than a year since I started my research on wagashi – Japanese confectionery – and adopted a new approach to material culture studies from the perspective of a food historian. I have to admit that my initial inspiration was purely personal: dazzled by the unusual but elegant visual

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A visit to the Fortnum & Mason archive: Tracing the history of an icon

Zenia Malmer   It is a well-known fact that London is home to a rich array of archives and collections. As part of this blog, I want to stick my nose into those that relate more directly to food, and report about their historic contents on this platform. This article will be about my recent visit

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Boxed for Pleasure: An Eighteenth Century Chinese Box for Sweets and Snacks

Ning Huang   In Chapter 40 of Dream of A Red Chamber, a mid-eighteenth-century Chinese novel regarded as a great classic, the hero Pao-yü, an aristocratic descendant, suggests an unconventional arrangement of a family feast to his grandmother, the authority of the family. Instead of spreading an extensive banquet with a variety of dishes, Pao-yü

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Imperfect cake? Impossible.
Or, what your cake says about you.

Zenia Malmer   Making a cake with powdered mix is like blowing up a bouncy castle: it looks like a real castle, but basically, it just contains hot air. Cake should be made from scratch, not from a box. Then again, I may be overly judgmental. In spite of my opinion, cake mix has a fascinating history

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Kisetsukan:
Japanese Inherent ‘Sense of Season’?

Ning Huang    On a research trip to Tokyo last week, I saw the famous Christmas tree and light-up at Kitte, a shopping centre neighbouring Tokyo Station. Designed by the young and innovative Japanese architect Makoto Tanijiri, the display treats the white tree as a blank canvas and applies lights and background music to generate

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The pineapple: displaying status
An introduction

Zenia Malmer   The other day, I asked myself why I place fruit in a bowl that I then display in the center of my dining table. What audience am I addressing with my seemingly nonsense display of apples, pears and oranges, apart from myself and the occasional guests I invite to my flat? Unearthing

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