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While marriage has not always been a love story, the wedding feast has always been the moment of excess. Although laws limited the spending of marriage during the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, their wealth was not hidden and the union of families was sealed by a banquet. The time for a shared meal, the banquet thus breaks with everyday eating habits by the abundance of dishes and entremets, rich in taste and dear to the purse.
© Shutterstock / Elena Shashkina – Croquembouche: cabbage, custard and caramelized sugar
From the private contract to the testimony of love

Marriage has not always been a love story. Three pillars that have lasted until 20 th  century were the basis of this institution  : the transfer of property, the right to women’s sexuality and legitimation of children.

In classical antiquity , the union between the girl and the suitor is based on a simple private contractbetween the two families. In Greece, no betrothal. The nuptials take place in winter , outside the months of work in the fields. Under the Roman Empire, the betrothal became obligatory. Some days were forbidden to marry, as at the Lemuria , Day of the Dead.

During the Middle Ages , in the 13 th  century, marriage includes the Sacraments  of the Christian Church and is prohibited during Lent . The union is considered as a divine and sacred intention with rules of fidelity and monogamy. It is at this moment also, under the probable impulse of courtly love, that the affection between the spouses begins to appear in the ecclesiastical discourse. The union also becomes a matter of heart. In Europe, the Reformation followed by the French Revolutionundermined the institution of marriage: the former took away its sacred character, while the latter gave the power to marry civil status .

Abundant foods

The wedding feast has never been neglected, in any setting. It is the occasion to seal the union of the two families by the sharing of food. The excess is then appropriate.

During European antiquity and the Middle Ages, sumptuary laws guaranteed social order by limiting expenditure and conspicuous consumption, especially in the case of marriages. However, it would appear that no one respected these restrictions. In the Greek cities, the jewels of the bride testified to the opulence of her family. The wedding feast, to which no more than thirty guests were invited, was rich in various meats and fish . Each family occupied a separate table . The banquet was closed by sesamous , a cake of toasted sesame seeds and honey reserved for the bride and groom, while the guests shared the plakous flour, Honey and goat cheese . Under the Roman Empire , on the morning of the great day, the bridegrooms offered Jupiter a cake of spelled before being united “by water and fire, by wheat and sacred flour” (Melchior -Bonnet, Salles, 2010).

In the Middle Ages , devoid of religious characteristics, banquets are real spectacles . The nobility takes as much care in the decoration of the room (tapestries, fountains) as in the choice of dishes and entremets , these were then moments of entertainment. Now, in less sumptuous banquets, the entremets already had a culinary meaning: they were wheat and fish jellies. The sources tell us that in 1458, for the marriage between the Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold and the English Duchess Margaret of York, forty-eight dishes were served, including birds restored to the nearest living.

Shortly before the French Revolution, it is said that the bourgeois stern banquets were boring. In the country , on the contrary, we celebrated! The daily meals were substituted for one day, pies, pates, meats and cakes, which the groom himself served to his guests. In the 19 th  century , there was little change in rural areas. Desserts and sweet dishes highlighted the exceptional appearance of the meal and a break with the daily diet, and the French bourgeois discovered the croquembouche of Antonin Carême , forerunner of today’s climbing room .

Eggs and spoons, witnesses of affection

In rural societies in Europe, affection is evidenced by everyday objects . In the Czech Republic, on Easter Monday , the girl offers sixty eggs painted to the young man in affection. If he accepts, the lover will plant a tree on the night of May 1 st . In Italy and Austria, for example, decorated spoons are offered , symbolizing food and fertility . It is not insignificant that löffeln in German or spooning in English can not be reduced to ‘ spooning ‘ , but also express love affection .

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