If London's Victoria & Albert Museum, known for its fascinating and eclectic exhibitions, were to mount a show of gastronomic images from the annals of history, the reviews would be glowing and the lines would be long. The result, I suspect, would be much like this impeccably produced trade paperback that celebrates all visual aspects of the art of food, from kitchen garden to banquet table. It’s a museum show in a slipcase that will delight any ardent food lover, whether amateur or professional.
From harvest to market, from larder to kitchen to table, Food Mania tracks the visual record of food, much as its charming predecessor Garden Mania gloried in the art of gardening. It's all here: the cultivation, the preparation, the manners, the rituals, and, of course, the consumption.
Most of these colorful paintings, engravings, or illustrations come from the 18th and 19th centuries. They are organized by their moment in the food cycle -- the harvest, the market, the larder, the kitchen, the table. There are the Dutch still-lifes from the 17th century; plans for a French potager (c. 1760); a still-life of white grapes by Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1827); the colorful, sometimes salacious, French menu cards of La Belle Époque; and a New Year's scene from the Savoy Hotel (1914). Some are designed to be instructional (presentations from the second edition of Mrs. Beaton's Book of Household Management), others, commercial (advertisements for Bovril) or satirical (British and Russian cooks fight over a great bowl of polenta labeled "Asia," while other nations wait their turn ). A brief essay accompanies every chapter. From the mayhem of the kitchen to the ordered universe of the table, Food Mania celebrates the art of food. (Ginger Curwen)