Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rococo Cocoa

If you had arrived in Vienna in 1730, weary from your travels upon a donkey, and stopped at an inn for a crust of bread and some hot chocolate to refresh yourself, this is what you would have been served. Blimey, you would have thought, that’s a tad excessive.

People back then were stucco crazy. Everywhere you looked, great dollops of the lime, sand and water mixture had been applied to every surface. White was all the rage. Even people made themselves whiter than they already were by powdering their faces and hair, the men sporting white wigs while the women crafted elaborate hairdos supplemented by hairpieces, which were then powdered white-ish (not to be confused with the men).

Food was not immune: fantastically crafted pastries and sugar follies graced tables, mimicking the architectural detailing all around. It was the age of the spatula, the trowel, and the star-shaped icing tip.

The only thing that wasn’t white were teeth.

There was nothing else for the wealthy to do. There was no TV, sports or scrapbooking to keep them occupied.

All this excess had its downside, however, because the peasants thought it a bit frivolous. They revolted, and chopped off all the be-wigged heads. Marie Antoinette is (erroneously) credited with suggesting the starving masses eat cake if they had no bread. Not, perhaps, the best bit of advice. The revolutionaries replied with the traditional response to such things: “suck on this!” 

The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, Time-Life Books, 1968

Also from this book: The Butcher of Dubrovnik

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