frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote in little_details,

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Snackish Sorts of Food in Renaissance Italy

The place: Northern Italy, in what is now the Veneto province
The time: Fudged a little. Let's say, from c. 1350 - c. oh, 1570, maybe? If pressed, towards the later end of that spectrum.

The research so far: Googled variations on "renaissance," "italy," "candy," "sweets," "breakfast." Checked out some of the resources under, and have Elizabeth Cohen and Thomas Cohen's Daily Life in Renaissance Italy (Greenwood Press 2001) at my elbow. I think I have a rough view of what I need here, but as always, it's those Little Details that are the collective kicker.

Question One: Characters A and B are ten-year-old boys, of the elite/aristocratic class. They are out and about on market day, and, through a mildly disturbing sequence of events, have wound up in charge of Character C, who is six, for the day. Character C has just been through a somewhat traumatizing experience, and won't stop crying. Being ten, Characters A and B decide that The Thing To Do is to give him a little treat, which they intend to purchase at the market with their pocket money.

If they were in the present day, they'd be buying fairly substantial lollipops. At this point in Italy, refined sugar is available, since Venice is the clearinghouse for imports from the Middle East. I've found lots of recipes for the most eye-popping confections, but these were mostly intended to be served at banquets. However, some of the old cookbooks do include recipes for things like taffy and general how-to's for boiling sugar to the hard-crack stage. So, is it at least plausible that these children might be able to find some kind of hard candy, preferably on a stick, at this market? The stick isn't so important, but it would be nice if they could get something approaching the texture of a lollipop.

Question Two: It's about ten years later. Character D, who is another elite/aristocratic young man of twenty, has had a Very Rough Night. He's not physically ill, but he's emotionally fragile at the moment, has been fighting what we would recognize as a low-level case of anorexia for several years, and has just received some utterly devastating news. He's spent the night alternately crying and retching, and poor old Character B has been taking care of him. They finally fell asleep around maybe 3:30 - 4:00 in the morning, more from physical exhaustion than anything else.

The sun has risen, and it's time to start the day. Character D's family is aware of his Very Rough Night (since his screaming probably woke at least some of them up). They know exactly what triggered the VRN, and are therefore prepared to be a little indulgent and coddle him today. Ideally, I would like to have the head of the household bring in a tray of something simple but tempting, in the hopes that Character B can coax Character D into eating something.

I gather that, in England, at least, breakfast as such was fairly uncommon, though it became more common as the early modern period progressed. However, one reference mentioned that children, the elderly, and the sick ate breakfast more regularly. Let's assume that Character D's family decides to treat him as if he's sick. What sort of food and/or drink might be on that tray? Something that could be presented in bite-size morsels would be ideal, though not absolutely required.

Thanks in advance for any help with these issues!
Tags: 1300-1399, 1400-1499, 1500-1599, europe: history, italy: food and drink, italy: history, ~middle ages, ~renaissance

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