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The Magic Harvest is a rich and wide-ranging account of the history of popular beliefs about food in Europe.Focusing on Italy, Camporesi examines the social symbolism of food, and its associated rituals. He shows how the act of eating at weddings and seasonal feasts was seen as a metaphor for copulation: how Christmas and Easter were marked by special cakes rich in eggs, symbolizing renewal: how bread was viewed as a magic talisman against the forces of darkness: and how the harvest was regarded as the offspring of a fertile Earth which yielded up its fruits. All this rich and varied symbolism, he suggests, has become an opaque enigma for us today.Camporesi describes the various diets of the preindustrial age, from the peasant rituals which revolved around a great cooking-pot suspended from the chimney, simmering continuously over the fire without regard to the changing seasons, to the bourgeois cuisine of the nineteenth century, catalogued in the cookery book of Pellegrino Artusi, the 'Italian Mrs. Beeton'.In The Magic Harvest Camporesi once again explores the margins of official history.
This original and penetrating study of the dietary systems, rituals and beliefs associated with food will be welcomed by students and researchers in social and cultural history, as well as anyone interested in the history of food and its preparation.
Piero Camporesi is Professor of Italien Literature at the University of Bologna.