One of the people I follow on twitter is someone who posts 140-character fragments from the diaries of Samuel Pepys. One that was posted this morning gave me pause:
samuelpepys Saw the King and Queen at dinner; and the formality of putting bread wiped upon each dish into the mouth of every man that brings a dish.
Interesting. This tells me that potluck dinners have been around for a long time — one person didn’t cater the whole dinner, a number contributed. This makes sense — I remember from one of my English courses that hosting a masque at one’s estate for the royalty could be bankrupting.
Also realized, from that sentence, that the King and Queen didn’t rely upon one person to be a taster to prevent the monarch from poisoning: you bring a dish, you taste some of it on a piece of bread to prove that you haven’t poisoned it.
I can picture a procession of people entering the dinner room (I’m making this up)… all lined up, their ceramic pots of food swaddled in cloth to both keep the food warm and the participant’s hands cooler. They approach, one by one, a member of the King’s party, where they unveil the dish, remove the lid (hmm. Lids at that time were frequently made of pastry), and show it to the gatekeeper-of-sorts, who breaks a piece of bread from a loaf, swipes it through the dish, and pops it into the mouth of the food’s maker.
Visually, almost pantomimes communion.
Can you picture this happening at a modern dinner party for a head of state?