The next time you’re in the buffet line, imagine the platters are adorned with silver sculpted rabbits and heads of cauliflower. Or picture a wedding with a soaring sugar monument instead of cake and the White House surrounded by triumphal arches made of bread, cheese and suckling pigs.

Such notions may sound farfetched today but outdoor towers of meat for the taking and tureens draped with silver crayfish were common at banquets and street fairs in Renaissance Europe. Foodies can learn more through a visit to a new exhibition at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

“The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals” is three rooms of illustrations from the museum’s research institute annals that depict food from festivals and fine dinner parties in early modern Europe. There are also showy serving platters on view and a nearly nine-foot long sugar sculpture of the Greek sorceress Circe transforming Odysseus’s men into swine.

Here’s my piece for NPR’s The Salt about the sugar art in the exhibition.


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