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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The history of eating on the street presents particular challenges as the extant material culture is especially limited. This chapter reveals the variety of food sold on the streets of early modern Rome through the study of a series of images of street sellers printed in the late sixteenth century in response to the growing ethnographic interest of travelers to the city. This chapter turns on its head what was considered a luxury in the early modern economy as these images suggest the range of foodstuffs which cannot be simply understood as daily necessities to meet the basic nutritional needs of the city’s inhabitants such as raw cooking materials or hot fast food. Instead, these images suggest that labor-saving products such as hulled rice or even products such as sweetmeats, which were normally associated with the work of the steward of an aristocratic house and the elite “dressing” of the table, were being sold on the streets. Therefore, despite the inherent ephemerality of the act of selling and eating food and the lack of surviving material culture, these images reveal the complexity of determining social distinction through food choices in early modern Rome.

Keywords: food, early modern Rome, street, food hawkers, Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, Ambrogio Brambilla, material culture, luxury, ephemerality

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