Tea and Cakes: Consuming Groceries

Jon Stobart

in Sugar and Spice

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199577927
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744884 | DOI:
Tea and Cakes: Consuming Groceries

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter examines the ways in which groceries were consumed, linking the practicalities of everyday activities with theorisations of consumer motivation. The chapter begins by critically examining novelty as a motivating factor, arguing that it is especially problematic in the context of groceries. Luxury is perhaps more useful, with its dual significance as a marker of distinction and as sensual pleasure, although ideas of utility and comfort better encapsulate the appeal of sugar, tea, etc. to the poor. A more nuanced reading of consumer practices is offered through analysing recipe books to assess changes in the use of groceries as ingredients. This chapter argues for strong continuities and against the idea that empire was an important point of culinary reference. The actual dining practices of various social groups confirm a strong conservatism, especially amongst the middling sorts who sought to create their own culinary identity rather than emulate elite practices.

Keywords: novelty; luxury; comfort; recipe books; cook books; ingredients; empire; place names; bills of fare; identity

Chapter.  12698 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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