Carnival Foods

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Carnival Foods could be regarded as a worldwide phenomenon, if the word ‘carnival’ is taken in its wide sense, meaning any occasion of riotous revelry. However, in the narrower and more commonly used sense it refers to the day or week before lent and especially Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), when Christians bid farewell to meat for 40 days. In Venice and other Italian towns, some might say almost the ‘home’ of carnival, the period of licence extended well beyond the run-up to Lent, lasting almost six months of the year. In many towns (described so well by Carol Field, 1990), carnival was a moment to celebrate plenty and generosity not only by eating but also by squandering foods. Hence the orange fights of Ivrea in Piedmont and the incessant cannonade of confetti made from dragées or coriander seeds enlarged with layers of plaster—so dangerous that some revellers had masks of wire to protect their faces.