Feasts have, throughout history, been a means for the upcomers in society to truly showcase their wealth, power and influence to their friends and peers alike. Constantly on the prowl to boast about possessing the most extravagant features and, rather naturally, the tastiest plates on offer, a good feast has proven to be a celebration that can make or break global alliances or can ruin a reputation overnight.
Known for their lavish lifestyles and showcases of wealth as well as their promiscuity, the high risers in Roman society certainly knew how to host a party. Very few Romans quite encapsulated this lifestyle better than the infamous Emperor Nero who reigned between AD 54 and AD 68. From dormice sprinkled with poppyseed to hare's with feathers strapped to them, the banquet was so grand that it was deemed fit to be included in the famous works of Tacitus.
Masters of the heart of the Renaissance and one of the most famous families throughout history, when Marie de Medici married into the French throne in King Henry IV, there was no better excuse for one of the grandest ceremonies in history. With seemingly no end to the budget at his disposal, Bernardo Buontalenti spared no expense in securing the extravogence and awe that would fit such an occasion, namely the fifty odd courses or so he supplied.
Celebrating the new found 'love' between two of the great kingdoms of the time in France and England, the Field of the Cloth of Gold was meant to be one of the biggest and most extravagant celebrations in history. For three weeks, the two kings (Henry VIII of England and Francois I of France) indulged in some of the finest luxuries the Tudor world had to offer. Henry went as far as to construct his own temporary palace at the festivities, even if his temper would soon fly after allegedly losing a wrestling match with his French counterpart.
The seaside resort of Brighton was one of the Prince Regent's (later to become King George IV) most favourite places to reside, constructing the grand Royal Pavilion that has become one of the most well known sites in the south. Hosting the Grand Duke of Russia and already a serial gluttoner, the Prince invited the most famous chef in the world at the time, Marie-Antoine Carême, to Brighton to whip up a feast for the ages. 127 courses later and it has made it onto this list.
Despite in the grips of an unsuccessful war and living in a city that was under siege by the Prussian enemy, Monsieur Bonvalet organised one of the biggest and most lavish feasts for any meat lover out there. Inviting twenty of his closest friends, Bonvalet used all of his connections at his local zoo to supply his guests with some of the most extravagant foods available. From elephants to bears, the feast was apparently a roaring success.
A day to celebrate the close and shared connection between two nations, Saint Patrick's day is as equally in the USA as it is on the emerald isle. Celebrating the meeting of President O'Kelly of Ireland and Eisenhower of the United States, the meal was as big as it was lavish. Featuring some of the Presidents' most treasured foodstuffs, the menu swung from the likes of the finest roasted duckling to the freshest mint delight around.
Bidding the relatively low sum of $300 at a televised charity auction and winning a free meal for two anywhere in the world courtesy of American Express, New York Times critic Craig Claiborne opted for a five hour and thirty one course meal at Parisian restaurant Chez Denis. Racking up a four thousand dollar tab on every item on the menu and enjoying several vintage wines, Claiborne's mediocre review of the menu triggered outrage across the world who believed it wrong that someone be so gluttonous in a world where so many are wanting. The incident was so strong that even the current Pope at the time, Pope Paul VI called it 'scandalous'.
One of the longest and arguably most successful French leaders of the modern age, Francois Mitterrand had garnered a reputation of something of a gluttonous eater during his tenure at the head of the French Government. By 1995, he knew that he was not much longer for this life and the President decided to hold one final big bash to celebrate his time. The star of his thirty man strong party was the symbolic French bird, the ortolan which is usually illegal to eat. Not only did Mitterrand eat his, he ate two.
Featuring foodstuffs from thirty five different countries, recruiting six three-starred michelin chefs and demanding a £15,000 charge for anyone hoping for a seat at the table, the Epicurean Masters of the World feast is the definition of the contemporary way of doing a banquet. Ten courses strong and showcasing the skills and knowledge of some of the best pallets out there, one interesting point of the menu on offer is the fact that, despite its location, there were no Thai dishes on offer.
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