Oysters and Champagne: From Jan Steen to Édouard Manet with Dr. Demet Guzey

Oysters and Champagne: From Jan Steen to Édouard Manet with Dr. Demet Guzey


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Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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Oysters and champagne is the perfect pairing often depicted in still life and genre paintings, luring us into a world of sensual pleasures. Join us in this seminar where we review the synergy of oysters and champagne in taste and temptation and weave in science and history in order to gain a new perspective to understand how our minds and palates are conditioned to love these luxuries.

The first time oysters and champagne were painted together was probably in 1735 in Oyster Dinner by Jean-François de Troy. Since then they have become a symbol of sensual pleasures, decadence, and luxury. Oysters and champagne are often paired in the 18th century Renaissance still life paintings displayed on a silk tablecloth and next to other objects of worldly desires. Along with exotic fruits bursting with juice, flowers in full bloom, and precious Venetian glassware they belong to a place of pleasure and temptation. They seem to be a match made in hedonic heaven. How much is this view influenced by the images presented in art and how true is it?

As we review paintings of this pairing in artworks ranging from Girl Eating Oysters by Jan Steen to Still life with oysters by Willem Claesz Heda to Cardinal Eating Oysters of Francois Brunery we will weave art, history and science to answer this question. We will talk about the umami synergy of oysters and champagne and their believed aphrodisiac effect. We will turn to terroir to explain why oysters and champagne indeed do go so well together.

Led by an expert on history, art, and science of food, Demet Guzey, this course will take you on a tantalizing journey in time across European art depicting oysters and champagne. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of why this food pairing works and how to see food in art as a window to the European food culture of the past and today.

For more in this series, we invite you to also explore:

Demet Guzey is a food writer based in Verona. She is the author of two culinary history books, Food on Foot and Mustard. Her writing on food history, travel and art appeared in EATEN, Fine Dining Lovers and Gastronomica. She teaches Food and Culture at USAC, an American study abroad consortium in Verona, Food Writing at Ozyegin University in Istanbul, and Food in Art for Le Cordon Bleu Online. She has a PhD in Food Science, a diploma in Gastronomy and a Level 3 WSET wine certification.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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