PART IV: SOCIAL, POLITICAL & ECONOMIC SHIFTS
FLAMBOYANCE VS FUNCTIONALITY
After three centuries of colonisation and trading establishment, the 18th century England and France were heavily enriched by colonial exploitation. The discovery of exotic foods and condiments led to new gastronomic heights. Dining became a grand affair for the nobles – a daily event to showcase their wealth. Dining furniture, made with the prevailing Oriental style and technique, served as visual complementation to the aliments and adornments atop the table. In France, dining became a theatrical event. As custom has it, aristocratic courtiers were required to attend as spectators during royal banquets. The dining ceremony’s rising significance eventually led to the introductory of a dining room in architectural plans — a space dedicated purely for the enjoyment of grandeur meals and services
Though the aristocrats initially set the trend, it was due to the rise of the middle class that the dining room became perfected and refined. At the peak of its colonial enrichment, in the latter half of the 18th century, England was also the first nation to witness the world’s Industrial Revolution. In parallel to the businessmen associated with manufacturing growth, the period saw the rise of small entrepreneurs. These individuals accumulated spectacular wealth through their entrepreneurial activities. The increased fortune had resulted in the higher consumption of goods, among them was dining furniture. Dining room soon became a mundane necessity within the household
Soon after work began to trump leisure, the progressive ideal of efficiency and productivity superseded the past ideology of dining morals and manners. The flamboyance dining affair was lamented as ‘the lost fine arts’. Kitchens were perceived to offer greater dining convenience and began to replace dining rooms. Dining tables became breakfast bars. The kitchen ultimately became the focal point of living. The ideal kitchen was clean, well-lit place outfitted for efficient meal preparation and consumption. The latter half of the 19th century also witnessed the expansion of the new public dining establishments organised around speed and efficiency – canteens, automatic restaurants, and food vendors, ‘all of which were based on the abolition of table service’ for faster food delivery. These restaurants were often outfitted with uncomfortable seating to prevent customers from lingering.