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One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, soirée royale. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Norbert Stadler
Dining with the duke

Baroque dining fashions

Meals at court were about more than nutrition: lavishly set tables with unusual dishes were a sign of the ruler's wealth and power. Seating order was a reflection of ranking order, those seated closest to the duke had the greatest influence. However, not everything served was delicious.

Soirée royale at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Norbert Stadler

Servants served the food to the tables.

Serving "à la française"

In the 17th and 18th centuries, nobility dined "à la française." This included many different dishes, served at the same time and arranged according to a set table layout and a holistic Baroque composition. The first course included pate, soups or pickled items. The main course consisted of large roasts, vegetable dishes and sweet dishes. Dessert was fruit, cheese and sweets. Perfumed toothpicks, stems of fennel and mint confections freshened breath after the meal.

A modern banquette table at the palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Nowodworski

Festively set.

From hand to mouth

Eating with a fork and knife is a relatively new custom that did not become established until the 19th century. Even at court, the custom was to eat with fingers. The most important function of the tablecloth was for wiping fingers. This is why the top tablecloth was removed after every course and the fresh tablecloth beneath was use for the next course. The final course could even be served directly on the wood of the table as each dish was served on a lace doily.

Preheating oven at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: SWR, Lothar Zimmermann

This kind of oven kept dishes warm.

Careful! Cold and greasy

Despite the large number of dishes and the lavish table decor, meals at the Baroque royal table were not always delicious. Dishes were often served lukewarm or cold because the route from the kitchen to the table was so long. Several preheating ovens were situated along the way. Many were so soft-boiled that they could be eaten without teeth. Fricassee and ragout were inventions of the time, as people neglected their teeth and lost them early on.

Adriaen van Utrecht, banquette still life, 1644, Rijksmuseum (Netherlands). Image: Wikimedia Commons, public

Showcase dishes were especially popular during the Baroque period. Live animals would jump out of these dishes, to the court society's amusement.

Royal dinner parties followed a hierarchy

The tables at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace were tightly seated and the court kitchens often cooked for more than one hundred people daily. At the head of the room was the duke's table, next to it, the tables for the various courtiers, who dined at the sovereign's expense. The tables at which the guests were seated was a clear indicator of their importance. The 1716 "Ordentliche Beschreibung derjenigen Taffeln und Tisch, welche hinkünfftig bey Hoff sollen gehalten [...] werden" (Proper description of respective tables to be observed at court going forward) provided a precise seating arrangement: 127 people were fed at the Ludwigsburg court, gathering at nine tables at midday and in the evening.

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