The Argonaut’s Richard Foss discusses ‘Dining at Shakespeare’s Table’ in Venice

By Michael Aushenker

Richard Foss, renaissance man

Richard Foss, renaissance man

Shakespeare fever has hit the Westside. London’s Globe Theater is visiting The Broad Stage, and acclaimed productions of “Henry V” and “Macbeth” recently wrapped in Venice and Santa Monica.

Even alt-rocker Rivers Cuomo, whose band Weezer recorded its just-released new album in Santa Monica, has been conducting readings of the Bard, according to his Facebook page, while Rolling Stone reported that he pulled in actors from a local Shakespeare production to sing in a chorus featured on the album.

On Monday, Argonaut food columnist Richard Foss heads to the Venice – Abbot Kinney Memorial Library to lead a talk titled “Dining at Shakespeare’s Table,” which he describes as “a look at the pop culture of Shakespeare’s day, as well as a look at what the playwright, his contemporaries, and his characters ate and how they dined.”

The free event is sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Southern California, of which Foss — author of the upcoming book “Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies” — is on the board.

Back in Shakespeare’s England, it wasn’t so much what one served, but how.

“The Elizabethans enjoyed visual puns and jokes. To roast a bird and then cover it with feathers so it appeared to be alive again was the height of style,” Foss said. “You would score even more points if you made [a dish] look like something it isn’t: to sculpt a meat pie so it looks like a fish or a vegetable dish so it is mistaken for a table centerpiece was regarded as showing your artistic tendencies.”

Ultimately, Monday’s talk is “designed to sensitize people to food traditions and the value of history,” Foss said. “If people know nothing else about the Elizabethan era, they know about Shakespeare, but Shakespeare was a product of his times. The society all around him was flourishing, and that was reflected in all of the arts, including culinary. If you don’t have the cultural and historical background, you miss all kinds of things.”

“Dining at Shakespeare’s Table” begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Venice – Abbot Kinney Memorial Library, 501 Venice Way, Venice. Free. (310) 821-1769;

Editor’s Note: This story was changed to correct the date of the event.