All of the articles in this special issue show the necessity of having to combine different kinds of sources—texts with images, images with objects, and objects with absences—to build an integrated history of the material worlds of food in the early modern period. They also reflect newer approaches to materiality which are sensitive to the relationship between matter and the senses and consider the haptic, visual, olfactory, and even aural aspects of cooking and eating alongside taste. In turn, the tastes of collectors and the fragility and absence of source material also need to be taken into consideration in order to write a meaningful cultural and social history of food. Despite the ephemeral nature of eating and cooking, this special issue shows that the sources studied by historians of material culture of the early modern period are remarkably rich, and their analysis fruitful.
The Welsh painter, Thomas Jones, recorded in minute detail the prices, origin, and types of food and services for each day of his family’s stay in Naples from their arrival from Rome in 1780 to their departure for England in 1783. His “Italian account book” has not been studied before in any depth, except in relation to his activities as an artist. However, this “time-capsule” of a Grand Tour household provides an extraordinarily vivid entry into the material world of urban provisioning in one of the largest cities in eighteenth-century Europe, by linking the economy of the street to wider networks of provisioning from outside of the city. It also provides a better understanding of the extent of acculturation of British residents in Italy. Space, time, and the interconnectedness between the home and the street are central themes in this material culture analysis of food on the Grand Tour.