Journal Article

The foods of love? : food gifts, courtship, and emotions in long eighteenth-century England


This article rediscovers the importance of food gifts in navigating the process of courtship in England during the long eighteenth century. Studies of courtship and gift-exchange to date have demonstrated how courting couples exchanged a wide range of gifts to produce and intensify feelings of love and advance their relationships toward the altar, from garters and gloves to ribbons, rings, portrait miniatures, and locks of hair. Yet the edible gift has remained conspicuously absent from this picture. The article reinserts edible tokens into the historiography of love and marriage, revealing how they operated as an indispensable and unique part of the ‘gift mode’ during courtship. It demonstrates how courting couples exchanged a wide range of foodstuffs from cakes and sweetmeats to game, fowl, fish, exotic fruits and homegrown produce. In doing so, the article advances the burgeoning field of emotions and material culture by demonstrating how organic or perishable items could function as powerful emotional objects, able to nourish the human body, provide a source of sensual and gustatory pleasure, and elicit feelings of joy, delight, love and desire. In turn, these gifts show courtship made everyday, transacted between couples and their families, and situated in gardens and squares, shops, theatres, and around a family’s tea table.

Attached files


Holloway, Sally

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-10-02

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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