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  • "Common celery was considered a high-status food by middle-class Americans in the late nineteenth century; originally native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, celery had a distinguished history traceable to Homer's Odyssey as Apium graveolens. It was first used as food in sixteenth-century France, although only as a flavoring; by the mid-seventeenth century, the stalks and leaves were sometimes dressed with oil and eaten. The plant was improved during the eighteenth century, and its use became more common among the wealthy. Growing it was labor-intensive; it had to be blanched, or surrounded by built-up piles of soil, to preserve the whiteness and sweetness of its stalks. In accord with its status, celery was given a prominent position on the table by means of special celery stands or vases. These were usually made of either decorated glass or silver—both luxury materials—and could be tall, footed, vaselike forms or low baskets.... By 1900, the tall celery stands were nearly completely out of fashion, as celery lost its cachet. These low stands relegated celery to a much less prominent position on the landscape of the tabletop, and their appearance was parallelled by the development in the 1880s of a new, easier-to-grow, self-blanching, commercial variety of celery, which ... made it a much more ordinary household vegetable."

    —Susan Williams, Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 110–111

    April 14, 2010