Eating Right in the Renaissance
Publication Year: 2002
Eating Right in the Renaissance takes us through an array of historical sources in a narrative that is witty and spiced with fascinating details. Why did early Renaissance writers recommend the herbs parsley, arugula, anise, and mint to fortify sexual prowess? Why was there such a strong outcry against melons and cucumbers, even though people continued to eat them in large quantities? Why was wine considered a necessary nutrient? As he explores these and other questions, Albala explains the history behind Renaissance dietary theories; the connections among food, exercise, and sex; the changing relationship between medicine and cuisine; and much more.
Whereas modern nutritionists may promise a slimmer waistline, more stamina, or freedom from disease, Renaissance food writers had entirely different ideas about the value of eating right. As he uncovers these ideas from the past, Ken Albala puts our own dietary obsessions in an entirely new light in this elegantly written and often surprising new chapter on the history of food.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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I owe a debt of gratitude to the many people who have helped me writethis book, foremost to my family, both immediate and extended. Thanksto my parents Albert and Phyllis, my wife Joanna, my sons Ethan andBenjamin, my in-laws Mona and Ira, and Marcia and Hershey for foodienewsletters and old PPCs. You have all either put up with or inspired my...
Note on Spelling
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Throughout this book I have attempted to be consistent with propernames. I have usually chosen to use the most familiar form of authors’names whether in the vernacular or Latin. Hence Ficino and Estiennerather than Ficinus and Stephanus, but Placotomus and Lessius ratherthan Brettschneider and Leys. In a few cases, I have chosen what appears...
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It would be almost impossible for a person living today to escape theinfluence of nutritional science. A vast array of dietary guidelines is pro-mulgated through every media and on every item of packaged food.Whether or not these rules are followed, the terms of the discussion areall too familiar: calories, saturated fat, vitamins and minerals, choles-...
1. Overview of the Genre
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The urge to categorize foods according to a rational system appears tobe at least as old as civilization itself. Every major world culture has de-vised a method of appraising foods and many of these survive to this dayin some form. The ancient Chinese system based on ideas of yin andyang, the Hindu Ayurvedic system, and the Levitical kosher laws still in-...
2. The Human Body: Humors, Digestion, and the Physiology of Nutrition
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This chapter is a guide to the basic theory that underlies all Renaissancediscussions of food and nutrition. Human physiology, digestion, and es-pecially the four humors are central to the entire topic and inform allspecific food recommendations. These ideas are usually, but not always,set in the context of the broader topic of “hygiene” or rules for main-...
3. Food: Qualities, Substance, and Virtues
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Like human beings, all other living creatures and plants, according tothe system of humoral physiology, have their own inherent complexion.When these creatures are used as food, their elements, being transferredand assimilated into our bodies, naturally alter our own complexion.Thus, a food product described as hot and dry, or “choleric,” will ulti-...
4. External Factors
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This chapter focuses on a broad range of factors that were thought toplay a major role in the maintenance of health and on how these factorsrelate to food. They have a direct bearing on the administration of dietand “hygiene” in its original sense because they can be manipulated andaltered to conform to the needs of the individual and his or her complex-...
5. Food and the Individual
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At first glance, it may seem that taste preferences and food choices areinformed by simple biological and economic factors. A person eats what-ever tastes good and can be readily obtained. In fact, it is almost neverso simple. As a species, we learn to eat foods that are not immediatelypleasant and sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to find calorically...
6. Food and Class
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The social connotations of food are perhaps the most powerful determi-nant of dietary preferences. This is especially the case in a nutritionaltheory whose basis entails the literal incorporation of a food’s substanceand qualities into the consumer. An item considered gross and crudeand associated with the peasantry will render the consumer peasant-like...
7. Food and Nation
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It has been suggested thus far that the major changes within Renaissancenutritional theory reflect larger transformations of European society,culture, and thought. The most conspicuous features of this new out-look have been described as reactions to various greater trends: a demo-graphic surge, inflation, a greater disparity of wealth, the differentiation...
8. Medicine and Cuisine
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There can be no doubt at this point that the Renaissance genre of dietaryregimens reflects both medical and culinary concerns about food. But thequestion remains whether the principles of humoral physiology actuallyinformed eating habits, or whether dietary authors merely accommo-dated current culinary practices into their medical theories. Ultimately,...
Postscript: The End of a Genre and Its Legacy
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...seventeenth century? The theories themselves certainly did not disappearovernight, and there were physicians still defending humoral pathologywell into the nineteenth century. But the application of humoral medi-cine to the study of food and the popularity of this particular genre didindeed trail off. It would be too simple to claim that new iatrochemical...
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Figure 1. Melchior Sebizius, De alimentis, frontispiece. Courtesy of the Newemblemata medica, p. 17. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, Universityemblemata medica, p. 40. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UniversityFigure 5. Perch with a Knife. Guillaume van den Bossche, Historia medica,p. 360. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley....
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Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2002
Series Title: California Studies in Food and Culture