- Food Matters: Alonso Quijano's Diet and the Discourse of Food in Early Modern Spain by Carolyn Nadeau
Carolyn Nadeau's new book resoundingly demonstrates that food indeed matters in early modern Spain. Her exploration of Alonso Quijano's diet, as depicted in the first paragraphs of Don Quijote, opens the culinary, historical, and literary worlds of these foods to reveal the complexity and interconnectedness of Spain's early modern foodways. From the influence of ethnic Muslim and Jewish cooking in elite cooking manuals, to hierarchies of meat, abstemious legumes, the humble nighttime salad, and ingredients transferred between the Old and New Worlds, Nadeau's inventive study reveals what these foods communicated to those who ate them and how discourses about them in literary texts, histories, archival records, and legal documents give new insights into the social distinctions of early modern eating. [End Page 269]
In her first chapter, "El Ante: The Rise of Cooking Manuals in Spain," Nadeau frames the cooking manual genre as a "discourse colony" in which independent units of the cookbook transmit cultural values, food patterns, and a multiplicity of meanings (3). Traces of the ethnic foodways of Muslim and Jewish taste communities persisted in early modern cooking manuals. By treating cooking archived in Arabic cooking manuals alongside manuscripts and print manuals in Catalan and Castilian, Nadeau demonstrates how food parallels other erasures and assimilations of Jewish and Islamic cultures even as its discourse transmits shared vocabularies and practices from the past. Essential reading for any scholar curious about the cookbook genre in Spain, this chapter is also useful for researchers or the gastronomically curious who would trace ingredients and their uses in the culinary styles that coexisted in the early modern period.
Chapter two, "'Una olla de algo más vaca que carnero': Privileging Meat in the Early Modern Diet," explores meanings for early modern eaters behind the enigmatic comparison between two types of meat. The olla was the great gastronomic equalizer across social classes; it graced the tables of monarchs and humble alike. But the kind of meat in a family's pot, not meat's absence or presence, indicated economic and social capital. The ollas of gentlemen, soldiers, and villagers are mentioned, but little attention is given here to diets of the truly impoverished—the topic appears instead in chapter six. This absence leaves a curious gap in Nadeau's argument that meat united early modern eaters rather than divided them, even if class distinctions surfaced in relative quantities—"wine by the sip, meat by the ounce, bread by the pound, and hunger by the ton"—for the poor (52). Literary representations of meals also signal social classes of characters, all useful in refining hierarchies during a period when some families found themselves newly aristocratic and others strove to maintain longstanding distinction among newcomers.
Nighttime eating was different from the meals consumed at midday, and an early modern salad was distinguished by the presence of vinegar and assorted leftover bits of meat or vegetables rather than lettuce, Nadeau explains in chapter three, "'Salpicón las más noches': Salads, Vegetables, and New World Contributions to Spanish Fare." While the salpicón Quijano ate "las más noches" did not immediately incorporate vegetables from the New World, their arrival and eventual inclusion in early modern diets stands as one of the most remarkable food events in modernity. As "agents of the periphery," New World products signified a "subordinated other" in Iberia even as European foods transformed eating in the Americas (86, 87). The incorporation of tomatoes, potatoes, and red peppers would take centuries, but Nadeau traces their appearance in travel logs, references in fiction, and eventually in published recipes to show the processes of their adoption and how imperialism made them part of traditional Spanish foodscapes.
If vegetables tell us about culinary imperialism, the "duelos y quebrantos" Quijano eats on Saturdays inform chapter four. The scholarly disagreement on the ingredients in this dish is the entry into Nadeau's discussion of the Jewish and Muslim...