Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food among the Early Moderns

Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food among the Early Moderns

Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food among the Early Moderns

Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food among the Early Moderns

Synopsis

We didn't always eat the way we do today, or think and feel about eating as we now do. But we can trace the roots of our own eating culture back to the culinary world of early modern Europe, which invented cutlery, haute cuisine, the weight-loss diet, and much else besides. Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup tells the story of how early modern Europeans put food into words and words into food, and created an experience all their own. Named after characters in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, this lively study draws on sources ranging from cookbooks to comic novels, and examines both the highest ideals of culinary culture and its most grotesque, ridiculous and pathetic expressions. Robert Appelbaum paints a vivid picture of a world in which food was many things--from a symbol of prestige and sociability to a cause for religious and economic struggle--but always represented the primacy of materiality in life. Peppered with illustrations and a handful of recipes, Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup will appeal to anyone interested in early modern literature or the history of food.

Excerpt

Every now and then, you will notice, a writer of the early modern period has something to say about food. It may be just to disclaim an unbecoming interest: I’m no glutton, the writer insists. Or the writer may be saying something about food in order to make a joke or to score a point against a political or religious enemy: a rival who’s too fat or too thin, too ill-mannered or too extravagant or even a bit of each and altogether bizarre—“O monstrous!” says Shakespeare’s Prince Hal about Falstaff. “But one half-penny-worth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack!” Or the writer may be objecting to an opponent who, whatever his real relation to food and drink may be, is in other things a hypocritical impostor, like a monk who feasts on butter and eggs and fine roasted sturgeon during what is supposed to be a fast day, and prides himself on his selfrestraint; or an opponent who simply doesn’t know what he is doing, like a presumably saintly matron who thinks that when she puts her tongue to the Communion wafer she is actually eating God, when she is really consuming (as far as the writer is concerned) an idol made of bread; or like a cranky Calvinist— for the allusions to food habits can work for any party on any side of the political and religious divides of the day—who thinks it is God’s will that he should never enjoy himself and believes that eating and drinking have nothing to do with the body of the church and the salvation of the soul. the writer is really interested in something else—virtue, valor, personal advancement, amusement, faith, truth, doctrine, honor, or the humiliation of an opponent; the allusion serves an ulterior purpose. Yet the allusion is there. the allusions are all over the place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They speak of a reality, a form of material life, that is just below the surface, or perhaps not even just below but right there, at the same level as the polemics and the jokes. the food-oriented religious practices that the interjections allude to—the fish days, the ingestive sacraments, the ascetic self-restraint, or the rejection thereof in favor of divinely sanctioned . . .

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