Eating Right in the Renaissance

By Ken Albala | Go to book overview

Introduction

It would be almost impossible for a person living today to escape the influence of nutritional science. A vast array of dietary guidelines is promulgated through every media and on every item of packaged food. Whether or not these rules are followed, the terms of the discussion are all too familiar: calories, saturated fat, vitamins and minerals, cholesterol. We all know that many of us are intensely diet and health conscious. It would probably come as a surprise, though, to learn that five hundred years ago literate Europeans were equally obsessed with eating right. Then, as now, a veritable industry of experts churned out diet books for an eager and concerned public. From the 1470s to 1650 there was an immense outpouring of dietary literature from printing presses in Italy, then issuing from France, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and as far afield as Transylvania. Nutrition guides were consistent best-sellers. About one hundred titles in dozens of editions, revisions, and translations plainly attest to the topic's popularity. Some dietary works were tiny handbooks written in the vernacular for a lay audience, others were massive Latin tomes clearly intended for practicing physicians or scholarly dilettantes. The authors of these books may have been physicians, philosophers, poets, or even politicians. Anyone with an interest in food appears to have felt qualified to pen his own nutritional guide. This book examines these dietary works in detail and offers a view of what it meant to eat well and be healthy in the Renaissance.

This book also focuses on the major differences among dietary au-

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Eating Right in the Renaissance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • California Studies in Food and Culture *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Note on Spelling ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Overview of the Genre 14
  • Chapter 2 - Humors, Digestion, and the Physiology of Nutrition 48
  • Chapter 3 - Qualities, Substance, and Virtues 78
  • Chapter 4 - External Factors 115
  • Chapter 5 - Food and the Individual 163
  • Chapter 6 - Food and Class 184
  • Chapter 7 - Food and Nation 217
  • Chapter 8 - Medicine and Cuisine 241
  • Postscript - The End of a Genre and Its Legacy 284
  • Bibliography 295
  • Index 309
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