Eating Right in the Renaissance

By Ken Albala | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Food
Qualities, Substance, and Virtues

Like human beings, all other living creatures and plants, according to the system of humoral physiology, have their own inherent complexion. When these creatures are used as food, their elements, being transferred and assimilated into our bodies, naturally alter our own complexion. Thus, a food product described as hot and dry, or “choleric, ” will ultimately increase the choleric humors in the individual who eats it. The difficulty in understanding this system fully stems from the fact that “hot and dry” and other qualitative terms used to describe food do not refer to actual tactile properties. A food need not be manifestly hot in temperature or dry to the touch to be classified among the foods that increase choler. Rather, it is the effect that these foods produce in us humorally that determines how they are categorized. For example, lemon juice, although obviously a liquid and usually at room temperature, is classified as cold and dry because it cools the body and dries or puckers the flesh, as is evidenced by its effect on the mouth. Sugar, although composed of dry granules, is categorized as hot and moist because it warms and moistens our bodies and increases blood. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between physical properties that are confusingly called hot, dry, cold, and moist in common parlance and qualitative properties that influence the humors. Sometimes the tactile properties are described as “primary” or “actual” to distinguish them from “secondary” or “potential” qualitative effects. As Viviano Viviani points

-78-

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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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