Please note: this session has been cancelled: A hungry stomach rarely despises common food – Medical Advice and Food Consumption in the Early Modern Period
07 Dec 2017, 17:30 to 07 Dec 2017, 19:30
Food History Seminar
IHR North American History Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Giovanni Pozzetti, University of Leeds
Historiography on food and medicine has emphasised how medieval and early modern medical advice advocated specific patterns of food consumption for different social groups in line with ideas of humoral complexion. According to this narrative, health regimens and cookery books strengthened and widened social divisions. The peasant Bertoldo is often cited as an example. In a short novel by the Italian author Giulio Cesare Croce (1550-1609), the unfortunate Bertoldo died because he was advised to eat refined foods when he fell ill, rather than the common turnips to which he was accustomed. However, actual patterns of food and drink consumption were much more complex and diverse. Drawing on specific case studies and on a variety of sources, ranging from letters, diaries, household accounts to printed health regimen and cookery books, this paper will argue that food habits could shifts from medical advice on food and drink consumption according to a variety of factors. Despite the fact that sick people were often told what was best for them to eat, and that certain groups of people were expected to eat certain foods, the evidence proposed in this paper will show how personal taste was often essential in the establishment of food habits. On a similar note, new food fashions coming from Europe, France and Italy in particular, meant that different ways of preparing foods found their ways to England. In both cases, food consumption happened to be more fluid than previously thought and that therefore certain foods were consumed across the social spectrum. Finally, I will suggest that food and drink consumption always involved negotiation between the ideal and the tangible, the recommended and the condemned, the customary and the innovative, and that rigid narratives on food consumption habits can be dangerously reductive.
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