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Eating Right in the Renaissance Hardcover – February 1, 2002
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"This stimulating work is an important contribution to social and especially medical-dietetic history. Albala is the first to explore in detail the role of dietetic literature in the development of the European nation state. His book is a pleasure to read."Melitta Weiss Adamson, editor of Food in the Middle Ages
Top Customer Reviews
In a somewhat dry but excellent work, Albala documents and contrasts the various humoural theorists' works from the 1470s to 1650. The author's stated goal is to better understand the workings of the Renaissance mind by its ideas on food, and he does an admirably complete job.
excursion into the state of renaissance thought is a delight
to read for its charm alone. Underneath the charm is first
an analysis of the humoral theory-a way of making sense of
human variation that stood unquestioned untli Paracelsus and
Montaigne came along to knock it down. According to the theory,
every human is ruled by one of four fluids: melancholic, phlegmatic,
sanguine or choleric. The business of nutrition was to correct
imbalances in the humors which could lead to disease.
(Perhaps we shouldn't write the obituary for humoral theory
too soon. Most modern novels are based on one-sided char-
acterizations that reflect one of those four dispositions.)
There's another layer yet- humoral theory is of interest today
only to the cultural historian. What makes this book important
is that it remindsus of the persistence of Prescriptionism: the
doctrine that food is a medical medium and that one should eat
this and avoid that in order to correct or prevent. Those of us
who think of food as Recreation or as Delight have been tilting
with the Prescriptionists for a very long time.
You'll want your aspiring nutritionalist to read this because
the scolding assured tone of the writers cited will be
alarmingly familiar even if their conclusions sound strange.
(melons are bad for you?) Perhaps we could learn to be just
a bit less sure of ourselves in the light of another age's
--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the forthcoming novel bang BANG from Kunati Books.ISBN 9781601640005