Eating Right in the Renaissance
Ken Albala is a Professor of History at the University of the Pacific and has authored or edited 25 books on food and has co-authored 2 books on food and has edited a journal of food. In Eating Right in the Renaissance Albala looks at our views on food and how they have changed over time. He focuses on the period from 1470 to 1650 and looks at what it meant to be healthy at the beginning and end of that period and how diet figured into that. In the beginning of the period and for a millennium before it the work of the Greek philosophers, especially Galen dominated medicine and believed that human health was based on the balance of fundamental humors within the body - blood, choler, phlegm and bile. Each individual had a unique composition of humors and a proper diet played a key role in keeping the humors in balance. Thus the cook was also a dietitian responsible for balancing the humors and keeping the eater fit. Albala picks an interesting period to look at because the people interested in food and health, the people paying the authors to theorize about food and health change from the beginning of the period to the end and the way information is transmitted with the invention of the printing press changes radically how information is communicated. At the beginning of the period the church and nobility are the patrons of food documents, physicians and cooks. At the end of the period, the emerging merchant and entrepreneurial classes begin taking that role. Likewise discoveries from new lands and the discovery of new routes to old lands brings new foods and ideas of food into the mix. The new information, the new way of communicating information, and the new patrons for that information fundamentally changed how we think about food. Albala tells an important and fascinating story that shines light on how we think about food and also how technology and new forms of transmitting information impact our view on food and other aspects of our lives. Anyone who has a fascination for history, an interest in food or a passion for the sociology of knowledge will enjoy this book.