Medieval Tastes

Food, Cooking, and the Table

Massimo Montanari. Translated by Beth Archer Brombert

Columbia University Press

Medieval Tastes

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Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231167871

280 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $27.00£21.95

Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231167864

280 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00£32.95

Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231539081

280 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£32.95

Medieval Tastes

Food, Cooking, and the Table

Massimo Montanari. Translated by Beth Archer Brombert

Columbia University Press

In his new history of food, acclaimed historian Massimo Montanari traces the development of medieval tastes—both culinary and cultural—from raw materials to market and captures their reflections in today's food trends. Tying the ingredients of our diet evolution to the growth of human civilization, he immerses readers in the passionate debates and bold inventions that transformed food from a simple staple to a potent factor in health and a symbol of social and ideological standing.

Montanari returns to the prestigious Salerno school of medicine, the "mother of all medical schools," to plot the theory of food that took shape in the twelfth century. He reviews the influence of the Near Eastern spice routes, which introduced new flavors and cooking techniques to European kitchens, and reads Europe's earliest cookbooks, which took cues from old Roman practices that valued artifice and mixed flavors. Dishes were largely low-fat, and meats and fish were seasoned with vinegar, citrus juices, and wine. He highlights other dishes, habits, and battles that mirror contemporary culinary identity, including the refinement of pasta, polenta, bread, and other flour-based foods; the transition to more advanced cooking tools and formal dining implements; the controversy over cooking with oil, lard, or butter; dietary regimens; and the consumption and cultural meaning of water and wine. As people became more cognizant of their physicality, individuality, and place in the cosmos, Montanari shows, they adopted a new attitude toward food, investing as much in its pleasure and possibilities as in its acquisition.
Massimo Montanari, one of the most renowned historians of cuisine, has produced a well-written volume covering a wide range of topics, from medieval recipe books to staple foodstuff. There was not one page that did not hold my complete attention. Massimo Ciavolella, University of California, Los Angeles
Massimo Montanari is a master communicator of fascinating ideas. He proposes the intriguing concept of the Middle Ages as something at once close but also very distant. This work will prove appealing to more than just food historians, and I highly recommend it. David Gentilcore, University of Leicester
With incisiveness and thoroughness, Massimo Montanari's Medieval Tastes redraws the contours of the central role food played in Italian society from the early centuries of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and beyond. More than just an enthralling journey through medieval culinary tastes, regimens, and norms, this excellent volume probes the more hidden folds of the social and cultural discourses that undergirded culinary systems. Pina Palma, author of Savoring Power, Consuming the Times: The Metaphors of Food in Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature
Medieval Tastes is an elaborately researched, sophisticated treatment of the topic.... Highly recommended. Choice
A monograph that will be of enormous use to scholars working in food studies and related cultural studies fields, while also promising delight for the general interst reader as well. Sixteenth Century Journal
Introduction: Invitation to the Voyage
1. Medieval Near, Medieval Far
2. Medieval Cookbooks
3. The Grammar of Food
4. The Times of Food
5. The Aroma of Civilization: Bread
6. Hunger for Meat
7. The Ambiguous Position of Fish
8. From Milk to Cheeses
9. Condiment/Fundament: The Battle of Oil, Lard, and Butter
10. The Bread Tree
11. The Flavor of Water
12. The Civilization of Wine
13. Rich Food, Poor Food
14. Monastic Cooking
15. The Pilgrim's Food
16. The Table as a Representation of the World
17. The Fork and the Hands
18. The Taste of Knowledge
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Read chapter 1, "Medieval Near, Medieval Far":

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About the Author

Massimo Montanari is professor of medieval history and the history of food at the Institute of Paleography and Medieval Studies, University of Bologna. He has authored and coauthored more than a dozen books on the history of cuisine and the cultural values of food, including Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture; Cheese, Pears, and History in a Proverb; Food Is Culture; Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History; Food: A Culinary History; and Famine and Plenty: The History of Food in Europe.

Beth Archer Brombert is the author of two widely acclaimed biographies: Cristina: Portraits of a Princess and Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent work is a memoir of her decades of living, traveling, and cooking in Italy, Journey to the World of the Black Rooster. Her many translations from French and Italian include Italo Svevo's Senilità (Emilio's Carnival) and Erri De Luca's Tu, Mio (You, Mine).