And How Did They Eat? An investigation of food storage, processing, and consumption patterns in a Late Antique household.
By Andrea Achi, Institute for Fine Arts, New York University
Textual sources from the Dakhla Oasis offer important information concerning food in Late Antique Egypt. They provide us with an understanding of the variety of foods, such as wheat, turnips, dates and chicken, consumed in the ancient city of Amheida in Dakhla Oasis, Egypt. Though the texts mention the transportation, receipt, and storage of some food commodities, they do not bear substantial evidence concerning the manner in which the products were cooked and eaten. These deficiencies can, however, be addressed through examination of other types of evidence, such as ceramics recovered from Amehida’s excavations.
This paper analyzes the food storage, processing, and consumption patterns in an elite home in Amheida. Using information about the ceramic vessels unearthed from the site in combination with the textual sources, I will reconstruct the cooking and eating practices of those who lived in the home during the Late Roman Period and will discuss how the eating habits of the household reflect the cultural identities of the inhabitants. The resulting analysis provides insights that cannot otherwise be elicited from the examination of texts alone. A secondary purpose of the paper is to understand the function of ceramics within their context. I describe the various characteristics of ceramics relating to food storage and food processing and explain why focus should be on the functional qualities of such ceramics as opposed to their style and shape.
Beer, Identity, and Art: The Importance of the Brewing Industry in Seventeenth Century Haarlem
By Samantha Bellinger, Skidmore College
Prevailing presentism can make it difficult for us to comprehend a world where beer was a necessity, a beverage for everyone, and a drink for all times of the day. Or even a world where the brewing industry played a critical role in the prosperity and drunkenness was considered a defining characteristic of national identity.
Exuding this sense of Dutch identity, imagery from the Twelve Years' Truce began to express what it meant to be Dutch. Every subject seemed to be “Hollandized” (Porteman 236). The ships, windmills, tulips, tavern, bleaching fields, and butter churns encapsulate Dutch pride in place, identity and industry.
Taking these aspects into consideration, this paper will reposition seventeenth century depictions of Haarlem beer and drinking as evidence of civic pride in art, providing an alternative understanding to its meaning. First I examine the important role that the brewing industry played in the Dutch economy through an overview of its role in Holland, especially Haarlem. Secondly, I focus on seventeenth century alcohol consumption, contemporary views of beer, and how these two facets were woven into Dutch identity. Then, I go on to examine the art historical traditions of Dutch pride in art such as. Finally, I argue that the Dutch self-defined identity and their pride in the Haarlem beer industry greatly influenced the illustration of beer and drinking.
Porteman, Karel. “The Idea of Being a Dutchman: Normative Self-Reflection in Early 17th-Century Amsterdam.” Contemporary Explorations in the Culture of the Low Countries, William Z. Shetter and Inge van der Cruysse. American Association for Netherlandic Studies. 9. Lanham, NY: University Press of America.
Butchers in the Baths
By Alexander Brey, Bryn Mawr College
The wall paintings of Qusayr ‘Amra, an Umayyad bath in what is now Jordan, are best known for images of scantily clad dancers, a helpfully labelled group-portrait of six kings, and a deliberate deployment of Hellenistic motifs. But in addition to an iconographic balancing act between East(s) and West(s), the wall paintings also reflect and produce a network of relationships between Humans and Animals that has received less critical examination. The bath itself is located in the hinterland of the Azraq oasis, which served as a natural game reserve. Hunting and butchering scenes on either side of the bath’s reception hall reveal the fault lines between species that render some edible and others noble, while contemporary textual sources suggest that the human form is not the only historically (or erotically) charged body on display in the baths. The hunting dogs depicted are the subject of poetic encomia remarkably similar to love poems, while the onagers are descended from the horses of the Persian kings in a strange genealogy. As excavations at other Umayyad monuments shed light on the animals that made it into the domain of culture as friends and/or food, the wall paintings of the bath and the textual documents which complement them suggest that, in the eighth century, history could be consumed both visually and viscerally, both aurally and orally. They also reveal the violence of self-definition implicit in both the act of eating and the (re)construction of the past.
Delectable Dalliances and Sweet, Savory Tears: Mutual Nourishment in The Book of Margery Kempe
By Sarah Townsend, Fordham University
Margery Kempe and her continental counterparts share a penchant for food-related symbols and deeds. However, the articulation of these themes in Margery’s narrative is simultaneously more subtle and more daring. Her desire for the Word of God is often described as a ravenous hunger and her intimate communication and union with Christ during their private “dalyawns” as sweet satiation. While food is a powerful devotional symbol, actual earthly food is also central to Margery’s expression of spirituality. In her domestic roles as wife and mother, Margery is able to show devotion through acts of nourishment and hospitality.
In her well-known work Holy Feast and Holy Fast, Caroline Walker Bynum has concentrated on the food-related devotional practices of continental female saints and visionaries. Unlike these women, Margery does not have vivid visions of feeding at Christ’s breast or drinking blood from his wounds. Instead, Margery achieves bold familiarity with Christ in a strikingly different way. Throughout The Book of Margery Kempe, a fascinating theme of mutual nourishment develops between Christ and Margery. Margery is fed by Christ’s words and love and in return, Christ is nourished by Margery’s passionate devotion, especially the sweet refreshment of her tears. Margery also feeds Christ with good domestic service, nurturing the infant Christ in her visions and nourishing her elderly husband in the world. As a laywoman, Margery is able to serve Christ as wife and mother, and thus she imagines a unique intimacy with Christ distinct from many of her fellow female visionaries.
Did the Well-Bred Sell Bread?: The Place of the Grain Trader in Roman Society
By Diane Amoroso-O'Connor, Bryn Mawr College
Adam Smith, in his seminal work of Classical economics, advocated special protection for the grain trade, writing that “no trade requires it so much; because no trade is so exposed to popular odium.” (The Wealth of Nations, 215) Although he wrote in 1776, much of the “odium” of his time applied in the Roman world as well. Cicero and other authors used the idea of profiting from the hungry as a moral question; among the populace, any perception of trader avarice and perceived shortage of grain led to rioting and social unrest. Furthermore, ancient authors such as Cato, Cicero, and Pliny encouraged the agrarian lifestyle, but artificially detached the farm from the market in their writings, and discouraged well-born young men from trade. Nonetheless, the large estates of the landed classes produced more than their city and country estates could consume, and even Cicero admits that trade, on a sufficiently large scale, could be honorable. Moreover, a trader barred from the senatorial and equestrian classes at Rome could enjoy the highest positions of respect and authority at the local level and progressively, in the first and second centuries of the empire, involvement with the activities of the grain trade could be the road to full citizenship. Where did this leave the ancient trader? Using literary and documentary evidence, this paper will illustrate the social and logistic challenges that a grain trader faced when he shipped his wares to Rome, and what made it worth his while.
Feeding the Moral Family: The “Spirit” of Food Ritual in Iran
By Rose Wellman, University of Virginia
This paper draws on ten months of ethnographic research in a small Iranian town to examine the integral role of food in the creation (and destruction) of Islamic moral kinship. In Iran, the person is composed of both a pure, spiritual, and moral inside (batin) and a corruptible, appetite-driven outside (zaher). Similarly, the Iranian family and household are modeled on the distinction between a morally pure, protected interior (darun) and a dangerous, corruptible exterior (birun). Remarkably, this inner/outer dichotomy is further mirrored in food categorizations. While home-cooked, local, and religiously permissible foods are pure and trusted, foods cooked at restaurants, “foreign” foods, and religiously impermissible ingredients are considered tarnished and potentially harmful, both to the body and soul. Therefore, vigilance is imperative, and a significant moral concern is the ability and intention of the cook to create spiritual ly nourishing – or dangerous – fare.
This paper thus explores how food, as a substance that mediates the boundaries of inside and outside, is strategically employed in Iranian households to protect and shape not only the ‘person’, but also the Islamic moral spirit (ruh) of the family. It further considers how food, as a liminal substance, can be a “dangerous” vehicle for corruption or spiritual illness. In so doing, it takes up the question of how food is nourishing, suggesting that the feeding and eating of food substance can be explicitly linked to the creation of moral bodies and souls.
Ideologies of Fermented Foods
By Madeline Chera, Indiana University
Anthropologists have long noted that identification of organic materials as edible is quite culturally contingent, and this variability applies all the more to fermented foods, which have been modified by the activities of micro-organisms. Fermented foods bear multiple meanings, even within the Euro-American context. One position stems from the microbiology of Pasteur and Koch and the demands of a globalized food economy; here some fermented products are widely accepted as good to eat and hygienic, and others are feared for their potential to harbor microbes unchecked. Meanwhile, there is a contingent of home-based fermenters that views the small-scale production of foods like kimchi and kefir with wild bacteria and yeasts, as preparations of tasty and nutritious comestibles, but also as politically revolutionary acts. Both positions view fermented foods as desirable, but each idealizes a different provenance: one the factory, and the other the home kitchen. I argue that these understandings of microbe-altered foods symbolize the conflict between two political ideologies, with the home-fermenters positioning their products as stand-ins for the decentralized, fluid, and publicly-owned, against the nationalistic, tightly controlled, standardized, and privatized. In considering activist and author Sandor Ellix Katz as a case-study, we can observe how home-fermenters use their products as material and performative representations of localism, and see themselves as embracing flexible boundaries and recombinant identities. In tracing the historical pathways of fermented foods from early microbial science to today, we see how this position struggles to assert its legitimacy against the more institutionalized position it rejects.
Love me? Prove it! Food as proof of love in Venantius Fortunatus
By Zacharias Andreadakis, University of Michigan
Can love pass through the stomach? How can food change our perception of our environment? In this paper, I will discuss the poetical memory of food in Venantius Fortunatus, a Latin poet of the early sixth century A.D., who offers a highly personal take on these questions. The eleven books of Venantius’s surviving oeuvre, especially the eleventh book as well as a great many of his poems dedicated to his friends are teeming with gluttony, fasting and feasting. I argue that every food metaphor is not only a textual representation of the poet's inner disposition but also that the quality (and sometimes the quantity) of food are in direct alignment with the sentiment he is presenting. For instance in the 8th and 12th poem of his 11th book, respect, gratitude and love can radically change our perception of our friends, lovers or enemies. In order to illustrate this point, I will attempt to draw parallels between Venantius and the earlier classical tradition, including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Athenaus' Deipnosophistai and Petronius' Cena Trimilachionis. Then, I will discuss the persuasive techniques that Venantius uses in his food rhetoric and how the act of eating becomes for him a vessel for nostalgia. By taking this approach, I will propose that food is specifically for Venantius (and generally for classical tradition) one of the most important indicators of the worldview (Weltanschauung) of the poet's universe and that it can help us discover a world of joy in a deeply challenging political situation.
Marisa Mori's Edible Futurist Breasts
By Jennifer Griffiths, Bryn Mawr College
Marinetti’s “Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine” (1930) and the subsequent Futurist Cookbook (1932) would call for a culinary revolution and document a new edible aesthetics. With each of its dining experiments Futurism enacted its demands for destruction, violence and transformation through the microcosm of the human intestine. The cookbook included a description of a tactile dinner party in which smell, taste and touch substituted for vision as participants dined in the dark. While F.T. Marinetti’s avant-garde chauvinism has left a notoriously bad taste in postmodern mouths, Futurism’s extensive experiments with taste and touch represent a curious reversal of Western traditions that regarded the “lower” senses as feminine. Unfortunately Futurism’s theoretical liberation of the so-called “feminine” senses is eclipsed by the cookbook’s daunting inventory of recipes that metaphorical ly devour the female body.
Only one woman left her essence among the pages of the Futurist Cookbook. Marisa Mori’s recipe for Mammelle italiche al sole (Italian Breasts in the Sun) calls for two mounds of almond paste topped with two candied strawberries on a bed of custard and cream, sprinkled with hot pepper. Her punning metaphorics have a familiar masculinst flavor. The female body is presented in fragmented and sexualized terms. Mori’s contribution to the Futurist Cookbook represents a unique episode, but is it just another recipe for consumption? Cecilia Novero has noted the “ironic self-reflexivity” of the Futurist Cookbook, which celebrates its own absurdity. I intend to argue that Mori’s breasts have a satirical flavor of their own.
The Ox-Slaying: (Mis)Interpretations of Greek Sacrifice
By Abbe Walker, Bryn Mawr College
In this paper, I argue that two of the most prominent theories of ancient Greek sacrificial practice are founded on a problematic account of the origin of sacrifice. The influential theories of Jean-Pierre Vernant and Walter Burkert both assert that there was a feeling of anxiety, fear, and guilt associated with the ritual killing of animals, and the basis for both their theories is found in Porphyry’s account of the etiological myth of the Athenian Bouphonia ritual. The name Bouphonia literally means “the slaying of an ox,” using the same word (phonos) for killing that would typically be applied to the murder of a human, implying that this was no ordinary sacrifice. Previous scholars have criticized Vernant’s and Burkert’s use of this rite because of its local and archaic nature, but I show that it is not the nature of the ritual itself that makes their readings of the rite problematic for an all-encompassing theory of sacrifice, but the nature of Porphyry’s etiological myth that they are using to develop their theories. Porphyry’s account of the ritual is part of a lengthy work defending vegetarianism, based heavily on the work of his predecessor Theophrastus. Both men had a specific moral and philosophical agenda in mind that was not at all consistent with mainstream Greek attitudes, and for this reason Porphyry’s explanation of the Bouphonia is an inappropriate archetype from which to develop a theory to explain the ancient custom of the ritual slaughter and consumption of sacrificial animals.
Stocking the Puuc Maya Kitchen: Prehispanic Culinary Equipment and Cuisine
By Stephanie Simms, Boston University
Ethnographic and ethnohistorical literature often substantiate entire discussions of prehispanic Maya foodways, owing to a general lack of primary refuse at most Maya sites and poor preservation of organic materials in the humid tropics. The rapidly abandoned hilltop site of Escalera al Cielo, located in the Puuc Maya region of northwestern Yucatán, Mexico, however, offers an extraordinary foodways case study via direct, archaeological evidence. The residents of this elite, suburban hilltop departed their homes in haste at the end of the Terminal Classic period (A.D. 800–950), leaving many objects on living surfaces, many in their original locations of use. Through the excavation of a complete residential group, including specialized kitchen and/or storage facilities, it is possible to characterize the basic household inventory. Drawing from the inventory, this discussion will explore culinary equipment, cooking methods—high lighting the scientific analysis of clay balls possibly used in pit ovens—and give a brief overview of the specific ingredients employed in the household as revealed through microbotanical analysis of soils and object residues. A few examples of ceramic griddles (comales) and grater bowls (molcajetes) are among the inventory; such implements are often used to index “Mexican” influence among the Maya, equating the former with tortillas and the latter with grinding chili peppers for spicy food preparations. Alternatively, these implements could have been employed for more generalized toasting and grinding purposes. Through an assessment of the archaeological material, we can begin to characterize local, Puuc Maya foodways during the Terminal Classic period.
White Pepper and Black Salt: Food, Genre, and the Satiric Program in Horace’s Satires
By Jamie Fishman, University of Cincinnati
A major shift in satiric style occurs between Books 1 and 2 of Horace’s Satires, and no factor influences this variance more than Horace’s use of gastronomy. The treatment of food in Book 1 centers on the satiety of appetite as a trope for anti-Lucilian literary neatness, as Lucilius is Horace’s lone predecessor. However, with the entrance of the banquet motif and gastronomy in Book 2, Horace redefines his criticisms of Lucilius by emphasizing a refined, tasteful approach to writing satire, in which the juxtaposition of sophisticated and sloppy culinary metaphors reflects Horace’s stylistic distance from Lucilius. Horace also moves beyond Lucilius by withholding Lucilius’ name after 2.1 and by introducing an unnamed auctor (2.4.11), a character who could be a place-holder for Horace himself.
Despite gastronomy’s pervasive role in Book 2, few scholars contend that any poem in Book 2 is as programmatic as Horace’s criticisms of Lucilian stylistics in 1.4 and 1.10. I build on the work of Emily Gowers (1993) to suggest that Satire 2.4— an interlocutor’s slavish recitation of a gastronomic lecture— is programmatic for Book 2. I first contrast 1.4 and 2.4, where, through polarized oppositions in their treatments of food, genre, stylistics, and Lucilius, Horace establishes poetic programs indicative of each book’s style. I then analyze the culinary metaphors in 2.4 which reflect the respective literary styles of Horace and Lucilius. The gastronomic flair of Book 2 therefore indicates Horace’s independent improvement of the genre- a “recipe” for a new brand of satire.