Study Day: Food cultures in a Trans-Atlantic Perspective (15th— 16th centuries)


Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 2:30pm to 6:00pm


Gould Hall

Papers by Allen J. Grieco (Villa I Tatti, Florence), Gregorio Saldarriaga Escobar (Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia), and Davide Domenici (Università di Bologna), followed by Discussion

Histoire Naturelle des IndesAllen J. Grieco (Villa I Tatti, Florence): Introduction

Allen J. Grieco: Ordering the edible world in Renaissance Italy:  from the medieval Tacuinum Sanitatis to the 16th century dietary treatise

Literature on late medieval and Renaissance diets provided a complex set of rules that were meant to ensure health. Many if not most of these guidelines were already part of a "popular" medical discourse that circulated freely in society at large, and were widely observed according to parameters such as social class, age, gender and humoral disposition. Dietary notions were not only deeply ingrained but medical literature on healthy eating was consulted at all levels of society, resulting in  a shared dietary culture that was to shape the ways in which Europeans would perceive the foods of the New World.

Gregorio Saldarriaga (Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia): From the manatee to the yucca: classifying edibles in the New World

When attempting to understand New World foods in the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans had recourse to a mixture of empirical observation and traditional frames of reference. The aim of this talk is to explore how the newly arrived settlers classified edible vegetables and animals. Special attention will be paid to foods that proved more difficult to classify with Old World criteria.

Davide Domenici (Università di Bologna): The Mesoamerican food system

Ancient Mesoamerican peoples developed a huge variety of food systems, each one related to a specific cultural and environmental context.  Nevertheless, the joint use of archaeological and historical sources allows us to sketch some basic elements, shared by different food systems as those of the Maya and the Aztecs. This talk will offer a general description of foods, preparation techniques, food categories and symbolic meanings that shaped the ancient Mesoamerican food system.