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Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections

We didn’t always eat the way we do today. It was only at the advent of the early modern period that people stopped eating with their hands from trenchers of bread and started using forks and plates, that lords stopped inviting scores of neighbors to dine together in great halls and instead ate separately in private rooms, and that Europeans started worrying about dining à la mode, from the most refined nouvelle cuisine. 

Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup tells the story of how early modern  Europeans put into words these complex and evolving relationships between cooks and diners, hosts and guests, palates and tastes, food and humankind. Named after two memorable characters in Twelfth Night, this lively history of food and literature draws on sources ranging from cookbooks and medical texts to comic novels and Renaissance tragedies.  Robert Appelbaum expertly weaves such sources together to show how people invented new genres and ways of speaking to express interest in food. He also recounts the evolution of culinary practices and attitudes toward food, connecting them with contemporaneous developments in medical science, economics, and colonial expansion. As he does so, Appelbaum paints a colorful picture of a remarkably conflicted culture in which food was many things—from a symbol of happy sociability to a token of selfish gluttony, from an icon of cultural life to a cause for social struggle. 

Peppered with illustrations and even a handful of recipes, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccuplooks at our basic staple of daily existence from an entirely fresh perspective that will appeal to anyone interested in early modern literature or the history of food.

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About the Author

Robert Appelbaum is professor of English literature at Uppsala University, Sweden.


"The triangulation among print documents from a diverse and expansive canon; the turns, as well as the minutiae, of grand events; and the informed speculation about material aspects of existence, yield rich, satisfying results."--Julia Abramson "Journal of Interdisciplinary History " "An insightful and thought-provoking book and the arguments Applebaum makes . . . are already shaping scholarship on this important branch of cultural studies about the ideational meanings of food, and the relationship between literature and food."--Claire Jowitt "Key Words " "[The] study is expansive, ambitious, learned, and often both startling and delightful. . . . The really notable thing about "Aguecheek's Beef" is its erudite yet genial breadth of vision, which marks it as a major sourcebook for future scholars working in the field of food studies. Applebaum comes as close as possible to offering readers a unified field theory of early modern alimentary behavior. . . . A study of marvelous richnes and diversity."--Bruce Boehrer "Clio " "An accessible and engaging exploration of the significance of food in early modern literature and social practice. . . . The useful material Appelbaum incorporates into his interpretation of these texts and into his study as a whole, and his attention both to detail and to broader social conditions and literary trends, make this a useful book for a wide range of readers."--Jan Purnis "Renaissance Quarterly " "I consider this book excellent in almost every regard. Appelbaum's scholarship is deep, his prose immensely readable, and his thesis compelling from beginning to end. . . . His ability to see in very specific examples . . . the larger lineaments of a culture's attitudes toward itself makes for a lively intellectual journey."--Thomas G. Olsen "Sixteenth Century Journal " "Appelbaum explores, chapter by chapter, the different ways in which early modern authors write about food. . . . [He]persuades us to ask searching questions about brief culinary asides in 16th-century literature and to recognise the false clues by which some commentators have been misled. . . . Readers learn almost as much about early modern food as about the literature that digests it." "Times Higher Education Supplement"--Andrew Dalby"Times Higher Education Supplement" (02/23/2007)"

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