Unique in its cultural and religious makeup, medieval Iberia represented a crossroads of cultures. This crossroads was reflected in large and small ways. On a grand scale, we see the convergence of intellectual ideas and great innovations in agriculture and science. On a more intimate level, we see an intersection of cultures as reflected in habits of consumption. The acts of producing food, cooking, and eating demonstrate the political realities of the land: at times interdependent, and, at times, at odds.
Food, as an archeological and anthropological tool, can help us understand a particular moment in time. In considering the nature of consumption, we may arrive at the heart of a culture. In Medieval Fare, the author explores food references found in a number of medieval Iberian texts in order to expand our knowledge of daily life in the Middle Ages. By examining the depiction of food and consumption, this pioneering study provides insight into the cultural, religious, and social complexities of medieval Iberia.
Martha M. Daas is associate professor and chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Old Dominion University.
Chapter 1: Meat and Mains
Chapter 2: Bread and Grains
Chapter 3: Vegetables and Legumes
Chapter 4: Fruits and Sweets
Chapter 5: Wine
In the Middle Ages, the Iberian Peninsula was a cultural intersection, home to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. These religious groups' tastes and restrictions contributed to Iberian foodways, made even more complex by their differences in social class and wealth. Bread and wine were staples of most diets (many Muslims drank wine), although the rich consumed more meat than the poor did. In drawing this picture, Daas employs a variety of sources, including books on cookery, medical texts, agricultural manuals, and literary works. She ties the intersection of diet with health consciousness to the belief that human beings might incline toward one of the four humors, becoming either choleric, sanguine, melancholic, or phlegmatic. A food or drink of one type might counterbalance a natural tendency toward another humor. Five chapters cover meat, bread and grains, vegetables and legumes, fruits and sweets, and wine. Each chapter discusses the three religious communities' cultures and strictures, including inquisitorial inquiries. The prose is clear, and quotations from other languages are translated. Recommended. General readers through faculty.
Martha M. Daas’s book is a valuable contribution to the study of food in Medieval Iberia for
both scholars and students. It draws on a variety of cultural material (i.e. agricultural, culinary,
historical, literary, and medicinal) from the three major religions to demonstrate at a larger scale
how food and its representations oscillate between pleasure and prohibition. Each chapter is
organized by food-type facilitating the dialogue of sources outlining the similarities and
differences of how various items were discussed, consumed, and employed across religions
and centuries. While anchored in the past, this work invites the reader to consider food’s
continued relevance in today’s world as a parallel tool of inclusion and exclusion.
Compiling Christian, Muslim, and Jewish texts across health manuals, cookbooks, agricultural sources, religious writings, and literary texts, Daas has laid the groundwork for food studies in medieval Iberia. Each of the five chapters centers on a food group (meat/mains, bread/grains, vegetables/legumes, fruits/sweets, and wine) and pivots to cover the considerations of class, geography, politics, religion, and sex that characterize each food. --A thorough foundational work that will be equal parts useful and delightful for scholars, students, and foodies alike!
There are few book-length studies available in English about the ways people thought about and consumed food in medieval Iberia. Daas’ comprehensive study of medieval Iberian foodways, Medieval Fare: Food and Culture in Medieval Iberia, will undoubtedly be useful to those interested in Food Studies and in Medieval Iberian culture.
The complexity of medieval Spanish society is manifest in the foods that were grown and consumed by the various religious and ethnic communities of the Peninsula. Daas’ study explores the ways in which Spaniards of differing religions and ethnicities used food at times to come together and at others to accentuate their differences. In this book, we find the type of bread or stew one ate could signal to others not only which faith-community they belonged to, but also their social status. Tracing the history of food preparation and consumption (with chapters devoted to bread, wine, meat, sweets, and more), Daas brings together literary and historical sources, as well as the work of other well-known scholars such as Olivia Remie Constable and Carolyn Nadeau to paint a picture of the complexity of medieval Spanish foodways.
8/24/23, ChoiceReviews: This title was included in a roundup of “The Top 75 Community College Titles: August 2023 Edition”Link: https://www.choice360.org/choice-pick/the-top-75-community-college-titles-august-2023-edition/