Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food Among the Early Moderns

University of Chicago Press
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We didn’t always eat the way we do today, or think and feel about eating as we now do. But we can trace the roots of our own eating culture back to the culinary world of early modern Europe, which invented cutlery, haute cuisine, the weight-loss diet, and much else besides. Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup tells the story of how early modern Europeans put food into words and words into food, and created an experience all their own. Named after characters in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this lively study draws on sources ranging from cookbooks to comic novels, and examines both the highest ideals of culinary culture and its most grotesque, ridiculous and pathetic expressions. Robert Appelbaum paints a vivid picture of a world in which food was many things—from a symbol of prestige and sociability to a cause for religious and economic struggle—but always represented the primacy of materiality in life. Peppered with illustrations and a handful of recipes, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup 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.
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Additional Information

University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2008
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Cooking / History
History / Europe / General
History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Shakespeare
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From the hamburger haven to the temple of gastronomy, the restaurant is a fixture of modern life. But why is that so? What needs has the restaurant come to satisfy, and what needs has it come to impose upon the experience of the modern world? In Dishing It Out, Robert Appelbaum travels around America and Europe and through the annals of literature and history to explore the social meaning of the restaurant—and to discover what we ought to be asking of the restaurant experience today. Since its founding in pre-Revolutionary France, the restaurant has always inspired contradictory feelings and served contradictory purposes. It has stood for a kind of liberation: the embrace of pleasure and sociability for their own sake. But it has also encouraged narcissistic consumerism at the cost of the exploitation of restaurant workers, and the self-deception of restaurant-goers. Drawing on the work of such writers as Grimod de la Reynière, Jean-Paul Sartre, Isak Dinesen and M.F.K. Fisher, and sampling fare from macaroni cheese in workaday London to oysters and sausages in seaside France, Appelbaum argues that though restaurants are inherently problematic as social institutions, they are characteristic of who and what we are. They are expressions of what we need as human beings. And for that reason, though they contribute to inequality they can also be used to promote the interests of cultural democracy. A unique rethinking of the restaurant experience, at once entertaining and learned, Dishing it Out is an important contribution to our knowledge of food, literature, history and society.
Beginning around 1559 and continuing through 1642, writers in England, Scotland, and France found themselves pre-occupied with an unusual sort of crime, a crime without a name which today we call 'terrorism'. These crimes were especially dangerous because they were aimed at violating not just the law but the fabric of law itself; and yet they were also, from an opposite point of view, especially hopeful, for they seemed to have the power of unmaking a systematic injustice and restoring a nation to its 'ancient liberty'. The Bible and the annals of classical history were full of examples: Ehud assassinating King Eglon of Moab; Samson bringing down the temple in Gaza; Catiline arousing a conspiracy of terror in republican Rome; Marcus Brutus leading a conspiracy against the life of Julius Caesar. More recent history provided examples too: legends about Mehmed II and his concubine Irene; the assassination in Florence of Duke Alessandro de 'Medici, by his cousin Lorenzino. Terrorism Before the Letter recounts how these stories came together in the imaginations of writers to provide a system of 'enabling fictions', in other words a 'mythography', that made it possible for people of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to think (with and about) terrorism, to engage in it or react against it, to compose stories and devise theories in response to it, even before the word and the concept were born. Terrorist violence could be condoned or condemned, glorified or demonised. But it was a legacy of political history and for a while an especially menacing form of aggression, breaking out in assassinations, abductions, riots, and massacres, and becoming a spectacle of horror and hope on the French and British stage, as well as the main theme of numerous narratives and lyrical poems. This study brings to life the controversies over 'terrorism before the letter' in the early modern period, and it explicates the discourse that arose around it from a rhetorical as well as a structural point of view. Kenneth Burke's 'pentad of motives' helps organise the material, and show how complex the concept of terrorist action could be. Terrorism is usually thought to be a modern phenomenon. But it is actually a foundational figure of the European imagination, at once a reality and a myth, and it has had an impact on political life since the beginnings of Europe itself. Terrorism is a violence that communicates, and the dynamics of communication itself reveal it special powers and inevitable failures.
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