Friday, May 18, 2007

The Da Vinci Code (Sort of)

It's always fun to delve into the food customs of other times, so the book DaVinci's Kitchen: A Secret History of Italian Cuisine, while not actually focusing on DaVinci per se, does have some fascinating food history from 15th- and 16th-century Italy. For example, did you know that the higher your status when invited to dinner, the more likely you were to be seated with your back to the fireplace? Gotta keep that royal "hiney"ess warm, you know. Or that the first cookbook, in the modern sense of the word, was handwritten by Maestro Martino about 1460 and was called Libro de arte coquinaria, or "Book on the Art of Cooking?"

In researching the book, author Dave DeWitt went through Leonardo DaVinci's copious notebooks, looking for food references and even found Leo's salad dressing recipe! He also found DaVinci's Philosophy of Diet, as follows:

  • Do not eat when you have no appetite, and dine lightly.
  • Chew well, and whatever you take into you should be well-cooked and of simple ingredients.
  • He who takes medicine is ill advised.
  • Beware anger and avoid stuffy air.
  • Stay standing a while when you get up from a meal.
  • Make sure you do not sleep at midday.
  • Let your wine be mixed with water, take little and often, not between meals, not on an empty stomach.
  • Neither delay nor prolong your visit to the toilet.
  • If you take exercise, let it not be too strenuous.
  • Do not lie with your stomach upward and your head downward. 
  • Be well covered at night,and rest your head and keep your mind cheerful.
  • Avoid wantonness and keep to this diet.
Well, pretty wise, eh? I wonder what role sugar had in the 15th-century Italian diet. Granulated sugar hadn't been invented, so I imagine it was the occasional honey and was a treat. Might be wrong, though. These days, Italian food generally is spelled P-A-S-T-A and is a carb nightmare.

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