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Fast Food In the Middle Ages and Today

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Mike Piero

on 19 November 2015

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Transcript of Fast Food In the Middle Ages and Today

Where We Are Now
"Fast Food" in the Middle Ages and Today
Excessive Eating in the Society of the Spectacle
UN Millenium Development Goals Report http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
Overview of Poverty Goal Results:
902 million in extreme hunger in developing world down to 795 million
Percentage of people in hunger has dropped from 23.3% to 12.9% between 1990-2015
1 in four children worldwide have stunted growth
1 in four people worldwide eat to excess
Food and Feasts in the Middle Ages
Little is known about eating habits of peasants
Anglo-Norman records of aristocracy
Scenes from literature
Habits of monks in abbeys (Rule of St. Benedict)
Physical and spiritual nourishment
Fasting encouraged under asceticism, whereby the material (including food) could become a threat to inner calm and peace
Social and political move as well
The Early Middle Ages
In de-urbanized world of early Middle Ages (11-12th centuries), fast food was a rarity (Carlin 28-29).
Home meals of working peasants included mostly bread and vegetables (beans and peas)
Terrible harvests and famines during this time, including in 1315
Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
(1618) by Diego Velázquez
13th Century and Rise of Urbanity
Rapid growth of London and Paris as an urban centers
Had a "fast food" outlet as early as the 1170s
, ready-to-eat food (not cooked to order)
Meat pies
Cooked meats (game and poultry)
By early 14th century, there were:
Flan makers (cheesecakes)
Waferers (wafers and griddle cakes)
The Black Death,
and the Continued Growth of Urbanity in 14th and 15th Centuries
Black Death (Plague): by 1348 had hit Paris, London, Lyon, and Bordeaux
Bacillus called Yersina pestis: spread by rats and fleas
Wiped out 30 million people in Europe, nearly a third of Europe's population
Despite the plague, the late 14th and 15th centuries saw growth in standards of living in Europe
Peasant eating went through transformation: MEAT
Black death lowered grain prices
Wine and ale preferred over water (which was often polluted)
Recap of Relation to Food in Middle Ages
Sacred relation to food
Excessive eating was sinful and seen as a danger to the community
Gap between eating habits of wealthy and poor
Despite rising standards of living and transformation of how working poor ate, excessive eating still taboo
Chaucer: "The Miller's Tale" and The Monk
Depictions of "feasts" were exceptions
Guy Debord - Society of the Spectacle (1967)
Debord argues that we have allowed our lives to be colonized by an immersive experience of spectacular images that function to replace reality
Everything real has moved to representation
A world of hyperreality
That which appears (as an image) as real is seen as more real than Real
Spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation of people mediated by images
Late capitalism has turned appearance into a commodity, issuing in more alienation
The goal of spectacle is to reproduce itself as reality
Two Brief Examples of Spectacle
1. Movies/advertisements
Depict scantily clad women (and men) with tanned bodies, associating tanning with leisure, luxury, and relaxation, despite health risks and general unpleasantness.
2. Facebook
Your identity is made into an image which must appear, a collection of spectacular images, likes, and posts that function within the spectacle as being "connected" with others but which, in reality, issue in more alienation.
Food Today within the Spectacle
Changes in Food Production
Global supply chains
Excessive appetites - sugar, salt,
Heavily processed foods - white flour
Bioengineering of foods - Monsanto
Factory farming
Shift from local farming to major agricultural corporations

Question: How have these changes impacted our communities and how we
relate to one another?
Moving Forward
Imagine micro-communities of food outside of spectacle
locally sourced
organized through non-profits
requires individual participation
based on a secular-sacred relation to food, featuring a culture of restraint in eating (for communities, both local and global)
Sources, Image Credit, and Resources

Mike Piero
Assistant Professor, English
Tri-C, Westshore Campus
Image intellectual and creative property of Burger King
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