Dr Joan Fitzpatrick was one of my colleagues in Renaissance Studies several years ago, at the time when we were working in the English Studies Department at the University of Northampton. She has recently published two books on Shakespeare and food that deserve as wider readership.
[Let me know if you have any other recommendations on food and litearture, please!]
The first academic book is Food in Shakespeare: Early Modern Dietaries and the Plays. The interest in this book appears to be symptomatic of the rediscovery of an interest in food and literature that has been taking place in the last decade.
Here's the summary from Amazon.
"A study of common and exotic food in Shakespeare's plays, this is the first book to explore early modern English dietary literature to better understand the significance of food in Shakespearean drama. "Food in Shakespeare" provides for modern readers and audiences an historically accurate account of the range of, and conflicts between, contemporary ideas that informed the representations of food in the plays. It also focuses on the social and moral implications of familiar and strange foodstuff in Shakespeare's works.This new approach provides substantial fresh readings of "Hamlet", "Macbeth", "As you Like It", "The Winter's Tale", "Henry IV - Parts 1 and 2", "Henry V", "Titus Andronicus", "Coriolanus", "Pericles", "Timon of Athens", and the co-authored "Sir Thomas More".Among the dietaries explored are Andrew Boorde's "A Compendyous Regyment or a Dyetary of Healthe" (1547), William Bullein's "The Gouernement of Healthe" (1595), Thomas Elyot's "The Castle of Helthe" (1595) and Thomas Cogan's "The Hauen of Health" (1636). These dieteries were republished several times in the early modern period; together they typify the genre's condemnation of surfeit and the tendency to blame human disease on feeding practices.This study directs scholarly attention to the importance of early modern dietaries, analyzing their role in wider culture as well as their intersection with dramatic art. In the dietaries food and drink are indices of one's position in relation to complex ideas about rank, nationality, and spiritual well-being; careful consumption might correct moral as well as physical shortcomings. The dietaries are an eclectic genre: some contain recipes for the reader to try, others give tips on more general lifestyle choices, but all offer advice on how to maintain good health via diet. Although some are more stern and humourless than others, the overwhelming impression is that of food as an ally in the battle against disease and ill-health as well as a potential enemy." Available here.
Her other book is ...
Shakespeare and the Language of Food: A Dictionary (Continuum Shakespeare Dictionaries)"This is a detailed historical analysis of Shakespeare and food that provides fascinating insights into early modern attitudes to the body and domestic life. This dictionary is the first to analyze Shakespeare's language of food. It provides an historically accurate account of the role of food in early modern culture and the way this intersected with Shakespeare's writings and introduces contemporary ideas that informed the representations of food and feeding in his plays and poems. Drawing on early modern dietaries as well as other sources including religious sermons and tracts, legal documents, recipe books and conduct manuals, it provides the historical and cultural context to Shakespeare's depictions of food and feeding. This comprehensive analysis of Shakespeare and food also offers fascinating insights into early modern attitudes to food, drink, the body and domestic life. "The Continuum Shakespeare Dictionary" series provides authoritative guides to major subject-areas covered by the poetry and plays. The dictionaries provide readers with a comprehensive guide to the topic under discussion, especially its contemporary meanings, and to its occurrence and significance in Shakespeare's works. Comprehensive bibliographies accompany many of the items. Entries range from a few lines in length to mini-essays, providing the opportunity to explore an important literary or historical concept or idea in depth."- Amazon.
Dr Ian McCormick.