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The Good, the Bad, and the Wormy: The Reputation of Cheese in Renaissance Medicine and Cuisine

Thu, March 22, 9:00 to 10:30am, Harrah's Hotel, 2nd Level - Satchmo Room

Abstract

In his works, Piero Camporesi argued that in the early modern period cheese was one of the most criticised ingredients in health regimen and manuals. Physicians and satirical authors wrote specific treatises on cheese, highlighting its most horrific and repugnant qualities, condemning and discouraging its consumption. Cheese was looked at with suspicion because the milk fermentation process was seen as dangerous for someone’s health. Departing from this pessimistic view, this paper will offer a different perspective. Pantaleone da Confienza (sec. XV) and Giulio Landi (1498-1579) offered positive views on cheese. Making use of medical treatises, popular narratives, letters and diaries this paper explores patterns of reception and assimilation of medical advice in early modern food consumption in Europe. By making use of cheese as a case study, it illuminates the complex intersection between the medical and the culinary, the recommended and the forbidden, the good and the bad.

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