The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Fast and Feast

Fast and Feast

Food in Medieval Society Bridget Ann Henisch
  • Copyright: 1976
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 288 pages
  • Illustrations: 46 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-01230-8
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-00424-2
“The topic is vividly described and plentifully illustrated.”
“Although it is neither a detective story nor primarily a humorous work, there are elements of each in this lively and scholarly book on the broader aspects of food in the Middle Ages. . . . If you would like to know how and when people fasted, . . . you can read about it here. You can also learn when to spit and how to share a drinking vessel with your neighbor with some delicacy. What was a banquet like? . . . If you are intrigued by any of this and much more besides, this is the book for you.”
“A fascinating narrative of food and life five centuries ago. . . . This book is highly recommended to dietitians, nutritionists, lovers of food history, and students of medieval life and literature.”
“[This book contains] delightful illustrations taken from illuminated manuscripts, and its wealth of information makes it a feast for anyone interested in the history of food.”
“[Henisch’s] familiarity with primary sources is formidable, and we reap the benefit of years of scholarly sleuthing. . . . [A] thorough, well-organized, and well-written study that will be valued not only by the academic, by the general reader as well.”
“[Fast and Feast] will become a necessary reference book for those studying medieval medicine and also for historians of nutrition, food, and social attitudes. . . . Highly recommended.”

Engagingly written and fully illustrated, Fast and Feast explores the medieval approach to food, its preparation, and its presentation. Since attitudes toward food were shaped by the religious and social ideas of the period, the medieval perspective is clearly developed for the modern reader and, in turn, sheds light on the character of life in the Middle Ages. The subject is examined from the varied points of view of all concerned: host, guest, cook, and servant.

Bridget Ann Henisch draws her material from a wide range of primary sources: devotional literature, sermons, courtesy books, recipe collections, household accounts, chronicles, and romances. Most of these works were written in England during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, but Henisch also makes reference to texts from other periods and countries. Readers with an interest in food will find her important study both informative and entertaining.

Bridget Ann Henisch is author of Medieval Armchair Travels and Cakes and Characters, and coauthor of The Photographic Experience, 1839–1914 (Penn State, 1994).

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