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Cheese, Pears, and History in a Proverb

by Massimo Montanari Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 128 pages
AU$49.99 NZ$52.17
Product Status: In Stock Now
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''Do not let the peasant know how good cheese is with pears'' goes the old saying. Intrigued by these words and their portent, Massimo Montanari unravels their origin and utility. Perusing archival cookbooks, agricultural and dietary treatises, literary works, and anthologies of beloved sayings, he finds in the nobility's demanding palates and delicate stomachs a compelling recipe for social conduct.

At first, cheese and its visceral, earthy pleasures were treated as the food of Polyphemus, the uncivilized man-beast. The pear, on the other hand, became the symbol of ephemeral, luxuriant pleasure-an indulgence of the social elite. Joined together, cheese and pears adopted an exclusive savoir faire, especially as the ''natural phenomenon'' of taste evolved into a cultural attitude. Montanari's delectable history straddles written and oral traditions, economic and social relations, and thrills in the power of mental representation. His ultimate discovery shows that the enduring proverb, so wrapped up in history, operates not only as a repository of shared wisdom but also as a rich locus of social conflict.

Series Editor's Preface by Albert Sonnenfeld
1. A Proverb to Decipher
2. A Wedding Announcement
3. Peasant Fare
4. When Rustic Food Becomes the Fashion
5. A Hard Road to Ennoblement
6. The Ideology of Difference and Strategies of Appropriation
7. A High-Born Fruit
8. When Desire Conflicts with Health
9. Peasants and Knights
10. To Savor (To Know) / Taste (Good Taste)
11. How a Proverb Is Born
12. "Do Not Share Pears with Your Master": The Proverb as the Site of Class Conflict

...succinct and informative...
Massimo Montanari is professor of medieval history and the history of food at the Institute of Paleography and Medieval Studies, University of Bologna. Well-known for his searching and thoroughly researched studies of culinary tradition, he has authored and coauthored more than a dozen books, including Food Is Culture; Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History; Food: A Culinary History; and Famine and Plenty: The History of Food in Europe.

Beth Archer Brombert is the author of the widely acclaimed biographies, Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat and Cristina: Portraits of a Princess. She has also translated extensively from French and Italian.