Cooking as Research Methodology: Experiments in Renaissance Cuisine
This essay seeks to redress a long-standing epistemological division in food scholarship. The radical separation of academic food historians from culinary historians and practitioners has had various deleterious effects. One is the tendency of academic food historians to misunderstand specific food references in historical, literary, and artistic texts, stemming from unfamiliarity with the practical conditions of historic kitchens. The other negative effect is the professional marginalization of those with technical skills whose experience is indispensible for a full appreciation of the embodied experience of our forebears and what was, for the vast majority of people, a daily activity: providing and preparing food. This essay will argue that the two disparate fields of food history and culinary history must necessarily be joined, and it will provide concrete examples of how getting one’s hands dirty, so to speak, clarified what would have otherwise been inscrutable historical texts deriving from the late medieval and early modern period.