Introduction

  • Roel Sterckx

Abstract

Food and foodways provide an effective lens through which to illuminate human life. Its role in ancient and contemporary societies has been the subject of study by scholars working in a variety of fields over the past few decades. Studies that examine food as nutrition or explore the economic and technical aspects of food production through themes such as famine, land use, health, and poverty reflect a long-standing interest by historians and archaeologists in the material aspects of food in ancient societies. Today, historians studying the role of food and commensality in societies in the past increasingly acknowledge an intellectual debt to pioneering sociological and anthropological work.1 The results have been rewarding: the biocultural relationship of humans to food and eating is now firmly implanted as a valuable tool to explore aspects of a society’s social, political and religious make up. For Graeco-Roman antiquity, work on what Peter Garnsey has coined the “food and non-food uses of food” has yielded results hardly digestible in one comprehensive bibliography.2 Likewise, an increasing number of studies on food, cuisine, and eating in medieval and early modern Europe have seen the light in recent years (Carlin 1998, Bober 1999, Scholliers 2001, Effros 2002); and enduring biblical scholarship on sacrifice and food taboos has recently been supplemented with comprehensive studies on foodways in the Islamic world (Feeley-Harknick 1994; Van Gelder 2000a, 2000b; Kueny 2001).

Keywords

Fermentation Europe Peri Sine Metaphor 

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© Roel Sterckx 2005

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  • Roel Sterckx

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