BEHIND THE SCENES: STORIES OF DIETS AND FOOD REGIMENS
Tuscan painter Jacopo Carucci, also known as Pontormo (1494 – 1557), wasn’t simply the most brilliant protagonist of Italian Mannerism, but also an eccentric, moody person, perfectly represented by the diary he personally wrote between 1554 and 1556. The so-called ‘Libro mio’ presents the artist describing his healthy eating plate: each dish is presented through the single ingredients, every meal goes along with the emotions he felt before and after it, giving us an incomparable statement of culinary idiosyncrasy.
Actually, the evolution of eating human behaviors has been dealing with many food regimens that have anticipated contemporary practices and given us very curious characters as well. One of them was certainly French lawyer and writer Jean Anthelm Brillat-Savarin (1755 – 1826), the author of Physiologie du goût (Physiology of Taste): published in 1825 (with an introduction by Honoré de Balzac), the essay is the first, modern reflection on the relationship between the human being and food. ‘Every overweight treatment has to start with these three concepts of absolute theory: eating sobriety, sleep self-restrain, motion (by walking or horse). Among meats, choose chicken and beef; just eat the bread’s crust’, he wrote encouraging the assimilation of white meat and few carbs, anticipating an approach that has been highly successful through the years.
Inventor of modern gastronomy, Brillat-Savarin inspired a parterre of atypical figures. American Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham (1794 – 1851) organized retreats characterized by food regimens without meat and sugar: his philosophy – we would describe it vegan today – was aimed at ‘fighting’ against the spread of alcohol, tea, coffee and spices, defined ‘sinful’ by Graham himself. In the Victorian London, notable English undertaker William Banting (1794 – 1851) wrote Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public: published in 1863 at his own expense, the essay describes a personal challenge to overweight, highlighting a protein-based program plenty of meat and fish, and hostile towards bread, milk and beer. Even despite its lack of scientific objectivity, Banting’s Letter soon became popular among English gentlemen, and ‘to bant’ became synonym of eating self-restraint.
Today university faculties such as Food and Human Nutrition Sciences are widespread to educate skilled, able professionals. We’re speaking about dietitians (doctors that graduated in Medicine and Surgery, later specialized to provide pathology diagnosis, diet prescriptions, meds and exams), nutritionists (biologists with proper knowledge to consider nutrition needs, elaborate food plans and work in the realm of food education), healthcare professionals who implement diets and check their being acceptable. Their work also attracts the interest of UNESCO, that defined the Mediterranean Diet (conceived by American physiologist Ancel Keys in the 1960s) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, for its being ‘a mix of skills, knowledges, rituals, symbols and traditions, spanning from landscape to food’. Our beloved Doctor Irene Macrì is a Biologist Nutritionist too, and works with Doctor Stefania Intonti – to give monthly advices to the Foundation’s followers Facebook and Instagram. Alimento in movimento (‘Moving Food’) is the social event through which she gives food informations, protein-based choices, virtuous uses of condiments, with a special look for those who practice sports. Follow her, through this interview too!Back to the articles!
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