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Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections

Literature, Culture, and Food Among the Early Moderns

We didn’t always eat the way we do today, or think and feel about eating as we now do. But we can trace the roots of our own eating culture back to the culinary world of early modern Europe, which invented cutlery, haute cuisine, the weight-loss diet, and much else besides. Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup tells the story of how early modern Europeans put food into words and words into food, and created an experience all their own. Named after characters in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this lively study draws on sources ranging from cookbooks to comic novels, and examines both the highest ideals of culinary culture and its most grotesque, ridiculous and pathetic expressions. Robert Appelbaum paints a vivid picture of a world in which food was many things—from a symbol of prestige and sociability to a cause for religious and economic struggle—but always represented the primacy of materiality in life.
Peppered with illustrations and a handful of recipes, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup will appeal to anyone interested in early modern literature or the history of food.

Read an excerpt.

376 pages | 21 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Food and Gastronomy

History: British and Irish History, European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


"Appelbaum explores, chapter by chapter, the different ways in which early modern authors write about food. . . . [He]
persuades us to ask searching questions about brief culinary asides in 16th-century literature and to recognise the false clues by which some commentators have been misled. . . . Readers learn almost as much about early modern food as about the literature that digests it."—Times Higher Education Supplement

Andrew Dalby | Times Higher Education Supplement

"An accessible and engaging exploration of the significance of food in early modern literature and social practice. . . . The useful material Appelbaum incorporates into his interpretation of these texts and into his study as a whole, and his attention both to detail and to broader social conditions and literary trends, make this a useful book for a wide range of readers."

Jan Purnis | Renaissance Quarterly

"[The] study is expansive, ambitious, learned, and often both startling and delightful. . . . The really notable thing about Aguecheek’s Beef is its erudite yet genial breadth of vision, which marks it as a major sourcebook for future scholars working in the field of food studies. Applebaum comes as close as possible to offering readers a unified field theory of early modern alimentary behavior. . . . A study of marvelous richnes and diversity."

Bruce Boehrer | Clio

"The triangulation among print documents from a diverse and expansive canon; the turns, as well as the minutiae, of grand events; and the informed speculation about material aspects of existence, yield rich, satisfying results."

Julia Abramson | Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"I consider this book excellent in almost every regard. Appelbaum’s scholarship is deep, his prose immensely readable, and his thesis compelling from beginning to end. . . . His ability to see in very specific examples . . . the larger lineaments of a culture’s attitudes toward itself makes for a lively intellectual journey."

Thomas G. Olsen | Sixteenth Century Journal

"An insightful and thought-provoking book and the arguments Applebaum makes . . . are already shaping scholarship on this important branch of cultural studies about the ideational meanings of food, and the relationship between literature and food."

Claire Jowitt | Key Words

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
A Note on the Texts
CHAPTER ONE-Aguecheek’s Beef, Hamlet’s Baked Meat
CHAPTER TWO-The Sensational Science
CHAPTER THREE-The Cookbook As Literature
CHAPTER FOUR-The Food of Wishes, from Cockaigne to Utopia
CHAPTER FIVE-Food of Regret                                                            CHAPTER SIX-Belch’s Hiccup
CHAPTER SEVEN-Cannibals and Missionaries
CONCLUSION-Crusoe’s Friday, Rousseau’s Émile

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Sixteenth Century Studies Conference: Roland H. Bainton Book Prize

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