Foods often found at a feast in the Renaissance
If you want to be healthy observe this regime.
Do not eat when you have no appetite and dine lightly,
Chew well, and whatever you take into you
Should be well-cooked and of simple ingredients.
—from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
We know him as one of the world’s most prolific creators, making his exceptional mark as a painter, sculptor, scientist, astronomer, architect, engineer, zoologist, and inventor. But there’s an overlooked role that’s worth considering when we celebrate the genius of Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance foodie.
Beyond the portraits by which he immortalized his aristocratic patrons, da Vinci also assisted in designs for their kitchens and feasts, and most likely attended many of those lavish events as a guest. The writings in his notebooks, as well as the inventory of his pantry after his death, suggest that he may have been a vegetarian, but he also had sketched a device designed to turn meat on a spit. His drawings from nature often focused on the simple beauty of fruit, herbs, and vegetables.
While we don’t know for certain what da Vinci ate on a daily basis, he did own a cookbook—the first ever printed, in fact—On Honorable Pleasure and Good Health, written in 1470 by gastronomist Bartolomeo Sacchi. It is clear, though, that wine was an essential pleasure for da Vinci, who lauded it in his writings (“The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star”), and owned several vineyards.
In a lively and sometimes-surprising evening, author, food historian, and television host Francine Segan sets da Vinci in the context of the culinary culture, customs, and manners of the Italian Renaissance, a period in which banquet tables laden with elaborate and fanciful dishes offered the wealthy and the ambitious a prime setting for satisfying many kinds of appetites.
Food donations from wethepizza.com and chocolate from Venchi and Bonajuto. Wine courtesy of Il Palagio. Additional tastings provided by Fruit of the Boot Inc.
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