Monday, March 2, 2009

On Breakfast

I've posted before about breakfast, noting the general uncertainty of whether or not the people of medieval Europe did or didn't eat a morning meal. Now I've found another interesting passage of text on the subject.

This one comes from The Castel of Helth by Thomas Elyot (1541). I'd found this book many months back when I was reading up on food and humoral theory, but I hadn't read through the whole thing. Much to my surprise, buried within a section on what's appropriate to eat at various times of the year is the passage quoted below. It's rather long but in essence it says that people under the age of 40 can eat breakfast, and that (given the climate of England) not doing so might harm their health.

Sir Elyot doesn't say anything specific about people over the age of 40 though, which leaves me to conclude that I'm personally allowed at least six meals a day.

Tymes in the day concernynge meales. Cap. 27.

Besydes the tymes of the yere and ages, there
be also other tymes of eatinge and drinkinge
to be remembred, as the sundry tymes in the day,
whiche we call meales, which are in number and
distance, accordinge to the temperature of the coun
trey and person: As where the country is colde,
and the person lusty, and of a strong nature, there
may mo meales be vsed, or the lasse distaunce of
tyme betwene them. Contrarywise in contrary coun-
trais and personages, the cause is afore rehersed.
Where I haue spoken of the diete of the tymes of
the yere, not withstandinge here must be also con-
sideration of exercise and rest, which do augment
or appaire the naturall disposition of bodyes, as
shalbe more delclared hereafter in the chapiter of
exercise. But concernynge the generall csage of
countreis, and admitting the bodies to be in per-
fite state of healthe, I suppose, that in Englande,
yong men, vntil they come to the age of .xl. yeres,
may well eate thre meales in one day, as at breke-
fast, dyner, and supper, so that betwene brekefast,
and diner, be the space of foure houres at the lest,
betwene diner and supper .vi. houres, & the breke
fast lasse than the diner and the dyner moderate,
that is to say, lasse than sacietie or fulnesse of bea-
ly, and the drynke thervnto mesurable, according
to the drynesse or moystnes of the meate. For mo-
che abundance of drynke at meale, drowneth the
meate eaten, and not only letteth conuenient con-
coction in the stomake, but also causeth it to passe
faster than nature requireth, and therfore ingen-
dreth moche fleume, and consequently reumes, &
crudenes in the vaynes, debilitie and slyppernes
of the stomacke, contynuall fluxe, and many o-
ther inconueniences to the body and members.

But to retourne to meales, I thynke breakefa-
stes necessary in this realme, as well for the cau-
ses before rehersed, as also forasmoch as coler be-
inge feruent in the stomacke, sendeth vp fumiosi-
ties vnto the brayne, and causeth head ache, and
sometyme becommeth aduste, and smouldreth in
the stomake, wherby happeneth peryllous sycke-
nes, and somtyme sodayne deathe, if the heate in-
closed in the stomake haue nat other conueniente
matter to work on: this dayly experience proueth,
and naturalle reason confirmeth. Therfore men
and women not aged, hauynge their stomackes
cleane without putrified matter, slepynge mode-
rately and soundly in the nyght, and felinge them
selfe lyght in the morninge, and swete brethed, let
them on goddis name breake their fast: Colerike
men with grosse meate, men of other complexions
with lyghter meate.

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