Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, welcoming foodies to discuss the dining scenes in Israel and abroad, along with all things related to kosher food.
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Daniel Rogov

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Have Portions Increased in Size As Time Goes By?

by Daniel Rogov » Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:39 am

Sent by one of my faithful correspondents, a report on a study of art works, those focusing on portrayals of Christ's Last Supper" seems to indicate that portions have grown larger over time. See the article at http://artnews.com/issues/article.asp?a ... rrent=True

My own hypothesis, considering the enormous quantities of foods served during Greek and Roman feasts (or orgies if we prefer) is that this is simply not realistic, the change being shown more as preferences and styles in art changed over the years. Whatever, an interesting read...

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Richard Tasgal

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Re: Have Portions Increased in Size As Time Goes By?

by Richard Tasgal » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:05 am

Certainly, quantities of food eaten in America dropped enormously between the 19th and 20th century. There is a very good book on the area, Cornflake Crusade, by Gerald Carson, available on-line for free from the Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov . Specifically, Chapter 3 covers the American diet in the 19th century and earlier, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?a ... div9%29%29 , http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?a ... iv29%29%29 . More evidence that portion sizes in art fails as a proxy for quantities of food eaten in real life.

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Re: Have Portions Increased in Size As Time Goes By?

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:27 am

Richard, Hello and Welcome to the Forum....

The research to which you point as well as a good deal of anecdotal experiences, indicates not that Americans and others are eating less or that there are smaller portions but that there are fewer portions put on the table.

In Medieval England for example, it was desirable to show one's wealth by serving anywhere from 8-24 entrements (first courses), and then as many as 40 main courses at a single meal. That did not, of course, mean that each person ate from each offering. As to the more modern New England breakfast, in the mid 19th century it was customary to serve as many as 24 different dishes.

Indeed, offerings are fewer but I woud suggest that portions are larger and people are actually eating more in many situations.

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Re: Have Portions Increased in Size As Time Goes By?

by Richard Tasgal » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:15 am

Thanks for the welcome!

As I read the source above, I was agog with the quantities eaten not just on special occasions, but day-in and day-out, and not just by the rich, but by ordinary farmers and clerks. On one hand, there were indeed many more courses in the 19th century, but on the other hand the accounts said that, for example, the cuts of meat served were normally thick. So how much food did each course amount to, by some quantitative measure? I guess I do not know. Still, that stomach complaints were such a widespread problem in America in the 19th century, and that by the beginning of the 20th century they were not seems to me evidence that overeating had diminished.

I've heard and read, of course, that in America between a century or a half-century ago and now, there's been an increase in calories consumed. But I don't really know the data, so I perhaps should sit out discussions about this period. I'm going to go out on a limb anyway and say that I'd be surprised if this increase is nearly as drastic as the decrease in calories consumed between the mid 19th century and the start of the 20th.

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