The words like “food porn,” “nom-mom-nom” and “foodie” may have made it to our dictionary today, but it turns out our historical love-affair with indulgent meals may be over 500 years old.
A new analysis of European paintings shows that meat and bread were among the most commonly depicted foods in paintings of meals from the 16th century.
“Crazy meals involving less-than-healthy foods aren’t a modern craving,” explained lead author Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “Paintings from what’s sometimes called the Renaissance Period were loaded with the foods modern diets warn us about – salt, sausages, bread and more bread.”
For the study, researchers started with 750 food paintings from the past 500 years and focused on 140 paintings of family meals. Of the 36 “Renaissance Period” paintings, 86 percent depicted bread and 61 percent depicted meat while only 22 percent showed vegetables.
Interestingly, the most commonly painted foods were not the most readily available foods of the time. For example, the most commonly painted vegetable was an artichoke, the most commonly painted fruit was a lemon, and the most commonly painted meat was shellfish, usually lobster. According to the authors, these paintings often featured food that was indulgent, aspirational or aesthetically pleasing.
In the end, “Our love affair with visually appealing, decadent, or status foods is nothing new,” said co-author Andrew Weislogel, added: “It was already well-established 500 years ago.” The study is published in Sage Open.