Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Madeleine and the Mad Cow

Sacred Cow, Mad Cow: A History of Food Fears
Madeleine Ferrières
Columbia University Press
ISBN: 0231131925
I haven't had much time to read lately (or post on the blog, for that matter), but if you're curious about what kind of book I keep on the nightstand (and who isn't?) this is it. Yes, I know I'm a geek.

The really cool thing about this book (so far) is that in just the first two chapters, Madeleine Ferrières manages to completely destroy the Moldy Meat Myth. She does this not through menus or recipes, nor through logic or reasoning. Instead she references several surviving medieval laws and charters.

Some of these laws explicitly forbid the sale of spoiled meat. Others establish an inspection process that rivals that of the USDA. However the laws that most effectively debunk the myth are those that prohibit the sale of meat that was slaughtered the previous day.

So here's a brief recap of medieval meat consumption:
  1. On average, urban residents ate three to five pounds of meat each week.
  2. Butchers were forbidden to sell day-old meat for human consumption.
  3. Livestock was brought into the town alive.
  4. Livestock and butchered meat were both inspected for wholesomeness.
  5. Butchers were forbidden to sell cooked meat, and cooks were forbidden to slaughter livestock.
  6. Meat was a lot cheaper than spices.
So, as the myth would have it, butchers would bring in the huge quantity of livestock needed, butcher it all right away, let it sit around for days, hide it from the inspectors, sell it illegally, and hope that the spice merchants can convince the customers to use £10 worth of spices on a 2p piece of meat.

Yeah, sure.

1 comment:

Alena said...

I'm so glad to hear about a research based de-bunking. The book is now on my wish list.