Last Supper Obesity Study Looks Like Bunk

A food behavior scientist (I didn’t even know foods had behaviors!) and a religious studies professor who happen to be brothers have received international publicity with their theory that the size of the food portions grew over 1,000 years’ worth of paintings of the Last Supper, relative to the size of the heads of the disciples.

This is supposed to tell us that people eat larger food portions now than before the Norman invasion.

This study seems like bunk to me.

For one thing, during quite a bit of this time, upper class people — such as the ones who become artists, or commission them — typically ate meals of many distinct courses. If you eat an nine-course meal, each of the plates had better be pretty small, unless you intend to take a few days to finish the meal. A typical meat-potatoes-veggie meal today gets served on a single plate. So voila! – a larger plate.

How did the study take into account the medieval practice of serving food on a trencher made of bread? Does it not mess the study up somewhat if the diner, having consumed the meal on the plate, then consumes the plate?

And then there’s the common medieval practice of two people sharing a single trencher. How was that accounted for?

Maybe the study took these things and others into account, but none of the news stories I read or heard about said a word about them.

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