Long before Rabelaisian tales of gargantuan gluttony regaled early modern audiences, and centuries before pie-in-the-face gags enlivened vaudeville slapstick, medieval French poets employed food as a powerful device of humor and criticism.Food and laughter, essential elements in human existence, can be used to question the meaning of cultural conventions concerning the body and sexuality, religion, class hierarchies, and gender relations. This book unites the cultural and literary study of representations of food and consumption with theoretical approaches to comedy, humor, and parody in late twelfth- through early-fourteenth-century French fictional verse narratives of epic chanson de geste, theater, Arthurian verse romance, fabliau, and the beast epic of the Roman de Renart. From socially inept epic heroes to hungry knights-errant and mischievous fabliau housewives, out of the ordinary food usage embodies humor. Some knights prefer fighting with roast chicken or bread loaves rather than their swords. Specific foods such as sausages, lard, pears, nuts, or chickens provoked laughter by their mere presence in a scene. Culinary comedy serves as both social satire and literary parody, playing with institutional social conduct and alimentary codes. Its power lies in its ability to disrupt and to reinforce the same conventions it ridicules.
The problem of hunger is increasing. in general, we agree on that -- but our agreement ceases when we consider appropriate definitions, approaches, and solutions to global scarcity of food. This book emphasizes that the world's food problems are technically, biologically, socially, politically, economically, and morally complex. Early chapters set out alternative conceptions of the world food problem and explore the major variables and assumptions of each. Subsequent chapters compare and contrast modern agriculture with traditional and subsistence forms of agriculture as biological systems. A fourfold classification of nations into food-sufficient and food-deficient and rich and poor precedes a discussion of political, economic, and cultural aspects of food policies in the United States, Europe, and selected less-developed nations. The book also considers the prospects for scientific and technological developments as partial solutions to global scarcity of food and makes guarded recommendations, reaffirming the complexity of the issues involved in world hunger.