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Introduction to Part One

Introduction to Part One

(p.19) Introduction to Part One
Appetite and Its Discontents
Elizabeth A. Williams
University of Chicago Press

The Introduction to Part I establishes the context for the study of appetite from 1750 to 1800, setting forth themes developed in Chapters 1-3. Into the early modern era the teaching of Ancient physicians that individual appetite should govern eating choices remained dominant, but from the eighteenth century onward this view of appetite came under challenge. Questioning of the Ancients developed alongside dramatic changes in Western patterns of eating and drinking including the ever wider consumption of luxury substances such as tea, coffee, and sugar. “Ingestive modernity” prompted new debate over how to distinguish between genuine and created needs. Physicians paid ever greater heed to concerns over the how and why of eating, yet overall they held to the traditional view that a healthy diet consisted of what suited the individual. After 1750 scientific investigators began arguing that, given the material nature of foodstuffs and uniform operations of digestion, certain foods were healthier for everyone than others. These developments set in motion a long-term challenge to individual appetite as the surest guide to eating.

Keywords:   Ancients, luxury substances, ingestive modernity, created needs

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