Welcome to the website of the NWO-funded Vital Matters research project. Looking at bodily fluids, minerals, and the nerves, this project investigates how Herman Boerhaave's legacy gave direction to Dutch Enlightenment chemistry and medicine.

For more information, please visit the Vital Matters project and Research Output pages.


A Healthy Appetite for Food and Diet

University of Groningen, 20 June 2017

Delicious and nutritious, food and drink occupy an ordinary yet essential part of people’s daily lives. But the way people experience food consumption and eating habits has changed considerably. Whereas in the past famines and malnutrition could kill a fifth of a country’s population, today obesity and diabetes are the cause of death for five million people a year. How have eating habits changed under the influence of new foodstuffs, food production, and consumerism? How were the nutritious qualities of nutriments understood and prescribed as diet? To what extent did diet and appetite determine people’s physical condition as well as their mental wellbeing? In this one-day seminar, professor Elizabeth Williams (Oklahoma State University) will host a masterclass on histories of food and diet, appetite and eating disorders, from Antiquity to the modern era.

This masterclass explores different approaches to the study of food and diet in history, to be presented by the speaker and the participants. How were notions of taste, appetite, and diet represented and conceptualized in medical and scientific treatises, cookbooks, advice manuals, letters and memoirs, travel and ethnographic reports, and proverbs and tales? How do visual and material sources such as paintings, textbook and popular illustrations, advertisements, and objects (cooking and eating utensils, food containers and packages, laboratory instruments) represent eating habits? To what extent do cultural, socioeconomic, and bio-archaeological methods complement each other in the study of food and alimentary practices? And, finally, how can the humanities help practitioners and patients to envision alternative ways to understand and cope with present-day challenges of obesity and eating disorders? With this focus on method and sources, this masterclass wants to invite RMa students and PhD candidates from various disciplinary backgrounds.


11:00 – 11:10h Welcome by Rina Knoeff

11:10 – 12:00h Elizabeth Williams: "Why Do We Eat as We Do? Appetite in Science and Medicine, 1750–1850"

12:00 – 12:30h Discussion

12:30 – 13:30h Healthy lunch

13:30 – 15:30h Presentations by contributors

15:30 – 16:00h Coffee & tea break

16:00 – 17:00h Visit to Gelukkig Gezond! exhibition

Register by 1 June at Huizinga Institute.

© 2016 Vital Matters