How much would Jesus eat?
Nutritionists and public health experts have long argued against heaping platefuls of food and snacks packaged in larger and larger sizes. Swayed by such abundance, we consume more calories than needed, helping to undermine the nation’s battle against obesity. It turns out this excess appears not only in our meals and grocery store aisles, but in art as well.
Two Cornell University researchers took a closer look at plate size and the amount of food served at one of the most widely depicted meals in art: the Last Supper.
The researchers considered 52 paintings done over the last 1,000 years. “The prior millennium (1000-2000 AD/CE) witnessed dramatic increase in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food,” they wrote in the International Journal of Obesity. “Perhaps these changes would be reflected in how food has been depicted in this com- monly understood, but uniquely interpreted, meal.”
In nearly half the paintings, no main course was served. Among the rest, the apostles sat down to eel, lamb or pork. To put the serving size in perspective—paintings were of various sizes—researchers calculated a ratio of bread, meals and plates to apostles’ heads. They found artists in the last 400 years set a more generous table than those who painted between 1,000 and 1,300 A.D.
We wonder what the Cornell researchers would deduce from a close study of pop culture riffs on da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which include cigarettes (“The Sopranos”), pizza (“South Park”) and soda (“Lost”).
“South Park” serves pizza, while da Vinci has a sparser table.