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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Disciples pigging out: Last Supper portions increased 69% over time

Two researchers have been using computer analysis on 52 of the most famous paintings of the Last Supper - the final meal that Jesus Christ had with His disciples on the night before His death on the cross - and discovered that the size of the portions of food depicted on the table have increased 69% over the past millennium. The biggest amount of super-sizing came after 1500, not long after Leonardo da Vinci did his famous rendition of the Last Supper...

From the article at USA Today...

The researchers used paintings of this event "because it is the most famous supper in history," which artists have been painting for centuries, so the paintings provide information about plate and entree sizes over time, says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell (University) Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, N.Y. One possible reason for the increase: Food may have become more available and less expensive, he says.

He did the research with his brother, Craig, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, and a Presbyterian minister.

The three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), which include descriptions of The Last Supper, mention only bread and wine, but many of the paintings have other foods, such as fish, lamb, pork and even eel, says Craig Wansink.

The use of fish in the meals is symbolic because it's an image that is used to represent Christianity, he says. Among the reasons for the symbolism: A number of the disciples were fishermen, and Jesus told them "to be fishers of men," he says. Plus, he says, Jesus performed several miracles with fishes and loaves.

Thanks to Chad Austin for the great find (and Twitter-ing about it. Yes, he really did!)