With the invention of the printing press, mass media were born, beginning with the printing of the Bible. Trade routes to the East brought Chinese gunpowder and Islamic mathematics to Europe; firepower and more sophisticated calculations led to regular trans- Atlantic navigation and the subsequent plundering of the Americas. Society's entire worldview changed, quite literally, making possible the acceptance of Copernican theory (that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa) and the proposition that the globe is spherical. Scientists and scholars working from ancient Greek and Egyptian texts upset the canon of the clergy. Renaissance culture brought about breakthroughs in thought and advances in art, architecture, anatomy, cosmology, global navigation, engineering, humanism and social reform.
Taken together, this was one of the most significant clusters of events in human history, and it simultaneously expanded and fractured provincial Europe. Yet through this revolution, cuisine and culinary arts stayed much the same. What happened in the fields and at the tables of ordinary people may have been the only area of life not subjected to a major upheaval. Those ordinary people were working from truths with roots too strong to allow dislocation. The people of the Renaissance performed intense physical and mental exertions on a balanced base of carb-rich foods, including grains, beans, vegetables and fruits, combined judiciously with healthy fats and proteins. Leonardo and his fellow Tuscan mangiafagioli (bean eaters) would have been eating bread, pasta, wine and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, onions, nuts and figs -- from the whole, unadulterated and organic dieta (fare) available to him in the fifteenth century. Leonardo's diet was as much in rhythm with the design and function of the human body and the natural world around him as were his creative efforts.
You might say I'm a bit of a Renaissance man myself: abstract painter, master woodworker, amateur classical and jazz pianist and violinist, student of the martial arts -- as well as baker and chef. And a single father with three teenagers. So I'm serious about the personal expression made possible through preparing wonderful food, and equally serious about making that a real-life proposition. Some nights, you just need to get a meal on the table. But even in the midst of a busy life, that meal can be a thing of beauty: gracefully proportioned aesthetically and nutritionally, and perfectly in sync with the needs of the healthy human body.
To that end, part I of this book examines the math behind the Golden Ratio and how I came to realize that a magical-seeming series of numbers held the secret to healthy eating and weight loss. It considers how out of balance our diets have become, as we've lost touch with the foods that have nurtured us and sustained us for almost the entirety of human history, and shows how crucial it is for us to reclaim what we've left behind.