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THE RETCHING CUSTOM
When it comes to food and the related habits and gestures, it might be said that what was polite in the past is impolite today and vice versa.
Retching is considered, nowadays, one of the most disgusting and impolite gestures that anyone can do. Even more, when you are invited to a friend’s house for dinner and you should behave like a respected guest, you probably fight and struggle to avoid retching after a rich and copious meal, in order to preserve appearances and to be polite. Still, retching hasn’t always been an impolite action, as surprising as it may seem. In the sumptuous life of the European Middle Ages, when large feasts were very popular in the aristocratic and royal social clusters, a meal was acknowledged as delicious and stodgy only if the participants retched in a very unsubtle and expressive way.
After indefinite courses of complexly cooked food, which basically included many kinds of meat (as meat was the rich people’s aliment), guests were invited to retch and, in this way, compliment the tasteful food. A symphony of not so delicate retches was installed and so, the cooks and guests were satisfied and proud. The hosts were usually members of the royal structure, including kings and members of the high class, so the habit of retching after a meal was by no chance characteristic to the lower classes or less well-mannered people, as it might be assumed.
Luckily for us, this “polite” habit disappeared.