Anatomy at the Dinner Table


Anatomy at the Dinner Table: No Vegetarians, Please!

Vesalius frequently admonishes his readers to be on the alert for anatomy when carving a joint at dinner:

It is possible to learn the nature of such an epiphysis whenever part of a calf, kid, lamb or any young animal is put on the dinner table. When a femur, humerus, tibia, radius, ulna, or similar bone has been cleaned of other matter and handled a little roughly, we see as it were another bone fall from it. That is called the epiphysis, and we see it only in younger animals. (Bk. I Chapter 3)

It is possible to look at the neck of a hare or a rabbit or a lamb or a kid while eating and see more clearly than light that the motion which is rotary is performed over the second vertebra. (Bk. I Chapter 15)

This would be truly easy to explain if the human bone corresponded to that of apes, dogs, calves, and suchlike animals. In these animals (as can be seen even while eating), the pectoral bone consists of seven bones, not so different from each other in form. In dogs, pigs, and sheep, they look alike . . . (Bk. I Chapter 15)

I therefore have no doubt that whoever first wrote that only man possesses an acromion understood that man alone had this process; when he saw no upper process of the scapula (but only the spine) in dogs, sheep, goats, rabbits (which indeed have only the inner process of the scapula) and other quadrupeds that are served as food, he did not bother with apes, as Galen did. (Bk. I Chapter 21)

Cartilages of this kind are situated in their knee joint; there is every opportunity to inspect the nature of any of them at table if one examines the knee joint closely, and has not supposed, with Aristotle and with Galen in the third Book of De usu partium, that the knee of quadrupeds is situated where the lower part of the tibia is attached to the talus.
(Bk. I Chapter 31)

It will be possible to learn the nature of this ligament whenever the neck of a calf, piglet, kid, or even a more mature steer is put on the dinner table. This is the ligament, the yellow body, that we free from the meat and offer to the dogs; it is the only one of the ligaments in the body that is rejected as unfit for consumption. Because of its toughness, the people of Brussels call it uvas, and they recommend girls eat it to promote the growth of hair, making fun of them, I believe, because it is separated like hair into the other parts of the body and because of its pale yellow color. (Bk. II Chapter 40)