Holy portion sizes!
Cornell professor Brian Wansink of "Mindless Eating" fame has collaborated with his brother, Craig, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, to direct and publish a study in next month's International Journal of Obesity. They found that by closely studying paintings of The Last Supper throughout the ages, you can see that Jesus and his disciples' "entree sizes grew by 69 percent over the past millennium. Average bread-size grew too -- by about 23 percent."
(Source: NPR and NYT)
"In the Gospels themselves when they describe this meal, they only describe bread and wine as being present," Craig Wansink ... So, it was up to the individual artists to decide what else might have been served, and sizes.
The paintings were analyzed with a computer program that scanned the depicted food items and calculated their dimensions. To account for varying sizes of the paintings and their foods , the size of bread loaves and main dishes was indexed based on the average head size of the people around the table -- or what the researchers call the "Bread-to-Head" ratio (and, of course, the "Main-Dish-by-head" ratio, too).
"The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food," said Brian Wansink, "We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history's most famous dinner."