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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/08/00 -- Vol. 19, No. 23
Table of Contents
Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, email@example.com HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
Food for Caesar:
One of the dangers my friends suffer when they write to me is they may catch me at just the moment that I am looking for something to write for the weekly editorial. That is what Tim Schroeder did when he wrote me about an editorial I wrote over the summer on people who accept and reject unfamiliar experiences in eating. Apparently when he was in Triers, Germany he went to a restaurant that claimed to feature Roman food. Not the food of modern-day Rome but the food of the Roman Empire. Supposedly this is the food that Caesar ate. One of the thought games I play with myself is to ask myself what would Julius Caesar think about something commonplace now or how would I react to something commonplace in his time. One question I have is would I react better to Roman food than Caesar would react to our cuisine. Of course there is no way to know for sure, but I have come to the conclusion that Caesar might react better to our food than I would react to his. Why do I think that he would like our food more than I would his?
I have claimed that I never met a cuisine I did not like. So it comes as a surprise to me that in this respect I might be a more finicky eater than Great Caesar. I tend to eat just about anything and while history does not record whether Caesar was hard to please, it almost is certainly true that he had the power and wealth to pamper himself.
So how do I reach this conclusion? Well first, I rather suspect that hygiene standards would get in my way. One rather suspects that even Caesar would eat only moderately better than the common people and hygiene standards probably were less than appetizing for the food the common people ate at that time. I think a modern person would be revolted at what people ate in the last century, ancient Roman standards would be even more revolting. One suspects that the most powerful man in Rome might merit having only a few maggots in his meat and probably would have all the flies brushed off by the time the food was served to him. It would be enough to disgust me, but it would seem to be more than good enough for Caesar.
But why do I feel that spoiled and catered to Caesar would adapt so well to our food. Let me be a little more specific. I think that Caesar would adapt well to McDonalds Hamburgers and Pizza Hut pizza. Why? I think that is how Pizza Hut pizza is designed. It would not be on the Pizza Hut menu if most of the world did not find it inoffensive. H. Salt Fish and Chips died because not enough people found it inoffensive and that is popular in Britain. There are not a lot of people in the world who instantly hate the taste of a McDonalds Hamburger. People adapt really quickly to ice cream. So we never will know for sure, but Julius Caesar would probably love our junk food.
So how did Tim react to Roman food? He ate it. He said that it was Mediterranean in taste. He did not find it that tasty, though he did like a nut and berry salad and a honeyed tea drink. I hope to get more to report. But the question I ask is is this authentic Roman cuisine. A couple of years ago we toured the aircraft carrier Yorktown in Charleston harbor. They sold a lunch there that was supposed to be like the sailors had in WWII, or so they claimed. I was a bit of a wiseguy and asked our guide, who had served on the Yorktown, if that really was what the food was like. Well, he told me, food has changed a lot in that time. People eat a lot less fat these days. People would not want food like the Yorktown served. A sailor in World War II probably put in a hard day of work and could probably digest a meal of greasy meat and greasy potatoes and probably even greasy vegetable better than we do today. We are not fighting a war with the Japanese Imperial Navy.
So the taste of WWII was a fraud, and that was only a matter of fifty-five years difference in time. I am not sure I really believe a restaurant cook is telling the truth when he claims they are making food like it was better than 2000 years earlier.
Postscript: I found out what they claim in Triers that the Romans ate. There was a salad of wild greens with grapes and pine nuts. The main course was ham with a gravey that had berries and pine nuts. [-mrl]
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: Ang Lee returns to Chinese themes and creates a really great adventure film, filmed in China. For once a Chinese film combines a complex adventure story, excellent photography, a beautiful score, and just about everything else is top notch. Except for subtitles, it seems aimed at the same sort of audience as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and it stands up well to comparison. It is no longer true that great adventure films are all in English. Rating: +3
Quote of the Week:
Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that no-body has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside. -- George Bernard Shaw