‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘history

Gastronomic Exotica by Louis Bakay

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Several things are interesting about Dr. Louis Bakay. The first being that he is a brain surgeon and historian on the Faculty of Harvard Medical School, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Buffalo. The second is that in his past time he enjoys reading and writing about a history of epicures and societies obsession and love for all things food-related. The third is that he is not even a passable cook but an enthusiastic gourmet. flegel3

Random books are the best and I stumbled across this in the food section a week ago while browsing for some gifts for a few of my friends. Dr. Bakay takes the reader through a history of eating from the Stone Age where “the bones of animals found during excavations in Europe reveal what man ate in prehistoric times” all the way to modern French cuisine.

The book is full of interesting facts and random information surrounding the history of how society (mainly Western) has consumed food. For example:

“A typical example of feudal meals was one recorded of the wedding of Wilhelm von Rosenberg at his castle in Bohemia in 1578: 370 oxen; 98 wild boar; 2,292 hares; 3,910 patridge; 22,687 thrushes; 12,887 chickens; 3,000 capons; a large number of eel, carp, salmon, and pike. Also 5 tons of oysters and 40,837 eggs. It was washed down by 6,405 pails of wine.”

You have to love the excess of it all. Not that much has changed since then, but still all of that for a single wedding is impressive.

If you can find this book, it seems to be out of print, or if you can find me and remind me to lend it out, this is definitely a fascinating review of how we eat through the ages. Cheers.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

“Ahoy, ahoy, oh how the winds did blow…”

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“They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” – Columbus’ Log – Sourced From: Howard Zinn’s – A People’s History of America –

Yes, let’s celebrate this joyous occasion by giving a day of rest in his honour. I’m always troubled by this particular holiday. One of the main reasons of my consternation, is that the history centering around Columbus, and I use the term “history” in a very light context, this history is when I first realized that history is something that is based primarily on the “winners” point of view. I remember learning about this man in primary school in the states (Thomas Haley Elementary School in Dallas, TX, U.S.), and what I remember most is how highly praised he was for his new world adventures. Then I read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of America, and my entire point of view of history was shaken.

I recall the various films we were required to watch, showing how nice Christopher was to the natives, all of the wonderful knowledge and culture that he brought to these people. Yes…yes indeed: rape, famine, torture, servitude, slavery, the best of culture brought to the lowest of people. (insert disgusted look here).

The chief source-and, on many matters the only source of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:

“Endless testimonies . . . prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians…”

Ugh, it makes me ill. The one thing I’ve learned through this confrontation with history is that I am more aware of the “voice” of history and the context with which it is applied. I think about our current time period and our defining moments: 9/11, Invasion of Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, etc. and I wonder how will we be looked upon through the eyes of our children, how will King George be hailed: hero or dictator?

I understand completely that I’m living and enjoying the benefits of Columbus and many other seafaring voyagers, pirates, conquistadors, etc. Without their escapades into North America, I could be living in a completely different part of the world, under some drastically different contexts. But it is still horrifying to think that the benefits I enjoy were at the expense of an entire people’s genocide, and let’s be honest, it was a pure genocide.

So as my American friends and readers celebrate their day off, think and reflect at what cost your day of rest was achieved.

Oh and don’t worry my Canadian friends, I’m sure that Britain had its fun too raping and pillaging various natives for the sake of our very own Canadian Thanksgiving. We too are not beyond ethnic cleansing for Imperialist expansion.

Written by thebeliever07

October 12, 2008 at 9:15 am

There There Square

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The desire to own and name land and the pleasures of seeing from a distance color this personal survey of the history of mapmaking in the New World. There There Square takes a close look at the gestures of travelers, mapmakers, and saboteurs that determine how we read – and live within – the lines that define the United States. Jacqueline Goss is a videomaker and new media artist whose work explores muted personal and historical narratives and negotiates the slides and snags one encounters while moving between written and spoken communication. She currently teaches in the Film and Electronic Arts Department at Bard College. Winner of the 2007 Alpert Award for Film/Video from the Herb Alpert Foundation.

Check this out. Some really interesting art/media.

Written by thebeliever07

August 1, 2008 at 9:18 am