The moveable feast: Foodie’s BC
While we were busy coming up to the present day all sorts of interesting things in the food department were happening all over the world and that too in the years Before Christ.
For example the workers building the great pyramids in Egypt ate garlic, radishes and onions for strength. While placing garlic, water-melons and other food inside the pyramid to nourish the dead kings in their after life. It’s the one time that slave and pharaoh were served the same thing to eat. However the slaves had more appetite.
Meanwhile in the Andean Mountains of South America the Aymara Indians developed two hundred varieties of white potatoes while the rest of the world was potato less in 2200 BC.
So let’s skip a couple of centuries and get down to Greece in 600 BC where lentils or dal were known as a poor man’s food. As someone did better in life it was said of him “He doesn’t like lentils anymore”.
Across the world at about the same time a Chinese child called Confucius had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a tremendous intellect. He was being brought up in poverty and was living on a diet of rice and cabbage and sometimes a little pork and beans.
Just few years later the grown Confucius accepted the governship of a small town and distinguished himself in suppression of crime and promoting morality. He was unhappy with his wife as she didn’t fulfil his expectations as a cook. Confucius wanted perfectly cut meat served in the proper sauce with the right colour accompanied by the whitest of rices. Mrs Confucius apparently always got it wrong.
Alexander returned from India bringing with him sugarcane which was then known as the “sweet reed” in Athens and he also brought back bananas which were called “pala” (as indeed I am as it means grandfather) and rice.
The Romans in 120 BC were passionate about fish and the best quality eels, lampreys etc were kept, transported and sold live. The highest recorded price ever paid for an auctioned fish was about $20,000 for 2 life mullets.
And thus to the sad story of the Roman General Lucullus who committed suicide when he realised that he was running out of cherries which he had imported to Rome. Thereby showing us that you pay more than the market price for food.
One of the greatest love stories involves a single piece of jewellery vinegar, figs a general and a Queen. It was Cleopatra giving a lavish banquet for Mark Antony which caused Antony to exclaim about the expense. Cleopatra (show off) took off a pearl earring and dissolved it in vinegar. She liked figs.
Seven years later Augustus defeated Antony at Actium and became the sole leader of the Roman world. He didn’t have a large appetite but was very fond of asparagus. He started a saying “Quicker than you can cook asparagus”.
At Roman banquets the host would be served first by a servant executing a dance step. Meanwhile the guests changed into a woollen tunic and wore a crown of flowers and reclined while eating. Belching was a good thing. Fortunately acrobats, dancers, flute players kept the volume of the belch down.
In the year Christ was born thousand of miles away in South America the pineapple was discovered and in the sweetness of the pineapple and the gifts to the infant Jesus lies a story waiting to be found. No doubt Dan Brown is writing it now.