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On Hamburger Medley Overseas

@hallelujah History time! In the early modern era (pre-18th century), horses weren't eaten because they were more valuable/useful for other things, as working animals. Same thing with oxen/cows; you'd only slaughter an oxen after it had outlived its usefulness as a beast of burden, and by that point, the meat would not have been terribly good anyway. Cows were valuable for producing dairy products (primarily butter and cheese).

Totally unrelated: the Harvard Faculty Club still serves horsemeat. (Or still did as of a few years ago. I don't keep up on these things.)

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm 1

On "The Yellowed Menace"

@harebell This reminds me of that time I was doing a language program in a country that will not be named in Eastern Europe. I'm not a vegetarian in the U.S., but I know enough to know that in Eastern Europe, I am (i.e., I don't eat pork). So, for the meal plan, I signed up for the vegetarian option.

One day, at lunch, at the vegetarian table we were curious what, exactly we were eating. The meat eaters got bread with meat slices. We got bread smeared with stuff. Is it cream cheese? One taste says no. What is it, all us vegetarians wondered. It's not butter. It's not margarine. Then it dawned on us. They served lard sandwiches as vegetarian. When asked, the dining hall woman (an elderly relic of the Soviet era) looked at us, quizzically, because "there is no meat on that bread."

I ate a lot of fruit that summer.

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm 1

On "The Yellowed Menace"

@aphrabean The history of butter really is fascinating! Hear that PhD students/aspiring food writers: A TOPIC PEOPLE WILL READ AND (maybe) BUY.

Hmmm. Maybe I will just do it myself. Hmmm. Book contract, someone, please?

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 11:59 am 0

On "The Yellowed Menace"

The history of butter and various fats is long, complicated, and entwined with a lot of religious issues, and not just for the Jews. Before regulations loosened up (beginning around the 14th century), Catholics also couldn't have butter on lean days, which were a substantial part of the year (if I'm remembering correctly, most Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and all of Lent) and instead had to use oil. This wasn't as much of a problem in southern Europe, but the quality of oil north of the Alps could be extraordinarily bad. (Italy exported the gross stuff.) You could buy dispensations to use butter during Lent (hence the Rouen Butter Tower, which is NOT as some people erroneously think a church made of butter, but a tower that was financed through the dispensations to use butter on lean days during Lent).

Martin Luther even jokes about this in 1520, noting that from the Papist perspective butter was worse than fornication. I like butter and all, but I'd take sex over butter any day. Unless maybe there was sex and butter? But thinking about the rancid butters of the pre-modern era, probably a bad idea. Probably a bad idea now, too, but if you're going to hell, it might as well be for something more fun than the consumption of gross butter. And butter in March-April (Lent time) would have been far less than ideal.

Anyway. Crisco gets a totally bad rap.

I have been waiting for a good history of butter to be published and there isn't one, which is frustrating, given the popularity of microhistories. I don't want to write it myself (other projects), so if there are any really smart PhD students in cultural history looking for a good topic, please get on it!

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 11:37 am 12

On The Magical Fruit

There's also an entire book about beans by a fabulous food historian, Ken Albala. You think the Wikipedia entry is overwhelming... it's a book o' beans!
And yet no one has written a book on butter. Sigh.

Posted on August 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm 0

On The Pussy Riot Pie

@olivebee Maybe I should be ashamed of this, but that is my absolute favorite line the entire song. Also, you are amazing. I'd contribute to a kickstarter or something that would fund the production of the Cervix-A-Lot remix.

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm 2

On There's Always Ice Cream in the Banana Stand

@El Grande Fluffio Of course, The Great Banana Incident of 2003 (2002?) happened before the blender acquired that magical ability to impart a sweet, sweet taste of curry to everything it blended. Ah, good times. I believe you, El Grande Fluffio, did some yelling of your own after inadvertently making a Curry-Banana Smoothie one fine morning.

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm 1

On Law & Order: Special Pie Charts Unit

@martinipie I didn't actually find the body (an early-rising neighbor going for a run had that honor), but a few years ago, there was a dead body in the driveway of my apartment building.

I, of course, was clueless, when someone was pounding on my door. It was a detective, curious when I went to bed, if I heard anything etc etc. I was not concerned until he said, "You have nothing to worry about, ma'am. You're safe."

What? I didn't think I wasn't safe until he said that.

Dum dum.

PS, the person was not killed in my driveway. The body was just dumped there. I guess that's better?

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm 4

On Liar, Liar, Food on Fire

Crazily enough, a 17th-century French cookery book has a particularly sane answer to all these questions of taste (amazing! we don't all like the same things):

“People are often encountered who reject and condemn many good things to whose taste they have never been able to accustom themselves. It is a rare occasion when someone in the company does not object to something as antipathetic to his mild natural propensity, hence it is proper always to serve more than one sort of thing, so that the dominant humor can find what is most suited and in conformity with its desire.” -- L’Art de bien traiter (1674)

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm 3

On Friday Open Thread

@wharrgarbl Anyone interested in table settings and meat carving at court banquets from the Renaissance to the present day? I've got a tumblr for that (I can't follow instructions, because I can't get the html to work because I am an idiot. Anyway: trinciante.tumblr.com). Or I'm over on twitter as trincirer.

(This is a new username, to separate my normal oversharing commenting from an identity that is supposed to be slightly more professional.)

Posted on June 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm 0