Tuesday, December 25, 2007

76; Documents

How does one prepare flamingo?

“Pluck, clean and dress a flamingo (sized according to how many relatives you really expect to take part in this feast.) Place the flamingo, head first, in a very tall pot (if you place it feet first, it may never get done). Add water, salt, dill and a splash of wine vinegar and bring to a slow boil. Toss a bundle of leeks and coriander leaves into the pot when the bird is about half done. While simmering, prepare a sauce with fresh corns of pepper, caraway and coriander, ground together with laza roots, mint and rue. Moisten the mixture with vinegar before adding Jericho dates and some broth from the flamingo pot. Remove the flamingo from the pot when done and place it on a very long platter. Add the sauce to the flamingo-less pot and thicken with starch. When finished, pour sauce over flamingo and serve.”

Okay, better question: Where does one find a flamingo for the recipe? Or perhaps better still: Why do I care?

Antiquity is full of documents. Many were lost at Alexandria, and lesser known but just as devastatingly at Ephesus. Still, quite a few are still around, like, for example, Roman cookbooks with instructions on preparing a tasty flamingo pot.

In culinary value these books are lacking (although you can apparently easily replace the flamingo with parrot). As books they would generally be considered curiosities. However this view may in fact be changing, and would warrant the cookbook another glance.

When Roman antiquity pops into my mind I think of a few great authors: Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus. The question would be how many Romans do we think tackled The Metamorphoses and The Aeneid? Heck, if you asked most people today whether they read Cicero or The Joy of Cooking how many would of us would place bets on the Roman? Sure they might have a copy on their shelves, yellowing and slumping in the corner.

Which text, we may question, provides greater insight into the people we are supposedly interested in? We can claim, and many do, that we don’t care about the regular people of a society, merely that we are interested in their great products. That is, it is not the Romans that interest us, but their epic poetry and still-standing aqueducts. We must admit, though, that this gives us little insight into the lives of the average Roman. For that we are much better off reading on the preparation of flamingo.

In Other News: Time Magazine has selected Vladimir Putin as their Man of the Year. I’d say ‘told you so’, but Time did for me. Really, Putin isn’t that big of a surprise. Russia has reasserted itself as a figure to be reckoned with. Putin is stepping down as President, but no doubt he is going to continue to make an impact in the years to come (most likely as Prime Minister). After all, it is the largest country in the world. Kind of hard to forget its there, no matter how hard we may try.

Of course there are other uses for flamingos and steely-eyed Russians. One of them, I hear, makes a fantastic croquet mallet. And the other we can put in the zoo!

1 comment:

Karen said...

I don't think that the average Joe (or Josephus?) would have eaten flamingo. That's food for rich folks, I expect, as in the Middle Ages, when they used to eat hummingbird's tongues and swan and other rare goodies. I'm not sure if the lives of every day people teaches us more than does the study of epic poetry; we just learn slightly different things.