Monday, September 13, 2010

Chapter 7 A - curiosities

We start today's curiosities by talking about potatoes and their history.
What Quoque Tu prepared for Castalia is probably a dish like the one to the side: nice juicy potatoes in saffron sauce! I adore it. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, sweet melons, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, clove, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon (along with fried preparations) is a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries. (Wikipedia)

Let's go back to our spuds, now!. This thing called potato, arrived in Europe from the New World between 1550 and 1580.
For many many years it was cultivated by botanists out of curiosity. It made cute flowers, sure... but its leaves were considered poisonous and so the whole plant was considered dangerous.
You have to consider what kind of diet people had back in the XVII century, even the poor ones (based on legumes and cereals). You also have to consider the kind of agriculture they had back then. They followed the seasons and they rotated the crops in the fields in order to keep the nutrition in the soil.
Eventually most farmers realized that potatoes, by growing underground, were a safe thing to cultivate and you know why? Because soldiers and bandit invading your village and pillaging crops... would never dig!

Guess where the thing spread the most and in the fastest way too? One of the most invaded and pillaged Countries of all times: Italy.
Now, cultivating potatoes in a large scale where it was not impossible was even prohibited. It would require too much land and there goes the rotation and the whole cultivation system. That's why people would have small patches to grow potatoes and mainly it was not meant to be for humans. Try and feed potatoes to a pig... how they love it!
They grow big and chubby and imagine all the nice little sausages, pancetta, lard and prosciutto you can make out of a chubby pig. Now that stuff would feed you and give you nutrition for a very long time... for carbs... you have bread (we are not talking about white bread, of course).

Eventually very poor farmers and very poor people would adapt to eat potatoes and, little by little, potatoes entered the European food chain.

So what Castalia gets is... pigs food. What Kane gets is... all that his mom could afford to feed him.

One should only be surprised to see him live past his fifth year and manage to enter the statistic that would see him live until his seventies.

But... what is the boy dreaming of? Sesame bread!
Now this bread is made of semolina flour, not white flour. Some people on the web states it can be kept for several days... but it's not true: you have to eat it on the very same day, the day after you'd eat rubber. No matter what they say, fresh is best!
What Kane is looking at are freshly baked Mafaldas and Filoni put in a basket, ready to be delivered door to door. You need to try some of this, when it's warm and freshly baked... it smells fantastic and taste so good (to me it's the best bread in the World).
Even if you love potatoes you'd totally understand what the poor boy is going through when bread smells so delicious!

I stole this picture from Wikipedia...
Again... we see no forks on these pirates' table.
In the packed dinner Cat gives Kane we see a bowl, 4 pieces of focaccia bread (but I think it's Naan) and 2 spoons.
Napkins? Forge about it! Did you know that up until the 1700 people would wipe their mouths on their sleeves or use the tablecloth? Now the tablecloth would touch the floor, where all kinds of little critters could be found, and they would pick the very edge of the tablecloth, the one that touched the ground, and wipe themselves off. They would not change it nor wash it for weeks either. I am not talking about the poor people, I am talking about Marie Antoinette and buddies too!
That kind of people... fancily dressed and heavily perfumed, to cover up the nasty body odors since they almost never bathe, all covered in makeups and with scabs on the palm of their hands.

No fork... again it's something that was born back in the days, disappeared and then came back. The World started using the fork in the 1800 or so. Before that... eh, yeah, Italians were using forks already in the 1600 because it made them look dainty. Now forks, back then, were really like forks... with two points and sharp ones too. Imagine rolling maccheroni with that! Ha ha ha.
Would it surprise you if I told you that the Church condemned the use of forks? Not because it looks like the fork the Devil has (and I am beginning to wonder if that is when the fork became the Devil's most favorite tool LOL)... but because being dainty is sinful.

So everybody would either use spoon or hands! Hands were very common for eating meats... honestly I think that table manner still says to use hands for certain types of meats. To me - I am vegetarian - hands must be used for pizza!

Another Italian saying for you, today: Fortunato in amor non giochi a carte!
(if you are lucky with love, don't play card games). Also known as: fortunato al gioco, sfortunato in amore - lucky at cards, unlucky in love (this is used everywhere though).

Hence Cat proposes to find a boyfriend for Kes, so she'll finally stop winning. Ironically enough, when the doctor shows up, she does loose! LOL.
Maybe some sayings are true.

And we find out about another golden rule for pirates: no gambling on board!

Because the problem of gambling is... loosing! Right?
People start a fight and there are problems and then certain things might happen in hot blood and if you are feeling too hot you'd have to go jump jump.


Before you ask: yes, Kane has a brother, we will see him again very soon.. XD


Anonymous said...

I'm drooling at those potatoes *_* . And that kind of bread looks delicious... 'plain' freshly baked bread is delicious already, but when you start to add grains and stuff inside the dough and/or at the top... :Q___

Hmmm hmmm... I knew that Venice during XIII century was the first place in the western world to use forks outside of the big ones used by servents for holding the meat to slice... they were introduce by a byzantine lady via marriage.

About table manners and tools in general, well... centuries later things were still the same as in the Middle Age XD.

dedasaur said...

Yup, they disappeared and came back. But you have to consider one thing, when we talk about Venice... Venice cannot be associated with the rest of Italian history - it's always been its own futuristic little island. I don't suppose there has been a continuation in the use of forks in Italy but it might have happened in Venice. Consider Stockfish... it entered Italy through Venice, reached the other Regions in centuries and now it's a traditional dish in the South.

Anonymous said...

Venice, my love <3.

I'm not sure about the continuation of fork use, but considering the Venice relations with the Middle and Far East it's not that impossible. In this case the city might have been the source for the spreading of the fork habit in the rest of Italy some centuries later, as for the stockfish.
Ironically enough, the most renowed stockfish dish of the Venice region is the one made in Vicenza, "alla vicentina", while among the true Venice style dishes one of the most beloved recipes requires cattle liver: fegato alla veneziana :d .

Anonymous said...

Stumbled on some fork history trivia the other day on a old number of the 'Storica' magazine XD.
The fork as an eating tool did indeed reach Italy&the western world in teh Middle Ages via Venice, but wasn't well received because of the ambivalent feelings towards the Byzantine lady in question. Eating with a fork was seen as an innatural, weird luxury... a perversion XD. 'Those Byzantines, such rich, refined, corrupted sleazebags'! XD Some friars and religious people also associated the fork with the bad fame of the eastern - and scismatic post-1054, ohohoho - Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire. Hence the perverted fork ended up as something eeebil and a tool of the devil XDD.

Fraxinus said...

Any idea the recipe for those potatoes you have the picture of? I'd love to make them for my dad.

dedasaur said...

It's very simple, see that's a picture of my own plate.
You need potatoes, saffron, a bit of onions and a bit of sage.

usually what I do is I make the sage and the onions turn golden in a bit of olive oil, at the bottom of the pot. Then I add the potatoes and a bit of water. A pinch of salt.
I keep an eye on the pot because I don't have an exact measure for water it depends on how many potatoes you cook... so I stir them often. I add the saffron.
When the potatoes are soft and the water is gone down a lot you get this nice starchy creamy yellow sauce at the bottom of the pot.
I just serve them warm.