Your RDA of Irony

The Ptomaine Entree

First, I want to wish a Happy Summer Solstice to all my pagan readers. The day meant little to my desert ancestors: “Hey, Abe. God is giving us another two minutes of daylight and heat prostration.”

And I doubt that the ancient Celts would have been especially thrilled with the solstice. “Och, we have another two minutes to enjoy our picturesque destitution.” (You have to be desperate to even think of fermenting peat, although the results seem to be effectively numbing.)

Let’s face it: the Summer Solstice was just the Greeks and Italians coming up with any excuse for an orgy.

And since it is now summer, let’s discuss food spoilage. (There was a time I would have thought about women in bikinis.) Francis Bacon knew there was a correlation between cold temperatures and food preservation, so he began a scientific study of the phenomenon. In his experiment of packing a chicken with snow, Bacon unfortunately discovered a correlation between cold, bronchitis and death.

However, history does not know who first made the correlation. It had to be someone who actually was familiar with cold and hot seasons, and observed–perhaps barely surviving–the climatic effects on food spoilage. Was it some Roman sentry along Hadrian’s Wall, who noticed that there was less morta in mortadella? Was it a Hun who discovered his raw horse jerky was less enjoyable in Italy than on the Steppes? I wonder if some Hun or Vandal shaman even gave health lectures to the troops…


Barbarian Warrior: Sacking Rome is exhausting work. I could use a lunch break. Say, this restaurant looks tempting. Let’s loot it.

Shaman: Yes, those sausages look good, but who knows what’s lurking inside them? The Romans can’t put up a defense, but their food could kill you. So, if you must have meat this far south, make sure that it is still alive when you bite it.

Indeed, some of the barbarians apparently were quite worried about food poisoning. Believing that any taste was a sign of spoilage, the Angle-Saxons insisted on boiling everything until it was a pulp. However, the Franks went to the other extreme. They actually liked what mold can do to food. Ce botulisme est delicieuse! The idea of the Petri dish probably originated at Cordon Bleu.


  1. Cindy Starks says:

    Why this is fascinating, Eugene. I’m speechless. Truly. 🙂

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply