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  • Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor March 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor

    ***thanks to Tacitus from Detritus for sending this one in*** Symmachus and the far more famous Boethius were Roman nobles after the end of the Roman empire, an uncomfortable time to be ‘senators’. Boethius fell into disgrace with the emperor Theoderic: he essentially got into trouble for defending, in the law courts, an enemy of Theoderic. […]

    Flesh-Eating Icelandic Elves February 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flesh-Eating Icelandic Elves

    [Brian Froud image?] About a month ago Beach ran a post describing a fairy ritual from early medieval Iceland, albeit one recorded in a twelfth-century life (see link for precious comments by Lief). Here is another example of an Icelandic work recording religious fairy lore. This is from Kormáks saga, a difficult to date work […]

    Green Children of Woolpit 4: Why Bean Stalks? January 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Green Children of Woolpit 4: Why Bean Stalks?

    The fourth and final post on the green children of Woolpit and this time the mystery of the beans. First, William: ‘Cum ergo inedia iam paene deficerent, nec tamen aliquid ciborum, qui offerebantur, attenderent, forte ex agro contigit fabas inferri, quas illico arripientes, legumen ipsum in thyrsis quaesierunt, et nihil in concavitate thyrsorum invenientes amare […]

    Immortal Meals #19: Rum Up at Harewood House January 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Immortal Meals #19: Rum Up at Harewood House

    ***Dedicated to Chris who sent this one in*** The year is 1805, the month December and the location Harewood House, a delightful stately house near Leeds, Yorkshire. The cellar records have a special note for this meal as something extraordinary happened there. The Lascelles family, who had built and owned Harewood, ordered up eight bottles […]

    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil November 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil

    Castor oil is a vegetable oil that in Beach’s parent’s generation was used as a panacea for problems of the digestive tract. Unlucky children who had complained of a poorly stomach, perhaps with the foolish idea of missing school, were given a table spoon. Castor oil has no miraculous effect on the body but it […]

    Immortal Meals #15: Full Up at Ferrara July 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #15: Full Up at Ferrara

    As noted in a recent post late medieval and early modern feasts often had as their point not the consumption of simply massive quantities of food, but the ostentatious displays of simply massive quantities of food, most of which would not be touched by human hands: at least once they had come out of the […]

    Last Meals of US Condemned June 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Meals of US Condemned

    A book on the history of the last meal (including attempts to intoxicate the soon to be executed) would be a fascinating one. Not least is the rather poor taste in banning the custom in some states in the US, that seems an unnecessary act of spite to criminals living their difficult last hours. There […]

    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity’s Innate Conservatism February 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity's Innate Conservatism

    Tomatoes are one of the fundamentals of modern cuisine in all continents. Yet just five hundred years ago they were a practically unknown Andean plant of the nightshade family that, when grown in New England or French or Italian gardens, were labelled as ‘ornamentals’: i.e. no one put a tomato near their mouth. Why were […]

    Weird Jobs in the 1881 UK Census July 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Weird Jobs in the 1881 UK Census

    Spent the night and early morning looking for a much loved missing tortoise: mission accomplished at 6.42 amdist tears and recriminations. How do you punish a tortoise? This morning trying to come down from too much chocolate and coca cola. Took to racing through the 1881 census looking for unusual jobs and strange households: winding […]

    The First Domesticated Animal? Clue: Slime June 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    The First Domesticated Animal? Clue: Slime

    ***Dedicated to Wade and Larry*** What was the first domesticated animal? Ask a hundred people and seventy odd will give you the ‘correct’ answer: the dog. The dog was, after all, already domesticated by 10000 B.C. (discuss) when human beings crossed the landbridge into the Americas. In fact, the dog, well, actually the wolf, was […]

    Are Societies What They Eat? September 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Are Societies What They Eat?

    There is no question that food and drink change us. If you begin to drink two litres of coca-cola a day, instead of a litre of fizzy water or if you start chewing on cocoa leaves instead of making banana smoothies your family will quickly notice a difference. Here there is and can be no […]

    Marco Polo and Pasta May 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Marco Polo and Pasta

    ***Dedicated to Zach Nowak and Beach’s good friends over at FoodinItaly*** The lunatic idea that Marco Polo brought back spaghetti from China to grateful Italians is a modern food myth. There is no proof for this in MP’s writing: though there is an interpolated passage that might have started the confusion. In fact, the idea […]

    Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Honey and the Anvils of Women's Thighs

    Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in […]

    Force Feeding Queens April 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Force Feeding Queens

    One of Beach’s most able students this term did a paper on ‘cultural variance in female beauty': the fact that what makes a woman attractive varies from society to society. This is rarely truer than with weight. After all, here should we trust the modern American model of the waspish, almost boyish woman or the […]

    The Bizarrest Date in History March 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Bizarrest Date in History

    Long-term readers of this blog will know that Beachcombing has a thing about futurist food: previous posts have included, indeed, an overview of attempts by the futurists to revolutionize what we eat and, perhaps better, still an unusual meal that ended with a woman being devoured. For those who have not the time or the […]

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