Sunday, December 25, 2005

Perigrinationes Africanae . . .

For years my curmudgeon friend – let’s call him Bob - a retired philosophy professor from a small college in Pennsylvania - let’s call it Juniata - had begged me to go with him to Tunisia. I hadn’t yet seen Carthage, felt I should, so I said Carthago visenda est! We had actually spent a month together in Italy before heading to Tunis, part of it with our wives eating our way through Umbria (see the entry on Umbria), so we flew a short but not cheap Alitalia flight to Tunis from Rome. At the airport we got high-jacked by an older gentleman who offered to take us for a ride as well as give us transport to Tunis, and against my better judgment and wishes, because he promised it would be cheap, Bob insisted (note to reader: Bob is insistent. He also snores.) So once he got the car started (after about twenty minutes) we headed off to Tunis, stopping for gas only once during which the driver filled his car with petrol while it was running, smoking a cigarette with us in a backseat impossible to evacuate because of our bags. Did I mention the cigarette? Once in Tunis we stayed in a pretty decent hotel on the Avenue Bourghibah which Bob had reserved in advance for three nights.

There’s an enormous amount of stuff to see from and in Tunis, but our emphasis throughout the trip was (supposed to be) Roman and Punic archaeology. The Bardo Museum in Tunis is a dream for any fan of Roman mosaics, while you can take a short metro ride from Tunis to visit Carthage as well. The nice thing about Carthage is that it is just a short distance from the lovely city of Sidi Bou Said, in a gorgeous Mediterranean setting overlooking the mountains of Cape Bon, with white washed houses with bright blue trim and marvelous cafes where you can sit all day in the sun, drink coffee and smoke a hookah (don’t ask me what they put in it) – which we did, putting off Carthage to the end of our trip in favor of people watching. From Tunis, for those who can tear themselves away from the hookahs and caffeine, there are a myriad of Roman sites to visit – we chose the two big ones, Bulla Regia and Dougga, and we could have done more, but we wanted to head to points south.

The next day we headed for the louage station and south to El Djem. Louages are fabulous: you go to a station full of cars and vans with guys literally hawking cities. You go to the car or van heading to your destination, then you sit and wait until it’s full: we never waited more than an hour, sometimes less than 15 minutes. Then the drivers head off somewhere between light and warp speed, usually Arab music blaring, windows down, seat belt unfastened (except when they go past police check points), coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other, somewhere in the mix is the steering wheel, with about a three ton load, half of it my own body sweat. Did I mention the goat? Now since Bob is older and we only had eight days in Tunisia (we could have used three or four times that), we changed plans once we arrived at El Djem. We decided to spend the day at El Djem and then to head to the Sahara – Bob wanted to see the desert and has over thirty years on me; figuring I’d get back to Tunisia a couple of times still and he wouldn’t, I complied.

First, we found a cheap (and, I suspect, the only) hotel in El Djem, the Hotel Julius Caesar. The city is in the central northern part of the country, and it takes several hours, via louage, to get there from Tunis (even though you’ve gone through hyper-space). The rooms were cheap and nothing to write home about, but there was a lovely cool courtyard full of bougainvillea in full bloom and so we settled down to a nice lunch (the hotel has a great little restaurant, and to my shock a bar, but more on that later) before seeing the sites (all of which you can easily do on foot). For a mere $10 for two we both had enormous and delicious seafood salads – mainly octopus and assorted shellfish drenched in lemon and parsley and a light drizzle of olive oil, followed by an enormous platter of grilled lamb and a couple of beers. All the blood now in my stomach, we then walked zombie-like in our post-prandial haze through the April heat to see the local museum, an excavated Roman villa, and, oh yes a small detail I omitted, probably the most spectacular amphitheater in the Roman world outside of the Colosseum which rises imposingly out of the flat, parched terrain. The little museum is outstanding by any standard, with an extensive collection of Roman mosaics but also frankly some of the most – shall we say, interesting – um, pieces, of ancient erotic art (including a small terra cotta of a woman doing things with a donkey that would make a Paris Hilton video look tame) I’ve ever seen. Please don’t tell my parents. But the highlight of El Djem and what makes it worth the trip is the amphitheater, which we took the better part of the afternoon to wander around and where I practiced my Russell Crowe impression in the arena (note to self: sucking in a beer gut shouting “Are you not entertained?!?!?! Are you not entertained?!?!?!” can cause bladder leakage). Afterwards we sat outside at a concession and smoked hookahs (“You want hubbly-bubbly yes, please!”) and watched – shall we say a culturally unaware (Americans are not the only ones!) group of Swedish women wander about in their bikinis. Note to reader: wandering around the street in an Arab country in a bikini is bad etiquette – Doh! Note to Bob: Don’t ogle Swedish or Arab women – you’re seventy-four for Chrissake!

Now if at the end of a hot day of sight-seeing you want to unwind with a drink, or if you need a six o’clock fix (or five o’clock, or four-thirty fix for that matter) Tunisia may not be the place for you. Having traveled in Turkey and Syria and found that a good glass of wine is easy to find in those countires, I was a bit surprised when we found it difficult to have wine or a beer with dinner. This may not be true if you go to Tunis and stay at large hotels and resorts, but we were going native (including wearing Bin-Laden type turbans, in which I must say I look dashing while Bob looks like, well, the nurse from Romeo and Juliet). It was to my shock, then, that I noticed a hotel bar in El Djem open in the late afternoon with locals (all men) pouring into it for boozing it up. It was a scene: men not just ordering a round of beers, but ordering two, three, four beers each at a time, and pounding them back (I guess that’s how the ship of the desert floats!) I’d never known that belching men had such an impressive range of octave, and was damn glad my wife, or for that the goat (see louage trip above), was not around.

From El Djem we headed down to the desert – which took us the better part of the day, but at last we ended up in Douz. The hotel was nothing to write home about nor were the places and things one could eat – couscous, lamb, and not much else. But at the hotel we booked a two day trek into the desert on camels which, because of our original plan to just stick to Roman ruins (I’m saving Sbeitla and Maktar for another trip), we weren’t very well prepared for, but which was just the right amount of time and which was tremendous. At two in the afternoon we boarded a couple of camels, which are easy enough to ride - you just grab onto the saddle and hang on for dear life. A warning to couples: walk unless you’ve already had your family. I literally found it nearly impossible to sit for two days after spending several hours on the back of these animals. At any rate, after several hours we came to a Bedouin encampment and here my troubles really began. In my household, my wife is the designated bee-killer while I’m the designated arachnicide. What do you do when your enemy leaves signs yet is invisible? Everywhere one looks in the Sahara, despite its being barren, one sees signs of lizards, wild dogs, birds, dung-beetles, of things whose identity you just don’t want to know. For those interested in species diversity I’m sure it’s fascinating, but for those of us set to bed down in the sand that night it leaves us with a slight cork-screw sensation down the spine. Bob said going through the Sahara on camels would give me a new perspective on the Koran and Bible – it did. I now understand the plague of vermin sent to Egypt. If I were to do this again – and I intend to – I’d at the least take an inflatable mattress to stay off the sand, where I barely slept, thinking every rustle was a creature about to clamp the jaws of death around my ankle and inject some deadly substance into whatever blood had not yet frozen from sheer terror and the biting cold of the desert night. I’d also bring a bottle.

For all my complaints, the desert trek was truly a transcendent experience and a highlight of the trip - bathrooms and showers were non-existent, we carried provisions in a pack supplied by the guide. It strips life, if only for about 48 hours, to its barest essentials – no cell phone, no internet (not that you can readily find connections in Tunisia), no trees, nothing, not even the sound of a car or plane. Surrounded by dunes and the sound only of wind and buzzing flies that sounded vaguely like the muezzin, the silence was literally deafening and profound. To see the sun rise and set in the Sahara, to see the blazing ball of red dip at night on the horizon and see the wind turn on like a switch and gently blow the sand over the dunes, then to hear the night wind rage against your tent, is a transformative and humbling experience. It is not nearly as humbling though, as having the local dogs watch you use the outside latrine in the morning and to realize they are watching you to make sure you don’t get lost, because they know more about the place than you do and are wiser here than two dissolute reprobates with Ivy League PhDs masquerading as Lawrence of Arabia.

Our time in Tunisia running out as fast as the sand the winds had blown into every part of my underclothing (another unforgettable experience), we now headed up to Kerouan, the fourth holiest site in Islam set in an ancient walled city with an outstanding souq and known as one of the central places in the country for the manufacture of rugs. We arrived in the city late on Saturday too exhausted to do anything but wander around and find dinner, and had to leave by noon on Sunday to get back to Tunis in time to catch a noon flight Monday back to Rome. But that left us plenty of time to see the mosque and to shop for rugs on Sunday morning, something I had not intended to do since I was not impressed with the quality and style of rugs I had seen in Tunisia. Kerouan changed all that: the next morning as we emerged from the mosque we had just visited we were approached by a salesman who instantly sized up my weakness and accosted me with the query, “Hello sir, how can I help you to part from your money?”. By 11:30 a.m. I had given him a semester’s worth of lessons in just how and was the proud owner of a beautiful rug that ran me half the price of what I had paid for similar ones in Turkey. By the time we arrived in Tunis early that afternoon we still had time to head to Carthage via metro and see the ruins and museum – and that included getting lost in some of the beautiful suburbs around the site.

As one who studies, teaches and publishes in the area of Roman culture and history I certainly intend to go back. I still need to see a good number of Roman and Carthaginian sites still. And joking aside for the moment, the people and culture were both wonderful and we felt very welcome; when lost (as we were on a number of occasions), people were more than willing to help out, all of us using pigeon French to communicate. Next time I go however, I’ll allow more time and bring some extra accoutrements for the desert (namely a gun, toilet paper and a flask) to make life in the Sahara more amenable. Final words of advice: Learn French, don’t pay over $250 for a decent rug, and leave your goat outside the bar at El Djem.


Lobstah Bisque fah Santah

Boil two 1.5 pound lobsters in 2 gallons of water for 12 minutes; plunge into ice water and chill for an hour or two. Save 1 quart of the lobster water.

Shell the lobster; chop the meat finely, set it aside, and reserve the shells.

Saute the shells in 3 T. butter and add 1/3 c. cognac and ignite; when the flame subsides add in 3 T. tomato paste, the lobster water, 1/2 c. finely chopped shallots, 2 cloves garlic, 2.5 c. white wine, 1 t. tarragon, 1/2 t. thyme, a pinch of red pepper flakes and 2 bay leaves. Boil then lower the temp. and simmer 1/2 an hour.

Strain the mixture and reserve it. Saute in a large pot 3 T. shallots, 3 T. butter, then add 3 T. flour and cook over medium heat for 1 minute; add in the reserve mixture (that you just strained) gradually whisking it in; add 2.5 c. whole milk and 3/4 c. half and half; heat over medium-medium low heat to a simmer, whisking to prevent burning on the bottom.

Put two egg yolks in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 c. of the hot soup stirring vigorously, then whisking constantly add the egg/soup mixture to the simmering soup; stir in the reserved lobster meat and simmer til hot, stirring all the while.

Serve at once (serves about 6); H.E. likes it with hot popovers.


A Saturnalia Message: In Hoc Anno meets A.U.C.

The rich man’s Pravda (aka the WSJ) ran its annual string of lies, fabrications and half-truths this year, propagated originally in 1949 by the renowned ignoramus Vermont Royster, in which VR took on directly that grave threat to American democracy, Tiberius Caesar. No fooling. (Okay, I KNOW it was the start of the Cold War and the mindset was the USSR = the Roman Empire, while the USA = DOH! NEVERMIND!!!!!) It is a perennial exercise in the dissing of Mr. Tiberius, and so full of elision, innuendo, rumor, and half-truth that Tacitus, somewhere today, is surely smiling; how Sig. Victor David can, in good conscience as an ancient historian, continue to contribute to pages far more committed to vitriol than truth, defies analysis (as does VDH’s line of reasoning on contemporary politics in general - he seems obsessed with violence and the fact that the French have wine with lunch).

Ahem, on to our deconstruction. The first paragraph of the WSJ states the following:

“When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage.”

Bondage? Not as the Romans defined it. The editorial implies, erroneously, that the ENTIRE population of Rome was slave; this is simply untrue. The question of liberty in antiquity is a vexed one for scholars, one too difficult to get into here. Suffice to say that, according to Tacitus, many of those in Rome who had given up their liberty (a property only of the privileged and propertied elite anyway, even during the “free” time of the republic) were only too happy to have security in place of the chaos that so harried the late republic. Gosh, giving up liberty for security; didn’t I see a headline in the WSJ editorial earlier this week that read “Thank you for wiretapping”? As for the whole of the known world living in bondage, sorry, wrong: Germania, Thule, Britannia, Hibernia, and points further south and east of which the Romans were quite aware, were NOT under Roman sway in the first century.

“There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.”

Well, one state if you except the client states of Rome; as for one master, maybe, but in the wake of Sejanus’ fall which had taken place at roughly the same time, Tiberius wasn’t even in a position to relieve from command certain of his governors (as witness the letter from Lentulus Gaetulicus, governor of Germany).

“Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.”

But just how effective Roman law enforcement was in the provinces is problematic, especially in rural areas. As for stability, someone alert Tacfarinas and Julius Sacrovir, whose revolts in north Africa and Gaul had shown just how unstable Roman control could be – and this does not include the perennial problems in the eastern provinces or on the border with Germania. But even if we accept that “the arm of the Roman law was long”, and that “Everywhere there was stability”, what kind of societies does the WSJ THINK the Romans conquered? Peaceful idyllic ones? Or would the WSJ prefer that the tribes of Germania, Hispania, and Gallia remain in a perpetual state of warfare? Is the WSJ advocating chaos and autonomy from outside powers instead of stability and security ensured by foreign powers? Then how the hell can it advocate current American policy in the Middle East? C’mon guys – figure it out and make up your minds!

“But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression--for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people.”

Actually Tiberius’ tax policy was quite humane: “A shepherd must sheer his flock not flay it” he famously said. As for largess to the people, Tiberius was notoriously stingy about the bestowal of any largess, which contributed to his poor reputation following the (by comparison) more generous Augustus. By the 30s it is also dubious just how many amici Tiberius had – he had already outlived many as he approached his early 70s, and there were few that he could or would trust after the conspiracy of one of his most trusted advisors, L. Aelius Sejanus, against him.

“There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?”

Can Mr. Royster tell me of a single individual executed by Tiberius as a result of his direct proscription? Can he cite with certitude anyone who fell undeservedly or unjustly at his direct order? No, because the analysis of such cases are notoriously problematic. As for serving Caesar, Tiberius tried desperately to grant greater autonomy to the senate of Rome, but they wouldn’t have it and insisted on his guidance, leading him at one point to depart the senate in a pique, exclaiming “O homines ad servitutem paratos!” As for the impressor, we admit that this was a gross institution, yet we also note that even Christians were addicted to such sport – one wonders if Mr. Royster ever read Augustine.

“There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?”

That such a statement finds its way into the WSJ’s pietistic musings at Christmas is perhaps one of the most breathtaking instances of hypocrisy one can imagine. First of all, the initial sentence is an out and out falsehood; again I ask, is there any instance that we can cite with certainty that any of the three assertions in the sentence actually occurred? The answer is three fold: no, No, NO. (Has the WSJ never heard of source criticism?) As for disdain of men sans familiar visage, how many unnecessary wars against people without “familiar visage” has the WSJ supported over the years? That the WSJ can support torture and capital punishment and then publish a line taking to task Roman “contempt for human life” speaks to just how tone deaf the editors and many readers of the WSJ are.

The rest of the editorial gets into theological matters whereby Jesus and Paul, apparently, establish American democracy after overthrowing the evil Roman empire. Never mind the definitional problems of libertas (a term the WSJ raises frequently in the editorial) and its meaning for those living in 793 versus 2759 a.u.c. Never mind the textual and historical issues which lead scholars and theologians to dispute over both the teachings and even historicity of Jesus (though one could scarcely expect intellectual rigor on the pages of a paper that endorses the policy of the court du jour). And never mind the political background to the writing of the gospels (generally anti-Roman and written in the wake of the revolt in Judaea between 66-71 C.E.), which serves as the essential backdrop for the concerns and subject matter in general of the NT (except for Acts and a hand full of epistles), a sometimes negative perspective that not all subject of the Empire shared. All of this simply renders further deconstruction, as any sober scholar in the field will agree, superfluous. And in terms of its intellectual heritage and influence, the WSJ simply grants an unwarranted amount of credit to the New Testament for the development of modern liberal democracy, with willful disregard for the contributions of Athenian democracy, Roman republicanism, and Enlightenment philosophy.

To conclude:

Okay WSJ (to draw from a famous John Cleesian diatribe), aside from their roads, education, public order, sanitation, urbanization, spreading of Greek learning, great monuments of and innovations in architecture, essential contributions to political theory, enormous body of great literature, and laying the foundations of a major modern religion and humanism, what have the Romans EVER DONE FOR US!

Now, sit down, shut up, sip your lobster bisque and go pick on an empire your own size!

Merry Saturnalia,



Saturday, December 24, 2005

Last minute festivus for the restovus shopping . . .

Two outstanding books for your reading pleasure - Ross King has two very fine and easy reads, one on Brunelleschi's dome in Florence, the other on Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling. I'm also going to check out John Harr's book on Caravaggio, and maybe Francine Prose's book too.

Coming up next: Twas the Night Before Lobster Bisque.


Friday, December 23, 2005

How Homer Prepared a Rack of Lamb for the Holidays

Take a woolly-fleeced lamb with attendants and slaughter it to the propitiating deity of which you have most need.

Once you have wrapped the thigh bones in fat and burned the offering on the altar, and have spitted and roasted the innards, take the choicest rack meat, consisting of one rack with seven ribs (white with glistening fat on one side), season the rack with salt and pepper, pepper from where the furthest Indus spills into the wine-dark sea.

Now take a burnished dark pot, oven-proof, that can hold its shield against Vulcan's powerful heat, and heat in it 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, glistening gift of Athena, then sear the white glistening fat side of the lamb for two minutes or so over the voracious, all-consuming fire, Prometheus' gift for which Zeus wracks him with dark pain, then using fierce-grabbing tongs, sear it on the meat side for as much time, then on the bone side.

Remove from the fierce, all-consuming fire, and let the meat stand for several minutes in the airy breezes of Zephyrus, brother of Boreas, or apply a crust consisting of bread crumbs (1/2 c.), mustard (1 T.), an egg, and herbs, salutary, not the baneful medicines of the Thessalian witch nor of distant Medea, Medea, baleful sorceress beguiling Jason and the daughters of Pelias, but those of the land of high Athens - oregano, rosemary, and thyme from which Attic bees make pure ambrosial honey.

Roast the meat bone side down in the oven (475) for 15-20 minutes and let rest for 5 before carving. Check the temparature with a thermometer and be not blinded by the judicial blindness of Ate and overcook the meat.

Summon now the serving attendants to make the sauce; skim the rich glistening fat from the roasting pan, leaving any juices in the pan, running red, red such as the blood that raged round the wound of mighty Patroklos, friend of Achilles, the day that Hektor, tamer of horses, slew him on the field of battle, and Patroklos fulfilled his fate.

Set the pan over medium heat of Vulcan's all-consuming fire and add two or three cloves of garlic, gift of the gods that give men courage, cook 15 seconds and add 1/2-2/3 cup brimming full of dark, flashing red wine, scrapping the pan, burnished bronze, until the dark bits at the bottom, delicious, full of flavor, are removed from the bottom; boil to reduce by half. Add about 1/2 c. of beef stock made from the chine of sleek shammbling cattle and reduce over Vulcan's flame, to about half the amount before adding 1 t. fresh chopped thyme, thyme such as that from the Attic countryside where the bees buzz in the time of the blossoms, and a half teaspoon of dijon, Dijon, where fierce red-headed warriors raise the mighty war-cry, terrible to hear. Prior to pouring this suace over the meat, you may add butter (2 T.) if you wish, clogger of arteries, that sends many souls to Hades' gloomy house and the infernal shades below, leaving men feast for dogs and carion birds.

You may increase this recipe if you wish; one rack feeds a hoplite, fighter with a round shield seven ox-hides thick faced with fierce Medusa, terrible to see.

Pour a libation of flashing wine from a well-crafted cup, worked with many studs, and when prayers have been said and servants have come around to the guests with silver basins for washing hands and stools for their feet, and when baskets of bread have been passed, you may stretch out your hands to the good cheer, giving the fat chine, choicest portion, to H.E., H.E. scion of Daedalus who taught him to be a man of many wiles in the culinary arts, whose mighty powers spread dread surfeit throughout the world of men.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Somewhere in Umbria . . .

that is my secret haunt there is an old farm house where you can stay. It is nestled in the hills in the center of Italy's cuore verde, and is un piccolo pezzo di Paradiso.

The heart of this place is a stable that has been converted into a large dining room, complete with heavy wood beams and an enormous stone fireplace, one where H.E. has spent many an hour on cold spring evenings imbibing on the farm's wine and watching the sun sink over the green valley below while growing intoxicated on il profumo della cucina. More inches have been put on H.E.'s waist in this single spot, than perhaps any other. Why, you might ask?

Let us journey through the three spheres that encompass human existence to explore why: No, not Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, rather antipasto, primo, and secondo (only the very very blessed ever make it to dolce).

Of the four nights recently spent there, the following menus were "on the table":

Day 1:

Antipasto: a huge plate of local olives, zucchini fritatta, local sausages, ricotta with sunflower honey, sweet and sour vegetables, cheese bread, and fresh raw marinated artichokes.

Primo: orchetti (made without egg) in turnip greens with broccoli rabe and pecorino cheese.

Secondo: huge pork chops and asparagus sauteed with oil, lemon and salt.

Dolce: a gelato shape with cream and clementines.

Day 2:

Antipasto: leek fritatta, homemade pecorino cheese, farm cured meats, deepfried timball of zucchini with eggplant, and brussel sprouts sauteed in oil, garlic and bacon.

Primo: straccetelli in tomato sauce with freshly chopped carrots, celery and bacon, and fresh peppers sliced and roasted with onions.

Secondo: chopped chicken with vinegar, wine and sage and rosemary; chicory with bacon.

Dolce: pears stewed in white wine with a heavy chocolate sauce topped with chopped nuts and cream on the side.

Day 3:

Antipasto: a repeat of the ricotta with honey, blood sausage, fennel roasted with butter and parmeasan, lemon olives, swiss chard with eggs and cheese, and more cheese bread.

Primo: homemade pasta in oil and truffles.

Secondo: veal rolls stuffed with fritatta and sausages stewed in a sauce with carrots and celery, and mashed potatoes.

Dolce: apple fritters stuffed with apples and soaked in grappa.

Day 4:

Antipasto: veggies (cauliflower, carrots, green beans, peppers, onions) "agridolce", fried artichoke hearts, duck/goose pate with anchovies and lemon on toasts, crostini of mozarella and sausages, fritatta of tomatoes, onions and bacon, slices of peconrino from Norcia.

Primo: gnocchi in tomato sauce with pecorino.

Secondo: shoulder pork roasted with fennel accompanied by fresh cabbage cooked with hot pepper.

Dolce: chocolate cake made of almonds, bread crumbs, and orange liquor.

You will note an absence of adjectives here - that is because some things transcend words, even for a philologist. In short, the most spiritual experience to be had in Italy is not in Assissi, not even in the Vatican, but in an Umbrian kitchen.

Eat - and transcend . . .


PS: H.E. = homo edax, sed etiam "Happy Eating" - COINCIDENCE?!?!?!?!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dowland . . .

H.E. is listening these days to Dreams, a CD of Hopkinson Smith's in which he plays variations on the lute by Dowland. If you want a profoundly peaceful experience (since it IS the season of Peace [someone please tell Bush if he's not too terribly busy spying on people]) then this CD will certainly satisfy.


Amnesty International

Homo edax receives many gifts of food over the holiday season, but his greatest hunger these days - to sound somewhat corny about it - is for Justice. To that end, give yourself a gift you can feel good about this year and get yourself a membership to Amnesty International. I've posted the address in the links section on the right of this page.

Pax kai eireine!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kelly's Heroes may just be . . . .

the best war movie ever made. A great cast, hilarious and devastating at one and the same time. Two hours of provocative irreverance . . .

Woof woof woof!!!


PS - was I the ONLY one to see the big bright meteor at College Park tonight around 8:15 PM?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Champagne for Caesar!

Today's movie pick is Champagne for Caesar, with Ron Coleman, Vincent Price, Art Linkletter, and Mel Balnc as Caesar - a hilarious rift on American television and consumer culture a la 1950.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

pandas vero odio!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Some petronianally disconnected thoughts . . .

If you were reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death you'd learn more than reading this blog . . .

Quare cupiditas libertatis tanta in hac republica est cum iustitia esset principium primum in documento nomine The Bill of Rights? Quam aliena republica nostra esset si sententia principalis esset, Aut da mi iustitiam aut da mi mortem! Legi brevi tempore ante in Oriente iustitia est res suprema digna cupiditate, dum in Occidente libertate est, unde difficilitates nostrae oriuntur.

I'll be making a cherry cheese strudel for dessert for the Saturnalia - I'll let you all know how it comes out and post the recipe if it turns out well.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is like Seinfeld on crack - the funniest thing on t.v. ever (except possibly Gomer Pyle).

Saw Syriana - a worthwhile two hours . . .

Est mala fortuna nobis nunc Johannem Vilicum (Stewart) esse optimam originem novarum (id est, nuntiorum) in hoc tempore (cum Guilliemo Mahere et Stefano Colberto in loco secundo) . . .



Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holiday Beast Feast (Prime Rib Standing Roast).

1. Take a BULB of garlic, and finely mince it.

2. Take a rib roast, cut off a strip of its fat and set the fat aside. Put it rib side down in a large roasting pan.

3. Pour a bottle of red wine over it. Sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.

4. Pack evenly with your hands the minced garlic over the top of the meat.

5. Arrange about 10-20 (depending on the size of your roast) bay leaves over the top and sides of the roast.

6. Lay the strip of fat over the top.

7. Preheat the oven to 475. For the first 20 minutes, roast the beef at this temperature, then turn the heat down to 325. Roast approximately 18 minutes per pound. If you like it rare, err on the side of checking the meat early. It should register 140 degrees with a thermometer for rare. Add water to the pan if it smokes.

8. Let stand at least 20 minutes before carving, longer for a larger roast.

I like to serve it with horseradish (I prepare a mix of prepared horseradish with mayonaise and cream).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mmmmm unyunzzzz . . .

This is the simplest and best recipe that you will ever find for onions. Just take about 40 white boiling onions and peel them (there is no easy way to do this unless you are married, in which case you can have your spouse do it!). In a large saucepan melt and bring to a boil about 2/3 c. chicken broth and 3-4T. butter; as soon as it boils, drop in the onions, add a dash of salt and a few grindings of fresh pepper and simmer on a low temperature for about 30-40 minutes until the onions are soft. Keep the pan covered and be careful to stir so your onions don't burn. If you have too much liquid at the end and it's not sufficiently thick and carmalized, then cook over medium-high heat the last few minutes of cooking til the liquid thickens. You should have a rich sweet dish of onions - great with a holiday dinner or any dinner for that matter.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

After a good political screed . . .

in Italian homo edax likes to sit down to a nice salad. Three favorites:

Shrimp Salad.

Tear up 1 large head of red leaf lettuce for your salad. Steam 6 small red potatoes, set aside and chop into medium size cubes. Make a dressing of 2/3 c. olive oil and 1/3 c. sherry wine vinegar, with 3 cloves crushed garlic and 2 t. dijon - whisk together. Now chop 1/2 lb. shrimp raw and peeled. Sautee in 2-3 T. butter til just done and throw in a handful of fresh chopped tarragon. Assemble the lettuce, potatoes, dressing, and warm shrimp and gently toss together - fabuloso!

L'insalata di morte.

Toss up a mix of red and green leaf lettuce (for about 9 c. greens). Mix a dressing of 1 c. olive oil, 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar, 2 t. dijon, a splash of lemon juice, and a mix of salad herbs (fresh preferably - I use a mix of parsley, chives, and tarragon), and set aside. Fry 1 lb. of thick sliced bacon chopped til crisp - remove and drain onto a paper towel. In the grease slowly fry 5 slices of decrusted thick sliced white bread til golden brown (for croutons), set aside. Now mix 1 and 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese, the bacon, the croutons, and the greens, and pour on the dressing. Gently toss - superb!

Caesar Salad.

Gently tear 1 large head of romaine (removing the green leaf from the hard white inner core on all leaves), set aside. Sautee 5 slices white bread in 1/2 c. olive oil and 3 cloves crushed garlic OR toss cubed bread in a plastic bag with 1/2 c. olive oil and 3 cloves crushed garlic and cook on baking sheet at 350 for about 20-25 minutes til golden brown; cool. Hard boil 2 eggs, and grate 3/4 c. parmeasan cheese. Chop the eggs and toss them with the lettuce, cheese, and croutons. Pour on a dressing of 1/2 c. olive oil, 3 cloves crushed garlic, and 3 T. lemon juice; you may serve with anchovies if you like. AVE CAESAR!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Una ricetta per pasticcio . . .

Allora, si prende un presidente che non ha riuscito mai a qualcosa di importanza nella sua vita (che non è molto bravo nella storia a universitá, con un padre potente che aiuta suo figlio - a lui dando il governo di Texas, una squadra di baseball, e un negozio guasto che produce benzina), poi aggiungere una vendetta della famiglia contro un paese debole, aggiungere un circolo di uomini crudeli che ha un programma per fare un factio particolare ricco - e naturalmente per fare ricco anche i grandi di negozio americano come Haliburton, KBR, ecc., che anche ha un programma per una guerra abusiva da quindici anni, poi aggiungere la grand' sciochezza della gente americana del Iraq, una gente che non sa niente della vita, della storia, della religione, in somma, di niente della quella parte del mondo, che si comporta come una fraschetta durante le elezioni e vuota contra le sue proprie interessi . . . adesso agita bene e PRESTO -



Gaudeamus: si hic carnifex adulescens dux noster est, eheu, erit spes omni simio!