“Let’s live while we can, since we know we’ve all got to die.”

I’m trying read more and write more.  I don’t have much to say about The Satyricon, except that it was entertaining for the most part, and perhaps more scandalous than the Fellini film which was a surprise to me.  I greatly enjoyed the scene of Trimalchio’s feast, so here’s another food post with what they eat:

  • On the tray stood a donkey made of Corinthian bronze, bearing panniers containing olives, white in one and black in the other. Two platters flanked the figure, on the margins of which were engraved Trimalchio’s name and the weight of the silver in each. Dormice sprinkled with poppy-seed and honey were served on little bridges soldered fast to the platter, and hot sausages on a silver gridiron, underneath which were damson plums and pomegranate seeds.
  • Turning his head, Trimalchio saw what was going on. “Friends,” he remarked. “I ordered pea-hen’s eggs set under the hen, but I’m afraid they’re addled, by Hercules I am let’s try them anyhow, and see if they’re still fit to suck.” We picked up our spoons, each of which weighed not less than half a pound, and punctured the shells, which were made of flour and dough, and as a matter of fact, I very nearly threw mine away for it seemed to me that a chick had formed already, but upon hearing an old experienced guest vow, “There must be something good here,” I broke open the shell with my hand and discovered a fine fat fig-pecker, imbedded in a yolk seasoned with pepper.
  • There was a circular tray around which were displayed the signs of the zodiac, and upon each sign the caterer had placed the food best in keeping with it. Ram’s vetches on Aries, a piece of beef on Taurus, kidneys and lamb’s fry on Gemini, a crown on Cancer, the womb of an unfarrowed sow on Virgo, an African fig on Leo, on Libra a balance, one pan of which held a tart and the other a cake, a small seafish on Scorpio, a bull’s eye on Sagittarius, a sea lobster on Capricornus, a goose on Aquarius and two mullets on Pisces. In the middle lay a piece of cut sod upon which rested a honeycomb with the grass arranged around it. An Egyptian slave passed bread around from a silver oven and in a most discordant voice twisted out a song in the manner of the mime in the musical farce called Laserpitium.
  • While he was speaking, four dancers ran in to the time of the music, and removed the upper part of the tray. Beneath, on what seemed to be another tray, we caught sight of stuffed capons and sows’ bellies, and in the middle, a hare equipped with wings to resemble Pegasus. At the corners of the tray we also noted four figures of Marsyas and from their bladders spouted a highly spiced sauce upon fish which were swimming about as if in a tide-race. All of us echoed the applause which was started by the servants, and fell to upon these exquisite delicacies, with a laugh. “Carver,” cried Trimalchio, no less delighted with the artifice practised upon us, and the carver appeared immediately. Timing his strokes to the beat of the music he cut up the meat in such a fashion as to lead you to think that a gladiator was fighting from a chariot to the accompaniment of a water-organ.
  • At length some slaves came in who spread upon the couches some coverlets upon which were embroidered nets and hunters stalking their game with boar-spears, and all the paraphernalia of the chase. We knew not what to look for next, until a hideous uproar commenced, just outside the dining-room door, and some Spartan hounds commenced to run around the table all of a sudden. A tray followed them, upon which was served a wild boar of immense size, wearing a liberty cap upon its head, and from its tusks hung two little baskets of woven palm fibre, one of which contained Syrian dates, the other, Theban. Around it hung little suckling pigs made from pastry, signifying that this was a brood-sow with her pigs at suck. It turned out that these were souvenirs intended to be taken home.
  • While we were speaking, a handsome boy, crowned with vine leaves and ivy, passed grapes around, in a little basket, and impersonated Bacchus-happy, Bacchus-drunk, and Bacchus-dreaming, reciting, in the meantime, his master’s verses, in a shrill voice.
  • The tables were cleared off to the beat of music, and three white hogs, muzzled, and wearing bells, were brought into the dining-room. The announcer informed us that one was a two-year-old, another three, and the third just turned six. I had an idea that some rope-dancers had come in and that the hogs would perform tricks, just as they do for the crowd on the streets, but Trimalchio dispelled this illusion by asking, “Which one will you have served up immediately, for dinner? Any country cook can manage a dunghill cock, a pentheus hash, or little things like that, but my cooks are well used to serving up calves boiled whole, in their cauldrons!” […] Before he had run out of wind, a tray upon which was an enormous hog was placed upon the table, almost filling it up. We began to wonder at the dispatch with which it had been prepared and swore that no cock could have been served up in so short a time; moreover, this hog seemed to us far bigger than the boar had been. Trimalchio scrutinized it closely and “What the hell,” he suddenly bawled out, “this hog hain’t been gutted, has it? No, it hain’t, by Hercules, it hain’t! Call that cook! Call that cook in here immediately!” When the crestfallen cook stood at the table and owned up that he had forgotten to bowel him, “So you forgot, did you?” Trimalchio shouted, “You’d think he’d only left out a bit of pepper and cummin, wouldn’t you? Off with his clothes!” […] “Since your memory’s so short, you can gut him right here before our eyes!” The cook put on his tunic, snatched up a carving knife, with a trembling hand, and slashed the hog’s belly in several places. Sausages and meat- puddings, widening the apertures, by their own weight, immediately tumbled out. [this is followed by great applause, obviously]
  • When my glance returned to the table, I noticed that a dish containing cakes had been placed upon it, and in the middle an image of Priapus, made by the baker, and he held apples of all varieties and bunches of grapes against his breast, in the conventional manner. We applied ourselves wholeheartedly to this dessert and our joviality was suddenly revived by a fresh diversion, for, at the slightest pressure, all the cakes and fruits would squirt a saffron sauce upon us, and even spurted unpleasantly into our faces.
  • The dainties that followed this display of affability were of such a nature that, if any reliance is to be placed in my word, the very mention of them makes me sick at the stomach. Instead of thrushes, fattened chickens were served, one to each of us, and goose eggs with pastry caps on them, which same Trimalchio earnestly entreated us to eat, informing us that the chickens had all been boned
  • Thrushes made of pastry and stuffed with nuts and raisins, quinces with spines sticking out so that they looked like sea-urchins. All this would have been endurable enough had it not been for the last dish that was served; so revolting was this, that we would rather have died of starvation than to have even touched it. We thought that a fat goose, flanked with fish and all kinds of birds, had been served, until Trimalchio spoke up. “Everything you see here, my friends,” said he, “was made from the same stuff.” With my usual keen insight, I jumped to the conclusion that I knew what that stuff was and, turning to Agamemnon, I said, “I shall be greatly surprised, if all those things are not made out of excrement, or out of mud, at the very least: I saw a like artifice practiced at Rome during the Saturnalia.” [it’s actually made of pork]

I had to look up what some of these things were.  Dormice are a specific type of dormouse (as in the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), also called the edible dormouse.  Fig-peckers are unborn chicks.  Both were delicacies in Ancient Rome.  Vetches are a type of legume, but I couldn’t find anything about ‘ram’s vetches’ unless it was referring to ram feed.  It does seem that vetches could be used in bread-making, which might mean something.  But I’m not really doing enough research into the topic.

800px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_The_Triumph_of_Bacchus_-_WGA25311
The Triumph of Bacchus, Cornelis de Vos

At least the Priapus-based dessert sounded good.

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