Monday, July 14, 2008

It's A Pizza

The harpy Celaeno, offended by the Trojans for the slaughter of her cattle, prophesies to Aeneas,

"ibitis Italiam portusque intrare licebit.
sed non ante datam cingetis moenibus urbem
quam vos dira fames nostraeque iniuria caedis
ambesas subigat malis absumere mensas.
(Vergil, Aeneid III.254-257)

Which I translate to mean,

"you will go to Italy and you may enter the harbors, but you will not surround
with walls your given city before harsh hunger and the wrong of our
slaughter forces you to eat your tables consumed by your jaws."

Interestingly, mAla means "cheek-bone, jaw-bone; jaw, cheek." That's not one of those Latin words you come across too often.

Anyhow, what the soon-to-be residents of Latium are doing is eating pizza! The "table" is, of course, the place where the food rests. I remember from my Medieval Romance class in college the professor discussing how sailors and others would bake thin round loaves of bread which would become very hard and, thus, preservable (hardtack? crackers?). When mealtime came, the hard bread could serve as a plate and all the other food (vegetables, meats, cheeses) was piled upon it with the expectation that juices from these toppings would soak into bread, flavoring and softening it for consumption at the end. If one was particularly hungry, why couldn't he eat the "table" and all at the same time?

Of course, the Latins did not have tomatoes or tomato sauce...

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