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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post The WWII "Diet"
Created by John Eipper on 12/01/17 2:17 PM

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The WWII "Diet" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 12/01/17 2:17 pm)

It has been suggested that eating too much shortens one's life.

Well, during War II all nations ate less, starting with the US, as according to some friends it was impossible to find good prosciutto. With the Axis powers, eating wild grass became a nice healthful practice. The Japanese were even luckier, because being an island country, they managed to eat all kinds of seaweed and fish--of course small fish near the shore, as it was impossible to send fishing boats out on the open seas.

JE comments: Did the US even have prosciutto until recent times?  Certainly not in the Heartland.  I think Eugenio Battaglia is trying to say that the US enjoyed relative plenty during WWII, except for the rarest luxuries.

A question I've never posed on WAIS:  how many of our colleagues have experienced genuine hunger?  This might yield some fascinating stories.  Americans typically would agree with my mom, who has famously said, "I've been to a lot of funerals, and not one of them starved to death."  People in other times and other nations have not been so fortunate.


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  • Food Shortages in WWII: Prosciutto (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/03/17 7:02 AM)

    John E asked me to clarify my comment on the scarcity of prosciutto in the US during WWII.


    When I was in New Jersey in 1971, we met several relatives.  I tried to ask them about the conditions of Italian-Americans during WWII but they did not want say anything. Were they still frightened by the threat of deportation?


    About food, they confirmed that it was impossible to find good prosciutto during the war. Probably good prosciutto had previously been arriving in the area of New Jersey and New York.


    JE comments:  Eugenio, what about bad prosciutto?  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)  Horse meat was freely available in the US, and was unrationed.  The image below is from the UK, but it shows the popularity of a tasty horsesteak.


    Horsesciutto?



    In the early '70s, WWII was barely 25 years in the past.  What was the experience like, Eugenio, of meeting family members who had been on the other side of the war?


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    • Prosciutto: Good, Bad, and Ugly (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 12/04/17 3:40 AM)
      John E's quip was fascinating: "What about bad prosciutto?" (See Eugenio Battaglia, 3 December.)

      As a matter of fact, very very few people even today know good prosciutto. I do not know whether you can have it at all in the US. Both top-class Italian (San Daniele del Friuli prosciutto 24 months) and Spanish (jamón ibérico de bellota) are extremely expensive. Both are available in London's Selfridge's.


      JE comments:  Boris, for shame!  Any Spaniard would be horrified by an association of jamón ibérico with "mere" prosciutto.  (Of course, Italians probably feel the same, but the other way around.  We'll hear from Eugenio Battaglia next.)


      You can't find good prosciutto or serrano/ibérico in humble Adrian, but there are a number of places to do so in Ann Arbor-Detroit.  (Zingerman's in AA is one of the nation's top delis.  Show up hungry and with a fat wallet.)  Or if you don't want the hassle of parking, La Tienda.com will ship a whole ibérico to your front door for $1195 (sic).

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      • Prosciutto, Panettone, Frappuccino (Enrique Torner, USA 12/06/17 4:01 AM)
        As a Spaniard who has lived in the US for 30 years, I have tasted prosciutto and jamón ibérico in the US, and, as my Spanish professor buddy and editor stated, there is no comparison, especially in the case of jamón ibérico. For years, I had been buying Spanish food from latienda.com, which is in Virginia, but about a year ago, our Hy-Vee grocery store started carrying it, along with chorizo and lomo ibérico.  These are from Fermín brand, very high quality. You can get a few "lonchas" (slices) for a reasonable price. Of course, a whole leg will cost you about $1000, but who would get that in the US?

        All this talk is making me hungry and crave Spanish jamón ibérico, which I haven't eaten for a long time. However, I have been enjoying one of my favorite Christmas foods: Italian "panettone," which they have at my neighborhood Walgreens. I absolutely love "panettone"! Sometimes I have ordered an even better quality from Williams-Sonoma. I would like to ask our Italian WAISers what brands of panettone they consider the best.


        Thank you, Italy, for creating panettone, cappuccino, and frappuccino! (Did you really create frappuccino, or is this an American invention?)


        JE comments: Frappuccino is a Starbucks brand, although it was created by a Boston coffee chain acquired by the coffee behemoth in the 1990s. Here's Wikipedia:


        "The original Frappuccino drink was developed, named, trademarked and sold by George Howell's Eastern Massachusetts coffee shop chain, The Coffee Connection. When Starbucks purchased The Coffee Connection in 1994, they also gained the rights to use, make, market, and sell the Frappuccino drink. The drink, with a different recipe, was introduced under the Starbucks name in 1995 and as of 2012, Starbucks had annual Frappuccino sales of over $2 billion."


        The Boston roots are not surprising:  "frappe" is New Englandese for a milkshake.



        Enrique Torner is a Walgreen's man.  Yours Truly leans towards CVS.  All Americans are one or the other, except for the rara avis who prefers Rite Aid.  They say the world divides up evenly between John and Paul, except for that rara avis, the Georgeophile.  (Only an inveterate non-conformist can like Ringo best.)


        This John is a Pauline.

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        • Paulines, Georgeophiles, and Ringoists (John Heelan, UK 12/07/17 3:49 AM)
          John E's comment reminded me of a spiteful joke aimed at the Beatles and Ringo. Q: What do you call somebody who arrives with musicians? A: The drummer.

          This talk of Spanish food reminds me that our supply of chorizo has run low--an essential ingredient of excellent Fabada Asturiana my wife makes to comfort us in winter.


          JE comments:  My rocker friends say the drummer is the heartbeat--cornerstone, foundation, what have you--of any band.  If the "musicians" screw up you still have a song, but when the drumming falls apart, everything is lost.  Stepson Martin is a drummer, and I've played around with his kit.  It's not nearly as easy as it looks.


          So here's to the world's drummers.  They arrive first and leave last.  I'm still partial to Paul, however.


          (We just booked a Havana hotel not far from "Parque John Lennon" in the Vedado district.  Castro must have been influenced by Lennonism.)


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          • Drumming Up Support for Drummers: "Whiplash" (David Duggan, USA 12/08/17 4:20 AM)
            See the movie Whiplash, which should have won the Academy Award for best picture (against Birdman), if you don't believe drummers set the tone, mood and energy of the band (at least one not dominated by a pianist).

            JE comments: Saw it, a couple of years ago, with family drummer Martin.  Whiplash is one of those films that puts you through the wringer.  It's excellent, but also a lot of work to watch.  Miles Teller in the central role is brilliant, as is Detroit's own J. K. Simmons, his brutal taskmaster of a teacher.  Simmons has inspired my own teaching methods--fear, derision, public embarrassment, pitting one student against another, and whenever possible, drawing blood.  (Just kidding, folks--I'm demanding on the outside, a softie on the inside.)

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            • Post Unpublished - please check back later



        • Panettone (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/07/17 8:17 AM)

          For Enrique Torner, in Italy we have many good panettone.  Among the classics:  Tre Marie, Gallup, Melegatti, Once Motta.  There are several panettone with chocolate and/or cream. There is also Pandoro but it is without candied fruits, as well as Melegatti, Bauli, etc.


          Well, frappuccino is just milk frappè with coffee, probably an American invention.


          JE comments:  I was in the Adrian Walgreens just yesterday (a treacherous betrayal of CVS, but Wally's is closer).  The panettone display was front and center, just in time for the Holidays.  Can't say I've ever had it.  Isn't panettone Italy's equivalent of fruitcake, which people love to give but few like to eat?

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          • Try some Panettone; It Ain't Fruitcake (Enrique Torner, USA 12/08/17 11:21 AM)

            For goodness sake, John! How dare you compare panettone with fruitcake? I don't like fruitcake at all! It's dry and tastes awful.


            Panettone is moist and delicious! I can't believe you saw it at Walgreens and didn't buy it.  It's only $5.99 at my Walgreens; $1.00 for an individual-size one! Go back to Walgreens, buy one, and try it.  It's my favorite food for the Christmas holidays.


            I want to thank Eugenio for his brand recommendations. I will be searching for them. I have tried "chocottone" as well. One of my daughters prefers it with chocolate, but my wife and I prefer it with candied fruit.


            JE comments:  Mission accomplished!  See photo from WAIS HQ, Adrian, together with Lord Kitchener.  A full report will come upon trial.  The Bauducco brand wasn't one of Eugenio Battaglia's recommendations, but this is not surprising.  It's from Brazil!  Just like Foster's Australian beer is made in Canada.

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          • Different Places, Different Tastes (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/09/17 5:34 AM)
            I am sure that if you tasted a good Italian panettone you will like it. [We still didn't break open the "Brazilettone," but since we're presently snowed in at WAIS HQ, today's the day--JE.]

            Speaking about food and even more about wines, if you really want to taste the goodness you have to eat or drink them in the places where they are produced. When wines and other products, like cheese, etc. travel, staying for a long time in refrigerated places impacts the taste.


            I remember very well that cheese tasted on the mountain in the cave of the "Margaro." The same guy who takes care of the animals makes the cheese in the Alpine pasture. It was delicious when we brought it home, but it just wasn't the same. Wine drunk at the "cantina" where is was made tastes fantastic, but if you take it home it loses something from a few hours in the car.


            To address John E's question of whether the Jewish community of Pitigliano (Maremma) maintained its Ladino language, I have no idea. If I am not mistaken, the town has some inscriptions in Yiddish; therefore some of the people came from Northeast Europe. Consider that various Jewish families of different provenance took refuge in Pitigliano, so maybe there were both Sephardim (but most of these took refuge in Ferrara and Leghorn) and Ashkenazim, but most of these were in Alto Adige.


            Do not forget that we have also the Italian Jews, the Italzim (Italkim), who came to Rome already in the 2nd century BCE and became a large and wealthy community, which by 70 CE would ransom the Jews brought to Rome as slaves.


            JE comments:  Dare I suggest that the emotional factor also plays a role?  Eating local delicacies makes you feel better.  Perhaps we are hard-wired to prefer freshness, with the assumption that the food is less likely to make us sick.  Could it be our hunter-gatherer roots?


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    • Italians on Both Sides of WWII (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/04/17 12:35 PM)
      John E asked two questions about my post of December 3rd:

      1) What about "bad" prosciutto?


      2) What was the experience of meeting family members who had been on the other side of the war?


      Here are my responses:


      1) Of course prosciutto can be bad. Only Italian (and Spanish) prosciutto is good, providing that it has been prepared according to traditional processes, which are presently subjected to regulations. Nowadays you can also find bad prosciutto, cheap imitations arriving from abroad.


      Prosciutto di Parma is the most renowned and should be cut by the slicing machine, while the Toscano (preferred by my wife) is better if cut by a sharp knife. You can find raw prosciutto and cooked prosciutto.  Both are good.


      By the way, I do not know how many vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc. are in prosciutto but, frankly, I do not care.


      2) About the experience with my relatives (actually my wife's relatives) on the other side during WWII, it was very good, loving and pleasant. It is true that I refused a chocolate offered to me by an American Officer in the very early days of the collapse of the RSI, but we were practically still at war and it was the only way to show my loyalty.


      But the enemy is such only in war and when on the battlefield, as I related some time ago. My father, the captain of a battery in Libya, always invited a POW British officer to dinner at the Italian officers' mess. They generally had pleasant conversations away from the war. The British, at least in the early part of the war, were very good chaps and still believed in chivalry.


      Our relatives in the States were American citizens, and as such their first duty was to support/fight for America even if they may have had a feeling of sympathy for Italy--it is a clear-cut situation and as long as one fulfills one's duty there should also be maximum respect.


      Choosing to become citizen of another country, however, is not easy. When I was in the States, especially at work, everybody pushed me to become a US citizen but I could not. Some even told me that I could maintain my Italian passport and according to convenience be Italian or American, but this is not honest.


      After all, can you imagine me at a naturalization ceremony going through the rite of denying all my personal story?


      Today in Italy we had a new funny episode of the Italian anti-nazifascist religion. It was discovered that a Carabiniere had hung a large old German flag in his room. Immediately it became a huge scandal. The Defense Ministry ordered legal action and dismissal for such a shameful apology for Nazism. Political parties, TV, antifascist intellectuals, etc., expressed their indignation, calling for robust vigilance against such awful nazifascist (in Italy it is always nazifascist) resurgence.


      However there was a small problem. The flag was of the Imperial German Navy pre-1918, nothing to do with Nazism. Apparently the Minister and all others are terribly ignorant and were unable to at least check on Wikipedia.


      JE comments:  There is something akin here to the use of the adjective "niggardly" in the US.  It means "stingy" and comes from the Old Norse, and yet English-speakers cringe.  Guilt by association?  Absolutely.


      I'm really craving some good prosciutto.


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    • Prosciutto Again (Salvatore Bizzarro, USA 12/04/17 1:02 PM)
      There are many variations of good prosciutto.

      Among the best, the San Daniele, sweeter or less salty, Prosciutto di Parma, and a wide variety of mountain prosciutto, saltier than the other two, from different regions such as Abruzzo, Piedmont, etc. The mountain kind is closer to the Spanish Jamón Serrano.


      JE comments: This prosciutto discussion really has legs! (That's supposed to be funny, as prosciutto is made from legs, although our porcine friends wouldn't see the humor.)


      So it's settled:  we're not yet sure where next fall's WAIS conference will be held, but I know what's on the menu:  prosciutto.

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      • Prosciutto!!! From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 12/06/17 3:44 PM)
        Ric Mauricio writes:


        I've never had Prosciutto and now you've got me salivating. As for our next fall meeting, I suggest San Francisco, where we can have prosciutto. By the way, I am not sure if I missed something, but wasn't the last gathering supposed to be in Cuba, but nary a mention. I was hoping that those who traveled there would send pictures of the cars.


        As for nutritional value of prosciutto, it is both good and not so good. While one serving gives us a good 26 grams of protein (most of it complete and usable), sodium is at 5,000 mg. Yikes! Enough to give someone an instant cardiac arrest.


        Speaking of San Francisco, did the Kate Steinle murder non-conviction prove that guns kill people, not people? Ughhh!


        JE comments: WAIS style guidelines don't allow triple (or double) exclamation points, but one reviewer of SF's venerable North Beach Restaurant is adamant.  See below.  When it comes to prosciutto and melon, I say yes, and sic!!!


        Our plans for Cuba in October were dashed by a perfect storm of politics, WAISer protests, and, well, a perfect storm called Irma.  Let's regroup for fall 2018.  As for a venue, we've already seen Boris Volodarsky's offer for Vienna.  Eugenio Battaglia (next) has a prosciutto-friendly suggestion:  Tuscany.  And Ric, rest assured that you'll be seeing photos of classic cars when WAIS HQ sets up shop next week in Havana.


        https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60713-d354066-r425862657-North_Beach_Restaurant-San_Francisco_California.html

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        • Things Taste and Smell Different in Italy and US (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 12/09/17 4:26 AM)

          To try prosciutto in San Francisco (see Ric Mauricio, 6 December) is probably not the best choice and even London, where you find everything, would not be the right place. One of the recent commentators noticed that things taste different in Italy than in the USA. This is absolutely true.



          Here's a short story. At the university, my third language was Italian and in summers I used to travel with Italian groups perfecting my language skills. The Italians are usually smart, have extremely good taste and dress very well. What I also noticed at the time, they smell absolutely fantastic, both men and women.



          When our family moved to Western Europe shortly after, I thought: fine, let us buy the same perfumes so we also smell good. Ha, nothing of the sort. French perfumes in Paris and Italian perfumes in Italy smell different than in other parts of the world. I do not know why.



          The same concerns prosciutto. As mentioned, in London you can buy everything but... only in three countries that are neighbours, that is, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, you can find authentic Italian prosciutto. This said, in Vienna one cannot buy jamón ibérico de bellota black label. So for this we have to travel to Spain. But if the WAIS Board decides to choose Vienna as the venue for the next WAIS International Conference, I can promise three spy tours, including the most exclusive The Third Man tour in the Vienna underground; locations where Ric Ames used to meet his KGB handlers giving information on the CIA assets that were all apprehended and shot as a result; a five-star hotel where Nikolai Artamonov (Nicholas George Shadrin) stayed and was abducted by the Russians--the same hotel Sidney Reilly used to reside when in Vienna--plus wonderful restaurants where one can try an oversized Wiener Schnitzel and top-quality Italian prosciutto, all varieties. If this sounds tempting, everybody is welcome.


          JE comments:  WAIS frequently discusses sights, tastes, and (with music) sounds, but smell gets short shrift.  Is it because this most primeval and least understood sense is beneath our high-minded Forum?  How many WAISers have noticed that when you get off a plane in a new country, things just don't smell the same?  Is it different pollen, air quality, humidity, cleaning products?  In Mexico, one frequently encounters the distinctive bouquet of Fabuloso, the iconic purple cleaner.  (You can buy it everywhere in the US.)  We use Fabuloso at WAIS HQ, as it can really clean a floor, and it makes us feel like we're in the tropics.  How does it smell?  Well, the name says it all.

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          • A Generous Iranian Taxi Driver in Vienna (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/10/17 7:45 AM)
            Boris Volodarsky's excellent sales pitch for Vienna (9 December) brought memories of special Viennese food. The first time I was there I arrived on the early train from Budapest. I had to be back in Budapest that same day, so I planned to get to Vienna early and take one of these open bus tours, sample the local cuisine, and take the train back around 2PM.

            To my chagrin I missed the bloody bus tour by less than 5 minutes and decided to get a cab driver for tour guide. Going down this long line of taxis interviewing the drivers for a good candidate whose English was good enough for the job, I finally found a fellow from Iran. After about two hours showing me some interesting sites and talking about everything from family, personal experiences, politics, etc. we hit it off and I told him he would be my guest for lunch at the restaurant serving the best Wiener Schnitzel in town.


            This guy was incredible.  He owned two Mercedes-Benz taxis, but one of the drivers had called in sick that day so he took over for the day. He also had a large carpet store which he proudly showed me. His large home was on top of the store.  He had a large family and invited my family and me to stay with them on my next visit to Vienna.


            He took me to this restaurant where the beer stein was huge and the delicious Schnitzel came in a huge (Trump said it is OK) oval plate with the Schnitzel hanging astonishingly over the plate. He ate the same thing with no beer since he was driving. When I was trying to pay I felt the waitress was ignoring me. After a while I mentioned it to my new friend that the lady would whiz by like I was not there and he announced that was because the bill had been paid, politely dismissing the fact that I had invited him.


            After lunch he drove me to the train station. We had agreed on a taxi tour of downtown Vienna for about 2 hours and then taking me to a restaurant for lunch at a fixed price of $50 US dollars. When I tried to pay he refused the money because we were now friends. I had to insist that we had an agreement before we were friends and that he had to take the money. We swapped business cards and went our separate ways. The whole thing seemed amazing and unbelievable to me. Some months later when I was back in Vienna I tried two or three times to find my friend. His carpet store was closed but some taxi drivers who knew him said he had gone back to Iran. I will never forget him, Mr. Monsour, the most generous man in the world.


            JE comments:  For this Holiday season, how about other tales of random generosity?  Did I mention on WAIS that a year ago, I took my entire Spanish III class to our favorite Mexican eatery in Adrian, Cancún?  When I tried to pay, it turned out that a lone patron had picked up the tab for the entire group (about $180).  My friends at Cancún restaurant didn't know his name, but said he had the habit of coming in and covering people's bills.


            Gracias, Señor Mystery Diner.

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            • Random Acts of Kindness: Kuwait (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/11/17 8:59 AM)
              I appreciated the post of Tor Guimaraes, 10 December, with his tale of random generosity.

              I had many very good experiences when working in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Hospitality, at least 50 years ago, was imperative for the peoples of the region.  I learned not only of hospitality but also the paramount importance of keeping one's word among the Bedouins.  Some years ago on WAIS, I wrote about selling my car covered with flowers painted by my wife.


              By the way, my Eritrean skipper was practically an older brother to me.


              Anyway when I had to go to the Kuwait Motor Vehicle office for the confirmation of the sale, I went to the wrong office.


              An unknown local gentleman nearby offered to accompany me to the right place with his car. We went and he carried out all the bureaucratic paperwork, paid the fee, offered me a Coca-Cola, then he brought me to my car. He did not want any compensation, but said it had been a pleasure to meet me.


              I found the Palestinians living there also extremely friendly and ready to help foreigners. The only problem with them was when they invited me to dinner on the last day of Ramadan they offered me their very best delicacy: a goat's eye.


              It is sad that such a wonderful atmosphere has been ruined due to overzealous Zionists and Westerners.


              JE comments:  A couple of years ago, Eugenio wrote about his flowery Morris Minor, c. 1967-'68:  the perfect ride for the Summer of Love.  Too bad--alas, alack, drats--there is no surviving photograph.


              http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=92063&objectTypeId=77226&topicId=7303


              WAIS QoD (Question of the Day):  Would you eat a goat's eye to please your hosts?  I'm about 75% sure I could.  But would it be rude to ask for a side of Ranch dressing?


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          • Different Smells, Different Tastes, Different Lands; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 12/11/17 4:00 AM)

            Ric Mauricio writes:



            Would it be a bit presumptuous if one does not sample something in another part of the world but determines that it would not be the best choice anyway? I could imagine what the Italians in San Francisco's North Beach would have to say about that.


            It reminds me of the French saying that California wines would never be as good as the French wines. It also reminds me of Detroit automakers assuming that they will always be better than the Asian automakers.


            But yes, different smells and tastes are a part of each culture and adventure. I assumed the other way, that the cuisine in Beijing and Hong Kong would be better than here in San Francisco. And most of the restaurants in those cities proved to be quite disappointing, so I told myself that perhaps I was just used to the tastes and smells of Chinese food here in the Bay Area. But then I did visit some excellent restaurants in both of those cities and started talking to the sous chefs. What? You were trained where? In San Francisco? New York? Oh, interesting.


            Now, having given my two yuan's worth, I would love to visit Italy (especially Maranello), as well as Vienna.


            JE comments:  I've never been to China, but "they" say Chinese cuisine is fundamentally different from US Chinese cuisine.  Ditto with US Mexican vis-à-vis Mexican Mexican.  Ric Mauricio asks the un-askable:  is it OK prefer the "pseudo" to the real thing?  Does this strip you of your snob credentials?  I'll start:  nothing the Italians call "pizza" beats a doughy, greasy Chicago-style pie.  By comparison, Italy's offerings are dry, cracker-like, and insipid--more hors d'oeuvre than meal.


            There, Ric and I have ripped off the band-aid.  Does anyone else need to come clean?


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            • The Best Sauce? Hunger (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/11/17 6:42 AM)
              I am a person who considers it my duty to pursue and enjoy the beautiful and wonderful things in life as part of my "God is the Universe" religion. And food is an important target. In my pursuit of great foods, I learned some important lessons:

              1. As Ric Mauricio said (11 December), every individual and group has their own opinions, but those merely represent hypotheses to be tested or ignored.


              2. I would rather eat proverbial crap in good company than a fancy banquet with people I don't like.


              3. The context of the meal is as important as the food itself. When you are hungry, the food tastes better. As said in item 2, with good company the food tastes better.


              4. I love to try the local cuisine and always give it the benefit of the doubt. But, even I chicken out on some food: blubber, rotten fish or meat, specially prepared poisonous plants or animals, etc.


              Because of the above items, I have had some marvelous experiences. In a sailing trip around the Virgin Islands, I personally cooked what was unanimously declared the best omelet in the world made from a dozen eggs and dinner leftovers (NY Jewish deli brisket of beef and hot dogs). And while a young man in the Brazilian Cavalry, my buddies and I ate the best steak stolen from the officers' mess hall, cooked on a smashed gasoline can over a bonfire with a handful of butter, salt, and pepper.


              Enough reminiscing for today.


              JE comments: I cribbed the subject line from a classic Spanish proverb: El hambre es la mejor salsa.  Does Portuguese have the same wisdom, Tor?

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              • Cooking Improvisations: The Pemex Comal; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 12/12/17 10:59 AM)

                Gary Moore writes:



                I was revving up for a Christmas generosity story, per JE's great suggestion inspired by Tor Guimaraes's
                prize-winning Vienna taxi tale.


                But yesterday (December 11th), Tor deflected me into another theme, with his story from the
                Brazilian army about grilling a stolen steak on a flattened gas can. I wonder if a nascent WAIS thread might
                be lurking in the idea of cooking improvisations. The gas can started me thinking about comales in Mexico,
                the big flat stones used as griddles since the Toltec mists. Suddenly it struck me that those things must have
                been heirlooms, passed down as precious possessions through the generations. Even the humblest family
                needed one, but it must have taken forever to make one, grinding down the stone. Once fashioned, they were
                made non-stick for frying not by greasing but chalking, with bits of limestone, which (as I may have said before),
                helped stave off the pellagra (vitamin deficiency) that Europeans got from adopting corn but without the limestone.
                Anyone who has been inside a comal-using home today knows the improvisation sequel: Heirlooms no more,
                because perfectly suited to replace the old rock is the lid of a fifty-gallon drum.  Such lids now serving widely as the
                Mexican countryside griddle of choice. So Pemex has a culinary by-product.


                And to further tweak the food improvisation theme, there were the guerrillas in Central America, who, when they
                couldn't get coffee in their wilderness hide-outs, used ground-up burned corn. Well, it looked like coffee. No caffeine kick,
                and pretty rank, but one could dream.


                JE comments:  Savvy gourmands have been cooking on engine blocks for generations, but Gary Moore brings up a different use for internal combustion:  the oil-barrel stove.  Britain's troops in WWI recycled old petrol cans for soup, tea and water.  The added flavor was just one of the many inconveniences of trench life.


                Far tastier and more wholesome for Tommy the SRD jar (Service Rum, Diluted).


                Another nod to efficiency:  Dishwasher Lobster!  Click below.


                https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/cooking-ideas/5-foods-you-can-cook-your-dishwasher


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              • The Best Sauce? Hunger/Fome (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/13/17 4:05 AM)

                I rack by brain trying to answer JE's question (11 December) if Brazilian or Portuguese has an expression equivalent to the Spanish proverb: El hambre es la mejor salsa.


                I came up empty, but the following sounds smart and truthful in Portuguese: Fome é o mellhor tempero. And it made me remember a funny sad story about food my father told me more than sixty-five years ago:


                He bought some Portuguese sausage and roasted over fire in the old wooden stove. It was a holiday and the rest of the family had gone somewhere, so he and I alone were bonding over the sausage roasting. It smelled good and as he cut small pieces from the areas already cooked, the taste was great.


                So he started telling me the story of some people he knew growing up who were very poor. The mom and dad had three kids who grew up eating a lot of the Brazilian staples of rice and beans and not much else. On a special occasion the father obtained a small piece of Portuguese sausage so at lunch time everyone got the usual plate of rice and beans but now the father had tied a string to the roof of the hut with the piece of sausage dangling from it so each family member in turn could sniff it and then pass it around. After everyone cleaned their plates the father cut a little piece of sausage for everyone to try.


                JE comments:  A precious story.  Or you could follow this tried-and-true advice:  Bota agua no feijão--add water to the beans, because one more person showed up:


                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEYLPkdVYBc


                Going back several more centuries, the original pícaro, Lazarillo de Tormes, stole a piece of sausage from his blind master, by immediately gobbling it up and replacing it with a turnip on the roasting stick.  The crafty ciego stuck his nose in the boy's mouth to sniff out the theft, which "caused the contents to be returned to their owner." 


                Renaissance vomit humor!

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          • Pricing Prosciutto di Parma (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/13/17 5:28 AM)
            Yesterday afternoon, after chasing down the season's final olives following an icy day, I went into town to pick up the monthly Limes magazine. My wife asked me to go to the butcher shop.

            Of course, I inquired about the price of prosciutto. If you buy 1 hectogram of sliced prosciutto crudo di Parma you pay 2.50 euros.


            If you buy a whole 10-kilo crudo prosciutto di Parma you pay €200.


            But one liter of gasoline is €1.65.


            JE comments:  My eyeball calculation puts prosciutto at $13 per pound (pretty cheap), and gasoline at around $7 per gallon, which would incite Americans to insurrection.


            How was the olive harvest this year, Eugenio?


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            • Olive Harvest Report (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/14/17 4:05 AM)
              John E asked about this year's olive harvest. Happily, it has been especially good, with plenty of olives not touched by pests.

              We have not yet finished, as we have 100 trees and the harvest is done only by my wife and me.  We are not very young, so probably we will not manage to pick all the olives.


              We had a horrible rain that froze on the trees and the ground, together with strong winds. This caused some damage to the trees, one large plum tree was completely destroyed and some olive trees partially damaged. There was heavy damage nearby but we, after everything, were lucky.


              JE comments: This year's harvest is great news, Eugenio, especially after the disappointing yield of 2016.  Best of luck with the pressing and bottling!  Can you send us photos? 


              What can be more idyllic and timeless than harvesting olives in Italy?

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              • Helping with the Olive Harvest (Roy Domenico, USA 12/15/17 2:49 AM)
                Some WAISers may recall that, during my visit to Eugenio Battaglia two years ago, I "helped" him with the olives. Maybe I should say that Eugenio generously let me "help" him. I came away with the distinct impression that one needs a sturdy pair of legs for this. It's rough terrain and pretty steep that the harvester must go up and down and across.

                I was reminded of our honeymoon--30 years ago almost--on the lovely island of Idra (or Hydra) in Greece. Outside of the town there really aren't any roads on the island--cars were banned (at least then) and the only way on land between the main town and a tiny fishing village down the coast was a footpath that hugged the side of the hill and was dotted with olive trees clinging to the cliffs. My bride and I went for a jog along the path until we met up with a mama goat and her kids. They were trying to get one of the little ones back up onto the path--it had fallen off into a small ditch. But the mama made it perfectly clear to us--"turn around--you're not going any farther." We happily complied.


                JE comments:  Yesterday, when I waxed rhetorically on the timelessness of the Italian olive harvest, David Duggan replied that Greece gives Italy a run for its money.  I would have to surrender my Hispanist card if I didn't include a plug for Spain, although the Greeks and Phoenicians were responsible for introducing olives to the Iberian peninsula.


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            • Prosciutto? Ah, Prosciutto (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 12/14/17 7:10 AM)

              A very brief comment on Eugenio Battaglia post of 13 December and JE's remarks.



              In Europe, we do not have a product named "prosciutto." There are all different prosciuttos and prices vary considerably. In Waitrose near my home in Surrey, England, 100 grams of Prosciutto di Parma would cost £5.55 (https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/waitrose-1-italian-prosciutto-di-parma-ham/734328-166755-166756?bvstate=pg:2/ct:r ) and this, of course, is a basic variety and one will not enjoy it very much.


              What you will enjoy is Prosciutto San Daniele DOP from Friuli Venezia Giulia, but the price will be different. You can find it in Vienna in Julius Meinl, an over-the-top fantasyland for gourmands right in the centre of the city (https://www.meinlamgraben.at ).  We shall certainly visit it if and when our esteemed Board decides to have the next WAIS conference in Vienna, Austria.


              JE comments:  Click on Herr Julius's link, above.  Watching the photos will make the mouth salivate and the wallet weep.


              (We're waiting to board our flight at the Toronto airport...might as well do some WAISing!)


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      • Prosciutto and Maremma; "La Piccola Gerusalemme" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 12/06/17 5:26 PM)
        Given that the approval for prosciutto is so widespread among us, I have a suggestion for the next WAIS meeting: somewhere in Maremma, Tuscany.

        There you can enjoy very good prosciutto, the Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance civilizations, beautiful Romanic Churches, Medieval towns, and fantastic wines. One of the most interesting of the Medieval towns is Pitigliano (Italy's Little Jerusalem).


        Maybe a few words on this town are necessary.


        The Jewish population of Pitigliano probably arrived from Spain after 1492 or even before. When the Papal States' orders of 1555 and 1569, plus those of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany of 1570 and 1571, imposed restrictions on the Jews, many of them settled in Pitigliano, which was an independent County ruled by the Orsini, who did not impose any restrictions on the Jews.


        Even when the County became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, after some initial problems, the Jewish Community of Pitigliano retained all its freedom of action and properties, which was exceptional for those times.


        In the 1700s, Pitigliano was the only great Jewish Community of the Maremma.


        In 1799 the local Catholics successfully defended the Jews from the soldiers of the anti-Napoleonic League, which wanted to plunder the Jewish properties. Until the immediate post-WWII era, an annual ceremony was carried out to commemorate this, with all population of the town gathering in the synagogue.  During the final years of WWII the Jews of Pitigliano and nearby areas found refuge there and were protected by the Catholic population.


        But after the war the local Jews started to emigrate, and unfortunately in 1960 the synagogue was closed.


        Presently only a very small Jewish population remains in Pitigliano, but their monuments are taken care of. There is a cultural Association "La Piccola Gerusalemme," while the Cantina Sociale makes several marvelous wines (famous among these is the "Pitigliano White"). They also make a Kosher wine.


        The good things about the Maremma are infinite and I could go forever.  By the way, my wife is from Maremma.


        JE comments:  I really like the idea of WAISers "pitching" different regions for our next conference.  Who is next?  Maremma sounds hard to beat for its history, scenery, and delicacies (no Kosher prosciutto, though).


        Thank you for the history lesson on Pitigliano, Eugenio!  I knew none of this.  Was the Ladino language preserved among its Sephardic residents?

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        • Maremma and Toscanini (Edward Jajko, USA 12/07/17 5:49 AM)

          Maremma (see Eugenio Battaglia, 6 December) was also the vacation retreat of Arturo Toscanini. (Although he was Parmigiano, not Tuscan.)


          JE comments:  There must be an alternate universe out there where we listen to Parmigiano, and sprinkle Toscanini cheese on our spaghetti.


          Either way, I'm getting hungry.

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        • Prosciutto, Panettone, Maremma (Roy Domenico, USA 12/08/17 2:46 PM)
          My mouth has been watering as I followed the recent posts on prosciutto and panettone.

          I was glad to see at least a brief mention--from Salvatore Bizzarro--on San Daniele prosciutto, from the northeast, near Udine. I guess that the Parma variety is more famous, but I've heard many Italian arguments over which is better. I only ask to sample both so I can come up with an informed opinion.


          On panettone--it's the season and we always have it in the house through the New Year. My wife, however, has put me on a carb diet and I see that, surprise, panettone has its share. So I've been pretty moderate. I'm not a diet fanatic so a nice-sized piece here and there won't do any harm. (And I've lost about 6 pounds so far!) I'm not a panettone snob, but just don't buy it with pieces of chocolate in it.


          Finally, on the Maremma, I feel obliged to say that it's also famous as the land of the authentic Italian cowboy--like the French cowboys of the Camargue.


          JE comments:  My introduction to (Brazilian, egads) panettone is slated for later tonight.  You can call me the Walgreens gourmet!


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    • Food Shortages in WWII: Snoek (John Heelan, UK 12/10/17 4:35 AM)
      I do not remember ever having to eat horsemeat in WWII but still recall the appalling taste of snoek, a fish that was supposed to provide us with protein, and regular doses of the equally appalling dollops of cod liver oil and whale meat steaks.

      As children, if we ate those obnoxious dishes we were rewarded with a spoonful of "Radio Malt" that had a consistency between molasses and treacle but was delicious.


      Each summer, we kids would travel to family in Southern Ireland where we were fed baked potatoes smothered in fresh butter, bacon and other meats and were overjoyed to find that our parents could buy us clothes and sweets (we loved "Peggys Legs") without having to sacrifice the necessary ration coupons as in the UK.


      JE comments:  I'm no angler or ichthyologist, so I had to crib from Wikipedia.  Snoek is northern pike, a snakelike behemoth of a fish.  Despite the "northern" name, they come from the waters of South Africa and Australia, hence the Afrikaans "snoek," which comes from the Dutch zeesnoek (sea snake).  Yum.


      John--you spent summers in Ireland during the war?  Wasn't there a strict limitation on sea travel for civilians?  And wasn't it extremely dangerous to do so, with the U-boats?


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      • Peggy's Leg, or Liverpool Toffee (Patrick Mears, Germany 12/10/17 5:21 AM)

        Here's a recipe for Peggy's Leg, also known as Liverpool Toffee.  (See John Heelan, 10 December.)


        http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/liverpooltoffeeorpeggysleg.htm


        JE comments:  "Melt on the hob"--??  Recipes really show how we're separated by a common language.  Is a hob what we Colonials call a cookie sheet, or is it more like a baking tray?  None of the above?


        And can anyone tell us about Peggy?



        From Peggy's Leg to horseflesh, check out this fascinating New Year's 2005 post from Prof. Hilton.  Nearly thirteen years later, it deserves a fresh viewing:


        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=64316&objectTypeId=58566&topicId=162


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        • Peggy's Leg and Spotted Dick (Francisco Ramirez, USA 12/10/17 3:15 PM)
          Is Peggy's Leg more delicious than Spotted Dick?

          I am trying to figure out which to serve for the Holidays.


          JE comments:  A photo is worth a thousand spotted dicks, and this one comes in microwaveable form.


          As we prepare to head to Cuba, I look forward to the politically incorrect dish of Moros y Cristianos, which combines black beans with white rice.  For its part, Spain keeps the Inquisition alive with Judías Verdes (green beans/Green Jewish Women).  If the WAISitudes work together, I'm sure we could assemble quite a list.

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      • How Dangerous was the Britain-Ireland Crossing during WWII? (John Heelan, UK 12/11/17 4:28 AM)
        JE asked on December 10th: "John--you spent summers in Ireland during the war? Wasn't there a strict limitation on sea travel for civilians? And wasn't it extremely dangerous to do so, with the U-boats?"

        I suspect that U-boats rarely ventured into the Irish Sea.  Thirteen U-boats tempted by the usual convoy route ending in Liverpool were sunk in WWII due to the often foul weather in that channel, "because in seas so big, German submarines could not function effectively."


        Our normal route to get to our relatives was far to the south of that danger area. Fishguard (Wales) to Rosslare (Ireland). The only danger we experienced, other than often rough crossings, was fog and drunks celebrating their trips home. One time we awoke in the morning to find our ferry stuck on a sandbank a few hundred yards from some cliffs. It could also be that U-boats were alleged to refuel in Irish ports, so they did not want to forego that privilege by attacking an Irish ferry and its passengers.


        JE comments:  I Googled "German U-Boats refueling in Ireland," and apparently there is no proof that they did.  The important thing, however, is John Heelan's point that this belief was widespread during the war.  I'd like to know more.


        John--was there a strict control on military-age men making the crossing?  I presume more than a few sought to wait out the war in neutral Ireland.


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