Archive for December, 2012

BY: Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, people are once again looking around at what appears to be an overwhelming amount of bad in the world and questioning what is the world coming to. And why not? 2012 has been a tough year. There has been everything from manmade horrors in Newtown and Aurora, Colorado to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Even on a personal level, I look around me and see so much tragedy and loss that my beloved work family at RMU has dealt with in 2012.

But, even with all of these negatives weighing on us as individuals and as a nation, we need to remember that there is a lot of good in world. It’s hard to do (especially for someone as naturally pessimistic as I am), but we need to try.

Yesterday, The College of Liberal Arts hosted an open conversation in the Chicago Learning Commons about healing from last week’s tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary. The event was facilitated by Scott Harms Rose, Ph.D. of The Institute for Clinical Social Work at Robert Morris Center. Of the many topics discussed, one was the positive side of humanity. In the face of the unimaginable horror that took place at Sandy Hook, look at all the stories that are coming out about the courageousness and selflessness of people inside the Elementary school. And look at the innumerable positive responses from our nation as a whole. People are reaching out to help those directly affected by the tragedy, and we are all looking harder for ways to love and help those around us.

Today on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic had a running discussion throughout the show in reaction to the Associated Press Top 10 Sports Stories of 2012. The top four stories on the list are all negative, particularly the number one story: Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. In response, Mike & Mike decided to spend a portion of the show taking suggestions from listeners on the top feel-good sports stories of the year. Like with regular news coverage, the worst stories in the world of sports are the ones that get the most airtime, which sometimes makes it easy to overlook just how many wonderful stories of camaraderie, humanity, triumph, and perseverance exist in sports.

I would never suggest we ignore the bad, sweep it under the rug, and hope we can forget it’s there. That certainly wouldn’t be healthy. Plus, there are always steps we can take to try to prevent and heal the bad. But, at the same time, let’s not sweep the good under the rug, either.

Happy Holidays to everyone, and let’s see to it that 2013 is way better than 2012.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I’m teaching a food history course right now, and I was recently thinking about some extra-credit assignments for my students.  I found some inspiration reading a fascinating book by Ina Lipkowitz called Words to Eat By: Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language. Lipkowitz reminded me that the world’s oldest recipe book was written in the fourth or fifth century AD by a Roman gourmand by the name of Marcus Gavius

Apicius?

Apicius?

Apicius.  This man lived and died for food, and I mean that literally. Evidently, Apicius committed suicide when he could no longer afford to throw the lavish feasts he so enjoyed.  That is an interesting aside, but the idea that really grabbed me was using his recipes from his book De Re Coquinaria as an extra-credit opportunity. Since many of my students are culinary students, I would think many might be interested in testing their hand at some ancient Roman fare.

But, I thought, maybe I should try it first. After looking through Apicius’ recipes, I settled on an easy one to start:

Sautéed Squash in Herb Sauce

1 medium onion, thinly sliced.

1 T. olive oil

¼ t. pepper.

¼ t. celery seed.

¼ t. oregano.

Dash of cumin.

3 c. diced squash

½ c. squash stock.

¼ c. white wine.

1 t. olive oil.

Directions:

Sauté sliced onion in olive oil. In a mortar, grind pepper, celery seed, and oregano. Add to onions, with a dash of cumin. Stir. Then add diced squash. Add stock, white wine, and olive oil. Stir repeatedly over medium heat until the gourds are cooked. If you wish, thicken the liquid with flour and serve.

 

The oldest recipe ever found is for beer.

The oldest recipe ever found is for beer.

So, this is a roughly 1600 hundred year old recipe.  Doesn’t look too hard, or odd. Now admittedly, I skipped over the recipes with calf brain and garum (fish sauce) to find some that I could easily make, but it struck me how similar this is to a modern recipe.  Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising though when you think about how recipes are handed down from generation to generation. Our family recipes are often based upon regional or national traditions that simply have riffs and slight alterations of what people have been cooking for millennia in a certain part of the world.  So even the food of Apicius is quite simple; or is it?

Look at this recipe.  Think of the processing of food that needs to go into this.  Getting oil from thousands of olives.  Fermenting grape juice.  Discovering and growing herbs that will not poison you, and will make your food tasty.  After all that, there is the chemical mixture of all these foods to create a pleasing taste.  Who was the first person to figure this stuff out? How did they do it?  I believe such a question is one of the great mysteries of human civilization: who invented our food?

Think of something as simple as bread (even non-leavened).  Process wheat into flour, process olives into oil, and add water.  Mix it together, and bake in an enclosed oven.  What?  Who thinks of that?  And, that doesn’t take into account more complex bread recipes that would add salt (from the sea/salt mine), honey (from bees), eggs (from a chicken), milk (from a cow or goat).  What mad scientist first put those things together, and then heated them at a certain, perfect temperature for a preordained time?

Such a question is obviously impossible to answer, but it should make us respect those anonymous cooks who came before us, and provided the knowledge that our civilization of food rests upon.  I wonder if my students will feel that sense of awe and respect when they are elbow deep in calf-brain and fermented fish sauce.