Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gen-u-wynne Bar-bee-que

For each live captive you have chop and point a sapling of sufficient strength and length. Pass this through the body of the captive (this may require two or three braves if the captive is lively. If necessary a light tap on the head may calm the beast.) Tie the arms and legs to the trunk with stout vines. Place over the fire on crotched trunks set into the ground at either end of the fire pit. Spread honey all over and have the 'prentiss's turn the spit regularly. Keep basting with honey and keep the coals hot until done. Maybe half a day. Enjoy the screams during the first part of cooking as they add to the savor.

Well, educated opinion is not enthusiastic at the thought of our species being cannibals. In the face of our violent proclivities in all known periods of human existence the experts think that our nature is more gently inclined. So the blame, I guess, must be placed on our nurture. We know that cannibalism does occur. The species is capable of it.
In a few instances -- the Donner party, comes to mind -- necessity forced the departure from decorum.
OTOH, in Tenochtitlan the religion required the consumption of enemy vitals to acquire the virtues of the fallen foe. This was so central that huge pyramids were built so that the sacrifice would be closer to God's eyes.
I don't know how violent and/or cannibalistic our species was at its birth. Since our evidence is still incomplete, I suggest that no one else does either. That despite the learned being able to extrapolate from the evidence we do have in ways that find acceptance through peer review. All their publications remain suggestions which may point to dead ends as often as to fruitful paths of research.
Because we arrived where we were at one point with certain characteristics and skills and proclivities and ideas, it is not unreasonable to argue that we developed those items some how, some when, some where, between that point and the previous time for which we have evidence that we lacked those items. If it is deemed unaceptable, then our argument is about perception, not observation; belief, not science.
So I accept that in our complexity we are both a violent species and a gentle one. It very much depends on the circumstances. Also I accept that we are a curious species and one that craves certitude. That we enjoy risk and demand security. If an expert is the next village's idler whom we do not know, then we prefer to take his advice rather than that of the local dreamer, tinker, or loafer we do know. That makes it likely that in our exploration of what we could and could not eat, we tried a few items that we now think we should not eat.
Hammurabi's code was not written to mark what everybody already acted upon, any more that our current laws are. No, it was written to establish the new standard everybody was expected to meet. For some that may have been easy "What? Me? Take your eye? What would I do with it? It's trayf!" Others might find it hard. "Gee, I just like the sound, ya' know, when their bones crack? Do ya really think it hurts? I mean except that they're dead?"
Then there were vegetables. Nuts, berries, flowers, seeds, roots, and fruits all in their season and all in their locale. Sour berries that were better to rub on the meat so that the acid could tenderize, or mixed/cooked with a sweetener such as honey or cane or beets. Sweet berries that one could live on when they were ripe. Through the whole cornucopia of our planet's biosphere we, the successful omnivores, ranged in search of new experience be it delight or horror.
I've brought us to a fairly sophisticated level of cooking well before the pirates' Great Land Grab.(tm)
Perhaps you find it all a crock. I present it as pure speculation and make no claims for it's veracity. If it intrigued you, I am honored. Thank you for stopping by for an idle chin wag. Come back soon.
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