Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Synchronicity of Dormice

This afternoon on the way home from church, we were talking about a list of 100 foods you have to eat before you die I'd seen online. "Is squid on it?" Elaienar asked. Well, of course. You can't have a weird food list without squid can you? Actually, thinking over it, it's not so much a weird food list as a regional food list. There were several Southern classics that aren't a bit weird -- fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, Moon Pies. Okay, that last one is wierd, but only because the recipe has deteriorated in the last half century. My daddy gave them up back in the 70s and I'm pretty sure that S'mores were invented to replace them.

After I mentioned that squirrel was on the list (I haven't eaten it, but some of my children have, in addition to possum, which wasn't on the list, and frog legs, which were), #1 Son shared with us his latest tidbit of bizarre information: The ancient Romans ate stuffed dormice. None of us had ever heard that before and of course we all thought it was pretty funny.

Then, after lunch while reading The Count of Monte Cristo, I came across this passage from chapter 61:
", sir, do you think dormice eat [strawberries]?"

"Indeed, I should think not," replied Monte Cristo; "dormice are bad neighbors for us who do not eat them preserved, as the Romans did."

"What? Did the Romans eat them?" said the gardener—"ate dormice?"

"I have read so in Petronius," said the count.

Isn't it fun when things coincide like that?

I found of blog full of bizarre history that tells more about Romans and dormice:
Despite sumptuary laws forbidding the practice – dormice were an indulgence – they were fattened in gardens and kept in winter in a glirarium (a large ceramic jar) to prevent them hibernating (and becoming thin…). They were then cooked, stuffed with pine kernels, garum, and ground-up dormouse meat and pepper and were by all accounts delicious.

You can read the whole post here. I think I'll be spending some time browsing this blog -- any place that calls itself a bizarre history blog is definitely worth looking into.