The Greeke beane

Amazing things you find when researching for a book. In this case, I found an item on the Greek bean (broad bean), from Dioscorides and translated by John Goodyer in 1655:

The Greeke beane is windy, flatulent, hard of digestion, causing troublesomme dreames; yet good for the Cough, & breeding flesh being in ye midst of hott and cold. Being sod with Oxymel, and eaten with the shucks, it stayes dysenteries and the fluxes of the Coeliaci, and being eaten it is good against vomiting. But it is made lesse flatulent, if the first water in which it was sod be cast away: but the green is worse for ye stomach and more windie.

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My favourite dishes?

As I settle into Beijing for a while, with much peace and quiet and opportunities for writing (and the pleasure of being in a country where the government is mainly the Communist Party), I have been enjoying my favourite restaurant. I treat myself to a meal there once or twice a week, while mostly eating in the dining halls.

One of the pleasures at this little eatery concerns some of the dishes. These include:

Husband and wife lung slice

Thread jujube in Sydney

Boiled salt bath chap

Sneak liver pointed

Beijing heaving

Needless to say, the only way to find out is to order them – in Chinese characters, as is the custom here.

What I tell my students in China (and what I learn from them)

I can say that while teaching in China I am enjoying the process of setting young and active minds on the correct path. To that end, I tell them:

1. The United States is a very strange country, unlike any other. For that reason, they should not generalise from the USA.

2. Europe is a very barbaric place, full of petty tribalisms.

3. Bourgeois (liberal) democracy is a dreadful system, best avoided (actually, they know this already).

4. Australia is neither a Western nor an Eastern country, since it is in the South.

5. Kangaroo meat is very good for you.

Since many of my students will be future government leaders and officials, I hope these items and more will have some effect.

However, I have also learnt a few things from them:

1. Communism is not a rational ideal that you then try to actualise.

2. Communism is not singular but multiple.

3. They work very hard and know much more about the rest of the world than the world knows about China.

4. One’s stomach is the best guide for travelling to different places.

5. Office hours mean I buy them lunch and we talk for more than four hours – about everything.

Hegel on evil and sauerkraut

Too often do we neglect the fact that Hegel was German through and through. Every now and then it shows through with one of those sentences that brings you up short. In the midst of his long and rather unoriginal ramble on the question of evil, he writes:

For to err is human and who has not been mistaken about this or that circumstance, about whether there was cabbage or sauerkraut with yesterday’s lunch, and about countless matters of greater and lesser importance? (Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 140(e))

My weekly budget: $50

Since the itchy-fingered DG challenged me to substantiate my claim that I live on no more than $50 a week in the very expensive Land of Oz, here is a standard weekly budget:

$2.25  – 1.5 bags of rolled oats

$3.00 – half a bag of powdered milk, used for both breakfast (oats) and home-made yoghurt

$2.20 – two home-made loaves of bread.

$2.80 – 500 g of cottage cheese

$1.00 – usage of jars of honey, peanut butter and vegemite

$2.00 – 750 g of brown rice

$1.15 – a kilogram bag of pasta, if I don’t make my own.

$3.60 – assorted fresh beans (red kidney, chickpeas etc) and cans of beans

$10.00 – fresh fruit and vegetables – in season and on special

$1.50 – toilet paper

$3.00 – my indulgence: coffee beans (decaf)

$5.50 – occasional items, such as soap, detergent, toothpaste etc.

$12.00 – Meal out, transport, bicycle maintenance, etc.

$50.00 total

As you can see, there’s considerable room for luxuries, such as coffee, eating out, etc.

Note that this does not include accommodation, utilities, and internet costs: $180 per week. That’s a total of $230 per week for a very comfortable life.

All this comprises one reason why I argue that most people working at universities are grossly overpaid.

The truth diet

Deeply immersed in that classic Chinese ‘novel’ of over 2000 pages, Journey to the West, I came across this recommendation for a truth diet – of a Buddhist tendency:

She [the bodhisattva] ordered him to adhere to the truth and eat only vegetarian food, cutting out the five pungent vegetables as well as the three forbidden things: wild goose, dog and fish. (JTW, vol. 1, p. 178)

The ‘west’ in this case is, of course, India.

New year’s resolution: bring back the auroch, or, the palaeo-diet

Since the Fall was actually the invention of agriculture and all its evils – such as bread, beer, wine, and wool – I’m joining the palaeo-crowd come new year. It’s the paleao-diet for me: huge hunks of dead animal, fish, a few plants that grow as they will. And just to make sure I go the whole hog, I’ll take up palaeo-exercise as well. I will spend my days pretending I am dodging wild animals, running down prey, lifting heavy things and walking long distances with them, strutting around a fire as my prey roasts.

To make sure it’s authentic, I’m going for the real palaeo-experience. I will ensure that I eat only game animals I have hunted myself. None of this domesticated beef, lamb and pork for me. That will involve a project to bring back the auroch, the predecessor of the domesticated bovine:

auroch 01

 

A mean bugger it was, standing more than two metres at the shoulders, aggressive, with long, inwardly curved horns.

Actually, that’s all crap, since the real palaeo-diet involves mostly stuff you can gather from the ground: spiders, cockroaches, grubs, bugs, marsh rats and other scrumptious vermin, odd looking grasses, unidentifiable mushrooms, strange roots. And I will go out for long runs and return dejected and weary, shaking my head at the game we were unable to catch, lamenting my companions skewered on the horns of some wild beast. I will crouch by the fire roasting my ‘catch’ – making sure I burn off the spider legs, retrieve the cockroaches from the fire at just the right moment, turn the field mouse that I grasped in a desperate lunge. For exercise, I will spend my days shuffling about, bent double, looking intently at the ground, and leaping upon whatever crawling thing happens to pass my way, since our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent most of their time doing precisely that. And there will be no alcohol at all, since one of the main reasons human beings settled into agriculture was for the production of beer and wine.

I will ensure that I die at no later than 30 – bugger, I’ll just have to commit suicide, since I’m already older than that.