Yielding further proof that liberals are godless, professors at that most left-leaning of universities are said to yearn for the days when equine steak was on the menu at the faculty club --- just like pagan Icelanders and Angles had a hard time giving up "the other red meat."
From today's NYT, an OpEd piece by Christa Weil:
The early church did not look happily on pagan practices in England and Iceland, where horse was consumed as part of religious ritual. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory II instructed the missionary Boniface to “tell them not to eat horses and impose severe punishments to who does it, because they are mean and evil.” The Christian prohibition against eating horse flesh (joining those already adopted by Jews and Muslims) held strong in Europe for centuries. It remains an underpinning to the British and American aversion to this day ...Weil talks about why -- outside of clique-building -- horse is difficult to make an ordinary meat (typically, she argues, it is a hardship food). She writes that "less charismatic" animals are easier to render edible, then observes:
Until the late 1970s, the Harvard Faculty Club served horse steaks as a regular menu item. The dish was abandoned only when the rerouting of Harvard Square traffic meant the delivery truck could no longer get through. A 1998 Harvard Crimson article on the history of the club states that “professors still recall the dish fondly.” As they would — its very oddity, even repulsiveness to the outside world reinforced their sense of being members of a unique and special tribe.
There are solid reasons to object to horse slaughter. But to imply that it is somehow un-American doesn’t go the distance. Americans have eaten it, even enjoyed it, though never so much to keep it coming in times of plenty, except at Harvard. Horsemeat has been a traditional hardship food. Those seeking to ban it in Congress would serve best by ensuring that we never miss it.Horse consumption has sometimes been discussed on this blog, especially in its relation to communal identity. Karl?
Did you catch the other animal article in today's NY Times? The one entitled "Teens Accused of Making Ostrich Impotent"?
It's worth quoting in its entirety:
BERLIN (AP) -- Three teenagers may be on the hook for a hefty fine if a court decides that their festive firecrackers outside an eastern German farm scared the libido right out of an ostrich named Gustav.
Rico Gabel, a farmer in Lohsa, northeast of Dresden, is claiming $6,450 in damages for the alleged antics of the three youths, ages 17-18, between Dec. 27 and 29, 2005.
According to his lawsuit, the farmer claims that fireworks set off by the boys made the previously lustful Gustav both apathetic and depressed, and thus unable to perform for a half-a-year with his two female breeding partners.
Before Gustav regained his sex drive in the second half of the year, the farmer estimates he lost out on 14 ostrich offspring -- worth $460 apiece.
The suit is due to be heard next Monday in a regional court in nearby Bautzen, the court said Monday. The teenagers' names were not released.
Doesn't the US export horse flesh? Or am I making that up?
I have a few quick words on hippophagy.
The early church did not look happily on pagan practices in England and Iceland, where horse was consumed as part of religious ritual
And where the condemnation of hippophagy meant that not consuming it, too, was part of a religious ritual. As was the imposition of eating only fish during Lent. In other words, what strikes me here is that Weil's language implies that the abandonment of hippophagy is only the abandonment of ritual rather than a taking on of another one. This implication is symptomatic of the refusal of this editorial to examine in detail the rationale for not eating horse.
Now, I don't know much about the reasons for abandoning hippophagy (which means that I'm not going to ascribe hippophagy to "clannish...
Odin-worshippers who ate burnt equine offerings in the god’s name"), but I do know, or at least surmise, that the distate for hippophagy had to do with the distate for all animals that helped manifest human power, whether over other animals (so helping construct the human), or over other humans (so helping construct the elite).* Dogs, predatory birds, and horses had all become forbidden, certainly deep into the so-called Christian era and even in the lawcodes that record what I might call an adolescent Christianity in, say, Norway (where one code allows for someone stranded on an island during Lent to eat his dog, since it is better to make a dog food than to be food for a dog, if I remember the law correctly). By the later period--and forgive me for my temporalities, as this is material on which I don't yet have a good handle--horses are indeed only the food of desperation (see records of seiges in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, in Richard Coer de Lion, and elsewhere).
We might think of the culmination as being Lydgate's Debate of the Horse, Goose, and Sheep, where each animal promotes itself as the most useful animal to the English (human) polity. The goose, promoting itself for its feathers (useful for writing and fletching), declares that while the horse might be useful in battle (although not against archers), after its death it is nothing but 'foul, stinking carrion,' so insulting the horse by declaring it inedible, but also, surprisingly, assimilating the horse into the De Contemptu tradition, where the human corpse, too, has no use but to exhibit the contemptible putrefaction of this mutability. That conjunction between antihippophagy and antianthropophagy is well worth examaning.
What I'm saying is that Weil might well have asked a medievalist.
And then there's this:
I have eaten all manner of improbable items, from antelope to waterbug, but the fact that horses so graciously did my bidding several decades ago means I won’t knowingly eat their kind (or dog, or dolphin) unless hard times make it a necessity.
We can look to JJC on the chivalric circuit here (while wondering how dolphins fit into the picture), but we can also look to, well, me, on the relationship between doing one's bidding and inedibility.
No more to say just yet.
* Hence Robert Grosseteste's penitential, which imposes a heavy penance on elites who eat horse, but not on paupers. Why? I suspect that it's because the horses of paupers were primarily agricultural work animals rather than animals that enabled, as did elites' horses, war or the mobility required for imposing law. Finally, we might look at the records of hippophagy and Easter (I think) feasts in Gervase of Tilbery's Otia Imperialia, where two knights receive different penances in response to their hippophagy....
I'm wondering where Weil got her translation. Mean and evil? I think the translation at Fordham is the one I've always seen (can't remember the last time I saw them in English, though): filthy and abominable.
I can't think of any logical reason why horse would be harder to prepare than, say, venison. It probably tastes very nice, if marinaded a bit. Not that i would ever knowingly eat horse, for many of the reasons Karl states. Horses are more along the lines of cats and dogs and, well, friendly helper animals.
But when I lived in Augsburg, there was a horsemeat stall in the Stadtmarkt. Clearly people do eat horsemeat by choice.
What I fine interesting about the Boniface letters is that the prohibition against eating sacrificed meat doesn't specify horsemeat, and the letter where Gregory tells Boniface to prohibit the eating of horseflesh is in response to people eating both wild and tame horses. I'd never really thought of there being wild horses in Central Europe at the time, although Przewalski's horse, or something like it, probably did range that far to the north and west ...
Does anybody know what kind of wild horses roamed in Europe at the time? One certainly doesn't hear about them in any of the annals I can think of, nor do they come up in land grants that I've seen ...
Damn you, ITM! I now have to go and think about blogging this myself.
Karl, you wrote:
"Now, I don't know much about the reasons for abandoning hippophagy (which means that I'm not going to ascribe hippophagy to "clannish...
Odin-worshippers who ate burnt equine offerings in the god’s name"), but I do know, or at least surmise, that the distate for hippophagy had to do with the distate for all animals that helped manifest human power, whether over other animals (so helping construct the human), or over other humans (so helping construct the elite)."
You then mention dogs, predatory birds, and horses as belonging to this category; could it be, also, that by virtue of the ways in which these animals became enmeshed in human power structures that they also attained a status as *companions* [not just tools-to-an-end] in those structures, and that would also be one reason eating them would be considered distasteful? I'm thinking here of how JJC describes the knight-horse relationship in his chapter "Chevalrie" [in MIM]. So yes, there's the question of *utility* but then there is also the question of how certain relationships founded on utlity might then also develop other socio-cultural dimensions. Just a thought.
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