Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Je parle… Latin.

It is ongoing grist for the family mill that I was made to take Latin from the 6th grade through high school. This is because I had taken French from 1st through 6th grades in an after-school program, and I, like any good kid, bitched and moaned about having to take after-school French two days a week while other, normal kids were playing 8-bit Nintendo (yeah, I’m that old) and Sardines. Despite my complaining, Mme. McClamroch was convinced I had an ear for the language.

That ear was promptly stifled when Mom mandated in Caesar-like style that I take Latin for its vocabulary-building effects. Problem was, vocabulary-building not exactly my weakness. After all, we’re talking about a kid whose first word was “apple.” Why go with one syllable when you can start with two?

Despite a new level of bitching and moaning about Latin, (“But all my friends are taking French! But I already know some French! But I want to learn French!”) there have been a few incidents of Latin-usefulness throughout the years, and not just when reading building inscriptions while studying abroad in Italy. For example, in college, a reading for a history class discussed how an Iranian Ayatollah had met his death through defenestration and I knew that meant he’d been tossed out a window because in my freshman year of high school, I learned that “fenestra” is Latin for “window.” It was a small win for a dead language.

In the course of six and a half years of Latin study, we also got a fair dose of Roman history, as you might suspect. Such lessons included the founding story of the city, wherein the brothers Romulus and Remus suckled at the teat of the She-Wolf in order to gain strength and conquer lots of land and people. (I'm giving you the executive summary.) Wolf is lupus in Latin. Somehow, I never learned the word for “teat.”

There’s a famous bronze sculpture called "The Capitoline Wolf" depicting this event, which made its way into my Latin textbook.

I always found this image somewhat disturbing because of all those spiky teats. Like a porcupine gone wrong. Also, the dudes were nursing from this thing, as you can see. It all struck me as a rather unseemly start to the founding of this huge empire.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the farm box last Wednesday to see this:

I love to try new foods, and it's not often I come across a vegetable I've never seen before. I immediately began digging through the box to find the paper that tells me what they sent me and found an entire paragraph dedicated to describing this odd vegetable.

The Romesco, it says, is a variant of broccoli and can be cooked and eaten just like its more common cousin. Word on the street (farm?) is that it originated in 16th century Italy. While that would have been several thousand years after Romulus and Remus’ famed upbringing by Mama Wolf, I can’t help but wonder if maybe that statue (estimated to be from the 13th century) had something to do with the naming of this unusually spiky veggie.

I cooked up some Romesco tonight, steamed simply (so I could understand the true flavor) with a little freshly grated parmesan on top. It tastes kind of like a less-sweet cauliflower. Definitely better than wolf-milk. Or so I imagine.

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