His memories in a trunk

Reflections on literature, language(s), and music

Archive for the tag “drinks”

Xenophon on a barley-beer in Armenia

A preface. A few days ago I chanced upon an example of one of those infestations of the internet, a graphic with a quote attributed to some famous person. This one, due to the subject matter, caught my attention, and I thought it worth investigating a little further. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “People are often misquoted on the internet.” The bearded and tall-hatted president is also made to say, “The problem with quotes on the internet is that you can’t be sure of their accuracy.” Of these two humorous attributions, the former puts the facts more truly. As for the second, while the internet has provided a breeding ground for misattribution and garbled words even when the attribution is seemingly correct, it also provides, thanks to full-text searchability in various languages, the means to check any attribution for those with interest and energy to do so. That said, if we think someone else’s words so much worth sharing, if those words are in a citeable place, why not clearly indicate what the place is along with the words themselves? This is not pedantic overactivity: text editions, and often translations made on their basis, include easy ways — book, chapter, and section numbers, etc. — to point out the source of a text, and anyone quoting them thus sees them, and they do well to take the extra few seconds and extra few keystrokes to throw them in along with any quotation. (Of course, some proffered quotations do not even go so far as to indicate the work from which the quote might come, only the speaker.) So there is a series of concentric circles, the center being the quote itself, next perhaps the section number, then the chapter, then the book (in the older sense, e.g. the Odyssey having 24 books, Augustine’s Confessions 13), then the work with its unique title (as in De re rustica, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Toxophilus, A Canticle for Leibowitz), and the more precise we are when text-pointing, the better.

Back to the quote-graphic I mentioned. It will be found here. (The date 500 BC(E) in the title there is wrong, given the author’s lifetime: c. 430-c.350 BCE.) The words are said to be Xenophon‘s, and from his well-known work, which used to be youthful fodder of many a student of ancient Greek, the Anabasis. Unlike many such quote-graphics, this one thankfully does give an accurate citation (§ 4.5, and subsections 26-27, to be more precise), so its creator deserves our gratitude. A look at the work in question reveals the quote, but the surrounding sections are of equal interest so here they are in full, below the map, in Greek and English.

For the Greek text and a (somewhat different) translation, see Carleton L. Brownson, Xenophon, Anabasis, Books IV-VII, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1922), available at https://archive.org/details/xenophon04xenogoog and at the Perseus Project at http://tinyurl.com/loyzqux. The translation presented here has been adapted from Brownson’s. I have changed some of the wording and sentence structure and generally brought the translation more in line with the Greek text as given below. (For those that appreciate finer typography than is typically present on a webpage, here is a PDF of the Greek and my translation revised from Brownson: xenophon_beer_barley_armenia.)

P.S. I gave a talk on alcoholic beverages in Syriac literature some time ago, and the paper based on that lecture is available here. Found there are also a few references to alcoholic beverages elsewhere in the near / middle east besides Syriac.


The route of the Greeks in the Anabasis

Xenophon, Anabasis 4.5.25-34

Greek text
[25] αἱ δ᾽ οἰκίαι ἦσαν κατάγειοι, τὸ μὲν στόμα ὥσπερ φρέατος, κάτω δ᾽ εὐρεῖαι: αἱ δὲ εἴσοδοι τοῖς μὲν ὑποζυγίοις ὀρυκταί, οἱ δὲ ἄνθρωποι κατέβαινον ἐπὶ κλίμακος. ἐν δὲ ταῖς οἰκίαις ἦσαν αἶγες, οἶες, βόες, ὄρνιθες, καὶ τὰ ἔκγονα τούτων: τὰ δὲ κτήνη πάντα χιλῷ ἔνδον ἐτρέφοντο. [26] ἦσαν δὲ καὶ πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ καὶ ὄσπρια καὶ οἶνος κρίθινος ἐν κρατῆρσιν. ἐνῆσαν δὲ καὶ αὐταὶ αἱ κριθαὶ ἰσοχειλεῖς, καὶ κάλαμοι ἐνέκειντο, οἱ μὲν μείζους οἱ δὲ ἐλάττους, γόνατα οὐκ ἔχοντες: [27] τούτους ἔδει ὁπότε τις διψῴη λαβόντα εἰς τὸ στόμα μύζειν. καὶ πάνυ ἄκρατος ἦν, εἰ μή τις ὕδωρ ἐπιχέοι: καὶ πάνυ ἡδὺ συμμαθόντι τὸ πῶμα ἦν.

[28] ὁ δὲ Ξενοφῶν τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς κώμης ταύτης σύνδειπνον ἐποιήσατο καὶ θαρρεῖν αὐτὸν ἐκέλευε λέγων ὅτι οὔτε τῶν τέκνων στερήσοιτο τήν τε οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ ἀντεμπλήσαντες τῶν ἐπιτηδείων ἀπίασιν, ἢν ἀγαθόν τι τῷ στρατεύματι ἐξηγησάμενος φαίνηται ἔστ᾽ ἂν ἐν ἄλλῳ ἔθνει γένωνται. [29] ὁ δὲ ταῦτα ὑπισχνεῖτο, καὶ φιλοφρονούμενος οἶνον ἔφρασεν ἔνθα ἦν κατορωρυγμένος. ταύτην μὲν τὴν νύκτα διασκηνήσαντες οὕτως ἐκοιμήθησαν ἐν πᾶσιν ἀφθόνοις πάντες οἱ στρατιῶται, ἐν φυλακῇ ἔχοντες τὸν κώμαρχον καὶ τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ ὁμοῦ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς. [30] τῇ δ᾽ ἐπιούσῃ ἡμέρᾳ Ξενοφῶν λαβὼν τὸν κώμαρχον πρὸς Χειρίσοφον ἐπορεύετο: ὅπου δὲ παρίοι κώμην, ἐτρέπετο πρὸς τοὺς ἐν ταῖς κώμαις καὶ κατελάμβανε πανταχοῦ εὐωχουμένους καὶ εὐθυμουμένους, καὶ οὐδαμόθεν ἀφίεσαν πρὶν παραθεῖναι αὐτοῖς ἄριστον: [31] οὐκ ἦν δ᾽ ὅπου οὐ παρετίθεσαν ἐπὶ τὴν αὐτὴν τράπεζαν κρέα ἄρνεια, ἐρίφεια, χοίρεια, μόσχεια, ὀρνίθεια, σὺν πολλοῖς ἄρτοις τοῖς μὲν πυρίνοις τοῖς δὲ κριθίνοις. [32] ὁπότε δέ τις φιλοφρονούμενός τῳ βούλοιτο προπιεῖν, εἷλκεν ἐπὶ τὸν κρατῆρα, ἔνθεν ἐπικύψαντα ἔδει ῥοφοῦντα πίνειν ὥσπερ βοῦν. καὶ τῷ κωμάρχῳ ἐδίδοσαν λαμβάνειν ὅ τι βούλοιτο. ὁ δὲ ἄλλο μὲν οὐδὲν ἐδέχετο, ὅπου δέ τινα τῶν συγγενῶν ἴδοι, πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ἀεὶ ἐλάμβανεν.

[33] ἐπεὶ δ᾽ ἦλθον πρὸς Χειρίσοφον, κατελάμβανον κἀκείνους σκηνοῦντας ἐστεφανωμένους τοῦ ξηροῦ χιλοῦ στεφάνοις, καὶ διακονοῦντας Ἀρμενίους παῖδας σὺν ταῖς βαρβαρικαῖς στολαῖς: τοῖς παισὶν ἐδείκνυσαν ὥσπερ ἐνεοῖς ὅ τι δέοι ποιεῖν.
[34] ἐπεὶ δ᾽ ἀλλήλους ἐφιλοφρονήσαντο Χειρίσοφος καὶ Ξενοφῶν, κοινῇ δὴ ἀνηρώτων τὸν κώμαρχον διὰ τοῦ περσίζοντος ἑρμηνέως τίς εἴη ἡ χώρα. ὁ δ᾽ ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἀρμενία.

English translation

[25] The houses here were underground, with an opening like that of a well, but spacious below, and while entrances had been dug for the beasts of burden, people went down by a ladder. In the houses were goats, sheep, cattle, chickens, and their young, and all the animals ate their fodder there in the houses. [26] There was also wheat, barley, beans, and barleywine in large bowls. These barley-corns were in the drink up to the brim, straws were in it, some larger and some smaller, without joints. [27] When someone was thirsty, they had to take these straws into their mouths and suck. It was quite pure unless it was diluted with water, yet quite pleasant when one was used to it.

[28] Xenophon made the chief of this village his dinner-guest and commanded him not to worry, telling him that he would not be deprived of his children, and that before they went away they would fill his house with provisions as compensation, if he should turn out to have directed the army well until they should reach another tribe. [29] He promised to do this and kindly told them where there was some wine buried. That night  all [Xenophon’s] soldiers, thus billeted, went to bed in plenty, with the village-chief under guard and his children all together within sight. [30]On the next day Xenophon took the village chief and set out [to visit] Cheirisophus. Whenever he passed a village, he would stop [to see about] those in the villages, and everywhere on arrival he found them to be sumptuously entertained and happy. The [people] did let them go from any place without setting lunch before them, [31] and there was nowhere where they did not set before them on the same table lamb, kid, pork, veal, and chicken, together with lots of bread, some wheat and some barley. [32] And whenever someone wanted kindly to drink to another’s health, they would take him to the bowl, and they had drink like an ox, having bent over and gulped it down. To the village-chief they offered the privilege of taking whatever he wanted. He accepted nothing, but whenever he saw one of his kinsmen, he would always take hold of him.

[33] When they got to Cheirisophus, on arrival they also found [those soldiers] billeted and crowned with wreaths of hay, and Armenian boys in their strange, foreign dress, serving them, and they were showing the boys what to do [by signs], as if they were deaf and dumb. [34] When Cheirisophus and Xenophon had greeted each other, they together asked the village-chief, through their Persian-speaking interpreter, what this land was. He replied that it was Armenia.

A week on Malta

I spent all of the week before last week on Malta. I was there for an academic conference that lasted Monday to Saturday. Malta is an uncommon destination, and like most people who took part in the conference, I’d never been there. It was an international gathering and I got to spend time with colleagues from the US, England, Holland, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Lebanon, and elsewhere. I never really got fully in tune with the time zone (eight hours different from my usual one) and so I was perpetually tired (partly from late nights, too, I’m sure!). There was not a lot of time to sightsee, since I was occupied for most of the day — the lunch break was two hours, not a bad idea! — with conference matters, and the evening was filled with eating and drinking with friends and colleagues.

The food was generally good, and I especially enjoyed rabbit (fenek) twice, one of which times was on a pizza with peas (!), and on the last night some fresh sea bass. I drank local wine, both red and white, which was very inexpensive and not bad (except one white variety) and a Maltese liqueur made from pomegranates. The local lager is the ubiquitous Cisk, which was not bad, but I preferred another local brew, Hopleaf, a pale ale. Finally, the espresso was quite good. (Incidentally, since I was flying through Amsterdam, I had the rare privilege of sampling on the way back some Bols Corenwyn, 6-year.)

English is understood everywhere, but the other official language of the country is Maltese, a very fascinating language with a base of Arabic but with strong mixing or influence from Romance (Italian and Sicilian); I have written a little about Maltese elsewhere. Of course, since I was participating in an international conference, I had the always welcome opportunity to hear (and speak a little) French, German, and Arabic.

While I didn’t have a lot of time (or money) to look around at the more famous places, I did of course have some occasion to wander through the narrow streets of Valletta. Most striking is the color of the buildings and the beautiful balconies, which however, seemed to be rarely occupied. Parts of the city are marked by reminders of past British rule, but perhaps more so by the stony presence of saintly statuary. I also managed on the last evening to go for a swim in the sea.

I hope these few remarks and pictures, based merely on a short time there and mostly in a single place, convey at least a little of the interest and uniqueness in store for visitors to the island (and its neighbor Gozo)!

On applejack

I’ve recently finished reading The Sun also Rises. There are a great many references to drinking, mostly wine in prodigious amounts, but also beer and Pernod. At least twice someone drinks a Jack Rose cocktail, which was unknown to me, so like a worthy explorer I looked around and found that the recipe’s main (in fact, only) alcohol is applejack, the old American colonial concoction made by freeze-distilling (hard) cider, that is, in wintertime gradually removing the chunks of ice that form in it, thus reducing its water component and strengthening everything else, including, of course, the alcoholic content. (I recall from Botany of Desire the observation that apples have not always had the predominant flavors they now have, and cider then and cider now, and by extension any applejack transmogrified therefrom, wouldn’t necessarily taste the same.) While I live in Minnesota, and could conceivably make my own applejack the old-fashioned way — assuming we actually have a proper winter next season — using some good natural hard cider (such as Crispin), it’s good to know that liquor stores also carry it already made, but given its comparative unknownness, it might take some hunting around to find. I don’t know how many brands produce applejack, but Laird’s seems to be the most widely available. According to the bottle’s label, William Laird first made a batch of it in 1698 in Monmouth, New Jersey. Laird & Co. is now in Scobeyville of the same state. Their product is said to have the residuum of six pounds of apples in every bottle, and it’s eighty proof. I’ve not tried it in any cocktail yet, or on ice, only a few sips neat. The first encounter is, of course, olfactory, one vaguely of American whiskey but with an unmistakeable overtone (not undertone) of apples. The taste, in my limited experience with it so far, at least, has sweetness, to be sure, but not too much, and its ease of potation belies, I suspect, its alcoholic strength.

Since applejack has some history to it, I thought it might be worthwhile to make a foray into some possible witnesses to its history. I’m somewhat surprised to find no reference to the libation in two dipsological books I have to hand, Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking and Iain Gately’s Drink. Thanks, though, to Archive.org and Google Books, we all have impossibly voluminous libraries at our ready disposal, so I went to the latter to plunder it. The potion was known also by the names of Dew of the Orchard and Jersey Lightning, as we learn from History of the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers Corn Exchange Regiment from their Engagement at Antietam to Appomattox (1905), p. 543. There are several other mentions of applejack in Civil War memoirs and stories. As soldiers traveled to parts of the country they’d never visited before, they learned of new local drinks, and in some places that meant applejack. One can easily imagine some folk song about applejack — along the the lines of the ecumenical (“Throw away your pills; it’ll cure all ills // Of pagan or Christian or Jew”) “Mountain Dew” for poitín; there’s another song of the same name on an analogous drink with a wholly different melody and lyrics performed by Flatt & Scruggs and perhaps others — but I’ve not come across one yet. George Arnold wrote a several-versed poem in approval of the drink (in Poems Grave and Gay, 1867, see here). Jerome Watrous’ little story “That Applejack Raid”, in Richard Epps and Other Stories (1906), pp. 138-141, has a bit on the drink. Information with an official air include a lengthy letter sent to the New York Times on applejack that was reprinted in the Internal Revenue Record and Customs Journal 25 (1879), pp. 314-315, and in journal published in London we see that the drink attracted attention not only in America: The Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry 12 (1893), pp. 169-170. Into the 20th century, St. Louis mixologist Thomas Bullock’s Ideal Bartender (1917) has at least three cocktails with applejack (I’ll certainly try the Applejack Sour).

There’s a nice post on applejack at the Cocktail Chronicles, complete with an excellent old advertisement and a sensational warning on the madness sure to consume anyone whose palate the beguiling drink bathes, and at least one of the currently available books for cider-making has some information on applejack: Anne Proulx and Lew Nichols, Cider. It’s clear from these resources, nineteenth-century to recent, that applejack was once an often drunk American drink, at least in some regions of the country. There’s no indication that it will any time soon return to its former notoriety, but the odd tippler may find it a worthwhile diversion or accompaniment.

Post Navigation