This place matters

This place matters

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Farewell to Meat

One summer, my best friend and I visited Put-in-Bay - a tiny island with all the booziness of Key West's main drag without any of the views, culture, or attractive people. 
So the first night, we hit the bars and there's all these women with Mardi Gras beads around their necks. And despite the fact that we were grown adults, we somehow had no idea how they got there. Eventually, we found that they were being sold at all the tourist shops. That mystery solved, we got to drinking. Fast forward to the end of the evening, we're stumbling home, and two guys gave us the old "show us your tiiiiits!" (be still my beating heart). 
J and I were nowhere near drunk enough to comply, but nowhere near sober enough to give them the finger and continue on our staggering way. "Why would we do that?" one of us asked.
They replied that they'd give us some shiny beads if we did their bidding, but J and I were unconvinced. And rather than, say, giving them the finger and staggering onward, we explained to them quite patiently, that there would be no reason for us to do that, since you could buy these beads at the store. That's when they started trying to haggle. We were not sold, and went home beadless.
Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast dedicated a recent episode to the etymology of the word carnival. It's commonly held that the term comes from the Latin caro for meat or flesh and vale for farewell. Carnival typically kicks off Lent, the Christian time of fasting and sacrifice. For many Catholics, this often includes giving up meat on at least some days, so went Lent begins, you say goodbye to meat.
But that's a lie. Most sources, including etymonline.com, say that the term actually comes from caro and levare, Latin for raise or remove. But scholars have recently questioned that. Seems that there was a goddess in Roman mythology called Carna, whom the podcast refers to as the goddess of pork and beans. Carna's feast, which was held in spring, was celebrated with the eating of fatty meats. So carnival celebrations may be another example of Christianity appropriating the traditions of other faiths.
I prefer "farewell to meat."

You ask why we eat greasy bacon-fat on the Kalends,
And why we mix beans with parched grain?
She’s an ancient goddess, nourished by familiar food,
No epicure to seek out alien dainties.
In ancient times the fish still swam unharmed,
And the oysters were safe in their shells.
Italy was unaware of Ionian heath-cocks,
And the cranes that enjoy Pigmy blood:
Only the feathers of the peacock pleased,
And the nations didn’t send us captive creatures.
Pigs were prized: men feasted on slaughtered swine:
The earth only yielded beans and hard grains.
They say that whoever eats these two foods together
At the Kalends, in this sixth month, will have sweet digestion.


Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I'd actually posted this 2 months ago when it was relevant? 

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