[Sca-cooks] Crocodile was Magpies

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue Mar 4 14:22:28 PST 2008

On Mar 4, 2008, at 4:26 PM, Dragon wrote:

>> You are misinterpreting what I said. I did not say I had
> documentation for any of this.

I made a pretty off-the-cuff statement myself, so I'm no one to point  
fingers, but I'm not sure the lack of documentation for a statement is  
the problem in this discussion. It _is_ sort of an academic  
discussion, and some of the people here are playing by more-or-less  
predictable academic rules, an important one of which is that you  
don't  look for a piece of paper to back up a statement you've made.  
Rather, you base your statement on observation and analysis of the  
things you've seen -- including, if you're a student, a good number of  
pieces of paper, probably.

> What I did say is that they ate a ton of odd things

Well, okay. Let's try this: how do we know what odd things they ate?  
Mostly from written accounts, like, say, Apicius, Vinidarius, Pliny.  
Right? Otherwise this starts to look like we're repeating urban  
legends. The trouble is, these sources don't seem to mention these  
types of animals. Mostly the exotic animals they do mention are birds  
and fish, it seems to me. Is it conceivable we've grown comfortable  
believing certain things without evidence, and that what we think we  
know is, in fact, myth, in some cases? Lots of people know, for  
example, that the Romans ate sauce made of rotten fish, which isn't  
quite the case. They know all about Roman vomitoriums, which are far  
more typical in other times and places than in decadent Imperial Rome.  
We all know medieval cookery uses dozens of spices mixed  
indiscriminately, and that more spices were used to cover the flavors  
of rotting meat (both also false).

> so it would not
> surprise me if they did eat these things also.  There are historical
> accounts of all sorts of exotic species being brought to Rome for
> gladiatorial games (no, I don't have any references handy, this is
> from memory).

Suetonius comes to mind; probably Pliny.

> It is not a far stretch to think that once these
> animals had been dispatched in the games that they would have been  
> eaten.

I strongly suspect it would make a lot more sense to feed them, while  
still relatively fresh, to the surviving animals, especially since  
they almost certainly died under duress and full of adrenalin.

> I not specifically aware of any texts in Chinese medicine that regard
> use of the crocodile as I have not done any such research. However,
> through a casual knowledge of modern Chinese medicinal practices, I
> know they use a lot of reptiles including all sorts of lizards,
> cobras and other snakes. So again, I would not be surprised if they
> did use crocodiles in some medicinal soup. Virtually every edible
> item in traditional Chinese culture is associated with some sort of
> supposed medical benefit.

Okay, I'm with you there. We tend to have frog's legs in the freezer,  
just in case, for soups of this very kind, and there are pharmacopeias  
available in English for dealing with Chinese herbal medicine; I'm  
sure info on this subject would be in one or more of them. I'll see if  
I can check one of them this evening. But whether this constitutes  
evidence of crocodiles being eaten in Europe in period, I doubt.  
There's just too much circumstantial evidence to suggest that such  
creatures were loathed, and not, AFAIK, enough evidence to suggest  
they actually were eaten on any regular basis, except for frogs (which  
are mentioned in Le Menagier).


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