[Sca-cooks] A horse for a peppercorn-Explanation of a Food Myth

Susan Lin susanrlin at gmail.com
Mon Sep 13 12:17:21 PDT 2010

My friend of Scottish heritage has the same tradition - paying something
(she taped a penny to the box so I could pay her) so as not to cut the

On Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 10:47 AM, David Friedman <ddfr at daviddfriedman.com>wrote:

> ...
> There is a similar tradition followed to this day by some Southern Chinese,
>> possibly others as well. For reasons associated with kharma, one does not
>> give certain items as gifts; for example knives, weapons, medications, etc.,
>> are not considered appropriate to give as gifts. When you find yourself
>> wanting or needing to do so anyway, it is considered good manners to include
>> with the gift a shiny new penny, to be returned by the recipient to the
>> donor, so it can be agreed upon that the gift item was in fact purchased,
>> thereby changing the kharmic implications.
> I'm familiar with that as a current American tradition--whether derived
> from the Chinese or not I don't know. It doesn't include giving the penny,
> just having a token payment in order that the knife will not cut the
> friendship.
> I didn't know about the peppercorn for a horse thing. It might be worth
>> knowing as a reference point that for much of Europe in the Middle Ages, a
>> cooked capon cost around a penny [which would usually have ben a silver
>> coin?], so the two shillings you spoke of -- which doesn't seem like so very
>> much -- would buy, what, forty of them?
> A penny was a silver coin. In the original Carolingian monetary reform,
> from which most of the medieval and renaissance European monetary systems
> derive, a penny was one two hundred and fortieth of a pound of silver. The
> pound was a unit of account, defined as 240 pennies. Initially it was also a
> pound of silver, but over time the penny got debased, at different rates in
> different places.
> The shilling was also (initially) a unit of account, defined as twelve
> pennies, and created to provide continuity with the pre-existing Roman
> system--it corresponded to a coin in that system.
> --
> David Friedman
> www.daviddfriedman.com
> daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/
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