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Linda Goetz Holmes is the first Pacific War historian appointed to advise the government Interagency Working Group declassifying documents on World War II crimes. A graduate of Wellesley College, she has been interviewing and writing about pacific prisoners of war for more than two decades. Her first book, 4000 Bowls of Rice, was published in 1994.
AnonyMiss asked if she could review a self-published book that she'd really enjoyed, and after reading her email about the book, wherein she went on at length about all the different things she liked about it, I nearly begged her to write it all out for you. Here is her guest review.
SFF in Conversation is a new monthly feature on The Book Smugglers in which we invite guests to talk about a variety of topics important to speculative fiction fans, authors, and readers. Our vision is to create a safe (moderated) space for thoughtful conversation about the genre, with a special focus on inclusivity and diversity in SFF. Anyone can participate and we are welcoming emailed topic submissions from authors, bloggers, readers, and fans of all categories, age ranges, and subgenres beneath the speculative fiction umbrella.
noun1 : a book review blog specializing in speculative fiction, YA and popgeekery for all ages since 2008.2 : a publisher of speculative short fiction and nonfiction since 2014.3 : 2020 Hugo Award winner for Best Fanzine4 : a duo of awesomely badass book nerds
For the aristocrats who ruled this sprawling ancient empire, which, at its peak under the soldier-emperor Trajan (A.D. 98 to A.D. 117), stretched all the way from Britain to Baghdad, the banquet was much more than a lavish social meal. It was a crucial power tool.
"The banquet was a chance to follow the precept of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer," says historian and Cornell University Professor Barry Strauss. His engaging new book, Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, profiles 10 prominent emperors whose policies and personality shaped the destiny of imperial Rome. "They allowed emperors to display political power and wealth, and dispense valuable favors to the invitees and monitor potential rivals. Even before there were emperors, members of the Roman elite held private banquets as a way to show off, network, reward friends and diss enemies."
The poet Juvenal summed up the ruling formula of the Roman emperors in the cynical phrase, "Bread and Circuses," and this strategy worked not just for the rabble but for the upper-classes too. Except that in their case, "bread" applied to a dazzling range of delicacies on which they binged with a breathtaking lack of moderation. "At their hedonistic banquets," says Strauss, "Romans ate to the point of vomiting."
The Roman banquet evokes voluptuary images of men in togas reclining on couches and glutting themselves on wild sow's udders and stuffed snails, while servants stream in bearing platters heaped with heavily sauced and delicately spiced foods from all over the world: ostrich from Africa, pepper and sugar cane from India, cumin from Ethiopia, sumac from Syria, olives from Greece, and that perennial Roman favorite, the fleshy homegrown fig. Wine is drunk in copious amounts from double-handled silver cups, while a lyre plays in the background. There are performing troupes, poets, even the occasional leopard, and sometimes rose petals flutter down from on high. One sadistic host, the Emperor Elagabalus, built a banquet hall with a false ceiling that tilted open, allowing a torrent of flowers to rain down upon his unsuspecting guests, smothering to death those unable to crawl out from under the floral deluge.
The great Roman gourmet, Marcus Gavius Apicius, who compiled what is the only surviving cookbook of the Roman empire, De Re Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking), lists more than 400 recipes for camel heels, parrot, coxcombs, venison, pheasant, thrush, rabbit, goose liver, brain-stuffed sausages, peacock, flamingo, caviar-stuffed crayfish, cranes, ostrich, ham, legumes, vegetables, and an array of seafood from sea urchins to red mullet, bass, bonito, and snails, for which special spoons were designed.
Not all the Caesars were debauchees like Nero or Elagabalus. "Julius Caesar famously ate a simple diet and was relatively sober when it came to alcohol," says Strauss. "Augustus, too, drank in moderation, and it is likely that, as a philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius ate and drank relatively moderately." The astute and generous Emperor Trajan was known for his passion for wine and boys, "but held his liquor and did not force himself on any lover," says Strauss, and though he entertained regularly in his country villa, his parties were praised for their "relative informality and simplicity." Trajan's successor, the intelligent, cultured and murderous Hadrian, was admired for the way he mingled with his troops and shared their rustic fare.
Strauss warns that the outlandish stories of revelry in the ancient texts are "famously unreliable and need to be taken with a huge grain of salt." But they make for marvelous reading. The young Elagabalus, by all accounts, was a raving libertine who swam in a saffron-scented swimming pool, served his guests rice mixed with pearls, and demanded meals all in blue or green or whatever color took his fancy. For the blue dinner, the fish had to be cooked in a bluish sauce to mimic the sea. The megalomaniacal Nero will always be associated with nibbling on peeled grapes and fiddling while the city burned. Whether or not he did is hard to prove, but recent archaeological findings have unearthed the foundations of his fabled circular banqueting hall, that, according to the historian Suetonius, "constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens."
One of the most macabre banquet stories, perfect for a Halloween party, is of the black banquet thrown by the Emperor Domitian, known for his cruelty but also for rebuilding Rome. He swathed his hall in black, had all the food dyed black, and placed each quaking guest beside a gravestone with his name on it. The guests thought they would never make it out alive, especially since Domitian talked about slaughter all through the meal, but it turned out to be a diabolical prank, and after reducing his guests to a gibbering mess, the emperor sent them home and showered them with gifts.
The book is remarkable for its successful integration of architectural with political and economic history, disciplines that are usually practiced separately... This is architectural history at its best, and sets a standard for future work in the field.
An indispensable study on one of the most important emperors in Chinese history. This is an essential read for anyone interested in the institution of emperorship in China and the relationship between the politics and architecture of China that remains ever so relevant today.
The emperor formally took breakfast at 7am in spring and winter, and 6am in summer and autumn. He would pick name cards of the officials from a plate prepared by the eunuchs. After breakfast, he opened and read the memorial presented by ministers and other officials.
"No one in any dynasty of China ever lived a more rigidly controlled court life than the emperor of the Ch'ing. Due to strict observance of traditional conventions of the court, the freedom of the emperor was far less than that of an ordinary man."
Most of the administrative institutions of the Qing Dynasty were inherited from the Ming period. The Qing emperors were autocrats who made their decisions prevail in matters of government and state affairs. Institutions such as the grand council, grand secretariat and political conference only had assisting duties, and were not allowed to take high-level decisions themselves.
PLACES The Ming dynasty established the Palace of Heavenly Purity as the residence of the emperor, a tradition followed by Qing emperors. When the Yongzheng Emperor (reign 1722-1735) moved his home to the Hall of Mental Cultivation, he continued to hold court in the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
Built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1798 to repair fire damage, the emperor read, and signed documents, interviewed ministers and envoys in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Banquets and other ceremonies would occasionally be held here too.
The emperors after Yongzheng followed the practice of keeping the imperial successor a secret. The emperor wrote a secret edict naming a successor from his sons. Two copies were made. One was kept by the emperor, the other was sealed in a box at the back of a horizontal board hanging over the throne.
Another common misconception is that the emperor routinely feasted on lavish meals. His diet was balanced, but surprisingly plain. Both the Ming and Qing dynasties ate in accordance with the same principle: a diet must promote health.
HEALTHY HABITS The Imperial kitchen adjusted the diet of the emperor according to the season. Lighter dishes were served in the summer with heavier, more nutritious meals in winter. It was believed that light food increased body fluids, while heavier meals created more vital energy.
The Qianlong Emperor usually took his tea with milk. Herds of cattle were maintained, with 100 cows kept in reserve to provide milk for the emperor. Spring water from Yuquan Shan was used for cooking and to make tea.
MEDICINAL FOOD Qing Dynasty emperors ate food with medicinal properties. Many records from the Qing Palace archives still exist which mention the use of wines, juices, extracts, preserved fruits, and sugar as health-giving items.These foods were believed to stimulate the stomach, kidneys, and appetite; reduce internal heat; reduce phlegm; nourish the body; and prolong life. 2b1af7f3a8
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