To the Editor:
I read the column written by Wizipan Garriott ’03 (“A different look at the legacy of Columbus,” 10/17) with no small amount of sympathy or interest. As an on-again, off-again student of European history, though, I must object to his dig at the Old World palate. While most stereotypes, and much libel, have at their root some germ of truth, the European elite did not generally use spices to mask rancid meat. Because refrigeration and chemical preservatives were unavailable, the meat that urban Europeans were eating c. 1492 was, on par, actually weeks fresher than that which most Americans enjoy today. The veal on the burgher’s plate at supper was often that same morning a mooing calf in the market square. No doubt some of the unwashed poor were able to scrimp and save for cinnamon and cloves with which to doctor the stinking offal they retrieved from the gutter, but it would be hardly generous of us to mock their misfortune, or begrudge them the spice that helped them to bear it.
Incidentally, Columbus is at least indirectly responsible for what must be the great culinary gift from the Europeans to the East. Capsicums (peppers) were a strictly Mesoamerican affair before his explorations. Today, of course, they are a staple from the West Bank to where South East Asia dips her toes into the Pacific. No less was this tribute stolen than the Argentine’s silver, but what a rich gift it was, and how enduring.
Blake Wilson ’02
October 17, 2002