To the Editor:

Blake Wilson’s thesis about Columbus’ “great culinary gift” (“Columbus response off on one minor historical point,” 10/18) was made two and a half centuries ago by the celebrated philosopher Pangloss. This insatiably optimistic system-builder opined that “– if Columbus, on an island in the Americas, had not caught this disease [syphilis] which poisons the spring of procreation, which often even prevents procreation, and which is evidently the opposite of what nature intended, we would have neither chocolate nor cochineal” (Candide, Chapter IV).

The distribution of “culinary gifts” thus is seen to compensate for the misery European conquests wrought. But that was satire: is this still the best of all possible worlds?

Jeffry Larson GRD ’70

October 18, 2002

The writer is the librarian for western European Romance languages and literature, linguistics and classics at Sterling Memorial Library.