There will be a full lunar eclipse Wednesday night. Beginning around nine pm my time the earth and sun will come into alignment and cast its umbra across the moon which will also be in lockstep. By ten pm and for an hour or so across North America, Africa, Europe, or in parts of each, and then also in parts of other areas of the pebble, we’ll all be under a red moon. I’ll be thinking of you and you and you while connecting with my inner butterfly.
By however these events and their recurrences through time and history are calculated and marked, tomorrow’s lunar eclipse is historically linked to saving Columbus on one of his voyages to the New World. In January 01503 his ships stranded on Jamaica where the good peoples of the island provided Columbus and his Spaniards food and shelter. Though when looting, murder, and general treachery ended their welcome, Columbus resorted to trickery and a trusty almanac which listed a too timely lunar eclipse. He fooled the superstitious peoples to believing dog was unhappy with their inhospitable turn, and would prove it. Your imagination is likely on spot for how the story ended, but you can also read more about it on Space.
Relatedly and justifying my use of the word apropos, this week in food history we read The Columbian Exchange. It is a somewhat outmoded version of Guns, Germs, and Steel but remains altogether enlightening to events at the time of the Conquest. The story focuses on livestock. While Spaniards on horseback made a great show and elicited fear in the native peoples, it was the invisible aliens and their beasts of burden and alimentation that did all the work. Their swine, cattle, horses, and reluctant sheep went native, proliferated and prospered, and chomped their way through the interior–from Mexico to Chile–clearing the way for replacement flora more suitable to Old World tastes. The holy alimentary trinity–olive oil, bread, and wine. The story somewhat scoffs at the Spaniards and the true effort required of them to conquer the New World, then only to proceed and squander the profits. A fascinating read. I highly recommend it. Though if you’re of the PC persuasion, the language may prove brutal to your sensibilities. The current edition apologizes for this and we move on. The book also highlights the agricultural advances made throughout the Americas by the native peoples. The plant foods they cultivated over the millennia became the great staples of the human diet throughout the world–maize, potato, tomato, squash, chile peppers, the list goes on and on. This so called reverse conquest was well under way within the first century after the Old and New Worlds met. The times moved quickly considering business then was conducted by ship.
But as I finished reading couldn’t help but think, we’ve really missed our mark. The experiment, or whatever it’s called, or is, that is Home sapien sapien, at every turn are riddled with horrendous errors. We choose to conquer, to kill, to exploit, to rape, to pillage, to plunder, and to drive to extinction. But when the Old and the New Worlds were joined, their foods came into compliment with each other. Everything human and animal would ever need to thrive became at our (collective, global) disposal. Meat, vegetables, pulses, fruits, fats, sweets, coffee, tea, spices–the global trade began from those moments–and for every environment varying combinations of these could be propagated in compliment to sustain life. So, when do we finally get the picture..
I’ll see you under the red moon..