Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Meal Before Battle

SM Stirling, The Scourge of God (New York, 2009), Chapter Seven, p. 207.

cold roast beef
pungent kielbasa
fried chicken
bread and butter
hot pickles
sharp cheese
apple tarts
massive sandwiches of the above
a keg of beer

And one of the participants invokes Greek gods. The Change has forced a return to a healthy diet and has also opened a Pandora's Box of pantheons.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And Stirling's post-Change characters NEED the massive meals they eat! Life is much more physically strenuous and demanding due to the lack of high technology. So there's not much chance of getting fat.


  2. If you look at a picture of an American street scene or rural neighborhood in say 1910, you'll notice that there are few overweight people and almost no young overweight people.

    It's not because they didn't eat a lot. The average American adult consumed well over 3000 calories a day, and it was a meat-heavy, fat-heavy died with lots of bread and potatoes too.

    They just burned off a lot.

    Most people ate heavily. The well-to-do ate gargantuan meals. Teddy Roosevelt became a bit stout in late middle age, despite working out hours every day; he was an exercise fanatic before it became fashionable, and hiked and rode and climbed rock-faces and boxed and got a brown belt in judo and when he was at his country place cut trees and split wood and worked on the farm. The explanation is in what he ate -- the menus are mind-boggling.

    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      EXACTLY! Most Americans, circa 1910, were not fat--despite their massive diets--due to them burning it off in hard physical labor.

      I have heard of Theodore Roosevelt's passion for the "strenuous" life. I think that was at least partly compensation for being a sickly child. Hmmm, btw, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was a bit like TR. A difficult birth left him with a withered arm. He DROVE himself to be as strong and vigorous as anyone else. Including chopping trees during his exile in the Netherlands.


  3. Kaiser Willie was sort of a caricature of Teddy Roosevelt; and he resented and envied Teddy, because Teddy was all the things he wanted to be -- frontier adventurer, a soldier who'd personally led his men to victory, talented amateur scientist, historian, political reformer, charismatic leader, and so forth.

    Yes, TR set out to "make" himself as a child, and succeeded -- he was inspired by heroic adventure stories, too, which is relevant to this blog.

    1. Mr Stirling,
      Please keep sharing historical knowledge - except any that you need to keep back for the next book, of course.

    2. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Yes, I can see how Kaiser Wilhelm could envy TR, because the latter had achieved so MUCH. But I still have to give Wilhelm some respect, for overcoming the handicap of a crippled arm.


  4. TR was at a cusp -- where the overwhelming majority of Americans were no longer necessarily working at unmechanized agriculture or something equivalent every day. His "strenuous life" was in part a reaction to the fact that for a small but increasing part of the population, life wasn't necessarily strenuous any more.

    I think TR related this to his personal history as a feeble asthmatic child; his life was despaired of several times when he was a toddler. He overcame that, by sheer willpower, pushing himself until by early adulthood his endurance and indifference to pain and discomfort awed even actual hardened frontiersmen. So, he thought, could the nation -- retaining the "barbarian" toughness of the past while mastering the arts of civilization.

    There were other examples at the time. Frederick Burnham, for example, the famous frontier scout/prospector/explorer. He was a little younger than Teddy, and of a different social category (frontier farmers rather than Knickerbocker gentry) but he also decided to become a frontiersman/scout, and trained himself quite deliberately for it for years (and sought out mentors to teach him) until his abilities were mind-boggling. He could literally out-Apache Apaches.

    He was a primary teacher of and inspirer of Baden-Powell, the founder of "Scouting for Boys", and a friend of Rider Haggard, who drew on him for many incidents in his heroic fictions. He also knew Teddy Roosevelt well, and was one of the few men for whom TR would just shut up and listen.

    They had a scheme in the early 1900's to do a mass introduction of African wildlife to suitable parts of the US in the new national parks and preserves TR was setting up -- what would be called "rewilding" nowadays.(*)

    It almost came off; Congress nearly voted the money for it.

    (*) the fauna of North America in 1492 wasn't "pristine"; it had been deeply shaped by human predation for over 12,000 years and was very impoverished compared to what it had been like at the end of the last glacial period, when humans first appeared here. Back then it was more like the Serengeti -- lions, saber-tooths, cheetahs, elephants (mammoths, etc.), dozens of types of big herbivore.

  5. And there are African animals in North America in CONQUISTADOR and the Emberverse.

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      You beat me to how John Rolfe VI and his friends introduced lions and tigers, etc., into the North American of CONQUISTADOR. And similar thing is seen in the Emberverse books, from lions and tigers escaping from zoos and reserves after the Change.