Page 6 - Boca ViewPointe - May '23
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Page 6, Viewpointe                                                    May 2023
       Book Review

      Cuisine, Philosophy, And                                                                             the word for dog is cognate for kunikos, which was how
                                                                                                           Cynic gained its appellation. He spanned the time of
      Linguistics                                                                                          Socrates, his student Plato, who said of him that he was
                                                                                                           “madder than Socrates.” And Plato’s student Aristotle
      Judith Tschann.  Romaine  Wasn’t  Built  in  a  Day,  The                                            as well as Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great. In
      Delightful History of Food Language.  New York:                                                      one story, perhaps apocryphal, Alexander addressed
      Voracious/Little Brown. 2023.                                                                        Diogenes, “I am Alexander, the Great King,” which
      How to Say No, Diogenes and the Cynics. An Ancient                                                   provoked the comeuppance, “I am Diogenes, the dog.”
      Guide to the  Art of Cynicism.  Selected, Translated,                                                   M.D. Usher offers a rich collection of Dialogues,
      and  Introduced by  M.D. Usher. Princeton: Princeton                                                 Orations,  and  Essays  (in  Greek  with  his  translations)
      University Press, 2022.                                                                              composed at the time of Diogenes’s life and a millennium
      “Food for thought,” an idiom derived from the time                                                   afterwards celebrating the philosopher’s wisdom and
      of the French Revolution.                                                                            peculiarities. He was something of a performance artist
      “I fawn on those who give, I bark at those who don’t,                                                and the stories associated with him added to his reputation
      and I bite scoundrels.” Diogenes of Sinope.        apparently sources of intrinsic joy, Banana a loan word   for eccentricity, his rejection of a change of clothes before
                                                         from Arab  and Turkish. Then  there  are Toponyms,   going to sleep, his vegetarianism, his embracing the life
      By Dr. Ronald J. Meyers                            named after place, Vichyssoise, Champagne, Sardines,   of homelessness. According to one text, he attended the
                                                         Lima beans, Darjeeling tea; and Eponyms named after   Isthmian Games and chided the spectators and athletes
         It’s about belly laughs,                        people, from the Earl of Sandwich who is credited with   for their celebrations of physical prowess, noting how
      the many ways that our                             conceiving placing meat between two slices of bread   ridiculous it would be if ants would honor the ones who
      bellies laugh.  When we                            so he could better concentrate upon his propensity for   could run the fastest. Once, he auctioned himself as a
      are satiated with food, or                         gambling,  and  the  Reuben  derived  from  a  grocer  in   slave to Xeniades, the wealthy Corinthian, who in turn put
      when a cynic philosopher                           Kansas. Cappuccino derived from the color of the monk’s   him in charge of his household and praised his efficiency.
      emits a guffaw, ridiculing                         habit cocoa blended with the white froth. And desserts   His example influenced the likes of the Romans, Cicero,
      another ’s  naiveté  or                            which ambiguously refers  to clearing the table on the   Seneca, and Lucian and continued centuries after his
      stolidness, for example.                           one  hand  and  getting  your  just,  delightful  rewards  at   death at age ninety. These essays added to the legends
      The physiological and                              meal’s end. During my career, I was required to study   about his life and the ancient art of cynicism.
      intellectual joy that we                           the history of the English language and then teach it over      Professor Usher makes the case in the final chapter
      experience from the mundane and the sublime. Starting   many semesters and appreciate its diversity, which I am   suggesting the influence of the Cynics upon Christianity.
      with her punning title, Professor Judith Tschann offers a   reminded of while composing this Review.   Both the revilement of wealth, the choice of frugality and
      survey of the history of food rendered through the play      The  Cynic  Diogenes  of  Sinope  (412-323  B.C.E.)   poverty, nothing in excess and the monastery itself seems
      on the title Romaine (lettuce and civilization); for the   did not relish food as much as he did conversation and   to reflect the utopian ideal, “according to the Gospel’s
      Egyptians tall standing Romaine was perceived as a proud   improving the character of his audience and devouring   rules,” inferred, if not taught by Diogenes. He also had
      phallus, for the Romans, a delicacy. But it all boils down   them with his passion for eccentricity. Born and raised   a great influence on the American Transcendentalists of
      to linguistics, a fancy word for language.         in Sinope, his father was a successful banker who was   the nineteenth century, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry
         Her Romaine is divided into sections of the three   caught in some kind of scandal, which brought about loss   David Thoreau, even Herman Melville and perhaps Emily
      meals of the day; breakfast (the first meal after the night’s   of family status, and the son’s exile and a peripatetic life   Dickinson where cynicism indeed underlies and animates
      fast), lunch and dinner, native languages, etymologies,   in Athens, Corinth and other Greek isles. He identified   their writings.
      neologisms (hot dog, cherries jubilee) loan words and   himself as a Cosmopolite, a citizen not of one nation but
      borrowed words, and the evolution of words (bread and   of the world who chose to live the simplest possible life,      Dr. Ronald J. Meyers, a resident of La Paz, is an
      alcohol from 10,000 years ago) . A smorgasbord about   following nature and bleating no. He was nicknamed the   Emeritus Professor of English. 
      the culture of food and the delights of language that has   dog, and statues of him were invariably depicted with
      connected humanity through mutual interest and trade   a dog at his side; Professor Usher points out that kuon
      in the best possible ways. The language of food, you
      will discover, draws upon virtually every culture and
      civilization from the Neolithic to the Aboriginal, to the   The Aker Kasten
      Greek, Roman, Arab, Chinese, Yiddish. Our English
      language derives from some four dozen languages that
      have contributed to the linguistics of food. Tacos from   Family lives in
      Spain, barbecue from Caribbean Arawaken language,
      eggs borrowed from appearance of eyes, coffee from    this community…
      medieval Arabic and tea from Chinese.  Frui, relating
      to pleasure, gives us the cognates fruit and frugal, both   and loves this
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