Travels and Treasure

This week we are writing about historical figures and what we would like to have experienced with them. This being the week of Columbus Day,(and today being the traditional Columbus Day),
Cristofero Columbo would be my first choice, but I was sure one of the others was going to  utilize him…I guessed wrongly. I know some people are often afraid celebrate Columbus; there are plenty of reasons to suspect that his landing in The New World was not the first, but we have to admit, his got the ball rolling…steamrolling, one might add, which is yet another reason many people avoid Columbus Day: the plight of the indigenous people after he made his report back to Europe. The barbarity and brutality of any conquering people never ceases to amaze me, the horrors people inflict upon others;the racism, the abuses and lack of compassion with cold ‘entitlement’, all in the name of progress … Humanity should be better than that.

I had to make that  statement.

But here we are today and frankly, I’d love to know: Did Columbus actually wing it or did he possibly have old maps, (as I have heard in theory)? How beautiful were the unspoiled Caribbean coasts? And what the heck did his men see that they took for mermaids?
So, since I didn’t expect to have C.C. to myself, I will go with two other angles to the same end: Foods and other items.

The first one: another Italian explorer, Marco Polo.
I have no flights-of-fancy about how a woman traveling in those times would have been treated, but can you imagine being among the first Westerners to see Asia in its glory? Can you imagine that even the most common items in the lives of the Chinese and other Asians would be so strange, unique and unusual to the Europeans? Imagine the feel of silk for the first time, after only experiencing leather, wool, cotton and linen? There were no synthetics; it must have been wondrous.
In Europe there were wooden, earthenware, metal and (very rarely) glass vessels, but imagine beholding porcelain … and imagine being able to hand that to your patron?
Consider the first glimpse of fireworks! To be among those to introduce these items plus nutmeg, cloves, anise and other hitherto unknown spices to Europe… how cool would that be?
[BTW :Marco Polo did NOT introduce noodles to Italy; that story is from an advertising campaign,(funny how quickly we can all fall for whatever they say, huh?) Pasta was made in Europe for many centuries before Marco was even born.]

The second one would be the subsequent explorers sent from Spain after Columbus, (not that I approve of most of their methods or actions, let me make that again quite clear.)
But to this Foodie, the Americas not only yielded gold and silver, it brought all sorts of treasure, new tastes, to the rest of the world. Peanuts, chili peppers, (that took over world-wide cuisine), sweet potatoes, pumpkins and squashes (of all varieties), corn, potatoes, tomatoes, (seriously, most people can’t imagine Italian food without tomatoes, but before the 1500’s there was not one)…plus vanilla…and CHOCOLATE!
Would I like to have been the first one to get back to Europe, hand these over and watch the faces of the people as they tried these? You bet; although, I am not sure that many of the food items would have made it back on the long journeys, not with me aboard the ship or on the caravan!
Did I miss anything?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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6 Responses to Travels and Treasure

  1. jeff7salter says:

    Ha. You left out tobacco … supposedly “discovered” by Sir Walter Raleigh.
    Now that smoking & chewing has become majoritatively disgraced, it’s difficult to imagine how much effort & time & $$$ were expended (particularly Hollywood and Madison Ave.) in western culture to get us ALL to use tobacco … or wish that we could.

    As for Marco Polo, how on earth did that tedius swimming pool game ever get HIS name?

    Yeah, I would have been interested in that first chocolate treat … though I understand it took a good while for choc. to be used in the candy formats.

    As horrific as was the European ‘conquering’ of the Americas, it’s pretty ho-hum by the standards of conquering armies inside Europe (west & east) and in the British Isles … and Asia … and the Middle East. Let’s face it: humans with power and wealth and armies are NOT patient or kind … and they want EVERYTHING.

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  2. tonettejoyce says:

    Yes,Jeff, my point exactly.I can take what happened to the Indians in America rather personally,(we are still trying to pin down which Indian blood and how much is in the Joyce line), but horrors happened, and are still happening, throughout the world.It’s frightening.
    I purposely left out tobacco.For one thing, it did not go back with the first explorers.The second thing is,I have a personal abhorrence for it, and now, any smoke or lingering smoky air throws these old lungs into a coughing fit. I wanted to celebrate the wondrous new things…not the banes…(notice I didn’t mention Montezuma’s Revenge, either!)
    I had to look it up, because I knew that water polo was an off-shoot of equestrian polo, and I knew that that was from Mongolia (or thereabouts), so I thought that maybe Marco brought the game back, too…but no.This is from ‘E-How’:(Wish I’d had money on the Turkomans!)

    Origins

    It is unknown whether polo originated in either Persia (Iran) or China, since both countries played a game called “changar” over 2,000 years ago. However, according to The Ultimate Horse Book, the word “changar” is Persian and means “mallet”.

    First Game

    The oldest recorded game of changar (polo) was in 600 BCE between the Turkomans and the Persians. The Turkomans won.

    Moving

    The Persians brought polo to India in the 1700’s. By then, it was called “pulu”, which was a Tibetan word that meant “ball”.

    Read more: The History of Polo Sport | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_5007394_history-polo-sport.html#ixzz295qKJxzh

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  3. Micki Gibson says:

    I admit, I struggled with the topic this week (not to mention my Mondays have been a bit crazy recently) for the same reasons you did. All I could think of were the “bad boys” of history or horrible conditions. Yeah, not digging all that death and disease. Hitler kept jumping into my head and no way on God’s green earth would I want to experience ANYTHING with him. Not to mention I was not a very good history student. I was merely okay. I only learned what I needed for the tests. Columbus never really rocked my boat. If he was so great, why didn’t we name the country after him instead of that Amerigo Vespucci dude? (I suspect Columbus had a bit of a jerk side to him.) It wasn’t until yesterday that I could come up somebody in history where I truly thought, “Yeah, now experiencing THAT would be awesome.” I would have loved to hung out with these three dudes named Neil, Buzz, and Mike. Of course Neil and Buzz would have probably made me stay back with Mike because I’m pretty sure I would have talked all the way to the moon and back. They would have needed that moon walk just to get away from me for a while.

    But Tonette, I have to give you props on how it always comes back to food with you. I love how you can tie that in to anything. You truly are a foodie! Props and a high five to you!

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  4. tonettejoyce says:

    Thanks,Micki; I thought people were getting tired of my theme;I’ll try to cut back…after alI, do have a food blog:[http://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/]
    Columbus DID have a jerk side…when he could not come up with the riches he expected to find,(and promised Ferdinand and Isabella) he proposed selling the Indians as slaves.Isabella, who was pretty pious, (and to her credit) , said that Columbus had told her that they could ‘save souls’ by going there, not to ruin them.(Not that the later Spaniards treated the Indians any better than CC would have).
    Great idea, Micki To the moon! How cool!I never thought of astronauts…that isn’t history to me;I watched it all on TV! (Right,Jeff?).I was 6 when Alan Shephard went up.I remember it clearly because right after,I got bitten by a yellow jacket in my pedal pushers!
    In case I hadn’t brought it up,it’s a good time to brag a bit. My husband, his two older brothers and other officers’ sons were aboard for the Gemini 10 recovery ship, the one and only time that was ever allowed…and my father-in-law was the pilot who pulled the Apollo 7 capsule out of the ocean.

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  5. tonettejoyce says:

    No, Shirra, Cunningham and Eisele. Gus was long gone b then…What a tragedy.

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