Regarding Lean Days

Posted by: Richenda at Thursday February 22, 2007 in

The Germanic & Celtic peoples (or ‘Barbarian Hordes’ to good Romans) during the dawn of Christianity ate roasted meats, raised cows, and slathered what they could in butter. (Ever wonder why your European Grandfather —if you have one— used to butter his steak? Now you know. It comes from way back when.) The Germanic tribal peoples also drank beer.

The Romans, on the other hand, ate fish, bread and olive oil, drank wine, and slathered what they could in yummy garum (salty rotten fish sauce).

(Note to self: Got to try garum one day. Very curious!)

In addition, Romans were among the first peoples to embrace Christianity. They were also the most successful at imposing (implementing) an administrative system on (for) believers that would allow Christianity flourish. This administrative process also allowed Romans to preserve their culture through overlaying it via the growing administered ‘church.’

Written histories in Greek and Latin tell us that dark age monasteries in Germany were filled with pious, bread and water eating Christians (good), but were surrounded by meat roasting, beer guzzling, cow herding, petty kings with bands of pagan warriors eager for goodies (bad). Maybe the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ evaluation here is true…but one has to consider that the source of the information was from Roman administrators & their secretaries who were interested in justice, yes, but also in perpetuating their own power privileges and world view.

But give credit where credit is due: administration was something the Romans could do. They were awesome at it and we owe two millennia of sustained and sacred Christianity to them. Also, there were many infamously decadent Roman habits which these administrators also addressed—urging their countrymen to

However, human systems are human—and run by powers that be. Local Roman government administrators became Bishops and Archbishops in the church. Even pagan ones, like Sidonius (who was later sainted). But pagan Romans ate bread and water and fish (good) while barbarian Christian kings ate roast beef and butter (bad).

Though the Western ‘Romanesque’ Church came of age in France in the Dark Ages,
by then, early Roman patterns had become the ‘gold standard’ of western Christian piety. The Roman essential diet was the one chosen for sacred occasions, for ‘fasting’ and ‘lean days.’ (One large exception was that beer replaced wine as the primary drink in monasteries in Germany and England.) So to have Roman ideals and cultural habits, then, was to be closer to God.

I have to wonder what would have happened if the Germanic peoples had won this little war of administrative implementation. Early bishops, had they been Teutonic, would perhaps have declared garum & other fish products to be the decadent &
unhealthful ones. Perhaps instead, greasing one’s skin and hair with butter might have taken on contemplative significance.

Yet, regardless of whether Lent would have been different if Clothar had determined issues of Sanctity instead of Augustine, clearly, it is issues of sanctity that early administrators sought to address. The goal (ideally) was to bring the pious closer to God through encouraging healthful, mindful (heartful) actions. And that, I think, is ‘Good.’

*(Note to KFC: I’m thinking in asking the Pope to bless your new Fish Snacker
Sandwich for Lent you have missed the point entirely.)*

$165 to the vet

Posted by: Richenda at Wednesday February 21, 2007 in

But she’s worth it.

What is it with cats? They are basically non-stop vomit machines, spewing up bits of grass, catfood, and hairballs indiscriminately. Ours love to eat, sleep, sit and stare unblinking at us as we move around, and then vomit. I wonder if that’s commentary?

(Note to our cats: STOP IT!)

But poor pretty Snowflake got sick with an infection and got to visit the vet today :( She’ll be better soon, though I have to give her pills. Last time I tried that she refused to swallow and instead chewed and chewed and chewed and foamed that little pill up to a hundred times its previous mass, snorting and flinging her head around the entire time. It would have been funny had she not been so desperate to spit it out!

I’m armed this time, though. We discovered Pill Pockets! Those things are awesome!

Lent Begins

Posted by: Richenda at Wednesday February 21, 2007 in

Ash Wednesday and my eyes sting. If I were a good Medieval woman I would now be scouring the market for beaver tail to feed my family during the lean days. Everyone knows beaver tail is really “fish” and not meat, right? lol. Poor creatures. I imagine them loping around the countryside minus their tails. Alone in a mad medieval world with nothing to slap to call for help….

Not a very reverent thought, I grant you, hordes of tail-less beavers every which way, perhaps planning together a meat day vengeance.

I guess in my jesting I really am thinking how divided we have become from the
everyday rituals that used to symbolize a shared faith. I miss a sense of shared cultural religious tradition. Some of it was repressive and is better gone, that’s true. But some of it was wonderful.

Meal time used to be an important shared experience, and lean days were meant to be a shared symbol of piety. Think how the bells of the village church used to ring out!

Now, our shared experience is a trip to Starbucks or the mall. Flippancy is what we are left with… Or savage, nihilistic irony…

(Question:What do es a ‘lean day’ look like in today’s America? What are the harmful excesses—no processed cheese or unnecessary packaging?)

Kudos to Bryan our pastor for the Ash Wednesday service. I liked its simplicity. And I liked the chance to just sit in contemplation for a while. I can see why people were drawn to the monastic life.

First Post

Posted by: Richenda at Monday February 19, 2007 in

Well, it took me all day but the upside is that I have finally figured out how to implement a basic starter design and get the ball rolling. CSS?! I had my first brush with it today. I feel like I spent the day in a forum, all right: the Roman Forum…wrestling lions. As a consequence, I’m really too tired to write now.

(Note to my oldest child: ‘Pancreas’ was not an ancient Roman warrior.)

Hm…Neither was spleen, come to think of it!

This, then, is my first blog. I haven’t quite decided what direction to take. History? Life? Maybe offer some critique for those who might want someone to look at their work and don’t mind sharing the results publicly? I’m a writer after all. And a darned good story analyst.

So I have to decide what, exactly, I’m planning to do here. Suggestions?

Oh, and I should probably introduce myself. I love history. I love books. I love my children. I’m married to a cutie pie musician. I like morning thunderstorms and spring rain in the afternoon. I like ferns and johnny jump ups and fistfuls of black eyed susans.


And volcanoes. I like those, too.

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