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The Curious and Sometimes Lascivious History of Vegetables

How Carrots Won the Trojan War

According to the historical record the soldiers inside the Trojan horse gorged themselves on carrots to ‘bind their bowels’ an important precaution, but other records tell of the emperor Caligula “who had a fun-loving streak, once fed the entire Roman Senate a feast of carrots in hopes of watching them run sexually amok.”

Carrots have fascinated more modern characters like Henry Ford who was anti-milk, and anti-meat, but crazy about vegetables, especially the carrot. At one point he was the guest of honor at a 12 course dinner, in which every course featured the carrot, from carrot soup to carrot ice cream, all washed down with carrot juice.

My husband insists on his daily raw carrot, and I cook up a pot of carrots at least once a week – and I’d like it to be known that cooked carrots are much more nutritious than raw carrots.

Rebecca Rupp’s fascination takes us way beyond the carrot as she leads us on a historical , and very funny, tour of the development, history and benefits of a host of vegetables. This amusing book promises and delivers a grocery bag full of Curious (but true) Stories of Common Vegetables like Beans Beat Back the Dark Ages; Corn Creates Vampires; Lettuce Puts Insomniacs to Sleep; and Radishes Identify Witches. I just love weird and wonderful stories about anything and Rebecca has given me more stories than I could ever carry home from the farmer’s market.

Rebecca Rupp is a noted children’s book writer, but I can see myself at a cocktail party dropping odd tidbits like Milton, in Paradise Lost, saying eggplants were the Apples of Sodom that Lucifer fed the fallen angels., that Thoreau grew giant pumpkins, and that George Washington was nearly killed by a dish of poisoned peas.

This weird and wonderful history of vegetables will entertain – and give you a good dose of real history. This was a perfect gift to receive on a snowy afternoon!

4 comments to The Curious and Sometimes Lascivious History of Vegetables

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    This sounds like a great read Pat. Funny about the carrots.

  • Perhaps more somber, but equally as gripping, is Chandler Dreadnought’s three-volume “How Turnips Won The Peloponnesian War”. This book, too, recounts apocryphal tales of vegetables: that Sir Francis Drake had mutinous sailors flogged with salsify, that the explorer Vasco da Gama determined his route from Europe to India as he was dining on Brussels sprouts, and that Enrico Caruso and Luisa Tetrazzini both believed their voices were significantly enhanced by drinking quantities of zucchini juice prior to their performances. Pope Urban III, born Uberto Crivelli, fervently believed that God spoke to him directly through a preserved rutabagas kept in his private apartments in the Vatican.

  • Pat

    Lisa – Many funny facts. Did you know the kidney bean (named for its suggestive shape) was actually once used to treat urinary infections?
    Flaneur – Although a longer work – did Dreadnought’s tour de force strike you as just a bit derivative?

  • Pat – Dreadnought was notorious for be something of a slouch when it came to fact-checking. As a gardener he was equally slothful – to the point where he was arraigned in his village (Booby Dingle, near Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire, and yes it really exists) for poaching beets, potatoes and purslane. Any charges quickly were dropped when he offered to treat the entire village to a round of pints at the village pub. He was enormously popular, however, especially with children and dogs. Naturally I deplore his liberties with history.

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