European civilisation is built on ham and cheese
September 6, 2021 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Fun thread that touches on animal husbandry, hardback books, Phoenicia, alphabets, sea snails, underwear, religion, and glasses.
posted by kersplunk (14 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shades of James Burke's Connections here, and I like that sort of thing. Thanks!
posted by Harald74 at 5:43 AM on September 6 [9 favorites]


Why ham and cheese? Because whey is a highly polluting by-product of cheese which is much relished by pigs. A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles [Guardian review] by Ned Palmer explains that there was a calculus for how many pigs you needed to make 1 kilo of cheese.
posted by BobTheScientist at 7:18 AM on September 6 [12 favorites]


I have a sudden urge to rewatch The Name of the Rose...
posted by Molesome at 9:46 AM on September 6


So when Gutenberg set up his press in the 1450s, his customer base - and that of the printers who followed him in subsequent decades - included the all important 40+ demographic, who were, thanks to eyeglasses, able to comfortably read his books.

Without spectacles, Gutenberg would have had significantly fewer customers - and given that the economics of early printing were very finely balanced between success and failure, perhaps too few to make his new process commercially viable.


One of the key selling-points of the Gutenberg Bible was that the type was big enough to read with the naked eye. The very earliest surviving account of the Gutenberg Bible, in a letter from someone who saw it on display at Frankfurt in 1455, says: "The script is extremely neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow. You would be able to read it without effort, and indeed without glasses" (absque berillo).
posted by verstegan at 1:31 PM on September 6 [8 favorites]


Oh I like this. Thanks for posting!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:03 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]


Very interesting thread, thanks! Not to nitpick too much, but it seems a little glib to suggest that "X was the cheapest way to do Y at an early point in Y's history" always equals "without X, no Y". For example, if the sea snails were unavailable, they might have found other ingredients for the dye. Likewise with verstegan's glasses-vs-increased-font-size suggestion.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 3:10 PM on September 6 [6 favorites]


Yes, interesting, but seems a bit too much a "just so" story.
posted by maxwelton at 5:57 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


Agree - called it 'fun' because it's like one of those Adam Curtis documentaries that completely overstretches to try to piece together a narrative, but is still entertaining to watch.

Brb, making a ham and cheese sandwich.
posted by kersplunk at 6:15 PM on September 6


seems a bit too much a "just so" story.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
It was advertised as being fun, I came for fun, was not disappointed.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:21 AM on September 7 [4 favorites]


Fun thread! One assertion I take issue with is that syllabaries can't be used to represent entirely different languages. Thats just demonstrably false.
posted by lemur at 5:04 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


I think you can't take this to mean 'without these things, this other thing would literally never have existed' but more 'these things were significantly influential on the exact nature of the other thing, as well as the timeline and the geocultural realm in which it developed.'
posted by jacquilynne at 7:34 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


I think I left my pedant lying around here somewhere. Anyone--please let me know if you find it.
posted by mule98J at 8:20 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


I enjoy these fun Twitter threads, but I also like to identify the precise point that they descend into completely specious bullshit. Here it's:

One idea is that Christianity was spread by proselytising preachers who were able to hold their codex gospels in one hand (a scroll would require two), leaving the other hand free to gesture.

*Executes hands-free eyeroll gesture*
posted by phooky at 8:45 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


I took it as mostly in good fun but I guess the account has caused drama in the past among historians on twitter and some of them are looking at it as less amusing. I don't know, I thought it was a fun fribble but maybe the guy running it sometimes dips into jerk territory.

However, I am craving a grilled ham and cheese right now and there is none to be found, and I am mad about it.
posted by PussKillian at 11:57 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


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