SECOND EDITION / SERF UNDERGROUND JOURNAL / FOOD AND FAMINE

SERF UNDERGROUND JOURNAL.
FOOD AND FAMINE.   (SECOND EDITION)

Back again fer a second edition on a subject that interests a serf.

Fer maybe 4000 years, the standard of living of the average family living in Europe, Africa or Asia improved little if at all. It wasn’t much fun being a peasant and being a serf was likely worse, life centred on gathering and producing enough food jest ter stay alive.

In the West, as in Asia, whether in 1500 or 1800, yer typical family lived close ter the bread-line. Grain provided more than eighty per cent of the family diet, in Asia, rice,

in the West, bread, porridge, soup or in hard times, thin gruel. Abundant years were followed by terrible years. Even a good harvest was no guarantee of a good year. Sometimes granaries were invaded by mice. Tsk! During a mouse plague keeping a few cats could make the difference between local plenty or want. In times of want, planned marriages would be postponed to years of better harvest. In Western Europe, pre the Industrial Revolution, women usually remained unmarried until the age of 24 or later, resulting in smaller families than post 1800. (G.Blainey ‘A Short History Of The World. p 410.’)

Famine was a widespread and common occurrence. Wikipedia has collated a long list of famines from way back. There are the great famines of India, 1022-1033-1052, fer example, that wiped out entire provinces, the 1064 famine and outbreak of the plague in France which killed 100 000 people.In Europe in 1816-17, the year without a summer, 65000 people died, and as recently as the 1840’s,  four famines in China killed 45 million people.

                                          The Little Ice Age.

The period of the 1600’s was a bad time fer the serfs. Advancing glaciers in Europe were an object of terror. Glaciers swallowed up French, Swiss, Italian and Austrian farms on the foothills of the Alps. Villagers had time ter leave but lost their homes, their vegetable gardens and pastures.  Sometimes processions of villagers, singing hymns and led by a priest or even a bishop, would journey ter the edge of a glacier to pray that it would halt. (GB Ibid p 417)

Tony Brown ‘s research, ‘The Long Slow Thaw’ documents events of this period, known as The Little Ice Age,’  and evaluates and reconstructs the Central England Temperature record from its beginning in 1659. The highly scrutinized Central England Temperature Record is the oldest instrumental record in the world today. Tony Brown incorporates in his study of CET earlier  cooling of the  17th century LIA and prior a warming Medieval Warming Period, both identified by Hubert Lamb, the first director of the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, CRU.

Lamb’s study, based on CET ‘s temperature record and other observational data was later challenged by another meteorologist, Michael Mann, whose own research is based on tree ring proxy data and statistical modelling. Michael Mann presented a largely stable climate over the last thousand years with a sudden hockey-stick surge of high temperatures in the 20th century.

… Hmm, serf’s who’ve followed on ‘Climate Audit,’  Steve McIntyre’s and Ross McKitrick’s  critical analyses of Mann’s highly selective tree ring data  study and  hockey-stick – producing – methodology, oh and  some illuminating Climate-gate emails, jest don’t buy the hockey-stick interpretation. Read it yerself at CA and make yer own judgement.

Re ‘The Long Slow Thaw’s reconstruction of the historical data, Hubert Lamb’s study supports the climate variability shown in the CET instrumental record and historical records. It indicates, as Tony Brown notes, that the temperature record, almanacs, diaries etc, did capture the climate variability and cold periods of the times. And while Lamb (1965) did not argue for a uniformly warm MWP or uniformly cold LIA period, he concluded that the CET records had been ‘highly significantly correlated with the best estimates of the averages for the whole Northern Hemisphere and for the whole earth.’

The wealth of cross referenced historical data in ‘The Long Slow Thaw supports Lamb’s conclusions.  Tony Brown presents observations  that support Lamb’s research. Here’s Samuel Pepys, born 1633, commenting on an unseasonably warm winter,’ such a time of the year as was never known in the world before here.’ (p11.)

While couched in the personal somewhat thoughtless way people talk about the weather, it does suggest, as Tony Brown observes, that people had been living ‘through a long period when cold winters were the norm.’ .

Other accounts reinforce the CET record of particularly cold conditions in the period, as this in 1610, where John Taylor, talking about the hills in Dee-side Scotland,  remarks that ‘ the oldest men alive never saw but snow on the tops of these hills both in summer and winter.’ And this in 1595, from an Elizabethan preacher, John King, ‘Our seasons are upside down; our summers are no summers; our harvests are no harvests,’ (p11.)

That the LIA was a real period of intense cold and variable harvests is also supported by the European historical record, for example, the German chronicles of devastation, cold and starvation from the period before and during the Thirty Years’ War.

 

                POOR HARVESTS AND POLITICAL UPHEAVAL.

In Germany and Switzerland in the Little Ice Age, 25 peasant revolts were recorded,

A study by historian Geoffrey Parker, ‘The inevitable climate catastrophe,’ posted on Professor Judith Currey’s blog, ‘Climate Etc,’ (03/06/13) examines the  inter-relationships of poor harvests and political stability in the period. In France the meagre French harvest of 1673 occurred just as the King raised taxes ter pay fer his wars, with predictable results, starvation, rebellion and migration. Scotland, Ireland and England there had poor harvests and rebellion and in England, the monarch.

Charles the first was executed.

Political upheavals were widespread, from the disintegration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the collapse of the Ming Dynasty in China where the Emperor acknowledged that during the violence of the period about half the population perished. Only Japan seems ter have taken appropriate action:

‘Episodes of extreme weather that killed half a million people in the 1630’s persuaded the Tokugawa shogun to create more granaries, upgrade communications and avoid foreign wars in order to accumulate sufficient food reserves to cope with future disasters.’

Good policy by the shogun averted further disaster even though extreme weather persisted. Elsewhere, poor decision making by leaders was often a factor contributing ter food shortages, not jest the usual climate variability, periods of drought and cold or the less usual geological cataclysms such as volcanic eruptions.

                  SOME GOOD NEWS FER A CHANGE … SORTA’

Since the 20th century, famine in the western world resulting from climate variability has become a thing of the past. The West’s development of the steam engine as well as other revolutions in technology and the ingenuity applied ter daily work on the farm, has enabled food production to keep pace with population growth. The last European famine due ter climate was in 1866-68 in Finland and Northern Sweden.

Food shortages in the West since then have been the result of political decisions, events of war, of bombing and blockades, fer example, the British blockade of Germany in 1916-1917 and the German blockade of Leningrad in 1941. In China, in the process of industrialization, Mao Zedong’s ambitious ‘Great Leap Forward’ was also a policy decision that resulted in food shortages.  .

                      SWINGS OF OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM.

                                  THE GREAT SEE SAW

                                     By Geoffrey Blainey.

After 4000 years of living on the littoral, since the invention of the steam engine and applying new technologies ter farming, the West experienced greater prosperity fer populations, even serfs on the lowest rungs of society.

Around the time of early industrialization, however, there came into play an intellectual see-saw of attitudes, swings of optimism and pessimism regarding western industrialization that continues today:

‘At one end was The Enlightenment with its faith in reason and  the stages of progress, and at the other end was a suspicion of European civilization and the belief that it was travelling the wrong way.'(P16)

One of the pessimists, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, rebelled against many modern lines of thought. He believed that people who lived close to nature were happier, healthier, freer and more virtuous than those who lived in cities in civilized Europe. In these conflicting intellectual movements, Rousseau was the high priest of nature and Adam smith the high priest of commercial progress.

In the eyes of many European intellectuals and explorers, the inhabitants of tropical south-sea islands and the wide plains of North America were viewed as noble savages. Voltaire seems to have been one of the few French intellectuals of the second half of the 18th century who did not succumb to the fad for primitivism. (J.Aldrich ‘Voltaire And The Century of Light’. p228.)

Doyen of those believing famine was just around the corner was The Reverend Mr Pessimist, Thomas Malthus. Malthus argued that even if  the optimists were correct and the output of food did increase, the abundance would lead to an increase in the birth rate which before long would empty the grain warehouses. A golden age in the future would never be attained because population had a tendency to increase more rapidly than food. Malthus was writing in an era of large families and widespread poverty when the idea of importing food was usually impractical.

In the forty years after Malthus published his ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ in 1798, events did not prove him wrong. The Irish potato famine in the 1840’s caused perhaps a million deaths and even industrialized Germany and Belgium experienced famine in 1846-7. How a mood can change is illustrated in the writings of Irishman William Hearn, who resigned his chair as professor of Greek in Ireland to become inaugural professor of history and political economy at the new Melbourne University in Australia. Hearn argued that unfettered competition within nations and free trade between nations would lead to invention and initiatives which improve the lives of all people (Blainey p 49.).

Between 1850 and1890 Malthus’ influence was not as strong when grain flowed from the plains of the United States to the cities of Western Europe, and in the 70’s frozen meat  shipped in from the United States and Australia.

For almost fifty years, fears of food shortages were voiced less often in Europe but were raised again  in the 1890’s by a physicist Sir William Crooks, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Although the western world was  experiencing a period of increasing ability to feed itself, Crooks argued that the world’s wheat eaters were increasing faster than the output of wheat. The potential solution to increasing wheat yields was to use nitrogen as a fertilizer, but Crooks estimated that the world would run out of nitrates within fifty years. And so, though a believer in science Crooks became a precursor to a new group of doom-sayers  in the  20th century

.              DOOM SAYERS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.

Fear of famine was raised in the 1920’s by John Maynard Keynes, the young economist who thought that overpopulation was the cause of the Russian Revolution.

Then the 1930’s Great Depression in the West was a traumatic event that further divided left and right. About one in four workers were unemployed but Geoffrey Blainey observes, the proportion of the European population suffering malnutrition was probably much greater in the serious famines of the 18th century.

With the soaring world population of the 1950’s and 60’s, despite the death roll of World War2,  fears of future famine were voiced, notably by Paul Erlich, professor of biology at Stanford University.  His book, ‘The Population Bomb,’  became a best seller. In 1969 he said that if he were a betting man, he would bet even money that  England would not exist in the year 2000. The United Nations commission, responded to this pessimistic view despite the fact that in the decades of the1950’s and 1960’s grain production notably outstripped increases in population.  ( B p 229.)

In 1972 a book was published that had an explosive effect. Written by a team of four, Meadows and meadows, Randers and Behrens, members of The Club of Rome, the book warned of ecological and economic doom, ‘The Limits of Growth’ predicted  future food shortages and from its  authors’  use of the new computer, at a time when commuters were deemed to be infallible, its message had great impact. Later,  when many critics were able to dismantle the book, after a table of statistics in it were found to be erroneous, its impact was perhaps lessened.

Hmm, who does that remind yer of …

If yer’ve read Nassim Taleb’s book on  uncertainty and humanitee’s poor record in prediction, yer don’t need a serf  ter tell yer we can’t be certain what the future holds.

So how are Paul Erlich et al farin’ regardin’ their predictions?

This from Max Anacker on Professor Judith Currey’s blog, ‘Climate Etc,’ 20/06/13 @ 4.23am:

‘Population increased in a whopping 1.7x from 1970 to 2010 at a compounded rate of over 1.6% per year.But at the same time:Agricultural output, i.e. crop yields of major crops, rice, corn, wheat,) increased by  2.4x.

In addition global starvation rates came down significantly, (despite HIV/Aids in Saharan Africa.) world average life expectancy increased from ~ 57 years to ~ 68 years, up by 13 years.’

                                                     WHAT NOW ?

Ingenuity in farming techniques, improving soil  health and productivity by building soil, preventing soil erosion and increasing crop yields by  innovative conservation and no – till agricultural practices. Read about them in this post by Robert I Ellison.

Aka Chief Hydrologist.

07 | June | 2013 | Climate Etc.

judithcurry.com/2013/06/07/

Soil carbon: permanent pasture as an approach to CO2 sequestration.

Then there’s energy innovation.  Future energy use is essential ter our well being. The evidence is out there ter show we can’t put our faith in subsidized, in-efficient in-ter-mittant,  and veerrry costly renewable energy.

Peter Lang,  May 5, 2012

·  100% renewable electricity for Australia – the cost | BraveNewClimate

http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/

Let the market prevail and then problems will focus innovative response, seems ter me. And seems ter me that pragmatic govuhmint, not too top heavy, working ter keep the peace, allowing human ingenuity ter work fer us, is the way ter go. So that,

wealthy and adaptable, we’re ready ter face, come what may.

                                       LITERARY SECTION.

                                    THE PEACE OF CAREME.

                                              By mosomoso.

“One day it will be understood, Carême, this easy kinship of cook and statesman, such as you and I have always enjoyed. Oh, I don’t mean for reasons of democracy or equality or whatever. Flattering rabbles is not my strength. No, I mean something specific, though I can’t find the words for it. You know, when I’m lying I can find any words for any purpose. But speaking one’s actual mind is the very devil!

“It was good of Monsieur de Rothschild to invite me to dinner and let me spend this time with you. These days, a stationary ambassador, living in London, hearing and eating English constantly…Life is a little different for me.

“To think I am in a Paris kitchen again, with Antoine Carême! I’m sure your new employer wants me to represent his interests at the English court. Let me say, he’s going the right way about it.

“Remember Carême, those years when we spent an hour each day together, in the kitchens of the Chateau de Valençay? I still own the old place. Napoleon, who knew nothing of food, knew that France needed a display for its best produce and cookery. So he gave me the money to buy Valençay. Did you know that? It was his money, or France’s – or France’s looting, to be exact.”

The cook continued to stir intently, and his mind was more on his sauce, than on the conversation.

“Excellency, you had so much money at your disposal in those days, who could know…”

“I see you haven’t changed, Carême. The Prince de Talleyrand addresses you, but your mind is wholly on your pot.”

“Excellency…”

“No, I understand. That is the enormous, open secret of men who finish and achieve, as you have done. Abandonment. You have your task, and you are of one mind about the task. It is not a secret, this secret, because it is simple and obvious and nobody conceals it. It is a secret because men disbelieve its simplicity. Lesser craftsmen do not believe your degree of abandonment, however tiny the task. You pour your whole being into it…May I go on prattling, Carême?”

“Excellency, if you refrain from asking me questions or expecting comments, you know I love to listen to you. I have always found your conversation entertaining. But see here! The base buttersauce is perfect. It is like a golden ooze. It neither runs nor plops. Now I lay it in a warm bath, while I proceed to my reduction. I shall explain each little step, just as you asked. You see, I have bundled bay, thyme and clove. Here I have prepared a fine, regular dice of palest Gascon garlic, pale mushrooms, finest January truffles of your own region, Périgord, a little seasoning…but I must counsel you, before you scrape from what seems a fine, fat nutmeg, to puncture its surface with a pin, to ensure it has much oil.”

“It would not have occurred to me, Carême, this testing of a nutmeg!”

“Oh, a small thing – perhaps. Now, I froth some butter of Normandy, and add my fine dice, with the herb bundle. I toss it a while, neither frying nor braising…Tell me more of Napoleon, Excellency. I knew him, but only as a man replete, satisfied with his meal.”

“Oh, any meal for that gobbler, that pudge! Yet he was flattered to be entertained or served by celebrities like you. Did he embrace you as his peer, saying that there must be equality between conquerors? No? He did that with some artists and artisans. In certain moods, he was like that. Evenwith me.

“Yet no man was more able. You and I are capable, Carême, it is safe to say. But Napoleon had speed as well. He had no sense of leisure, neither did he have a sense of haste. He was fast, unburdened by past or future, almost…almost light. When he stood below the pyramids and addressed his soldiers about forty centuries looking down on them, he was the only man there who didn’t care a fig for those centuries. Had it suited, he might have ordered the dismantling of the pyramids. And found a way”

“That Egyptian adventure! It could have been a fiction, of the outlandish type we see written moreand more these days. But it happened. Napoleon in Egypt! I was a remote actor in the farce. War with England was the cry of a Directory which needed war to keep its revolutionary face. Imagine a direct and massive naval assault on England! So Napoleon and I, rather than expose the nation to a worse defeat than it has ever known, came up with our idea of strangling England’s influence and trade around the Mediterranean. And Napoleon got to go off and be an eastern conqueror, like all the best conquerors.

“Oh, I knew it to be a farce, but better a farce than a fiasco. I probably found a way to make some money out of it all, though I can hardly remember who bribed me for what, so fearful and confusing were the events. Napoleon managed to be Napoleon at times. He embraced a plague victim, to calm fears about disease; he brushed aside the Mameluke cavalry and, with it, the Mameluke myth…Yet he was more often Bonaparte than Napoleon. Faced with the surrendered garrison in Jaffa, he criticised his aides for negotiating the surrender because he could not feed prisoners. After some obfuscation, he allowed the shooting of some two thousand bound prisoners. The shooting soon became bayonetting – more economy! And it was the rootless Genoese Corsican called Bonaparte who deserted in the end. Oh, it was called by another name, but desertion is what it was. He crept back to France, leaving a hopeless situation for others. And he managed to return as a conqueror, as

Napoleon.

“And so, faced with a useless Directory or a useful Napoleon, I bluffed and threatened and negotiated for his elevation to First Consul, though it was his own speed and daring which brought it about. For a while, I was intoxicated like others, just less so. You know me, Carême. I always try to show the least zeal.”

“Excellency, I need to interrupt. You see how all the ingredients are tender in the butter, without browning. Now I add the palest champagne. It must be champagne – but not for lavishness. The champagne has a flinty quality one needs against the butter and the truffles. Now, I begin the reduction. The timing is all, now.”

“The timing! The timing…The thing that makes one a traitor or realist, a defender or terrorist.

“After Austerlitz, the least loyal and least zealous of men – I’m talking of myself, of Talleyrand -was inclined almost to exaggerate, almost to believe. But I was not deceived. History records Austerlitz as a victory, yet it made us confident to make atrocious blunders. History records Trafalgar as a defeat, yet it made us humble in our ambitions to attack England. Do you see how my mind works, how it must work?

“They say I have been a traitor to every institution and regime I have served. It is true, in the sense that Austerlitz was victory and Trafalgar defeat. But it is not true in the sense that is truly sense. Ihave worked for France, not for church, revolution, monarchy or Napoleon Bonaparte. And, of course, I have worked for money, for lucre, as a man should. Who is less dangerous than a man who makes money? I see you smile, Carême!

“Excellency, I was cast on to the streets of Paris as a ten year old boy. I made pastry to make money. If the pastry was good, that is a happy incidental.”

“And my preservation of France was a happy incidental to making money at my trade of diplomat. But perhaps I loved France more than money at times, as you may have loved a pouding more than money.”

“When one has enough money, a little love…Why not?”

“Carême, when Napoleon entered Spain, he exited my heart. I spoke before of atrocious blunders. Someone needs to hang a sign at every entry point to that Peninsular. ‘Here war is never begun, never ended, never lost, never won’. Thank the glory won at Austerlitz for that ignominy, that blot.

“After Spain, my only client was France, regardless of who was bribing me. Oh, don’t mistake me, I admired and even loved Napoleon. But I knew what all that brilliance was for: it was for the increase of death and the increased efficiency of inflicting death. I often think that the problem with Napoleon Bonaparte was that he was without a drop of French blood. Emotionally, he knew only an Italian family, and didn’t like them much, nor they him. Perhaps that’s part of an explanation.

“Six million deaths later, the nation was a common bankrupt. And if it were not for me – who knows? – France would be a collection of small constitutional states headed by imported inbreds, princes hard to distinguish from their horses. Am I being vain? That’s beside the point. Any man who buys a château and installs Antoine Carême as his cook is bound to be vain. But is he wrong?

“But now, it is about your sauce, your impossible butter sauce with truffles. I see the reduction is reaching a certain point.”

“Excellency, it needs to be swirled about more and more quickly, it must reach the consistency of a light syrup, but no more than that. I called it ‘Italian style’ because the Italians often want as much as one-third of chewable solid in a sauce, soup or puree. We French love to puree entirely…Now, I discard the herbs, thus…I bring the reduction to the butter sauce…I add it thus…I pour and stir and then beat in my own way, thus…Your Excellency must promise not to reveal this part…I mean, you must make a promise as Bishop of Autun, not as Monsieur le Prince de Talleyrand…With respect, Excellency, your promises as diplomat are more gaseous than my lightest puff pastry. They are butterfly farts!”

Talleyrand’s gusts of laughter echoed through the kitchens.

“As former Bishop of Autun, I swear! In fact, I am a bit religious these days. Or I am too old for my vices. Further, I’ve observed that men who are too clever for religion are seldom too clever for dogmas even flimsier than those of religion. But continue, Carême, with my promise secured!”

“Almost done. I manipulate a little longer…Can you smell your home in Périgord? Can you picture the stunted oaks struggling in the hard, white scrabble? The pigs grunting about the scorched root area? If there were no God, Excellency, there would be no truffles…Who but God construes such a thing? And now it’s done…

“The sauce!”

Carême extended the pot, Talleyrand bent over it and inhaled.

“Ah. Thank you, Carême. Thank you.”

He straightened and held out his hand.

“And now I must go, old friend.”

“Go? But Your Excellency is to stay to dinner…So much has been prepared…”

“Carême! You think, like so many, that I am slumbering away my final years at the Court of Saint James? I have business. And part of that business I have just now concluded – with you!”

“With me? Excellency, am I also to be the victim of your riddling? We have done no business here.You have not even tasted the sauce!”

“Carême, lately I have been told twice that a thing is impossible. The first time, I was discussing your sauce with a Scots chemist, a prominent man of science. When I told him the nature of Carême’s butter sauce à l’italienne, he told me that it could not adhere or cohere or inhere – orwhatever that Latin word meant. I needed to see, to smell, right here in your kitchen…

“Because something else is said to be impossible. Something else will not hold or cohere or whatever. Yet soon I must achieve it. But that will remain a secret for now.”

“Excellency! If you are to dash off in this manner, I must know why.”

Talleyrand considered for a long moment, or pretended to consider. Did even Talleyrand know when he was acting?

“Perhaps…it will do some good to share what lies on my bosom. And with whom might I more readily share it, than with you?

“Very well, Carême. I have a new mistress, though I am wedded to France. For you must believe I have been wedded to France. Others have wanted Empire in Europe. Metternich wants to preserve his, because it is there. Dear Metternich is a slippery old lizard, who loves his crumbly old rock of an empire. So, too, the Turk. Napoleon wanted to forge his empire, anywhere. The Czar will take chunks here and there – like a bear which slumbers and gorges by turns – till he meets the Americans coming the other way.

“What I have wanted, what persists, and must go on persisting, is the only thing I seem to have loved enough: an integral France. And to preserve that, I must make an impossible sauce, where none of the ingredients belong together, a mix doomed by nature – but made possible by art.

“Hear me, Carême. England wants none of the old bother of owning parts of this continent when she can own all the seas. This is her century now. Yet her need coincides with our need – finally. She needs a France left whole. We shall go on scorning one another, following our custom, our amusements. But our policies must not follow our emotions. See how Prussia grows, see how old arrangements further to the east disintegrate.

“Yes, France and England will be allies, perhaps forever now. A laughable notion? I know you have worked in London. You may know this Lord Palmerston? No? He is quite an amusing blend. He has the usual English hypocrisies, he is very ‘anti-slavery’, and all that. He is also a ruffian who will brook no challenge to England’s prestige and interest. Lastly, he is no fool. He sees how France now has a bourgeois monarch and a constitution, while very diverse commercial elements dominate his own polity. He knows our prestige-seeking will be the least dangerous of forces in future, limited, as it must be, by the constant rise and spread of the bourgeoisie. Let even democracy come! Let hell come!

“So France can be integral!

“But first I must make a sauce. And I needed to watch you make yours, before I made mine. I needed to believe.

“Carême, I go now to make concessions I wish to make, yet I must make the English and French think that it is done greatly against my will. Palmerston will see through me, but in his sly, merry way he will let the little game play out.

We want the same thing.

“In order to accept an integral France, England must, with our collusion, force great concessions from Holland. That little place called Belgium must be allowed to exist, so that England has little buffers against her great buffer – France! To all of this I will consent, while pretending to resist like some shy maiden who is sheer hot, running lechery beneath her white gown. I was made for such stuff, Carême. And I have a little final seasoning, just for France.

“Our inglorious bourgeois king, Louis-Philippe, has a daughter, a very shy little thing, but, in all sincerity, she is a good type. How if I were to marry her to the new King of the Belgians, once this Belgium place starts to solidify in people’s minds as a true nation? Just a little buffer for France, within England’s little buffer against France, her enormous buffer against all that lies to the east.

The marriage will alarm, but it will stand. A small, annoying thing for the English. Palmerston will have a good laugh! And we French have our childish need for such petty triumphs.

“This most unlikely affair looks good. Already I am receiving bribes from various parties. Not that I need the bribes – but it is a matter of principle.

“Carême, I said I have a new mistress, though I am wedded to France, and have always been wedded to France, far more than my sermonising critics.

“My ungainly mistress is called Western Peace. She is an impossible emulsion, like your great sauce. And if my wife, France, loves her not, she will love my wife.

“I must dash, Carême. Rothschild will not be offended, when he learns what affairs I can make for him in London – in exchange for whatever courteous little emolument his gratitude may inspire him to give.

“I’m off to make my own impossible sauce: a peace, an alliance, good for some centuries, between France and England. An acidic alliance, without belief, trust, sympathy or natural bonds. It can be done. It will be done. It will congeal, this impossible Peace of Carême.”

Talleyrand bowed his head slightly, and turned to go.

“Excellency. We are old. I am sick. So, just in case..”

The prince turned back around. Carême had opened his arms. Talleyrand nodded and advanced into the offered embrace. As he stood back, both men were slightly tearful.

Adieu, Antonin.”

Adieu, Monsieur le Prince.”

“Carême, this is monstrous. You have reduced me to…

…to sincerity!”

 So thank you serfs, and good-night.

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3 thoughts on “SECOND EDITION / SERF UNDERGROUND JOURNAL / FOOD AND FAMINE

  1. A compelling main point here: When people were living close to doom, they scrabbled to find some cheer and confidence. As we move further from doom, we scrabble to find fear.

    This has been a most worthwhile edition of the SUg. If Kurtley Beale had kicked that last goal, my evening would have been perfect. (He didn’t. It wasn’t.)

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