Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Twenty Six

I return to the page with a recipe for biscuits, as promised. But first a brief history of hardtack through the ages.

All armies, whether travelling by land or water, require feeding. A certain degree of living off the bounty of the conquered land is expected, but that is variable and dependent on the season and so rations of some measure are always required. Spoilage of food is the constant scourge or any camp cook. And so biscuits came about, a concoction of flour and water baked until hard as a rock so that it wouldn’t spoil. That made it easy to carry and also provided a handy projectile if one was desperate. The Egyptian navy had dhourra cake and the Romans had buccellum, and later civilizations all followed suit, crafting granite breads that could only be eaten by softening them in tea or under some gravy.  

We have grown soft since those days, only rarely risking scurvy, and our biscuits have become softer as a result. The ones my ancestors made in their cast iron skillets upon the empty plains of the Lost Quarter were light as air, crumbling in the mouth. Nearly a delicacy. They are good with just a bit of butter and honey and they make a nice bread for sandwiches, or a complement to a hearty stew or soup.

Food for harvest when the days are long and time for eating is short. For like the armies of old, when it is time to harvest, everyone gathers to work, staying in the fields so long as there is light and sometimes longer. For frost and winter are coming and the crops must be taken off before they arrive.

I can recall many lunches spent in the newly shorn stubble of a wheat field sitting upon flimsy lawn chairs, plates in our laps. There is a stew of beef, potatoes and carrots, with a thick, dark gravy spreading to the edges of the plate. Balanced on that edge is a biscuit or two to mop everything up.

Ah, but I have somehow managed to blather on too long again and now must tend to my own crops, the seeds that I am germinating to grow potted tomatoes and herbs when spring at last arrives.

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