01 June 2011

1 June - Kalends of June

This is the Eve of the Feast of Our Lord's Ascension into Heaven, and traditionally a day to give alms, in anticipation of the feast.

Since beans are part of the celebration today (see below), consider donating cans of baked beans to the local soup kitchen or St. Vincent de Paul Society.  And please remember that gift cards to the local supermarket can always be used to fill in the shelves as needed.  Trust me.  There is great need.

Weather: If it rains on the 1st of June, there will be fifty-seven rains in June, July, and August.

If it rains on the first three days of June, there will be no wild grapes.
On the Kalends of June, Romans of the Republic honored Carna, an ancient goddess who protected the internal organs from disease, and in children, from assaults by vampire-like creatures called striges. Macrobias says in his Saturnalia: "Prayers are offered to this goddess for the good preservation of liver, heart, and other internal organs of our bodies.  Her sacrifices are bean-meal and lard, because this is the best food for the nourishment of the body."

[How far we have come!  Today, lard is considered especially bad for the heart.]

He continues: "Among the common people also, the kalends of June are called the bean kalends [Kalendae Fabariae], because during that month, full-sized beans are used among sacred offerings."

Ovid explains that in the old days:
"Pigs were prized; men feasted on slaughtered swine;
The earth only yielded beans and hard grains.
They say that whoever eats these two foods together
At the Kalends, in this sixth month, will have sweet digestion."

Well, I don't know what sweet digestion the Romans had.  I do know what beans tend to do to the digestions of my acquaintance.  Without being too indelicate here, I have come across an Old-World belief that expelling the air from the body (in ways we would consider rude) was good for the heart; it is 'holding it in' that creates heart problems.  Perhaps the ancient Romans subscribed to that belief, as well.

Be that as it may, beans and pork are a natural combination.  Salt pork, ham hocks and shanks, bacon slices and bacon fat - all show up in recipes for baked beans, bean soups, and beans-and-rice dishes, while cans of generic pork'n'beans (including the - shudder - 'heart healthy' no sodium, no fat, no taste) are a staple at any barbecue.

The beans that the Romans would have known we call 'fave' or 'fava', from faba, which in itself just means 'bean'.  Another name for them is "Broad Beans" or less kindly, "Horse Beans" (the dried beans used in most recipes today were unknown to the Old World until the late 15th century).  If you want to be authentic, try this recipe from Apicius for Aliter pisam sive fabam, which you can find at
"Nemeton: Home of Ancient Recipes".

The Widow being a New-World kind of gal, she's thinking that barbecued spare-ribs and Southern Baked Beans would be suitable for the Kalends.

Here's to your sweet digestion.