Images of the East

Muslim carpet sellers in Tbilisi. Dmitri Ermakov, c. 1900

On 28 October 1839 the five-language – Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Arabic and French – Istanbul newspaper Takvim-i Vekayi announced the discovery of photography to the peoples of the empire. Only a few years later also the photographers themselves arrived to the Ottoman Empire and to the other countries of the East.

In the bazaar of Tunis. J. Garrigues, c. 1880

Europe was hungering for the images of the East. After the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon and the scholarly and less scholarly publications following it, an Orientalist fever swept through Europe. The Romantic vision rejecting the Classical canon saw its own justification and source of inspiration in Eastern genre pieces and photographs just as some decades later Post-Impressionism in Japanese prints or Cubism in African carvings. As Eugène Fromentin wrote in his Une année dans le Sahel (1859):

The Orient is exceptional. It escapes general laws. This is an order of beauty which, having no precedents in either literature or art, immediately strikes us as appearing bizarre. All its features appear at once: the novelty of its aspects, the singularity of its costumes, the originality of its types, the toughness of its effects, the particular rhythm of its lines, the unaccustomed scale of its colors.

Egyptian photo by the Zangaki brothers, between 1860 and 1880

To meet the demand for Orientalist photographs – in the form of postcards, albums, book illustrations and models for paintings – was but one motif of the activity of the photographers traveling to the East and then settling down there in a growing number from the middle of the century. The fields of application and genres of photography became increasingly diverse. Archeological, geographical and military expeditions as well as rich travelers took a photographer with them, Oriental dignitaries and bourgeois had themselves photographed, and the largest journals had their own resident photographers in the politically interesting scenes. Amateur photographers – diplomats, merchants, missionaries or local intellectuals – also experimented with the new technology by documenting their everyday surroundings.

A beggar in Tehran. Antoine Sévruguin, c. 1900

In this new series we would like to present these people whose photos gave picture about the East for the West along a century, until the appearance of modern mass media. We will dedicate a post to each of them, presenting as many surviving photos as possible. We will try to attach contemporary maps on the region where they worked, possibly even arranging the photos to their respective places. And we will gradually link the post to the following map.

C. Radefeld: Neueste Karte von Asien, 1846. • Overview (4 MB)Original (15 MB)

A question

 Portrait of Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco from his chef d’oeuvre, the Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1611). From the DVD edition by Studiolum

“Todo lo daré por bien empleado, con que V. M. reciba este mi pequeño servicio con grato ánimo, dándome licencia le ponga nombre de Tesoro, por conformarme con las demás naciones que han hecho diccionarios copiosos de sus lenguas, y de este no solo gozará la española, pero también todas las demás, que con tanta codicia procuran deprender nuestra lengua, pudiéndola ahora saber de raíz, desengañados de que no se debe contar entre las bárbaras, sino igualarla con la latina y la griega, y confesar ser muy parecida a la hebrea en sus frasis y modos de hablar.”

“I will regard all my efforts as well employed if Your Majesty accepted cordially this small service, and gave me permission to give to it the title Tesoro on the example of other nations who have composed large dictionaries on their own languages. And it will be useful not only for the Spanish nation but also for every other nation who usually look down so haughtily on our language. Now as they will know it from its very roots, they will recognize that they cannot count it among the barbarous languages, but they have to consider it as equal to Latin and Greek, and they will also have to admit that it is very similar to Hebrew both in its expressions and its way of speaking”

It is one less than four hundred years now that Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco wrote these words in the introduction to the first Spanish language encyclopedia, Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española, “Treasury of the Castilian or Spanish language” (1611). The fact that he relates the Spanish language to the Hebrew with such a bold confidence will not be surprising to the reader familiar with the Renaissance history of ideas. For it had been well known since the medieval works of Saint Augustine and Saint Isidor of Seville that every language came from the Hebrew Ursprache of the Paradise which was divided into seventy-two languages only after the enterprise of Babel. The first Renaissance linguists therefore tried with every means at their disposal to unearth this ancient Hebrew heritage from the words of their own languages, thereby also laying the foundations of the science of modern etymology. The Tesoro of Covarrubias fits into this sequence. Its author does not miss any single occasion to extract in some way from the words of the Spanish language their supposed original Hebrew roots. What is unique in Covarrubias, however, is his generous declaration that the Spanish language stands close to Hebrew both in its “expressions and way of speaking”, that is, in its macrostructure and its style. I have therefore set to the Tesoro with great hopes to find in it a larger exposition of this thesis or its illustration with real examples, but all my research was in vain.

And no wonder. Some follow-up revealed that Covarrubias did not arrive to this generous conclusion on the basis of his own researches, but he boldly quotes here – almost literally – his contemporary and compatriot, the Augustinian Fray Luis de León who was very familiar with the Hebrew language and whose several Biblical translations and commentaries widely spread in manuscript in the second half of the 16th century. These also include two different translations of the Song of Songs – one in prose and another in verse – as well as a commentary written on it, entitled Exposición del Cantar de los Cantares. In the introduction of this latter work Fray Luis asserts it:

“…y pretendí que respondiese esta interpretación con el original, no sólo en las sentencias y palabras, sino aun en el concierto y aire de ellas, imitando sus figuras y maneras de hablar cuanto es posible a nuestra lengua, que, a la verdad, responde con la hebrea en muchas cosas”.

“…and I made every effort so that the translation complied with the original, not only in its phrases and words, but also in their harmony and mood, imitating its figures and expressions as much as it was possible in our language which, to tell the truth, is very much in conformity with the Hebrew in many things.”

When I shared my discovery with Pei Di, he immediately called my attention to the fact that the same idea is also found in one of the earliest Hungarian Bible translators, János Sylvester. He wrote the following in the translator’s epilogue to his version of the New Testament (Sárvár, 1541) about “the words that are not taken in their direct meaning”, that is, on metaphors:

“Az ilľen besziduel tele az szent iras, melľhez hozzá kell szokni annak az ki azt oluassa. Köńü kediglen hozzá szokni az mü nipünknek, mert nem ideghen ennek ez ilľen beszidnek neme. Il ilľen besziduel naponkid valo szolásában. Il inekekben, kiuáltkippen az virág inekekben, melľekben czudálhatťa minden nip az Maģar nipnek elmijenek éles voltát az lelisben, melľ nem eģéb hanem Maģar poësis. … Sok ez féle beszidnek nemiuel egģ kippen ilünk az Sido ńelwel, és Göröguel… az melľuel velek egģ kippen ilünk annak kedue vaģon mü nálunk is azonkippen mint ü náluk.”

“The Holy Script is full of such speaking, and whoever reads it must be accustomed to it. It is easy for our nation to be accustomed to it, as this kind of speaking is not unfamiliar to them. They use such speech in their everyday communication as well as in their songs, especially in the love ditties in which every nation can admire the sharp inventions and genius of the Hungarian people which is nothing but Hungarian poetry. … Several expressions are used by us just as in the Jewish or Greek language … and they are just as popular at us as among them.”

Pei Di thinks that the discovery that the translator’s own language is the closest one in its style and metaphors to the Hebrew, may have been general in this period. “If you regularly read 16th-century vernacular literature in more than one language, you will clearly see that their archaic way of speaking still used many metaphors in every vernacular. The contemporaries, however, usually knew only their own vernacular version to the extent to realize this, while the common school Latin was in fact poor in metaphors. This is why, when they discovered the richness of Hebrew figurative language, they may have felt that they found the closest relative of their own mother tongue, certainly in style, and perhaps also regarding its origins.”

Was this idea, the stylistic closeness of the various vernaculars to Hebrew really so widespread in the Renaissance? We want to ask for the help of the polyglot readers of Río Wang in this question. If you have ever encountered any contemporary declaration on the similarity between the Hebrew language and any Renaissance vernacular, please share it with us.

The woodcuts are from the Book of Revelations translated by János Sylvester, Sárvár 1541

Una pregunta

 Retrato de Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco, cuya gran obra, el Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1611) hemos editado en este DVD de Studiolum

“Todo lo daré por bien empleado, con que V. M. reciba este mi pequeño servicio con grato ánimo, dándome licencia le ponga nombre de Tesoro, por conformarme con las demás naciones que han hecho diccionarios copiosos de sus lenguas, y de este no solo gozará la española, pero también todas las demás, que con tanta codicia procuran deprender nuestra lengua, pudiéndola ahora saber de raíz, desengañados de que no se debe contar entre las bárbaras, sino igualarla con la latina y la griega, y confesar ser muy parecida a la hebrea en sus frasis y modos de hablar.”

Se están cumpliendo cuatrocientos años justos desde que Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco escribiera estas palabras en la primera gran enciclopedia o diccionario monolingüe del español, firmado por él: el Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1611). Que relacionara con tan pasmosa seguridad las lenguas española y la hebrea no debe sorprender demasiado al lector que esté un poco familiarizado con la historia de las ideas renacentistas. Es algo que llega hasta el Renacimiento repitiéndose desde los textos, aún medievales, de San Agustín y San Isidoro de Sevilla: todas las lenguas derivan de una Ursprache hebrea hablada en el Paraíso que se fragmentó en setenta y dos lenguas diferentes después del episodio de Babel. Los primeros lingüistas del Renacimiento trataron por todos los medios a su alcance de hacer aflorar en sus propias lenguas los restos de esta herencia hebrea, sentando, de paso, los cimientos de la moderna ciencia etimológica. El Tesoro de Covarrubias cae dentro de esta línea. No pierde ocasión de extraer como sea de las palabras españolas sus supuestas raíces hebreas. Lo que es original de Covarrubias, con todo, es su generosa afirmación de que la lengua española está muy próxima al hebreo «en sus frasis y modos de hablar», esto es, en su macroestructura y e su estilo. Cualquier búsqueda de una explicación extensa y razonada de esta afirmación de Covarrubias en las páginas de su Tesoro dará, no obstante, un resultado negativo.

Tampoco hay que extrañarse. Un vistazo revela que Covarrubias no llega a estas afirmaciones basándose en sus propias investigaciones, sino que utiliza —y de manera casi literal— a fray Luis de León. El agustino sí que estaba familiarizado a fondo con la lengua hebrea, y sus traducciones bíblicas y comentarios se difundieron ampliamente en manuscritos durante la segunda mitad del siglo XVI. Entre ellas se cuentan dos traducciones del Cantar de los cantares (en prosa y verso), así como un comentario sobre el mismo texto, la Exposición del Cantar de los Cantares. En la introducción de esta obra fray Luis nos indica:

«…y pretendí que respondiese esta interpretación con el original, no sólo en las sentencias y palabras, sino aun en el concierto y aire de ellas, imitando sus figuras y maneras de hablar cuanto es posible a nuestra lengua, que, a la verdad, responde con la hebrea en muchas cosas».

Al compartir este comentario con el amigo Pei Di, nos recordó de inmediato que esta misma idea está presente en uno de los primeros traductores húngaros de la Biblia, János Sylvester. Esto es lo que escribió en el epílogo como traductor de su versión del Nuevo Testamento (Sárvár, 1541) sobre «las palabras que no se toman en su significado directo», es decir, sobre las metáforas::

“Az ilľen besziduel tele az szent iras, melľhez hozzá kell szokni annak az ki azt oluassa. Köńü kediglen hozzá szokni az mü nipünknek, mert nem ideghen ennek ez ilľen beszidnek neme. Il ilľen besziduel naponkid valo szolásában. Il inekekben, kiuáltkippen az virág inekekben, melľekben czudálhatťa minden nip az Maģar nipnek elmijenek éles voltát az lelisben, melľ nem eģéb hanem Maģar poësis. … Sok ez féle beszidnek nemiuel egģ kippen ilünk az Sido ńelwel, és Göröguel… az melľuel velek egģ kippen ilünk annak kedue vaģon mü nálunk is azonkippen mint ü náluk.”

«La Sagrada Escritura está llena de este modo de hablar, y quienquiera que la lea debe acostumbrarse a ello. Y es fácil para nuestra nación acostumbrarse, pues esta manera de hablar no les es ajena. Ellos usan esta habla en su comunicación cotidiana, así como en sus canciones, en especial en los cantarcillos de amor, en los que todas las naciones pueden admirar las agudas invenciones del pueblo húngaro, que no es otra cosa que poesía húngara ... Varias expresiones las usamos nosotros justo como en la lengua judía o griega ... y son igual de populares para ellos como entre nosotros.»

Pei Di piensa que el descubrimiento de que el lenguaje propio del traductor es el más cercano en estilo y metáforas al hebreo debe haber sido algo muy general durante este período. «Si se lee sistemáticamente la literatura vernácula del siglo XVI en varios idiomas, se aprecia con claridad que en los registros tradicionales se utilizan abundantes metáforas. Los hablantes contemporáneos, sin embargo, por lo general solo conocían su propia versión vernacular, mientras que el latín escolar común era, de hecho, pobre en metáforas. Por esta razón, cuando descubrieron la riqueza del lenguaje figurado hebreo, debieron sentir que habían hallado al pariente más próximo de su propia lengua materna, ciertamente en el estilo, y quizás también en cuanto a sus orígenes.»

¿Fue esta idea, la de la proximidad estilística del hebreo a las diferentes lenguas vernáculas, realmente tan difundida en el Renacimiento? Dejamos la pregunta abierta a nuestros lectores más políglotas. Si alguien encuentra testimonios, declaraciones o citas que insistan en la similitud del hebreo y las lenguas vernáculas durante el Renacimiento y el Barroco europeos, por favor, que las compartan con nosotros.

Las xilografías están tomadas del Libro de las Revelaciones traducido por János Sylvester, Sárvár 1541

Clan towers

We have recently reported on the newbie blogger President General Yunus-bek Yevkurov’s having invited to Ingushetia the cream of Moscow’s bloggers who then published fascinating illustrated reports on what they had seen in the little Caucasian republic.

The strangest sight were the long, white stone buildings towering among the mountains like huge stone mushrooms or bell towers without a church. Most comments inquired about them, and therefore Ilya Varlamov subsequently published a special photo series of them.

Clan towers – родовые башни – or, named after the people building them, Vainakh towers, combined multiple functions. They were living towers, impregnable fortifications, watchtowers dominating the valley controlled by the clan. And last but not least sacred asylums where blood-revenge was forbidden. Ismail Kadare in his Broken April tangibly describes the asylum towers that once stood all over the Albanian mountains and where men sometimes lived for years without ever coming out.

The towers have generally three to four floors. The first level – or, in four-storey towers, the first two levels – are the stall, in the latter case the second level is for the goats and sheep. The next floor is the living room, here’s the stove. The top floor serves for larder, treasure-house and armory as well as for guest accommodation, with projecting balconies for the ease of control. In the middle of the tower there stood a full height stone pillar called erd-boglam – it is not indicated in the design below – which, apart from its structural function, also had an important symbolic role in Nakh religion.

The stove also had a great symbolic significance besides its practical function, like in any archaic culture. The wrought-iron chain, on which the cauldron hung over the fire, connected the heavens with the earth in Nakh mythology. Oaths were taken on it, and the remission of blood-revenge was also vowed on it. This chain could be only made by the blacksmith of the clan in the clan’s own forge which was traditionally the social center of the clan.

Often a larger living tower was surrounded and protected by a large number of slender, even six or seven stories high battle towers.

The oldest surviving towers were built dry, but since the 16th and 17th century, the golden age of tower building – which was a period of turbulent external and internal wars in the Caucasus – they were reinforced with mortar. The internal structures, gates and shutters were made of oak, while the floors of pine wood. Beginning with the 16th century, loopholes became more and more frequent, which helps the researchers to reconstruct the spreading of firearms in the Caucasus.

The builders of the towers constituted a separate caste. Their knowledge passed from father to son, no outsider could take over their craft. The name of the individual masters and of the towers built by them were remembered across the Caucasus: Yanda, Datsi Lyano, Dugo Ahrio, Hazbi Tsuro, the Barkini masters. They often became heroes of ballads like the famous Kőműves Kelemen (Clement the Mason) in Hungary and his colleagues in the Balkans. One such building master is the hero of the epic poem of the Ossetian national poet Kosta Khetagurov (1859-1906) who grew up among the Ossetian-Ingush mountains.

The towers were possibly built on rocks, not only for the sake of a good foundation, but also to spare the fertile land which “is worth as many animals as it can feed”. The foundation was done with huge carved stones which, according to a Chechen song, “were taken by nine oxen and could not be pulled away by twelve horses”. The whole clan had to participate in the works. The amount of stone used is well characterized by the Ossetian saying: “From the stones of a tower a whole aul – a mountain village – can be built, but all the stones of an aul are not enough for a tower.” The tower had to be ready within a year, otherwise it was considered weak and unable to protect its inhabitants.

Around the towers still often there is a stone crypt surviving. Not only the dead were placed here, but at the time of epidemic also sick people who were fed through the window, and in hard times even old people retired here to die like the Transylvanian grandfather in Ferenc Sánta’s famous novel We were too many.

Nowadays, most towers are uninhabited. The clan wars and external threats being over, the Ingushes went down to live in the more fertile river valleys. There are only a few old people sticking to their dwelling place or some shepherds left around to take care of them.

Good to eat

When you eat in the refectory of the Faculty of Arts, you know well you must not ask details about the source or composition of the objects shining on the plate, sometimes with names as stunning as “three-phase spine” or “Gordon Blue” (sic!), about whose nature and organoleptic qualities we promise not to tell more in detail. Beyond our professional obligations, however, our personal curiosity has also led us to try our teeth on some unusual meat. Now we present only a few examples from the USA, specifically from Texas.

In Lubbock (TX) we ate rattlesnake. There they take the maximum advantage of these reptiles: they make boots, belts, jackets, shirts and amulets of their skin, and paperweights of their heads fiercely showing their forked tongues. Even their poison, a strong neurotoxin, is used in pharmaceutical industry and is an object of scientific investigation. So it is from Texas that we have brought this tin. I must say that the meat is quite tasteless and full of bones that have to be carefully removed.

“Dale’s Natural Rattlesnake. Smoked. Net Wt. 7.1/2 oz. 212 grams. Ingredients: Rattlesnake meat in water; salt, brown sugar, natural smoke flavoring. Serving suggestion: Remove bones and serve on crackers. This product is the result of 20 years experience and my personal desire to provide you with the highest quality product available. I hope you enjoy it. A fully cooked product. Packed by Dale’s Natural Products. Brighton, CO 80601”

It was no cheap delicacy: some fifteen years ago it cost us $ 13.99
(The can is perfectly preserved.)

In Texas we also tried a liquid of more dubious origin, and probably very limited production: armadillo milk.

“From the Heart of Texas. TEXAS ARMADILLO MILK. Vitamin D added. Ingredients: milk, disodium phosphate and carrageenan. 5 fl. oz. Produced and processed at the world’s only armadillo dairy near North Zulch, Texas from the world’s only herd of milking armadillos. Milked by hand by the world’s only armadillo milker. Warning: The effect of armadillo milk on humans is not documented. Our research team has noted that women sometimes develop a driving desire to go to the woods in the dark. Men sometimes become nocturnal and amorous and develop an uncanny ability to follow women in the dark. If these symptoms are noted, order more milk from C. A. J. Enterprises North Zulch, TX 77872”

In this case we have to seriously question the honesty of the canning company. The milk, although of the color of the crema catalana, had the taste of the most ordinary cow milk. However, what we would like to try from the United States (at that time it was not yet on sale) is the following product. A third category after the hitherto mentioned two ones, the real and dubious food: mythological food.

Yes, indeed, an American company, Radiant Farms has begun selling unicorn meat, with such an overwhelming commercial success that the National Pork Board has filed a complaint against the advertising slogan used to market the product, “The new white meat”, because it sounded too much like theirs: “The other white meat.” Both ones, in our view, unfortunate. In any case, the sparkling unicorn meat does not seem very white.

One of the most exciting food lists we have ever read is at the beginning of the Arte cisoria (1423) by Don Enrique de Villena. It would have been surely of interest for Umberto Eco, had he remembered to include it in his The Infinity of Lists, recently written and simultaneously translated by us into Hungarian. It is quite long, so we only copy the end of the items considered as “viandas synples”, simple food:

Afuera destas cosas dichas que se comen por vianda e mantenimiento e plazer de sus sabores, se comen otras por melezina; así como la carne del omne para las quebrantaduras de los huesos, e la carne del perro para calçar los dientes, la carne del tasugo viejo por quitar el espanto e temor del coraçón, la carne del milano para quitar la sarna, la carne de la habubilla para aguzar el entendimiento, la carne del cavallo para fazer omne esforçado, la carne del león para ser temido, la carne de la enzebra para quitar pereza. De las reptilias: las ranas para refrescar el fígado, las culebras para la morfea, los gusanos del vino para aguzar el estómago, las cigarras contra la sed, los grillos contra la estranguirria, e otras cosas desta manera por ayuda e reparaçión de la natura.

E aun algunas gentes comen desto por sabor, en sanidat; así como los turcos el cavallo, los çitas el omne, los françeses las ranas, los italianos las culebras, los andaluzes labradores las cigarras, en Canpos los gusanos del vino, en Vizcaya las lagostas, en Cataluña los labradores los osos, segunt que las tierras lo adebdant e la bivienda de la gente. E porque esto non es en cotidiano uso, paresçe estraño, pero cumple aquí dello tratar si el caso dello viñiese.

Apart from the above said things eaten as common food, both for livelihood and for the pleasure of their taste, there are others eaten as medicines, like human flesh for curing broken bones, dog meat to strengthen the teeth, the flesh of old badgers to remove the horror and fear of the heart, the meat of kite to remove the scab, the meat of hoopoe to sharpen the intellect, the meat of horse to strengthen people, the meat of lion to be feared, the meat of encebra [the extinguished Iberian horse] to remove laziness. Of reptiles: the frogs to refresh the liver, the snakes against morphea, the wine worm to sharpen the stomach, the cicada against thirst, the crickets against suffocation, and other things in the same way for the support and repair of nature.

And some people eat such things for the sake of taste as well as for health, like the Turks the horse, the Scythians human flesh, the Frenchmen the frogs, the Italians the snakes, the Andalusian peasants the cicadas, in Campos the wine worms, in Vizcaya the lobsters, the Catalonian peasants the bears, according to the circumstances of the places and the way of life of the people. And as this is not of daily use, it looks strange, but it was necessary to mention them for any eventuality.

It is striking that the text alludes twice, and without any valuation, to cannibalism, first as a remedy for broken bones and then as a favorite food of the Scythians.

“Witches roasting a child”. Woodcut from Francesco Maria Guazzo’s Compendium
Milan: Apud Haeredes August Tradati, 1626. The use
of human flesh for witchcraft is fully documented in the
literature and iconography of the Renaissance.

These Scythian cannibals mentioned by Enrique de Villena must have been feasting like the ones shown in the following leaflet published by Adam Berg in 1573. It refers to a famine in Central Europe and illustrates the events of Reuss and Littau, where the starving peasants butchered the travelers and – as shown in the upper part of the image – took off the bodies of the executed evil-doers from the wheels and gallows to cook them.

Ein Erschröckenliche doch Warhaftige grausame Hungers nott Und Pestilenzische klag so im Landt Reissen und Littau fürgangen im 1573 Jar (Munich: Adam Berg 1573).

It is also striking that, according to Enrique de Villena, Catalan peasants ate bears, apparently because of their abundance. No doubt, in the Catalan Pyrenees and in the dense Catalan forests there were bears, but we have no reliable records on their use in the Catalan cuisine. At this point, the most spectacular bear recipe we can offer to our readers comes from the pen of Alexandre Dumas.

Dumas traveled in Russia nine months during the year 1858: this was one of those voyages that one can not cease to envy. He visited St. Petersburg, Moscow, Astrakhan, Baku, Georgia and the Black Sea coast, eating and drinking in the manner revealed by his mature portraits, and all facilitated by the invitation of a wealthy Russian family – our envy here already transforms into an eighth deadly sin pending documentation. This trip left plenty of traces in his Dictionnaire de cuisine, where we read a eulogy of the tenderloins and hams of bear. Particularly tasty seems to be the bear ham that can be eaten cured (salted or smoked) or fresh and braised, as Dumas personally tried in St. Petersburg. However, the rich people of Germany had a predilection, he says, for a recipe imported from Russia by the cook of His Prussian Majesty, Urbain Dubois, who had previously been head chef of Prince Alexei Fedorovich Orloff. These are the paws of bear. The truth is that concerning this dish we have some doubts, as a favorite Russian dish of the Prussian royal house, whose recipe is transmitted by a chef from France (in particular, from Bouches-du-Rhône) must have been quite estranged from the reality of the good old Russian lands where the bear lives (even if the forests it inhabits are sometimes burned down). The recipe is this:

Clean well the [anterior] paws of the hair, then salt them and place them in a casserole, marinated. Leave them there for two or three days. Then put bacon and ham slices as well as a bed of vegetables in a pan, put the paw on this bed, and cover them with broth. Cook it for seven or eight hours on very low heat, adding broth as it is reduced. When they are well cooked, allow them to cool in their juice. Then take them out and cut them in four pieces, season them with cayenne, coat them with melted butter, and roast them for half hour over low heat. Finally, place them on a dish coated with hot sauce and some spoons of currant jelly.

Alexandre Dumas did not see his Dictionnaire de cuisine in which for many years he kept collecting his gastronomic notes (he only started to arrange them in 1869). This recipe documents his friendship with the famous Urbain Dubois, and once we have investigated a bit, we have found that our doubts about its authenticity was unfounded. It appears that it was mentioned in a number of traditional Russian cookbooks and it was also in use in the Hungarian Carpathians, as it is attested by this Hungarian recipe of “töltött medvetalp” (stuffed bear paw), provided with precise indications of protein, carbohydrates and other nutritional values for the sake of the lovers of reform cuisine.

We hope that these comments will not cause us a penalty as it fell to the owner of the restaurant Pipiripao in Oviedo for announcing that he would include in his menu meat of bear and of grouse, both species being strictly protected. And rightly so.

Gennady Pavlishin’s illustration to the Siberian tale “How the animals changed their paws”