JF Ptak Science Books Post 1645
Apropos of nothing whatsoever, I’d like to look at four “first” F’s. the first is the first known published image of a fork , or forcina in Italian. This was a prickish utensil (seen in the image at the bottom-right), hiding none of its stabbing qualities with a middle tine, and shows for us all its direct decent from Mother Knife. It appears in the Opera dell'arte del cucinare by the great Renaissance chef and cook to Pope Pius V Bartolomeo Scappi (c. 1500 – 13 April 1577, buried in the church of SS. Vincenzo ad Anastasio alla Regola, dedicated to cooks and bakers) was published in 1573.
In the book he lists approximately 1000 recipes of the Renaissance cuisine (some of which, for Renaissance salads, appear at bottom) includes many images of kitchenware, the fork being perhaps the most famous. (I used to know the first time that a fork appeared in a painting--of the Last Supper of course, but I've forgotten, though it does come right on the heals of Scappi.)
The second unrelated but interesting first “F” is perhaps the first image of a modern, canon-proofed fort, by none other than Albrecht Durer. This image appears in 1527 in his Etliche underricht zu bestestigung der Stat, Schloss und Flecken, and although his designs were impracticable (massive and massively expensive forts and fortified cities; pretty but very costly), there were certain elements of the work that were very useful—namely, the new face of some of te walls that he offered to the modern canons of the 1520’s. These weapons were vast improvements over their earlier brethren, and Durer responded to the extra and more accurate firepower by lowering and thickening the walls and giving them greater slope—this would aid in deflecting many of the shots that were not directly spot-on, and also would improve the chances of the fort’s survival against those hits by having thicker walls.
The third F is slightly related to Durer’s fort walls—this is the first appearance of the word “fission”. It appeared as so many of these sorts of 20th century announcements appeared with great sotto voce--this one, in a “Letter to the Editor” of the journal Nature (11 February 1939), by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch.
The communication, “Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction” wasn’t a letter to the editor in the conventional sense of course but was meant to be the quickest line of communication of an important result and thus appeared somewhat truncated though the great stuff of the announcement was made known and understood. Niels Bohr’s “The Mechanism of Nuclear Fission” in the Physical Review (1 September 1939) may I think be the first use of “fission” in the title of a paper.)
There is a very big story here with Meitner and fission and Nazis and the Nobel. This leads to our fourth F: and that would be “F” as in “Failure” to the Nobel committee who in 1944 awarded the Nobel Prize to (German, non-Jewish) Otto Hahn for the discovery of nuclear fission while completely ignoring (purposefully, I would say) Meitner, who really, by all rights, should’ve gotten the award, and probably by herself. This is a more complex tale than I would care to deal with now, but I think that it is beyond doubt that the Nobel committee again (think Einstein and others) severely screwed this up in favor of maintaining their dislike for people with Meitner’s heritage. (And yes, she was Jewish; Einstein suffered too at the hands of the committee, not receiving his award, unbelievably, until 1921, *16 years* following what was probably the best single year that anyone ever had in the history of physics, ever, and then 14 years following his great year of 1907 and five years following 1916’s paper. And so on.) Yes, Meitner hung on in a not-good way in Germany for six bad years 1933-1938) until she finally get the hell out, but that really doesn’t tell the story very much. The fission bit with Hahn and Strassmann is a little bedeviling, but it really was Meitner who recognized the whole thing as being the process of fission. Period. And shame again on the Nobel people for getting it wrong, again, on purpose.
Scappi’s recipes for salad, liberally quoted from the very informative http://www.geocities.com/helewyse/salads.html#Asparagus
Of the most perfect mixed salad.
Of all the salads we eat in the spring, the mixed salad is the best and most wonderful of all. Take young leaves of mint, those of garden cress, basil, lemon balm, the tips of salad burnet, tarragon, the flowers and most tender leaves of borage, the flowers of swine cress, the young shoots of fennel, leaves of rocket, of sorrel, rosemary flowers, some sweet violets, and the most tender leaves or the hearts of lettuce. When these precious herbs have been picked clean and washed in several waters, and dried a little with a clean linen cloth, they are dressed as usual, with oil, salt and vinegar.
It takes more than good hers to make a good salad, for success depends on how they are prepared. So, before going any further, I think I should explain exactly how to do this.
It is important to know how to wash your herbs, and then how to season them. Too many housewives and foreign cooks get their green stuff all ready to wash and put it in a bucket of water, or some other pot, and slosh it about a little, and then, instead of taking it out with their hands, as they ought to do, they tip the leaves and water out together, so that all the sand and grit is poured out with them. Distinctly unpleasant to chew on.
So, you must first wash your hands, then put the leaves in a bowl of water, and stir them round and round, then lift them out carefully. Do this at least three or four times, until you can see that all the sand and rubbish has fallen to the bottom of the pot.
Next you must dry the salad properly and season it correctly. Some cooks put their badly washed, barely shaken salad into a dish with the leaves still so drenched with water that they will not take the oil, which they should to taste right. So I insist that first you must shake your salad really well and then dry it thoroughly with a clean linen cloth so that the oil will adhere properly. Then put it into a bowl in which you have previously put some salt and stir them together, and then add the oil with a generous hand, and stir the salad again with clean fingers or a knife and fork, which is more seemly, so that each leaf is properly coated with oil.
Never do as the Germans and other uncouth nations do – pile the badly washed leaves, neither shaken nor dried, up in a mound like a pyramid, then throw on a little salt, not much oil and far too much vinegar, without even stirring. And all this done to produce a decorative effect, where we Italians would much rather feast the palate than the eye. You English are even worse, after washing the salad heaven knows how, you put the vinegar in the dish first, and enough of that for a foot bath for Morgante, and serve it up, unstirred with neither oil nor salt, which you are supposed to add at table. By this time some of the leaves are so saturated with vinegar that they cannot take the oil, while the rest are quite naked and fit only for chicken food.
So to make a good salad the proper way, you should put the oil in first of all, stir it into the salad, then add the vinegar and stir again. And if you do not enjoy this, complain to me.
The secret of a good salad is plenty of salt, generous oil and little vinegar, hence the Sacred law of salads:
Insalata ben salata, Poco aceta & ben oliata. : Salt the salad quite a lot, Then generous oil put in the pot, And vinegar but just a jot.
And whosoever transgresses this benign commandment is condemned never to enjoy a decent salad in their life, a fate which I fear lies in store for most of the inhabitants of this kingdom.