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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Saturday, September 03, 2005

ancient beer, ancient politics, and a moment in New West

What can I tell you. Morning notes: A History of Technology and The Ruling Class of Judaea. What kinds of things am I keying when I do my research notes? Here is a section of compressed text from A History of Technology, volume 1, edited by Charles Singer et al.:

When farinaceous grains germinate, an enzyme, diastase, converts part of the starch into the sugar maltose or malt-sugar. Malting is the reproduction of this natural process under controlled conditions. Malting is older than the baking of loaves of bread: it was intended to make cereals and other seeds or fruits more palatable. Such foodstuffs can be made pleasanter and more digestible by the germination induced on prolonged soaking in water, to which salt or lye may be added. The nutritional value of farinaceous grains thus germinated is greatly improved. The product could be preserved after drying, ground into groats or flour, and subsequently made into dough for baking. Germination could also be effected by sprinkling the grain with water and leaving it to stand, protected from direct sunlight. The cakes made in this way are a kind of "durable bread," which was anciently used among other travel-provisions such as groats and dried bread.

Interesting, no? I'm glad to have found this series on the history of technology, for technology does strongly give a feeling of time and sometimes place. I'm happy to read about technologies that are much older than the period of my story, for they will still have been current, somewhere, at the time I'm writing about--just as Stone Age technologies are in use today in various parts of the world. And I didn't know that malting grains--sprouting them and then arresting their germination--made them more nutritious to eat.

As for The Ruling Class of Judaea, this book by Martin Goodman traces the sociopolitical origins of the Jewish revolt against Rome of AD 66-70. Here's a representative (compressed) paragraph from chapter 6, "Reactions to Failure AD 6-66":

The supporters and opponents of one of the most powerful factions, that of the reigning High Priest Ishmael b. Phiabi, are hard to trace. The main public issue over which Ishmael fell out with one at least of his fellow Jewish leaders was the building of a tower by Agrippa II to enable him to see into the Temple and watch the priests performing their sacrifices, but the complaint by Ishmael was probably only an excuse for a quarrel.

This chapter sifts through the factional infighting in Judea in the decades leading up to the great revolt against Rome. The style of politics will still be relevant to my look at what was going on in the country 100 years earlier.

Kimmie and I went out to IHOP in New Westminster for breakfast (damn--overate again; should have split an omelette; learning disability), then walked the streets, as we so enjoy. I'll close out with a prose sketch:


K & I have decided to sit on the dry lawn of the park overlooking the busy traffic of Royal Ave. K wanted to sit here so she can look across the carless ribbon of Park Row at English Corners, the great cocoa-icing mansion tucked behind its half-screen of trees. Two trucks and a car are parked on the indefinite ground in front of the tucked-away porch.

There is a triangle of public lawn extending to the acute point where Park Row joins Royal. Four mature trees blanket it in shade. A lone bench stands empty at the center of the triangle.

The sun comes and goes as patches of high cumulus migrate across the sky. When the sun shines it's warm; the shadow of my pen and hand on this cream paper is sharp and dark. Breeze swishes through the leaves of the nearby trees.

Across Royal: the distant prospect of Surrey across the river: stands and chains of fir-trees interspersed with patches of pastel-roofed houses and open spaces of commerce.

Kimmie has sauntered off to check the name of the street on the blue sign off to the left. It's actually Park Row, not 1st.

Ready to move on.


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