Garum comes to Britain

A short history about the beginning of multiculturalism in the UK.

Goering once described the island of Britain and its people as stubborn and weird. While he was a bastard who didn’t really understand the deliciousness of butter; he was right about that island. Britain is a place with a long history of people showing up to help these weirdos improve their shit party. If it wasn’t for all these gatecrashers, people would still be eating lentils, and worshipping trees. There are still a few people who do this; but now, instead of bragging that they don’t read scrolls, they are smug about not watching TV.

When the Romans first showed up, it was to find out who were these assholes that were allegedly assisting the enemy in the Gallic wars, and to see if there were any solid resources to exploit. (beyond the tin that the Cornish sold to nearly every civilization.) As anyone who has been a world power will point out; you need to bring in steady revenue to support an empire. It wasn’t a one, two kick to the colei, sort of invasion where the Romans owned things with the easy cool of Clive Owen. It was more like trying to occupy Afghanistan, or Iraq. There were installed leaders, regular uprisings from the natives, while the occupying forces (soldiers, and other people from around the empire trying their luck at making some money, and a reputation for themselves) stuck to cities and fortifications.

Anyone who has ever attempted to create civilization on the frontiers will pine for the familiar foods from home. Be it cheerios, a sunday roast, or garum.

Garum was a fermented fish sauce that was produced all over the mediterranean. (the high end stuff that gave people the post-coital shudders was produced in Iberia) It was added to food by everyone across the socio-economic spectrum. While it was widely used, there were varying opinions regarding the product. Marcus Gavius Apicius practically wanted to bathe in it. Seneca hated it. He thought everyone was stupid for eating expensive salted fish guts that had been left out in the sun for several months. He was hypocritical stoic.The kind of guy you could wind up by saying as you walked past a garum factory, “Olfaciens fermentato pisces. Mater tua praesentes esse debent.” (I smell old fish. Your mother must be present.)

Quite a bit of it was shipped to Britain. The occupiers had to have something to make their emotional eating more satisfying when it had rained for the millionth time that month, or those tatted up half-naked Picts were in the mood to stab some intruding dicks from down south. (Much like a saturday night in Renfrewshire.) There is even some evidence that there were factories built in London to produce cheaper-grade stuff. (liquamen)

The Romans brought over all kinds of things, like varieties of snails, nettles, and rabbits to eat. They were small and (and like garum) died out not long after the Romans upped sticks when shit was kicking off back in Rome. (Funny enough the nettles and rabbits were re-introduced by the Normans. Their versions were bigger, and better. And stuck.)

It took until the 18th/19th century for Britain to take up fish sauce as a major thing again. The kind of improvising that chaps the hide of Christopher Kimball, went into the creation of Worcestershire sauce. There was a loose idea for a recipe, a batch was produced and considered disgusting. Then they did what the British do really well: put something somewhere, and forget about it, until it becomes valuable by accident. How do they do this on such a small island? There are people who discover existing second kitchens in homes that have been continuously lived in for hundreds of years. Then I remember that people discover wardrobes with effete fauns offering tea. British people are a bunch of god damn hoarders who get lucky. So someone decided, “Hey, I have a batch of disgusting liquid that has been sitting around for a couple of years, I should see how it tastes.” It turned out to be pretty reasonable. But not as delicious as garum. Which could make a dead man come.

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