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The Whippet #40: Avoid the edges of tectonic plates

McKinley Valentine — 6 min read

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Good morning, today in controversial opinions that I am 100% right about:

There are two kinds of menus that are good:

1. The kind where there are no menus and the waiter/owner seems kind of mad at you for being there and gives you whatever they feel you deserve, and it's always delicious. I will also accept menus where there are like four items and they are permanently written onto a wall.

2. Menus with photos of every single dish. It doesn't matter that they're faded and unappetising, it gives you a general gist. Restaurants who aren't willing to display photos of their meals are cowards who lack the courage of their convictions. You heard me Vue de Monde.
Level up here is obviously 3D models of the food:

I was thinking about how non-English meals usually have names, like "Fettucini Carbonara" or "Beef Rendang or "Tantanmen".

Not sure if this is just Australia, but our menus list items like "Smashed avocado with mint and feta on sourdough with poached egg". The name is just a list of every ingredient in it. Obviously it's extremely useful from an intolerance perspective, but it's also a bit weird.

Oh oh! Exception: burgers! Burgers will have really over-the-top names that tell you nothing, like they're all the names of 90s East Coast rappers or Seinfeld characters or classic 8-Bit video games (these are all real examples, WHY ARE BURGERS ALL 90S NOSTALGIA-THEMED IN THIS TOWN.

Ancient Greco-Roman street food

This is a thermopolium, a streetfront shop selling hot food (thermo=hot) and mulled wine. The holes would have had big jars in them, containing (we have records of): dried figs, cheese pies, boiled eggs, apples, simits (giant pretzels with sesame seeds on), lentil soup, chickpeas, and sausages spiced with pepper and pine nuts - the latter have been found preserved at Pompeii. Thermopolia were rowdy places and a few Emperors tried to shut them down but without success. Photo of a different intact one here.
"Roasted or boiled chickpeas (seasoned with cumin and salt) were pretty standard fare for lower income Romans to the point where the phrase ciceris emptor (“buyer of roasted chickpeas”) is a disparaging shorthand for the poor. As an aside, the poet Horace was almost defensive about his consumption of chickpeas, perhaps out of some early tinge of working class pride."

In Ancient Rome, there were vendors selling everything from wine by the glass to hot chickpeas by the plateful for as little as an ass (the smallest Roman denomination). There was such fierce competition between venders that food in Rome was cheap. In Pompeii, archaeologists have discovered some 200 bars, taverns and shops where you could be fast food, quite a number for a town of 12,000 people.

Source: the extremely well moderated r/AskHistorians, one of the few subreddits I can unequivocally recommend and tell you to read the comments.

The image on the wall is a shrine to the vendor's household gods, flanked by Mercury (god of commerce) and Bacchus (god of wine).

Recreate Ancient Roman recipes

Pass the Garum is a blog by an... archaeoculinarist?? Someone who translates and recreates historically accurate ancient recipes.

Pure salt was really expensive, and most Romans served their food with garum, a fermented fish sauce which we know tasted pretty much identical to the fish sauce you get in Thai and Vietnamese cooking: if you've tasted that, you've tasted Ancient Roman cooking.

How can I become a fossil?

"Only an estimated one bone in a billion gets fossilised. By that calculation the entire fossil legacy of the 320-odd million people alive in the US today will equate to approximately 60 bones – or a little over a quarter of a human skeleton."

"Obviously the first step is dying, but you can’t die just anywhere. Picking the perfect environment is key. Water is one important thing to consider. If you die in a dry environment, once you’ve been picked over by scavengers, your bones will probably weather away at the surface. Instead, most experts agree you need to get swiftly smothered in sand, mud and sediments."

"Generally anything up to around 50,000 years old is what’s known as a ‘subfossil’. These are largely still made up of the original tissues of the organism. Extinct Pleistocene megafauna found in caves – such as giant ground sloths in South America, cave bears in Europe, and marsupial lions in Australia – are good examples."

"However, if you want your remains to become a fossil that lasts for millions of years, then you really want minerals to seep through your bones and replace them with harder substances. Deliberately seeding your corpse with the appropriate minerals, such as calcite or gypsum, might be a way to accelerate this."

I can't tell you how charming and education I found this whole article. He got paleontologists to give their advice and it's excellent. "Archer even suggests getting buried with copper strips and nickel pellets if you fancy fossilised bones and teeth with a nice blue-green colour to them."

Please say you'll read it because there's too much to share here.


the king of water and fish and things
with his iron trident
grasped so tightly
slammed his second fist into the
bedrock of the sea
and I,

sitting up at the lighthouse
cold hands clasped contemplatively
on my knees
and legs dangling over the
churning black deep,

said “don’t you take that tone with me”

Gretchen Tessmer for Strange Horizons

Whale and ship-shaped pulpits

to represent Jonah / St Peters barque. These are in Central Europe. h/t @northumbriana

More info and image of whale pulpits.

Unsolicited Advice

Live in a way that you have decided is good

from Jack Druce's extremely good newsletter; always be subscribing.

"Running in the mornings isn’t necessarily fun, but it comes with the sweet satisfaction that you are living in a way that you have decided is good. There is this attitude that anything people do to stay healthy, comes out of a fear of dying, people love to dismiss eating well, exercising, not smoking as a feeble attempt to avoid death, rather than a sensible measure to enjoy life while it’s here. I know people who have horrific lifestyles, who tell me the only reason that people go running is because they’re afraid of death, which is true, if I wasn’t a gutless coward I too would be brave enough to spent all day playing call of duty in a dark room, stopping only to jerk off and get high, like a hero would. Instead of that I’m challenging myself physically and mentally, like the spineless dog I am."

This is a bit of a cop out but I just didn't have any advice this week! Other than "for god's sake get some sleep".

You can buy tickets to Jack Druce's Melbourne International Comedy Festival show here: I will be going too.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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