March 06, 2007

Fames optimus est coquus

In English: Hunger is the best cook.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about fames, "hunger," the teacher of all arts. As this proverb lets us know, one of the arts that hunger is especially able to teach is the art of cooking! A variant on this saying is esuriens stomachus fertur coquus optimus esse, "a hungry stomach is said to be the best cook."

A familiar English saying, of course, is "hunger is the best sauce," meaning that if you are hungry, anything you are served will taste good. I think I like the Latin saying about hunger being the best cook better than this one. The idea here is not that if you are hungry, you will eat whatever anyone gives you to eat; instead, the idea is that if you get hungry enough, you might just learn how to cook. As someone who is cooking-challenged, I need all the help I can get - including hunger! - to inspire me to tackle a task in the kitchen.

One of my nicest memories of a graduate school course in Latin was when one of the students decided to use the old Roman cookbook by Apicius to make us a treat to eat in class, a Roman libum, "cake," that was sweetened with honey. It was delicious, and so much fun! Together we read some of the recipes from the Apicius, and you can find the Latin text of this ancient Roman text, De re coquinaria, online at Bibliotheca Augustana. If you are interested in trying some recipes yourself, you might not want to trust entirely to your Latin translating abilities, as there are English translations available, and recipes that have been adapted to reflect more modern kitchen practices, as in this list of dishes adapted from Apicius.

So hoping you had a very nice breakfast, lunch or dinner (depending on what time of day you might be reading this post), here is today's proverb read out loud:

179. Fames optimus est coquus.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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