An Organic Parable: Baucis and Philemon
Ovid, in book VIII of the Metamorphoses, tells the story of Baucis and Philemon. In sum, Jupiter and Mercury come to earth in the guise of poor wayfarers in need of board and bread. At every turn, they are turned away by the inhabitants of the village. At the edge of town an elderly and impoverished couple (Baucis and Philemon) invite the wanderers into their home. They give them the best of what little they have. Of course, in the face of such piety and grace the gods reveal themselves and announce their intention to destroy the village for its sins. Their noble, elderly and poor hosts live on as priests at the gods’ temple and are granted their one wish: to die together at the same moment. In keeping with the theme, the two rustics are transfigured at the hour of their death into twin trees forever intertwined with one another. It is a beautiful and enduring story.
ponitur hic bicolor sincerae baca Minervae
conditaque in liquida corna autumnalia faece
intibaque et radix et lactis massa coacti
ovaque non acri leviter versata favilla,
omnia fictilibus (VIII.664-668)On the table were placed some varieties of olivesand autumnal cherries preserved in reduced wine;there were also endive, radishes and a lump of farmer’s cheese,all served with slow poached eggs on humble earthenware plates.
One of the stated aims of The Art of the Rural is to ask questions about what exactly “the rural” is, and how it intersects with “the urban.” In the weeks and months ahead, I hope to post entries that explore how food (and food culture) intersects and connects these two terms.