The Folklore Food Blog: The Ass’s Brains

Every Recipe Has a Story.

Culinary Folklore: A Study of Fiction as an Influence in Traditional Foodways Practices.

In Foodways, foods eaten have histories associated with the pasts of those who eat them; the techniques employed to find, process, prepare, serve and consume. Those practices are taught through story often from parent to child or by peers and other media sources.

People who love to cook have stories of their own special ways of preparation, methods they state makes a dish special. These stories come from the home cook to the professional chef. There are also many narrative elements in folktales, ballads, myths, fables, medieval romances, exempla, fabliaux, jest-books, and local legends relating to the preparation and consumption of food.

Food is essential to survival and to one’s well-being. However, as several anthropological studies have shown, food is much more than just nutrition, ingredients and the factual eating; it is about social relations, ethics, individual choices and self-expression, and much more.

This study first asks; What qualifies?

In Aesop’s fable, “The Ass’s Brains” we learn how the fox had to make up a crafty story for a meal. Could he have done it with any other cut of meat?


The Ass’s Brains

THE LION and the Fox went hunting together. The Lion, on the advice of the Fox, sent a message to the Ass, proposing to make an alliance between their two families.

The Ass came to the place of meeting, overjoyed at the prospect of a royal alliance. But when he came there the Lion simply pounced on the Ass and said to the Fox: “Here is our dinner for today. Watch you here while I go and have a nap. Woe betide you if you touch my prey.”

The Lion went away and the Fox waited but finding that his master did not return, ventured to take out the brains of the Ass and ate them up.

When the Lion came back he soon noticed the absence of the brains, and asked the Fox in a terrible voice: “What have you done with the brains?”

“Brains, your Majesty? It had none, or it would never have fallen into your trap.”


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