Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Venezuela and potatoes

I am currently reading Rivers of Gold by Hugh Thomas. It describes the first two generations of the Spanish encounter with the New World. Here are a couple of fascinating snippets:


There are certain roots which the natives call batatas and grow
spontaneously. The first time I saw them I took them for Milanese turnips or huge mushrooms. No matter how they are cooked, roasted or boiled, they are equal to any delicacy or indeed to any other food. Their skins are tougher than
mushrooms or turnips, and are earth-coloured while the inside is quite white.
When raw, they taste like green chestnuts, only sweeter.

Cavan tambien de la tierra unas raices que nacen naturalmente y los indígenas las llaman batatas; cuando yo las vi, las juzgué nabos de Lombardia o gruesas criadillas de la tierra. De cualquier modo que se aderecen asadas o cocidas no hay pasteles ni nigun otro manjar de mas suavidad y dulzura. La piel es algo mas fuerte que en las patatas y los nabos y tienen color de tierra, pero la carne es muy blanca.

This is the first European description of the potato, recently brought back to Spain from the New World. By Peter Martyr, c.1513 quoted in Rivers of Gold p.373/702


1499. During the exploration and discovery of the New World:

Alonso de Hojeda, Juan de la Cosa & Amerigo Vespucci "landed too on the islands of Curaçao (where they found some exceptionally tall people) and Aruba, where there were numerous natives living in houses standing in the sea 'like Venice'. Hence they spoke of the mainland there as 'little Venice', 'Venezuela'. The name remained.
Rivers of Gold p.216

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