Monday, January 21, 2013

Chocolate laced with ham

This is an interesting passage in Robert Johnston's 1815 book Travels through part of the Russian Empire and the country of Poland; along the Southern Shores of the Baltic. He was not, shall we say, a fan of Jews. For example, visiting a town called Belitza he writes: "The population is about five hundred, partly Jews and Lithuanians.- The Jews in this place are better looking than formerly, but still Jews." To be sure, he met with a great deal of behavior that, actually, are not uncommonly experienced by first world visitors to incredibly poor countries - petty scamming, maddening travel arrangements, and personal space crowding by people with lesser hygiene. At one point he complains about all the charges and surcharges the Jews impose for driving. In one case he complains that Jews later charged a fee for "a few blows which one of our servants had given the Jew at the time he overturned the carriage!"

And he writes of  almost equal horror at the Lithuanians. He seemed to admire Russians alone. After describing his disgust the Lithuanian boys, he remarks that they are similar to boys in Sweden. He says the women in West Prussia are "even pretty" but they get uglier the farther east you go; "from Konigesberg to Memel this ratio still further holds good." His travels occurred in the aftermath of Napoleon's retreat from Russia. In Dubrovna (near Liadi) he describes the Jews as follows: 
The common Lithuanians are poor miserable abject creatures, and are servants to the Jews. The Jews are all dressed alike, in long tunics of black silk, with a broad silken sash tied round the waist; on the head they wear a small velvet cap, and over it a huge one of fur; they neither shave nor cut their hair; in their figures they are lank and squalid; they all speak the German language, but are deplorably ignorant. Although it was little more than twenty months since the French army retreated from Moscow, and partly destroyed their town, yet they did not know the month in which it took place. How different from the Russ, who never passed a spot or a well, where any event had taken place, without minutely detailing it. However the Jews informed us of the dreadful distresses which their invaders had suffered, on their return, and the miserable plight in which they appeared; they only burnt seventeen houses here."
But I digress.

In any case, here is an anecdote about ham and chocolate; to be more exact, how someone slipped a piece of ham into a cup of chocolate. 


  1. In other words, to paraphrase a line from "The Help," "Eat my ham." Lovely.

  2. Lithuanians are pagan minded, they were great only before christianization of Europe, before 1500 a.d. And they are the same today, the only who becames priest here, have either polish, german or russian blood. Yes, we had a lot of jews here, in every town, about half inhabitants was jews. I like jews, I think they have important mission in this world. In Europe literature we have "eternal jew" image, in some important moment, cames out old man and says something.



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