So, Mike and Judy went out to eat with their friends Richard and Barbara last week, and Richard asked Mike if I had written anything about black cats and Friday the 13th. I hadn’t planned to write anything about it because it’s stupid for anyone to think that a black cat brings bad luck…..or that the number 13 brings bad luck. It is especially stupid to combine the stupidities into the double whammy of encountering a black cat on Friday the 13th bringing bad luck. The superstition in America of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day is well established. However, there is no scientific evidence that 13 or any other number is unlucky. In other countries the 13th falling on other days of the week, for example, Tuesday in Greece, is considered bad luck. This is equally stupid. All of this presupposes that there is such a thing as luck. It’s certainly true that unexpectedly fortuitous things happen to people, things that could be considered good luck. Likewise, unexpectedly bad things happen to people, possibly a result of bad luck. But there is no agency or force that drives this. You can take my word for it.
There are a lot of stories about the origins of the unlucky nature of the number 13. One that I have heard is traced back to the Last Supper of Jesus, the Passover Seder which supposedly occurred on the 13th of the Hebrew month Nisan. There were 13 people in attendance, Jesus and his 12 disciples. Since 13 is an odd, or imperfect number, this could be considered to be evidence of disharmony. Furthermore, one of the 13 betrayed Jesus. This was Judas Iscariot whose luck ran out shortly thereafter. There are other legends including one about the Knights Templar whose luck ran out in 1307 when King Philip IV of France had hundreds of them burned at the stake. Their crime had been that they had become too powerful and were seen as a threat to Philip as well as to Pope Clement V. Worse, King Philip owed the Knights a lot of money. The Knights Templar had put themselves in position of being the bankers in the Christian world. Apparently, Philip thought that cancelling the debt was preferable to repaying it. So, according to this legend the incineration of the Knights occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307 in Paris. The Grand Master of the Knights put a curse on the day and on the people who perpetrated the crime. I’m not suggesting that you believe the story. I’m just sharing.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, around the time the Knights Templar were taking it in the chops, there was a series of plagues. Some people blamed cats and an effort was made to exterminate cats. Thousands of innocent cats were murdered. (By the way, I’ve seen this phrase used, and I don’t really understand the point of saying “innocent” children or “innocent” cats that befell some kind of cruel misfortune. Of course children and cats are innocent. Why is it necessary to say so?) Anyway back to the bubonic plague or typhus or whatever it was. Ironically, by killing so many cats the rat population, which was the actual source of the plagues, increased.
Back in the days when people used to believe in such things, witches were thought to be able to turn themselves into cats in order to perpetrate their evil mischief on the innocent citizens of whatever community in which they resided. That’s why it was such a good idea to burn witches at the stake and kill cats. It’s not clear who benefited from any of this, certainly not the cats or the ladies that were unjustly accused and murdered. By the way, for some reason Mike thinks I should mention that in many cases it was the clergy and other spiritual leaders of the communities that perpetrated these crimes, and all in the name of Christianity. Christians today should not be held responsible for this. I’m just saying that just because somebody he says he is speaking for God doesn’t mean that he really is.
And since we’re talking about terrible things, it’s time for me to say something about cilantro. Mike and Judy are both cilantro haters. Judy says that it tastes like soap to her. This is a common perception among cilantro haters. Mike says he has never tasted soap so he can’t say one way or the other. What he can say is that he hates the stuff, that is, cilantro. He says the first time he ever ran across it was in a Mexican restaurant in Atlanta 30 some years ago. He thought that they had served him a salad with spoiled lettuce. Mike is normally a reasonably civil and well-behaved person in public. However, slip some cilantro into his food and watch him perform. He and Judy were out once with Judy’s brother and his wife and they went to a Vietnamese restaurant. Mike was very naïve in those days about what cultures include cilantro in their food. When he took a big first bite out of his spring roll he was filled immediately with such revulsion that given the choice of chewing it up and swallowing it or spitting it out into his napkin, it was almost as if the choice was made for him. It was an embarrassing moment. Then there was the time he and Judy were at a really nice restaurant and Mike ordered one of his favorite things, bouillabaisse. Mike loves meals where everything is cooked in one pot. Who would think that French cuisine would include cilantro? (Julia Child once said that if she found cilantro in her food she would pick it out and throw it on the floor.) Nevertheless, the bouillabaisse was inedible and Mike loudly burst forth that his entire evening was ruined. This was completely spontaneous and with no thought whatsoever. A nerve was touched. This sudden, forceful, and spontaneous reaction to taste must be related to the survival instinct. And people’s sense of smell is so weak that they frequently have no idea what their food is going to taste like before they actually put it in their mouths. People are kind of pitiful in this respect.
So, it seems that cilantro doesn’t taste the same to everybody. Mike and Judy both think that there is no possible way that people who like cilantro perceive the taste the same way that they do. There are other foods that are commonly disliked that probably do taste the same to everyone, but a lot of people just don’t like it. Liver would be a good example. It has a very strong flavor which some people find disgusting. And then there’s the issue of texture. Come to think of it, cats can be pretty finicky about flavors in their foods as well. There are very few canned cat foods that Ladybug will eat, for example. Shayna Maidel will eat anything with gusto that comes out of a can with a picture of a cat on it. Jackson lies somewhere in between. As for me, if it’s there I’ll eat it, but I like to catch my own fresh food. Farm to table, that’s my style.
Cilantro is comprised of the green leafy part of the coriander plant. Some sources say that the word, coriander, is derived from the Greek word for bedbug, and that the aroma has been compared to the smell of bug-infested bedclothes. I wouldn’t know. Mike and Judy both make a point when they’re at a restaurant and ordering of telling the waitstaff that they are allergic to cilantro. However, at some restaurants the waitstaff lacks facility in English, so they are still at risk. This is sometimes true in Indian restaurants, a cuisine that is riddled with cilantro. So, they really can’t be sure that they’ve communicated adequately. Mike now knows to only order tandoori chicken whenever he goes to an Indian restaurant. So far this has worked well for him. Mexican restaurants are another place that he can’t be too careful. The cilantro can show up in any of the sauces (or salads). Mike only goes to Mexican restaurants where he knows their salsa is cilantro-free. I’m told that some people who at one point hated cilantro eventually develop a taste for it. This is the sort of thing that’s hard for a cat to understand, but people tend to eat a much greater variety of foods than we do and they have a tendency to season their foods. They also will eat food and drink beverages that are manifestly evil and taste dreadful, and yet come to like them. Beer would be a good example of this. Actually, I have heard that some dogs enjoy beer. Mike said when he was at the University of Illinois one of the fraternity houses had a St. Bernard that they used to ply with copious amounts of beer. One could see the dog passed out around campus from time to time. I doubt if they would get away with that stunt now. At least I hope not.
I got distracted from my writing so this post is a little stale for Friday the 13th. Please forgive me, but I had other things to do, people to see, and other cats and dogs to visit with here in Happy Meadows. Nevertheless, I thought I’d put it up anyway, and I hope you all enjoyed it.