They got a bum rat.

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The ostensible reason for this post? Vindication for the rat, but scroll down for the subsidiary purpose.

Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats’, by Victoria Gill (BBC News)

Rats were not to blame for the spread of plague during the Black Death, according to a study.

The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe.

But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be “largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice”.

The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, uses records of its pattern and scale.

The Black Death claimed an estimated 25 million lives, more than a third of Europe’s population, between 1347 and 1351.

One simply cannot miss an opportunity to remind the world about the existence of Brennivín, or Black Death schnapps from Iceland. It’s what you do on a snow DAY, not to mention all winter long UP NORTH.

One evening, Einar came out from his basement lair, brandishing a sea-glass green bottle with a black label that read “Brennivín.”

“Want to drink some Black Death?” he asked.

“What the fuck is that?” one of our friends blurted.

Without waiting for the answer, the four people huddled in the kitchen unanimously agreed that we did. Visions of my Nordic former-roommate staring at his computer screen licking flecks of dried fish flakes off his fingertips flashed before my eyes while he opened the bottle. It seemed unlikely to me that anything out of Einar’s homeland would be delicious. I recalled too, the urban legend—I could only assume it amounted to as much—of fermented slabs of shark served for dinner. I don’t remember what we drank the Black Death out of—glasses, shots, or swigs from the bottle perhaps—but it tasted like licorice. I later learned that it is known as Brennivín, an unsweetened schnapps made out of potato mash that is flavored with caraway seeds, cumin, angelica, and a slew of other herbs native to Iceland. What I do recall from that evening involved hightailing it out of the party and into a cab back to my house in Northern Manhattan where I, inexplicably invigorated, spent the next two hours trying to master the complicated clapping rhythm that begins around 4:26 of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” Einar never explained why it’s locally referred to as the “Black Death” amongst Icelanders, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the name, Brennivín, translates into “burning wine.” The beverage tastes more like mild rye licorice than liquefied bubonic plague.

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