Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Vlad The Impaler: Just A Misunderstood Barbecue Chef?

The 15th-century Romanian prince, Vlad Dracula (a/k/a Vlad Tepes [meaning "the impaler"]), has been forever immortalized as a vampire, albeit in literature form, thanks to Bram Stoker. As the novel Dracula gained in popularity, so did the back story of the man from whom its inspiration came, and tales of his infamous savagery in war came to light. But recent evidence (see 15th-century woodcut at upper left) suggests it may in fact have been Vlad's love of great barbecue that gave him the nickname "Tepes" after all.

Shish kebab skewers were not yet the streamlined modern marvels they are today back in the 1400s, but they did the job—a job young Vlad Dracul came to love. Impaling succulent beef, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes became a dark obsession. Sure, being the Prince of Wallachia had its drawbacks—the especially hairy women, the Ottoman Empire constantly getting up in your face—but there was definitely some down time for a happenin' prince to cook up some great kebabs with Transylvania's finest ingredients. I hear his secret ingredient was wolfsbane. I mean, if you could have a delicious meal AND keep werewolves away, wouldn't you?

It's that kind of multitasking that made Vlad effective whether he was fighting hunger pangs or Turks. It may be quite a while for him to be fully recognized for his seminal barbecue work, but once this whole 800-year worldwide interest in vampires fad eventually fades, perhaps we can get back to reality and cook up some Transylvanian tasties!


Randy said...

If Vlad Tepes was indeed the champion of Wallachian shish kebab, his bloody reign shaped not only Romanian history, but culinary history as well.

Tepes' true archrival was not the Ottoman Turks, but the boyars, the feudal nobility of his kingdom. Boyars had murdered Tepes' father, and Vlad, ever distrustful of the covetous aristocracy, had many boyars killed during his reign, lest they depose him. Furthermore, Tepes may have met his end at the hands of boyars, as one account of Tepes' death records.

The main source of friction between Tepes and the boyars likely stemmed from their dinner preference. The boyars possessed a cultural predilection for canned pasta, which would have further enraged the hot-headed Tepes, who had an affinity for fresh shish kebab. Constant clashes in the dining hall led to political upheaval.

"Eat what I eat, damn your impudence!" Tepes ranted during supper in 1461.

When the unfazed boyars continued eating their canned meal, Tepes bellowed, "Fine, more shish kebab for me!" and began drawing his plans for revenge.

The boyars' legacy we recognize today as Boyardee, the delicious spaghetti-in-a-can product with a taste fit for a nobleman. Bram Stoker's Dracula essentially recast the life of Tepes from a shish kebab--loving madman to a bloodsucking vampire has obscured a 600-year rivalry between the menus of the monarchy and the aristocracy...which, even as we read this, threatens to tear Romania asunder!

Pat said...

The 15th Century sounds like a delicious experience. And with the invention of the printing press, there were takeout menus on every horse muzzle when people came out from the theater.

Randy said...

The 15th century has been voted the second most delicious century of the last millennium by a prestigious panel of food experts who eat a lot, coming in just shy of the 13th century, which featured tantalizing cinnamon-ergot bread and MacDhomhnaill's hemlock shakes (sadly available only in mid-March of that century).

Voted worst century for food was the 14th, with its TB dinners and chicken pox pie. (One of the few bright notes of that bland and tasteless century featured Domini's Pizza, the first pizza place to deliver; unfortunately, the entire staff promptly got bubonic plague and died.)

Incidentally, the 20th century, which was expected to finish in the top three, came in seventh...dragged down by cheap American beer and onion yogurt.

Pat said...

The 20th Century was saved by the McDLT. The technology of having a cold side for lettuce and tomatoe and a hot side for the burger was the kind of innovative thinking that got us to the moon so some guy could hit a golf ball and then come back.

Randy said...

Considering how fanatic your average golfer is about playing various courses, it's surprising that there hasn't been a stronger push for a return to the moon so they can play the lunar links. These nuts roll out thousands of dollars to spend entire holidays on the esteemed courses of Scotland, Australia, Augusta, Pebble Beach, and even Sri Lanka and Guam. Their entire lives revolve around playing golf on Wednesdays and weekends, and then vacationing for two weeks in some exotic locale that they never see except from the fairway because they're spending every waking moment golfing there as well.

The moon represents the ultimate golf challenge, what with its low gravity, huge crater sandtraps, and deadly bombardment of cosmic rays. Surely, some of those NASA eggheads must be golfers. It's only a matter of time...

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Double Eagle has landed...