In these troubled times, the world could use a spoonful of the milk of human kindness–or at least the milk soup of Swiss diplomacy. This timely article describes the early modern legend of Milchsuppe, a soup made of milk and bread which has been nicknamed ‘Switzerland in a bowl’, and regarded as Swiss as fondue, raclette, or muesli (but not the dishes served in Swiss Chalet, the Canadian restaurant chain which began in 1954 on 234 Bloor St. W in Toronto, aka ‘New York run by the Swiss’ (according to Peter Ustinov); nor puffy ‘fun-do’s’, which were introduced to Switzerland from the hirsute peoples migrating from ‘Hair-airy’, Zimbabwe, much less the ‘rack-lette’ of the so-called ‘mini Spanish Inquisition’ or the ‘mews-Lee’ eaten during the brief reign of the timid Feline Emperor of Korea, now forgotten).
Milchsuppe, the story goes, was created in 1529 at what became known as the Milchsuppestein (‘milk soup pasture’). A Protestant army from Zürich, followers of the theologian Ulrich Zwingli (who were given to ‘zwinging’ from one sect to another), confronted the forces from Zug (who naturally came by train) and other Catholic cantons in southern Switzerland. (Such religious divisions, it seems, overcame their common language–Canton-ese.) At the border of the Protestant and Catholic territories, however, peace (and pieces of bread) boiled to the surface. According to pastor-historian (and pasture-historian) Susanne Wey-Korthals, ‘[n]egotiations continued, but to the amazement of everyone, the infantry brokered their own truce over a cooking pot while on the battlefield….Naturally, they were hungry after the long march, and Zürich had plenty of bread and salt, while Zug had a surplus of milk from its farms. From that the legend was born.’ While the milk soup milksopping did not end the conflict (like Swiss cheese, the armistice was full of holes), the dish nevertheless became a national icon and symbol of Swiss diplomacy. Who could have foreseen that early modern Milchsuppe would gush forth into a bovine love-in of lait-ent (albeit soupy) sediments of broth-early (especially if cooked at the crack of dawn) love for each udder?
On this warm and hearty (if not quite cheesy) note, let us raise milky toasts (but not milquetoasts) to this year’s EMSP Honours Thesis writers, who have just defended their magna opera! The theses and their authors include the following EMSP graduates, who were definitely not panned by critics, but have kindly consented to being punned by the Director:
Beth Hawco wrote on ‘The role of African Attendants in the Dutch seventeenth-century Still Life’, as ‘Symbols of wealth, status, and imperial mastery’. She wisely steered away from the indomitable and imperialistic if oddly static metallic parasites infesting the hairpieces of Leideners in the period, known as Dutch ‘steel lice’.
Sam Gleave Riemann pondered ‘Madness and Music in Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno‘. Sam focused on the antiphonal ‘Let’ and ‘For’ structure of this enigmatic poem. We can clearly see, then, why this eighteenth-century English poet was sent to Bedlam, London’s notorious madhouse: respectable middle-class Brits could not figure out how to use a ‘Smart antiphone’.
Molly Rookwood examined ‘How Jane Austen uses the marriage plot to critique an unequal society’. This English novelist’s bitterness over social inequality was doubtless due not only to the unhappiness of early nineteenth-century marriages, but also her own money problems–particularly given her failed business ventures, including a factory manufacturing fragrant kitty litter enabling customers’ minor cost-saving (‘Scent-sand Cents Ability’); a business which stabled horses while their riders indulged in tense games of roulette (‘Bridle and Pressure-dice’); and a questionable dating service specialising in European clients seeking to meet inhabitants of the world’s largest continent (‘Pursue-Asian’).
Hannah Sparwasser Soroka‘s thesis was devoted to ‘Religion and Salvation in Spinoza’s Thought’, showing how this Dutch thinker’s philosophical system cannot simply be characterised as ‘Jewish’ or ‘Christian’. She also argued against interpretations of Spinoza as an estoteric unbeliever. Hannah could have added that he surely did not keep a hidden stash of albums with the music of Michael Jackson, Prince, or Madonna, as he was not a secret ‘eighties-ist’.
Verity Thomson treated of ‘Menno Simons, Martin Luther, and secular authority in Contending Reform movements’. Unlike the spiritual founder of the Mennonites, Luther was known as a ‘Magisterial Reformer’ given the patronage of German princes of what became a state-church. Less well-known was Luther’s hobby of pulling rabbits out of hats and sawing Catholics in half (though not reassembling them) before courtly audiences while ascending or descending the steps of their noble residences: for this, he was called a ‘Magic Stairial Performer’.
Daniel Whitten probed ‘The Implementation of Settler Colonialism in Ireland’, particularly in the early seventeenth-century Ulster Plantation. This period also witnessed King James I’s commissioning of the mixed offspring of large, long-haired, and rigid dogs from Britain and Ulster to replace comma splices with punctuation marks that separate sentence clauses when the latter expand upon the former, in a process known as ‘Anglo-Irish Setter Colon-ism.’
Congratulations to these authors on their varied and thoughtful EMSP Honours Theses (and their supervisors), and for surviving the pun-ishment (largely my fault) of the Thesis Colloquia!
‘Til next week,
Director, Early Modern Studies Program