I read yesterday that the Elizabethans categorized five types of wit. Aha! I thought: the self-deprecating aside, the broad bawdy tale, the absurd jest, the clever quip, and the knock knock joke. Of course, this isn’t what they meant at all. They defined five wits to correspond to the five senses. “The five wits were sometimes taken to be synonymous with the five senses, but were otherwise also known and regarded as the five inward wits, distinguishing them from the five senses, which were the five outward wits.” The five inward wits are common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation (instinct) and memory. I’ve been reading some of Hobbes’ Leviathan, which dates from a similar time, and he explains how this works. When a person senses something physically, it makes waves inside of them as the wind makes waves on water. This decaying sense leaves an impression or an image, and this is the source of imagination or fancy. “And it is found in men, and many other living Creatures, aswell sleeping, as waking” This decaying sense, as it recedes, is called memory, and memory of many things is called experience. The imaginations of them that sleep are called dreams, and such imaginations that we don’t recognize as occurring during sleep, because the sleep is so quick, are called apparitions or visions. Imagination expressed in words or any other voluntary sign is Understanding, and “is common to man and Beast.” Predictably, I love this! I’m not very comfortable defining or deciding things, but I love to watch other people do it in an attempt to explain the strange workings of the world around them and inside of them. I love to think about how carefully Hobbes defined vagaries of sensations and emotions that seem impossible and indeterminate. Apparently, today, even scientists
say that the notion that we only have five senses is outdated and limited. Of course we have more than five senses! We sense balance and movement, we sense warmth and cold, we sense time passing. If we close our eyes we know the position of our hand, even though it’s not being detected by any of the five traditional senses. And I identify other senses not defined by Hobbes or science (as far as I know), but possibly the most important of all. Emotional senses, maybe. Sense of empathy, sense of decency, sense of humor–which brings us back to the beginning, when sense and wit collided in all of their shades of meaning. Even in Shakespeare’s time, wit meant not just sense and intelligence, but humor as well–the ability to see the absurdity of all of this confusion of sensations. What complicated creatures we are, moving through the world, taking it into ourselves and making it part of our memory and dreams. And this is true of man and beast, as well sleeping as waking.
We used to break down the sense of taste into four categories: bitter, salty, sweet and sour. And then we identified a fifth! Umami is that flavor. It’s a pleasantly savory, meaty flavor. As a vegetarian, I love the challenge of trying to create an umami flavor whenever I can. These rolls are a companion to the chocolate-covered cake of yesterday’s post. They, too, were meant for a wine tasting of Australian shiraz(es?). They, too, are very loosely based on the recipes of The Guardian UK’s Australian baker, Dan Lepard. Apparently, in Australia, one can find cheese and vegemite scrolls, which are like savory cinnamon buns. So I made these with marmite, tamari, spinach and balsamic. I thought these would be nice with wine.
Here’s Common with The Sixth Sense.
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
2 T very soft butter
1/2 cup white flour
2 cups (++) whole wheat flour
1 t salt
2 cups spinach, washed and de-stemmed
1 t marmite
1 t balsamic vinegar
1 t tamari
2 T very soft butter
lots of black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
Combine the yeast, sugar and 1/2 warm water in a big bowl, and set aside in a warm place to get frothy.
Add the egg, milk, butter, flour and salt. Mix with a spoon until you can’t any more, and then mix with your hands. Turn out onto a clean counter to knead for about seven minutes. Add more flour or water as necessary to get a knead-able consistency. Set aside in a warm place for a couple of hours to double in bulk. Fold down.
On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to be about 1/3 inch thick by 12 inches by 18 inches.
Roughly chop the spinach and put it into a skillet with the marmite, tamari, and balsamic. Cook until the spinach is wilted and glazed with the sauce. You want the pan to be quite dry. Stir the spinach mixture into the softened butter and add lots of black pepper. Spread this mixture over the dough. It will be quite thin, but try to make it even. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over this. Roll the dough into a spiral snake.
Lightly butter a medium-sized roasting pan. Slice the dough with a very sharp knife into 1/3-inch spirals, and set them next to each other in the roasting pan. Grate a little extra cheese on top. Leave them to sit while you preheat the oven to 425. Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes until they scrolls are golden brown and the cheese is melted. Let cool slightly, and eat!
These look lovely, Claire – will give them a go. Here in NZ, we also have a cheese scroll type thing, often with onion or tomato too. I wonder if a chopped mushroom and garlic filling might be nice too. It’s interesting to me that when you look at the foods which are placed high on the umami list, (where you might expect meat to dominate) you find mushroom (esp roasted or porcini), miso, soy sauce, marmite, blue cheese, parmesan and other examples which are vegetarian. Clearly, vegetarian food can provide that deeply savory note as well…
Thanks also for the music link – hadn’t come across this but anyone who quotes Gil Scott Heron can only be good in my book… oh and thanks also for quoting from Hobbes’ Leviathan, you are truly a renaissance blogger..! Have you listened to Laura Mvula – you would like her I think?
Hello! It’s funny, I had planned to put mushroom in, but I had to have them ready by noon, and I couldn’t face the smell of cooking mushrooms before that! Silly, I know. If I made them in the evening, they’d have mushroom instead of spinach. I think you’re right, too, about vegetarian umaminess. It’s all around us! It just takes a bit more thought to put together.
I haven’t listened to Laura Mvula, but I’ve read about her and thought…I think I’d like that! I’ll look it up.
Thanks so much for your comment!!