I may have mentioned (a few hundred times) that I’ve been reading the boys’ copy of D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. The other night we were talking about the myth of Prometheus and Epimethius, and I find that I can’t stop thinking about it!
The story is well-known, I think. After the warring gods have wiped out every living creature on earth, Prometheus and Epimethius are charged with repopulating the earth; they make humans and animals out of clay, and they’re granted a certain amount of gifts to bestow on them. Epimethius makes the animals, and Promethius makes the humans, but Epimethius uses up all the good gifts on the animals, and the humans are left weak and defenseless. So Prometheus, worried about his creation and sorry for mankind, steals fire hidden in a fennel stalk. He’s punished by Zeus and an eagle eats his immortal liver every single day, and Pandora is sent to marry Epimethius and we all know what that leads to!
Both brothers have been adopted as political metaphors over the ages. Prometheus represents the human quest for knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge; he symbolizes a thinking man’s rebellion; he suggests the dangers of overreaching ambition. Epimethius is seen as slower and more foolish. Promethius is a forward (pro) thinker, and Epimethius, who uses up all the gifts on the animals is seen as a backwards thinker…he doesn’t have the foresight necessary to save some gifts for the humans.
And this is where the myth becomes especially fascinating to me! I’ve always been troubled by mythologies or religions that place man in the center of everything, as a sort of representative of god’s image and god’s will on earth. If you look at the workings of the world, of the universe, of nature, of every vast and incomprehensible concept of time, place, and space, humans start to seem fairly inconsequential. We’re part of the process, certainly, but we’re not the center of it. In most versions of the myth, Promethius lovingly and skillfully crafted the humans to be objects of great beauty, but Epimethius rushed through his work on the animals, throwing them together without foresight.
But this doesn’t fit with Plato’s description of Epimethius’ process. “There were some to whom he gave strength without swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness; some he armed, and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter some other means of preservation, making some large, and having their size as a protection, and others small, whose nature was to fly in the air or burrow in the ground; this was to be their way of escape. Thus did he compensate them with the view of preventing any race from becoming extinct. And when he had provided against their destruction by one another, he contrived also a means of protecting them against the seasons of heaven; clothing them with close hair and thick skins sufficient to defend them against the winter cold and able to resist the summer heat, so that they might have a natural bed of their own when they wanted to rest; also he furnished them with hoofs and hair and hard and callous skins under their feet. Then he gave them varieties of food-herb of the soil to some, to others fruits of trees, and to others roots, and to some again he gave other animals as food. And some he made to have few young ones, while those who were their prey were very prolific; and in this manner the race was preserved.”
That sounds very carefully planned to me! He balanced the gifts of all of the creatures on earth so that they could live together in a sort of harmony! That’s not slap-dash! That’s not sloppy and ill-considered. Meanwhile, the humans begin to hunger for everything the gods have. And when Zeus sends down lies, deceit, scolding, despair, accusation, envy, gossip, drudgery, scheming and old age to put them in their place and make them meek and biddable once again, he finds that his actions have the opposite effect, and people become completely horrible to each other and disrespectful to the gods.
Promethius, with his foresight, can literally predict the future, so why did he let this happen, why did he bring this about? Maybe he enjoyed the conflict, or saw that it was necessary to somehow make us human, because our scheming, deceit, and gossip, and constant warring have certainly distinguished us from the animals over the centuries. And maybe Epimethius wasn’t so slow or foolish, so backwards. Because “epi” also means upon, beside, about. Maybe he was thinking of the world aside from the struggle of gods and mortals. Maybe he was wisely thinking around that, beside that, of the rest of the world, which can continue with balance and equilibrium from day to day, regardless of the torments that gods and men bring upon themselves.
Rum cherry chocolate ice cream! If you think I’ve exhausted all of the possible combinations of chocolate and cherries this summer, I’m sorry to tell you that it is not so. I’ve got a few more up my sleeve. This was a good one, I thought. I made a vanilla-rum ice cream, with just a touch of rum because too much alcohol keeps the ice cream from freezing. And then I processed some fresh cherries and bittersweet chocolate chips so that they were just sort of broken down and jammy, and I mixed this in as the ice cream was freezing. A nice fresh, juicy flavor.
Here’s Soul Fire by Lee Perry.
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 t vanilla
1 T rum
1 t cornstarch or flour
1/2 t salt
1 cup heavy cream
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk, rum, and vanilla.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, cornstarch and salt until frothy.
Whisking all the while, pour the milk into the eggs in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Warm, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Five or ten minutes, I think.
Pour into a bowl, stirring constantly. Put the bowl in a pan of cold water, whisking all the while, to cool the mixture down. Cover and chill in the fridge 5 hours to overnight.
Stir in one cup of heavy cream, and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. As it’s freezing process the…
1 1/2 – 2 cups cherries, pitted
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
..until coarse and jammy…you don’t want it completely smooth.
Drop this into the ice cream when it’s about halfway frozen, and continue freezing.