Diets
By R. D. Flavin


The National Diet Building of Japan.

     The National Diet of Japan (var. Imperial Diet, Kokkai, or Teikoku Gikai [Japanese government]) is Japan's bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Representatives and a House of Councillors.  The National Diet Building is located in Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan.  The two main political parties, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are making our American Democrats and Republicans look like kissing-cousins (read: the LDP and DPJ are going Sumo Smack-down on each other).  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had some exceptionally bad luck with his ministers--Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa is on record describing women as “birth-giving machines,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Norihiko Akagi has resigned because of bribery allegations (his immediate predecessor, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, committed suicide in May to avoid prosecution for similar charges).  And, pass the wasabi, all of this follows the surrealistic comments made last June by former Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma who said: "I understand that the [atomic] bombings ended the war, and I think that it couldn't be helped."  Fox News needs to get this jerk under contract before Al Jazeera does.

      For "diet" as a congress, convention or assembly, an old Webster’s Dictionary (1913) has:

4.  \Di"et\, n. [F. di[`e]te, LL. dieta, diaeta, an assembly, a day's journey; the same word as diet course of living, but with the sense changed by L. dies day: cf. G. tag day? and {Reichstag}.]  A legislative or administrative assembly in Germany, Poland, and some other countries of Europe; a deliberative convention; a council; as, the Diet of Worms, held in 1521.

5.  \Di"et\, n. Specifically: Any of various national or local assemblies; as, (a) Occasionally, the Reichstag of the German Empire, Reichsrath of the Austrian Empire, the federal legislature of Switzerland, etc.  (b) The legislature of Denmark, Sweden, Japan, or Hungary.  (c) The state assembly or any of various local assemblies in the states of the German Empire, as the legislature (Landtag) of the kingdom of Prussia, and the Diet of the Circle (Kreistag) in its local government.  (d) The local legislature (Landtag) of an Austrian province.  (e) The federative assembly of the old Germanic Confederation (1815 -- 66).  (f) In the old German or Holy Roman Empire, the great formal assembly of counselors (the Imperial Diet or Reichstag) or a small, local, or informal assembly of a similar kind (the Court Diet, or Hoftag).

Note: The most celebrated Imperial Diets are the three following, all held under Charles V.: {Diet of Worms}, 1521, the object of which was to check the Reformation and which condemned Luther as a heretic; {D. of Spires, or Speyer}, 1529, which had the same object and issued an edict against the further dissemination of the new doctrines, against which edict Lutheran princes and deputies protested (hence Protestants): {D. of Augsburg}, 1530, the object of which was the settlement of religious disputes, and at which the Augsburg Confession was presented but was denounced by the emperor, who put its adherents under the imperial ban.

     I’ve long been fascinated by the "Worm Diet."  Quaffing a large cup filled to the brim with pig whipworm eggs seems to lessen the ravages of Crohn's and other irritable bowel diseases.  Dr. Joel V. Weinstock (Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, Tufts New England Medical Center) has convinced a German company known for selling leeches, maggots and drugs to treat AIDS, BioCure-BioMonde, to market a “drinkable” version of his worm beverage.

     Now, that other “Diet of Worms,” the 1521 charade which condemned Martin Luther and issued an arrest warrant that was never served, was quite catholic in its incompetence.  The Church managed several Crusades, the Inquisition, enjoyed wealth, power and privileges beyond the means of most European monarchs, ...but they couldn’t arrest Luther?  Perhaps they didn’t try hard enough or didn’t really want the warrant served, though either choice reeks of waste.  The Edict of Worms on May 25, 1521, forbade anyone from giving food to Luther, which must have limited his diet somewhat.  While I’m sure that Luther often considered the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I doubt he pondered Jesus’ diet.


Jesus with bread and wine instead of beer (Heb. shekar) and a pita (flatbread) with meat.

      All ancient peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean made and consumed flatbreads, some with leavening (yeast or soured milk cultures) and some without, like the cracker-like Matza (Heb. var. Matzo, Matzah–also known as lechem oni or the "poor man's bread").  During the last centuries Before the Common Era, the ancient Greeks produced a popular thin flatbread they called plakous, but over the next several generations the name became attached to a thicker, cake-like bread and a new term, pitta, was used to describe the thinner flatbread.  Throughout the Hellenized world, such as in Sepphoris, the largest city in Galilee, pita was sold as street-food, probably with a few slices of lamb or goat and herbal seasonings.  Modern biblical scholars convincingly suggest that Jesus during the first century of the Common Era visited the marketplaces of Sepphoris more than a few times and may even have sought out day-labor employment there.  While images of Jesus partaking of wine and bread (and the occasional fish) are common enough, recent arguments have interested many that beer was consumed with a great regularity.  And, as is well known, nothing compliments a mug of beer like a pita gyro with extra sauce, especially served in Chicago’s Greek Town.

     Shawarma (Semitic var. Chawarma, Shwarma, Shawerma, Shoarma & Shaorma) is a Middle Eastern variation with assorted mixtures of meats and seasonings being used.  The name, “Shawarma,” is thought to be of pre-Turkic Anatolian origin.  The pita and meat dish is called guss in Iraq.  With the early Medieval migrations of Turks into Anatolia, a different term, dön'er kebab (Turk. < Oltu kebab < from Oltu, a town near Erzurum, Turkey, and meaning “turning roast”) began to be applied to the dish.

     Another regional adaptation of pita occurred in Italy.  With many Hellenized communities located in Southern Italy, the flatbread and the name, pitta, was casually adopted.  In Northern Italian dialects, however, the name evolved into pizza, though it took many years before our modern "pizza" emerged after the post-Columbian introduction of the New World tomato fruit which undoubtedly played a senior role distinguishing the thin pie from the ancient Roman flatbread, panis focacius (Lat. panis or bread and focus or central hearth or oven > focaccia).

     The general Greek term for the pita and meat dish was (and, in some regions, remains) ντοέρ (< Turk. don’er), but was widely supplanted in the mid-1960s by the trademark name, Gyros ® (Grk. γὐρος or “a turning”), established by the Kronos Company, who also simplified and sold the rotisseries to cook the gyro meat.  Today’s classic gyro sandwich of a lightly grilled pita bread topped with shaved gyro meat, with onions, tomatoes (I refuse to discuss lettuce) and plenty of tzatziki sauce (a yogurt and cucumber condiment).  Souvlaki seems to be an alternative designation for the sandwich.  Chicago boasts of serving the first gyro (pronounced 'jiros) in 1968, as well as the first saganaki (flaming cheese).

     It’s said that during 1945 an American physician while stationed in Salerno, Italy, Dr. Ancel Keys, first conceived of a “Mediterranean Diet,” though his extraordinarily popular books in the 1950s assuredly got his message out (Keys 1950; Keys 1959).  However, books may be sold and sit unread on dusty shelves, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that a diet consisting of olive oil, fruits, nuts, fish and only small portions of meat became fashionable.  Jesus probably followed the Mediterranean Diet, though I hope he occasionally had a beer and a pita and meat sandwich.



"The Next Generation" welcomes the New Democrats next year in Denver, CO.

     Denver’s Pepsi Center opened in 1999 and is a popular arena for sporting events, conventions and concerts.  Also, “The Can,” as the arena is sometimes referred to, has been chosen to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention
between Monday, August 25, through Thursday, August 28, 2008.  The upcoming “Democratic Diet” will hopefully offer Republicans served up in a variety of unique ways, with jail-time always a crowd pleaser, but an exacting account of what crap the American public has been forced fed these last several years would be ...a start toward having a healthy government once more.

 
Images of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, NY) and her husband, former Pres. William Jefferson Clinton.

Bibliography:
Keys, Ancel et al.  1950.  The Biology of Human Starvation.  Forewords by J. C. Drummond et al.  Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota
  Press.
Keys, Ancel and Margaret.  1959.  Eat Well & Stay Well.  Foreword by Paul Dudley White.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Summers, R.W., Elliott, D.E., Urban, J.F., Jr., Thompson, R., and Weinstock, J.V.  2005a.  “Trichuris suis  Ova Therapy in Crohn’s Disease.”
  Gut.  54: 87-90.
Summers, R.W., Elliott, D.E., Urban, J.F., Jr., Thompson, R., and Weinstock, J.V.  2005b.  “A Double Blind Controlled Clinical Trial Using
  Trichuris Suis in Active Ulcerative Colitis.”  Gastroenterology.  128: 825-832.
Weinstock, J. V.  2004.  “Can Worms Tame the Immune System?”   Science.  305:170-171.

a watched waist never thins,
Rick
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