Cadbury Chocolate Eggs, Monk Testicles, Napoleon and Finger BananasThursday, June 07, 2007
One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon's younger brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: "I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor." Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no one seemed to share it, nor even understand it (life consists of these little touches of solitude), I forgot about it.
Chapter 1 - Camera Lucida - Reflections on Photography
Ever since I stared at Timothy O'Sullivan's photographs of American Civil War soldiers (and telling myself, "They were alive when these photographs were taken.") when I was around 9, I have been fascinated by photographs of long-dead people. I share and understand Roland Barthes's amazement.
Looking out of my window as I write this I can see the almost white (with a deep yellow centre) single blooms of Rosa 'Dupontii'. My first impression makes me smile as they remind me of the Cadbury chocolate Easter eggs that Rosemary used to buy for Ale and Hilary (I would steal a few and eat them with pleasure) when they were little girls and we lived in Burnaby. A secondary thought is that I am looking at a healthy light green shrub (quite tall at 9 ft) decorated with perfect fried eggs.
This vision does not quite agree with my memory that Dupontii has the scent of a ripe banana. That brings to mind the bananas, banana shaped chocolate covered soft candy that we Argentines love to eat when we go to the movies or the theatre. Those bananas are called bananas in Argentina even though in Mexico and in Spain bananas are plátanos. The white soft filling of the Argentine chocolates smell like Dupontii.
My grandmother had a fondness for what Americans call finger bananas. She called them plátanos dominicos and they were sometimes available in Mexico City. Abue would eat them with peanut butter and jam. In retrospect I would guess that they were called Dominican bananas after Dominican priests (the feared order of the Spanish Inquisition). The name was an irreverent opinion on the perceived size of their sexual organs.
It was not only my grandmother who enjoyed the jelly filled (much bigger than the local but equivalent dougnut holes) suspiros de monja (nuns'sighs) but also called bolas de monje (monk's balls) I loved them, too, dunked in café con leche.
Rosa 'Dupontii' at one time was considered a species rose so it was called Rosa dupontii. But recent research has indicated that this single rose (5 petals but sometimes with a couple more) is a cross between R. gallica and R. moschata. It was named for André Dupont, director of the Luxenburg Gardens in Paris. It is a safe guess that it was raised there, in about 1817.
With further research I found out that Dupont was also a gardener at Empress Josephine's (Marie-Joseph-Rose-Tascher de la Pagerie) rose garden (over 250 varieties) at Malmaison.
Alas I cannot make a direct connection between Napoleon and my Rosa 'Dupontii' as the rose came into existence two years after Waterloo (1815). But of course the non connection is a connection nonetheless. Dupontii not only makes me think of Cadbury chocolate eggs, fried eggs, bananas, small bananas but now also of the Emperor himself. After all if Josephine gazed upon both the Emperor and at Dupontii then the connection is there.
Rosemary came back last week from visiting her sister in New Dublin, Ontario. She brought back her old piano sheet music that she is going to have Rebecca play. One of the sheets caught my eye.
Napoleon in Egypt