American history is populated by scores of polarizing figures. But when I was growing up, Christopher Columbus was not among them.
We were taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. No ifs, ands or buts about it. We even were made to memorize a poem: “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”
Today, much of the Columbus story has been called into question. According to the website Time and Date, there is evidence that the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic were Viking explorers. Some also assert that Columbus didn’t reach the American mainland at all—that he got only as far as some islands in the Caribbean.
Even the celebration of Columbus Day has become controversial in some quarters as some say the arrival of European settlers led to the death of a large portion of the native population—and they point the finger of blame at Columbus.
Columbus Day continues to be celebrated in 47 states (California, Nevada and Hawaii have opted out), though, and this year the “holiday” is today—the same day Canadians mark their Thanksgiving holiday.
And speaking of Thanksgiving—traditionally a day of feasting—it’s interesting to note what Columbus and his shipmates had to eat on their long journey to America…or the Caribbean, depending on which historical account you choose to believe.
The following summary comes from a Europe-based Christopher Columbus website—a site that’s a whole lot more positive about and supportive of Columbus’ place in history:
“The menu for Spanish seamen consisted of water, vinegar, wine, olive oil, molasses, cheese, honey, raisins, rice, garlic, almonds, sea biscuits (hardtack), dry legumes (such as chickpeas), lentils, beans, salted and barreled sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod, pickled or salted meats (beef and pork), and salted flour.”
Most, if not all, of the wine was red, and according to the site, fish was served more often than meat—which means a pretty good case could be made that people were drinking red wine with fish long before the book bearing that title came along.
So, say what you may about Christopher Columbus. Me? This evening, I’ll raise a glass to the world’s greatest country—regardless of who “discovered” it.