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But among the very first things of all, we ought to speak of the method employed in preparing alica,1 a most delightful and most wholesome food, and which incontestably confers upon Italy the highest rank among the countries that produce the cereals. This delicacy is prepared, no doubt, in Egypt as well, but of a very inferior quality, and not worth our notice. In Italy, however, it is prepared in numerous places, the territories of Verona and Pisæ, for example; but that of Campania is the most highly esteemed. There, at the foot of mountains capped with clouds, runs a plain, not less in all than forty miles in extent. The land here—to give a description first of the nature of the soil—is dusty on the surface, but spongy below, and as porous as pumice. The inconveniences that generally arise from the close vicinity of mountains are here converted into so many advantages: for the soil, acting on it as a sort of filter, absorbs the water of the abundant rains that fall; the consequence of which is, that the water not being left to soak or form mud on the surface, the cultivation is greatly facilitated thereby. This land does not return, by the aid of any springs, the moisture it has thus absorbed, but thoroughly digests it, by warming it in its bosom, in a heated oven as it were. The ground is kept cropped the whole year through, once with panic, and twice with spelt; and yet in the spring, when the soil is allowed to have a moment's repose, it will produce roses more odoriferous by far than the cultivated rose: for the earth here is never tired of producing, a circumstance in which originated the common saying, that Campania produces more unguents2 than other countries do oil.

In the same degree, however, that the Campanian soil excels that of all other countries, so does that part of it which is known to us as Laboriæ,3 and to the Greeks as Phlegræum, surpass all the rest. This district is bounded on two sides by the consular high road, which leads from Puteoli to Capua on the one side, and from Cumæ on the other.

Alica is prepared from the grain called zea, which we have already mentioned4 as being known to us as "seed" wheat. The grain is cleansed in a wooden mortar, for fear lest stone, from its hardness, should have the effect of grating it. The motive power for raising the pestle, as is generally known, is supplied by slaves working in chains, the end of it being enclosed in a case of iron. After the husks have been removed by this process, the pure grain is broken to pieces, the same implements being employed. In this way, there are three different kinds of alica made, the finest, the seconds, and the coarse, which last is known as "aphærema."5 Still, however, these various kinds have none of them that whiteness as yet for which they are so distinguished, though even now they are preferable to the Alexandrian alica. With this view—a most singular fact—chalk6 is mixed with the meal, which, upon becoming well incorporated with it, adds very materially to both the whiteness and the shortness7 of the mixture. This chalk is found between Puteoli and Neapolis, upon a hill called Leucogæum;8 and there is still in existence a decree of the late Emperor Augustus, (who established a colony at Capua), which orders a sum of twenty thousand sesterces to be paid annually from his exchequer to the people of Neapolis, for the lease of this hill. His motive for paying this rent, he stated, was the fact that the people of Campania had alleged that it was impossible to make their alica without the help of this mineral. In the same hill, sulphur is found as well, and the springs of Araxus issue from its declivities, the waters of which are particularly efficacious for strengthening the sight, healing wounds, and preventing the teeth from becoming loose.

A spurious kind of alica is made, more particularly of a degenerate kind of zea grown in Africa; the ears of it are larger and blacker than those of the genuine kind, and the straw is short. This grain is pounded with sand, and even then it is with the greatest difficulty that the outer coats are removed; when stripped, the grain fills one half only of the original measure. Gypsum, in the proportion of one fourth, is then sprinkled9 over it, and after the mixture has been well incorporated, it is bolted through a meal-sieve. The portion that remains behind, after this is done, is known as "excepticia,"10 and consists of the coarser parts; while that which has passed through is submitted to a second process, with a finer sieve; and that which then refuses to pass has the name of "secun- daria."11 That, again, which, in a similar manner, is submitted to a third sifting, with a sieve of the greatest fineness, which will only admit of sand passing through it, is known as "cribraria,"12 when it remains on the top of the sieve.

There is another method, again, that is employed every where for adulterating it. They pick out the whitest and largest grains of wheat, and parboil them in earthen pots; these are then dried in the sun till they have regained their original size, after which they are lightly sprinkled with water, and then ground in a mill. A better granæum13 is made from zea than from wheat, although it is nothing else, in fact, but a spurious alica: it is whitened by the addition of boiled milk, in place of chalk.

1 As to the cereal so called, see c. 10 of this Book.

2 Or perfumed oils.

3 See B. iii. c. 9. A volcanic district.

4 In c. 20 of this Book.

5 Grain from which the husk is removed.

6 A sub-carbonate of lime; it is still known in those parts of Campania, and is called "lumera."

7 Teneritatem.

8 From the Greek, meaning "white earth."

9 Fée enquires, and with good reason, how the African mixture accommodated itself to the stomachs of those who ate it.

10 Residue.

11 Seconds.

12 Sieve flour.

13 A porridge or pap, made of ground grain. It is mentioned by Cato, c. 86.

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