Horns

As one of the rewards of making it through eight days of a super-lowfiber diet preparing for a colonoscopy last week, Kim Darnell brought me a box of Almond Horns, looking much like this:

(#1)

Massively fibrous, and delicious. Also unfamiliar to me. Though I instantly recognized the taste – like Mandelbrot, but in a different form. Kim added, in recognition of my sexual tastes, also distinctly phallic. Well, that’s not quite right: the almond horns, viewed not as crescents, but (turned the other way around) as horns (true to their name), are certainly masculinity symbols, representing stag horns. But then they are also (doubly-headedly) phallic.

Almond horns are very often presented with the horn tips dipped in chocolate, making the phallic imagery more intense, with the symbolic (engorged) cockheads standing out.

Sometimes, the almond dough is not shaped into crescents, but left as logs, so they’re more simply phallic:

(#2)

Recipes for Almond Horns (Mandelhörnchen) abound on the net. All start with a dough of almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, egg, all-purpose flour; rolled into logs and baked; then coated with thinly sliced almonds and bent into crescents. And then, possibly, with  the ends dipped in melted bittersweet chocolate.

On to Mandelbrot, a childhood favorite of mine, especially for the December holidays. From Wikipedia:

Mandelbrodt, also known as mandel bread in English-speaking countries and kamishbrot in Ukraine, is a Jewish cookie popular amongst Eastern European Jews. The Yiddish word mandelbrodt [German Mandelbrot] literally means almond bread, a reference to its common ingredient of almonds. It is typically formed by baking a loaf which is then cut into small slabs and twice-baked in order to form a crunchy exterior. The cookies were popular in Eastern Europe among rabbis, merchants and other itinerant Jews as a staple dessert that kept well.

Its precise origin is unknown, as is its historic relationship with biscotti, a similar Italian cookie.

Classic simple Mandelbrot (with some of the almond slices and dried fruit bits that are often added to the dough):

(#3)

Two spinoffs: Benoît Mandelbrot and the cuckold’s horns.

Mandelbrot the fractalist. From Wikipedia:

Benoit [Benoît] B. Mandelbrot (20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was a Polish-born, French and American mathematician with broad interests in the practical sciences, especially regarding what he labeled as “the art of roughness” of physical phenomena and “the uncontrolled element in life.” He referred to himself as a “fractalist”. He is recognized for his contribution to the field of fractal geometry, which included coining the word “fractal'”, as well as developing a theory of “roughness and self-similarity” in nature.

A fascinating character. And with an arresting surname. I don’t know what the family name was before, but I do know the mechanism that gave rise to it. From a Jewish website in a posting devoted to “Jewish Surname Changes in Germany and Austria”:

German and Austrian Jews were subject to many restrictions in Germany until the early 1800s. In January 1782 the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. enacted a new law, called the Edict of Tolerance. {Its] main goal was [to] integrate his Jewish subjects fully into the economic life of the nation, and he therefore granted them access to public education, including higher education, and to job training as apprentices and journeymen. At the same time he declared the “Jewish language and writing” as abolished: all trade books, official documents and official certificates were to be written in German from then on. On July 1787 a new ruling was published: each Jew in German lands was required to either adopt (or if they already had one, to maintain) a firm, German surname. Names derived from the Hebrew were no longer permitted, and had to be legally changed. Families with already established surnames were permitted to keep them, provided they were not Hebrew names. Given names were to be “Germanized” as well, and names that were “unknown in the German language” were no longer permitted. The selection was quite limited: the Hebrew translator in Bohemia, for example, submitted a list of about 2000 names, but only 156 of those were considered acceptable by the authorities. All other names were forbidden, and their use was punishable by fines. Although citizenship was now finally granted to Jews in Austria, they still did not receive equal rights since not all professions were opened to them.

The Duchy of Baden soon followed Austria’s example, and one German State after the other joined ranks.

And so we got Mandelbrot ‘almond bread’, Morgenstern ‘morning star’, Rosenberg ‘rose mountain’, Regenbogen ‘rainbow’, and a ton of –baums: Ta(n)nenbaum / Tenenbaum ‘fir tree’, Nussbaum ‘nut tree’, Mandelbaum ‘almond tree’. All surnames not previously common (if used at all) in German — so that, of course, they became, almost instantly, “Jewish names”, the onomastic equivalent of wearing a Star of David (Magen / Mogen David).

The cuckold’s horns. Yes, there’s a connection. From Wikipedia:

A cuckold is the husband of an adulterous wife. In evolutionary biology, the term is also applied to males who are unwittingly investing parental effort in offspring that are not genetically their own.

The word cuckold derives from the cuckoo bird, alluding to its habit of laying its eggs in other birds’ nests. The association is common in medieval folklore, literature, and iconography.

In Western traditions, cuckolds have sometimes been described as “wearing the horns of a cuckold” or just “wearing the horns.” This is an allusion to the mating habits of stags, who forfeit their mates when they are defeated by another male. In Italy (especially in Southern Italy, where it is a major personal offence), the insult is often accompanied by the sign of the horns. In French, the term is porter des cornes, which is used by Molière to describe someone whose consort has been unfaithful. In German, the term is “jemandem Hörner aufsetzen”, or “Hörner tragen”, the husband is “der gehörnte Ehemann”. Rabelais wrote the Tiers Livers of Gargantua and Pantagruel in 1546, by which time the symbol of the horns was “so well-known and over-used that the author could barely avoid making reference to it.” Molière’s L’École des femmes (1662) is the story of a man who mocks cuckolds and becomes one at the end. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (c. 1372–77), the “The Miller’s Tale” is a story that humorously examines the life of a cuckold.

So: back to staghorns.

I have more to say about modern-day cuckolds — there’s a cuckoldry website — but this is not the place; I’m already pretty far off the topic of pastries.

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