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Dinner was, well, a boar

An ancient repast of roast wild porcine - with all the fixin's - is prepared in France to celebrate the turn of another century

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Throughout history people have listened to their stomachs.

In ancient times, the Romans widened their empire, but, it turns out, failed to broaden their repertoire of seasonings.

In the cover story, right, we look back 2,000 years to set the mood. We realize it's the "wrong" millennium, but writer Peter Ford's re-creation of a Roman-Gallic feast was too compelling to let the calender get in the way.

Food has been a powerful influence in human events.

The British Navy could not have conquered the seven seas without Persian limes and ship's biscuits. The American Civil War could not have been fought without hardtack and johnnycake. And US soldiers would not have been fit for Persian Gulf duty in the 1990s without MREs, "meals ready to eat."

One of the worst evils in human history - the slave trade - was set in motion by sugar-cane cultivation in the Caribbean.

Lack of food caused vast migrations, such as those that followed the Irish potato famine.

Over millennia, mankind has indeed marched on its stomach.

The idea struck us one autumn weekend, as we were driving down to my wife's family home in Burgundy, pondering how to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000.

Suddenly we passed a roadside billboard, portraying a long-haired warrior offering up his bronze shield in an act of surrender. "Alesia," the sign read. Here, in the rolling pastures now grazed peacefully by cattle, the leader of the Gauls, Vercingetorix, had lost his final battle against the Roman invader in 52 BC.

That's what we would do - re-create a meal that could have been eaten by Vercingetorix or his triumphant enemy, Julius Caesar, 2,000 years ago.

We had the location for such a feast: Our house in Burgundy, an 18th-century blacksmith's home, is large, welcoming, and right in the middle of the territory once inhabited by the largest Gallic tribe.

We could find friends to share the meal - though we would need a fair number to make it a real banquet.

But how on earth would we come up with a menu? Or, for that matter, the ingredients?


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