Medieval literature and some seriously good South Florida cuisine

I have been slowly working my way through All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-1927. These are Lewis’s journal entries after he returned from serving in World War I. During the war, Lewis made a pact with some close friends that if any of them did not survive the war, the others would take care of the soldier’s family. Lewis made good on that promise. After his release, he moved in with his fallen friend’s mother and young sister. They developed a very close (and probably intimate) relationship.

Lewis was 23 years old during these writings, having resumed his studies at Oxford, and a staunch atheist. He is taking classes in Greek history and literature. As a classics nerd, it is so interesting to see what books Oxford had students reading.

I came upon Lewis’s diary after falling down a medieval literature rabbit hole. Elise and I are currently studying Greek and Roman history, after which we will move on to the medievals. I like to read scholarly work on whatever period we are covering in our homeschool during my free time. I feel like it contributes immensely to our conversations if my head is in the game too. (It also communicates to our daughter that I am not asking her to do anything I am not likewise excited to do myself. Setting an example of being a lifelong learner is so important.) So I ordered Lewis’s commentaries.

I also picked up a lot of books on the early church, particularly on how early church leaders endured the period of persecution in the Late Roman Empire. Many were forced to live in exile, hence The Desert Fathers. This seems like important wisdom given the chaos in our country now, where good and beautiful influences have been pushed into wilderness.

I am looking forward to reading Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic. The other day, I was talking to a friend about how classical homeschoolers have a pedagogical ideal similar to early Americans – the highly literate philosopher-farmers. The book is about the academies that were built to teach the children of American elites (read: landowners) in the early years, and the tension that posed with establishing a system of public schools. It’s kind of funny to think of school choice as a centuries-old culture war.

I would say that classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers are, in fact, providing their children with an aristocratic education of sorts (as are elite private schools), which is culturally very different from the curricula used in public education. It’s not simply a matter of accumulating useful skills (though arguably many public institutions don’t even accomplish that), but developing tastes, an aesthetic, and character. It’s an education in a life well-lived, which includes, but is not limited to, being literate and numerate.

We often think of the differences in public and private education in terms of who it is made available to, but nowadays, I think the chasm is that many people do not want a quality education. The internet troll does not see the value of logic or rhetoric. The social justice warrior can see no value in reading Cicero in Latin or studying calculus. They aren’t “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” people, which is a not insignificant consideration in how they became people who want to tear down the trappings of civilization. Culture is not something that can co-exist with people who treat education as a means to an end, who want education factories and not academies. You can see this in the college world too – as colleges became less selective, humanities programs started to self-destruct.

The last book, The Glorious American Essay, is brilliant. It’s an anthology of essays written from the Colonial Era to the present, on all kinds of topics. I plan to use this in our high school curriculum eventually.

On that note, I ordered an immense amount of new material from Memoria Press for homeschooling. I cannot recommend Memoria Press’s Latin, religion, classical studies, history, literature, and music programs enough. We are starting their Classical Composition writing series this year too, which is based on the Progymnasmata (προγυμνάσματα) in Ancient Greece (an extensive topic for another day). It’s basically the training formula the ancients used for developing brilliant orators. We use other programs for math and science, but these books are worth every penny. The content is honestly better than what they teach in most colleges now.

I’ve stopped trying to order curriculum on a year-by-year basis, and now just get anything I think will be useful along the way. We have a tendency to finish programs early, so this way I always have the next installment on hand.

This made me chuckle, because it’s painfully accurate in our household…

We’ve been out-and-about running a lot of errands lately, which has given us the opportunity to try some new restaurants around Fort Myers.

It’s somewhat hilarious these days actually living in a large city in Florida and listening to the national media coverage of Florida. Everyone here is totally normal, as they have been for nearly all of the last two years. Some of the big chain stores have ordered their poor employees to mask up again, but we try to keep our spending local anyway. All other businesses don’t. Occasionally you see residents wearing masks, but it’s pretty rare. Yet you turn on the news, and they are talking about Florida like there is some Armageddon underway down here. It’s Iraqi Ministry of Information-level garbage. I mean, I’m sure the Boomer Yankee contingent in Palm Beach and Miami are off the deep end again, but they’ve been spitting hate and doom for six years now. This is basically all their lives are about now. (Wake me up when they are scared enough of covid not to come down here on vacation.)

People are so terrified of the delta variant that you still have to wait an hour to get a table on a weeknight at restaurants, and it’s not the season yet. Our neighbors across the street put their house up for sale and literally doubled their asking price, and the property was under contract in under 24 hours. That’s the premium people are willing to pay to get away from the covid psychos these days. It’s incredible. I think everyone gets the latest hype is about them trying to kill DeSantis’s economy ahead of his re-election, as he’s the heir-apparent of the Republican Party. It’s not going to happen though, because the people here are existentially over it. In fact, the more they put the screws to the blue state populations, the more people choose to move or vacation here. I thank God literally every day that we moved to Florida before all this happened. Our daughter has had a totally normal, Great American Childhood.

Anyway, first up, the Cape Cod Fish Company (off Old McGregor Road as you approach the causeway to Sanibel Island). This place is superlative. All of their seafood is brought down from the northeast, to please all the folks coming down from Massachusetts. This is their lobster grilled cheese sandwich, which was probably the best sandwich I have ever had in my life. (Paired with a Sam Adams and baked beans, comme il faut.)

On the way home, we made an emergency stop by the grocery store, where I found Blue Bell resurrected their Southern Blackberry Cobbler ice cream. It was a great day for my inner foodie.

Another treasure we discovered running about town was the hole-in-the-wall Taqueria San Julian (no website) on the Tamiami. Some of the best tacos in town, which is saying a lot when you live in South Florida. You can order pretty much any part of the cow you want too (lol). (Incidentally, St. Julian was a martyr under Diocletian. I imagine I will be reading about him soon in my books. Though I am sure the name is a reference to Patagonia.)

It’s a small restaurant, and half of it is taken up by this lovely shrine. As we were eating, I was thinking about how it’s typical for immigrant populations to bring worship into every aspect of their life, something most Americans (if they are religious at all) wouldn’t contemplate. You go to Latin American restaurants, and Catholic imagery is everywhere. You go into Asian restaurants, and there is the Buddha or Hindu deities, with fruits and treats left along the altar.

On the way home from the store, we found this Muscovy duck nest in the bushes in the parking lot.

And here’s a pot of clams and linguine we made with fresh, local clams. A+.

Okay, that’s it for today. Hope everyone is well.

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