Cabbages, Magic Windmills and Plastic Surgery


















The above painting The Baker of Eeklo hangs in the kitchen of Muiderslot castle just outside Amsterdam. It was painted in the second half of the 16th century by two rather obscure artists, Cornelis van Dalem and Jan van Wechelen. The depiction of cabbage-heads can probably only be truly understood by a people who grew up on medieval tales of magic windmills grinding up old people and pumping them out all young and sprightly again. In this particular story, bakers are slicing the heads off clients, adding special flours and oils, and re-baking their faces to specification. A wonder cabbage (a symbol for an empty head) was placed on the neck to keep the body fresh and viable while it waited for its ‘whole new look’. Of course accidents did happen. But these mishaps helped to account for such personality types as the ‘half-baked’, the ‘hothead’, and the plain old freak ‘misfiring’.

Looking through the Dutch tabloids of today, it’s clear that these same descriptions can still apply to the more contemporary products of Dr Plastinstein. And coincidentally (or not), most of Hollandwood’s glitterati who take advantage of rejuvenation technologies live within 10 kilometers of this painting. So not only is the story behind this painting alive and well, it has also stayed close to home. And certainly with this mythic background of rejuvenating windmills and ovens, it’s easier to accept the fact that the Dutch exceed even the Americans in their ardor for plastic surgery. Perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising, given that the Netherlands used to be on the cutting-edge of penis extensions. (Currently this expertise belongs to certain non-metric countries — weenie enhancement being a specialty, one supposes, about which people want to hear about inches, not centimeters. But that’s just a theory.)

So what’s my, um, point? Maybe the Middle Ages were not so ‘other’ after all…

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Posted in Uncategorized 13 years, 10 months ago at 8:04 am.

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