Aug 232017
 

Today is the birthday (1852) of the economic historian Arnold Toynbee – not to be confused with his nephew (also Arnold Toynbee) who is renowned for his monumental study of the philosophy and principles of history at large. The Arnold Toynbee I celebrate today is much less well known, but I will try to change that if I can.  This Arnold Toynbee was noted for his nuanced study of capitalism and political economy, and for his social commitment and desire to improve the living conditions of the mostly urban working classes during the Industrial Revolution in England. The main reason I like his work as a social scientist is that he was deeply opposed to finding general laws of economics in history, and championed the need to treat each time and place as economically and historically unique. Thus, for example, Free Trade cannot be seen as an overall good or an overall evil: sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Particular local circumstances determine outcomes, not grand theories or models.  I like that approach.

Toynbee was born in London, the son of the physician Joseph Toynbee, a pioneering otolaryngologist. He attended public schools in Blackheath and Woolwich, and in 1873 he began to study political economy at Oxford University, first at Pembroke College (my college), and then from 1875 at Balliol College, where he went on to teach after he took his degree in 1878. His lectures on the history of the Industrial Revolution in 18th and 19th century Britain proved widely influential. Toynbee did not coin, but he did effectively popularize, the term “Industrial Revolution” in the Anglophone world. In Germany and elsewhere it had been brought into circulation earlier by Friedrich Engels referring to industrial changes in Britain.

Toynbee died in 1883, at age 30. His health had rapidly deteriorated, with some speculation at the time that this was due to exhaustion caused by excessive work. Frederick Rogers suggests that the publication of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty may be said to have brought about Toynbee’s death:

As [Toynbee] saw the book, it was full of economic heresies, and he resolved to answer them. Of weak physique, but full of a passionate spiritual enthusiasm, he gave two lectures at St. Andrew’s Hall, Oxford Street, against the book and the effort ended his career. He died for truth as he knew it, and those who knew him felt that his death was a national loss…

I think we can forgive Rogers his overt Romanticism.

According to Toynbee, applying the historical method in economics would reveal how supposedly universal economic laws were, in fact, relativistic. For example, he argued that, despite commonly held beliefs, free trade was not generally advantageous in itself, but only under certain circumstances, which should not be considered absolute. Toynbee considered few laws universally true, such as the law of diminishing returns. Therefore, there were no universal rules as to how strongly the state should interfere in the marketplace; all depended on the situation and varying degrees of regulation could be appropriate.

Another idea Toynbee dismissed was that free competition was universally beneficial to economic and societal progress, especially as reflected in its apotheosis in Social Darwinism, which promoted laissez-faire capitalism. Toynbee did not equate “a struggle for mere existence and a struggle for a particular kind of existence”. From the very beginning of history, he argued, all human cultures were essentially designed to “interfere with this brute struggle. We intend to modify the violence of the fight, and to prevent the weak being trampled under foot.” Although economic competition does have its advantages, being the driving force behind technical progress, these were “gained at the expense of an enormous waste of human life and labour, which might be avoided by regulation”. Toynbee suggested a differentiation between competition in production on the one hand, and competition in the distribution of goods on the other:

… the struggle of men to outvie one another in production is beneficial to the community; their struggle over the division of the joint produce is not. The stronger side will dictate its own terms; and as a matter of fact, in the early days of competition, the capitalists used all their power to oppress the labourers, and drove down wages to starvation point. This kind of competition has to be checked; there is no historical instance of its having lasted long without being modified either by combination or legislation, or both. In England both remedies are in operation, the former through Trades Unions, the latter through factory legislation.

In itself, a market based on competition was neither good nor bad, but like “a stream whose strength and direction have to be observed, that embankments may be thrown up within which it may do its work harmlessly and beneficially”. However, in the early phase of industrial capitalism “it came to be believed in as a gospel, … from which it was regarded as little long of immoral to depart”.

For Toynbee, early industrial capitalism and the situation of the working class in it was not just a subject of disinterested academic studies; he was actively involved in improving the living conditions of the worker. He read for workers in large industrial centers and encouraged the creation of trade unions and co-operatives. A focal point of his commitment was the slum of Whitechapel, in East London, where he helped to establish public libraries for the working-class population. Toynbee also encouraged his students to offer free courses for working-class audiences in their own neighborhoods.

Inspired by his ideas, Samuel Augustus Barnett and Henrietta Barnett founded the first university settlement in 1884, shortly after Toynbee’s death. It was located on Commercial Street, Whitechapel and named Toynbee Hall in his honor. It was a center for social reform and remains active today. The concept was to bring upper- and middle-class students into lower-class neighborhoods, not only to provide education and social aid, but to actually live and work together with their residents. This soon inspired a worldwide movement of university settlements. The idea was to help members of the future elite understand the problems of British society; this was especially important at a time when class divisions were much stronger, social mobility was minimal, and the living conditions of the poor were completely unknown to many members of the upper class. Toynbee Hall attracted many students, especially from Oxford’s Wadham and Balliol College.

According to Toynbee, “the essence of the Industrial Revolution” was “the substitution of competition for the medieval regulations which had previously controlled the production and distribution of wealth”. Among its components were an “agrarian revolution” that produced “the alienation between farmer and labourer” and in the manufacturing world, the appearance of a “new class of great capitalist employers”. “The old relations between masters and men disappeared, and a ‘cash nexus’ was substituted for the human tie.” Summing up his interpretation, Toynbee wrote, “the Wealth of Nations and the steam-engine…destroyed the old world and built a new one.” For Toynbee, this coupling seemed self-evident. Steam-powered factories, the Wealth of Nations, competition, the cash-nexus and the rise of pauperism formed part of a single phenomenon.

In response to this bleak scenario, Toynbee proposed a test for when the state should become involved in the regulation of an economic or social sphere of society to even the balance between industry and labour. He proposed the “Radical Creed”, which,

as I understand it, is this: We have not abandoned our old belief in liberty, justice, and Self-help, but we say that under certain conditions the people cannot help themselves, and that then they should be helped by the State representing directly the whole people. In giving this State help, we make three conditions: first, the matter must be one of primary social importance; next, it must be proved to be practicable; thirdly, the State interference must not diminish self-reliance. Even if the chance should arise of removing a great social evil, nothing must be done to weaken those habits of individual self-reliance and voluntary association which have built up the greatness of the English people.

Words of a great man. Here Toynbee puts his finger on a problem that has bedeviled Western democracies, especially the United States, since the 19th century. How do you balance the need for collective action to promote social welfare without interfering with the rights and creativity of the individual? I’m not going to embark on an answer to a question as complex as that in a few paragraphs.  I’ll talk about food instead.

Isabella Beeton has these words to say about being economical in the industrial age as a component of her recipe for roast haunch of mutton:

HOW TO BUY MEAT ECONOMICALLY.—If the housekeeper is not very particular as to the precise joints to cook for dinner, there is oftentimes an opportunity for her to save as much money in her purchases of meat as will pay for the bread to eat with it. It often occurs, for instance, that the butcher may have a superfluity of certain joints, and these he would be glad to get rid of at a reduction of sometimes as much as 1d. or 1-1/2d. per lb., and thus, in a joint of 8 or 9 lbs., will be saved enough to buy 2 quartern loaves. It frequently happens with many butchers, that, in consequence of a demand for legs and loins of mutton, they have only shoulders left, and these they will be glad to sell at a reduction.

The recipe itself is rather basic I’m afraid:

ROAST HAUNCH OF MUTTON.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—Haunch of mutton, a little salt, flour.

Mode.—Let this joint hang as long as possible without becoming tainted, and while hanging dust flour over it, which keeps off the flies, and prevents the air from getting to it. If not well hung, the joint, when it comes to table, will neither do credit to the butcher or the cook, as it will not be tender. Wash the outside well, lest it should have a bad flavour from keeping; then flour it and put it down to a nice brisk fire, at some distance, so that it may gradually warm through. Keep continually basting, and about 1/2 hour before it is served, draw it nearer to the fire to get nicely brown. Sprinkle a little fine salt over the meat, pour off the dripping, add a little boiling water slightly salted, and strain this over the joint. Place a paper ruche on the bone, and send red-currant jelly and gravy in a tureen to table with it.

Time.—About 4 hours.

Average cost, 10d. per lb.

Sufficient for 8 to 10 persons.

Aug 222017
 

Two slave revolts broke out on this date: one in 1791 in French colonial Saint-Domingue, leading eventually to the creation of the sovereign nation of Haiti; the other, led by Nat Turner in Virginia in the United States in 1831 was suppressed within one day. These anniversaries give me the opportunity to talk about slavery in the New World as well as slavery in general. It staggers me that even in the year 2017 there are people who argue that slavery was beneficial to people brought from Africa in chains to the New World and sold with almost no chance for freedom for themselves in their lifetimes, nor for their offspring and descendants. SLAVERY IS AN UNMITIGATED EVIL.

Here’s a list of the slave revolts in the New World from the beginnings of European colonialism to the abolition of slavery, indicating their dates, locations and outcomes:

1526 San Miguel de Gualdape (Spanish Florida) Victorious

c.1570 Gaspar Yanga’s Revolt (Veracruz, New Spain) Victorious

1712 New York Slave Revolt (British Province of New York) Suppressed

1730 First Maroon War (British Jamaica) Victorious

1733 St. John Slave Revolt (Danish Saint John) Suppressed

1739 Stono Rebellion (British Province of South Carolina) Suppressed

1741 New York Conspiracy (British Province of New York) Suppressed

1760 Tacky’s War (British Jamaica) Suppressed

1787 Abaco Slave Revolt (British Bahamas) Suppressed

1791 Mina Conspiracy (Spanish Louisiana) Suppressed

1795 Pointe Coupée Conspiracy (Spanish Louisiana) Suppressed

1791–1804 Haitian Revolution (French Saint-Domingue) Victorious

1800 Gabriel Prosser’s Revolt (Virginia, US) Suppressed

1803 Igbo Landing Revolt (St. Simons Island, Georgia, US) Suppressed

1805 Chatham Manor Revolt (Virginia, US) Suppressed

1811 German Coast Uprising (Territory of Orleans, US) Suppressed

1815 George Boxley’s Revolt (Virginia, US) Suppressed

1816 Bussa’s Rebellion (British Barbados) Suppressed

1822 Denmark Vesey’s Revolt (South Carolina, US) Suppressed

1831 Nat Turner’s rebellion (Virginia, US) Suppressed

1831–1832 Baptist War (British Jamaica) Suppressed

1839 Amistad, ship rebellion (Off the Cuban coast) Victorious

1841 Creole case, ship rebellion (Off the Southern U.S. coast) Victorious

1842 Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation (Indian Territory, US) Suppressed

1859 John Brown’s Raid (Virginia, US) Suppressed

Slavery in the New World was part and parcel of colonization and needs to be remembered for what it was: a deliberate undervaluation and subjugation of a whole continent of people who were oppressed and exploited simply because of the color of their skin. From the 16th to the 19th centuries the principal colonial powers that benefited from slavery were Spain, Britain, and France, all of whom practiced slavery because it was economically expedient, but covered their actual motives with a thin veneer of philosophical justification. Their argument was that people of African origin were better off as slaves because living in “civilization” was better than living in “savagery.” To this day you will sometimes hear this argument espoused by media commentators in the United States. This rationale, such as it is, shows absolutely no understanding of traditional African cultures, as well as zero understanding of that it means to be the property of someone else.

The future William IV of the United Kingdom, (who was my focus yesterday http://www.bookofdaystales.com/sailor-king/ ), when he was a member of the House of Lords, argued against the abolition of the Slave Trade on the grounds that slaves in the US lived in better conditions than people he had seen living in the Scottish Highlands. All well and good when you are a royal duke living in luxury in London. Whether you are dirt poor in Scotland or a well-dressed slave in Virginia, there is a vast chasm between being free and being owned by another person. Probably William had seen house slaves in the United States and was comparing their conditions to crofters in Scotland. House slaves were sometimes educated, wore decent clothes, had some freedom of movement, and ate better than field slaves. But they were still slaves. They could be sold at will; they could be beaten or even killed without legal penalty; their children were slaves who could be separated from their parents and sold at any age; the women could be raped by their masters. They had no rights as humans. It is simply not legitimate to compare the visible economic conditions of US slaves with Scottish crofters and come to a conclusion about which were better off. The former were slaves, the latter were free. Their situations are in no way comparable.

The Haitian Revolution that began in 1791 ended in 1804 with the former colony’s independence. It was the only slave uprising in the world that led to the founding of a state, which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former slaves. Its effects on the institution of slavery were felt throughout the Americas. The ending of French rule and the abolition of slavery in the former colony by the former slaves was followed by their successful defense of the freedoms they won, and, with the collaboration of mulattoes, their independence from rule by white Europeans. It represents the largest slave uprising since Spartacus’ unsuccessful revolt against the Roman Republic nearly 1,900 years before. It challenged long-held beliefs about black inferiority and about enslaved people’s capacity to achieve and maintain their own freedom. The rebels’ organizational capacity and tenacity under pressure became the source of stories that shocked and frightened slave owners throughout the Americas.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion (also known as the Southampton Insurrection) took place in Southampton County, Virginia, during August 1831. It was led by Nat Turner, and rebel slaves killed as many as 65 people in one day. It was the largest and deadliest slave uprising in U.S. history. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards, before he was captured and hanged. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.

There was widespread fear in the aftermath of the rebellion, and white militias organized in retaliation against the slaves. The state executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion. In the frenzy, many non-participant slaves were punished. Approximately 120 slaves and free African-Americans were murdered by militias and mobs in the area. Across the South, state legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free African-Americans, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free Black people, and requiring White ministers to be present at all worship services.

In the current climate of publicly avowed racist and anti-racist sentiments in the United States today, as well as worldwide, it is important to remember these two events and to hold them up to scrutiny. I urge you to read more about them: especially the Haitian Revolution, which does not generally figure in the history books outside of Haiti.  For now I’ll turn to cooking.

Haitian cuisine is often lumped together with other regional islands as a part of Caribbean cuisine but it is distinctive, even though, like all island cuisines it is a blend of European, African, and indigenous cooking methods and ingredients. It involves the extensive use of herbs, and the liberal use of peppers. The ubiquitous rice and beans of all of the Caribbean and South America is found as riz collé aux pois (diri kole ak pwa), rice with red kidney beans (or pinto beans) glazed with a marinade as a sauce and topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions. It is often called the Riz National, and is considered to be the national rice of Haiti. The dish can be accompanied by bouillon. Bouillon is a hearty soup consisting of various spices, potatoes, tomatoes, and meats such as goat or beef as well as fish or shellfish. Recipes vary by region.  Here’s a video that has a rather unusual ingredient list that includes beef tripe and crabs:

Aug 212017
 

Today is the birthday (1765) of William IV, king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and king of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837.  William was the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV. He is often considered to be one of the dullest of the Hanoverian kings, yet a surprising number of pubs in England are named after him. The pub signs usually show him in naval uniform because he spent a good part of his life in the Royal Navy, and, thus, is usually nicknamed the Sailor King.

In 1789 William was created Duke of Clarence and St Andrews. Since his two older brothers died without leaving legitimate issue, he inherited the throne when he was 64 years old. He also died without legitimate heirs, so the daughter of his deceased younger brother, Edward, became Queen Victoria on his death. She could not inherit the kingdom of Hanover as a woman, so William’s younger brother Ernest (who was junior to Victoria in the British succession) became king of Hanover while she continued the Hanoverian line in the U.K. Therefore, William was the last joint monarch of the United Kingdom and Hanover.

William mostly kept away from politics yet his reign saw several key reforms: the poor law was updated, child labor restricted, slavery abolished in nearly all of the British Empire, and the British electoral system refashioned by the Reform Act 1832 (which William did play a hand in). Although William did not engage in politics as much as his brother or his father, he was the last monarch to appoint a prime minister contrary to the will of Parliament. He also created a number of extra peers sympathetic to the Reform Act when it stumbled in the House of Lords and threatened to create more if they did not accede.

William spent most of his early life in Richmond and at Kew Palace, where he was educated by private tutors. At the age of 13, and because he was not expected ever to be king, he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, and was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1780. His experiences in the navy seem to have been little different from those of other midshipmen, though in contrast to other sailors he was accompanied on board ships by a tutor. He did his share of the cooking, and got arrested with his shipmates after a drunken brawl in Gibraltar, although he was hastily released from custody after his identity became known. He served in New York during the American War of Independence. While William was in North America, George Washington approved a plot to kidnap him, writing: “The spirit of enterprise so conspicuous in your plan for surprising in their quarters and bringing off the Prince William Henry and Admiral Digby merits applause; and you have my authority to make the attempt in any manner, and at such a time, as your judgment may direct. I am fully persuaded, that it is unnecessary to caution you against offering insult or indignity to the persons of the Prince or Admiral…” The plot did not come to fruition; the British heard of it and assigned guards to William, who had up until then walked around New York unescorted.

He became a lieutenant in 1785 and captain of HMS Pegasus the following year (aged 20). In late 1786, he was stationed in the West Indies under (then-captain) Horatio Nelson, who wrote of William: “In his professional line, he is superior to two-thirds, I am sure, of the [Naval] list; and in attention to orders, and respect to his superior officer, I hardly know his equal.” The two were great friends, and dined together almost nightly. At Nelson’s wedding, William insisted on giving the bride away. He was given command of the frigate HMS Andromeda in 1788, and was promoted to rear-admiral in command of HMS Valiant the following year.

William sought to be made a duke like his elder brothers, and to receive a similar parliamentary grant, but his father was reluctant. To put pressure on him, William threatened to stand for the House of Commons for the constituency of Totnes in Devon. Appalled at the prospect of his son making his case to the voters, George III created him Duke of Clarence and St Andrews and Earl of Munster on 16 May 1789, supposedly saying: “I well know it is another vote added to the Opposition.” William’s political record was inconsistent and, like many politicians of the time, cannot be certainly ascribed to a single party. He allied himself publicly with the Whigs as well as his elder brothers George, Prince of Wales, and Frederick, Duke of York, who were known to be in conflict with the political positions of their father.

William ceased his active service in the Royal Navy in 1790. When Britain declared war on France in 1793, he was anxious to serve his country and expected a command, but was not given a ship, perhaps at first because he had broken his arm by falling down some stairs drunk, but later perhaps because he gave a speech in the House of Lords opposing the war. The following year he spoke in favor of the war, expecting a command after his change of heart; none came. The Admiralty did not reply to his request. He did not lose hope of being appointed to an active post (but his rank of admiral was purely nominal at that time). Despite repeated petitions, he was never given a command throughout the Napoleonic Wars. In 1811, he was appointed to the honorary position of Admiral of the Fleet (usually reserved for distinguished officers in retirement). In 1813, he came nearest to any actual fighting, when he visited the British troops fighting in the Low Countries. Watching the bombardment of Antwerp from a church steeple, he came under fire, and a bullet pierced his coat.

Instead of serving at sea, he spent time in the House of Lords, where he spoke in opposition to the abolition of slavery, which although not legal in the United Kingdom still existed in the British colonies. Freedom would do the slaves little good, he argued. He had travelled widely and, in his eyes, the living standard among freemen in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland was worse than that among slaves in the West Indies.

From 1791 William lived with an Irish actress, Dorothea Bland, better known by her stage name, Mrs. Jordan, the title “Mrs.” being assumed at the start of her stage career to explain an inconvenient pregnancy and “Jordan” because she had “crossed the water” from Ireland to Britain. William was part of the first generation to grow to maturity under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which forbade descendants of George II from marrying unless they either obtained the monarch’s consent or, if over the age of 25, gave twelve months’ notice to the Privy Council. Several of George III’s sons, including William, chose to cohabit with the women they loved, rather than seek a wife. Having legitimate issue was not a primary concern for William. Because he was one of the younger sons of George III, he was not expected to figure in the succession, which was considered secure once the Prince of Wales married and had a daughter, Princess Charlotte, second-in-line to the throne. She died later giving birth however.

William appeared to enjoy the domesticity of his life with Mrs. Jordan, remarking to a friend: “Mrs. Jordan is a very good creature, very domestic and careful of her children. To be sure she is absurd sometimes and has her humours. But there are such things more or less in all families.” The couple, while living quietly, enjoyed entertaining, with Mrs. Jordan writing in late 1809: “We shall have a full and merry house this Christmas, ’tis what the dear Duke delights in.” The couple had ten illegitimate children—five sons and five daughters—nine of whom were named after William’s siblings, each given the surname FitzClarence (child of Clarence). Their affair lasted for twenty years before ending in 1811.

In 1818 William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the daughter of George I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. At 25, Adelaide was half William’s age. Their marriage, which lasted almost twenty years until William’s death, was a happy one. For their first year of marriage, the couple lived in economical fashion in Germany. The couple had two short-lived daughters and Adelaide suffered three miscarriages. The city of Adelaide, capital of South Australia planned in 1837, was named for her when she was queen, and the main street, a wide boulevard running down the center was named King William Street.

William’s elder brother, the Prince of Wales, had been Prince Regent since 1811 because of the mental illness of their father, George III. In 1820, the King died, leaving the Crown to the Prince Regent, who became George IV. William, Duke of Clarence, was now second in the line of succession, preceded only by his brother, Frederick, Duke of York. Reformed since his marriage, William walked for hours, ate relatively frugally, and drank only barley water flavored with lemon. Both of his older brothers were unhealthy, and it was considered only a matter of time before he became king. When the Duke of York died in 1827, William, then more than 60 years old, became heir presumptive. Later that year, the incoming Prime Minister, George Canning, appointed him to the office of Lord High Admiral, which had been in commission (that is, exercised by a board rather than by a single individual) since 1709. While in office, William had repeated conflicts with his Council, which was composed of Admiralty officers. Things finally came to a head in 1828 when, as Lord High Admiral, he put to sea with a squadron of ships, leaving no word of where they were going, remaining away for ten days. The King, through the Prime Minister, by now Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, requested his resignation and he complied.

Despite the difficulties William experienced, he did considerable good as Lord High Admiral. He abolished the cat o’ nine tails for most offenses other than mutiny, attempted to improve the standard of naval gunnery and required regular reports of the condition and preparedness of each ship. He commissioned the first steam warship and advocated more.

When King George IV died on 26 June 1830 without surviving legitimate issue, William succeeded him as King William IV. Aged 64, he was the oldest person yet to assume the British throne.] Unlike his extravagant brother, William was unassuming, discouraging pomp and ceremony. In contrast to George IV, who tended to spend most of his time in Windsor Castle, William was known, especially early in his reign, to walk, unaccompanied, through London or Brighton. Until the Reform Crisis eroded his standing, he was very popular among the people, who saw him as more approachable and down-to-earth than his brother.

The King did his best to endear himself to the people. Charlotte Williams-Wynn wrote shortly after his accession: “Hitherto the King has been indefatigable in his efforts to make himself popular, and do good natured and amiable things in every possible instance.” Emily Eden noted: “He is an immense improvement on the last unforgiving animal, who died growling sulkily in his den at Windsor. This man at least wishes to make everybody happy, and everything he has done has been benevolent.”

William dismissed his brother’s French chefs and German band, replacing them with English ones to public approval. He gave much of George IV’s art collection to the nation, and halved the royal stud. George IV had begun an extensive (and expensive) renovation of Buckingham Palace but William refused to live there, and twice tried to give the palace away, once to the Army as a barracks, and once to Parliament after the Houses of Parliament burned down in 1834. His informality could be startling and, certainly, against norms of the age. When in residence at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, William used to send to the hotels for a list of their guests and invite anyone he knew to dinner, urging guests not to “bother about clothes. The Queen does nothing but embroider flowers after dinner.”

In William’s day, eating out at taverns was popular which may be a partial explanation of why so many pubs are named after him. Some tavern chefs at the end of the 18th century produced cookbooks, notably, The Universal Cook: And City and Country Housekeeper by Francis Collingwood, John Woollams. You can browse it in the original here:

https://books.google.com.mm/books?id=xJMEAAAAYAAJ&dq=old+syllabub&pg=PA214&ci=121,727,766,235&source=bookclip&redir_esc=y&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

By modern standards Collingwood and Woollams cooked vegetables too much as in the recipe for a ragout of celery:

To ragoo Celery

CUT the white part of the celery into lengths and boil it till it is tender. Then fry and drain it, flour it and put to it some rich gravy, a very little red wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg and catchup. Give it a boil and then send it up to table.

The “catchup” here would be a fermented mushroom ketchup which you can get a version of today in some supermarkets. I think this would be all right if the celery were no more than blanched in boiling water first then fried quickly. The point of flouring the celery after frying is to thicken the gravy.

The following recipe appeals to me more: battered, deep-fried celery.

To fry celery

FIRST boil it, then dip it into batter, then fry it of a light brown in hog’s lard. Put it on a plate, and pour melted butter over it.

Aug 202017
 

Today is the birthday of Howard Phillips (“H.P.”) Lovecraft, U.S. author who achieved posthumous fame through his works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown, and published only in pulp magazines, before he died in poverty; but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in the genre. Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his life. Among his most celebrated tales are “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as an author or editor and commercial success increasingly elude him in his later years, not least because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself and spent much of his life as a recluse.

Lovecraft was the only child of Winfield Scott Lovecraft (1853–1898), a traveling salesman of jewelry and precious metals, and Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft (1857–1921), who could trace her ancestry to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. Lovecraft’s father, who became acutely psychotic in 1893 when Lovecraft was 3 years old, was placed in the Providence psychiatric institution of Butler Hospital where he remained until his death in 1898. After his father’s hospitalization, Lovecraft was raised by his mother, his maternal aunts Lillian Delora Phillips and Annie Emeline Phillips, and his maternal grandfather Whipple Van Buren Phillips, a businessman. All five lived together in the family home.

Lovecraft was frequently ill as a child, and he barely attended school until he was eight years old because of his sickly condition, and was withdrawn after a year. Beginning in his early life, Lovecraft is believed to have suffered from sleep paralysis, a form of parasomnia. He believed himself to be assaulted at night by horrific “night gaunts.” Much of his later work is thought to have been directly inspired by these terrors.

The adult Lovecraft was gaunt with dark eyes set in a very pale face (he rarely went out before nightfall). For five years after leaving school, he lived an isolated existence with his mother, primarily writing poetry without seeking employment or new social contacts. This changed in 1913 when he wrote a letter to the pulp magazine Argosy complaining about the insipidness of the love stories in the publication by writer Fred Jackson. The ensuing debate in the magazine’s letters column caught the eye of Edward F. Daas, president of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), who invited Lovecraft to join the organization in 1914.

The UAPA reinvigorated Lovecraft and incited him to contribute many poems and essays; in 1916, his first published story, The Alchemist, appeared in the United Amateur Press Association. The earliest commercially published work came in 1922, when he was 31. By this time he had begun to build what became a huge network of correspondents. His lengthy and frequent letters eventually made him one of the great letter writers of the century. Among his correspondents were Robert Bloch (Psycho), Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian series). Many former aspiring authors later paid tribute to his mentoring and encouragement through the correspondence. Although Lovecraft was dismissed in his day as a hack writer of little consequence, he began to acquire the status of a cult writer in the counterculture of the 1960s and reprints of his work proliferated.

Philosopher Graham Harman wrote “No other writer is so perplexed by the gap between objects and the power of language to describe them, or between objects and the qualities they possess.” Harman describes Lovecraft as an anti-reductionist who was a pioneer in the literary genre of speculative realism (which includes science fiction and fantasy), and at a conference of philosophers on speculative realism he noted that the major philosophers in the field shared no philosophical heroes, but all were enthusiastic readers of Lovecraft.

Several themes recur in Lovecraft’s stories:

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.

Forbidden, dark, esoterically veiled knowledge is a central theme in many of Lovecraft’s works. Many of his characters are driven by curiosity or scientific endeavor, and in many of his stories the knowledge they uncover proves Promethean in nature, either filling the seeker with regret for what they have learned, destroying them psychologically, or completely destroying the person who holds the knowledge. Some critics argue that this theme is a reflection of Lovecraft’s contempt of the world around him.

Lovecraft created a complex mythos of non-human beings inspired in part by cults in various parts of the world including those of the circumpolar Inuit and voodoo practitioners in Louisiana and Africa. He believed that primitive and non-Western peoples were guardians of esoteric knowledge that was either unknown to, or lost to, the modern Western world.

Another recurring theme in Lovecraft’s stories is the idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the stain of crimes committed by their forebears, at least if the crimes are atrocious enough. Descendants may be very far removed, both in place and in time (and in culpability), from the act itself, and yet, they may be haunted by the revenant past, e.g. “The Rats in the Walls”, “The Lurking Fear”, “Arthur Jermyn”, “The Alchemist”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”

Often in Lovecraft’s works the protagonist is not in control of his own actions, or finds it impossible to change course. Many of his characters would be free from danger if they simply managed to run away; however, this possibility either never arises or is somehow curtailed by some outside force, such as in “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Dreams in the Witch House”. Often his characters are subject to a compulsive influence from powerful malevolent or indifferent beings. As with the inevitability of one’s ancestry, eventually even running away, or death itself, provides no safety (“The Thing on the Doorstep”, “The Outsider”, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, etc.). In some cases, this doom is manifest in the entirety of humanity, and no escape is possible (“The Shadow Out of Time”).

Lovecraft was in part inspired by Oswald Spengler, whose pessimistic thesis of the decadence of the modern West formed a crucial element in Lovecraft’s overall anti-modern worldview. Lovecraft wrote to Clark Ashton Smith in 1927: “It is my belief, and was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly proof on it, that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence.” Friedrich Nietzschewas also an influence. Lovecraft frequently dealt with the idea of civilization struggling against dark, primitive barbarism. In some stories this struggle is at an individual level; many of his protagonists are cultured, highly educated men who are gradually corrupted by some obscure and feared influence.

In such stories, the curse is often a hereditary one, either because of interbreeding with non-humans (e.g., “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” (1920), “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (1931)) or through direct magical influence (“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”). Physical and mental degradation often come together; this theme of ‘tainted blood’ may represent concerns relating to Lovecraft’s own family history, particularly the death of his father due to what Lovecraft probably suspected to be a syphilitic disorder.

In other tales, an entire society is threatened by barbarism. Sometimes the barbarism comes as an external threat, with a civilized race destroyed in war (e.g., “Polaris”). Sometimes, an isolated pocket of humanity falls into decadence and atavism of its own accord (e.g., “The Lurking Fear”). But most often, such stories involve a civilized culture being gradually undermined by a malevolent underclass influenced by inhuman forces.

Race is the most controversial aspect of Lovecraft’s legacy, expressed in many disparaging remarks against the various non-Anglo-Saxon races and cultures in his work. As he grew older, his original Anglo-Saxon racial worldview softened into a classism or elitism which regarded the superior race to include all those self-ennobled through high culture. While Lovecraft’s racism was directly influenced by the society of his day, especially the New England society he grew up in, his racial views are stronger than those in the society of his day, and failed to change as US culture began to moderate in this regard (at least in the northeast).

Lovecraft’s view of science was complex. At a time when people viewed science as limitless and powerful, Lovecraft imagined alternative potential and fearful outcomes. Lovecraft’s works are ruled by several distinct pantheons of deities (actually aliens worshiped as such by humans) who are either indifferent or actively hostile to humanity. Lovecraft’s actual philosophy has been termed “cosmic indifference.” Several of Lovecraft’s stories of the Old Ones (alien beings of the Cthulhu Mythos) propose alternate mythic human origins in contrast to those found in the creation stories of existing religions, expanding on a natural world view. For instance, in Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” it is proposed that humankind was actually created as a slave race by the Old Ones, and that life on Earth as we know it evolved from scientific experiments abandoned by the Elder Things. Protagonist characters in Lovecraft are usually educated men, citing scientific and rationalist evidence to support their non-faith. “Herbert West – Reanimator” reflects on the atheism common in academic circles. In “The Silver Key”, the character Randolph Carter loses the ability to dream and seeks solace in religion but does not find it and ultimately loses faith.

Lovecraft himself adopted the stance of atheism early in life. In 1932, he wrote in a letter to Robert E. Howard: “All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hairsplitter to pretend that I don’t regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory, I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.”

Lovecraft’s writing, particularly the so-called Cthulhu Mythos, has influenced fiction authors including modern horror and fantasy writers. Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Moore, Junji Ito, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Lumley, Caitlín R. Kiernan, William S. Burroughs, and Neil Gaiman, have cited Lovecraft as one of their primary influences. Japan has also been significantly inspired and terrified by Lovecraft’s creations and thus even entered the manga and anime media. Chiaki J. Konaka is an acknowledged disciple and has participated in Cthulhu Mythos, expanding several Japanese versions. He is an anime scriptwriter who tends to add elements of cosmicism, and is credited for spreading the influence of Lovecraft among anime base. Along with Junji Ito, other influential manga artists have also been inspired by Lovecraft. Novelist and manga author, Hideyuki Kikuchi, incorporated a number of locations, beings and events from the works of Lovecraft into the manga Taimashin.

Because Lovecraft was a prolific letter writer we have scores of references in his writing to his food likes and dislikes. Rather than give you a recipe here’s a selection for your perusal and inspiration:

I’m not, however, a heavy eater—take only 2 meals per day, since my digestion raises hell if I try to eat oftener than once in 7 hours. In winter, when it’s too cold for me to go out much, I subsist largely on canned stuff. I always get my own breakfasts, anyway—doughnuts and cheese. I have financial economy in eating worked out to a fine art, and know the self-service lunch rooms where I can get the best bargains. I never spend more than $3.00 per week on food, and often not even nearly that.

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

Speaking of industrio-economic matters—let me assure you that a 2-or-3-dollar-a-week dietary programme need not involve even a particle of malnutrition of unpalatability if one but knew what to get and where to get it. The tin can and delicatessen conceal marvellous possibilities! Porridge? Mehercule! On the contrary, my tastes call for the most blisteringly high-seasoned materials conceivable, and for desserts as close to 100% C12H22O11 [sugar] as possible. Indeed, of this latter commodity I never employ less than four teaspoons in an average cup of coffee. Favourite dinners—Italian spaghetti, chili con carne, Hungarian goulash (save when I can get white meat of turkey with highly-seasoned dressing).

(to Mrs. Fritz Leiber, 20 December 1936)

Incidentally—not many doors away, on the other side of Willoughby St., I found a restaurant which specialises in home-baked beans. It was closed on Sunday, but I shall try it some time soon. Beans, fifteen cents, with pork, twenty cents. With Frankfort sausages, twenty-five cents. Yes—here is a place which will repay investigation!

(to Mrs. F.C. Clark, 20 May 1925)

…in New England we are very fond of baked yellow-eye beans…

(to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

How can anybody dislike cheese? And yet Little Belknap hates it as badly as you do! I don’t suppose you would like spaghetti if you don’t like cheese, for the two rather go together.

(to J. Vernon Shea, 30 October 1931)

I like cheese, preferably of the common hard variety, medium strength. I hate Roquefort, dislike cottage cheese, just tolerate Camembert and Brie, and am neutral about Limburger—which latter I’ve tasted only once, at Whitehead’s a year ago last spring.

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

Hershey’s sweet chocolate is one of my favourite nibbles.

(to J. Vernon Shea, 9 December 1931)

I enjoy chocolate in nearly any form—cake, frosting, sweet milk chocolate, etc….

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

I like coffee exceedingly, but relish its imitation Postum just as much.

(to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

I, too, am an enthusiastic potato-ite’—& guess I like the fried form best of all. Shake!

(to J. Vernon Shea, 30 October 1931)

But I more often take ice cream, of which my favourite flavours are vanilla & coffee (the latter hard to get outside New England) & my least relished common flavour is strawberry.

(to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

But as for jam or jelly—I am your utter opposite, for I like it so well that I pile on amounts thicker than the bread which sustains them!

(to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

Of meats, I fancy I rather prefer beef for all-around consumption, but like most others pretty well. Fond of sausage—especially the old fashioned baked or fried sort. Like fowl—but white meat only. Can’t bear dark meat. My really favourite meal is the regular old New England turkey dinner, with highly seasoned dressing, cranberry sauce, onions, etc., and mince pie for dessert.

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

Pie is my favourite dessert, and blueberry (for summer) and mince (for winter) are my preferred kinds—with apple as a good all-year-round third. Like to take vanilla ice cream with apple and blueberry pie.

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

Like Italian cooking very much—especially spaghetti with meat-and-tomato sauce, utterly engulfed in a snowbank of grated Parmesan cheese.

(to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932)

Of other vegetables I like peas & onions, can tolerate cabbage & turnips, am neutral toward cauliflower, have no deep enmity toward carrots, prefer to dodge parsnips & asparagus, shun string beans & brussel sprouts & abominate spinach. I like rhubarb—& am also really fond of baked beans prepared in the ancient New England way…

(to J. Vernon Shea, 30 October 1931)

Aug 172017
 

The Roanoke Colony, also known as the Lost Colony, was established on this date in 1585 on Roanoke Island in what is now Dare County, North Carolina. It was a late 16th century attempt by Sir Walter Raleigh, under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I, to establish a permanent English settlement in North America. The colonists disappeared during the Anglo-Spanish War, three years after the last shipment of supplies from England. Their disappearance gave rise to the nickname “The Lost Colony” especially because to this day no one knows what happened to the colonists because there is almost no evidence, archeological or otherwise, to tell the story.  There’s plenty of speculation, though. People like a good mystery.

On March 25, 1584, Queen Elizabeth I granted Raleigh a charter for the colonization of a part of North America. This charter specified that Raleigh needed to establish a colony in North America, or lose his right to colonization. Elizabeth and Raleigh intended the venture to enrich them; the queen’s charter said that Raleigh was supposed to “discover, search, find out, and view such remote heathen and barbarous Lands, Countries, and territories … to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy.” Here “enjoy” means “rob.” The queen’s charter also said that Raleigh was supposed to establish a base from which to send privateers on raids against the treasure fleets of Spain. The purpose of these raids was to send a message to Spain that England was ready for war (given that Felipe II (ex-king of England harbored desires of conquering the country and being crowned king again). The original charter basically told Raleigh to establish a military base to counteract the activities of the Spanish. Raleigh himself never visited North America, although he led expeditions in 1595 and 1617 to South America’s Orinoco River basin in search of the legendary golden city of El Dorado.

On April 27, 1584, Raleigh dispatched an expedition led by Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to explore the eastern coast of North America. They arrived on Roanoke Island on July 4 and soon established relations with the local Secotans and Croatoans. Barlowe returned to England with two Croatoans named Manteo and Wanchese, who were able to describe the politics and geography of the area to Raleigh. Based on the information given, Raleigh organized a second expedition, to be led by Sir Richard Grenville.

Grenville’s fleet left Plymouth on April 9, 1585, with five main ships: Tiger (Grenville’s), Roebuck, Red Lion, Elizabeth, and Dorothy. A severe storm off the coast of Portugal separated Tiger from the rest of the fleet. The captains had a contingency plan if they were separated, which was to meet up again in Puerto Rico, and Tiger arrived in the “Baye of Muskito” (Guayanilla Bay) on May 11. While waiting for the other ships, Grenville established relations with the resident Spanish while simultaneously engaging in some privateering against them. He also built a fort. Elizabeth arrived soon after the fort’s construction. Grenville eventually tired of waiting for the remaining ships and departed on June 7. The fort was abandoned, and its location remains unknown.

Tiger sailed through Ocracoke Inlet on June 26, but it struck a shoal, ruining most of the food supplies. The expedition succeeded in repairing the ship and, in early July, reunited with Roebuck and Dorothy, which had arrived in the Outer Banks with Red Lion some weeks previously. Red Lion had dropped off its passengers and left for Newfoundland for privateering.

During the initial exploration of the mainland coast and the indigenous settlements, the Europeans blamed the Indians of the village of Aquascogoc of stealing a silver cup. As retaliation, the settlers sacked and burned the village. English writer and courtier Richard Hakluyt’s contemporaneous reports also describe this incident. (Hakluyt’s reports of the first voyage to Roanoke were compiled from accounts by various financial backers, including Sir Walter Raleigh. Hakluyt himself never traveled to the New World.) Despite this incident and a lack of food, Grenville decided to leave Ralph Lane and 107 men to establish a colony at the north end of Roanoke Island, promising to return in April 1586 with more men and fresh supplies. The group disembarked on August 17, 1585, and built a small fort on the island. There are no surviving renderings of the Roanoke fort, but it was likely similar in structure to the one in Guayanilla Bay.

As April 1586 passed, there was no sign of Grenville’s relief fleet. Meanwhile, in June, bad blood resulted from the destruction of the village, and this spurred an attack on the fort by the local Indians, which the colonists were able to repel. Soon after the attack, Sir Francis Drake, on his way home from a successful raid in the Caribbean, stopped at the colony and offered to take the colonists back to England. Several accepted, including metallurgist Joachim Gans. On this return voyage, the Roanoke colonists introduced tobacco, maize, and potatoes to England. The relief fleet arrived shortly after Drake’s departure with the colonists. Finding the colony abandoned, Grenville returned to England with the bulk of his force, leaving behind a small detachment of fifteen men both to maintain an English presence and to protect Raleigh’s claim to Roanoke Island.

In 1587, Raleigh dispatched a new group of 115 colonists to establish a colony on Chesapeake Bay. They were led by John White, an artist and friend of Raleigh who had accompanied the previous expedition to Roanoke, and was appointed governor of the 1587 colony. White and Raleigh named 12 assistants to aid in the settlement. They were ordered to stop at Roanoke to pick up the small contingent left there by Grenville the previous year, but when they arrived on July 22, 1587, they found nothing except a skeleton that may have been the remains of one of the English garrison. When they could find no one, the master pilot Simon Fernandez refused to let the colonists return to the ships, insisting that they establish the new colony on Roanoke.

White re-established relations with the Croatoan and other local indigenous groups, but those with whom Lane had fought previously refused to meet with him. Shortly thereafter, colonist George Howe was killed by an Indian while searching alone for crabs in Albemarle Sound. The colonists persuaded Governor White to return to England to explain the colony’s desperate situation and ask for help. Left behind were about 115 colonists – the remaining men and women who had made the Atlantic crossing plus White’s newly born granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas. White sailed for England in late 1587, although crossing the Atlantic at that time of year was a considerable risk. Plans for a relief fleet were delayed first by the captain’s refusal to return during the winter, and then the attack on England of the Spanish Armada and the subsequent Anglo-Spanish War. Every able English ship joined the fight, leaving White without a means to return to Roanoke at the time. In the spring of 1588, White managed to acquire two small vessels and sailed for Roanoke; however, his attempt to return was thwarted when the captains of the ships attempted to capture several Spanish ships on the outward-bound voyage (in order to improve their profits). They themselves were captured and their cargo seized. With nothing left to deliver to the colonists, the ships returned to England.

Because of the continuing war with Spain, White was unable to mount another resupply attempt for an additional three years. He finally gained passage on a privateering expedition organized by John Watts and Walter Raleigh. They agreed to stop off at Roanoke on the way back after raiding the Spanish in the Caribbean. White landed on August 18, 1590, on his granddaughter’s third birthday, but found the settlement deserted. His men could not find any trace of the 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children, nor was there any sign of a struggle or battle.

The only clue was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post of the fence around the village, and the letters C-R-O carved into a nearby tree. All the houses and fortifications had been dismantled, which meant that their departure had not been hurried. Before he had left the colony, White instructed the colonists that, if anything happened to them, they should carve a Maltese cross on a tree nearby, indicating that their absence had been forced. There was no cross, and White took this to mean that they had moved to Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras Island), but he was unable to conduct a search. A massive storm was forming and his men refused to go any farther; the next day, they left.

Some attempts in later years were made by both the English and Spanish to determine what had happened to the colony but for one reason or another they were unsuccessful, so the affair remains a mystery to this day. My best (uninformed) guess is that the colonists were driven to desperate measures because of lack of supplies from England combined with their inability to raise European crops and animals in the New World and so threw their lot in with the Indians and assimilated. There has to come a tipping point at some stage when you begin to feel abandoned and, after looking out to sea day after day, give up hope of ever finding relief and, therefore, chart a new course. What little evidence there is points against a raid or massacre.

I know that part of North Carolina, known as the Outer Banks, very well because I lived in the region for a year doing research on fishing communities for my doctoral dissertation. The coastal sections of what are now Virginia (named for Elizabeth, the virgin queen), and the Carolinas (named for Charles I), became prosperous and vital colonies in Stuart times. By the later part of the 20th century when I lived there they catered mostly to the tourist industry, but little shreds of their English colonial history survived. Much of the cooking in the area is standard rural Southern, but some conventional English dishes showed up once in a while.  My landlady, for example, used to make a meat stew with flour and suet dumplings once in a while that was very similar to one my mother used to make. Normally she made corn dumplings, cooked with collards, but sometimes flour and suet called to her. This is not to suggest that the two women had some long lost ancestor from hundreds of years ago, of course, but merely to hint that there are recognizable strands of English culture in Tidewater North Carolina that you don’t find elsewhere in the South.

Hotel Roanoke spoonbread is a cross between cornbread and a soufflé that was reputedly first created on Roanoke but is now popular throughout the Tidewater.

Hotel Roanoke Spoonbread

Ingredients

1 ½ cups water
¼ cup butter, softened
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
5 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from the heat.

Add the baking powder, eggs, and milk to the mixture and stir to mix and form a batter.

Pour the batter into a greased cast-iron skillet. Bake for 50 minutes and test for doneness. A skewer pushed into the center should come out clean.

Serve immediately.

Aug 152017
 

On this date in 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened to maritime traffic. Transportation across the narrow isthmus linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans dates back to the 16th century when Spanish colonial governments routinely sent goods overland through the territory we now call Panama to avoid the long and hazardous sea journey from the west coast of South America, particularly Peru (source of gold, silver, and jewels), to Europe via Cape Horn. Even in those early days the idea of a canal was kicked around and continued for 4 centuries until the idea was actually realized. The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates back to 1534, when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, ordered a survey for a route through the Americas that would ease the voyage for ships traveling between Spain and Peru. Such a route would have given the Spanish a military advantage over the Portuguese.

In 1668 the English physician and philosopher Sir Thomas Browne speculated in Pseudodoxia Epidemica:

. . . some Isthmus have been eat through by the Sea, and others cut by the spade: And if policy would permit, that of Panama in America were most worthy the attempt: it being but few miles over, and would open a shorter cut unto the East Indies and China.

From 1698 to 1700 the kingdom of Scotland tried to create a colony on the isthmus called Caledonia whose purpose was to facilitate the passage of goods between the Pacific and the Atlantic. It was known as the Darien scheme, named after the Gulf of Darién, and failed because of poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership, and devastating epidemics. Furthermore, there was heavy opposition from the English and Spanish who instituted naval blockades.

In 1788, Thomas Jefferson suggested that the Spanish should build a small canal and that tropical ocean currents would naturally widen it thereafter. During an expedition from 1788 to 1793, Alessandro Malaspina outlined plans for its construction, which, of course, never materialized.

In 1846 the Mallarino–Bidlack Treaty, negotiated between the U.S. and New Granada (Panama) , granted the United States transit rights and the right to intervene militarily in the isthmus. In 1849, the discovery of gold in California created great interest in a crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panama Railway was built by the United States to cross the isthmus and opened in 1855. This overland link became a vital piece of  infrastructure, greatly facilitating trade and largely determining the later canal route. For the rest of the century there were continued efforts to survey a canal route by English and French engineers, culminating in a French construction attempt, headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps who masterminded the Suez Canal, from 1881 to 1894. Although the Panama Canal would eventually have to be only 40% as long as the Suez Canal, it proved to be far more of an engineering challenge due to the disease ridden tropical rain forests, the climate, the need for canal locks, and the lack of any ancient route to follow.

The U.S. formally took control of the canal property on May 4, 1904, inheriting from the French a depleted workforce and a vast jumble of buildings, infrastructure and equipment, much of it in poor condition. A U.S. government commission, the Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC), was established to oversee construction and was given control of the Panama Canal Zone, over which the United States exercised sovereignty. The commission reported directly to Secretary of War William Howard Taft and was directed to avoid the inefficiency and corruption that had plagued the French 15 years earlier.

On May 6, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed John Findley Wallace, formerly chief engineer and finally general manager of the Illinois Central Railroad, as chief engineer of the Panama Canal Project. Overwhelmed by the disease-plagued country and forced to use often dilapidated French infrastructure and equipment, as well as being frustrated by the overly bureaucratic ICC, Wallace resigned abruptly in June 1905. He was succeeded by John Frank Stevens, a self-educated engineer who had built the Great Northern Railroad. Stevens was not a member of the ICC; he increasingly viewed its bureaucracy as a serious hindrance, bypassing the commission and sending requests and demands directly to the Roosevelt Administration in Washington. One of Stevens’ first achievements in Panama was in building and rebuilding the housing, cafeterias, hotels, water systems, repair shops, warehouses, and other infrastructure needed by the thousands of incoming workers. Stevens began the recruitment effort to entice thousands of workers from the United States and other areas to come to the Canal Zone to work, and tried to provide accommodation in which the incoming workers could work and live in reasonable safety and comfort. He also re-established and enlarged the railway that was to prove crucial in transporting millions of tons of soil from the cut through the mountains to the dam across the Chagres River.

If you know anything about canals (which, as it happens, I do because I lived on the remains of a famous canal in New York for 25 years), the chief engineering problem is keeping it filled with water. In Suez the problem was sand which had to be dredged constantly to keep the passage open, and the canal bottom had to be made watertight to prevent constant percolation of the water into the desert. In Panama sand was not a problem, but any canal across the isthmus needed locks to traverse the terrain, and locks drain water downward constantly. A canal with locks needs a liberal supply of water at its summit to provide water through the locks in both directions. Hence a huge artificial lake had to be built in the middle of inhospitable jungle in the middle of the isthmus.

Colonel William C. Gorgas had been appointed chief sanitation officer of the canal construction project in 1904. Gorgas implemented a range of measures to minimize the spread of deadly diseases, particularly yellow fever and malaria which had recently been shown to be mosquito-borne following the work of Dr. Carlos Finlay and Dr. Walter Reed. There was investment in extensive sanitation projects, including city water systems, fumigation of buildings, spraying of insect-breeding areas with oil and larvicide, installation of mosquito netting and window screens, and elimination of stagnant water. Despite opposition from the Commission, Gorgas persisted and when Stevens arrived, he threw his weight behind the project. After two years of extensive work, the mosquito-spread diseases were nearly eliminated. Nevertheless, even with all this effort, about 5,600 workers died of disease and accidents during the U.S. construction phase of the canal.

In 1905, a U.S. engineering panel was commissioned to review the canal design, which still had not been finalized. It recommended to President Roosevelt a sea-level canal, as had been attempted by the French. However, in 1906 Stevens, who had seen the Chagres in full flood, was summoned to Washington and declared a sea-level approach to be “an entirely untenable proposition”. He argued in favor of a canal using a lock system to raise and lower ships from a large reservoir 85 ft (26 m) above sea level. This would create both the largest dam (Gatun Dam) and the largest articial lake (Gatun Lake) in the world at that time. The water to refill the locks would be taken from Gatun Lake by opening and closing enormous gates and valves and letting gravity propel the water from the lake. Gatun Lake would connect to the Pacific through the mountains at the Gaillard (Culebra) Cut. Stevens successfully convinced Roosevelt of the necessity and feasibility of the alternative scheme.

The construction of the canal was completed in 1914, 401 years after Panama was first crossed by Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The United States spent almost $375 million (roughly equivalent to $9 billion now) to finish the project. This was by far the largest US engineering project to date. Upon completion the canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914, with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon.

I sailed through the Panama canal in May 1965 en route from Australia to England. Outward bound I had sailed through Suez and the return journey completed my circumnavigation of the globe at age 14. The family sailed on the Italian passenger liner MV Fairsea stopping in New Zealand, Tahiti, and California before traversing Panama. Five years later the Fairsea was crippled by an engine fire just north of Tahiti and was sold for scrap after being towed to safety. Panama was an amazing adventure, as was the entire voyage. For long stretches you are enclosed in dense jungle, punctuated by stints in the locks, and then sailing across beautiful lakes, all of which came as a much-needed diversion after the long stretches of steaming across the Pacific out of sight of land for days on end. The Pacific was not without its moments. I well recall one early morning waking to the ocean absolutely like glass, as calm as a mill pond, interrupted only by occasional visions of flying fish. Solitude in the middle of a giant ocean is nothing to the exotic wonders of Panama, however. It’s been 50 years and it’s still fresh in memory.

I could give you another Panamanian recipe, but in honor of MV Fairsea I’ll give you baked Alaska.  The food on board was great as long as you stuck to the Italian specialties rather than opting for their “English” cooking, which was routinely awful. When we crossed the equator (always a major event on passenger ships), the evening meal consisted of lobster followed by baked Alaska. The dessert was not just served like any other, though. The lights in the dining room were dimmed after the main course, and then all the food stewards paraded around the tables carrying baked Alaskas with flames erupting from their tops like miniature volcanoes (they called the desert “Vesuvius pudding”), while the ship’s meager band played the March of the Toreadors from Carmen.

Baked Alaska can be made in various ways but the basic idea is the same. You cover ice cream with a layer of cake, freeze it, then top it with Italian meringue which you can either bake quickly in a very hot oven, or caramelize using a culinary blow torch.  Here’s a video. Making the Italian meringue, which is a mix of simple syrup and beaten egg whites, is the key.

 Posted by at 11:25 pm
Aug 142017
 

Today is the feast day of St. Antonio Primaldo and his companion martyrs (I Santi Antonio Primaldo e compagni martiri), also known as the Martyrs of Otranto, were 813 inhabitants of the Salentine city of Otranto in southern Italy (now Apulia) who were killed on this date in 1480 by invading Ottomans intent on conquering the Italian peninsula. The mass execution is commonly explained as taking place after the Otrantins refused to convert to Islam when the city fell to an Ottoman force under Gedik Ahmed Pasha. The actual events are in dispute by modern historians, but there is no doubt that hundreds of residents of Otranto were killed at this time, based on the physical evidence, that is, hundreds of skulls and other bones displayed in the local cathedral. The siege of Otranto, and the martyrdom of the inhabitants, was the last significant military attempt by a Muslim force to conquer southern Italy. The slaughter is celebrated by historians (notably Risorgimento historians such as Arnaldi and Scirocco) as a milestone in Italian and European history because this sacrifice prevented the Italian peninsula from being conquered by Muslim troops, and was the end of Ottoman designs on the region. Ottoman expansion into eastern and western Europe can be seen on this map (click to enlarge):

The contemporary Turkish historian Ibn Kemal claimed that the slaughter occurred because the inhabitants, en masse, would not convert to Islam.

Modern historians are more inclined to believe that the slaughter was a punitive measure, without religious motivation, exacted to punish the local population for the stiff resistance they put up, which delayed the Turkish advance and enabled the king of Naples to strengthen local fortifications.  It would also have been a warning to other Italian cities what to expect if they chose to resist and were defeated. They martyrs were beatified in 1771 and were canonized by Pope Francis on 12 May 2013 with their feast day set as 14 May. They are the patron saints of the city of Otranto and the Archdiocese of Otranto.

On 28 July 1480 an Ottoman force commanded by Gedik Ahmed Pasha, consisting of 90 galleys, 40 galiots and other ships carrying a total of around 150 crew and 18,000 troops, landed beneath the walls of Otranto. The city strongly resisted the Ottoman assaults, but the garrison was unable to resist the bombardment for long. The garrison and all the townsfolk thus abandoned the main part of the city on 29 July, retreating into the citadel whilst the Ottomans began bombarding the neighboring houses.

According to an account of the story chronicled by Giovanni Laggetto and Saverio de Marco, the Turks promised clemency if the city capitulated but were informed that Otranto would never surrender. A second Turkish messenger sent to repeat the offer “was slain with arrows and an Otranto guardsman flung the keys of the city into the sea.” At this the Ottoman artillery resumed the bombardment.

A messenger was dispatched to see if King Ferdinand of Naples could send assistance. As time went on “Nearly seven-eighths of Otranto’s militia slipped over the city walls and fled.” The remaining 50 soldiers fought alongside the citizenry dumping boiling oil and water on Turks trying to scale the ramparts between the cannonades. On 11 August, after a 15-day siege, Gedik Ahmed ordered the final assault, which broke through the defenses and captured the citadel. When the walls were breached the Turks began fighting their way through the town. Upon reaching the cathedral “they found Archbishop Stefano Agricolo [ Stefano Pendinelli ], fully vested and crucifix in hand” awaiting them with Count Francesco Largo. “The archbishop was beheaded before the altar, his companions were sawn in half, and their accompanying priests were all murdered.” After desecrating the Cathedral, they gathered the women and older children to be sold into slavery in Albania. Males over 15 years old, small children, and infants, were all killed. According to some historical accounts, a total of 12,000 were killed and 5,000 enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.

800 able-bodied men were told to convert to Islam or be slain. A tailor named Antonio Primaldi is said to have proclaimed “Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him.” To which those captives with him gave a loud cheer. On August 14 they were led to the Hill of Minerva (later renamed the Hill of Martyrs). There they were to be executed, with Primaldi to be beheaded first. After the blade decapitated him “his body allegedly remaining stubbornly and astonishing upright on its feet. Not until all had been decapitated could the aghast executioners force Primaldi’s corpse to lie prone.” Witnessing this, one Muslim executioner (whom the chroniclers say was an Ottoman officer called Bersabei) is said to have converted on the spot and been impaled immediately by his fellows for doing so.

Between August and September 1480, King Ferdinand of Naples, with the help of his cousin Ferdinand the Catholic and the Kingdom of Sicily, tried unsuccessfully to recapture Otranto. Seeing the Turks as a threat to his home, Alfonso of Aragon left his battles with the Florentines to lead a campaign to liberate Otranto from the Ottoman invaders beginning in August 1480. The city was finally retaken in the spring of 1481 by Alfonso’s troops supported by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary’s forces. The skulls of the martyrs were placed in a reliquary in the city’s cathedral.

On 13 October 1481 the bodies of the Otrantines were found to be uncorrupted and were translated to the city’s cathedral. From 1485, some of the martyrs’ remains were transferred to Naples and placed under the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello, an altar that commemorated the final Christian victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571. They were later moved to the reliquary chapel, consecrated by Benedict XIII, then to a site under the altar where they are now located. A recognitio canonica between 2002 and 2003 confirmed their authenticity.

A canonical process began in 1539. On 14 December 1771 Pope Clement XIV beatified the 800 killed on the Colle della Minerva and authorized their cult. Since then they have been the patrons of Otranto. On 6 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree recognizing that Primaldo and his fellow townsfolk were killed “out of hatred for their faith” The martyrs were canonized on 12 May 2013 by Pope Francis. The announcement of the canonization was made on 11 February 2013 by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory in which Benedict also announced in Latin his intention to resign the papacy.

Some modern historians, such as Nancy Bisaha and Francesco Tateo have questioned details of the traditional account. Tateo notes that the earliest contemporary sources describe execution of up to one thousand soldiers or citizens, as well as the local bishop, but they do not mention conversion as a condition for clemency. Bisaha argues that more of Oranto’s inhabitants were likely to have been sold into slavery than slaughtered. However, other historians, such as Paolo Ricciardi and Salvatore Panareo, have argued that in the first year after the martyrdom there was no information about the massacres in the contemporaneous Christian world, and only later — when Otranto was reconquered by the Neapolitans — was it possible to get details of the massacre from the local survivors who saw it. Their memories may or may not have been accurate, and they are certainly not directly recorded.

Some version of a salt cod dish (known under some cognate of baccalà) is known throughout the coastal regions of Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Salentine baccalà is regionally famous in and around Otranto. The addition of tomatoes and black olives make it distinctive.

Baccalà alla salentina

Ingredients

700 gm salt cod
700 gm potatoes, peeled and sliced
8 Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped
black olives
1 onion, peeled and sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
oregano
dried breadcrumbs
grated pecorino

Instructions

Soak the salt cod in water for at least 48 hours, changing the water regularly.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

In a deep, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, sprinkle a little extra-virgin olive oil followed by a thin layer of breadcrumbs. Then add a layer of potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add a layer of chopped tomatoes, followed by a layer of sliced onions and olives with a seasoning of oregano and grated pecorino cheese.

Sprinkle the dish with a little olive oil.

Cut the soaked cod in chunks and lay it on top of the dish. Add another layer of potatoes, then onions, then tomatoes, olives, and seasonings, finishing with a topping of breadcrumbs and cheese sprinkled with olive oil.

Bake the dish for around 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the dish in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.

Aug 132017
 

Today is the birthday (1860) of Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann “Annie” Mosey), famed exhibition sharpshooter. She came to almost instant fame when, possibly at age 15, she won a shooting match with traveling-show marksman Frank E. Butler, whom she married a year later. The couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show some time after that (dates, ages, and timing are all a bit murky). Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state. She was also a tireless champion of women’s rights. My favorite quote: “I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot one either.”

Oakley was born in a cabin about 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of Woodland, now Willowdell, in Darke County, Ohio, a rural western border county at the time. There is a stone-mounted plaque in the vicinity of the cabin site, which was placed by the Annie Oakley Committee in 1981. Annie’s father, who had fought in the War of 1812, became an invalid from overexposure during a blizzard in late 1865 and died of pneumonia in early 1866 at age 66. Following the death of her father, Oakley did not regularly attend school as a young child because of lack of funds, but she did attend later in childhood and in adulthood. On March 15, 1870, at age 9, Oakley was admitted to the Darke County Infirmary, along with elder sister Sarah Ellen. According to her autobiography, she was put in the care of the infirmary’s superintendent, Samuel Crawford Edington, and his wife Nancy, who taught her to sew and decorate. Beginning in the spring of 1870, she was “bound out” to a local family to help care for their infant son, on the false promise of 50 cents a week and an education. The couple had originally wanted someone who could pump water, cook, and who was bigger. She spent about two years in near-slavery to them where she endured mental and physical abuse. One time, the wife put Annie out in the freezing cold, without shoes, as a punishment because she had fallen asleep over some darning. Oakley referred to them as “the wolves” and even in her autobiography, she never revealed the couple’s real name (reputedly out of kindness despite their treatment of her). Around the spring of 1872, Annie ran away from “the wolves.” According to biographer Shirl Kasper, it was only at this point that Annie had met and lived with the Edingtons, returning to her mother’s home around the age of 15, by which time her mother had remarried (for a second time, having been twice widowed).

Oakley began trapping before the age of 7, and shooting and hunting by age 8, to support her siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game to locals in Greenville, such as shopkeepers Charles and G. Anthony Katzenberger, who shipped it to hotels in Cincinnati and other cities. She also sold the game herself to restaurants and hotels in northern Ohio. Her shooting prowess earned her enough money that she was able to pay off the mortgage on her mother’s farm by the time she was 15.

Oakley’s skill was well known throughout the region where she lived. According to the conventional account, on Thanksgiving Day 1875, the Baughman & Butler shooting act was booked in Cincinnati. Traveling show marksman and former dog trainer Frank E. Butler (1847–1926), an Irish immigrant, placed a $100 bet (worth $2,181 today) with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost that Butler could beat any local “fancy shooter.” Frost arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Oakley, saying, “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year-old girl named Annie.” The actual details of the match, as well as the dates, are sketchy at best. The general story is that Butler missed on his 25th shot and Oakley won. Subsequently, Butler who was 28 and married at the time, courted Oakley and married her a year later after he divorced his wife. I don’t see any reason to doubt that a 16-year-old Oakley would marry a man 13 years her senior, but many historians have expressed some incredulity.  You need to consider that this was the 19th century and Oakley had already lived a tough frontier life before she met Butler.  There are other possibilities, however.

Many modern accounts put the shooting match in 1881, not 1875. The Annie Oakley Center Foundation mentions Oakley visiting her married sister, Lydia Stein, at her home near Cincinnati in 1875. That information is incorrect as Lydia didn’t marry Joseph C. Stein until March 19, 1877. It is likely that Oakley and her mother visited Lydia in 1881 as she was seriously ill from tuberculosis. The Bevis House hotel (where the shooting match supposedly took place) was still being operated by Martin Bevis and W. H. Ridenour in 1875. Jack Frost didn’t obtain management of the hotel until 1879. The Baughman & Butler shooting act first appeared on the pages of The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1880. They signed with Sells Brothers Circus in 1881 and made an appearance at the Coliseum Opera House later that year.

Oakley and Butler were married a year after the shooting match and there is a certificate currently on file with the Archives of Ontario, Registration Number 49594, reporting Butler and Oakley being wed on June 20, 1882, in Windsor, Ontario. Other sources say that the marriage took place on August 23, 1876, in Cincinnati, but there is no recorded certificate to validate that date and place. Throughout Oakley’s show-business career, the public was often led to believe that she was five to six years younger than her actual age. Claiming the later marriage date would therefore have better supported her fictional age. Confused yet? I’d say that the smart money is on the shooting match taking place when Oakley was 21 and she married Butler when she was 22 in Ontario. Her show publicity shaved 5 or 6 years off her life, saying she was 15 when the match took place, not 21. Some contemporaries knowing her actual year of birth (1860) did the arithmetic and pegged the date of the match (erroneously) at 1875, and it stuck.

Annie and Frank lived in Cincinnati for a time. Oakley, the stage name she adopted when she and Frank began performing together, is believed to have been taken from the city’s neighborhood of Oakley, where they resided. They joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1885. During her first engagement with the Buffalo Bill show, Oakley had a tense professional rivalry with rifle sharpshooter Lillian Smith. Smith, 11 years younger than Oakley, was 15 years old at the time she joined the show in 1886, which was probably the main reason Oakley obscured her actual age in later years. For some time Smith’s press coverage was more favorable than hers. Oakley temporarily left the Buffalo Bill show but returned two years later, after Smith departed, in time for the Paris Exposition of 1889. This three-year tour cemented Oakley’s place as a premier celebrity back in the US. She earned more than any other performer in the show, except for “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself.

In Europe, she performed for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, King Umberto I of Italy, President Marie François Sadi Carnot of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley is said to have shot the ashes off a cigarette/cigar held in the mouth (or hand) of the future German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Supposedly Oakley asked for volunteers as part of the act, and usually none came forward. This allowed Frank to step into the hot spot. However, in Germany the Kaiser gladly volunteered to everyone’s surprise. Endless speculation has followed. What if she had accidentally blown his head off?  Would the Great War have been averted? There is also a legend that in 1916 Oakley requested a second shot.

There is a movie extant of Oakley performing produced at Edison’s Black Maria studio.  It’s not exactly a showcase of her skills but is a period piece

Oakley promoted the service of women in combat operations for the United States armed forces. She wrote a letter to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898, “offering the government the services of a company of 50 ‘lady sharpshooters’ who would provide their own arms and ammunition should the U.S. go to war with Spain.” The Spanish–American War did occur, but Oakley’s offer was not accepted. Theodore Roosevelt, did, however, name his volunteer cavalry the “Rough Riders” after the “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” where Oakley was a major star.

In 1901, Oakley was badly injured in a train accident, but she recovered after temporary paralysis and five spinal operations. She left the Buffalo Bill show and in 1902 began a quieter acting career in a stage play written especially for her, The Western Girl. Oakley played the role of Nancy Berry and used a pistol, a rifle and rope to outsmart a group of outlaws. Her injury and change of career only added to her legend that her shooting expertise continued to increase into her 60s.

Throughout her career, it is believed that Oakley taught upwards of 15,000 women how to use a gun. Perhaps Oakley’s most famous trick was her ability to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground, while using a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet (27 m).

In 1904, sensational cocaine prohibition stories were selling well. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst published a false story that Oakley had been arrested for stealing to support a cocaine habit. The woman actually arrested was a burlesque performer who told Chicago police that her name was Annie Oakley. Most of the newspapers that printed the story had relied on the Hearst article, and they immediately retracted it with apologies upon learning of the libelous error. Hearst, however, tried to avoid paying the anticipated court judgments of $20,000 ($533,111 in today’s dollars) by sending an investigator to Darke County, Ohio with the intent of collecting reputation-smearing gossip from Oakley’s past. The investigator found nothing. Oakley spent much of the next six years winning 54 of 55 libel lawsuits against newspapers. She collected less in judgments than the total of her legal expenses, but she felt that a restored reputation justified the loss of time and money.

In 1917 Oakley and Butler moved to North Carolina and returned to public life. She continued to set records into her 60s, and she also engaged in extensive philanthropy for women’s rights and other causes, including the support of young women whom she knew. She embarked on a comeback and intended to star in a feature-length silent movie which never materialized. She hit 100 clay targets in a row from 16 yards (15 m) at age 62 in a 1922 shooting contest in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

In late 1922, the couple were in a car accident that forced her to wear a steel brace on her right leg. She eventually performed again after more than a year of recovery, and she was still setting records in 1924. Her health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her body was cremated in Cincinnati two days later and the ashes buried at Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio. Butler was so grieved by her death that he stopped eating and died 18 days later in Michigan. His body was buried next to Oakley’s ashes. After her death, her incomplete autobiography was given to stage comedian Fred Stone, and it was discovered that she had spent her entire fortune on her family and her charities.

By some accounts Oakley’s favorite dish was chicken and rice, so you can make some version of arroz con pollo in celebration if you want to. There is however a reasonably well known oatmeal cookie called Annie Oakley, so I’ll go with that.

Annie Oakley Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
butter, for greasing

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Lightly grease two baking sheets with butter.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a mix bowl, then add the melted butter and eggs. Stir thoroughly to form a soft dough.

Drop the dough by the tablespoon on to the baking sheets, leaving enough space between them for the cookies to expand.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the baking sheets with a spatula and cool on wire racks.

Aug 122017
 

Today is World Elephant Day, an international event dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants. Conceived in 2011 by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark of Canazwest Pictures, and Sivaporn Dardarananda, Secretary-General of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand, it was officially founded, supported and launched by Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation on August 12, 2012. Since that time, Patricia Sims continues to lead and direct World Elephant Day, which is now supported by over 65 wildlife organizations as well as individuals in countries across the globe.

The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness of the urgent plight of African and Asian elephants, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants. African elephants are listed as “Vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The most dire prediction suggests that both African and Asian elephants face extinction within 12 years. The current population estimates are about 400,000 for African elephants and 40,000 for Asian elephants, although these estimates may be too high.

The film Return to the Forest, narrated by William Shatner, is about the reintroduction of captive Asian elephants to the wild and was released on the inaugural World Elephant Day in 2012. The follow-up feature film When Elephants Were Young, also narrated by William Shatner, depicts the life of a young man and young elephant in Thailand.

The demand for ivory, which is highest in China, has led to catastrophic poaching of both African and Asian elephants. One of the world’s largest elephants, Satao, was recently killed for his iconic tusks. Another iconic Kenyan elephant, Mountain Bull, was also killed by poachers, and with the street value for ivory now exceeding that of gold, African elephants face a poaching epidemic. Elephants are also poached for meat, leather, and body parts, with the illegal wildlife trade putting elephants increasingly in danger, because it is perceived to be a low risk and high profit endeavor given that the resources for policing poaching are inadequate and elephants live in some of the poorest countries in the world. For many would-be poachers the potential profits are well worth the relatively small risk of being caught.

The loss of habitat for elephants due to deforestation, increases in mining, and agricultural expansion has also become problematic, especially for Asian elephants. The fragmentation of habitat also creates isolation for herd members which makes breeding more difficult, and allows poachers to find the elephants and set traps more easily. Furthermore, as human populations increase and forest cover decreases, wild elephants are forced into closer proximity with human settlements leading to incidents of crop damage and other economic losses, pitting elephants directly against humans.

A lack of legislation regarding the care and treatment of elephants in zoos, circuses, and tourism often leads to their mistreatment. Captivity can be a serious threat to elephants, and Asian elephants are often illegally captured in the wild and trafficked into a lucrative wild animal industry.

I well remember a time in the 1950s when elephants were the mainstays of circuses in England and Australia, the circuses being sure to parade the elephants through town before setting up the big top (which the elephants assisted in raising). Those days are mostly gone. When I was on a very well-managed safari in Kenya in the Maasai Mara 10 years ago, I didn’t see a single elephant until the last day when we were heading out of the park on the way to the airport, and then it was just a couple of them.

Giving you a recipe for elephant stew would certainly be at odds with the purpose of the day, although I notice no lack of them online. That does not mean that we cannot have an elephant-themed recipe. Here’s a well-known pastry: cinnamon elephant ears. No elephants need to be killed to bake and enjoy them.

Cinnamon Elephant Ears

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C.

Mix together half of the sugar and a pinch of kosher salt and spread it thinly and evenly on a pastry board or marble slab. Unfold the puff pastry over the sugar mixture.

Mix the other half of the sugar and the cinnamon and spread it evenly on top of the puff pastry. Then use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry dough into a 13”/33cm square, pressing the sugar into the pastry, top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold one half over the other half so that you have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake the “ears” for 6 minutes or until they are caramelized on the bottom. Turn them carefully with a spatula and bake them for another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are caramelized on the other side.

Cool on a wire rack.

 

Aug 102017
 

Today is the birthday (1814) of Henri Nestlé (born Heinrich Nestle), a German-born Swiss confectioner and the founder of Nestlé, now the world’s largest food and beverage company. Nestlé’s contributions to the company he founded were rather modest although he was one of several inventors of condensed milk. His chief contribution, however, was his method of dehydrating milk.

Heinrich Nestle was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the eleventh of fourteen children of Johann Ulrich Matthias Nestle and Anna-Maria Catharina Ehemant. Nestle’s father, by tradition, inherited the business of his father, Johann Ulrich Nestle, and became a glazier in Töngesgasse. His brother, Gustav Edmund Nestle, was later Lord Mayor of Frankfurt am Main. The Nestle family has its roots in western Swabia, predominantly in boroughs of the Black Forest such as Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Mindersbach, Nagold, and Sulz am Neckar. In the Swabian dialect, “Nestle” is a small bird’s nest. The name Nestle also has different variations, including Nästlin, Nästlen, Nestlin, Nestlen, and Niestle.

The recorded Nestle family tree began with three brothers (thus the three young birds in the nest being fed by their mother on the family coat of arms) from Mindersbach, called Hans, Heinrich, and Samuel Nestlin. The father of these three sons was born around 1495. Hans, the eldest, was born in 1520 and had a son with the same name, who later became mayor of Nagold. His son Ulrich was a barber and his fifth son was the first glazier in the family. For over five generations, this profession was passed down from father to son. Additionally, the Nestles provided a number of mayors for the boroughs of Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Nagold, and Sulz am Neckar.

Before Nestlé turned 22 in 1836, he had completed a four-year apprenticeship with J. E. Stein, an owner of a pharmacy. Although the exact date is unknown, at some stage between 1834 and 1839 he moved to Switzerland. At the end of 1839 he was officially authorized to perform chemical experiments, make up prescriptions, and sell medicines in Lausanne. During this time, he changed his name to Henri Nestlé in order to assimilate better into the French-speaking society of Vevey where he eventually settled.

In 1843 Henri Nestlé bought into one of the region’s most progressive and versatile industries at that time, the production of rapeseeds. He also became involved in the production of nut oils (used to fuel oil lamps), liqueurs, rum, absinthe, and vinegar. He also began manufacturing and selling carbonated mineral water and lemonade, although during the crisis years from 1845 to 1847 Nestlé gave up mineral water production. In 1857 he began concentrating on gas lighting and fertilizers.

It is not known when Nestlé started working on his infant formula project, although by 1867 he was able to produce a viable powdered milk product. His interest is known to have been spurred by several factors. Although Nestlé and his wife were childless, they were aware of the high death rate among infants, and he was aware of Justus von Liebig’s work in developing an infant formula. Malnutrition among poorer women, leading to poor lactation, plus the limited availability of fresh cow’s milk in burgeoning cities, made a replacement for mother’s milk desirable to prevent infant mortality. These days, baby formulas (Nestlé’s in particular) have come in for severe criticism quite simply because natural mother’s milk contains so many beneficial ingredients that cannot be replicated in formulas.  But in Nestlé’s day infant formula was literally a life saver.

Nestlé combined cow’s milk with grain and sugar to produce a substitute for breast milk. Moreover, he and his friend Jean Balthasar Schnetzler, a scientist in human nutrition, were able to perfect a process that removed the acid and the starch in wheat flour which were difficult for babies to digest. Initially called “kindermehl” (child flour), his product had an advantage over Liebig’s “soup for infants” in that it was much easier to prepare, only needing to be boiled prior to feeding, and it soon proved to be a viable option for infants who were unable to breast feed. People quickly recognized the value of the new product and soon Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé (Henri Nestlé’s Milk Flour) was being sold across Europe.

In 1867 Daniel Peter began seven years of work perfecting his invention, the milk chocolate manufacturing process. Nestlé was the crucial partner that Peter needed to solve the problem of removing all the water from the milk added to his chocolate and thus preventing the product from developing mildew.

Also 1867, Charles (US consul in Switzerland) and George Page, two brothers from Lee County, Illinois, USA, established the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company in Cham in Switzerland. Their first British operation was opened at Chippenham, Wiltshire, in 1873. In 1877, Anglo-Swiss added milk-based baby foods to their products; in the following year, the Nestlé Company added condensed milk to their portfolio, which made the firms direct and fierce rivals. In 1905, the companies merged to become the Nestlé and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. This was the beginning of a century of mergers of various food companies that eventually made Nestlé the largest food corporation in the world.

It rather amuses me that the name Nestlé survives despite the fact that Henri had no children and he sold his company in 1875 to unrelated business associates who retained his name. Since then there has never been any association between the company and the family. Furthermore, Nestlé was just a Frenchified version of Henri’s German name which no one else bore. Yet now it is a household name. After retirement Henri lived with his family alternately in Montreux and Glion, where they helped people with small loans and publicly contributed towards improving the local infrastructure. In Glion he moved into a house later known as Villa Nestlé. He died of a heart attack in Glion on July 7th, 1890. He was buried at Territet Cemetery in Montreux.

While it may seem craven I am going to point you to the Nestlé website for a recipe today.  This is the link to their condensed milk recipes. You should find something you like and it would be a suitable way to honor the founder of the company and its milk products.

http://www.nestle-family.com/recipes/english/sweetened-condensed-milk-recipes.aspx