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

Aug 092017
 

Today is often cited (erroneously) as the birthday (c. 1594) of Izaak Walton, an English writer best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, that is, if he is remembered at all these days. Walton also wrote a number of short biographies that he recorded as he was researching The Compleat Angler and which were eventually collected into one volume under the title Walton’s Lives. Walton was born in Stafford on a date that is unknown. The traditional date of 9th August 1593 is based on a misinterpretation of his will, which he began on 9 August 1683. The register of his baptism gives his father’s name as Gervase. His father, who was an innkeeper as well as a landlord of a tavern, died before Izaak was 3 years old. His mother then married another innkeeper by the name of Bourne, who later ran the Swan in Stafford.

He is believed to have been educated in Stafford before moving to London in his teens. He is often described as an ironmonger, but he trained as a linen draper, a trade which came under the Ironmongers’ Company. He had a small shop in the upper storey of Thomas Gresham’s Royal Burse or Exchange in Cornhill. In 1614 he had a shop in Fleet Street, two doors west of Chancery Lane in the parish of St Dunstan’s. He became verger and churchwarden of the church, and a friend of the vicar, John Donne. He joined the Ironmongers’ Company in November 1618. Walton’s first wife was Rachel Floud (married December 1626), a great-great-niece of Archbishop Cranmer. She died in 1640. He soon remarried, Anne Ken (1646–1662), who appears as Kenna in Walton’s poem The Angler’s Wish. She was a stepsister of Thomas Ken, afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells.

After the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor in 1644, Walton retired from his trade. He went to live just north of his birthplace, at Shallowford between Stafford and Stone, where he had bought some land bordered by a small river. However by 1650 he was living in Clerkenwell in London. The first edition of his book The Compleat Angler was published in 1653. His second wife died in 1662, and was buried in Worcester Cathedral, where there is a monument to her memory.

For the remainder of his life (40 years) Walton visited eminent clergymen and others who enjoyed fishing, compiling the biographies of people he liked, and collecting information for revisions and additions to The Compleat Angler. He died in his daughter’s house at Winchester, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The Compleat Angler was first published in 1653, but Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century, going through 5 editions. At the core of the book are instructions about fishing itself, but the whole work is a kaleidoscope of poems, stories, reminiscences, autobiography, and miscellany about fishing.  You have to dip into it to get the idea.  Here’s a few quotes:

Doubt not but angling will prove to be so pleasant that it will prove to be, like virtue, a reward to itself.

Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element are made for wise men to contemplate, and for fools to pass by without consideration.

You will find angling to be like the virtue of humility, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of other blessings attending upon it.

We may say of angling as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries: “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did”; and so, if I might be judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling.

Thus use your frog…Put your hook through his mouth, and out at his gills;…and then with a fine needle and silk sew the upper part of his leg, with only one stitch, to the arming-wire of your hook; or tie the frog’s leg, above the upper joint, to the armed-wire; and in so doing use him as though you loved him.

Walton did not claim to be an expert at fly fishing and many of the technical discourses on the subject come from other fishermen. But he was skilled at using live bait (as in the case of the frog), and was a genuine devotee of fishing in general. In the first edition the book opens with a dialogue between Piscator (angler) and Viator (traveler) extolling their respective pastimes, much in the vein of similar dialogues from an earlier period.

In the second edition, seemingly in response to critics who felt that Piscator was too dominant in the dialogue, introduced the falconer, Auceps, and changed Viator into Venator (hunter), and made these new companions each expound on the joys of their individual sports. After the 17th century, Walton was not much in vogue until the late 19th century when noted folk tale scholar and editor, Andrew Lang, put out a new edition in 1896.

I lived on a trout stream in the Catskills for nearly 30 years, and during that time I became deeply involved in the world of fly fishing, which includes fly tying (an incredibly arcane art), split bamboo cane making, entomology, and tale telling galore. Dipping into Walton is like peering into the lives of many of the fishermen I knew. One thing that unites Walton with contemporary fishermen is the distaste for actually killing and eating the fish they catch. Rather they prefer to catch fish – enjoying the battle – and then immediately releasing them back into the river. So a fish recipe might not meet with their approval. I’ll go ahead anyway.

Here’s two recipes from 17th century England. First, from The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery (1675). In this case a “coffin” is a contemporary word for an enclosed pie shell.

To make a Carp-Pye.

After you have drawn, wash’d, and scalded a fair large Carp, season it with Pepper, Salt, and Nutmeg, and then put it into a Coffin, with good store of sweet Butter, and then cast on Raisins of the Sun, the juice of Limons, and some slices of Orange-peels, and then sprinkling on a little Vinegar, close it up, and bake it.

Second, from The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex (1696)

To Stew Trouts, Carp, Tench, &c.

Draw them and scrape them well, wash them in White-wine, then smeer them over with a piece of Sweet Butter, and lay them orderly in a Stew-pan, putting in as much water as will cover them above an inch, with a little Salt, a bundle of sweet herbs, and some blades of Mace, take them up, and make your Sawce of beaten Butter, Claret, yolks of Eggs, and Sugar.

 

Aug 082017
 

Today, August 8th, can be written 8/8 in both day/month and month/day systems, and in certain languages the words for eight-eight can have punning meaning. In Mandarin Chinese, for example, eight-eight  –  八八 (bābā) – sounds like 爸爸 (bàba – daddy), and so at one time August 8th was father’s day in China. It’s still father’s day in Taiwan and Mongolia, but not in the People’s Republic.

In Swahili, the national language of Tanzania, eight-eight is Nane Nane, which is also the name of an Agricultural Exhibition that takes place every year around this date [8/8] in varying locations of Tanzania. At the Nane Nane Agricultural Exhibition, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders (e.g., universities and research institutes, input suppliers or fertilizer producing industries) showcase new technologies, ideas, discoveries and alternative solutions concerning the agricultural sector.

In English, puns are generally treated as rather low-grade humor, but in many, many cultures and languages puns hold a special place. In Biblical Hebrew, for example, proper nouns, especially personal names, involve complex, often tortured puns. The first man is commonly called Adam in English, but in Genesis, Adam is not his name so much as what he is: a man (referred to in the text simply as ha-adam – the man), which sounds like ha-adamah, “earth” (making a pun out of the fact that “the man” was originally fashioned from “the earth”). Likewise Jacob, founder of the lineages of the 12 tribes of Israel, begins life with a name that sounds like “heel grabber” reflecting that he was the second born of twins who, by grabbing his elder brother’s (Esau’s) heel coming from the womb will ultimately usurp him as leader of a nation. His name is changed to Israel after he wrestles with an angel where is-ra-el puns with ish-ra-el – a man who fights with God. Absolutely every personal name in Genesis has a punning meaning which is lost in translation, but is the core of rabbinical and Talmudic analysis and reflection. Nobody minds that these meanings are puns rather than genuine etymological relationships. Puns have sacred power.

Chinese puns are immensely important in a number of different ways. Chinese puns and homophones work only in spoken language because words that sound identical or similar are easily distinguished by Chinese characters in writing. Nonetheless the Chinese take puns and homophones very seriously. The number 4 is an unlucky number in Chinese culture because the word for 4 () sounds like the word for death (sǐ) – and, by coincidence, a similar pun and superstition holds true in Japanese (even though the Chinese and Japanese words are etymologically unrelated). Consequently, many Chinese high-rise buildings have no floors that have numbers with 4 in them. My first apartment in Yunnan was apartment #4 on the 13th floor, so I felt it had a kind of East meets West misfortune about it. Nothing bad happened there, I’m glad to say.

It is common in China for a bride and groom to exchange gifts of chopsticks because the word for chopsticks, 筷子 (kuàizi) puns with 快子 (kuàizǐ) which means “to have a son quickly.” Conversely, it is very bad luck for couples to give gifts of shoes because “shoes” (鞋 xié) in northern Mandarin is a homophone of “evil” (邪 xié). Similarly, it is bad luck to share a pear with your lover because “to share a pear” (分梨) is a homophone of “separate” (分离), both pronounced “fēnlí” in Mandarin.

The image of a carp swimming around lotuses is a common depiction of good fortune in China because “carp” (鲤, lǐ), “fish” (鱼, yú), and lotus (莲, lián) are near homophones with “profit” (利, lì), “surplus” (余, yú), and “successive” (连, lián) respectively.

Instead of a recipe today here are a few food puns. Sorry !!!

The wedding was so beautiful, even the cake was in tiers.

Lettuce not panic. Romaine calm.

Aug 072017
 

Today is the birthday (1916) of Kermit Ernest Hollingshead Love, a US puppet maker, puppeteer, costume designer, and actor in children’s television and on Broadway. He was best known as a designer and builder with the Muppets, in particular those on Sesame Street. Rather amusingly, despite the coincidence of unusual names, Kermit Love first met Jim Henson after his 1955 creation and naming of Kermit the Frog.

Love was born in Spring Lake, New Jersey, and was raised by his grandmother and great-grandmother after his mother’s death when he was 3 years old. He began his theatrical career working as a marionette maker for a federal Works Progress Administration theater in Newark, New Jersey in 1935. He was also a costume designer for Broadway and other stage productions as in the 1930s, including Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre troupe. Love also appeared on stage in a bit part as a student for the 1937 play Naught Naught 00.

Love worked with many of the great figures of mid-century Broadway and American ballet. He was the costumer for the Agnes de Mille ballet Rodeo (1942), for the Kurt Weill musical One Touch of Venus (1943), and for Merce Cunningham’s The Wind Remains (1943) and Jerome Robbins’s ballet Fancy Free (1944). For George Balanchine he designed, amongst other items, a 28 ft (8.5 m) marionette giant for Don Quixote (1965).

During the early 1960s, Love first crossed paths with Jim Henson through Don Sahlin, who urged him to meet with Henson. The three first collaborated on The LaChoy Dragon. Love’s theatrical background had given him particular skill at handling full body-puppets and tailoring them to allow freedom for the performer’s movements. From this, Love went on to build Oscar the Grouch and then Big Bird after a drawing was designed by Henson (though Sahlin had carved the first head). Love talked about how he designed Big Bird so that he would subtly shed feathers in the course of normal movement, “Not unlike a tree shedding leaves in the Fall.” He believed this made Big Bird appear more natural to young viewers. Later, Love designed Mr. Snuffleupagus and helped create Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. He accompanied the Big Bird costume (Love preferred calling it a “puppet”) when it traveled overseas for appearances.

Though he also worked on The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, Sesame Street was Love’s domain, along with Caroly Wilcox, as one of the key supervisors. He also portrayed Willy, the hot dog vendor, on Sesame Street. He was also puppeteer on the special Julie on Sesame Street. For the feature film Follow That Bird, he served as special Muppet consultant, as well as appearing in many background scenes as Willy. Love was also involved in designing many of the Sesame Street puppets for the early international productions. For the special The Great Santa Claus Switch, Love contributed to the giant Thig.

In addition to his work on Sesame Street, Love remained busy as freelancer, creating and building puppets for the non-Henson puppet series The Great Space Coaster.

One of his specials was watched by a young Kevin Clash, whose parents got hold of Kermit and told him about their son. Kermit worked as a mentor to Kevin and introduced him to Jim Henson, helped Kevin get jobs on children’s shows The Great Space Coaster and Captain Kangaroo. After both shows were cancelled, Kevin moved on to Sesame Street. Other works included building the Snuggle Bear puppet for the popular Snuggle fabric softener commercials.

Going into semi-retirement in the 1990s, Love remained active, building many full-body puppets for the Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker performances, such as designing the mice and the 16 ft (4.9 m)-tall Mother Ginger puppet, an association that continued until 2004. In 1993, he directed the Whirligig pilot for PBS at The Studios at Los Colinas, Irving, Texas. In 2001, Love designed Aza, the bird-like mascot for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Love died on June 21, 2008, of congestive heart failure and pneumonia in Poughkeepsie, New York.

In tribute to Love here’s a muppet promo of their cookbook with recipes:

 

Aug 062017
 

On this date in 1945 the USA dropped the first of 2 atomic bombs on Japan. The first was on Hiroshima, the second, on August 9th, was on Nagasaki. Because Hiroshima was the first (and arguably the most popularly known) attack, it is the one commemorated in Japan and elsewhere on this date to remember the bombings in general. I will say a few things about the actual attack, but I won’t go into much detail because there is a mountain of information on it you can find. The bulk of my post concerns the ethics of the attack, followed by a classic Hiroshima recipe. My principal concern is the (mostly) modern concept of “total war” – warfare in which all enemy targets are fair game. As always, I’ll state my biases up front. For me, all warfare is hideous. Like Bertrand Russell, however, I do recognize the inherent ethical dilemmas raised by the Axis powers in the Second World War. Both the Germans and Japanese were engaged in ruthless genocide with a view to world domination by force, so it’s not ethically possible to simply state, “I refuse to play.” That would have led to the enslavement or murder of countless millions of innocent people. Nonetheless, one may still ask whether the tactics of the Allies in defeating such an atrocity were the best.

In the final year of the war, the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This was preceded by a U.S. conventional and firebombing campaign that destroyed 67 Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945. The Japanese, facing the same fate, refused to accept the Allies’ demands for unconditional surrender and the Pacific War continued. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being “prompt and utter destruction”. The Japanese response to this ultimatum was to ignore it.

By August 1945, the Allies’ Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs, and the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. Orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities were issued on July 25. On August 6th the U.S. dropped a uranium gun-type (Little Boy) bomb on Hiroshima, and Harry Truman called for Japan’s surrender, warning it to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” The Japanese continued to ignore the ultimatum so 3 days later, on August 9, a plutonium implosion-type (Fat Man) bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Within the first two to four months following the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings had killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, the remainder of the deaths occurred from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

In April 1945 a Target Committee of generals and Manhattan Projects was formed to determine where the bombs were to be dropped if the Japanese failed to surrender.The Target Committee nominated five targets: Kokura, the site of one of Japan’s largest munitions plants; Hiroshima, an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of a major military headquarters; Yokohama, an urban center for aircraft manufacture, machine tools, docks, electrical equipment and oil refineries; Niigata, a port with industrial facilities including steel and aluminum plants and an oil refinery; and Kyoto, a major industrial center. The target selection was subject to the following criteria:

The target was larger than 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter and was an important target in a large urban area.

The blast would create effective damage.

The target was unlikely to be under air or ground attack by August 1945.

These cities were largely untouched during the nightly bombing raids and the Army Air Forces agreed to leave them off the target list so accurate assessment of the weapon could be made. Hiroshima was described as

an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. Due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target.

The Target Committee wrote that:

It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released. Kyoto had the advantage of being an important center for military industry, as well an intellectual center and hence a population better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon. The Emperor’s palace in Tokyo has a greater fame than any other target but is of least strategic value.

Edwin O. Reischauer, a Japan expert for the U.S. Army Intelligence Service, was incorrectly said to have prevented the bombing of Kyoto. In his autobiography, Reischauer specifically refuted this claim:

The only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier.

On May 30, Stimson asked the chair of the Target Committee (gen. Groves) to remove Kyoto from the target list due to its historical, religious and cultural significance, but Groves pointed to its military and industrial significance. Stimson then approached Truman about the matter. Truman agreed with Stimson, and Kyoto was temporarily removed from the target list. Groves attempted to restore Kyoto to the target list in July, but Stimson remained adamant. On July 25, Nagasaki was put on the target list in place of Kyoto.

I have long wondered why the bomb was not first dropped in an unpopulated area to demonstrate its effects but to spare civilian lives, and will note that this idea was considered and rejected. In early May 1945, the Interim Committee was created by Stimson at the urging of leaders of the Manhattan Project, and with the approval of Truman, to advise on matters pertaining to nuclear energy. Members of the Manhattan Project had serious moral qualms about using the weapon they had developed, and such qualms have led to no end of debate about the ethical dilemmas facing scientists ever since. During the meetings on May 31st and June 1st physicist Ernest Lawrence had suggested giving the Japanese a non-combat demonstration. Arthur Compton later recalled that:

It was evident that everyone would suspect trickery. If a bomb were exploded in Japan with previous notice, the Japanese air power was still adequate to give serious interference. An atomic bomb was an intricate device, still in the developmental stage. Its operation would be far from routine. If during the final adjustments of the bomb the Japanese defenders should attack, a faulty move might easily result in some kind of failure. Such an end to an advertised demonstration of power would be much worse than if the attempt had not been made. It was now evident that when the time came for the bombs to be used we should have only one of them available, followed afterwards by others at all-too-long intervals. We could not afford the chance that one of them might be a dud. If the test were made on some neutral territory, it was hard to believe that Japan’s determined and fanatical military men would be impressed. If such an open test were made first and failed to bring surrender, the chance would be gone to give the shock of surprise that proved so effective. On the contrary, it would make the Japanese ready to interfere with an atomic attack if they could. Though the possibility of a demonstration that would not destroy human lives was attractive, no one could suggest a way in which it could be made so convincing that it would be likely to stop the war.

The possibility of a demonstration was raised again in the Franck Report issued by physicist James Franck on June 11 and the Scientific Advisory Panel rejected his report on June 16, saying that “we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” Franck then took the report to Washington, D.C., where the Interim Committee met on June 21 to re-examine its earlier conclusions; but it reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the use of the bomb on a military target.

Like Compton, many U.S. officials and scientists argued that a demonstration would sacrifice the shock value of the atomic attack, and the Japanese could deny the atomic bomb was lethal, making the mission less likely to produce surrender. Allied prisoners of war might be moved to the demonstration site and be killed by the bomb. They also worried that the bomb might be a dud since the Trinity test was of a stationary device, not an air-dropped bomb. In addition, only two bombs would be available at the start of August, although more were in production, and they cost billions of dollars, so using one for a demonstration would be expensive.

Here I’ll leave you to sort out the ethical problem for yourself.  A look at a map of territory still under Japanese control by August 1945 shows that, while the Allies were definitely winning and would eventually succeed, a hard slog was still to come and the Japanese would never surrender using conventional weapons until the mainland was completely overrun by the Allies. This could have taken years. As it is, pockets of Japanese forces, still fighting after the surrender was signed, sporadically showed up in the Pacific for decades.

Truman’s and Churchill’s equation was brutal, yet simple. One way or another the Allies will win, but lives will be lost in the process. How many lives, and whose lives were the key questions – Allied military lives (and Japanese military) versus Japanese civilians?  This brings up the issue of “total war.”  Throughout much of the modern era, and certainly since the Geneva Conventions following the First World War, there had been a sense in the West that civilians and civilian targets were off limits in warfare. But there is also no question that throughout Western history from ancient times forward, total war, that is war in which no one was safe, military or civilian, was the norm. Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians etc. in ancient times routinely slaughtered or enslaved ALL the inhabitants of conquered lands utterly laying waste to towns and farm lands, and looting all their treasures.  Total war is not a modern invention. Still, in modern times, particularly in the 20th century in the aftermath of the atrocities of the First World War, there was a growing sense that civilians should never be targets of war. During the Napoleonic Wars civilians routinely watched battles from a safe distance, sometimes bringing picnics as part of enjoying the spectacle and safe in the knowledge that they would not be involved. Modern weaponry shattered this state of affairs, and the ideological and cultural animus of the belligerents in the Second World War was absolute.

The US had no hesitation in sending people of Japanese origin to internment camps even though they were (mostly) US citizens, many of whom were born in the United States. There was a sense (not universal) that their loyalties would be with Japan and their existence on US soil was a threat. The Allies carpet bombed cities such as Dresden just as the Axis powers rained down death and destruction on cities in England. Nuclear bombs were, therefore, nothing more than an extension of this policy with one bomb taking the place of tens of thousands. In that context I do not believe that there are easy answers, and I’m not going to give one. I will say, though, that the world is different now because of Hiroshima and the events that followed, including the Cold War. Total war has become the norm; no one is safe. These are times that I hope will be roundly condemned by future generations – but I have my doubts.

Hiroshima is known for okonomiyaki, a savory pancake cooked on an iron griddle, usually in front of the customer. It is cooked with various ingredients, which are layered rather than mixed together as done with the Osaka version of okonomiyaki. The layers are typically egg, cabbage, bean sprouts (moyashi), sliced pork/bacon with optional items (mayonnaise, fried squid, octopus, cheese, mochi, kimchi, etc.), and noodles (soba, udon) topped with another layer of egg and a generous dollop of okonomiyaki sauce (Carp and Otafuku are two popular brands). The amount of cabbage used is usually 3 to 4 times the amount used in the Osaka style. It starts out piled very high and is generally pushed down as the cabbage cooks. The order of the layers may vary slightly depending on the chef’s style and preference, and ingredients will vary depending on the preference of the customer. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き o-konomi-yaki)  is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like” and yaki meaning “grill” (as in yakitori and yakisoba). Okonomiyaki is cooked in different ways in various parts of Japan including Osaka, Kansai, and Tokyo. The Hiroshima style is of special importance.

As is my custom, I’m not going to give you a recipe because you won’t be able to replicate this dish at home both because of the need for specific ingredients and for certain cooking skills and equipment.  The Japanese don’t make it at home.  Here’s a video instead:

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Aug 052017
 

Today is an anniversary for 2 Anglo-Saxon kings, Æthelred of Mercia (d. 911) and Oswald of Northumbria (c.604 – 642) – who are, coincidentally, (very) tangentially related to one another. Æthelred along with Edward the Elder of Wessex defeated the last major Danish army to raid England at the Battle of Tettenhall on this date in 910, and Oswald died on this date which became his feast day after he was canonized. This coincidence gives me a chance to talk about Anglo-Saxon history in general along with Æthelred and Oswald in particular.

I was not really taught all that much about Anglo-Saxon England as a boy. It was generally regarded in schools back then as something of a throwaway subject as a prelude to the obviously much more “important” history of the Norman monarchs which ineluctably guides us to such “greats” as William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Elizabeth I, Victoria, and so forth, in turn leading us onward to the great and glorious present day.  The period between Roman Britain and the Norman conquest got short shrift, relegated in my minimal history lessons on the subject to cute legends about Alfred, Canute, and the like under the general rubric of the Dark Ages.  The word “Dark” conjured up an image of a period of ignorance and superstition, made “Light” by the Normans who launched the “High” Middle Ages in England, giving way to the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and so forth. This vision of history, especially of Anglo-Saxon England, is incredibly annoying to me. The idea that history can be broken into episodes is unbelievably stupid in itself, and the idea that one episode is more important than others is, likewise, moronic.  Care to tell me what era we are living in now? Say “post-modern” and I’ll brain you. History is a river, not rungs on a ladder.

If we want to use the term Dark Ages at all (which I don’t), we should use it to mean that we know precious little about them. They are certainly dark to us, but they were not to the people living in them.  Furthermore, it’s a gigantic mistake to think of Anglo-Saxon England as politically, religiously, or culturally homogeneous as so many amateurs are wont to do as they seek to create “pagan” or “Druid” practices of old. Anglo-Saxon England lasted for around 500 years and was subject to all manner of internal divisions and external invasions. Contemporary written sources are sparse and frequently unreliable, sometimes written a century or more after the events that they describe.  In addition, we seldom have multiple sources to corroborate events. Archeology is making a dent in adding information about the period but it’s rather hit-and-miss with a preponderance of burial sites over other situations (mostly because potentially key sites have been built over, and are only discovered by accident in the course of renovation).

Oswald of Northumbria was born to Æthelfrith, ruler of Bernicia, who later became king of Deira, uniting the two kingdoms into what became the kingdom of Northumbria. His mother, Acha, was a member of the Deiran royal line whom Æthelfrith apparently married as part of his acquisition of Deira or with a view to consolidation of power there. Bede says that Oswald was killed at the age of 38 in 642, so he would have been born around 604. Æthelfrith was eventually killed in battle around 616 by Raedwald of East Anglia at the River Idle, and Edwin (Acha’s brother), became king of Northumbria. Oswald and his brothers fled to Scotland where he spent the remainder of his youth and converted to Christianity.

After Cadwallon ap Cadfan, the king of Gwynedd, in alliance with Penda of Mercia, killed Edwin in battle at Hatfield Chase in 633 (or 632) Northumbria split again into the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Oswald’s brother Eanfrith became king of Bernicia, but he was killed by Cadwallon in 634 (or 633). Subsequently, Oswald, at the head of a small army, met Cadwallon in battle at Heavenfield, near Hexham. Before the battle, Oswald had a wooden cross erected. He knelt down, holding the cross in position until enough earth had been thrown in the hole to make it stand firm, and then prayed, asking his army to join in. In the battle that followed, the British were routed despite their superior numbers and Cadwallon himself was killed.

Following the victory at Heavenfield, Oswald reunited Northumbria. Oswald seems to have been widely recognized as an overlord in his time, although the extent of his authority is uncertain. Bede makes the claim that Oswald “brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain” which, as Bede notes, was divided by language between the English, Britons, Scots, and Picts. But Bede also mentions at another point in his history that it was Oswald’s brother Oswiu who made the Picts and Scots tributary.

Oswald apparently controlled the Kingdom of Lindsey, given the evidence of a story told by Bede regarding the moving of Oswald’s bones to a monastery there; Bede says that the monks rejected the bones initially because Oswald had ruled over them as a foreign king. Oswald seems to have been on good terms with the West Saxons: he stood as sponsor to the baptism of their king, Cynegils, and married Cynegils’ daughter.

Although Edwin had previously converted to Christianity in 627, it was Oswald who did the most to spread the religion in Northumbria. Shortly after becoming king, he asked the Irish of Dál Riata to send a bishop to facilitate the conversion of his people, and they sent Aidan for this purpose; initially, the Irish sent an “austere” bishop who was unsuccessful in his mission, and Aidan, who proposed a gentler approach, was subsequently sent instead. Oswald gave the island of Lindisfarne to Aidan as his episcopal see, and Aidan achieved great success in spreading the Christian faith; Bede mentions that Oswald acted as Aidan’s interpreter when the latter was preaching, since Aidan did not know English well and Oswald had learned Irish during his exile.

Bede puts a clear emphasis on Oswald being saintly as a king; although he could be interpreted as a martyr for his subsequent death in battle, Bede portrays Oswald as being saintly for his deeds in life and does not focus on his martyrdom as being primary to his sainthood—indeed, it has been noted that Bede never uses the word “martyr” in reference to Oswald. In this respect, as a king regarded as saintly for his life while ruling—in contrast to a king who gives up the kingship in favour of religious life, or who is venerated because of the manner of his death—Bede’s portrayal of Oswald stands out as unusual.[24] Bede recounts Oswald’s generosity to the poor and to strangers, and tells a story highlighting this characteristic: on one occasion, at Easter, Oswald was sitting at dinner with Aidan, and had “a silver dish full of dainties before him”, when a servant, whom Oswald “had appointed to relieve the poor”, came in and told Oswald that a crowd of the poor were in the streets begging alms from the king. Oswald, according to Bede, then immediately had his food given to the poor and even had the dish broken up and distributed. Aidan was greatly impressed and seized Oswald’s right hand, saying: “May this hand never perish.” Accordingly, Bede reports that the hand and arm remained uncorrupted after Oswald’s death.

It was a conflict with the non-Christian Mercians under Penda that proved to be Oswald’s undoing. He was killed by the Mercians at the Battle of Maserfield on August 5th 642, at a place generally identified with Oswestry  and his body was dismembered. Bede mentions the story that Oswald “ended his life in prayer”: he prayed for the souls of his soldiers when he saw that he was about to die. Oswald’s head and limbs were placed on stakes.

Bede mentions that Oswald’s brother Oswiu, who succeeded Oswald in Bernicia, retrieved Oswald’s remains in the year after his death. In writing of one miracle associated with Oswald, Bede gives some indication of how Oswald was regarded in conquered lands: years later, when his niece Osthryth moved his bones to Bardney Abbey in Lindsey, its inmates initially refused to accept them, “though they knew him to be a holy man”, because “he was originally of another province, and had reigned over them as a foreign king”, and thus “they retained their ancient aversion to him, even after death”. It was only after Oswald’s bones were the focus of an awe-inspiring miracle—in which, during the night, a pillar of light appeared over the wagon in which the bones were being carried and shone up into the sky—that they were accepted into the monastery: “in the morning, the brethren who had refused it the day before, began themselves earnestly to pray that those holy relics, so beloved by God, might be deposited among them.”

As we shall see more in a minute, in the early 10th century, Bardney was in Viking territory, and in 909, following a combined West Saxon and Mercian raid led by Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, St Oswald’s relics were translated to a new minster in Gloucester, which was renamed St Oswald’s Priory in his honor. Æthelflæd, and her husband Æthelred, ealdorman of Mercia, were buried in the priory, and their nephew, King Æthelstan, was a major patron of Oswald’s cult.

Oswald’s head was interred in Durham Cathedral together with the remains of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (a saint with whom Oswald became posthumously associated, although the two were not associated in life; Cuthbert became bishop of Lindisfarne more than 40 years after Oswald’s death) and other valuables in a quickly made coffin, where it is generally believed to remain, although there are at least four other claimed heads of Oswald in continental Europe. One of his arms is said to have ended up in Peterborough Abbey later in the Middle Ages. The story is that a small group of monks from Peterborough made their way to Bamburgh where Oswald’s uncorrupted arm was kept and stole it under the cover of darkness. They returned with it to Peterborough and in due time a chapel was created for the arm – Oswald’s Chapel. This – minus the arm – can be seen to this day in the south transept of the cathedral.

After successful raids by Danish Vikings in the 9th century, significant parts of North-Eastern England, formerly Northumbria, were under their control. Danish attacks into central England had been resisted and effectively reduced by Alfred the Great, to the point where his son, King Edward of Wessex, could launch offensive attacks against them.

The Vikings quickly sought retaliation for the Northern incursions of the Anglo-Saxons in the early 10th century. In 910, the Danelaw kings assembled a fleet and transported a Danish army, via the River Severn, directly into the heart of Mercia. There they ravaged the land and collected plunder, but quickly sought to return north rather than be trapped in hostile territory. However, an army of West Saxons and Mercians caught them at Wednesfield, near Tettenhall, on this date (anniversary of Oswald’s death at the battle of Maserfield) and according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle defeated them and inflicted losses of many thousands including two or three kings. The Chronicle gives no details of the battle other than that “many thousands of men [i.e. Danes]” were killed, and that they were unable to retreat. With the Northern Danes subdued, the forces of Wessex and Mercia could be focused against those who had settled further south. It was also the defeat of the last great raiding army from Denmark to ravage England. With allied strength rising, England was able to be united under one domestic monarch – Alfred’s great aim achieved by his son and successors.

Historians will probably continue to quibble about details and names, but in my ever-so-humble opinion, there seems little doubt that England was a single, united, Anglo-Saxon kingdom more than a century before William the Bastard sailed from Normandy in 1066. Sure, 1066 was an important date but we need to be more measured than seeing it as THE GREAT DATE (sorry Sellar and Yeatman).  History is a river, not rungs on a ladder.  If you lived in England at the time, my guess is that you wouldn’t have said, “The Norman era, starts now” although you might have said, “[Anglo-Saxon expletive deleted] more bloody foreigners coming to rob us.” The reason that the following century seems so Norman is because there’s almost nothing about the period written in Anglo-Saxon, not that Anglo-Saxons stopped existing or contributing to culture (and history). We just don’t know about it. The next king of England to speak English as his first language was, the now much maligned, John (unlike his brother Richard who spoke French and spent all but a few months outside the country). The early Norman kings did NOT unite England. They took over an already united country and treated it as a province of Normandy, rather than as a separate independent nation. The pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon kings deserve much more credit, and should be accorded greater place in the history books.

Just as Anglo-Saxon England was not a monolithic culture, nor was their cuisine I strongly suspect. I imagine it was as regionally distinct in the Middle Ages as it is today, so I’m not going to give you a made up “Anglo-Saxon” recipe and claim that it represents ALL of England of the time. Let’s have a contemporary Northumbrian recipe to celebrate the continued regional diversity of English cuisine. I’ve mentioned pan haggerty before. Time for a recipe for this classic Geordie dish. Mature Cheddar is the most commonly used cheese but there are Northumberland artisanal cheeses available if you know where to look: http://northumberlandcheese.co.uk/cheese/Northumberlandia%20Cheese  A heavy, cast-iron skillet is essential.

Pan Haggerty

Ingredients

1 lb/450g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz/125g butter
8 oz/250g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz/115g melting cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C

In a cast-iron skillet melt 1 ounce of butter and gently fry the onions until they are soft. Remove the onions and reserve.

Melt half the remaining butter in the pan, remove it from the heat, and arrange a layer of potatoes in the pan, then a layer of onions followed by a layer of cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then repeat layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Put the pan on medium-high heat and cook until the bottom layer of potatoes is brown. Dot the surface of the potatoes with the remaining butter and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the potatoes, return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes.

At the end you should have a single potato cake. Loosen the edges of the cake from the frying pan with a spatula, flip the pan over on to a plate and cut it into wedges. Serve hot, immediately.