Sep 242017
 

Today is the birthday (1890) of Sir Alan Patrick Herbert CH, usually known as A. P. Herbert, English humorist, novelist, playwright and law reform activist who served as an Independent Member of Parliament (MP) for Oxford University from the 1935 general election to the 1950 general election, when university constituencies were abolished. His most famous short stories, first published in Punch under the general title Misleading Cases, are fictitious law cases in which Herbert explores apparently absurd aspects of the law, and in which the protagonist, Albert Haddock, representing Herbert’s point of view, upholds his civil liberties by taking many to court, defending himself without counsel, and usually winning. Herbert himself said “Albert Haddock made his first public appearance, in Punch, in 1924. I have always understood that I invented him: but he has made some disturbing escapes into real life.” Over his lifetime Herbert published five collections: Misleading Cases in the Common Law, More Misleading Cases, Still More Misleading Cases, Codd’s Last Case, and Bardot M.P.?.

Herbert was born in Ashtead in Surrey and attended New College, Oxford where he received a first in Schools in Jurisprudence in 1914. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as an ordinary seaman after the outbreak of World War I, later serving as an officer with the Royal Naval Division. He fought in the Gallipoli campaign and on the Western Front, becoming his battalion’s adjutant in 1917, following which he was injured and did not return to the front line before the end of the war. Following the war, he published The Secret Battle and joined the permanent staff of Punch in 1924. He also wrote the librettos for several musicals.

Herbert was elected as the Independent MP for Oxford University in the 1935 general election. Before the outbreak of World War II, Herbert campaigned for private member’s rights, piloted the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937 through Parliament, opposed the Entertainments Duty and campaigned against the Oxford Group. He enlisted in the River Emergency Service in 1938 and served in World War II as a Petty Officer in the Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol. He captained the river boat, Water Gipsy, assigned to the River Thames. In 1943, he was part of a parliamentary commission sent to investigate the future of the Dominion of Newfoundland.

Herbert loved the River Thames and lived beside the river in Hammersmith in West London. He was a Conservator (a member of the Thames Conservancy Board) and a Freeman of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen. In 1966 he wrote The Thames in which he explored numerous aspects of the river.

In the last days of 1970, Herbert was taken to Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia, following a seizure that affected his left side and arm. Within six weeks, he was home again, and over many months his physical powers waned. In August 1971, he wrote his last letter to The Times, an appeal for parliamentary good manners in refraining from “witty derision of the literary exertions of Mr Harold Wilson” and of the “marine activities” of Edward Heath. By then, he was describing himself as “a recumbent nuisance.” He died on 11 November 1971, and obituaries were published in both The Times and Punch. The Times supplemented their obituary notice with a leading article. They described him as having done “more than any man of his day to add to the gaiety of the nation.”

Herbert’s most famous fictitious case is undoubtedly Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock (also known as the Negotiable Cow). The case has evolved into an urban legend. In this case, Albert Haddock had been in disagreement with the Collector of Taxes over the size of his tax bill. Haddock complained that the sum was excessive, particularly in view of the inadequate consideration he believed that he received from that Government in service. Eventually the Collector demanded £57 and 10 shillings. Haddock appeared at the offices of the Collector of Taxes and delivered a white cow “of malevolent aspect”. On the cow was stenciled in red ink:

To the London and Literary Bank, Limited

Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)

ALBERT HADDOCK

Haddock tendered the cow in payment of his bill and demanded a receipt.

During the hearing, the fictitious judge, Sir Basil String, enquired whether stamp duty had been paid. The prosecutor, Sir Joshua Hoot KC confirmed that a two-penny stamp was “affixed to the dexter horn of the cow.” The collector declined the cow, objecting that it would be impossible to pay it into a bank account. Haddock suggested that he endorse the cow to a third party to whom he might owe money, adding that “there must be many persons in that position.”

Sir Joshua informed the court that the collector did try to endorse the cheque on its back, in this case on the abdomen. However, Sir Joshua explained: “the cow … appeared to resent endorsement and adopted a menacing posture.” The collector abandoned the attempt and declined to take the cheque. Haddock led the cow away and was arrested in Trafalgar Square for causing an obstruction, leading to the co-joined criminal case, R. v Haddock.

He testified that he had tendered a cheque in payment of income tax. A cheque was only an order to a bank to pay money to the person in possession of the cheque or a person named on the cheque, and there was nothing in law to say it must be on paper of specified dimensions. A cheque, he argued, could be written on notepaper. He said he had “drawn cheques on the backs of menus, on napkins, on handkerchiefs, on the labels of wine bottles; all these cheques had been duly honored by his bank and passed through the Bankers’ Clearing House”. He thought that there was no distinction in law between a cheque on a napkin and a cheque on a cow.

When asked as to motive, he said he did not have a piece of paper to hand. Horses and other animals used to be seen frequently in the streets of London. He admitted on cross-examination that he may have had in his mind an idea to ridicule the taxman. “But why not? There is no law against ridiculing the income tax.” In relation to the criminal prosecution, Haddock said it was a nice thing if in the heart of the commercial capital of the world a man could not convey a negotiable instrument down the street without being arrested. If a disturbance was caused by a crowd, the policeman should arrest the crowd, not him. The judge, sympathetic to Haddock, found in his favor on the tax claim, but in favor of the prosecution for causing a disturbance. By tendering and being refused the cow, the Inland Revenue was estopped from demanding it later.

 

Negotiable instruments and other legal documents have been written on unusual surfaces. Documented cases provide illustrations of wills on the side of empty egg-shells, and cheques being written on a variety of strange surfaces. An often-cited example is a Canadian farmer who, while trapped under his own tractor, carved a holographic will into the tractor’s fender. The fender was probated and stood as his will, and is currently on display at the law library of the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. In Jewish law a get can be written on any durable material, including the horn of a cow. If the horn is still attached to the cow, the husband must give the wife the whole cow.

Board of Inland Revenue v. Haddock was dramatized for BBC television as “The Negotiable Cow” as the opening of the first series of A. P. Herbert’s Misleading Cases in 1967, with Roy Dotrice as Albert Haddock and Alastair Sim as Mr Justice Swallow. The BBC did not keep tapes of all its shows in those days but there are audio recordings of some and snippets available on YouTube.

In light of Herbert’s protagonist’s name, a dish of haddock is the order of the day I feel.  I enjoy a fillet of smoked haddock for breakfast, poached and served with a buttered crusty roll.  Haddock and chips also used to be a favorite of mine when I frequented chippies. Baked haddock is also a simple and satisfying dish. This is a classic English recipe.

Baked Haddock

Ingredients

2 lbs haddock fillets
salt and pepper
3 tbsp butter, melted (plus extra for greasing)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh parsley, chopped
crushed tarragon
paprika

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a large shallow baking dish.

Pat the haddock dry and arrange it in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, lemon juice and minced garlic. Evenly brush the seasoned butter over the haddock fillets, then sprinkle the fillets with parsley, tarragon, and paprika.

Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until it is opaque and flakes easily. Serve with poached asparagus or fresh green peas, (and lemon wedges if you like).

Sep 232017
 

Today is the birthday (63 BCE) of Augustus, founder of the Roman Principate and first Roman emperor, who controlled the Roman Empire from 27 BCE until his death in 14 CE. He is a monumentally pivotal figure in ancient Roman history in the period known commonly as the Roman Revolution: the timespan seeing the tail end of the Roman Republic with the assassination of Julius Caesar, civil war with Augustus as a key player, and the emergence of the Roman Empire. Here are the bare bones.

Augustus was born Gaius Octavius into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian gens Octavia. Julius Caesar was his maternal great-uncle, and, under the name Octavianus (Anglicized as Octavian). Octavian was named in Caesar’s will as his adopted son and heir. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, when Octavian was 20, upon which he, Mark Antony, and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat Caesar’s assassins. These were unsettled times in Rome. Powerful generals such as Caesar and Pompey wanted to wield greater individual power than the Senate and ended up in a civil war with Caesar triumphant. Thereafter Caesar’s power grew until many people were afraid that he would seek to be king. So they assassinated him. Getting rid of one man with ambitions for individual power did not return the Roman Republic to its old ways, however.

The Second Triumvirate (Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus were the First) defeated the assassins in various stages culminating in their victory at the Battle of Philippi.  Afterwards the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators, but the alliance was eventually torn apart by the competing ambitions of its members. Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Octavian in 31 BCE.

After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Octavian (Augustus after 27 BCE) restored the outward façade of the free Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate, the executive magistrates, and the legislative assemblies. In reality, however, he retained his autocratic power over the Republic as a military dictator. By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including supreme military command, and those of tribune and censor. It took several years for Augustus to develop the framework within which a formally republican state could be led under his sole rule. He rejected monarchical titles, and instead called himself Princeps Civitatis (“First Citizen of the State”). The resulting constitutional framework became known as the Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire. Historians routinely refer to Augustus as the first emperor, but Latin titles are a bit confusing. Octavian was styled Imperator (from which we get “Emperor”) as early as 38 BCE, but Imperator should really be translated “Commander” (or “Conquering Hero”) rather than “Emperor.” It was a title bestowed routinely on victorious generals as well as certain magistrates in the time of the Republic, and could still be used by certain generals in the early Empire. It was only later in the Empire that it was the exclusive title of the Empire’s rulers.  We shouldn’t let linguistic quibbles get in the way of historical facts, however. Augustus, de facto, was the first Roman Emperor.

I’ve studied this transition period quite extensively ever since I chose it as a special paper for my history A-levels and for my Oxford entrance exams. It all seemed tremendously momentous when I first came to the period as a teen. Now, as a (hopefully) mature historian, I am given to wonder whether the changes that Augustus wrought as emperor were as obvious to people living at the time as they are to us now.  History frequently looks back at dates and events as crucial turning points.  Did they seem like turning points at the time? I’m given to doubt it.  History has a funny way of looking at things – in hindsight.

The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). The Roman world was largely free from major conflict for more than two centuries thereafter, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire’s frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the “Year of the Four Emperors” (a war over the imperial succession). Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia; expanding possessions in Africa; expanding into Germania; and completing the conquest of Hispania. Beyond the frontiers, he secured the Empire with a buffer region of client states and made peace with the Parthian Empire through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army, established the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome, and rebuilt much of the city during his reign.

It’s amazing what you can do when you have no serious rivals and when you have absolute power. Before Augustus the Republic was a mess, torn apart year after year by powerful men and factions seeking control and dominance.  The assassins finished off Caesar, then the Second Triumvirate finished off the assassins, then Octavian polished off the other triumvirs, and stood supremely alone at the top of the pile. Once that feat was accomplished and his hold on the reins of power was firmly established, it would have been mighty foolhardy to challenge him.  The times of challenging the emperor’s power lay in the future.

Augustus died in 14 CE at the age of 75. He probably died from natural causes, although there were unconfirmed rumors that his wife Livia poisoned him. Seems a bit far-fetched to me.

If you are paying attention you will note that Augustus was emperor when Jesus was born (around 3 BCE). Yup, Jesus was probably born in the year 3 Before Christ !!! He died around 30 CE at the age of 33. If we are to believe Luke’s gospel (which I don’t) the legendary census that sent a pregnant Mary and her espoused, Joseph, to Bethlehem from their native Galilee, where she gave birth, was commanded by Augustus. As I have commented here several times before, the idea of a census covering the entire Roman Empire requiring every man, woman, and child to up stakes and leave their homes to go back to their ancestral homelands is both laughable and physically impossible. If Augustus had actually had such a ludicrously deranged idea he would have been locked up.

Tiberius

He was succeeded as Emperor by his adopted son (also stepson and former son-in-law) Tiberius.

The common staple of rich and poor alike at the time of the Roman Revolution was puls, a porridge made from farro.  Farro is whole wheat grain produced from a specific kind of wheat.  You can find it pearled in health food stores in the US, but in Italy to this day they sell it unpearled in regular supermarkets. In ancient Rome puls was the normal breakfast food for the common people, but it could be eaten for any meal.  Vegetables or meat might be added to a main dish, or fruit and honey for a sweet one.

To make farro into a dish that almost certainly resembles ancient puls combine 1 part farro to 2 parts water (with salt to taste) in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered until the grains are al dente (!) – ignoring the irony of using modern Italian as an English cooking term – and the liquid is mostly absorbed.  For a soupier dish use more water. It can be eaten plain on its own (as the poorer Romans would have done) or as a side dish. Otherwise you can add what you will to dress it up – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. Something similar is served in Tuscany these days as a breakfast dish with coffee as the liquid and candied fruit added for flavoring. Not my thing – at all.

 

 

Sep 212017
 

Today is the feast of St Matthew the Apostle (מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎‎ Mattityahu or מתי‎ Mattay, “Gift of YHVH”; Ματθαῖος Matthaios) who, according to the Greek Bible, was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, was one of the four Evangelists. Well, Matthew the Apostle and the person who wrote the gospel that became the Gospel According to Matthew are without a doubt two different people, but they both get celebrated today (as the same person), so I’ll go with the flow even though I’m more interested in the gospel than in the apostle who is a tad one dimensional.

Matthew the apostle is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who, while sitting at the “receipt of custom” in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus. Those passages suggest that Matthew collected taxes from the Judean people for Herod Antipas. That’s how he’s characterized in Christian tradition. Matthew is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve apostles. That’s the sum total of what we know from the gospels.  As such the information is not much of an addition to the gospel story. The gospel attributed to Matthew has much more to offer.

First we must understand that the gospel was originally anonymous and was not attributed to the apostle Matthew until the 2nd century. Scholars usually date it in the period 80 to 90 CE which means it’s highly unlikely to have been written by an eyewitness, let alone an apostle. The gospel itself does not claim to have been written by an eyewitness, and the scholarly consensus is that it, and Luke, were written using Mark as a source book. What is most interesting to me are the parts of Matthew that are not found in the other gospels, and the special spin that Matthew puts on materials it has in common with the other gospels.  I’ll just hint at the complexity here.

That Matthew was written by a Jew is patent from the opening genealogy.  Genealogies were of enormous importance and interest to writers of the Hebrew Bible, and many laypersons tend to skip over the lists of “X begat Y” because they don’t know how to read them.  I am an anthropologist, so I know better.  First question to ask is, “Who begins the genealogy?” This is the person whose identity is critical.  In Matthew the genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham emphasizing that he was one of God’s chosen people destined to inherit Israel. Matthew wants to make it clear with his genealogy that Jesus was a Jew. (By contrast, Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus to Adam, emphasizing that Jesus was a man). Matthew’s genealogy (and other parts of the gospel) tells us, by inference, that the author was a Jew who was intent on proving that Jesus was the Jewish messiah. The rest of the genealogy cements this point, with stress on the fact that every 14 generations there was a key event in Jewish messianic history, thus: Abraham, king David, Babylonian Exile, Jesus.

The nativity of Jesus in Matthew is unique and quite different from the story in Luke (the only other place in the gospels where the narrative appears). Mark and John launch straight into the baptism and the ministry with no childhood tales. Matthew’s version has no manger, shepherds, angels etc. He mentions the Magi (Wise Men from the east), then gives us the slaughter of the innocents and the flight to Egypt. So we can add gold, frankincense and myrrh, plus the star to our Christmas decorations, and if we pay attention (as I do), we add Epiphany, not to mention the 12 days of Christmas into the equation.

For me the centerpiece of Matthew, and Christianity in general, is the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 to 7).  All you need to know about Christianity is there. Here you’ll find the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, along with a ton of pithy sayings that sum up discipleship and the Christian life.  It is bedrock for me; the place I return again and again. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus never delivered the sermon as given in Matthew, but it contains original sayings from lists that must have been widely circulated after Jesus died. It’s possible that it’s like the preaching of Jesus even if it is not an exact copy.  We have scores of examples in ancient Greek and Latin texts of speeches given by key people at critical moments that no one expected to be verbatim transcripts. What was necessary was to convey the essence of a speech, not the precise wording. I imagine that that is what Matthew was aiming for.

Our recipe for the day is easily taken from Matthew 14:

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.  

Bread and fish is a great combination.  Of course, if you want to be hyper-New York Jewish you should have lox (smoked salmon) with cream cheese on a bagel (I like mine toasted). When I am in England I eat buttered bread and smoked fish all the time. It’s easy to find smoked halibut, trout, and (especially) whiting. When I was a small boy (preschool) in Eastbourne, on the south coast, my mother sometimes made me poached whole plaice which she served with brown bread.  For reasons I still cannot fathom, she thought the brown bread would prevent the tiny bones from getting stuck in my throat. Sanity and English mothers are rare companions.

Take this day as your opportunity to experiment with the bread and fish of your choice.

Sep 202017
 

On this date in 1870 the 12th battalion of the Bersaglieri stormed Rome through a breach created by Italian artillery in the Aurelian Walls near Porta Pia leading to the capture of Rome and end of the temporal power of the pope, thus completing the unification of Italy.  The unification of Italy, known in Italian as the Risorgimento, was a long, drawn out affair facing numerous obstacles along the way. Capturing Rome and making it the capital of the new Italian state was the final piece of the puzzle.

Rome was a crucial prize for all kinds of reasons. For starters, Rome was of deep symbolic importance because of its historic role as a capital city dating back to the ancient Roman empire.  Second, it had been the seat of the papacy (off and on) for many centuries, and both the pope and the papal states had wielded enormous political, military, and economic power throughout Europe. The fall of Rome marked the end of this power.  Third, the unification of Italy up to that point had been dominated by the north, notably Piedmont, so that the initially unified kingdom of Italy (1861) under Victor Emmanuel II, former king of Sardinia, was a severely fractured nation with ongoing political hostilities and divisions between southern and northern states (that continues to this day). Creating Rome as the capital of the newly formed nation was expected to soften the dominance of the north because of its strategic geographic location (midway between south and north).

During the Second Italian War of Independence (1859), much of the territory of the Papal States had been conquered by the Piedmontese Army, and the newly unified kingdom of Italy was created when the first Italian Parliament met in Turin. On 27 March 1861, the Parliament declared Rome the capital of the kingdom of Italy. However, the Italian government could not take its seat in Rome because it did not control the territory. In addition, a French garrison was maintained in the city by Napoleon III of France in support of Pope Pius IX, who was determined not to hand over temporal power it had in the Papal States. In July 1870, at the very last moment of the Church’s rule over Rome, the First Vatican Council was held in the city – affirming the doctrine of papal infallibility

.

In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian War began. In early August, Napoleon III recalled his garrison from Rome. The French not only needed the troops to defend their homeland, but there was also real concern in Paris that Italy might use the French presence in Rome as a pretext to go to war with France. In the earlier Austro-Prussian War (1866), Italy had allied with Prussia and Italian public opinion favored the Prussian side at the start of the war. The removal of the French garrison eased tensions between Italy and France. Italy remained neutral in the Franco-Prussian War.

With the French garrison gone, widespread public demonstrations demanded that the Italian government take Rome. But Rome remained under French protection on paper, therefore an attack would still have been regarded as an act of war against the French Empire. Furthermore, although Prussia was at war with France, it had gone to war in an uneasy alliance with the Catholic South German states that it had fought against (alongside Italy) just four years earlier. Although Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck was no friend of the papacy, he knew any war that put Prussia and the Holy See in opposing alliances would almost certainly have upset the delicate pan-German coalition, and with it his own carefully laid-out plans for national unification. For both Prussia and Italy, any misstep that caused the breakup of the pan-German coalition brought with it the risk of Austro-Hungarian intervention in a wider European conflict.

Above all else, Bismarck made every diplomatic effort to keep Prussia’s conflicts of the 1860s and 1870s localized and prevent them from spiraling out of control into a general European war. Therefore, not only was Prussia unable to offer any sort of alliance with Italy against France, but actually had to make diplomatic efforts to maintain Italian neutrality and keep the peace on the Italian peninsula, at least until the potential of a conflict there becoming intertwined with her own war with France had passed. Moreover, the French Army was still regarded as the strongest in Europe – and until events elsewhere took their course, the Italians were unwilling to provoke Napoleon III.

It was only after the surrender of Napoleon III and his army at the Battle of Sedan the situation changed radically. The French Emperor was deposed and forced into exile. The best French units had been captured by the Prussians, who quickly followed up their success at Sedan by marching on Paris. Faced with a pressing need to defend its capital with its remaining forces, the new French government was clearly not in a military position to retaliate against Italy. In any event, the new government was far less sympathetic to the Holy See and did not possess the political will to protect the Pope’s position.

Finally, with the French government on a more democratic footing and the seemingly harsh Prussian peace terms becoming public knowledge, Italian public opinion shifted sharply away from the German side in favor of France. With that development, the prospect of a conflict on the Italian peninsula provoking foreign intervention pretty much vanished.

King Victor Emmanuel II sent Conte Gustavo Ponza di San Martino to Pius IX with a personal letter offering a face-saving proposal that would have allowed the peaceful entry of the Italian Army into Rome, under the guise of protecting the pope. Along with the letter, the count carried a document setting out ten articles to serve as the basis for an agreement between Italy and the Holy See.

The Pope would retain the inviolability and prerogatives attaching to him as a sovereign. The Leonine City (surrounding the Vatican) would remain “under the full jurisdiction and sovereignty of the Pontiff”. The Italian state would guarantee the pope’s freedom to communicate with the Catholic world, as well as diplomatic immunity both for the nuncios and envoys in foreign lands and for the foreign diplomats at the Holy See. The government would supply a permanent annual fund for the pope and the cardinals, equal to the amount currently assigned to them by the budget of the pontifical state, and would assume all papal civil servants and soldiers onto the state payroll, with full pensions as long as they were Italian.

The pope met San Martino on 10th September 1870 and violently responded, “Fine loyalty! You are all a set of vipers, of whited sepulchres, and wanting in faith. . . . I am no prophet, nor son of a prophet, but I tell you, you will never enter Rome!”

The Italian army, commanded by General Raffaele Cadorna, crossed the papal frontier on 11 September and advanced toward Rome, moving slowly in the hope that a peaceful entry could be negotiated. The Papal garrisons had retreated from Orvieto, Viterbo, Alatri, Frosinone and other strongholds in the Lazio, Pius IX himself being convinced of the inevitability of a surrender. When the Italian Army approached the Aurelian Walls that defended the city, the papal force was commanded by General Hermann Kanzler, and was composed of the Swiss Guards and a few “zouaves”—volunteers from France, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries—for a total of 13,157 men against around 50,000 Italians.

The Italian army reached the Aurelian Walls on 19th September and placed Rome under a state of siege. Pius IX decided that the surrender of the city would be granted only after his troops had put up enough resistance to make it plain that the take-over was not freely accepted. On 20th September, after a cannonade of three hours had breached the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia (Breccia di Porta Pia), the crack Piedmontese infantry corps of Bersaglieri entered Rome. In the event 49 Italian soldiers and 19 Papal Zouaves died. Rome and the region of Lazio were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy after a plebiscite.

The Leonine City, excluding the Vatican, seat of the Pope, was occupied by Italian soldiers on September 21. The Italian government had intended to let the Pope keep the Leonine City, but the Pope would not agree to give up his claims to a broader territory and claimed that since his army had been disbanded, apart from a few guards, he was unable to ensure public order even in such a small territory.

The Via Pia, the road departing from Porta Pia, was rechristened Via XX Settembre (September 20). Subsequently, in numerous Italian cities the name Venti Settembre was given to the main road leading to the local Cathedral. A monument was erected in 1932 in front of Porta Pia to commemorate the event at the same time as the National Museum of the Bersaglieri corps was moved to Porta Pia, where it remains to this day.

By rights I should give you trippa alla romana – a Roman tripe dish I have enjoyed in a little restaurant by the Tiber, but instead I’ll give you another absolutely classic Roman dish, corda alla vaccinara (butcher’s oxtail), an oxtail stew laden with celery. The oxtail is parboiled and then simmered with large amounts of celery (there should be 1.5 kilos of celery for every kilo of oxtail), carrots, and aromatic herbs. Tomatoes and red wine are added, and then the mixture is cooked further with a soffritto of onions, garlic, prosciutto, pancetta and some other ingredients. During the final phase of cooking, a bouquet garni of bay leaves, celery stalks, and cloves is put in the pot for flavoring. The oxtail should be cooked such a long time that the meat easily separates from the bones. It is seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper and garnished with pine nuts.

Coda is usually prepared to taste sweet-and-sour, usually using raisins, or sometimes candied fruit or a small amount of grated bittersweet chocolate. Coda is generally prepared in advance and reheated. Leftovers can be used as a sauce for rigatoni, which is then named rigatoni al sugo di coda.

Here’s an exact recipe if you need one:

http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/blog/coda-alla-vaccinara/

Sep 182017
 

Today is the birthday (1888) of Archibald Belaney who called himself Grey Owl when he took on a fraudulent First Nations identity for himself as an adult. Belaney was, to say the least, a colorful character, much prone to exaggerating and downright lying about his life. He also appears to have married 4 women without divorcing any of them (although the civil legitimacy of some of these marriages is doubtful, having been performed as indigenous rituals). He was born in England and migrated to Canada early in the 20th century. He rose to prominence as a notable author and lecturer on conservation, described as “one of the most effective apostles of the wilderness”. In studying the Ojibwe, he learned some native harvesting techniques and trapping skills which provided him with a living for a while. The pivotal moment of his life’s work was when he began a relationship with a young Iroquois woman named Gertrude Bernard, who assisted in his transition from trapper to conservationist.

Grey Owl was born Archibald Stansfeld Belaney near Hastings in Sussex. His mother, Kittie, was his father’s second wife. Years before Archie’s birth, his father, George Belaney had emigrated to the United States with his then-wife Elizabeth Cox and her younger sister Katherine (Kittie). After Elizabeth’s early death, George persuaded Kittie, not yet 20, to marry him, a marriage that would have been illegal in Britain. Within the year they returned to Britain in time for the birth of their son Archie. The family lived together near Hastings until Kittie became pregnant for a second time. George and Kittie Belaney left to return to the United States, where he abandoned her. Archie remained in England in the care of his father’s mother Juliana Belaney and his father’s two younger sisters, Julia Caroline Belaney and Janet Adelaide Belaney, whom the boy would know as Aunt Carry and Aunt Ada. Kittie visited him a few times.

As a boy, Belaney was known for pranks, such as using his grammar school chemistry to make small bombs which he called “Belaney Bombs.” At the time he was fascinated by Native Americans, and he would read extensively about them and draw them in the margins of his books. Belaney left Hastings Grammar School and started work as a clerk with a timber company located behind St Helen’s Wood. There Belaney and his friend George McCormick practiced the arts of knife throwing and marksmanship. His last event at the company was lowering fireworks down the chimney of the timber company’s office. The fireworks exploded and nearly destroyed the building. After the timber yard fired him, Belaney’s aunts let him move to Canada, where he sought adventure.

On March 29, 1906 (aged 17) Belaney sailed for Halifax. He emigrated ostensibly to study agriculture. After a brief time in Toronto, he moved to Temagami (Tema-Augama), Northern Ontario, where he worked as a fur trapper, a wilderness guide at Keewaydin camp, and a forest ranger. At first he began to sign his name as “Grey Owl”. Then he fabricated a Native identity, telling people that he was the child of a Scottish father and Apache mother. He claimed to have emigrated from the U.S. to join the Ojibwa in Canada.

Belaney went to Toronto to earn money in the retail industry with aims of traveling farther north. Before heading to Northern Ontario to stay with the Guppy family in Lake Timiskaming, Belaney was keen to become a guide and continued to educate himself in nature. Before becoming a trapper, Belaney sought first-hand experience to learn the basic skills of a woodsman and apprenticed himself to Bill Guppy, who taught Belaney how to use snow-shoes and the basics of trapping, including how to place several types of trap. Following the Guppy family, he moved to Lake Temagami (Tema-Augama) in Northern Ontario, where he worked as a chore boy at the Temagami Inn for 2 years before returning to Britain.

Upon his return to Lake Temagami, Belaney’s fascination with the Anishinaabe people increased. Belaney set about studying their language and lore while conducting a relationship with Ojibwa co-worker Angele Egwuna. Egwuna helped Belaney increase his knowledge of trapping and fish nets, and also provided him access to a network of Ojibwe people. Belaney says he passionately embraced the cause of the Ojibwe Indians, and that in turn the Ojibwe treated Belaney as one of their own. In 1909, Belaney spent a winter with the Ojibwa trappers, and claimed he had been adopted as an Ojibwa trapper. In Donald B. Smith’s From the Land of Shadows, it is noted that Belaney’s greatest lesson from the Ojibwa was the fragility of the environmental ecosystem and this was profoundly influential in forming his conservationist views. On August 23, 1910, he and Angele Egwuna married.

Belaney enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (CEF) on May 6, 1915 during the First World War. On his attestation papers, he claimed to be born in Montreal on September 18, 1888, and listed no next of kin. When asked about his marital status, there was some confusion. He wrote the word ‘yes’ then crossed it out, then wrote the word ‘no’ and crossed it out, leaving his marital status unclear to the military at the time of enlistment. He stated his trade was a ‘trapper’ and that he previously served as a ‘Mexican Scout’ with the 28th Dragoons, although this is unclear since the U.S. was not in any significant military actions in the region (other than small operations, in which he could not have served). Belaney joined the 13th (Montreal) Battalion of the Black Watch. His unit was shipped to France, where he served as a sniper. His comrades accepted his self-presentation as Indian and generally praised his conduct. Belaney was wounded in January 1916, and then more seriously on April 24, 1916, with a shot through the foot. When the wounded limb developed gangrene, Belaney was shipped to Britain for treatment.

While doctors tried to heal his foot, they moved Belaney from one British infirmary to another for a full year. In Britain, Belaney met again with childhood friend, Constance (Ivy) Holmes, and they married. Their marriage failed in a short time, without his having told Holmes that he was still married to Angele Egwuna, whom he had abandoned but not divorced. Belaney was shipped back to Canada in September 1917, where he received an honorable discharge on November 30, with a disability pension.

In 1925, then 37-year-old Belaney met 19-year-old Gertrude Bernard (aka Anahareo, or Pony), a Mohawk Iroquois woman who was to be very influential in his life. She encouraged him to stop trapping and to publish his writing about the wilderness. They had a passionate 8-year affair, beginning with their Anishinaabe wedding ceremony. Through her influence, he began to think more deeply about conservation. Anahareo encouraged his writing and influenced him by saving and raising a pair of beaver kits.

After accompanying Belaney on a trapline, Anahareo attempted to make him see the torture that animals suffered when they were caught in traps. Anahareo could not convince Belaney until his pivotal moment of conversion from trapper to conservationist occurred involving beavers. According to Belaney’s Pilgrims of the Wild, he hunted down a beaver home where he knew a mother beaver to be and set a trap for her. When the trap caught the mother beaver, Belaney began to canoe away to the cries of kitten beavers which greatly resemble the sound of human infants. Anahareo begged Belaney to set the mother free, but he could not be swayed from his position because they needed the money from the beaver’s pelt. The next day, Belaney went back for the baby beavers which the couple adopted. Albert Braz noted in “St. Archie of the Wild”, “Indeed, primarily because of this episode, Grey Owl comes to believe that it is ‘monstrous’ to hunt such creatures and determines to ‘study them’ rather than ‘persecuting them further.'”

Belaney’s first journal article, “The Falls of Silence”, was published under the name A.S. Belaney in Country Life, the English sporting and society magazine. He also published articles on animal lore as “Grey Owl” in Forest & Outdoors, a publication of the Canadian Forestry Association. He became increasingly known in Canada and the United States. In 1928, the National Park Service made a film, Beaver People, featuring Belaney and Anahareo, which showed them with the two beavers which they had taken in as kits. Belaney wrote 25 articles for Canadian Forest and Outdoors magazine between 1930 and 1935, published while he was in the midst of writing his first book.

Belaney’s first book,The Men of the Last Frontier was published in 1931, and it traced the devastating story of the beaver as well as posed some concerns about the future of Canada and its forests. Beaver pelts had become such a hot commodity in Canadian industry that the beaver was on the verge of extinction when Anahareo helped Belaney understand the desperate need for protecting the animal instead of trapping it. According to Belaney in The Men of the Last Frontier, trappers swarmed to the forests in higher numbers than ever before in 1930 because of the beaver’s scarcity, and he argued that the only way to save this animal was to remove all of the trappers from the forests. This was an extremely difficult feat however because their pelts were so valuable and the job economy was so poor in the 1930s that he described their role in the economy as “beavers [being] to the north what gold was to the west”. Though much of his focus in his writings were on the beaver, he also believed that this animal could be used as a symbol for the disappearing future of Canadian wilderness in a broader sense. Belaney believed that Canada’s wilderness and vastly open nature was what made it unique from other countries of the world, and this was disappearing at an extremely fast rate due to consumerism and the modernist emphasis on capital. Grey Owl also discussed in The Men of the Last Frontier how the Canadian government and logging industry were working together to project a false image of forest preservation in order to gain possession of Canada’s forests and rid them of their resources, burn down what remained, and attempt to replant “synthetic forests” in their places. The Men of the Last Frontier was a call of desperation for the people of Canada to awaken from their immobility and resist the destruction of their country as the forests were being turned into deserts for profit.

For me as native-born Argentino the great irony is that beavers are a menace in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego where they were introduced from Canada, originally for their pelts.  But they have no natural predators there and there is virtually no hunting or trapping, so they are overrunning the wilderness and destroying woodlands and rivers with their dams and lodges. At the moment the government appears powerless to stop the devastation which is painfully evident if you visit the region.

In 1931, Belaney and Anahareo moved briefly (with their beavers) to a cabin in Riding Mountain National Park to find a sanctuary for them. Riding Mountain National Park was found to be an unsuitable habitat for the beavers, as a summer drought resulted in the lake water level sinking, and becoming stagnant. Both the beavers and Belaney were unhappy with the situation, causing Belaney to search, with the support of the Dominion Parks Branch, for better living conditions. The Parks Branch suggested Prince Albert National Park, situated 450 miles north-west of Riding Mountain National Park. Belaney and Anahareo found the park suitable for their needs as it was isolated, teeming with wildlife, heavily wooded. Belaney told his publisher and future biographer, Lovat Dickson, the following story about his origins:

He was the son of a Scottish father and Apache mother. He claimed his father was a man named George MacNeil, who had been a scout during the 1870s Indian Wars in the southwestern United States. Grey Owl said his mother was Katherine Cochise of the Apache, Jicarilla band. He further said that both parents had been part of the Wild Bill Hickok Western show that toured England. Grey Owl claimed to have been born in 1888 in Hermosillo, Mexico, while his parents were performing there.

In 1935–36 and 1937–38, Belaney toured Canada and Britain (including Hastings) to promote his books and lecture about conservation. His popularity attracted large, interested audiences, as Pilgrims in the Wild at one point was selling 5,000 copies a month. Belaney appeared in traditional Ojibwa clothing as part of his fraudulent First Nations identity. Although his aunts recognized him at his 1935 appearance in Hastings, they did not talk about his true, British origins until 1937. During a publication tour of Canada, Grey Owl met Yvonne Perrier, a French-Canadian woman. In November, 1936 they married.

The book tours (and chronic alcoholism) took a major toll on Belaney’s health. In April 1938, he returned to Beaver Lodge, his cabin at Ajawaan Lake. Five days later, he was found unconscious on the floor of the cabin. Although taken to Prince Albert hospital for treatment, he died of pneumonia on April 13, 1938. He was buried near his cabin with 2 of his children.

Eating something you have foraged seems appropriate for today’s recipe. This will depend on where you live, of course.  One of my most valuable possessions for many years when I lived in the Catskills was the Peterson guide to edible plants.  Some are pretty obvious, such as the many berries available in the region – most notably blueberries.  But there are mountains of edible greens which you can eat fresh or boiled.  Mushrooming is a little tricky, and I would not recommend it without some expert knowledge. I routinely found morels, boletus mushrooms, sulfur shelf mushrooms, and puff balls.  I always loved the line “all true puff balls are edible.” This is correct, but what is a “true” puff ball ???? The deadly amanitas has the habit of disguising itself as a puff ball when young. You can tell the difference quite easily if you cut one open (and know what you are looking for). Anyway, I find puff balls rather bland. Fried to a golden brown in heaps of butter they aren’t too bad. Watercress was also abundant in side eddies of streams where I lived and you could pick basket loads in minutes. Then there’s acorns, black walnuts, scuppernong grapes . . . you name it.  There’s a feast out there. Have at it.

Sep 172017
 

The Treaty of Fort Pitt — also known as the Treaty With the Delawares, the Delaware Treaty, or the Fourth Treaty of Pittsburgh, — was signed on this date in 1778. It was the first written treaty between the fledgling United States of America, which at the time was still fighting its war for independence and an indigenous North American group — the Lenape (called Delaware Indians by colonists). Although many informal treaties were held with Native Americans during the revolutionary years of 1775–1783, this was the only one that resulted in a formal document. It was signed at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, site of present-day downtown Pittsburgh. It was essentially a formal treaty of alliance. I don’t have space to go into an enormous amount of detail concerning the treaty, but the salient point is that North American Indians were considered a thorough nuisance by the British colonists before they tried to break from Britain, but when they needed them as allies, instead of enemies, the colonists signed treaties with them, then broke the treaties when they got what they wanted.

The treaty gave the United States permission to travel through Lenape territory and called for the Lenape to afford colonial troops whatever aid they might require in their war against Britain, including the use of their own warriors. The United States was planning to attack the British fort at Detroit, and Lenape friendship was essential for success. In exchange, the United States promised “articles of clothing, utensils and implements of war”, and to build a fort in Lenape country “for the better security of the old men, women and children … whilst their warriors are engaged against the common enemy.” Although not part of the written treaty, the commissioners intended that the Lenape would become active allies in the war against the British.

The Lenape supposedly perceived the agreement as the right of free passage only of revolutionary troops and the building of a protective fort for British settlers to defend themselves against attack. The US leaders intended to use the fort for offensive campaigns and wrote into the treaty that the Lenape would attack their native neighbors. The treaty also recognized the Lenape as a sovereign nation and guaranteed their territorial rights, even encouraging the other Ohio Country Indians friendly to the United States to form a state headed by the Lenape with representation in Congress. This extraordinary measure had little chance of success, and it’s more than a little likely that the authors of the treaty were knowingly dishonest and deceitful. There are a few historians who argue that it was the Lenape chief White Eyes who proposed the measure, hoping that the Lenape and other tribes might become the fourteenth state of the United States. I think this is highly unlikely given what is known about Lenape concepts of land rights and governance in the 18th century. In any case, it was never acted upon by either the United States or the Delaware Indians.

Within a year the Lenape were expressing grievances about the treaty. A delegation of Lenape visited Philadelphia in 1779 to explain their dissatisfaction to the Continental Congress, but nothing changed and peace between the United States and the Lenape collapsed. White Eyes, the Lenape’s most outspoken ally of the United States, died in mysterious circumstances, and the Lenape soon joined the British in the war against the United States.

The signers of the treaty were White Eyes, Captain Pipe (Hopocan), and John Kill Buck (Gelelemend) for the Lenape, and Andrew Lewis and Thomas Lewis for the US. Witnesses included Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh, Colonel Daniel Brodhead, and Colonel William Crawford.

The Treaty of Fort Pitt was the first of numerous treaties signed by the US to further its own interests and then subsequently broken when it needed to clear the land for its own uses.  Now is not the time to delve the long history of abuse of the Lenape by the US. One day I will expand on that theme.

At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Lenape lived in the area roughly around and between the Delaware and lower Hudson Rivers, encompassing the current areas of the state of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, the north shore of Delaware; and most of southeastern New York. After the arrival of settlers and traders to the 17th-century colony of New Netherlands, the Lenape and other indigenous peoples became extensively involved in the North American fur trade. Their trapping depleted the beaver population in the region, proving disastrous for both the Lenape and the Dutch settlers. The Lenape were further weakened by newly introduced infectious diseases, and by conflict with both Europeans and the traditional Lenape enemies, the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock. If you want to know about perfidy and bad faith in colonial dealings with the Lenape stretching back into the early 18th century look up the Walking Treaty. Over the next centuries, the Lenape were pushed out of their lands by Iroquoian enemies (with US support), treaties, and overcrowding by European settlers, and moved west into the Ohio River valley.

In the 1860s, most Lenape remaining in the Eastern United States were sent to the Oklahoma Territory where they slowly died out. The last full-blooded Unami Lenape, Nora Thompson Dean, whose Lenape blessing name was Weènchipahkihëlèxkwe (often translated as “Touching Leaves” or “Touching Leaves Woman” but she translated it as  “Leaves-that-touch-each-other-from-time-to-time woman”) died in 1984 in Dewey Oklahoma where she was born. Some day I’ll delve into my long history with the Lenape through Touching Leaves and through my former students David and Paul Ostreicher. She served as an ambassador to the modern world of a once-proud nation, taking a remarkable trip from Oklahoma to New York around 1980 when she visited my university, but also paid multiple ritual tributes to her ancestors including making a gift of tobacco to the ocean which she saw in her ancestral homeland for the first time. She felt an enormous burden of responsibility to the spirits of the ancestors which, on her death, could not be taken up by anyone else.

Before I move to a recipe, a small note on the name Lenape. English settlers named the Delaware River for the governor of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and they used the term “Delaware Indians” for the Lenape people living along this river and its tributaries. The called themselves Lenape which means simply “people” or “humans” in Lenape language. This is a common trait for the names of indigenous groups in North America because at the time of colonization they had no concept of nationality or identity via governmental association. Lenape identified primarily with family associations and matrilineal clans, with dialect being a unifying factor for larger groupings. They were, and are, sometimes called Lenni Lenape (“true people”), but this is not a term they used of themselves in any formal way. For some reason it was a term that got publicized and has stuck even though it has no formal legitimacy. Touching Leaves was adamant about this. Legally now the Lenape (represented by descendants that are not full blooded), are known in official US documents as the Delaware Nation.

Obviously, Lenape recipes changed enormously over the centuries from first contact to the 20th century when they were written down.  Boiled cornmeal mush was a daily staple. The common English rendering of the original Lenape for boiled cornmeal is sa’pan. Corn would be dried, ground, and stored even in colonial times.  This could then be boiled into porridge with just about anything added for flavoring that was on hand. Blueberries are abundant in New York and New Jersey and would have been a common ingredient fresh or dried (as would cranberries have been in New Jersey). Maple sap and bear fat were also used as flavorings. Bear fat was rendered, purified, and stored in skin bags.

Deer meat was a common hunted protein, as was squirrel, raccoon, and beaver. It could be boiled or roasted.  Wild greens such as watercress and sorrel along with wild onions could be boiled in with the meat. The Lenape, more than any other northeastern indigenous group, used domesticated plants extensively.  The classic trinity of beans, corn, and pumpkin (or squash), whose amino acids provide complete protein when eaten together, was the gardening norm.  All planted vegetables were eaten fresh in season, and dried for storage for winter consumption.

There you have it. Take your pick. Corn mush with blueberries and maple syrup would be traditional, but I’ll pass on that. I’m not a huge fan of cereal mush of any sort.  I did go blueberry picking every season when I lived in the Catskills, however. It would take me no more than an hour to fill a 10-gallon bucket. I used to make them into blueberry preserves, but there’s nothing wrong with a bowl of freshly-picked berries.

Sep 162017
 

Today is the birthday (1886) of Jean or Hans Arp, an Alsation (French-German) sculptor, painter, poet, and abstract artist who worked in a variety of media including torn and pasted paper. When Arp spoke in German he referred to himself as “Hans” and when he spoke in French he referred to himself as “Jean.” Arp was born in Strasbourg, the son of a French mother and a German father, during the period following the Franco-Prussian War when the area was known as Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen in German) after France had ceded it to Germany in 1871. Following the return of Alsace to France at the end of World War I, French law required that his name become Jean.

In 1904, after leaving the École des Arts et Métiers in Strasbourg, he went to Paris where he published his poetry for the first time. From 1905 to 1907, Arp studied at the Kunstschule in Weimar, Germany, and in 1908 went back to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian. Arp was a founder-member of the Moderne Bund in Lucerne, participating in their exhibitions from 1911 to 1913.

In 1912, he went to Munich, called on Wassily Kandinsky, the influential Russian painter and art theorist, was encouraged by him in his researches and exhibited with the Der Blaue Reiter group. Later that year, he took part in a major exhibition in Zürich, along with Henri Matisse, Robert Delaunay and Kandinsky. In Berlin in 1913, he was taken up by Herwarth Walden, the dealer and magazine editor who was at that time one of the most powerful figures in the European avant-garde.

In 1915, he moved to Switzerland to take advantage of Swiss neutrality. Arp later told the story of how, when he was notified to report to the German consulate, he avoided being drafted into the German Army: he took the paperwork he had been given and, in the first blank, wrote the date. He then wrote the date in every other space as well, then drew a line beneath them and carefully added them up. He then took off all his clothes and went to hand in his paperwork. I’d be inclined to argue that Dada was born at that moment !!

Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement in Zürich in 1916. In 1920, as Hans Arp, along with Max Ernst and the social activist Alfred Grünwald, he set up the Cologne Dada group. However, in 1925, his work also appeared in the first exhibition of the surrealist group at the Galérie Pierre in Paris.

In 1926, Arp moved to the Paris suburb of Meudon. In 1931, he broke with the Surrealist movement to found Abstraction-Création, working with the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création and the periodical, Transition. Beginning in the 1930s, the artist expanded his efforts from collage and bas-relief to include bronze and stone sculptures. He produced several small works made of multiple elements that the viewer could pick up, separate, and rearrange into new configurations.

Throughout the 1930s and until the end of his life, he wrote and published essays and poetry. In 1942, he fled from his home in Meudon to escape German occupation and lived in Zürich until the war ended. Arp visited New York City in 1949 for a solo exhibition at the Buchholz Gallery. In 1950, he was invited to execute a relief for the Harvard University Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was also commissioned to do a mural at the UNESCO building in Paris.

Here’s your gallery:

Arp died in 1966, in Basel.

Baeckeoffe (“baker’s oven”) is a classic dish from the French region of Alsace where Arp was born. Baeckeoffe is actually from the Alsatian dialect of German. The dish is a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef, and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow-cooked in a sealed ceramic casserole dish. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are other commonly added ingredients for flavor and color.

There are several stories concerning the origin of the dish based on the name.  I suspect that they are all rubbish.  Let’s, first of all, talk about bakers’ ovens. Until the 20th century the average-to-poor household in various European countries, including England, did not have an oven. If you wanted to roast something, you took it to the baker’s. There’s a famous scene in Dickens’ Christmas Carol about people on Christmas Day going to the baker’s to get their dinner roasts. Bakers had very large ovens lined with fire brick.  They lit a roaring fire in them, got the bricks red hot, then raked out the fire and started the baking process. Over the course of the day the oven cooled, and so it was a rare art to be able to shift items around in the oven and be sure they all cooked correctly as the oven cooled.

One story claims that Baekeoffe was inspired by Hamin, an Ashkenazi traditional dish for Shabbat. Because of the spiritual prohibition against cooking from Friday night to Saturday night, the Jews had to prepare food for Saturday on Friday afternoon, and then would give the dish to the baker, who would keep it warm in his oven until Saturday noon.

A second story claims that traditionally Lutheran households would prepare Baeckeoffe on Saturday evening and leave it with the baker to cook in his gradually cooling oven on Sunday while they attended the lengthy – many hours – Lutheran church services which were more typical in the 19th century than now. The baker would take a “rope” of dough and line the rim of a large, heavy ceramic casserole, then place the lid upon it for an extremely tight seal. This kept the moisture in the container. On the way back from church, the women would pick up their casserole and a loaf of bread. This provided a meal to the Alsatians that respected the strict Lutheran rules of their Sabbath. Part of the ritual of serving the dish is breaking the crust formed by the rope of dough.

The third version of the story of the origin of this dish is that women in France would do laundry on Mondays and thus not have time to cook. They would drop the pots off at the baker on Monday morning and do the laundry. When the children returned home from school they would then pick up the pot at the baker and carry it home with them. This version of the story is favored by a number of food historians, but I think they are all hokum.

Baeckeoffe

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 small leeks, white and pale green parts, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole juniper berries
1 ½ tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
3 cups (one 750 ml bottle) dry white wine, such as an Alsatian pinot gris, plus more, if needed, for the pot
1 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1¼-inch chunks
1 lb boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into 1¼-inch chunks
1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1¼ inch cubes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced

Instructions

In a large bowl or very large plastic bag with a secure seal, mix together the onions, leeks, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries, thyme, parsley, wine, beef, pork, lamb, and salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well, seal, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Mix the meats and marinade occasionally. If they are in a bag, squeeze out the air before sealing and just turn it over once or twice.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°F. Smear the olive oil all over the bottom of a 6- or 8-quart Dutch oven.

Cover the bottom of the pot with half of the potatoes. Strain the solids and meat from the marinade, reserving both separately. Spread the meats and vegetables on top of the potatoes and then top with the remaining potatoes. Carefully pour the reserved marinade over the potatoes. If the liquid does not cover the top of the potatoes, add more wine or water until they are just covered.

Cover the pot and bring the stew to a gentle simmer on top of the stove. Place the pot in the oven and bake until the meats are very tender, about 3 ½ hours. Serve, directly from the casserole, in warm, generously sized soup plates. Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 10 generously.

 

Sep 152017
 

Today is Free Money Day, an annual, global event held since 2011 as a social experiment and to promote sharing and alternative economic ideas, advocated by the Post Growth Institute (PGI).  You can find details about PGI here:

http://postgrowth.org/

Free Money Day is held annually on September 15, the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers’ 2008 filing for bankruptcy. Participants offer their own money to passing strangers at public places, two coins or notes at a time. Recipients are asked to pass on one of the notes or coins to someone else. 68 events were held in 2011. On one past Free Money Day, according to the official website, 138 Free Money Day events were held in 24 countries. The money is given without obligation; it is hoped that the event and the transactions will stimulate conversations about the role of money in society, increase awareness about debt and make people think about their own relationship with money.

This is from the FREE MONEY DAY facebook page:

Our economy can work for everyone!

How? The same way every healthy system works, through good circulation. For the body, it’s blood; for the environment, it’s oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen; for our economy, it’s money.

If your heart stops pumping blood through every part of the body, tissue dies. If vital elements don’t circulate appropriately throughout the environment, our ecosystem collapses. When money accumulates at the top, instead of circulating freely through every economic level, a sick economy is inevitable.

Free Money Day is an opportunity to encourage money to circulate more freely through our economy. Whether you leave a little money with a note on a park bench, or hand money to complete strangers, know that by sharing money more freely you are helping to create a more caring, sharing economy.

I can’t find a reference to it now, but I remember my father telling me a story about a man in the 19th century standing on London Bridge offering free money to strangers (guinea coins, I think), and no one would take them. They assumed they were fake, or there was some kind of catch. Sheer, unadulterated altruism with money just raises suspicion it seems. Getting people to think about their relationship to money is the whole point of the day, and my own experiments over the years have been enlightening to me.  Money is such a fraught subject for so many people.  For some time when I was a university professor I would teach once in a while about the emotions and beliefs surrounding money, and, on occasion, to illustrate a point I would offer a dollar bill to a student – free. It’s hardly a king’s ransom, but you’d be surprised at how few people wanted to take the money.

I’m not rich by any means.  In fact I’ve had times in my life when I have had zero in the bank and had to scrounge a meal.  Once as a young professor I had to collect empty cans on my campus and get the deposit from them just to pay the toll to cross the bridge to drive home.  Nowadays I have enough to live on and not much more, and that’s fine.  If I have a little extra and someone needs help with money, I give it to them. I’ve gathered over the years that that attitude makes me a bit of a weirdo.  So be it. Money is not important to me as long as I have enough to live on. I’m not interested in accumulating wealth.  As far as I can tell, accumulating wealth corrupts people, or, at least, distorts their perspective on life.

One of the most profoundly influential ideas that I got from Marx is the notion of “exchange value” versus “use value.” In monetary terms (exchange value), a dinner that costs $20 and a shirt that costs $20 are equivalent, but if you are hungry a shirt is not much use to you. In that sense, money is a false common denominator, and if you see items in terms of their monetary value instead of their use value you are dehumanizing yourself (as well as those items) by reducing them to a scale that is ultimately meaningless – or, more precisely, has the meaning you bestow upon it because it has no intrinsic meaning, or value. Money has no use value: you can’t wear it or eat it; you can only exchange it for things you can wear or eat. Yet money gets invested with immense power despite its lack of intrinsic worth.

I could not participate properly in Free Money Day today because I live in Myanmar and don’t speak Burmese (even a little).  Consequently, it would have been impossible for me to go up to a stranger, hand him two notes (there are no coins in Myanmar) and explain what I was doing. Instead I chose a teacher at my school and gave her two 5,000 kyat notes (about $4 dollars each) and explained to her about Free Money Day: she could keep one of them and had to give the other one away. Her first response was “Really ?????” and wouldn’t take the money. I had to offer it three times before she would take. Finally, she gave in.  Then periodically throughout the day I added some comments and a few questions.  I told her that she had to give away one note today (my invention to push the issue).  I got “Really ?????” again.

After a while she told me that she was thinking carefully about it, but had made no decisions. The thing is that this is a very strange act for Myanmar. Myanmar is a poor country where most people work long hours for little money. Giving away hard-earned money for no reason is not only unheard of but also completely illogical. Eventually she asked me, “Why did you pick me?” I replied, “Because I like you?” Again I got “Really ?????” Telling people your true feelings is as unheard of in Myanmar as giving away free money: if not more so.

My wife related a story about money her therapist told her that leads to our recipe for the day.  Apparently he was in therapy as a young man, and one day he was really down in the dumps about a lot of things but lack of money topped the list, and at the time he was hungry with no money for a meal. His therapist took him out on the streets and panhandled a little money. Then he went to a convenience store, bought two cups of instant noodles, used the hot water at the store to heat them, then sat on the street with my wife’s therapist, and they ate them.  His simple comment was, “You see, you’ll always have enough if you have faith and a little imagination.”

Your dish of the day, therefore, is a cup of instant noodles. They’re not gourmet food they fill a chink and they teach an important lesson about the value of money and the value of life.

Sep 132017
 

Today is the birthday (1916) of Roald Dahl best known for his children’s books which have become very popular films, but also as a short story writer and poet, not to mention Second World War flying ace and MI6 agent who rose to the rank of (acting wing commander), and ardent activist for multiple causes, particularly childhood diseases. He was born in Wales to Norwegian parents, hence the very unBritish name. Despite his Norwegian background he fits squarely in a very long line of English children’s authors with eccentric imaginations (and personalities) bordering on the clinically insane. I’ve posted on many of them in the past including such luminaries as Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, C.S. Lewis, et al – not to mention Douglas Adams who wrote for adults but in the same loony, but brilliant, vein. In the limited space I have here I want to focus on Dahl’s personal life as an avenue into his writing. I’ll start with a poorly remembered anecdote I read years ago.

Dahl had very particular writing habits which I will get to in a minute.  One day he got a call from the local police while he was at work writing, informing him that his young son (maybe 12 years old) had driven the family car down to the local village to buy sweets but couldn’t get it started to get back home. Dahl was royally pissed off, not because his underage son had stolen the family car, but because his writing routine had been disturbed. I find this story most endearing, and indicative of the man. He was quite willing to forgive his son for the misdemeanor, in fact he admired his inventiveness. After all, he was trying to honor his father’s need for solitude whilst writing – but he wanted sweeties and thought he had found a way. Dahl was just ticked off because his son’s plan backfired and, in consequence,  inconvenienced him. He was tempted to get his son on the phone and instruct him in how to start the car so that he could get back to work. The thing is that Dahl wanted children to have happy childhoods, and most of this stems from the fact that his was miserable.

If I can be overgeneral for a moment I’d like to contrast English fantasy heroes with US ones. US comics and movies are replete with adult superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, Captain America, et al, fighting evil with SUPER power, whereas English novels have heroes who are either children (Barrie, Lewis, J.K. Rowling), or weak little people (Tolkein’s hobbits), who gain the day through ingenuity, courage, and integrity rather than brute strength. There we have the perfect metaphor for the world we live in today.  The US spends more on the armed forces and weaponry than the next top 10 military nations in the world – COMBINED – yet loses out, decade after decade, to much smaller and weaker nations, and has done so since the Second World War.  First there was Korea, then Vietnam, and now we have Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria . . . and on and on. Yet they never learn. Trump is calling for a yet bigger military budget to “rebuild” the country’s forces.  All it took in 2001 to completely cripple the country, and send shock waves of fear to every corner, was a few determined men (armed with box cutters) who had some rudimentary flight training and plane tickets. When I need help with a giant problem, give me Matilda over Captain America every time. Will Goliath ever learn that he’s going to lose to David time and time again?

Dahl’s childhood is painstakingly detailed in his autobiographical Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) which gives great insight into how and why he became the writer he was. Dahl was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, and his first language was Norwegian, which he spoke at home with his parents and his sisters Astri, Alfhild and Else. In 1920, when Dahl was 3 years old, his 7-year-old sister, Astri, died from appendicitis. Weeks later, his father died of pneumonia at the age of 57. With the option of returning to Norway to live with relatives, Dahl’s mother decided to remain in Wales, because Harald had wished to have their children educated in British schools, which he considered the world’s best.

Dahl first attended the Cathedral School, Llandaff. At the age of 8, he and four of his friends (one named Thwaites) were caned by the headmaster after putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers at the local sweet shop, which was owned by a “mean and loathsome” old woman called Mrs Pratchett. This was known among the five boys as the “Great Mouse Plot of 1924”. Dahl later glorified gobstoppers, a perennial favorite of English schoolboys, in “Everlasting Gobstopper” and later in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Thereafter, he transferred to a boarding school in England: St Peter’s in Weston-super-Mare. Dahl’s parents had wanted him to be educated at an English public school and, because of a then regular ferry link across the Bristol Channel, this proved to be the nearest. His time at St Peter’s was an unpleasant experience for him. He was very homesick and wrote to his mother every week but never revealed to her his unhappiness. Only after her death in 1967 did he find out that she had saved every single one of his letters, in small bundles held together with green tape.

From 1929, he attended Repton School in Derbyshire. Dahl had unhappy experiences of the school, describing an environment of ritual cruelty and acting as personal servants for older boys (fagging) along with terrible beatings. These violent experiences are described in Donald Sturrock’s biography of Dahl. There are, of course, strong echoes of these darker experiences in Dahl’s writings and his hatred of cruelty and corporal punishment. According to Boy: Tales of Childhood, a friend named Michael was viciously caned by headmaster Geoffrey Fisher, who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury and went on to crown Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Dahl was never seen as a particularly talented writer in his school years, with one of his English teachers writing in his school report “I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.” One has to wonder to what degree his boyhood creativity and imagination were lost on brutish idiots.

Dahl was exceptionally tall for his era, reaching 6 feet 6 inches as an adult. During his years at Repton, Cadbury, the chocolate company, would occasionally send boxes of new chocolates to the school to be tested by the pupils. Dahl dreamt of inventing a new chocolate bar that would win the praise of Mr Cadbury himself: inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).

Throughout his childhood and adolescent years, Dahl spent the majority of his summer holidays with his mother’s family in Norway, and wrote about many happy memories from those expeditions in Boy: Tales of Childhood. He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. His rise to prominence as a writer began after the war in the 1940s.

Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal on 2 July 1953 at Trinity Church in New York City. Their marriage lasted for 30 years and they had five children.

On 5 December 1960, his four-month-old son, Theo Dahl, was severely injured when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. For a time, he suffered from hydrocephalus and, as a result, his father became involved in the development of what became known as the “Wade-Dahl-Till” (or WDT) valve, a device to alleviate the condition. The valve was a collaboration between Dahl, hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade and London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital neurosurgeon Kenneth Till, and was used successfully on almost 3,000 children around the world.

In November 1962, Olivia died of measles-induced encephalitis at age 7. Her death left Dahl “limp with despair” and gave him a feeling of guilt that he could not do anything for her. Dahl subsequently became a vocal proponent of immunization and dedicated his 1982 book The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) to his daughter. After Olivia’s death, Dahl lost faith in God. While mourning her loss he had sought spiritual guidance from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher (of schoolboy caning fame), but became dismayed when Fisher told him that although Olivia was in Paradise, her beloved dog Rowley would never join her there. Dahl wrote: “I wanted to ask him how he could be so absolutely sure that other creatures did not get the same special treatment as us. I sat there wondering if this great and famous churchman really knew what he was talking about and whether he knew anything at all about God or heaven, and if he didn’t, then who in the world did?”

In 1965, Patricia Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms while pregnant with their fifth child, Lucy. Dahl took control of her rehabilitation and she re-learned to talk and walk, and even returned to her acting career, an episode in their lives which was dramatized in the film The Patricia Neal Story (1981), in which the couple were played by Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde. Following a divorce from Neal in 1983, Dahl married Felicity “Liccy” Crosland.

Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a rare cancer of the blood, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford, and was buried in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a “sort of Viking funeral”. He was buried with his snooker cues, some very good burgundy, chocolates, HB pencils and a power saw. To this day, children continue to leave toys and flowers by his grave.

Before giving a recipe let me return to his writing habits which were suitably meticulous and eccentric. Dahl had a “writing hut” in his garden where he worked from 10:30 to noon every morning and 4 to 6 every afternoon, timing the routine precisely. He wrote only with US materials, sent to him periodically from New York: number 2 yellow pencils with attached erasers and yellow legal pads. He calculated that he wore down a pencil about every 2 hours, so he started the day with 6 sharpened pencils which he kept on a jar on his desk. He started each day with 6 so that he would not have to interrupt his writing with sharpening. He constantly wrote and rewrote because, like Oscar Wilde, he was extremely exacting about word choice. This led to a constantly overflowing waste-paper basket which he would periodically empty, burning the papers in a bonfire. As a result, we have little insight into his writing process. His secretary, Wendy, turned his finished manuscripts into typescripts for publication. As a writer I will say that this is an incredibly dangerous way of writing. How many tales are there of writers losing precious manuscripts by leaving them on a train or having them destroyed by accident?  Make copies people !!!!

I think that in honor of James and the Giant Peach a peach cobbler recipe is in order, but bear in mind that Dahl’s favorite lunch was Norwegian prawns with lettuce and mayonnaise washed down with a gin and tonic and followed by a chocolate bar. You can do a lot of things with peaches, but James and the Giant Peach links the US and England, and so does peach cobbler, a Southern recipe that is like an English fruit batter pudding – but not. It’s a magic recipe in a way, with the batter starting out on the bottom, but ending up on top.

Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, divided
1 tbsp baking powder
salt
1 cup milk
4 cups fresh peeled and sliced peaches
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour the batter over butter without stirring.

Bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Immediately pour them over batter without stirring.

Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Cobbler can be served hot straight from the oven or cold.  It is commonly served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sep 122017
 

Today is another coincidence day.  On this date in 1634 a Hospitaller gunpowder factory in Valletta on Malta accidentally blew up, killing 22 people and causing severe damage to a number of buildings. On this date in 1940 297,000 pounds of gunpowder blew up in a series of explosions at the Hercules Powder Factory of Kenvil, New Jersey, killing 51 workers and leveling a wide area. I guess that makes today a good day to talk about gunpowder.

There’s no doubt that gunpowder transformed the world and I’ve written about one aspect of this transformation: gunpowder put an end to fighting in heavy armor which, ironically, led to a glorification of the armor-clad knight in chivalric tales that were a nostalgic look back at a golden age that almost certainly never existed. All the tales of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, etc. are pure inventions of imagination with nothing whatsoever to do with historical reality. Seemingly people are constantly in search of an imaginary simpler and better world from the past – now out of reach. My academic interest, once upon of time, was with the invention of the Robin Hood legend which grew out of the same false nostalgia for a simpler age when a man of strong moral fibre, armed with only a bow and arrow (and occasionally sword or quarter staff) could right the wrongs of the world. Despite much historical wishful thinking, neither Robin Hood nor anyone like him ever existed. He is pure fiction emerging from the age of gunpowder in Europe.

There’s also a misguided belief, perpetrated by pseudo-historians, that gunpowder was invented by the Chinese for fireworks and other pleasures, but Europeans turned it into weapons of war.  Nope.  The Chinese used gunpowder in war for centuries as well as for fireworks. Gunpowder is now classed as one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China: the magnetic compass, papermaking, printing, and gunpowder. These inventions were ascribed to Europeans in the Renaissance as evidence of their superiority over the Greeks and Romans of the ancient world, but now we know better. The Chinese got there first.

Gunpowder was the first chemical explosive and propellant to be invented. Gunpowder is the first physical explosive and propellant. Before its invention, many incendiary and burning devices had been used, including Greek fire but they were not explosive. The invention of gunpowder is usually attributed to experimentation in Chinese alchemy by Taoists in the pursuit of immortality. It was invented during the late Tang dynasty (9th century) but the earliest record of a written formula appeared in the Song dynasty (11th century).

Knowledge of gunpowder spread rapidly throughout the Old World possibly as a result of the Mongol conquests during the 13th century, with the earliest written formula for it outside of China contained within the Opus Majus, a 1267 treatise by the English friar Roger Bacon. It was employed in warfare to some effect from at least the 12th century in weapons such as fire arrows, bombs, and the fire lance before the appearance of the gun. While the fire lance was eventually supplanted by the gun, other gunpowder weapons such as rockets continued to be used in China, Korea, India, and eventually Europe. Bombs too never ceased to develop and continued to progress into the modern day as grenades, mines, and other explosive implements.

Rather than give you a long, dreary historical account, here’s a gallery of Chinese gunpowder weapons from the 12th and 13th centuries, consisting mostly of fire arrows (arrows with flaming gunpowder attached), hand-held cannons, and grenades.

 

Here then is a gallery of European gunpowder weapons, mostly cannons, showing that there was actually a fairly smooth evolution from China to Europe.

The two explosions that occurred on this date were both in munitions factories: a constant hazard in the manufacture of gunpowder. The thing about gunpowder is that the ingredients – charcoal, saltpeter (potassium nitrate), and sulfur – are not especially harmful by themselves. They are particularly inflammable when combined but also not especially harmful, certainly not explosive, unless they are confined in a tight space. I’ve made gunpowder since I was a small boy just for the fun of seeing it fizzle and burn. When gunpowder is tightly confined, the copious hot gases that are produced when it burns are deadly as a propellant or an explosive. The exact mixture of the three ingredients is very important, and was the subject of experiments for centuries. For example, the saltpeter is necessary to produce oxygen for the burning of the sulfur and charcoal, but too much saltpeter reduces the explosive effect of the gunpowder (as does not enough). Munitions factories generally have their gunpowder packed tightly, so it’s important to be very careful near it. A careless spark can be fatal.

The Hospitaller gunpowder factory in Valletta was built some time in the late 16th or early 17th centuries, replacing an earlier one in Fort St. Angelo in Birgu. It was located in the lower part of Valletta, close to the Slaves’ Prison. The explosion in 1641 damaged the nearby Jesuit church and college. The church’s façade was rebuilt in around 1647 by the architect Francesco Buonamici, while the damaged parts of the college were also rebuilt after the explosion.

The gunpowder factory was not rebuilt. In around 1667, a new factory was constructed in Floriana, far away from any residential areas. This factory was incorporated into the Ospizio complex in the early 18th century

The explosion at the Hercules Powder plant in Kenvil, New Jersey in 1941 leveled over 20 buildings. The explosions shook the area so forcefully that cars were bounced off the roads, most windows in homes miles away were broken and articles flew off shelves and walls. The explosions were felt as far away as Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and were picked up by the seismograph at Fordham University in New York, about 50 miles east of Kenvil. Not only were windows broken, but telephone wires were torn apart from their poles. Many windows in both Roxbury and Wharton high schools were shattered.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new.  Was the explosion an industrial accident or Nazi sabotage ?????? I don’t know enough about the event to draw an educated conclusion, but my money is on it being an accident. In war time fears are heightened, and it’s an easy cop-out to blame the enemy for catastrophic events rather than take responsibility yourself. The latter takes more spine than most people possess.

For a recipe I could go two ways, and I will take both paths.  There are actual recipes that use gunpowder. I imagine that they’re pretty unsavory (because of the sulfur), but they do exist. In fact sulfur does have various culinary uses. I used to be able to buy it in bulk for my home chemistry experiments from the grocery in South Australia as a boy in the early 1960s. Sulfur is actually a critical nutrient, found particularly in strong onions, to aid in vitamin D absorption and in the correct glucose metabolism. There are records of soldiers through history using gunpowder to add taste to field rations when they had no salt. But there’s also this one from the Old Foodie found here — http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2011/11/gunpowder-in-kitchen.html

Tongues, to cure. No. 1.

Take two fine bullocks’ tongues; wash them well in spring water; dry them thoroughly with a cloth, and salt them with common salt, a quarter of a pound of saltpetre, a quarter of a pound of treacle, and a quarter of a pound of gunpowder. Let them lie in this pickle for a month; turn and rub them every day; then take them out and dry them with a cloth; rub a little gunpowder over them, and hang them up for a month, when they will be fit to eat, previously soaking a few hours as customary.

The lady’s own cookery book, and new dinner-table director (1844) by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury

Try it at your peril. Actually, I don’t suppose it’s all that bad.

Then there’s ingredients or dishes called “gunpowder” because they resemble it.  There is Chinese gunpowder tea of course.  In Chinese it’s called 珠茶(zhū chá), literally “pearl tea.” Each leaf is rolled into a small round pellet which English colonists thought resembled grains of gunpowder. This rolling method of shaping tea is most often applied either to dried green tea (the most commonly encountered variety outside China) or oolong tea.

I’ll go with a south Indian dish which is called gunpowder in English, also known as chutney podi, a ground, powdered mix of toasted urad dal, chana dal, toor dal, grated coconut, dried red chiles,curry leaves, tamarind, jaggery, and salt, which can also be seasoned with mustard seeds, turmeric, and asafetida. It is mixed with oil or ghee and eaten with flatbread, rice, idli, or whatever. It can also be made with peanuts in place of some of the dal.  It is considered comfort food in many parts of south India.

Gunpowder or Chutney Podi

Ingredients:

250gm chana dal
250gm toor dal
6 dried red chiles
1 tbsp roasted Bengal gram (putana)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tbsp black sesame seeds

Instructions

Dry roast all the ingredients separately. There are various ways to do this.  I use a dry cast-iron skillet on medium heat. You have to stir the ingredients frequently making sure that they toast and become fragrant, but do not burn.

Let each of the ingredients cool, then mix them all together. Grind them to a powder, in batches if necessary.  I use a coffee grinder for this step (not one I use for coffee).

Serve with ghee or oil to accompany idli, flatbread, or rice.