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Aug 162019
 

On this date in 1945, Indonesia formally declared its independence from Japan, and, by extension, from the Netherlands (although not a fait accompli at the time). Sukarno read the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence (Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Indonesia) at 10:00 in the morning of Friday, 17th August 1945. The wording and declaration of the proclamation had to balance the interests of conflicting internal Indonesian and Japanese interests at the time. The declaration marked the start of the diplomatic and armed resistance of the Indonesian National Revolution, fighting against the forces of the Netherlands and pro-Dutch civilians, until the latter officially acknowledged Indonesia’s independence in 1949.

Hatta

Indonesia was under colonial rule by the Dutch in some parts for 300 years. Resistance to Dutch rule was met with imprisonment and exile. The fight for independence in the 20th century included Mohammad Hatta and Sukarno, who established the Indonesian National Party in 1927, which advocated for independence from the Dutch. The invasion of Indonesia by the Japanese during the Second World War added a new dynamic to the fight for independence. The Japanese defeated the Dutch in 1942 and moved into Indonesia. There were uprisings against Japanese rule as there had been against the Dutch, because farmers and other workers were exploited by the Japanese. Furthermore the Japanese had tried to limit Islam. Nonetheless, during the war Sukarno delivered speeches saying he believed independence could be achieved with the assistance of Japan. Hatta also worked with the Japanese. Sjahrir, another figure in the nationalist movement, focused on establishing an underground support network. Many educated youths influenced by Sjahrir in Jakarta and Bandung started establishing underground support networks for plans of Indonesian independence following Japan’s defeat.

The end of the war on August 15th further expedited the process for independence. Youth leaders supported by Sjahrir hoped for a declaration of independence separate from the Japanese, which initially was not supported by Hatta and Sukarno. However with the assistance of a high ranking Japanese military officer Tadashi Maeda, the declaration of independence was drafted.

The draft was prepared only a few hours before its reading on the night of 16th August 1945,[36] by Sukarno, Hatta, and Soebardjo, at the house of rear-admiral Tadashi Maeda, 1 Miyako-dōri (都通り). The house which is located in Jakarta is now the Formulation of Proclamation Text Museum situated at Jl. Imam Bonjol No. 1. Aside from the three Indonesian leaders and Admiral Maeda, three Japanese agents were also present at the drafting: Tomegoro Yoshizumi (of the Navy Communications Office Kaigun Bukanfu (海軍武官府)); Shigetada Nishijima and Shunkichiro Miyoshi (of the Imperial Japanese Army). The original Indonesian Declaration of Independence was typed by Sayuti Melik. Maeda himself was sleeping in his room upstairs. He was agreeable to the idea of Indonesia’s independence, and had lent his house for the drafting of the declaration. Marshal Terauchi, the highest-ranking Japanese leader in South East Asia and son of former Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake, was however against Indonesia’s independence.

While the formal preparation of the declaration, and the official independence itself for that matter, had been carefully planned a few months earlier, the actual declaration date was brought forward almost inadvertently as a consequence of the Japanese unconditional surrender to the Allies on 15th August 1945. The wording of the proclamation had been discussed at length and had to balance both conflicting internal Indonesian and Japanese interests. Sukarno drafted the final proclamation which balanced the interests of both the members of the youth movement and the Japanese. The term ‘TRANSFER OF POWER’ was used in Indonesian to satisfy Japanese interests to appear that it was an administrative transfer of power, although the term used ‘pemindahan kekuasaan’ could be perceived to mean political power. The wording ‘BY CAREFUL MEANS’ related to preventing conflict with members of the youth movement. The wording ‘IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME’ was used to meet the needs of all Indonesians for independence.

PROCLAMATION

WE THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA HEREBY DECLARE THE INDEPENDENCE OF
INDONESIA. MATTERS WHICH CONCERN THE TRANSFER OF POWER AND
OTHER THINGS WILL BE EXECUTED BY CAREFUL MEANS AND IN THE
SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME.

DJAKARTA, 17 AUGUST 1945

IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA

SOEKARNO/HATTA

Initially the proclamation was to be announced at Djakarta central square, but the military had been sent to monitor the area, so the venue was changed to Sukarno’s house at Pegangsaan Timur 56. The declaration of independence passed without a hitch. The proclamation was prevented from being broadcast on the radio to the outside world by Yamamoto and Nishimura from the Japanese military, and was also initially prevented from being reported in the newspapers. However Shigetada Nishijima and Tadashi Maeda enabled the proclamation to be dispersed via telephone and telegraph. The proclamation at 56, Jalan Pegangsaan Timur, Jakarta, was heard throughout the country because the text was secretly broadcast by Indonesian radio personnel using the transmitters of the Jakarta Broadcasting Station (ジャカルタ放送局 Jakaruta Hōsōkyoku).

The Domei news agency was used to send the text of the proclamation to reach Bandung and Jogjakarta. Members of the youth movement in Bandung facilitated broadcasts of the proclamation in Indonesian and English from radio Bandung. Furthermore the local radio system was connected with the Central Telegraph Office and it broadcast the proclamation overseas. Moreover Sukarno’s speech that he gave on the day of the proclamation was not fully published. During his speech he discussed the continued need for the independence of Indonesia from Dutch as well as Japanese rule.

I have been a fan of Indonesian (primarily Javanese) cooking for decades.  If you search this site you will find recipes for my favorites, including soto ayam and nasi goreng.  To ring the changes, here is a video of making Pia Pia, shrimp fritters that are common village and street food.

 

Aug 112019
 

Today is the birthday (1921) of Alexander Murray Palmer Haley, an African-American writer who came to prominence for his 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family which ABC adapted as a television miniseries of the same name, aired in 1977 to a record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers. I knew him better for his first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965, a collaboration through numerous lengthy interviews with Malcolm and published after his murder. Prior to the release of the book, Malcolm was grossly mischaracterized in the media, and I, like most of my contemporaries, had no idea about his life story. I’d say that Haley was a complex mixture of astute writer, huckster, and innocent.

Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, the oldest of three brothers and a half-sister. Haley’s father was Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture at Alabama A&M University, and his mother was Bertha George Haley (née Palmer). Haley always spoke proudly of his father and the obstacles of racism he had overcome. Haley was enrolled at age 15 in Alcorn State University, a historically black college in Mississippi and, a year later, enrolled at Elizabeth City State College, also historically black, in North Carolina. The following year he returned to his father and stepmother to tell them he had withdrawn from college. His father felt that Alex needed discipline and growth, and convinced him to enlist in the military when he turned 18. On May 24, 1939, Alex Haley began what became a 20-year career in the United States Coast Guard.

Haley enlisted as a mess attendant. Later he was promoted to the rate of petty officer third-class in the rating of steward, one of the few ratings open to African Americans at that time. It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself how to write stories. During his enlistment other sailors often paid him to write love letters to their girlfriends. He said that the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long voyages was not the Japanese forces but boredom. After World War II, Haley petitioned the U.S. Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism. By 1949 he had become a petty officer first-class in the rating of journalist. He later advanced to chief petty officer and held this rank until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He was the first chief journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability.

After retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Haley began another phase of his journalism career. He eventually became a senior editor for Reader’s Digest magazine. It was his interviews for Playboy magazine that earned him notoriety. His first elicited candid comments from jazz musician Miles Davis about his thoughts and feelings on racism that appeared in Playboy’s September 1962 issue. That interview set the tone for what became a significant feature of the magazine. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Playboy interview with Haley was the longest he ever granted to any publication.

Throughout the 1960s Haley was responsible for some of the magazine’s most notable interviews, including one with George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party. He agreed to meet with Haley only after gaining assurance from the writer that he was not Jewish. Haley remained professional during the interview, although Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout it. (The interview was recreated in Roots: The Next Generations, with James Earl Jones as Haley and Marlon Brando as Rockwell.) Haley also interviewed Muhammad Ali, who spoke about changing his name from Cassius Clay. Other interviews include Jack Ruby’s defense attorney Melvin Belli, entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., football player Jim Brown, TV host Johnny Carson, and music producer Quincy Jones.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) was Haley’s first book (although at the time he was not credited). It describes the trajectory of Malcolm’s life from street criminal to national spokesman for the Nation of Islam to his conversion to Sunni Islam. It also outlines Malcolm’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. Haley wrote an epilogue to the book summarizing the end of Malcolm’s life, including his assassination in New York’s Audubon Ballroom. The book was based on more than 50 in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm between 1963 and his murder in February 1965 http://www.bookofdaystales.com/malcolm-x/ . The two men had first met in 1960 when Haley wrote an article about the Nation of Islam for Reader’s Digest. They met again when Haley interviewed Malcolm for Playboy.

In 1976 Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family’s history, going back to slavery days. It started with the story of Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in the Gambia in 1767 and transported to the Province of Maryland to be sold as a slave. Haley claimed to be a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, and his work on the novel involved twelve years of research, intercontinental travel, and writing. He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up and listened to a tribal historian (griot) tell the story of Kinte’s capture. Haley also traced the records of the ship, The Lord Ligonier, which he said carried his ancestor to the Americas.  Unfortunately, large sections of Roots were plagiarized, and the research is sketchy – at best.

Roots faced two lawsuits that charged plagiarism and copyright infringement. The lawsuit brought by Margaret Walker was dismissed, but Harold Courlander’s suit was successful. Courlander’s novel The African describes an African boy who is captured by slave traders, follows him across the Atlantic on a slave ship, and describes his attempts to hold on to his African traditions on a plantation in America. Haley admitted that some passages from The African had made it into Roots, settling the case out of court in 1978 and paying Courlander $650,000.

Genealogists have also disputed Haley’s research and conclusions in Roots. The Gambian griot turned out not to be a real griot, and the story of Kunta Kinte appears to have been a case of circular reporting, in which Haley’s own words were repeated back to him. None of the written records in Virginia and North Carolina line up with the Roots story until after the Civil War. Some elements of Haley’s family story can be found in the written records, but the genealogy going back to Africa is entirely unverified.

Although Roots has only a passing resemblance to actual history, it did trigger an interest in genealogical research in the African-American community, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X turned the spotlight on the many ways in which the African-American community hurt itself – especially when it came to diet.  The Nation of Islam owned restaurants that followed some of the tenets of Halal cooking – including a prohibition against eating pork – and advocated a healthier diet than the proverbial soul food.  Bean pie was a much loved favorite. This recipe makes two pies.

Bean Pie Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups cooked navy beans (cooked)
1 stick butter
1 14-oz. can evaporated milk
4 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp vanilla

2 pie shells

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the beans, butter, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and flour in a food processor and process on medium speed for 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar and vanilla and stir well.

Pour the mix into pie shells and bake for around an hour until golden brown. Check the filling periodically with a toothpick inserted into the center.

 

Aug 102019
 

On this date in 1793 the Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) in Paris, brainchild of the French Revolution, opened to the public. Nowadays it is the world’s largest art museum. The Louvre is a central landmark of the city, located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square meters (782,910 square feet). In 2018, the Louvre was the world’s most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to urban expansion, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into the main residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The latter Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.

When the museum opened on 10th August 1793 it showed an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests since the Third Republic. The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

My son and I spent a week in Paris 14 years ago (when he was 14), and we spent a good part of every day at the Louvre. He got in free because he was an EU citizen under 18, but I had to pay.  It was worth it. First day we just wandered hither and yon, unable to take in its vastness.  We made the obligatory stop to see the Mona Lisa, taking 25 minutes to get close to the front so that we could see it (it’s small). The fact that this one painting out of the tens of thousands on display was crushed with humanity was depressing. Apparently, it’s common knowledge that the Mona Lisa is “the best painting in the world.” Absurd!!!  All you have to do is walk up a few stairs to the next floor and you find yourself in gallery after gallery wallpapered with priceless masterpieces – virtually deserted.

On that first day, we got lost and by accident stumbled into a display of Greek and Roman bronzes when we were trying to find the exit to get some lunch. Next day we made a beeline for that display and he was enchanted.  After that, we selected a wing per day, but barely scratched the surface, even so.  If you spent just one minute in front of each piece in the permanent collection – not allowing time for movement between rooms, and staying 24 hours per day – it would take a month to see everything. Meanwhile you would have no time to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet. It is vast.  I can understand why people return again and again and again – more than I can fathom why people return to Disney World.

There are several cakes called Louvre Cake although they do not have much of a connexion with the Louvre itself.  They are variations on a theme (lots of chocolate), and are all both sumptuous and appetizing.  As befits a place noted for its images, I will give you a small gallery to drool over.  Recipes are extra.

 

Aug 072019
 

On this date in 1947, the Kon-Tiki expedition came to a successful (of sorts) conclusion when it struck a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotus. The Kon-Tiki expedition was a journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom “Kon-Tiki” was said to be an old name. Kon-Tiki is also the name of Heyerdahl’s book, the Academy Award-winning documentary film chronicling his adventures, and the 2012 dramatized feature film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.

The Kon-Tiki expedition was funded by private loans, along with donations of equipment from the United States Army. Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where, with the help of dockyard facilities provided by the Peruvian authorities, they constructed the raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. The trip began on April 28, 1947. Heyerdahl and five companions sailed the raft for 101 days over 6,900 km (4,300 miles) across the Pacific Ocean before landing on the reef at Raroia. The crew disembarked safely with the assistance of local Polynesians and all returned safely to Europe. For Heyerdahl this was just the beginning.

Thor Heyerdahl’s book about his experience became a bestseller. It was published in Norwegian in 1948, and appeared with great success in English in 1950, as well as in many other languages. You can read more about the Kon-Tiki expedition in Heyerdahl’s work or here in a previous post http://www.bookofdaystales.com/thor-heyerdahl/   In that post I explored the basic weaknesses in Heyerdahl’s hypothesis that Polynesians are descended from ancient peoples from the Americas. I probably do not need to point out that demonstrating that seafarers from the Americas could have made the journey to Polynesia, in no way proves that they did make the journey.

I suppose if you have Norse heritage and your name is Thor, you are on track to being a seafaring adventurer, and the Kon-Tiki expedition was certainly a daring adventure.  But Heyerdahl was drawing conclusions from faulty premises, whereas the prevailing hypotheses of his day — which he opposed — have proven correct. He made the common error of assuming that the existence of cultural similarities in two different regions implies actual contact between the regions, whereas it is equally likely that the similarities are the result of independent invention. Archeological and linguistic evidence strongly supports the belief that Polynesians migrated from SE Asia, and in more recent times this hypothesis has been confirmed by DNA tests. But . . . I should point out that contemporary Polynesians do have small percentages of Native American DNA that is not accounted for by post-Columbian migration. That is, it is (minimally) theoretically possible that a small group of Native Americans in prehistory managed to travel to Polynesia where they met and interbred with Polynesians from Asia. It is more likely that the test samples were contaminated in some fashion, or misinterpreted.

To celebrate Heyerdahl I printed a Norwegian recipe, but for Kon-Tiki something Polynesian is warranted.  Here’s a video about traditional methods of cooking taro with coconut:

Aug 042019
 

Today is the birthday (1792) of Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic poets, who is regarded as among the finest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language, and one of the most influential. Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron, John Keats, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. I have reviewed a good deal of Percy’s life already in my post on Mary (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/mary-shelley/ ) which you should consult for extra details. I’ll be much briefer here because I don’t care for Shelley’s poetry.

Shelley is perhaps best known for classic poems such as “Ozymandias”, “Ode to the West Wind”, “To a Skylark”, “Music, When Soft Voices Die”, “The Cloud” and The Masque of Anarchy. His other major works include a groundbreaking verse drama, The Cenci (1819), and long, visionary, philosophical poems such as Queen Mab (later reworked as The Daemon of the World), Alastor, The Revolt of Islam, Adonais, Prometheus Unbound (1820) – widely considered to be his masterpiece –, Hellas: A Lyrical Drama (1821) and his final, unfinished work, The Triumph of Life (1822).

I gave a great deal of information about the middle section of his life in the Mary Shelley post, so let me look at the beginning and end. In 1804, Shelley entered Eton College, where he fared poorly, and was subjected to an almost daily mob torment at around noon by older boys.  The grabbed his books from his hands and had his clothes pulled at and torn until he cried out madly in his high-pitched “cracked soprano” of a voice. This daily misery could be attributed to Shelley’s refusal to take part in fagging (menial labor for older boys) and his indifference towards sports and other popular activities. Because of these peculiarities he acquired the nickname “Mad Shelley”.  He took a keen interest in science at Eton, which he would often apply to cause a surprising amount of mischief for a boy considered to be so sensible. Shelley would often use a frictional static electric machine to charge the door handle of his room, much to the amusement of other boys.  His mischievous side was again demonstrated by “his last bit of naughtiness at school” which was to blow up a tree on Eton’s South Meadow with gunpowder. Despite these incidents, a contemporary of Shelley, W. H. Merie, recalled that Shelley made no friends at Eton.

On 10 April 1810 he matriculated at University College, Oxford. Legend has it that Shelley attended only one lecture while at Oxford, but frequently read sixteen hours a day. His first publication was a Gothic novel, Zastrozzi (1810), in which he vented his early atheistic worldview through the villain Zastrozzi; this was followed at the end of the year by St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian: A Romance (dated 1811).

In 1811 Shelley anonymously published a pamphlet called “The Necessity of Atheism”, which was brought to the attention of the university administration, and he was called to appear before the college’s fellows, including the dean, George Rowley. His refusal to repudiate the authorship of the pamphlet resulted in his expulsion from Oxford on 25th March 1811. Shelley was given the choice to be reinstated after his father intervened, on the condition that he would have to recant his avowed views. His refusal to do so led to a falling-out with his father.

On 8th July 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm in the Gulf of Spezia while returning from Leghorn (Livorno) to Lerici in his sailing boat, the Don Juan. The name Don Juan, a compliment to Byron, was chosen by Edward John Trelawny, a member of the Shelley–Byron circle in Pisa. However, according to Mary Shelley’s testimony, Shelley changed it to Ariel, which annoyed Byron, who forced the painting of the words “Don Juan” on the mainsail. The vessel, an open boat, was custom-built in Genoa for Shelley. It did not capsize but sank. Mary Shelley wrongly claimed in her “Note on Poems of 1822” (1839) that the design had a defect and that the boat was never seaworthy. In fact, the Don Juan was seaworthy; the sinking was due to a severe storm and the poor seamanship of the three men on board.  Numerous conspiracy theories circulated for decades:  Shelley was murdered, pirates attacked them, etc. etc., but all have been debunked

Two other Englishmen were with Shelley on the boat. One was a retired naval officer, Edward Ellerker Williams; the other was a boatboy, Charles Vivien. The boat was found ten miles (16 km) offshore, and it was suggested that one side of the boat had been rammed and staved in by a much stronger vessel. However, the life raft was unused and still attached to the boat. The bodies were found completely clothed, including boots. Shelley’s body was washed ashore and later, in keeping with quarantine regulations, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio.

Shelley’s close circle of friends included some of the most important progressive thinkers of the day, including his father-in-law, the philosopher William Godwin, and Leigh Hunt. Though Shelley’s poetry and prose output remained steady throughout his life, most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested for either blasphemy or sedition. Shelley’s poetry sometimes had only an underground readership during his day, but his poetic achievements are widely recognized today, and his political and social thought had an impact on the Chartist and other movements in England, and reach down to the present day. Shelley’s theories of economics and morality, for example, had a profound influence on Karl Marx; his early – perhaps first – writings on nonviolent resistance influenced Leo Tolstoy, whose writings on the subject in turn influenced Mahatma Gandhi, and through him Martin Luther King Jr. and others practicing nonviolence during the American civil rights movement.

I am fine with much of his political and philosophical inclinations, but I have enormous trouble getting through his poetry.  I find the conscious use of archaic grammar and vocabulary tedious at best.  To a Skylark is an exemplar:

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

I just can’t read further.

You could not by any stretch of the imagination call Shelley a foodie. His biographer Richard Stoddard noted that “He could have lived on bread alone without repining . . . Vegetables, and especially salads were acceptable.” Mary was the one who made sure he was fed, not that he noticed much. She “used to send him something to eat into the room where he habitually studied; but the plate frequently remained untouched for hours upon a bookshelf, and at the end of the day he might be heard asking, ‘Mary, have I dined?’”  When her aunt Everina fell ill, Mary, far away in Rome, asked a friend to put together a care package of her own: “jelly, oranges, spongecakes and her favourite kale.” Kale became a frequent gift.

Kale had a vogue for some time as a “miracle food” – which it is not – but it was around long before the fad.  In fact, it was commoner than cabbage in Britain for centuries as a basic green vegetable.  Young kale used to be chopped up into what we called “spring greens” (along with colewort), when I was a boy.  There is the secret for kale and for colewort (called collards in the US).  If you let the leaves grow big, they also get tough and hard to cook.  But if you cut them young in the spring, they are tender and easy to cook.  That means you have to grown them yourself of course.  Commercial greens are always going to be old and tough(er).  The simplest way to prepare kale is the strip the leaves from their stalks by hand and to rip them up into small pieces.  Wash the pieces thoroughly and then put them into a pot with the water still clinging to them. Cover tightly and steam until tender.  With young leaves, this is not a long process, but will take trial and error.  Drain and mix into the greens some olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and minced garlic.  Reheat for a few minutes, and serve.  Even Shelley would like that dish.  If you want to get fancier, serve the kale with poached egg on top – or add some chopped ham in with the kale.

Jun 172019
 

Today is the birthday (1903) of Ruth Graves Wakefield, a US chef, best known as the inventor of the Toll House Cookie, the first chocolate chip cookie. She was also an educator, a business owner, and an author. Wakefield grew up in Easton, Massachusetts, and graduated from Oliver Ames High School in 1920. Wakefield was educated at Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts and worked there as a dietitian and lectured about foods. In 1928, she and her husband Kenneth Donald Wakefield (1897–1997) had a son, Kenneth Donald Wakefield Jr. In 1930, she and her husband bought a tourist lodge in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts in Plymouth County. Located about halfway between Boston and New Bedford, it was a place where passengers had historically paid a toll, changed horses and ate home-cooked meals. When the Wakefields opened their business, they named the establishment the Toll House Inn. Ruth cooked and served all the food and soon gained local fame for her lobster dinners and desserts. Her chocolate chip cookies which she invented around 1938 became popular.

She added chopped up bits from a Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar into a cookie. It is often incorrectly reported that the cookie was an accident, and that Wakefield expected the chocolate chunks to melt making chocolate cookies. In reality, Wakefield stated that she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with Toll House cookie.” Wakefield wrote a best selling cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, that went through 39 printings starting in 1930. The 1938 edition of the cookbook was the first to include the recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie”.

During WWII, US soldiers from Massachusetts who were stationed overseas shared the cookies they received in care packages from back home with soldiers from other parts of the US. Soon, hundreds of soldiers were writing home asking their families to send them some Toll House cookies, and Wakefield was soon inundated with letters from around the world requesting her recipe. As the popularity of the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie increased, the sales of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also spiked. Andrew Nestlé and Ruth Wakefield made a business arrangement: Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name for one dollar and a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. Nestlé began marketing chocolate chips to be used especially for cookies and printing the recipe for the Toll House Cookie on its package. Chocolate chip cookies currently have a market share of over $18 billion in the US.

Wakefield died on January 10, 1977 following a long illness in Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 2018 the New York Times published a belated obituary for her.

Nestlé’s recipe:

Toll House Cookies

Ingredients

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

Instructions

Step 1

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

Step 2

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Step 3

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Jun 042019
 

I am not posting very often these days because I am traveling in Borneo and have no time (or, often, no WiFi). But I have a quiet evening, so let’s talk about Magenta (town, battle, color, and food).  Today is the anniversary the battle of Magenta, fought on 4 June 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai. It took place near the town of Magenta in the kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, a crown land of the Austrian Empire. Napoleon III’s army crossed the Ticino River and outflanked the Austrian right forcing the Austrian army under Gyulai to retreat. The confined nature of the country, a vast spread of orchards cut up by streams and irrigation canals, precluded elaborate maneuver. The Austrians turned every house into a miniature fortress. The brunt of the fighting was borne by 5,000 grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, still mostly in their First Empire style of uniforms. The battle of Magenta was not a particularly large battle, but it was a decisive victory for the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Patrice Maurice de MacMahon was created duke of Magenta for his role in this battle, and would later go on to serve as one of the presidents of the Third French Republic.

A dye producing the color magenta was invented in 1859, and was named after this battle, reportedly to represent the blood spilled. The first magenta aniline dye was made and patented by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin, who originally called it fuchsine, but it was subsequently renamed to honor the battle. Magenta is an extra-spectral color, meaning that it is not found in the visible spectrum of light. Rather, it is physiologically and psychologically perceived as the mixture of red and violet/blue light, with the absence of green. In the RGB color system, used to create all the colors on a television or computer display, magenta is a secondary color, made by combining equal amounts of red and blue light at a high intensity. In this system, magenta is the complementary color of green, and combining green and magenta light on a black screen will create white. In the CMYK color model, used in color printing, it is one of the three primary colors, along with cyan and yellow, used to print all the rest of the colors. If magenta, cyan, and yellow are printed on top of each other on a page, they make black. In this model, magenta is the complementary color of green, and these two colors have the highest contrast and the greatest harmony. If combined, green and magenta ink will look dark gray or black. The magenta used in color printing, sometimes called process magenta, is a darker shade than the color used on computer screens.

Those who are old enough will remember that 1980s IBM b/w monitors could make magenta and cyan as well, producing some grainy, almost-colored images for games and such.  I went for a Tandy knock-off because it came with a 16-color monitor, but I had several IBM games in black, white, magenta, and cyan, so I remember magenta well.  Here’s magenta sticky rice from Vietnam (using natural plant dye):

May 192019
 

Prior to Thomas Becket’s rise to fame, Dunstan was the most celebrated saint in England. Dunstan was born in Baltonsborough, Somerset. He was the son of Heorstan, a noble of Wessex. Heorstan was the brother of Athelm, the bishop of Wells and Winchester. The anonymous author of the earliest Life places Dunstan’s birth during the reign of Athelstan, while Osbern fixed it at “the first year of the reign of King Æthelstan”, 924 or 925. This date, however, cannot be reconciled with other known dates of Dunstan’s life and creates many obvious anachronisms. Historians therefore assume that Dunstan was born around 910 or earlier.  As a young boy, Dunstan studied under the Irish monks who then occupied the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Accounts tell of his youthful optimism and of his vision of the abbey being restored. While still a boy, Dunstan was stricken with a near-fatal illness and effected a seemingly miraculous recovery. Even as a child, he was noted for his devotion to learning and for his mastery of many kinds of artistic craftsmanship. With his parents’ consent he was tonsured, received minor orders and served in the ancient church of St Mary. He became so well known for his devotion to learning that he is said to have been summoned by his uncle Athelm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to enter his service. He was later appointed to the court of King Athelstan.

Dunstan soon became a favorite of the king and was the envy of other members of the court. A plot was hatched to disgrace him and Dunstan was accused of being involved with witchcraft and black magic. The king ordered him to leave the court and as Dunstan was leaving the palace his enemies physically attacked him, beat him severely, bound him, and threw him into a cesspool. He managed to crawl out and make his way to the house of a friend. From there, he journeyed to Winchester and entered the service of his uncle, Ælfheah, Bishop of Winchester.

The bishop tried to persuade him to become a monk, but Dunstan was doubtful whether he had a vocation to a celibate life. The answer came in the form of an attack of swelling tumors all over Dunstan’s body. This ailment was so severe that it was thought to be leprosy. It was more probably some form of blood poisoning caused by being beaten and thrown in the cesspool. Whatever the cause, it changed Dunstan’s mind. He took Holy Orders in 943, in the presence of Ælfheah, and returned to live the life of a hermit at Glastonbury. Against the old church of St Mary he built a small cell five feet long and two and a half feet deep. It was there that Dunstan studied, worked at his handicrafts, and played on his harp. It is at this time, according to a late 11th-century legend, that the Devil is said to have tempted Dunstan and to have been held by the face with Dunstan’s tongs. Legend also says that the Devil asked Dunstan to make new shoes for his hooves, but when they were attached they pained the Devil so much that he begged for them to be removed.  Subsequently the Devil is said to avoid houses where horseshoes hang over the door.

Dunstan worked as a silversmith and in the scriptorium while he was living at Glastonbury. It is thought likely that he was the artist who drew the well-known image of Christ with a small kneeling monk beside him in the Glastonbury Classbook, “one of the first of a series of outline drawings which were to become a special feature of Anglo-Saxon art of this period.” Dunstan became famous as a musician, illuminator, and metalworker. Lady Æthelflaed, King Æthelstan’s niece, made Dunstan a trusted adviser and on her death she left a considerable fortune to him. He used this money later in life to foster and encourage a monastic revival in England. About the same time, his father Heorstan died and Dunstan inherited his fortune as well. He became influential, and on the death of King Æthelstan in 940, the new king, Edmund, summoned him to his court at Cheddar and made him a minister.

Again, royal favor fostered jealousy among other courtiers and again Dunstan’s enemies succeeded in their plots with the king was preparing to send Dunstan away. But following a death scare whilst hunting Edmund recanted his treatment of Dunstan and instead made him abbot of Glastonbury. He went to work at once on the task of reform and began by establishing Benedictine monasticism at Glastonbury. Nevertheless, not all the members of Dunstan’s community at Glastonbury were monks who followed the Benedictine Rule.

Within two years of Dunstan’s appointment, in 946, Edmund was assassinated. His successor was Eadred. The policy of the new government was supported by the queen mother, Eadgifu of Kent, by the archbishop of Canterbury, Oda, and by the East Anglian nobles, at whose head was the powerful ealdorman Æthelstan the “Half-king”. It was a policy of unification and conciliation with the Danish half of the kingdom. The goal was a firm establishment of royal authority. In ecclesiastical matters it favored the spread of Catholic observance, the rebuilding of churches, the moral reform of the clergy and laity, and the end of the religion of the Danes in England. Against all these reforms were the nobles of Wessex, who included most of Dunstan’s own relatives, and who had an interest in maintaining established customs. For nine years Dunstan’s influence was dominant, during which time he twice refused the office of bishop (that of Winchester in 951 and Crediton in 953), affirming that he would not leave the king’s side so long as the king lived and needed him.

In 955, Eadred died, and the situation was at once changed. Eadwig, the elder son of Edmund, who then came to the throne, was a headstrong youth devoted to the reactionary nobles. According to one legend, the feud with Dunstan began on the day of Eadwig’s coronation, when he failed to attend a meeting of nobles. When Dunstan eventually found the young monarch, he was cavorting with a noblewoman named Ælfgifu and her mother, and refused to return with the bishop. Infuriated by this, Dunstan dragged Eadwig back and forced him to renounce the girl as a “strumpet”. Later realising that he had provoked the king, Dunstan fled to the apparent sanctuary of his cloister, but Eadwig, incited by Ælfgifu, whom he married, followed him and plundered the monastery.

Although Dunstan managed to escape, he saw that his life was in danger. He fled England and crossed the channel to Flanders, where he was unable to speak the language and ignorant of the customs of the locals. The count of Flanders, Arnulf I, received him with honor and lodged him in the abbey of Mont Blandin, near Ghent. This was one of the centers of the Benedictine revival in that country, and Dunstan felt at home. His exile was not long. Before the end of 957, the Mercians and Northumbrians revolted and drove out Eadwig, choosing his brother Edgar as king of the country north of the Thames. The south remained faithful to Eadwig. At once Edgar’s advisers recalled Dunstan.

On Dunstan’s return, Archbishop Oda consecrated him a bishop and, on the death of Coenwald of Worcester at the end of 957, Oda appointed Dunstan to the see. In the following year the see of London became vacant and was conferred on Dunstan, who held it simultaneously with Worcester. In October 959, Eadwig died and his brother Edgar was readily accepted as ruler of Wessex. One of Eadwig’s final acts had been to appoint a successor to archbishop Oda, who died on 2nd June 958. The chosen candidate was Ælfsige of Winchester, but he died of cold in the Alps as he journeyed to Rome for the pallium. In his place Eadwig then nominated the bishop of Wells, Byrhthelm. As soon as Edgar became king, he reversed this second choice on the ground that Byrhthelm had not been able to govern even his first diocese properly. The archbishopric was then conferred on Dunstan.

Dunstan went to Rome in 960, and received the pallium from Pope John XII.[3] On his journey there, Dunstan’s acts of charity were so lavish as to leave nothing for himself and his attendants. On his return from Rome, Dunstan at once regained his position as virtual prime minister of the kingdom. By his advice Ælfstan was appointed to the bishopric of London, and Oswald to that of Worcester. In 963, Æthelwold, the abbot of Abingdon, was appointed to the see of Winchester. With their aid and with the ready support of king Edgar, Dunstan pushed forward his reforms in the English Church. The monks in his communities were taught to live in a spirit of self-sacrifice, and Dunstan actively enforced the law of celibacy whenever possible. He forbade the practices of simony (selling ecclesiastical offices for money) and ended the custom of clerics appointing relatives to offices under their jurisdiction. Good order was maintained throughout the realm and there was respect for the law. Trained bands policed the north, and a navy guarded the shores from Viking raids. There was a level of peace in the kingdom unknown in living memory.

In 973, Dunstan’s statesmanship reached its zenith when he officiated at the coronation of king Edgar. Edgar was crowned at Bath in an imperial ceremony planned not as the initiation, but as the culmination of his reign. This service, devised by Dunstan himself and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony.

Edgar ruled as a strong and popular king for 16 years. In 975 he was succeeded by his eldest son Edward “the Martyr”. His accession was disputed by his stepmother, Ælfthryth, who wished her own son Æthelred to reign. Through the influence of Dunstan, Edward was chosen and crowned at Winchester. Edgar’s death had encouraged the reactionary nobles, and at once there was a determined attack upon the monks, the protagonists of reform. Throughout Mercia they were persecuted and deprived of their possessions. Their cause, however, was supported by Æthelwine, the ealdorman of East Anglia, and the realm was in serious danger of civil war. Three meetings of the Witan were held to settle these disputes, at Kyrtlington, at Calne, and at Amesbury. At the second of them the floor of the hall where the Witan was sitting gave way, and all except Dunstan, who clung to a beam, fell into the room below; several men were killed.

In March 978, king Edward was assassinated at Corfe Castle, possibly at the instigation of his stepmother, and Æthelred (the Unready) became king. His coronation on Low Sunday 31 March 978, was the last state event in which Dunstan took part. When the young king took the usual oath to govern well, Dunstan addressed him in solemn warning. He criticized the violent act whereby he became king and prophesied the misfortunes that were shortly to fall on the kingdom, but Dunstan’s influence at court was ended. Dunstan retired to Canterbury, to teach at the cathedral school. Dunstan’s retirement at Canterbury consisted of long hours, both day and night, spent in private prayer, as well as his regular attendance at Mass and the daily office. He encouraged and protected European scholars who came to England, and was active as a teacher of boys in the cathedral school. On the vigil of Ascension Day 988, it is recorded that a vision of angels warned he would die in three days. On the feast day itself, Dunstan said Mass and preached three times to the people: at the Gospel, at the benediction, and after the Agnus Dei. In this last address, he announced his impending death and wished his congregation well. That afternoon he chose the spot for his tomb, then went to his bed. His strength failed rapidly, and on Saturday morning, 19 May, he caused the clergy to assemble. Mass was celebrated in his presence, then he received Extreme Unction and the Viaticum, and died. Dunstan’s final words are reported to have been, “He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: He hath given food to them that fear Him.”

St Dunstan’s is a charity that provides support, rehabilitation, and respite care to blind ex-service personnel of the British Armed Forces. Periodically they have a recipe competition and bake sale to raise money — https://www.50connect.co.uk/food-drink/articles/phil-vickery-whips-up-support-for-st-dunstan%E2%80%99s-g  Here is one of the winning recipes:

Sticky Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

Ingredients

Cake

175 gm/6 oz unsalted butter
175 gm/6 oz caster sugar
2 whole eggs, beaten
175 gm/6 oz self-raising flour
1 tbsp shredded fresh basil
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
4 tbsp water
25 gm/1 oz poppy seeds

Sticky lemon topping:

3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp water
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Grease and line a 900 gm/2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment paper.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale, light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Fold the flour into the mixture, then stir in the basil, lemon zest, water and poppy seeds. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sticky topping. Heat the caster sugar and 3 tbsp water in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest, increase the heat and bring to a simmer and cook for about 3-5 minutes.

Place the lime juice and icing sugar in another small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Drain the lemon zest, add it to the lime syrup then bring to a simmer. Prick the hot, cooked cake using a skewer, then pour over the hot lime syrup and lemon zest. Leave the cake in the tin until cool, then carefully lift out using the lining paper.

May 102019
 

Six years ago today I started this blog, so it’s time once again to wish it a Happy Birthday.  I may bake a cake (and I have candles).

In years past I have posted all manner of things on this anniversary, but this year I am going to make a simple announcement. I’m giving up posting daily.  I am not giving up posting entirely, but it will be sporadic in future.  Instead I am starting a YouTube channel. I have it set up, but I need to work on my video skills, which will take time. I will not post videos daily – more like once or twice per week – and they will be all over the map: cooking, philosophy, history, songs . . . you name it.  When it is off the ground, I will post a link here.

If you click to “follow” this link you will receive notification of anniversaries from past years: https://www.facebook.com/BookOfDaysTales/  You have to be on FB to follow, I believe.

Between starting this post and putting it up I did bake a cake – chocolate and lychee:

¡Hasta luego!

 Posted by at 10:13 am
May 092019
 

Today is the feast day of two saints named Beatus: Beatus of Vendôme and Beatus of Lungern who might be the same person, neither of whom may have existed at all.  Their stories are fragmentary, overlapping, and mostly hard to believe. Tomorrow is the 6th birthday of this blog and after that I am going to cease posting routinely, so ending substantive posts today with the celebration of someone who probably did not exist (in multiple ways), seems like a suitably surreal slow fade into the sunset.

Beatus of Lungern, also known as the Apostle of Switzerland, could have been the son of a Scottish king, or could have been born in Ireland in the 1st century CE. His legend states that he was a convert to Christianity, baptized in England by Saint Barnabas. He was allegedly ordained a priest in Rome by Saint Peter the Apostle, whereupon he was sent with a companion named Achates to evangelize the tribe of the Helvetii. The two set up a camp in Argovia near the Jura Mountains, where they converted many of the locals. Beatus then ventured south to the mountains above Lake Thun, taking up a hermitage in what is now known as St. Beatus Caves, near the village later called Beatenberg. Tradition states that he fought a dragon in one of these caves.

Saint Beatus’ grave is located between an Augustinian monastery and the cave entrance. He died at an old age in 112 CE.

Beatus of Vendôme is commonly known as Saint Bienheuré. Tradition states that he lived in a cave near the town of Vendôme also occupied by a dragon. His legend states that Bienheuré fasted and prayed before fighting the dragon. According to the legend, the dragon was so large that when it went to drink from a river at some distance away, its tail still lay in its cave. It was also so large that it drained the Loir when it drank from it. There are three versions of this combat: the first states that the dragon fled at the sight of Saint Bienheuré; the second version states that Saint Bienheuré defeated the dragon with one blow from his staff; the third states that the dragon strangled itself with its chain.

Bienheuré is identified with a missionary who traveled and preached in Garonne, Laon, and Nantes, besides Vendôme, and his place of death is claimed to have been Chevresson, near Laon. A chapel dating from the 5th century was built on the hillside where he is said to have lived.

For a recipe I give you this video which is actually a contest between 2 chefs to make a meal for a unicorn proposed by a 9 yr old girl.  Seems imaginary enough to round out tales of dragons in caves: