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May 082019
 

Today is the birthday of actor Sid James (1913) who was born Solomon Joel Cohen in South Africa, later changing his name to Sidney Joel Cohen, and then Sidney James. His family lived on Hancock Street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Upon moving to the UK later in life, he claimed various previous occupations, including diamond cutter, dance tutor and boxer. In reality, he had trained and worked as a hairdresser. It was at a hairdressing salon in Kroonstad, Orange Free State, that he met his first wife. He married Berthe Sadie Delmont, known as Toots, on 12th August 1936 and they had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1937. His father-in-law, Joseph Delmont, a Johannesburg businessman, bought a hairdressing salon for James, but within a year he announced that he wanted to become an actor and joined the Johannesburg Repertory Players. Through this group, he gained work with the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Toots divorced him in 1940.

During the Second World War, he served as a lieutenant in an entertainment unit of the South African Army, and subsequently took up acting as a career. He moved to Britain immediately after the war, financed by his service gratuity. Initially, he worked in repertory before being spotted for the nascent British post-war film industry.

James made his first credited film appearances in Night Beat and Black Memory (1947), both crime dramas. He played the alcoholic hero’s barman in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Small Back Room (1949). His first major comedy role was in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): with Alfie Bass, he made up the bullion robbery gang headed by Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway.

In the same year, he also appeared in Lady Godiva Rides Again and The Galloping Major. In 1953, he appeared as Harry Hawkins in The Titfield Thunderbolt, and also had a major, starring role in The Wedding of Lilli Marlene. In 1956, he appeared in Trapeze (1956) as Harry the snake charmer, a circus film which was one of the most successful films of its year, and he played Master Henry in “Outlaw Money”, an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood. He also had a supporting part as a TV advertisement producer in Charlie Chaplin’s A King in New York, a non-comic supporting role as a journalist in the science-fiction film Quatermass 2, and he performed in Hell Drivers (all 1957), a film with Stanley Baker. The next year, James starred with Miriam Karlin in East End, West End by Wolf Mankowitz, a half-hour comedy series for the ITV company Associated Rediffusion. Set within the Jewish community of London’s East End, the series of six episodes was transmitted in February and March 1958, but plans for further episodes were abandoned after a disappointing response. For a while though, it had looked as if his commitment elsewhere might end his work with Tony Hancock, one of the most popular television comedians of the time.

In 1954, he had begun working with Tony Hancock in his BBC Radio series Hancock’s Half Hour. Having seen him in The Lavender Hill Mob, it was the idea of Hancock’s writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, to cast James. He played a character with his own name (but having the invented middle name Balmoral) who was a petty criminal and would usually manage to con Hancock in some way, although the character eventually ceased to be Hancock’s adversary. With the exception of James, the other regular cast members of the radio series were dropped when the series made the transition to television. His part in the show now greatly increased and many viewers came to think of Hancock and James as a double act.

Feeling the format had become exhausted, Hancock decided to end his professional relationship with James at the end of the sixth television series in 1960. Although the two men remained friends, James was upset at Hancock’s decision. The experience led to a shift away from the kind of roles for which he had become best known. He remained the lovable rogue but was keen to steer clear of criminal characters – in 1960 he turned down the part of Fagin in the original West End staging of Oliver! for that very reason.[10] Galton and Simpson continued to write for both James and Hancock for a while, and the Sidney Balmoral James character resurfaced in the Citizen James (1960–1962) series. Sid James was now consistently taking the lead role in his television work.

James became a leading member of the Carry On films team, originally to replace Ted Ray, who had appeared in Carry On Teacher (1959). It had been intended that Ray would become a recurring presence in the Carry On series, but he was dropped after just one film because of contractual problems. James ultimately made 19 Carry On films, receiving top-billing in 17, making him one of the most featured performers of the regular cast. The characters he portrayed in the films were usually very similar to the wise-cracking, sly, lecherous Cockney he was famed for playing on television, and in most cases they bore the name Sid or Sidney. His trademark “dirty laugh” was often used and became, along with a world-weary “Cor, blimey!”, his catchphrase.

In 1967, James was intending to play Sergeant Nocker in Follow That Camel, but was already committed to recording the TV series George and the Dragon (1966–1968) for ATV, then one of the ITV contractors. James was replaced in Follow That Camel by Phil Silvers. On 13th May 1967, two weeks after the filming began of what eventually became an entry in the Carry On series, James suffered a severe heart attack. In the same year in Carry On Doctor, James was shown mainly lying in a hospital bed, owing to his real-life health problems. After his heart attack, James gave up his heavy cigarette habit and instead smoked a pipe or an occasional cigar; he lost weight, ate only one main meal a day, and limited himself to two or three alcoholic drinks per evening. Meanwhile, his success in TV situation comedy continued with the series Two in Clover (1969–70), and Bless This House (1971–1976) as Sid Abbott, a successful enough series in its day to spawn its own film version in 1972.

On 26th April 1976, while on a revival tour of The Mating Season, a 1969 farce by the Northern Irish playwright Sam Cree, James suffered a heart attack on stage at the Sunderland Empire Theatre. Actress Olga Lowe thought that he was playing a practical joke at first when he failed to reply to her dialogue. When he failed to reply to her ad libs, she moved towards the wings to seek help. The technical manager, Melvyn James, called for the curtain to close and requested a doctor, while the audience – who were unaware of what was happening – laughed, believing the events to be part of the show. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, but was pronounced dead. He was 62.

Here are some clips of Sid James in roles that are not the stereotypic Cockney con man:

I wouldn’t call him a great actor, but he did have a certain range and a certain naturalness when playing ordinary people.

The East End of London is noted for its pie and eel shops. I’ve already mentioned traditional London pie and mash, so here’s a video on jellied eels.

May 072019
 

Today is a rather odd coincidence day, the birthday, one year apart, of two Scottish philosophers, Thomas Reid (1710) and David Hume (1711).  In his day, Reid was perhaps the more influential, but nowadays Hume has the upper hand, although both have been superseded.  I’ll give you a small taste of their ideas, and of their critiques of one another, but my major point is to examine why we should care about the philosophy of knowledge and reason at all. Reid and Hume were pillars of what is now called the Scottish Enlightenment, the era that saw the flourishing of rigorous scientific method and the championing of reason over faith. The current pseudo-debate over science versus religion is an outgrowth of ideas generated in the 18th century, and the debates within the philosophical community of the era are germane to concerns we have nowadays – most especially political and social concerns. The question I ask continually in my own research is: “Why do people cling to ideas – often fervently – when they fly in the face of demonstrable facts?” Reid and Hume both had their answers to that question, radically different answers, involving the consideration of the question: “What is a fact, and how do we know it is true?”

Reid was the founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, that is, “common sense” with a special philosophical meaning (sensus communis – natural senses humans have in common), not the popular meaning. According to Reid, our common sense is built on innate ideas (ideas we are born with). Hume denied the existence of innate ideas, believing that our ideas develop purely from our learned experience.  Reid believed, for example, that we are born with a sense of right and wrong – very Scottish Protestant of him, I am sure.  His moral philosophy is reminiscent of Roman stoicism in its emphasis on the agency of the subject and self-control. He often quotes Cicero, from whom he adopted the term “sensus communis”. Reid’s answer to Hume’s sceptical and naturalist arguments was to enumerate a set of principles of common sense (sensus communis) which constitute the foundations of rational thought. Anyone who undertakes a philosophical argument, for example, must implicitly presuppose certain beliefs like, “I am talking to a real person,” and “There is an external world whose laws do not change,” among many other positive, substantive claims. For Reid, the belief in the truth of these principles is not rational; rather, reason itself demands these principles as prerequisites, as does the innate “constitution” of the human mind. It is for this reason (and possibly a mocking attitude toward Hume and Berkeley) that Reid sees belief in the principles of common sense as a litmus test for sanity. For example, in The Intellectual Powers of Man he states, “For, before men can reason together, they must agree in first principles; and it is impossible to reason with a man who has no principles in common with you.”


Hume’s empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, George Berkeley, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with A Treatise of Human Nature (1738), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of humans that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behavior. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is founded solely in experience.

In what is sometimes referred to as Hume’s problem of induction, he argued that inductive reasoning and belief in causality cannot be justified rationally; instead, our trust in causality and induction result from custom and mental habit, and are attributable only to the experience of “constant conjunction” of events. This is because we can never actually perceive that one event causes another, but only that the two are always conjoined. Accordingly, to draw any causal inferences from past experience it is necessary to presuppose that the future will resemble the past, a presupposition which cannot itself be grounded in prior experience.

Hume was also a “sentimentalist” who held that ethics are based on emotion (or sentiment) rather than abstract moral principles, famously proclaiming that “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions.” Hume maintained an early commitment to naturalistic explanations of moral phenomena, and is usually taken to have first clearly expounded the is–ought problem, or the idea that a statement of fact alone can never give rise to a normative conclusion of what ought to be done. Hume influenced utilitarianism, logical positivism, Immanuel Kant, the philosophy of science, early analytic philosophy, cognitive science, theology, and other movements. Kant himself credited Hume as the spur to his philosophical thought who had awakened him from his “dogmatic slumbers”.

So, why should you care about any of these debates?  Right now they are important because they are crucial to understanding the state of the world today. What is the status of knowledge and rationality these days?  At election time do people look at the candidates on offer, assess all the information available to them, and then vote rationally? I think you know the answer to that question.  People favor candidates for many reasons, and logic is rarely in the mix when they make their choices.  As often as not they choose candidates who are going to work against their own interests and/or the interests of the country – and the evidence that they will do this is in plain sight. But they vote for them anyway. Why?  Much of it has to do with embedded ideas based on sentiment that cannot be changed by facts. Then we have to ask: How do we stop people from behaving irrationally, especially when their decisions negatively impact others in dramatic ways?  Good question. Such questions cannot be explored sensibly without knowing how people think, and our understanding in this regard is still pitiful.

On that note let’s turn to cooking.  What knowledge do you need to possess to follow a recipe successfully?  Recipes from 200 years ago made gigantic assumptions about what the cook who read them already knew.  They were of the style: “Take some of this and a bit of that and boil it over a brisk fire until it is done.” Contemporary recipes are much more specific when it comes to ingredients, preparation, quantities, timing, temperatures, etc., but an enormous amount is still left unsaid, or assumed.  I can give identical recipes to two different cooks, and even when following the recipes to the letter they will produce notably different dishes.  Years ago I used to make Argentine tortillas for my girlfriend all the time, and she asked me to teach her how to make them.  First, I showed her – step by step – then I stood over her and supervised her as she cooked one. We did this multiple times, and yet she never could replicate my method, and her tortillas were nothing like mine. Somehow our knowledge base was not the same. The knowledge base of expert cooks is a mystery.  I travel so much because it’s the only way to taste the dishes of the world.  People who have devoted their lives to hand making rice noodles, roasting duck, or slow baking tripe in their corners of the world, make dishes that cannot be replicated by anyone else.  You have to go to where the cooks live and work to sample their wares.

For today’s recipe think of those dishes that you know from the hands of one cook only.  They could be a memory of a favorite grandmother, or a special delight you experienced on a trip. I think of my father’s ravioli or my mother-in-law’s fried chicken; I think of my favorite Kunming duck and a little baklava shop in Istanbul.

 

May 062019
 

On this date in 1935, FDR issued executive order 7034, establishing the Works Progress Administration. The WPA superseded the work of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which was dissolved. Direct relief assistance was permanently replaced by a national work relief program—a major public works program directed by the WPA.

The WPA was largely shaped by Harry Hopkins, supervisor of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and close adviser to Roosevelt. Both Roosevelt and Hopkins believed that the route to economic recovery and the lessened importance of the dole would be in employment programs such as the WPA. Hallie Flanagan, national director of the Federal Theatre Project, wrote that “for the first time in the relief experiments of this country the preservation of the skill of the worker, and hence the preservation of his self-respect, became important.”

The WPA was organized into the following divisions:

The Division of Engineering and Construction, which planned and supervised construction projects including airports, dams, highways and sanitation systems.

The Division of Professional and Service Projects (called the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects in 1937), which was responsible for white-collar projects including education programs, recreation programs, and the arts projects. It was later named the Division of Community Service Programs and the Service Division.

The Division of Finance.

The Division of Information.

The Division of Investigation, which succeeded a comparable division at FERA and investigated fraud, misappropriation of funds and disloyalty.

The Division of Statistics, also known as the Division of Social Research.

The Project Control Division, which processed project applications.

Other divisions including the Employment, Management, Safety, Supply, and Training and Reemployment.

The goal of the WPA was to employ most of the unemployed people on relief until the economy recovered. Harry Hopkins testified to Congress in January 1935 why he set the number at 3.5 million, using Federal Emergency Relief Administration data. Estimating costs at $1,200 per worker per year ($21.9 thousand in present-day terms), he asked for and received $4 billion ($73.1 billion in present-day terms). In 1935 there were 20 million people on relief in the United States. Of these, 8.3 million were children under 16 years of age; 3.8 million were persons between the ages of 16 and 65 who were not working or seeking work. These included housewives, students in school, and incapacitated persons. Another 750,000 were persons aged 65 or over. Thus, of the total of 20 million persons then receiving relief, 13 million were not considered eligible for employment. This left a total of 7 million presumably employable persons between the ages of 16 and 65 inclusive. Of these, however, 1.65 million were farm operators or persons who had some non-relief employment, while another 350,000 were, despite the fact that they were already employed or seeking work, considered incapacitated. Deducting this 2 million from the total of 7.15 million, there remained 5.15 million persons age 16 to 65, unemployed, looking for work, and able to work.

Because of the assumption that only one worker per family would be permitted to work under the proposed program, this total of 5.15 million was further reduced by 1.6 million—the estimated number of workers who were members of families with two or more employable people. Thus, there remained a net total of 3.55 million workers in as many households for whom jobs were to be provided.

The WPA reached its peak employment of 3,334,594 people in November 1938. To be eligible for WPA employment, an individual had to be a US citizen, 18 or older, able-bodied, unemployed, and certified as in need by a local public relief agency approved by the WPA. The WPA Division of Employment selected the worker’s placement to WPA projects based on previous experience or training. Worker pay was based on three factors: the region of the country, the degree of urbanization, and the individual’s skill. It varied from $19 per month to $94 per month, with the average wage being about $52.50—$934 in present-day terms. The goal was to pay the local prevailing wage, but limit the hours of work to 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week; the stated minimum being 30 hours a week, or 120 hours a month.

WPA projects were administered by the Division of Engineering and Construction and the Division of Professional and Service Projects. Most projects were initiated, planned and sponsored by states, counties or cities. Nationwide projects were sponsored until 1939. The WPA built traditional infrastructure of the New Deal such as roads, bridges, schools, libraries, courthouses, hospitals, sidewalks, waterworks, and post-offices, but also constructed museums, swimming pools, parks, community centers, playgrounds, coliseums, markets, fairgrounds, tennis courts, zoos, botanical gardens, auditoriums, waterfronts, city halls, gyms, and university unions. Most of these are still in use today. The amount of infrastructure projects of the WPA included 40,000 new and 85,000 improved buildings. These new buildings included 5,900 new schools; 9,300 new auditoriums, gyms, and recreational buildings; 1,000 new libraries; 7,000 new dormitories; and 900 new armories. In addition, infrastructure projects included 2,302 stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers; 52 fairgrounds and rodeo grounds; 1,686 parks covering 75,152 acres; 3,185 playgrounds; 3,026 athletic fields; 805 swimming pools; 1,817 handball courts; 10,070 tennis courts; 2,261 horseshoe pits; 1,101 ice-skating areas; 138 outdoor theatres; 254 golf courses; and 65 ski jumps. Total expenditures on WPA projects through June 1941 totaled approximately $11.4 billion—the equivalent of $194 billion today. Over $4 billion was spent on highway, road, and street projects; more than $1 billion on public buildings, including the iconic Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and Timberline Lodge in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest.

More than $1 billion—$17 billion today—was spent on publicly owned or operated utilities; and another $1 billion on welfare projects, including sewing projects for women, the distribution of surplus commodities, and school lunch projects. One construction project was the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, the bridges of which were each designed as architecturally unique. In its eight-year run, the WPA built 325 firehouses and renovated 2,384 of them across the United States. The 20,000 miles of water mains, installed by their hand as well, contributed to increased fire protection across the country.

The direct focus of the WPA projects changed with need. In 1935 priority projects were to improve infrastructure; roads, extension of electricity to rural areas, water conservation, sanitation and flood control. In 1936, as outlined in that year’s Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, public facilities became a focus; parks and associated facilities, public buildings, utilities, airports, and transportation projects were funded. The following year, saw the introduction of agricultural improvements, such as the production of marl fertilizer and the eradication of fungus pests. As the Second World War approached, and then eventually began, WPA projects became increasingly defense related.

One project of the WPA was funding state-level library service demonstration projects, to create new areas of library service to underserved populations and to extend rural service.[29] Another project was the Household Service Demonstration Project, which trained 30,000 women for domestic employment. South Carolina had one of the larger statewide library service demonstration projects. At the end of the project in 1943, South Carolina had twelve publicly funded county libraries, one regional library, and a funded state library agency.

A significant aspect of the Works Progress Administration was the Federal Project Number One, which had five different parts: the Federal Art Project, the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Writers’ Project, and the Historical Records Survey. The government wanted to provide new federal cultural support instead of just providing direct grants to private institutions. After only one year, over 40,000 artists and other talented workers had been employed through this project in the United States. Cedric Larson stated that “The impact made by the five major cultural projects of the WPA upon the national consciousness is probably greater in toto than anyone readily realizes. As channels of communication between the administration and the country at large, both directly and indirectly, the importance of these projects cannot be overestimated, for they all carry a tremendous appeal to the eye, the ear, or the intellect—or all three.”

One of the documentary projects of the WPA was called America Eats – recording regional recipes orally and in photographs.  Most of the files, which are housed in the Library of Congress, have never been published, although many are seeing the light of day. Here’s one from Mississippi:

Blackberry Dumpling

This dish is not made with pie crust but with ordinary biscuit dough, made just a trifle shorter than usual. Roll the dough out a little thinner than for biscuit, on a well-floured cloth. Cover the top of the dough with a thick layer of fresh, ripe blackberries. Roll the dough and berries up and tie the whole in the cloth on which it was rolled. Put the whole thing in a pot of briskly boiling water. Bring it back to boiling point as quickly as possible and then cook steadily until done. While the dumplings boil, make a sweet sauce as follows: Take 1 1/2 cups of top milk, one cupful of sugar, 1/4 cup of butter. Cook together thoroughly and flavor by putting in sprigs and leaves of mint, which have been bruised. Remove the mint leaves before serving the sauce, which should be served hot on slices of the boiled dumplings.

May 052019
 

Tango no Sekku (端午の節句), also known as Ayame no hi (Iris festival), is one of the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court called Gosekku. It is the Japanese version of Double Fifth (5-5) and was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the lunar calendar or Chinese calendar. After Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5th. The festival is still celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as the Duanwu Festival or Tuen Ng Festival (Cantonese), in Korea as the Dano Festival, and Vietnam as the Tết Đoan Ngọ on the traditional lunar calendar date.

Tan (端) means “beginning” and go (午) is a simplified form of ⾺ (horse), referring to the Chinese zodiac name for the fifth lunar month. Days of the week also have zodiac animals. Thus, tango originally meant “the first horse day of the fifth month”. However, go is a homonym for 五 (five) in Japanese, so during the Nara period the meaning shifted to become the fifth day of the fifth month. Sekku means a seasonal festival involving doubles of date and month. There are five sekku, including O-Shogatsu (January 1), Hina Matsuri (March 3), Tanabata (July 7) and Kiku Matsuri (September 9th) along with Tango. Tango no Sekku marks the beginning of summer or the rainy season.

Although it is not known precisely when this day started to be celebrated, it was probably during the reign of the empress Suiko (593BCE –628 CE). In Japan, Tango no Sekku was assigned to the fifth day of the fifth month after the Nara period (8th century CE).

Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boys’ Day (also known as Feast of Banners) while Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) and changed to include both boys and girls. Before this day, families raise the carp-shaped koinobori flags (carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming). Displays include a flag for each boy (or child), a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto. Kintarō and the kabuto are symbols of a strong and healthy boy.

Kintarō (金太郎) is the childhood name of Sakata no Kintoki who was a hero in the Heian period, a subordinate samurai of Minamoto no Raikou, having been famous for his strength when he was a child. It is said that Kintarō rode a bear, instead of a horse, and played with animals in the mountains when he was a young boy.

Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa (oak) leaves—kashiwa-mochi (mochi filled with red bean jam) and chimaki (a kind of “sweet rice paste”, wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf)—are traditionally served on this day. The pounding process of making mochi originates from China, where glutinous rice has been grown and used for thousands of years. According to folklore, the first mochitsuki ceremony occurred after the Kami are said to have descended to Earth, which was following the birth of rice cultivation in Yamato during the Yayoi period (300 BCE – 300 CE). Red rice was the original variation used in the production of mochi. At this time, it was eaten exclusively by the emperor and nobles due to its status as an omen of good fortune. During the Japanese Heian period (794–1192), mochi was used as a “food for the gods” and in religious offerings in Shinto rituals performed by aristocrats. In addition to general good fortune, mochi was also known as a talisman for happy marriages. Here is a modern video of the pounding process as well as making of various styles of mochi:

 

May 042019
 

The Haymarket Affair (also known as the Haymarket Massacre, Haymarket Riot, or Haymarket Square Riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on May 4, 1886 at Haymarket Square in Chicago. These events contributed to May 1st becoming a significant celebration of organized labor worldwide, but with caveats.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I do not blindly accept simple speculations about the origins of traditions, even if they seem plausible, unless I have solid documentary evidence.  The Haymarket Affair was a contributing factor, but May 1st was entangled in labor celebrations before 1886, and the events of 1886 added to the significance of the date rather than originating it.

In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously set May 1st, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard or there would be reprisals. As the chosen date approached, U.S. labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day. On Saturday, May 1st, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” Estimates of the number of striking workers across the U.S. range from 300,000 to half a million. In New York City, the number of demonstrators was estimated at 10,000 and in Detroit at 11,000. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, abou 10,000 workers turned out. In Chicago, the movement’s center, an estimated 30,000-to-40,000 workers had gone on strike and there were perhaps twice as many people out on the streets participating in various demonstrations and marches, as, for example, a march by 10,000 men employed in the Chicago lumber yards. Though participants in these events added up to 80,000, it is disputed whether there was a march of that number down Michigan Avenue led by anarchist Albert Parsons, founder of the International Working People’s Association [IWPA], his wife Lucy Parsons and their children.

On May 3rd, striking workers in Chicago met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant. Union molders at the plant had been locked out since early February and the predominantly Irish-American workers at McCormick had come under attack from Pinkerton guards during an earlier strike action in 1885. This event, along with the eight-hour militancy of McCormick workers, had gained the strikers some respect and notoriety around the city. By the time of the 1886 general strike, strikebreakers entering the McCormick plant were under protection from a garrison of 400 police officers. Although half of the replacement workers defected to the general strike on May 1st, McCormick workers continued to harass strikebreakers as they crossed the picket lines.

Speaking to a rally outside the plant on May 3, August Spies advised the striking workers to “hold together, to stand by their union, or they would not succeed.” The general strike to this point had remained largely nonviolent. When the end-of-the-workday bell sounded, however, a group of workers surged to the gates to confront the strikebreakers. Despite calls for calm by Spies, the police fired on the crowd. Two McCormick workers were killed (although some newspaper accounts said there were six fatalities). Spies later testified, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”

Outraged by this act of police violence, local anarchists quickly printed and distributed fliers calling for a rally the following day at Haymarket Square (also called the Haymarket), which was then a bustling commercial center near the corner of Randolph Street and Desplaines Street. Printed in German and English, the fliers claimed that the police had murdered the strikers on behalf of business interests and urged workers to seek justice. The first batch of fliers contain the words Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force! When Spies saw the line, he said he would not speak at the rally unless the words were removed from the flier. All but a few hundred of the fliers were destroyed, and new fliers were printed without the offending words. More than 20,000 copies of the revised flier were distributed.

The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4th.   August Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to a crowd estimated variously between 600 and 3,000 while standing in an open wagon adjacent to the square on Des Plaines Street. A large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. Following Spies’ speech, Parsons, the Alabama-born editor of the radical English-language weekly The Alarm spoke. The crowd was so calm that mayor Carter Harrison Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Parsons spoke for almost an hour before standing down in favor of the last speaker of the evening, the British socialist Samuel Fielden, who delivered a brief ten-minute address. Many of the crowd had already left as the weather was deteriorating. At about 10:30 pm, just as Fielden was finishing his speech, police arrived en masse, marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon, and ordered the rally to disperse. Fielden insisted that the meeting was peaceful. Police Inspector John Bonfield proclaimed:

 I command you [addressing the speaker] in the name of the law to desist and you [addressing the crowd] to disperse.

A home-made bomb with a brittle metal casing filled with dynamite and ignited by a fuse was thrown into the path of the advancing police. Its fuse briefly sputtered, and then the bomb exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan with flying metal fragments and mortally wounding six other officers.

Witnesses maintained that immediately after the bomb blast there was an exchange of gunshots between police and demonstrators. Accounts vary widely as to who fired first and whether any of the crowd fired at the police. Some historians maintain that the police fired on the fleeing demonstrators, reloaded and then fired again, killing four and wounding as many as 70 people. What is not disputed is that in less than five minutes the square was empty except for the casualties. According to the May 4th New York Times, demonstrators began firing at the police, who then returned fire. In his report on the incident, Inspector Bonfield wrote that he “gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other”. An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune, “A very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.”

In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. Another policeman died two years after the incident from complications related to injuries received on that day. About 60 policemen were wounded in the incident. The Chicago Herald described a scene of “wild carnage” and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets. It is unclear how many civilians were wounded since many were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing arrest. They found aid where they could.

A harsh anti-union clampdown followed the Haymarket incident. There was a massive outpouring of community and business support for the police and many thousands of dollars were donated to funds for their medical care and to assist their efforts. The entire labor and immigrant community, particularly Germans and Bohemians, came under suspicion. Police raids were carried out on homes and offices of suspected anarchists. Dozens of suspects, many only remotely related to the Haymarket affair, were arrested. Casting legal requirements such as search warrants aside, Chicago police squads subjected the labor activists of Chicago to an eight-week shakedown, ransacking their meeting halls and places of business. The emphasis was on the speakers at the Haymarket rally and the newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung. A small group of anarchists was discovered to have been engaged in making bombs on the same day as the incident, including round ones like the one used in Haymarket Square.

Newspaper reports declared that anarchist agitators were to blame for the “riot”, a view adopted by an alarmed public. As time passed, press reports and illustrations of the incident became more elaborate. Coverage was national, then international. Among property owners, the press, and other elements of society, a consensus developed that suppression of anarchist agitation was necessary while for their part, union organizations such as The Knights of Labor and craft unions were quick to disassociate themselves from the anarchist movement and to repudiate violent tactics as self-defeating. Many workers, on the other hand, believed that men of the Pinkerton agency were responsible because of the agency’s tactic of secretly infiltrating labor groups and its sometimes violent methods of strike breaking.

The police assumed that an anarchist had thrown the bomb as part of a planned conspiracy; their problem was how to prove it. On the morning of May 5th, they raided the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, arresting its editor August Spies, and his brother (who was not charged). Also arrested were editorial assistant Michael Schwab and Adolph Fischer, a typesetter. A search of the premises resulted in the discovery of the Revenge Poster and other “evidence” considered incriminating by the prosecution.

Rudolf Schnaubelt, the police’s lead suspect as the bomb thrower, was arrested twice early on and released. By May 14, when it became apparent he had played a significant role in the event, (in fact, probably had thrown the bomb), he had fled the country. William Seliger, who had turned state’s evidence and testified for the prosecution, was not charged. On June 4th, 1886, seven other suspects, however, were indicted by the grand jury and stood trial for being accessories to the murder of Degan. Of these, only two had been present when the bomb exploded. Newspaper editor August Spies and Samuel Fielden had spoken at the peaceful rally and were stepping down from the speaker’s wagon in compliance with police orders to disperse just before the bomb went off. Two others had been present at the beginning of the rally but had left and were at Zepf’s Hall, an anarchist rendezvous, at the time of the explosion. They were: Arbeiter-Zeitung typesetter Adolph Fischer and the well-known activist Albert Parsons, who had spoken for an hour at the Haymarket rally before going to Zepf’s. Parsons, who believed that the evidence against them all was weak, subsequently voluntarily turned himself in, in solidarity with the accused. A third man, Spies’s assistant editor Michael Schwab (who was the brother-in-law of Schnaubelt) was arrested since he was speaking at another rally at the time of the bombing (he was also later pardoned). Not directly tied to the Haymarket rally, but arrested because they were notorious for their militant radicalism were George Engel (who was at home playing cards on that day), and Louis Lingg, a hot-tempered bomb maker denounced by his associate, Seliger. Another defendant who had not been present that day was Oscar Neebe, an American-born citizen of German descent who was associated with the Arbeiter-Zeitung and had attempted to revive it in the aftermath of the Haymarket riot.

In the trial that followed, all eight defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, even though many were not present at the time of the riot, and all those present were accounted for and clearly not involved in the subsequent violence. All but Neebe were condemned to death. The governor of Illinois commuted 2 of the sentences. Of the remaining 5, one committed suicide and the other 4 were hanged on November 11, 1887. In 1893, Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

The site of the incident was designated a Chicago landmark in 1992, and a sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997 at the defendants’ burial site in Forest Park.

In scanning past posts, I notice that I have given a number of Chicago recipes but never said much about Chicago deep-dish pizza. This is a serious omission which I will resolve with a video.  It is important to emphasize that Chicago pizza is its own thing and should not be compared with other kinds of pizza. In fact, it’s just as well to work on the principle that dishes with the name “pizza” are going to be completely different worldwide.  Go to 100 different cities in Italy and you’ll get 100 different styles of pizza. Then got to 100 cities around the world from New York to Adelaide to Buenos Aires, and you’ll get 100 more. If you don’t get so hung up on the name, you’ll be able to appreciate Chicago pizza for what it is (and excuse the narrator for thinking that the big battle is between Chicago and New York – because pizza is not made in any other city in the world!!!):

May 032019
 

At one time, this date was celebrated as Roodmas (from Old English “rood” (“cross”) plus Mass), a celebration of the discovery of the “true cross” on May 3 by saint Helena in Jerusalem in 355. I won’t spill a whole lot of ink over my thoughts about the “true cross,” that is, the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on. According to post-Nicene historians such as Socrates of Constantinople, the empress Helena, mother of emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, traveled to the Holy Land in 326–328, founding churches and establishing relief agencies for the poor. Historians Gelasius of Caesarea (d. 395) and Rufinus (344/45-411) claim that she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to have been used at the crucifixion of Jesus and of two thieves, St. Dismas and Gestas, executed with him. To one cross was affixed the titulus bearing Jesus’ name, but Helena was not sure until a miracle revealed that that cross was the true cross.

Many churches possess fragmentary remains that are by tradition alleged to be those of the true cross. Their authenticity is accepted by some denominations, mostly Catholic and Orthodox. I am with skeptical Protestants who find it beyond the realm of possibility, or even probability, that three crosses used to execute obscure criminals (among thousands) could have been preserved intact for three centuries, and fortuitously stumbled upon by a visiting pilgrim.

Roodmas originally commemorated the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection and was linked with the finding of the Cross shortly thereafter. Although saint Helena reportedly found the Cross on May 3rd, 355, most Catholic and Eastern Orthodox rites now celebrate the Feast of the Cross on September 14th, commemorating the day in 628 when a piece of the Cross taken by the Persian empire was recovered by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. After the Gallican and Latin Rites were combined, the days were observed individually as the Finding of the Holy Cross (May 3) and the Triumph of the Cross (September 14). Some Protestant churches follow variants of this practice. The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, for example, puts Roodmas on May 3rd.

In the Philippines, the Santacruzan—a ritual pageant commemorating the Finding of the True Cross—is still held in May because the custom originated in the pre-1960 Catholic observance of Roodmas on May 3rd. The celebrations typically carry over the whole month of May. In the Bicol Region, the ritual begins with the recitation of the rosary; the traditional “María” is said after the recitation of the Salve Regina in Spanish and the Litany of Loreto. Alabasyón (from the Spanish for “praising”) is the term for prayers sung in honor of the Holy Cross.

Bicol is also famous for a dish that is commonly called Bicol express, known natively in Bikol as sinilihan (lit. “spiced with chili”). It is a stew made from long chilies (siling mahaba in Tagalog), coconut milk, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork, and garlic. It is said to have been inspired by the fiery Bicolano dish gulay na may lada, which is nowadays presented as one of the many variants of Bicol Express. Here’s your video:

May 022019
 

Today is the birthday (1903) of Dr. Benjamin McLane Spock, an influential US pediatrician, not to be confused with Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. Dr. Spock is famous for Baby and Child Care (1946), one of the best-selling books of all time. The book’s premise to mothers is that “you know more than you think you do.” Spock was the first popular pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and how they fit into family dynamics. His ideas about childcare influenced several generations of parents to be more flexible and affectionate with their children, and to treat them as individuals. However, his theories were also widely criticized by colleagues for relying too heavily on anecdotal evidence rather than serious academic research.

Spock advocated ideas about parenting that were, at the time, considered out of the mainstream. Over time, his books helped to bring about major change. Previously, pediatricians had told parents that babies needed to learn to sleep on a regular schedule, and that picking them up and holding them whenever they cried would only teach them to cry more and not to sleep through the night (a notion that borrows from behaviorism). They were told to feed their children on a regular schedule, and that they should not pick them up, kiss them, or hug them, because that would not prepare them to be strong and independent individuals in a harsh world. In contrast Spock encouraged parents to see their children as individuals, and not to apply a one-size-fits-all philosophy to them.

In 1962, Spock joined The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, otherwise known as SANE. Spock was politically outspoken and active in the movement to end the Vietnam War. In 1968, he and four others (including William Sloane Coffin, Marcus Raskin, Mitchell Goodman, and Michael Ferber) were singled out for prosecution by then Attorney General Ramsey Clark on charges of conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet resistance to the draft. Spock and three of his alleged co-conspirators were convicted, although the five had never been in the same room together. His two-year prison sentence was never served; the case was appealed and in 1969 a federal court set aside his conviction.

In 1968, Spock signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War, and he later became a sponsor of the War Tax Resistance project, which practiced and advocated tax resistance as a form of anti-war protest. He was also arrested for his involvement in anti-war protests resulting from his signing of the anti-war manifesto “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority” circulated by members of the radical intellectual collective RESIST. The individuals arrested during this incident came to be known as the Boston Five.

In the 1972 United States presidential election, Spock was the People’s Party candidate with a platform that called for free medical care; the repeal of “victimless crime” laws, including the legalization of abortion, homosexuality, and cannabis; a guaranteed minimum income for families; and for an end to American military interventionism and the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from foreign countries. In the 1970s and 1980s, Spock demonstrated and gave lectures against nuclear weapons and cuts in social welfare programs.

Norman Vincent Peale was a popular preacher who during the late 1960s criticized the anti-Vietnam War movement and the perceived laxity of that era, placing the blame on Dr. Spock’s books: “The U.S. was paying the price of two generations that followed the Dr. Spock baby plan of instant gratification of needs.” In the 1960s and 1970s, blame was placed on Spock for the disorderliness of young people, many of whose parents had been devotees of Baby and Child Care. Vice President Spiro Agnew also blamed Spock for “permissiveness”. These allegations were enthusiastically embraced by conservative adults, who viewed the rebellious youth of that era with disapproval, referring to them as “the Spock generation”.

It’s not fair to make generalizations about the ethos of a generation in this way, nor should Spock take credit, positive or negative, for the shaping of post-war generations. There were a great many more variables in play than a single child rearing book, no matter how popular it was. Furthermore, many of Spock’s detractors never read the book, but based their critique on hearsay.  In fact, Spock’s recommendations were not based on rigorous studies, and changed considerably over the life of the book as Spock’s attitudes changed.  For example, in the seventh edition of Baby and Child Care, published a few weeks after he died, Spock advocated for a bold change in children’s diets, recommending that all children switch to a vegan diet after the age of 2. Spock himself had switched to an all-plant diet in 1991, after a series of illnesses that left him weak and unable to walk unaided. After making the dietary change, he lost 50 pounds, regained his ability to walk and became healthier overall. The revised edition stated that children on an all-plant diet will reduce their risk of developing heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain diet-related cancers. Spock’s approach to childhood nutrition was criticized by a number of experts, including his co-author, Boston pediatrician Dr. Steven J. Parker, as too extreme and likely to result in nutritional deficiencies unless it is very carefully planned and executed, something that would be difficult for working parents.

I am glad to say that my son never ate specially formulated baby food of any kind.  He was breast fed as an infant, and when he shifted to solid food he ate what my wife and I ate – broken down in a small food processor when he was little, then cut up small and/or mashed as he grew older. I had only one rule: he had to taste everything before refusing it. If he took a bite of something and did not like it, I did not force him to eat more. But he could not refuse something based on looks alone. As an adult he has some broad tastes, and some odd dislikes – but I take credit for none of it.  He is fond of duck feet and pig’s stomach, and will eat raw chile peppers of any heat. Conversely, he hates eggs, mushrooms, and lentils. These preferences are not based on anything I did concerning his eating patterns; he developed his tastes all by himself.  Baby food, like breakfast food, is a Western invention of the 19th century.  Children can eat what adults eat, as long as when they are very small it is chopped up to make it manageable and to avoid choking. It does not need extra salt, sugar, or fat. Care should be taken only that the child’s diet is balanced. One of the advantages of serving the same food for children and adults is that leftovers never go waste.

 

May 012019
 

Today is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, an annual international event when guerrilla gardeners plant sunflowers in their neighborhoods, typically in public places perceived to be neglected, such as tree pits, flower beds and roadside verges. It has taken place since 2007, and was conceived by guerrilla gardeners in Brussels. They declared it Journée Internationale de la Guérilla Tournesol. It has been championed by guerrilla gardeners around the world, notably by GuerrillaGardening.org and participation has grown each year since then. Although sunflower sowing at this time of the year is limited to relatively temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, this day is also marked in other parts of the world by planting plants appropriate to the season.

Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property. As such they are heirs to Gerard Winstanley and his True Levellers: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/levellers-and-diggers/  Guerrilla gardening encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries, to gardeners with political influences who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action. This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; aiming to promote re-consideration of land ownership in order to assign a new purpose or reclaim land that is perceived to be in neglect or misused.

The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or neglected by its legal owner. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes, like flowers. Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive. Some garden at more visible hours for the purpose of publicity, as a form of activism.

A few guerrilla gardening projects have expanded into community efforts at making unused space productive and pleasant. For example, People’s Park in Berkeley, California is now a de facto public park which was formed directly out of a community guerrilla gardening movement during the late 1960s which took place on land owned by the University of California. The university acquired the land through eminent domain, and the houses on the land were demolished, but the university did not allocate funds to develop the land, and it was left in a decrepit state. Eventually, people began to convert the unused land into a park. This led to an embattled history involving community members, the university, university police, Governor Reagan, and the national guard, where protest and bloody reprisals left one person dead, and hundreds seriously wounded. Parts of the park were destroyed and rebuilt over time, and it has established itself now into a permanent part of the city

Since today is a day for sunflower guerrilla gardening, sunflower seeds are the obvious choice for a recipe.  For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are usually classified by the pattern on their husks. If the husk is solid black, the seeds are called black oil sunflower seeds. The crops may be referred to as oilseed sunflower crops. These seeds are usually pressed to extract their oil. Striped sunflower seeds are primarily used for food; as a result, they may be called confectionery sunflower seeds.

The term “sunflower seed” is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is a cypsela (a dry one-seeded fruit). When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel or heart. The kernels can be eaten as a snack and these days are sold packaged plain, salted, or with extra flavorings.  I use them in granola or sprinkled in salads.  You can pretty much use them in place of nuts in confections and desserts as you choose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 302019
 

Today is the birthday (1896) of reverend Gary Davis, a blues and gospel singer whose fingerpicking guitar style influenced a great many artists. Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina. He was the only one of the eight children his mother bore, who survived to adulthood, becoming blind as an infant. He was poorly treated by his mother so that his father placed him in the care of his paternal grandmother. Davis reported that when he was 10 years old his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama. He later said that he had been told that his father was shot by the Birmingham sheriff.

Davis starting teaching himself the guitar at age 6 and developed a unique multivoice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing gospel, ragtime, and blues tunes along with traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony. In the mid-1920s, Davis migrated to Durham, North Carolina, a major center of African-American culture at the time. There he taught Blind Boy Fuller and collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene, including Bull City Red. In 1935, J. B. Long, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists, introduced Davis, Fuller, and Red to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions marked the real beginning of Davis’ career. During his time in Durham, he became a Christian, and in 1933, Davis was ordained as a Baptist minister in Washington, North Carolina. Following his conversion and especially his ordination, Davis preferred to play gospel music.

In the 1940s, the blues scene in Durham began to decline, and Davis moved to New York. In 1951, he recorded an oral history for the folklorist Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold (the wife of Alan Lomax).

The folk revival of the 1960s invigorated Davis’s career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his version of “Samson and Delilah”, also known as “If I Had My Way”, a song by Blind Willie Johnson, which Davis had popularized. “Samson and Delilah” was also covered and credited to Davis by the Grateful Dead on the album Terrapin Station. The Dead also covered Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”. Eric Von Schmidt credited Davis with three-quarters of Schmidt’s “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, covered by Bob Dylan on his debut album for Columbia Records.

Davis died of a heart attack in May 1972, in Hammonton, New Jersey. He is buried in plot 68 of Rockville Cemetery, in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York.

Dinner-on-the-grounds, a potluck dinner after the last Sunday service or on a special occasion, is bedrock in North Carolina, Southern Baptist tradition. In every town and village there are renowned cooks, and someone’s potato salad will be talk of the town.  Potatoes, mayonnaise, and eggs are the normal key ingredients with any number of additional possibilities.  Here’s one of a thousand varieties:

Southern Potato Salad

Ingredients

3 ½ lb potatoes
6 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup evaporated milk
3 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp prepared mustard
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
paprika

Instructions

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cool. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, and set the yolks aside. Chop the whites and mix them with the potatoes and onion in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mash the yolks, then stir in the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the potatoes, and toss well to mix. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Spoon into a serving bowl and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a little paprika.

Apr 292019
 

I should just call today Musical Birthdays Day because three popular singer-songwriters were born today (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/skiffle-pop-country/ ) and, to add to the coincidences, two of the most famous British conductors of all time, Thomas Beecham (1879) and Malcolm Sargent (1895), were also born on this date. I was more aware of Sargent than Beecham during their lifetimes, because Sargent was the lead conductor of the Proms until his death in 1967, and that was right around the time when I became aware of them. His death actually caused considerable debate concerning the future of the Last Night of the Proms which had become uproariously patriotic under his baton, with mass singing of Rule Britannia and Jerusalem and the like, at a time when naked jingoism was giving way to public hand wringing concerning the evils of empire and colonialism. The patriotism survived some stormy years – now tempered with flags of all nations being waved and a general air of irony mixed in with the jingoism. Of the two I tend to see Sargent as more devoted to English music and Beecham as more international. The two men were close friends and colleagues most of their lives.

Thomas Beecham inherited a baronetcy from his father but was also knighted in his own right for his work as a conductor and impresario, best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras. From the early 20th century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and introduced audiences to works from continental Europe that had hitherto been unknown, particularly Richard Strauss, Berlioz, and Sibelius.

Beecham was born into a rich industrial family in Lancashire famous for Beecham’s pills. Although in secondary school he had shown strong interest in a musical career, his father insisted he study Classics at Oxford, which he did for two years, before leaving without a degree and pursuing conducting piecemeal. He began his career as a conductor in 1899 as an amateur (with no formal training), and as a professional in 1902. He used his access to the family fortune to finance opera from the 1910s until the 1930s, staging seasons at Covent Garden, Drury Lane and His Majesty’s Theatre with international stars, his own orchestra and a wide repertoire. Among the works he introduced to England were Richard Strauss’s Elektra, Salome and Der Rosenkavalier and three operas by Frederick Delius.

Together with Malcolm Sargent, Beecham founded the London Philharmonic, and he conducted its first performance at the Queen’s Hall in 1932. In the 1940s he worked for three years in the United States where he was music director of the Seattle Symphony and conducted at the Metropolitan Opera. After his return to Britain, he founded the Royal Philharmonic in 1946 and conducted it until his death in 1961.

Harold Malcolm Watts Sargent began his musical career as an organist and composer but eventually became widely regarded as Britain’s leading conductor of choral works. The musical ensembles with which he was associated included the Ballets Russes, the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. Sargent was held in high esteem by choirs and instrumental soloists, but because of his high standards and a statement that he made in a 1936 interview disputing musicians’ rights to tenure, his relationship with orchestral players was often uneasy. Despite this, he was co-founder of the London Philharmonic, was the first conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic as a full-time ensemble, and played an important part in saving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from disbandment in the 1960s.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Sargent turned down an offer of a major musical directorship in Australia and returned to the UK to bring music to as many people as possible as his contribution to national morale. His fame extended beyond the concert hall: to the British public, he was a familiar broadcaster in BBC radio talk shows, and generations of Gilbert and Sullivan devotees have known his recordings of the most popular Savoy Operas. He toured widely throughout the world and was noted for his skill as a conductor and his championship of British composers.

If I had to pick between Beecham and Sargent as personal friends there would be no contest. Both men were lifelong philanderers, which I find distasteful, but at least Beecham was discreet about his affairs, whereas Sargent flaunted them. Also, Sargent was a flagrant snob, and Beecham often chided him about his posturing. For example, Beecham once described the rising conductor Herbert von Karajan as “a kind of musical Malcolm Sargent” (translation: “like Sargent only with decent musical tastes”).  In the same vein, on learning that Sargent’s car was caught in rifle fire in Palestine he noted, “I had no idea the Arabs were so musical.” Beecham did describe Sargent as “the greatest choirmaster we have ever produced.” And on another occasion he said that Sargent was “the most expert of all our conductors – myself excepted of course.”

Both Beecham and Sargent were born in the Victorian era, so you have a wide set of options for recipes. Here is a video for a nut and cream cheese sandwich, that is not commandingly brilliant, except that instead of instructions you have classical music accompanying the process: