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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:

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 282019
 

Today is Sardinia Day (Sa die de sa Sardigna in Sardinian language, La dì di la Sardigna in Sassarese, La dì di la Saldigna in Gallurese, lo dia de la Sardenya in Algherese, Il giorno della Sardegna in Italian), also known as Sardinian people’s Day (Giornata del popolo sardo), a holiday in Sardinia commemorating the Sardinian Vespers occurring in 1794–1796.

In the last decades of the 18th century following the Savoyard take-over of Sardinia, discontent began to grow among the Sardinians towards the Piedmontese administration. Sardinian peasants resented the feudal rule and both the local nobles and the bourgeoisie were being left out of any active civil and military role, with the viceroy and other people from the Italian mainland being appointed in charge of the island. Such political unrest was bolstered further by the international situation, with particular regard to the ferment developing in other European regions (namely Ireland, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, and Tyrol) as well as the episodes leading to the French revolution.

In 1793, a French fleet tried to conquer the island along two lines of attack, the first one across the Southern coast in Cagliari, and the other, led by the young Lieutenant Colonel Napoleon Bonaparte, in the nearby Maddalena archipelago. However, the locals managed to resist the invasion by the French, and began expecting the Savoyards to acknowledge the feat and improve their condition in return. The Sardinians thus demanded most of the offices be reserved for them, along with autonomy from the Savoyard ruling class.

The king’s peremptory refusal to grant the island any of these wishes eventually spurred the rebellion, with the arrest of two notable figures of the so-called “Patriotic Party” (the lawyers from Cagliari, Vincenzo Cabras and Efisio Pintor) being the final spark of unrest amongst the populace. On 28th April 1794, known as sa dii de s’aciappa (“the day of the pursuit and capture”), people in Cagliari started chasing any Piedmontese functionaries they could find. Because many of them started to wear the local style of robes in order to blend into the crowd, any people suspected to be from the Italian mainland would be asked by the people to say “chickpea” (nara cixiri) in Sardinian: failure in pronouncing the word correctly would give their origin away. By May, all the 514 Savoyard officers were put on a boat and sent back to the mainland.

Encouraged by what happened in Cagliari, the people in Sassari and Alghero did the same, and the revolt spread throughout the rest of the island in the countryside. The uprising was then led for another two years by the republican Giovanni Maria Angioy, then a judge of the Royal Hearing (Reale Udienza), but it was later suppressed by the loyalist forces that were bolstered by the peace treaty between France and Piedmont in 1796. The revolutionary experiment was thus brought to an end and Sardinia remained under Savoy rule. A series of other major antifeudal revolts arose again in 1802, 1812, 1816, and 1821. The actual date of memorial was chosen in 1993 and public events are annually held to commemorate the episode, while the schools are closed.

Zuppa gallurese is a famous Sardinian dish that started out life as a cheap, peasant dish, but is now a universal comfort food. It is made of layers of bread and melting cheese, soaked in rich broth and baked. There are numerous variations depending on the kinds of bread, cheese, and broth.  Here’s some Sardinian cooks giving a basic version:

 

Apr 272019
 

The 1967 International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 67, as it was commonly known, a general exhibition, Category One World’s Fair held in Montreal, opened on this date (in 1967!!!). It is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century with the most attendees to that date and 62 nations participating. It also set the single-day attendance record for a world’s fair, with 569,500 visitors on its 3rd day. Expo 67 was Canada’s main celebration during its centennial year. The fair had been intended to be held in Moscow, to help the Soviet Union celebrate the Russian Revolution’s 50th anniversary. However, for various reasons, the Soviets decided to cancel, and Canada was awarded it in late 1962. The project was not well supported in Canada at first. It took the determination of Montreal’s mayor, Jean Drapeau, and a new team of managers to guide it past political, physical and temporal hurdles. Defying a computer analysis that said it could not be done, the fair opened on time.

After Expo 67 ended in October 1967, the site and most of the pavilions continued on as an exhibition called Man and His World, open during the summer months from 1968 until 1984. By that time, most of the buildings—which had not been designed to last beyond the original exhibition—had deteriorated and were dismantled. Today, the islands that hosted the world exhibition are mainly used as parkland and for recreational use, with only a few remaining structures from Expo 67 to show that the event was held there.  Habitat 67, a model showpiece of what urban apartments of the future might look like, was iconic of Expo 67 – more than any other structure – and still serves as condominiums, although not quite as intended. I was suitably impressed to arrive by ship in Montreal in 1975 as an immigrant to North America, and to be greeted by Habitat 67 at the dock on the way.  It felt like a small omen of what to expect in this New World.

Habitat 67, or simply Habitat, was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, originally conceived as his master’s thesis in architecture at McGill University before actually being built as a pavilion for Expo 67. It is still located at 2600 Avenue Pierre-Dupuy on the Marc-Drouin Quay next to the Saint Lawrence River. Habitat 67 is widely considered an architectural landmark and one of the most recognizable and spectacular buildings in both Montreal and Canada. Safdie was given the blessing of the Expo 67 Director of Installations, Edward Churchill, to work on the building project as an independent architect in spite of his relative youth and inexperience. The development was financed by the federal government, but is now owned by its tenants, who formed a limited partnership that purchased the building from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1985. Safdie still owns a penthouse apartment in the building.

Habitat 67’s interlocking forms, connected walkways and landscaped terraces were key in achieving Safdie’s goal of a private and natural environment within the limits of a dense urban space. Habitat 67 comprises 354 identical, prefabricated concrete forms arranged in various combinations, reaching up to 12 storeys in height. Together these units create 146 residences of varying sizes and configurations, each formed from one to eight linked concrete units. The complex originally contained 158 apartments, but several apartments have since been joined to create larger units, reducing the total number. Each unit is connected to at least one private terrace, which can range from approximately 20 to 90 square meters (225 to 1,000 sq ft) in size.

The development was designed to integrate the benefits of suburban homes—namely gardens, fresh air, privacy, and multi-levelled environments—with the economics and density of a modern urban apartment building. It was believed to illustrate the new lifestyle people would increasingly embrace in crowded cities around the world. Safdie’s goal for the project to be affordable housing largely failed (and demand for the building’s units has made them more expensive than originally envisioned). In addition, the existing structure was originally meant to be only the first phase of a much larger complex, but the high per-unit cost of approximately C$140,000 (C$22,120,000 for all 158) prevented that possibility.

As one of the major symbols of Expo 67, which was attended by over 50 million people during the 6 months it was open, Habitat 67 gained worldwide acclaim as a “fantastic experiment” and “architectural wonder”. This experiment was and is regarded as both a success and failure—it redefined urban living and has since become a very successful co-op, but at the same time ultimately failed to revolutionize affordable housing or launch a wave of prefabricated, modular development as Safdie had envisioned. Even now, 50 years after Habitat, much of Safdie’s work still holds to the concepts that were so fundamental to its design, especially the themes of reimagining high-density housing and improving social integration through architecture.

Pâté chinois is French Canadian comfort food that you can find throughout Montreal. It is similar to English cottage pie or French hachis Parmentier. The dish is made with layered ground beef (mixed with sautéed diced onions) on the bottom layer, canned corn (either whole-kernel, creamed, or a mix) for the middle layer, and mashed potatoes on top. Seasonings, including cheese may be added to the top. Variations may include reversing the layering of ingredients with potatoes at the bottom, then meat, topped with cream corn; adding diced bell peppers to the ground beef; or serving the dish with pickled eggs or beets. This description should be sufficient, but here’s a video if you need more hand holding:

Apr 262019
 

On this date in 1937, the terror bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War was carried out, at the behest of Francisco Franco’s nationalist government, by its allies, the Nazi German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria, under the code name Operation Rügen. The town was being used as a communications center behind the front line and was also strategically located. The operation opened the way for Franco’s capture of Bilbao and his victory in northern Spain.

The attack provoked controversy because it involved the deliberate bombing of civilians by a military air force. In fact, vital munitions factories in the town were left untouched. The sole point of the attack was to demoralize Franco’s enemies by killing civilians and destroying their property.  Such actions are now spoken of as “total war” in which there is no distinction drawn between military actions and non-combatant actions. Everything is fair game. By the end of World War II, the Axis powers had suffered the fire-bombing of Dresden and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  These were also acts of total war. It is sometimes suggested that the bombing of Guernica was the beginning act of total war in the 20th century, and, the Geneva Conventions notwithstanding, total war is now a fact of life worldwide. But there is nothing new about total war,

In ancient and medieval times, conquering armies were known to intimidate local populations by killing or enslaving everyone whether they were soldiers or not. Men, women, and children were all fair game. There are also many instances of entire cities committing mass suicide rather than submit to a besieging army. Historically, atrocities much worse than Guernica occurred. What made Guernica do hideous was that it was completely unexpected. It was not a tactic that anyone was anticipating, and, in fact, Franco as well as Germany and Italy initially denied they have any involvement in it because they knew the worldwide perception would be strongly negative.

Even now it is impossible to estimate the number of casualties and the amount of damage to the town because both sides had their reasons for over- or under-reporting. Republicans initially put the death toll at 1,700 while Nationalists estimated about 150 killed.  Nowadays there is still enormous debate, but around 300 is a widely accepted number. Likewise, opposing sides estimated anywhere from 17% to 74% of the town was razed. Some of the confusion arises from what caused the damage – that is, the bombing itself, or bombs plus fires.

The bombing is the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso, commissioned by the Spanish Republic. Until Franco’s death in 1975 Picasso’s work (according to the artist’s wishes) could not be displayed in Spain, and so was housed in New York. Now it has its own exhibit space in Madrid, although the town of Guernica would prefer to see it located there.

The bombing was also depicted in a woodcut by the German artist Heinz Kiwitz, who was later killed fighting in the International Brigades, and by René Magritte in the painting Le Drapeau Noir.

The bombing shocked and inspired many other artists, including a sculpture by René Iché, one of the first electroacoustic music pieces by Patrick Ascione, a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and poems by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica), and Uys Krige (Nag van die Fascistiese Bomwerpers) (English translation from the Afrikaans: Night of the Fascist Bombers). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais titled Guernica.

Basque cuisine is a happy mix of fish and meat, especially lamb, plus vegetables with a distinctive spice palette. Marmitako is a much-loved fish stew, normally made with tuna, but salmon or cod are sometimes substituted.  Here is a video showing a traditional method of cooking. The main thing to note is that the stew is assembled and cooked without the tuna, which is added at the very end and cooked only briefly (enough to cook through and no more). The video is in Spanish, but the gist should be easy enough to grasp.

Apr 252019
 

Today is World Malaria Day, an international observance highlighting global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected.

World Malaria Day grew out of the efforts taking place across the African continent to commemorate Africa Malaria Day. According to the most recent World Malaria Report, the global tally of malaria reached 429,000 malaria deaths and 212 million new cases in 2015. The rate of new malaria cases fell by 21% globally between 2010 and 2015, and malaria death rates fell by 29% in the same period. In sub-Saharan Africa, case incidence and death rates fell by 21% and 31%, respectively.

World Malaria Day was established in May 2007 by the 60th session of the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body. The day was established to provide “education and understanding of malaria” and spread information on “year-long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in endemic areas.” Prior to the establishment of World Malaria Day, Africa Malaria Day was held on April 25. Africa Malaria Day began in 2001, one year after the historic Abuja Declaration was signed by 44 malaria-endemic countries at the African Summit on Malaria.

World Malaria Day allows for corporations (such as ExxonMobil), multinational organizations (such as Malaria No More) and grassroots organizations (such as Mosquitoes Suck Tour) globally to work together to bring awareness to malaria and advocate for policy changes.

The theme for World Malaria Day 2019 is “Zero Malaria Starts With Me” which highlights, among other things, the fact that a malaria vaccine is being introduced this year in several African countries, beginning with Malawi: http://time.com/5577085/malawi-malaria-vaccine/ Malaria is caused by a parasite injected into the bloodstream by mosquitoes. Thus, prevention protocols can take many forms.  You can, for example, try to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed, use insecticides, sleep under mosquito netting, or use insect repellent to keep from being bitten. There are also various medications that have been around for decades that help prevent contracting malaria, but none is 100% effective. Many have unpleasant side effects, have to be started before visiting malarial areas, and some have to be continued for weeks after leaving affected regions.

The new malaria vaccine, approved in 2015 is a huge step forward. Admittedly it is only 30% effective, but 30% is much better than 0%, especially when it is children under 5 years old who are likely to die should they contract malaria.  Thus, the focus in 2019 is ensuring that the vaccine is widely publicized so that as many people as possible can avail themselves of it.

Since Malawi is the center of the vaccination effort this year, let’s think about Malawi cuisine. This video shows how to make the staple, nsima, a cassava porridge, plus boiled spicy greens, and meat:

Apr 242019
 

On this date in 1914, James Franck and Gustav Hertz presented a paper to the German Physical Society concerning an experiment that was the first electrical measurement to clearly show the quantum nature of atoms, utterly transforming the understanding of reality itself at the deepest level. Debate continues to this day concerning the precise interpretation of quantum phenomena, most of which passes by the average person – unawares. But the implications are stupendous. Franck and Hertz proved experimentally for the first time that energy states do not vary continuously at the sub-atomic level, but move from one state to another with no intermediate transition. This postulation is completely counter-intuitive. At the macro level, energy states seem to vary continuously over a range. You can dim lights gradually, or raise the volume on your music continuously. But at the sub-atomic level, such variations (say, in electrical charge) are not possible. They simply leap from one to another.

Franck and Hertz had designed a vacuum tube for studying energetic electrons that flew through a thin vapor of mercury atoms. They discovered that, when an electron collided with a mercury atom, it could lose only a specific quantity (4.9 electron volts) of its kinetic energy before flying away. This energy loss corresponds to decelerating the electron from a speed of about 1.3 million meters per second to zero. A faster electron does not decelerate completely after a collision, but loses precisely the same amount of its kinetic energy. Slower electrons merely bounce off mercury atoms without losing any significant speed or kinetic energy.

These experimental results proved to be consistent with the Bohr model for atoms that had been proposed the previous year by Niels Bohr. The Bohr model was a precursor of quantum mechanics and of the electron shell model of atoms. Its key feature was that an electron inside an atom occupies one of the atom’s quantum energy levels. Before the collision, an electron inside the mercury atom occupies its lowest available energy level. After the collision, the electron inside occupies a higher energy level with 4.9 electron volts (eV) more energy. This means that the electron is more loosely bound to the mercury atom. There were no intermediate levels or possibilities in Bohr’s quantum model. This feature was revolutionary because it was inconsistent with the expectation that an electron could be bound to an atom’s nucleus by any amount of energy.

In a second paper presented in May 1914, Franck and Hertz reported on the light emission by the mercury atoms that had absorbed energy from collisions. They showed that the wavelength of this ultraviolet light corresponded exactly to the 4.9 eV of energy that the flying electron had lost. The relationship of energy and wavelength had also been predicted by Bohr. After a presentation of these results by Franck a few years later, Albert Einstein is said to have remarked, “It’s so lovely it makes you cry.” On December 10th, 1926, Franck and Hertz were awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics “for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom.” Both physics and philosophy were changed forever.

Since the original experiment involved a vacuum chamber, some uses of vacuums in cooking can be on the agenda. Vacuum cooking sugar is an industry standard in the manufacture of hard candy, and sous vide cooking (cooking items at precise temperatures in vacuum-sealed bags), has had a vogue for a while.   My favorite is the home vacuum cooker which is a cross between a slow cooker and a thermos flask. Food is heated in the inner chamber which is then placed in an outer vacuum box, and sealed. The food continues to cook for hours without any heat source. This video is an advertisement, but you get the idea:

Apr 232019
 

On this date in 1985, New Coke, the unofficial name for the reformulation of Coca-Cola, was introduced by the Coca-Cola Company to replace the original formula of its flagship soft drink Coca-Cola, or Coke. Immediately after World War II, the market share for Coca-Cola was 60%,  but by 1983, it had declined to under 24%, largely because of competition from Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi had begun to outsell Coke in supermarkets, and Coke maintained its edge only through soda vending machines and fountain sales in fast food restaurants, concessions, and sports venues where Coca-Cola had exclusive rights. Market analysts believed baby boomers were more likely to purchase diet drinks as they aged, and growth in the full-calorie segment would have to come from younger drinkers, who at that time favored Pepsi by even more overwhelming margins than the market as a whole. When Roberto Goizueta became Coca-Cola CEO in 1980, he pointedly told employees there would be no “sacred cows” in how the company did business, including how it formulated its drinks.

Coca-Cola’s senior executives commissioned a secret project headed by marketing vice president Sergio Zyman and Coca-Cola USA president Brian Dyson to create a new flavor for Coke. This research, called “Project Kansas”, took its name from a photo of Kansas journalist William Allen White drinking a Coke; the image had been used extensively in Coca-Cola advertising and hung on several executives’ walls. The sweeter cola overwhelmingly beat both regular Coke and Pepsi in taste tests, surveys, and focus groups. Asked if they would buy and drink the product if it were Coca-Cola, most testers said they would, although it would take some getting used to. About 10-12% of testers felt angry and alienated at the thought, and said they might stop drinking Coke altogether. The surveys, which were given more significance by standard marketing procedures of the era, were less negative than the taste tests and were key in convincing management to change the formula in 1985, to coincide with the drink’s centenary. But the focus groups had provided a clue as to how the change would play out in a public context, a data point the company downplayed but which proved important later.

Management rejected an idea to make and sell the new flavor as a separate variety of Coca-Cola. The company’s bottlers were already complaining about absorbing other recent additions into the product line since 1982, after the introduction of Diet Coke; Cherry Coke was launched nationally nearly concurrently with New Coke during 1985. Many of them had sued over the company’s syrup pricing policies. A new variety of Coke in competition with the main variety could also have cannibalized Coke’s sales and increased the proportion of Pepsi drinkers relative to Coke drinkers.

New Coke was introduced on April 23, 1985. The press conference at New York City’s Lincoln Center to introduce the new formula did not go well. Reporters had already been fed questions by Pepsi, which was worried that New Coke would erase its gains. Coca-Cola introduced the new formula with marketing pushes in New York, where workers renovating the Statue of Liberty for its 1986 centenary were given cans, and Washington, D.C., where thousands of cans were given away in Lafayette Park. As soon as New Coke was introduced, the new formula was available at McDonald’s and other drink fountains in the United States. Sales figures from those cities, and other areas where it had been introduced, showed a reaction that went as the market research had predicted. In fact, Coke’s sales were up 8% over the same period as the year before. Most Coke drinkers resumed buying the new Coke at much the same level as they had the old one. Surveys indicated that the majority of regular Coke drinkers liked the new flavoring. Three quarters of the respondents said they would buy New Coke again.[6] The big test, however, remained in the Southeast, where Coke was first bottled and tasted http://www.bookofdaystales.com/coca-cola/

Despite New Coke’s acceptance with a large number of Coca-Cola drinkers, many more resented the change in formula and were not shy about making that known — just as had happened in the focus groups. Many of these drinkers were Southerners, some of whom considered Coca-Cola a fundamental part of their regional identity.

Company headquarters in Atlanta began receiving letters and telephone calls expressing anger or deep disappointment. They were joined by some voices from outside the region. Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene wrote some widely reprinted pieces ridiculing the new flavor and damning Coke’s executives for having changed it. Comedians and talk show hosts, including Johnny Carson and David Letterman, made regular jokes mocking the switch. Ads for New Coke were booed heavily when they appeared on the scoreboard at the Houston Astrodome. Even Fidel Castro, a longtime Coca-Cola drinker, contributed to the backlash, calling New Coke a sign of American capitalist decadence. Goizueta’s father expressed similar misgivings to his son, who later recalled that it was the only time his father had agreed with Castro, whose rule he had fled Cuba to avoid.

Pepsi-Cola took advantage of the situation, running ads in which a first-time Pepsi drinker exclaimed, “Now I know why Coke did it!” Even amidst consumer anger and several Pepsi ads mocking Coca-Cola’s debacle, Pepsi actually gained very few long-term converts over Coke’s switch, despite a 14% sales increase over the same month the previous year, the largest sales growth in the company’s history. Coca-Cola’s director of corporate communications, Carlton Curtis, realized over time that consumers were more upset about the withdrawal of the old formula than the taste of the new one.

Some Coca-Cola executives had quietly been arguing for a reintroduction of the old formula as early as May. By mid-June, when soft drink sales usually start to rise, the numbers showed that new Coke was leveling among consumers. Executives feared social peer pressure was now affecting their bottom line. Some consumers even began trying to obtain “old” Coke from overseas, where the new formula had not yet been introduced, as domestic stocks of the old drink were exhausted. Over the course of the month, Coca-Cola’s chemists also quietly reduced the acidity level of the new formula, hoping to assuage complaints about the flavor and allow its sweetness to be better perceived (advertisements pointing to this change were prepared, but never used).

In addition to the noisier public protests, boycotts, and bottles being emptied into the streets of several cities, the company had more serious reasons to be concerned. Its bottlers, and not just the ones still suing the company over syrup pricing policies, were expressing concern. Most of them saw great difficulty having to promote and sell a drink that had long been marketed as “The Real Thing”, constant and unchanging, now that it had been changed.

With the company now fearing boycotts not only from its consumers but its bottlers, talks about reintroducing the old formula moved from “if” to “when”. Finally, the Coca-Cola board decided that enough was enough, and plans were set in motion to bring back the old Coke. Coca-Cola executives announced the return of the original formula during the afternoon of July 11, 79 days after New Coke’s introduction. ABC News’ Peter Jennings interrupted General Hospital with a special bulletin to share the news with viewers. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, David Pryor called the reintroduction “a meaningful moment in U.S. history”. The company hotline received 31,600 calls in the two days after the announcement. The new product continued to be sold and retained the name Coca-Cola (until 1992, when it was renamed Coke II), so the original formula was renamed Coca-Cola Classic, and for a short time it was referred to by the public as Old Coke. Now all is back to normal with Coke being Coke and New Coke being history.

Corporate types and business schools will probably argue for decades over Coca Cola’s blunder, with the occasional conspiracy theorist arguing that the whole affair was carefully staged to boost sales (which saw an 8% surge when the old formula was re-introduced). Conspiracy theorists are (almost) always wrong; corporate executives are not that bright, and such a ploy would have been a gigantic gamble. I tend to favor the view that executives were too confident in their market research, especially the taste tests. The taste tests were done by comparing sips of drinks instead of comparing the full context of drinking a whole can of one drink compared to a whole can of another. As an anthropologist, I could have told them that: context is everything. Besides, Coca Cola has a gigantic socio-cultural context, especially in the US South. My wife’s relatives, for example, all born and raised in Kentucky, had social practices around drinking Coke. Her grandmother had a set of glasses with silver holders just for drinking Coca Cola with guests. You change that at your peril.

For today’s recipe I will refer you back to my original post:

The Coca-Cola company maintains an extensive file of recipes using Coke, mostly submitted by readers.  There are several recipes for marinades and sauces for grilled or roasted meats, but most of the recipes are for desserts.  I have not tried any of them, but by all means browse away to see if anything tickles your fancy:

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/search?q=recipes&fT=0000013e-f6b1-d4b9-a9fe-fefb859d0003