Apr 212019
 

Today is the feast day of Anselm of Canterbury, also called Anselm of Aosta (Anselmo d’Aosta) after his birthplace and Anselm of Bec (Anselme du Bec) after his monastery. He was a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic church, who held the office of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109 after serving in other capacities in monasteries in continental Europe. Beginning in Bec, Anselm composed dialogues and treatises with a rational and philosophical approach, sometimes causing him to be credited as the founder of Scholasticism (a dubious claim). Despite his lack of recognition in this field in his own time, Anselm is now famed as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God and of the satisfaction theory of atonement. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by a bull of Pope Clement XI in 1720.

As archbishop of Canterbury, he defended the church’s interests in England amid the Investiture Controversy (a long, involved wrangle between Anselm and English kings about his ability to be archbishop). For his resistance to the English kings William II and Henry I, he was exiled twice: once from 1097 to 1100 and then from 1105 to 1107. While in exile, he helped guide the Greek bishops of southern Italy to adopt Roman rites at the Council of Bari. He worked for the primacy of Canterbury over the bishops of York and Wales but, though at his death he appeared to have been successful, Pope Paschal II later reversed himself and restored York’s independence.

Anselm’s works are considered philosophical as well as theological since they endeavor to render Christian tenets of faith, traditionally taken as a revealed truth, as a rational system. Anselm also studiously analyzed the language used in his subjects, carefully distinguishing the meaning of the terms employed from the verbal forms, which he found at times wholly inadequate. His worldview was broadly Neoplatonic, as it was reconciled with Christianity in the works of St Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius, with his understanding of Aristotelian logic gathered from the works of Boethius. He or the thinkers in northern France who followed him—including Abelard, William of Conches, and Gilbert of Poitiers—inaugurated one of the most brilliant periods of Western philosophy, innovating logic, semantics, ethics, metaphysics, and other areas of philosophical theology.

Anselm held that faith necessarily precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith: “And I do not seek to understand that I may believe but believe that I might understand. For this too I believe since, unless I first believe, I shall not understand”. This is possibly drawn from Tractate XXIX of St Augustine’s Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John. Regarding John 7:14–18, Augustine counseled “Do not seek to understand in order to believe but believe that thou may understand”. Anselm rephrased the idea repeatedly and his aptest motto might come from the original title of the Proslogion, “faith seeking understanding”, which broadened to “an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God”. Once faith is acquired and held fast, however, he argued an attempt must be made to demonstrate its truth by means of reason. I’ll say amen to that

I recently read a blog about making a three course meal to celebrate the feast of Anselm, the first course an Italian antipasto celebrating his birth in Italy, the second course, a French roast to celebrate his time as abbot in Normandy, and the third, an English apple cake for his Canterbury days. This is ludicrously anachronistic (not to mention the fact that the antipasto had ingredients indigenous to North America). Italian, French, and English cuisines were not bounded categories in the Middle Ages. It is quite likely that Anselm ate much the same food in his birthplace as in the places he traveled. This would have been especially true of Normandy and England in the days when England was a province of Normandy, where Anselm served under the same king in both places. Rather, I will speak of lampreys (a sardonic choice given that Anselm’s second nemesis, Henry I, is reputed to have died from eating too many lampreys, against his doctor’s advice).

Lampreys are fish that superficially resemble eels in that they have scaleless, elongated bodies, and can range from 13 to 100 cm (5 to 40 inches) in length. They were eaten throughout Europe in Roman times through the Middle Ages, and were highly prized, especially in Lent, because their flesh has a meaty texture. Here is a Norman recipe from Le Viandier from around 1300 for grilled lamprey in sauce:

¶ Lemproye frite a la saulce chaulde soyt seignee par la gueulle / & ostes la langue faictes bien seigner boutes en broche & gardes le sang car cest la gresse & la fault eschaulder comme vne anguille en broche. puis affines gingembre canelle graine de paradis: noix muscade: & vng peu de pain halle trempe en vinaigre & le sang deffaictes tout ensemble faictez bouillir vne once puis mettes dedans vostre lemproye toute entiere & ne soit pas trop noire la saulce.

The basics of the recipe are that you should bleed the lamprey and keep the blood. Thread the lamprey on a spit and roast it. Make a sauce by boiling together ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, nutmeg and a little bread soaked in vinegar and the blood. Make sure that the sauce does not darken. Serve the grilled lampreys whole in the sauce.

Apr 192019
 

The Treaty of London of 1839, also called the First Treaty of London, the Convention of 1839, the Treaty of Separation, the Quintuple Treaty of 1839, or the Treaty of the XXIV articles, was signed on this date in 1839 between various European powers, recognizing and guaranteeing the independence and neutrality of Belgium and establishing the full independence of the German-speaking part of Luxembourg. Article VII required Belgium to remain perpetually neutral, and by implication committed the signatory powers to guard that neutrality in the event of invasion.

Since the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, Belgium had been a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1830 Catholic Belgians broke away and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium. They could not accept the Dutch king’s favoritism toward Protestantism and his disdain for the French language. Outspoken liberals regarded William I’s rule as despotic. There were high levels of unemployment and industrial unrest among the working classes. There was small-scale fighting, but it took years before the Netherlands finally recognized defeat.

With the treaty, the southern provinces of the Netherlands, independent de facto since 1830, became internationally recognized as the Kingdom of Belgium, while the province of Limburg was split into Belgian and Dutch parts. The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg was in a personal union with the Netherlands and simultaneously a member of the German Confederation. The treaty partitioned the grand duchy which lost two-thirds of its territory to Belgium’s new Province of Luxembourg in what is termed the ‘Third Partition of Luxembourg’. The partitioning left a rump Grand Duchy, covering one-third of the original territory and inhabited by one-half of the original population, in personal union with the Netherlands, under king/grand duke William I (and subsequently William II and William III). This arrangement was confirmed by the 1867 Treaty of London, known as the ‘Second Treaty of London’ in reference to the 1839 treaty, and lasted until the death of William III 23rd November 1890.

Belgium’s de facto independence had been established through nine years of intermittent fighting. The co-signatories of the Treaty of London—Great Britain, Austria, France, the German Confederation (led by Prussia), Russia, and the Netherlands—now officially recognized the independent Kingdom of Belgium, and at Britain’s insistence agreed to its neutrality. The treaty was a fundamental “lawmaking” treaty that became a cornerstone of European international law; it was especially important in the events leading up to World War I.

On 31st July 1914 the mobilization of the Belgian Army was ordered, and the Belgian king at the same time publicly called Europe’s attention to the fact that Germany, Great Britain and France were solemnly bound to respect and to defend the neutrality of his country. When the German Empire invaded Belgium in August 1914 in violation of the treaty, the British declared war on 4th August. Informed by the British ambassador that Britain would go to war with Germany over the latter’s violation of Belgian neutrality, German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg exclaimed that he could not believe that Britain and Germany would be going to war over a mere “scrap of paper”.

The Treaty of London also guaranteed Belgium the right of transit by rail or canal over Dutch territory as an outlet to the German Ruhr. This right was reaffirmed in a 24th May 2005 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a dispute between Belgium and the Netherlands on the railway track. In 2004 Belgium requested a reopening of the Iron Rhine railway. This was the result of the increasing transport of goods between the port of Antwerp and the German Ruhr Area. As part of the European policy of modal shift on the increasing traffic of goods, transport over railway lines and waterways was now preferred over road transport. The Belgian request was based on the treaty of 1839, and the Iron Rhine Treaty of 1873. After a series of failed negotiations, the Belgian and Dutch governments agreed to take the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and respect its ruling in the case.

In a ruling of 24th May 2005, the court acknowledged both the Belgian rights under the cessation treaty of 1839 and the Dutch concerns for part of the Meinweg National Park nature reserve. The 1839 treaty still applied, the court found, giving Belgium the right to use and modernize the Iron Rhine. However, Belgium would be obliged to finance the modernization of the line, while the Netherlands had to fund the repairs and maintenance of the route. Both countries were to share the costs of a tunnel beneath the nature reserve.

I have given quite a few classic Belgian dishes in previous posts, any one of which would fit the bill. Here is rabbit with prunes which is only one of many dishes enjoyed by both Flemish and Walloon Belgians.

Konijn met pruimen

Ingredients

4tbsp flour
1 rabbit cut in four pieces
salt and black pepper
butter
4 medium white onions, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp brown sugar
250 gm stoned prunes, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
75 cl dark Belgian beer
2 slices bread
Belgian mustard
vinegar (optional)

Instructions

Season the rabbit pieces on both sides with pepper and salt, then dredge the meat in the flour using a method that suits you. I put the pieces in a big brown paper bag with the flour. Close the top tightly, trapping air in the bag, and shake vigorously.  This will coat the rabbit evenly and leave any excess in the bottom.

Heat a knob of butter in a large casserole over medium heat. Put the rabbit pieces in the pot and let them turn golden brown on both sides, without cooking through. Remove from pot. Add the onions to the same pot. Once they have softened, allow them to lightly caramelize by adding the brown sugar.   Add the prunes to the onions, and put the meat back in the pot with the thyme, bay leaves and cloves. Pour in the beer until all ingredients are covered. Spread a thick layer of spicy mustard on the slices of bread, place the bread on top of the rabbit and put the lid on the pot.

Let the dish simmer for at least an hour on low heat. Do not overcook. Farm raised rabbit should take the same time to cook as chicken. At the end, taste the sauce and if it is too sweet for you, add a splash of vinegar.

Belgians often eat this dish with fries or potato croquettes. It will also work with boiled new potatoes and spring vegetables.

Apr 182019
 

Today is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s “midnight” ride in 1775. It has mythic status in contemporary US popular consciousness largely because of the boost it was given by Longfellow’s poem, which is full of factual errors (yet is treated as real history). Propaganda displacing truth is nothing new. Note that the ride occurred in 1775, not the legendary year of 1776, and marked the real beginning of the Revolutionary War – over a year prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Revere was born in the North End of Boston on December 21st, 1734, according to the Old Style calendar then in use, or January 1, 1735, in the modern calendar. His father, a French Huguenot, born Apollos Rivoire, came to Boston at the age of 13 and was apprenticed to the silversmith John Coney. By the time he married Deborah Hitchborn, a member of a long-standing Boston family that owned a small shipping wharf, in 1729, Rivoire had anglicized his name to Paul Revere. Their son, Paul Revere, was the third of 12 children and eventually the eldest surviving son. At 13 he left school and became an apprentice to his father. The silversmith trade afforded him connections with a cross-section of Boston society, which would serve him well when he became active in the American Revolution. Although his father attended Puritan services, Revere was drawn to the Church of England. Revere eventually began attending the services of the political and provocative Jonathan Mayhew at the West Church. His father did not approve, and as a result father and son came to blows on one occasion. Revere relented and returned to his father’s church, although he did become friends with Mayhew, and returned to the West Church in the late 1760s.

Revere’s father died in 1754, when Paul was legally too young to officially be the master of the family silver shop. In February 1756, during the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War), he enlisted in the provincial army. Possibly he made this decision because of the weak economy, since army service promised consistent pay. Commissioned a second lieutenant in a provincial artillery regiment, he spent the summer at Fort William Henry at the southern end of Lake George in New York as part of an abortive plan for the capture of Fort St. Frédéric. He did not stay long in the army, but returned to Boston and assumed control of the silver shop in his own name. On August 4th, 1757, he married Sarah Orne (1736–1773). They had eight children, but two died young, and only one, Mary, survived her father.

When British Army activity on April 7th, 1775, suggested the possibility of troop movements, Joseph Warren sent Revere to warn the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, then sitting in Concord, the site of one of the larger caches of Patriot military supplies. After receiving the warning, Concord residents began moving the military supplies away from the town. One week later, on April 14th, general Gage received instructions from secretary of state William Legge, earl of Dartmouth (dispatched on January 27th), to disarm the rebels, who were known to have hidden weapons in Concord, among other locations, and to imprison the rebellion’s leaders, especially Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Dartmouth gave Gage considerable discretion in his commands. Gage issued orders to lieutenant colonel Francis Smith to proceed from Boston “with utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy… all Military stores…. But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants or hurt private property.” Gage did not issue written orders for the arrest of rebel leaders, as he feared doing so might spark an uprising.

Between 9 and 10 p.m. on the night of April 18, 1775, Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes that the king’s troops were about to embark in boats from Boston bound for Cambridge and the road to Lexington and Concord. Warren’s intelligence suggested that the most likely objectives of the regulars’ movements later that night would be the capture of Adams and Hancock. They did not worry about the possibility of regulars marching to Concord, since the supplies at Concord were safe, but they did think their leaders in Lexington were unaware of the potential danger that night. Revere and Dawes were sent out to warn them and to alert colonial militias in nearby towns.

In the days before April 18th, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information became known. In what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea”, one lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River (the movements would ultimately take the water route, and therefore two lanterns were placed in the steeple). Revere first gave instructions to send the signal to Charlestown. He then crossed the Charles River by rowboat, slipping past the British warship HMS Somerset at anchor. Crossings were banned at that hour, but Revere safely landed in Charlestown and rode to Lexington, avoiding a British patrol and later warning almost every house along the route. The Charlestown colonists dispatched additional riders to the north.

Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route, many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own. By the end of the night there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advance. Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”): his mission depended on secrecy, the countryside was filled with British army patrols, and most of the Massachusetts colonists (who were predominantly English in ethnic origin) still considered themselves British. Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.” Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with Dawes arriving about a half-hour later. They met with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were spending the night with Hancock’s relatives (in what is now called the Hancock–Clarke House), and they spent a great deal of time discussing plans of action upon receiving the news. They believed that the forces leaving the city were too large for the sole task of arresting two men and that Concord was the main target. The Lexington men dispatched riders to the surrounding towns, and Revere and Dawes continued along the road to Concord accompanied by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who happened to be in Lexington “returning from a lady friend’s house at the awkward hour of 1 a.m.”[Ahem!!!]

Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were detained by a British Army patrol in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord. Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; he eventually reached Concord. Dawes also escaped, though he fell off his horse not long after and did not complete the ride. Revere was captured and questioned by the British soldiers at gunpoint. He told them of the army’s movement from Boston, and that British army troops would be in some danger if they approached Lexington, because of the large number of hostile militia gathered there. He and other captives taken by the patrol were still escorted east toward Lexington, until about a half mile from Lexington they heard a gunshot. The British major demanded Revere explain the gunfire, and Revere replied it was a signal to “alarm the country”. As the group drew closer to Lexington, the town bell began to clang rapidly, upon which one of the captives proclaimed to the British soldiers “The bell’s a’ringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men!” The British soldiers gathered and decided not to press further towards Lexington but instead to free the prisoners and head back to warn their commanders. The British confiscated Revere’s horse and rode off to warn the approaching army column. Revere walked to Rev. Jonas Clarke’s house, where Hancock and Adams were staying. As the battle on Lexington Green unfolded, Revere assisted Hancock and his family in their escape from Lexington, helping to carry a trunk of Hancock’s papers.

In 1861, over 40 years after Revere’s death, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made the midnight ride the subject of his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” which opens:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

Longfellow’s poem is not historically accurate, but the inaccuracies were deliberate. Longfellow had researched the historical event, using such works as George Bancroft’s History of the United States, but he changed the facts for poetic effect. The poem was one of a series in which he sought to create American legends including The Song of Hiawatha (1855) and The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858). Longfellow was successful in creating a legend: Revere’s stature rose significantly in the years following the poem’s publication. In the process, however, Longfellow seriously undervalued and underrated the complex early warning system that the New England militias had in place (of which Revere was one part), and made it seem that Revere single-handedly aroused the countryside. My rule is always: CHECK YOUR FACTS!!!

In my post on the battles of Lexington and Concord that followed from Revere’s ride, http://www.bookofdaystales.com/lexington-and-concord/ I noted that colonial cooks in New England typically used British cookbooks, but by the late 18th century, strictly North American books were gaining in popularity. In particular, American Cookery, Or The Art Of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry And Vegetables, And The Best Modes Of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards And Preserves, And All Kinds Of Cakes, From The Imperial Plumb To Plain Cake. Adapted To This Country, And All Grades Of Life, by Amelia Simmons (1796) was an important resource because its recipes used North American ingredients. She is described as “an American orphan,” and it is noted that the book was “published according to act of congress.” Most of the recipes are gargantuan, but can be cut down to modern household size.

This recipe for poultry seems reasonable enough:

To smother a Fowl in Oysters.

Fill the bird with dry Oysters, and sew up and boil in water just sufficient to cover the bird, salt and season to your taste—when done tender, put into a deep dish and pour over it a pint of stewed oysters, well buttered and peppered, garnish a turkey with sprigs of parsley or leaves of cellery: a fowl is best with a parsley sauce.

This chicken pie seems impossible, however. SIX chickens (not to mention a pound and a half of butter)?

A Chicken Pie.

Pick and clean six chickens, (without scalding) take out their inwards and wash the birds while whole, then joint the birds, salt and pepper the pieces and inwards. Roll one inch thick paste No. 8 and cover a deep dish, and double at the rim or edge of the dish, put thereto a layer of chickens and a layer of thin slices of butter, till the chickens and one and a half pound butter are expended, which cover with a thick paste; bake one and a half hour.

Or if your oven be poor, parboil, the chickens with half a pound of butter, and put the pieces with the remaining one pound of butter, and half the gravy into the paste, and while boiling, thicken the residue of the gravy, and when the pie is drawn, open the crust, and add the gravy.

Apr 172019
 

On this date in 1853 president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina asked Michel Aimé Pouget, a French soil expert, to bring new vines to Argentina to invigorate the nation’s wine industry. The day is now celebrated as Día Mundial del Malbec or Worldwide Malbec Day, with official events in over 60 countries. Pouget experimented with the adaptation of French varietals to Argentina’s diverse soils and ecozones and determined that Malbec grew well, especially in the up lands of Mendoza by the Andes. A decade later, France underwent a Phylloxera Plague that affected the Rhône region devastating ages old vineyards. Meanwhile, stocks in the Americas were resistant, and Argentine Malbec vines flourished. Malbec became the dominant varietal wine in Argentina, whereas in France Malbec grapes are used in blends to make Bordeaux wines.

Until the 1990s, Argentina was more interested in quantity rather than quality, and “Argentine wine” was synonymous with “cheap rotgut.” But, in the 1990s, the Argentine government teamed up with French vintners to elevate the quality of indigenous varietals. Argentina’s most highly rated Malbec wines originate from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. These districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between 800 m and 1500 m elevation (2,800 to 5,000 feet). Argentine vintner Nicolás Catena Zapata has been widely credited for elevating the status of Argentine Malbec and the Mendoza region through serious experimentation into the effects of high altitude.

The grape clusters of Argentine Malbec are different from its French relatives, having smaller berries in tighter, smaller clusters. This suggests that the cuttings brought over by Pouget and later French immigrants were a unique clone that may have gone extinct in France due to frost and the phylloxera epidemic. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and intense fruity flavors with a velvety texture. While it doesn’t have the tannic structure of a French Malbec, being more plush in texture, Argentine Malbecs have shown aging potential similar to their French counterparts. Increasingly Argentine Malbecs take home top prizes in European competitions.

In 2011, Wines of Argentina, responsible for promoting Argentine wines around the world, established April 17th as Malbec World Day. Lis Clément, their Head of Marketing and Communications at the time, founded this day because she was convinced this celebration would help position Malbec as one of Argentina’s wine gems. Nowadays, more than 60 cities around the world (coordinated by the Foreign Affairs Office of Argentina) host events around Malbec, Argentine food and lifestyle. Each year, a theme is created to link Malbec and Argentine culture. This framework allows every celebration to be creative and adapt to each country’s culture.  Although Malbec originated in France it is fair to say that Argentina is its new home.

When I lived in Argentina, any night out with friends involved a bottle (or two or three) of Malbec. In fact, in Buenos Aires “wine” and “Malbec” are virtual synonyms. Empanadas were a common accompaniment. I have mentioned Argentine empanadas before, and given recipes, but this time I will give you a version from Mendoza – Malbec country. They are a little spicier than other empanadas and contain boiled eggs (and sometimes abundant onions).

Empanadas Mendocinas

Ingredients

Dough

3 cups flour
1 egg yolk
½ cup lard, chopped in small pieces
¾ cup to 1 cup warm milk
½ tsp salt

Beef filling

1 lb ground beef
3 cups diced white onions
½ cup lard
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup sliced green olives
salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, white and yolk separated and lightly whisked

Instructions

Empanada dough

Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the lard and pulse until you have a mix that resembles coarse sand. Add the egg yolk and a small amount of milk. Pulse and continue adding milk until small dough clumps start to form. Turn the dough out on to a board and knead into a ball. Divide in two, wrap in foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Beef filling

Combine the ground beef, paprika, red pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Melt the lard in a large frying pan, add the onions and salt, and cook until the onions are soft. Add the meat mixture to the onions and cook on medium heat until the meat is browned, stirring frequently. Let the meat mixture or picadillo cool down, and then mix in the chopped green onions and chopped oregano.

Assembly

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into thin sheets and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas using a small plate as a guide. Add a spoonful of the meat mixture on the center of each empanada disc, add a slice of egg and some sliced olive.  Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg whites. Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers, twist and fold the edges of the empanadas with your fingers, as a final step use a fork to press down and finish sealing the empanadas. (Getting this part right takes practice – and watching professionals). Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the egg yolk and let them rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve warm.

Apr 152019
 

Today is the birthday (1858) of David Émile Durkheim (the David part is usually omitted), a French sociologist who was one of the principal architects of modern social science.  Although principally a sociologist, many of his works had a profound influence on the development of anthropology at the beginning of the 20th century. Much of Durkheim’s work was concerned with how societies maintained their integrity and coherence in the modern era when traditional social and religious ties had waned in importance and new social institutions had come into being. What kept societies together?

Durkheim’s first major sociological work was The Division of Labour in Society (1893), which introduced the concept of an “organic” society: a society held together (like the organs of a body) because different parts of the society performed different functions, all of which were necessary for the wellbeing of the whole. Furthermore, an organic society is not simply the sum of its parts; its coherence is an entity in its own right – greater than, and different from, the individuals that make it up. In 1895, he published The Rules of Sociological Method and set up the first European department of sociology, becoming France’s first professor of sociology. In 1898, he established the journal L’Année Sociologique.

He published Suicide in 1897, pioneering modern social research and distinguishing social science from psychology and political philosophy. In Suicide he argues for suicide being a “social fact” as well as an individual event, and that social facts and individual events are completely different entities. For example, if economic conditions worsen in a society the number of suicides per annum will increase (and the amount of the increase can be predicted within a range). However, statistics cannot predict which individuals will commit suicide. The aggregate number of suicides and the cause of the number’s rise and fall are social facts; who actually commits suicide is an individual fact. Sociology deals with social facts, psychology deals with individual facts. They are separable sciences with different methods and purposes.

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life of 1912 was Durkheim’s foray into anthropology and cross-cultural comparison, and on the whole is not highly thought of these days in anthropological circles in its specifics because it is based on a fallacious 19th century conception of the evolution of culture. The simple equation that Durkheim uses – indigenous Australians have the most primitive technology in the world, therefore their religion must also be the most primitive – is just plain wrong. The broad strokes are still used, though. Durkheim argues that religion is a metaphor for society itself, and that God and society are the same thing (just put in different terms). People realize that there is a collective force binding them together as a society, and call that force “God” – and even worship or revere it because it is unknowable yet enormously powerful. If the God is angered, the society is disrupted, therefore it must always be appeased.

Durkheim was deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism originally set forth by Auguste Comte, promoting what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism, as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For him, sociology was the science of institutions, if this term is understood in its broader meaning as “beliefs and modes of behavior instituted by the collectivity” and its aim being to discover structural social facts. Durkheim was a major proponent of structural functionalism, a foundational perspective in both sociology and anthropology (now largely superseded in anthropology on a conscious level, but still active deep down). In his view, social science should be purely holistic. That is, sociology should study phenomena attributed to society at large, rather than addressing the specific actions of individuals.

He remained a dominant force in French intellectual life until his death in 1917, presenting numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, social stratification, religion, law, education, and deviance. Durkheimian terms such as “collective consciousness” have since entered the popular lexicon.

Durkheim was a left-wing patriot, more tied to his country than to international socialism. The outbreak of the Great War caused him considerable anguish because it promoted right-wing nationalist sentiments in France. Furthermore, several of his students and his own son André died in the trenches, and he never recovered from the emotional shock.  Durkheim collapsed of a stroke and died in Paris on November 15th, 1917 at the age of 59.

Durkheim was born in Lorraine in the Vosges district, famous for quiche and chocolate. It is also renowned for bouchées à la Reine, a kind of vol-au-vents made with mushrooms. In Lorraine, morels are the preferred mushrooms and they can be found in the abundant old apple orchards. Here is a video for you. It’s in French, but should not be too puzzling for you:

 

Apr 142019
 

Today is the birthday (1629) of Christiaan Huygens FRS, a Dutch physicist, mathematician, astronomer and inventor, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time and a major figure in the scientific revolution, even though his name is not a household word these days. In physics, Huygens made groundbreaking contributions in optics and mechanics, while as an astronomer he is chiefly known for his studies of the rings of Saturn and the discovery of its moon Titan. As an inventor, he improved the design of the telescope with the invention of the Huygenian eyepiece. His most famous invention, however, was the pendulum clock in 1656, which was a breakthrough in timekeeping and became the most accurate timekeeper for almost 300 years. Because he was the first to use mathematical formulae to describe the laws of physics, Huygens has been called the first theoretical physicist and the founder of mathematical physics. Huygens is one of the giants whose shoulders Newton stood on to be able to see so far.

In 1659, Huygens was the first to derive the now standard formula for the centripetal force in his work De vi centrifuga. The formula played a central role in classical mechanics and became known as the second of Newton’s laws of motion. Huygens was also the first to formulate the correct laws of elastic collision in his work De motu corporum ex percussione, but his findings were not published until 1703, after his death. In the field of optics, he is best known for his wave theory of light, which he proposed in 1678 and described in 1690 in his Treatise on Light, which is regarded as the first mathematical theory of light. His theory was initially rejected in favor of Isaac Newton’s corpuscular theory of light, until Augustin-Jean Fresnel adopted Huygens’ principle in 1818 and showed that it could explain the rectilinear propagation and diffraction effects of light. Today this principle is known as the Huygens–Fresnel principle.

Huygens invented the pendulum clock in 1656, which he patented the following year. In addition to this invention, his research in horology resulted in an extensive analysis of the pendulum in his 1673 book Horologium Oscillatorium, which is regarded as one of the most important 17th-century works in mechanics. While the first part of the book contains descriptions of clock designs, most of the book is an analysis of pendulum motion and a theory of curves.

In 1655, Huygens began grinding lenses with his brother Constantijn in order to build telescopes to conduct astronomical research. He designed a 50-power refracting telescope with which he discovered that the ring of Saturn was “a thin, flat ring, nowhere touching, and inclined to the ecliptic.” It was with this telescope that he also discovered the first of Saturn’s moons, Titan. He eventually developed in 1662 what is now called the Huygenian eyepiece, a telescope with two lenses, which diminished the amount of light dispersion.

As a mathematician, Huygens was a pioneer on probability and wrote his first treatise on probability theory in 1657 with the work Van Rekeningh in Spelen van Gluck. Frans van Schooten, who was the private tutor of Huygens, translated the work as De ratiociniis in ludo aleae (“On Reasoning in Games of Chance”). The work is a systematic treatise on probability and deals with games of chance and in particular the problem of points (the division of stakes when there is no clear winner). The modern concept of probability grew out of the use of expectation values by Huygens and Blaise Pascal (who encouraged him to write the work).

The last years of Huygens, who never married, were characterized by loneliness and depression. As a rationalist, he refused to believe in an immanent supreme being, and could not accept the Christian faith of his upbringing. Although Huygens did not believe in a supernatural being, he did hypothesize on the possibility of extraterrestrial life in his Cosmotheoros, which was published shortly before his death in 1695. He speculated that extraterrestrial life was possible on planets similar to Earth and wrote that the availability of water in liquid form was a necessity for life.

This recipe for a pie filled with brie, pears, and eggs is a little before Huygens’ time, but it is an interesting challenge and can yield excellent results. Fruit and cheese can make superb combinations. It comes from Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck (A new cookbook), written by Gheeraert Vorselman and published in Antwerp in 1560.  The recipe is more than a little vague, but can be made serviceable.

Een keesgheback
Legget in coppen kese van Brij ende harde eyeren tsamen gestooten met peren ende hier toe neemt men suker ende heel doyeren van eyeren.

A Cheese Pie
Put some Brie cheese and hardboiled eggs, mashed together, with pears in a pie. Add sugar and whole egg yolks.

Not much to go on, I admit. It looks like a version of quiche. That is, take a pie shell and fill it with a mix of sliced pears and hardboiled eggs and Brie mixed together. Beat egg yolks (and sugar), and pour over the pie filling. Bake until the crust is golden and the eggs are set.

Apr 132019
 

Today is the birthday (1743) of Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of the US who served as the third president from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating North American colonists to break from the kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation. He produced a number of formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level that are of fundamental importance to this day. Arguably he made the most critical ideological contributions to the fabric of the nation. He has come up in posts before but today he has the post to himself, but I will be brief.

Jefferson was mainly of English ancestry, born and educated in colonial Virginia. He graduated from the College of William & Mary and briefly practiced law, with the largest number of his cases concerning land ownership claims. During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as the 2nd Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation’s first secretary of state under president George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversial Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states’ rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.

As president, Jefferson pursued the nation’s shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. He also negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubling the country’s territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was reelected in 1804. Jefferson’s second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. US foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act of 1807, responding to British threats to U.S. shipping. In 1803, Jefferson began the process of relocating Native Americans to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, and he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807.

Jefferson, while primarily a planter, lawyer and politician, mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was an architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson’s keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his presidency of the American Philosophical Society. He was also a philologist and was fluent in several languages, including French, Greek, Italian, and German. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent people. His only full-length book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), is widely regarded as one of the most important books published in North America before 1800.  In it he not only discusses the history and ecology of Virginia, but also lays out his political and social ideologies. He expressed his beliefs in the separation of church and state, constitutional government, checks and balances, and individual liberty. He wrote extensively about slavery, the “problems” of miscegenation, a justification of white supremacy, and his belief that Whites and Blacks could not live together in a free society.   Given that he had several children by an African-American slave (who was biologically his wife’s half sister), these views are a little hard to understand (or should I say, hypocritical).

After retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and was intimately associated with both its architecture and curriculum. In contrast to other universities of the day, at which one could study in either medicine, law, or divinity, the first students at the University of Virginia could study in one or several of eight independent schools – medicine, law, mathematics, chemistry, ancient languages, modern languages, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy. Another innovation of the new university was that higher education would be separated from religious doctrine. UVA had no divinity school, was established independently of any religious sect, and the grounds were planned and centered upon a library, the Rotunda, rather than a church, distinguishing it from peer universities still primarily functioning as seminaries.

Jefferson was baptized in his youth and became a governing member of his local Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, which he later attended with his daughters. Influenced by Deist authors during his college years, Jefferson abandoned orthodox Christianity after his review of New Testament teachings. In 1803 he asserted, “I am Christian, in the only sense in which [Jesus] wished any one to be.” Jefferson later defined being a Christian as one who followed the simple teachings of Jesus. Jefferson compiled Jesus’ biblical teachings, omitting miraculous or supernatural references into the work, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, known today as the Jefferson Bible. Its basic theology is very much in line with that of 20th century Protestant theologians, but way too radical for the turn of the 19th.

Jefferson was firmly anticlerical, writing in “every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon.” Jefferson once supported banning clergy from public office but later relented. In 1777, he drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Ratified in 1786, it made compelling attendance or contributions to any state-sanctioned religious establishment illegal and declared that citizens “shall be free to profess … their opinions in matters of religion.” The Statute is one of only three accomplishments he chose to have inscribed in the epitaph on his gravestone. Early in 1802, Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Association, “that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God.” He interpreted the First Amendment as having built “a wall of separation between Church and State.” The phrase ‘Separation of Church and State’ has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

Jefferson donated to the American Bible Society, saying the Four Evangelists delivered a “pure and sublime system of morality” to humanity. He thought that the US would rationally create “Apiarian” religion, extracting the best traditions of every denomination. And he contributed generously to several local denominations near his home, Monticello. Jefferson knew that organized religion would always be factored into political life for good or ill, but encouraged reason over supernatural revelation to make inquiries into religion. He believed in a creator god and an afterlife, and defined the essence of religion practice as loving God and one’s neighbors. But he also controversially renounced the conventional Christian Trinity, denying Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God. Jefferson’s unorthodox religious beliefs became an important issue in the 1800 presidential election and Federalists attacked him as an atheist. As president, Jefferson countered the accusations by praising religion in his inaugural address and attending services at the Capitol.

Although regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy and republicanism in the era of the Enlightenment, Jefferson’s historical legacy is mixed. Some modern scholarship has been critical of Jefferson’s private life, pointing out the contradiction between his ownership of the large numbers of slaves that worked his plantations and his famous declaration that “all men are created equal.” Another point of controversy stems from the (now incontrovertible) evidence that after his wife Martha died in 1782, Jefferson fathered children with Martha’s half-sister, Sally Hemings, who was his slave. Sally’s mother had been a slave of Martha’s father, and Sally was the product of a union between her mother and Martha’s father. She, five siblings (all sired by Martha’s father) and her mother entered into Jefferson’s household on his marriage as part of her dowry, and when Martha died, he routinely had sexual relations with her, producing at least five children. What happened to his opposition to miscegenation?

Jefferson’s time in France had culinary outcomes back home in the US. He is frequently credited with inventing ice cream as well as macaroni and cheese, which is utter nonsense. I can produce recipes for both from ancient Roman sources. It is quite correct to say that he learned about these dishes whilst living in France, and brought them back to the US where he made them popular.  He served both at presidential banquets making them instantly the talk of the town. Nowadays, imagining mac and cheese served as the crowning achievement of a White House banquet is perhaps laughable (although under Trump it’s possible, I suppose), but in Jefferson’s day it was a big hit among the guests.

As it happens, Jefferson’s handwritten recipe for vanilla ice cream survives. It’s a perfectly serviceable recipe although you might want to scale back the quantities. Ice cream makers of the time did not have internal paddles, hence the need to open the container during the freezing process and scrape down the sides and break up the ice crystals.

Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks & sugar
put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.
when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar.
stir it well.
put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole.
when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel.
put it in the Sabottiere [inner container of the ice cream freezer]
then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.
put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice.
leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes
open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.
shut it & replace it in the ice
open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides
when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.
put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.
then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.
leave it there to the moment of serving it.
to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.

Apr 122019
 

On this date in 1204, the Fourth Crusader army, directed by the pope to recapture Jerusalem from Muslim forces, but instead besieging Constantinople, breached the walls of the city which led to the sack of Constantinople: one of the most heinous crimes in the history of warfare anywhere in the world. I was taught Byzantine church history at Oxford by a Greek Orthodox archimandrite, and when he spoke of the events of 1204 there was real anger in his eyes and voice.  At the time, the Sack of Constantinople was over 750 years in the past, but his fury at its barbarity remained fresh. Think of it. The Crusaders claimed to be Christians on a mission to free holy sites from infidels (a dubious mission in its own right), and instead they raped, robbed, and murdered other Christians. Ever since the East/West schism of 1054 (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/east-west-schism/ ) the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches had been at loggerheads theologically, but they had recognized that they were both Christian and could conceivably have found a way to come back together under one communion given enough diplomacy. After the Sack of Constantinople, reconciliation was unthinkable (and remains so). I won’t go into much detail – enough to give you the flavor. What I particularly want to show is that the Crusades in general, and the Fourth Crusade in particular, were not primarily about devotion to Christian faith, but were about greed and financial gain.

The majority of the crusading army that set out from Venice in early October 1202 originated from areas within France. The crusade was to be ready to sail on 24th June 1203 and make directly for the Ayyubid capital, Cairo, which they would conquer as a stepping stone to Jerusalem. This agreement was ratified by pope Innocent III, with a solemn ban on attacks on Christian states. The Venetians, under their aged and blind doge Dandolo, would not let the crusaders leave without paying the full amount agreed to for their transport vessels and equipment, originally 85,000 silver marks. The crusaders could initially pay only 35,000 silver marks. The doge threatened to keep them interned unless full payment was made, so a further 14,000 marks was collected, and that only by reducing the crusaders to extreme poverty. This was disastrous to the Venetians, who had halted their commerce for a great length of time to prepare this expedition. In addition, about 14,000 men or as many as 20–30,000 men (out of Venice’s population of 60–100,000 people) were needed to man the entire fleet, placing further strain on the Venetian economy.

Dandolo and the Venetians considered what to do with the Crusade. It was too small to pay its fee, but disbanding the force gathered would harm Venetian prestige and cause significant financial and trading loss. Dandolo, who joined the crusade during a public ceremony in the church of San Marco di Venezia, proposed that the crusaders pay their debts by intimidating many of the local ports and towns down the Adriatic, culminating in an attack on the port of Zara in Dalmatia. The city had been dominated economically by Venice throughout the 12th century but had rebelled in 1181 and allied itself with king Emeric of Hungary and Croatia. Subsequent Venetian attempts to recover control of Zara had been repulsed, and by 1202 the city was economically independent, under the protection of the king.

King Emeric was Catholic and had himself taken the cross in 1195 or 1196. Many of the crusaders were opposed to attacking Zara, and some, including a force led by the elder Simon de Montfort, refused to participate altogether and returned home. While the papal legate to the Crusade, cardinal Peter of Capua, endorsed the move as necessary to prevent the Crusade’s complete failure, the pope was alarmed at this development and wrote a letter to the crusading leadership threatening excommunication.

In 1202, pope Innocent, despite wanting to secure papal authority over Byzantium, wrote forbidding the Crusaders from committing any atrocious acts against their Christian neighbors. However, this letter was concealed from the bulk of the army who arrived at Zara on 10–11 November 1202, and the attack proceeded. The citizens of Zara made reference to the fact that they were fellow Catholics by hanging banners marked with crosses from their windows and the walls of the city, but nevertheless the city fell on 24th November 1202 after a brief siege. There was extensive pillaging, and the Venetians and other crusaders came to blows over the division of the spoils. Order was achieved, and the leaders of the expedition agreed to winter in Zara, while considering their next move. The fortifications of Zara were demolished by the Venetians. When Innocent III heard of the sack, he sent a letter to the crusaders excommunicating them and ordering them to return to their holy vows and head for Jerusalem. Out of fear that this would dissolve the army, the leaders of the crusade decided not to inform their followers of this. In February 1203 he rescinded the excommunications against all non-Venetians in the expedition, apparently believing that they had been coerced by the Venetians.

In January 1203, en-route to Jerusalem, the Crusader leadership, still lacking funds, entered into an agreement with the Byzantine prince Alexios Angelos to divert the Crusade to Constantinople and restore his deposed father as emperor. The intent of the Crusaders was then to continue to Jerusalem with promised Byzantine financial and military aid. On 23rd June 1203, the bulk of the Crusaders reached Constantinople, while smaller contingents continued to Acre. In August, following clashes outside Constantinople, Alexios was crowned co-Emperor. However, in January 1204, he was deposed by a popular uprising. The Crusaders were no longer able to receive their promised payments from Alexios. Following the murder of Alexios on 8th February, the Crusaders decided on the outright conquest of the city. On 12th April 1204, the weather conditions finally favored the Crusaders so that they could cross the Bosporus and assail the fortress of Constantinople. A strong northern wind aided the Venetian ships in coming close to the walls, and after a short battle approximately seventy crusaders managed to enter the city. Some were able to knock holes in the walls, large enough for only a few knights at a time to crawl through. The Venetians were also successful at scaling the walls from the sea, though there was fighting with the Varangians. The Anglo-Saxon “axe bearers” had been amongst the most effective of the city’s defenders, but they now attempted to negotiate higher wages from their Byzantine employers, before dispersing or surrendering. The Crusaders captured the Blachernae section of the city in the northwest and used it as a base to attack the rest of the city. While attempting to defend themselves with a wall of fire, however, they burned even more of the city. The Crusaders completely took the city on 13th April.

The Crusaders sacked Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient Greco-Roman and medieval Byzantine works of art were stolen or ruined. Many of the civilian population of the city were killed and their property looted. Despite the threat of excommunication, the crusaders destroyed, defiled and looted the city’s churches and monasteries. It was said that the total amount looted from Constantinople was about 900,000 silver marks. The Venetians received 150,000 silver marks that was their due, while the crusaders received 50,000 silver marks. A further 100,000 silver marks were divided evenly up between the crusaders and Venetians. The remaining 500,000 silver marks were secretly kept back by many crusader knights. Only a handful of the Crusaders continued to the Holy Land thereafter.

The conquest of Constantinople was followed by the fragmentation of the Empire into three rump states centered in Nicaea, Trebizond and Epirus. The Crusaders then founded several Crusader states in former Byzantine territory, largely hinged upon the Latin Empire of Constantinople. The presence of the Latin Crusader states almost immediately led to war with the Byzantine successor states and the Bulgarian Empire. The Nicaean Empire eventually recovered Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire in 1261. The Crusade is considered to be one of the most prominent acts that solidified the schism between the Greek and Latin Christian churches, and dealt an irrevocable blow to the already weakened Byzantine Empire, paving the way for Muslim conquests in Anatolia and Balkan Europe in the coming centuries.

In a nutshell, the Fourth Crusade, rather than achieving its stated aim of “liberating” regions from Muslims, saw to it that the Middle East and much of the Mediterranean and eastern Europe came under Muslim rule. The simple fact is, however, that the Crusades were not about the importance of Christianity and spreading the Gospel, but about greed and power – pure and simple. That was the nature of Medieval warfare, and things have not changed a great deal.

Here is a slightly strange video attempting to reconstruct Byzantine cooking:

Constantinople was a crossroads in Medieval times with its cuisine showing influences from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and, in turn, influenced the cuisines of Europe thereafter. Istanbul (modern Constantinople) is still a crossroads, and the cuisine is still eclectic.

Apr 112019
 

Today is the birthday (1357) of John I (João I) of Portugal, who was king of Portugal from 1385 until his death in 1433. He is recognized chiefly for his role in Portugal’s victory in a succession war with Castile, preserving his country’s independence and establishing the Aviz (or Joanine) dynasty on the Portuguese throne. His long reign of 48 years, the longest of all Portuguese monarchs, saw the beginning of Portugal’s overseas expansion. John’s well-remembered reign in his country earned him the epithet of Fond Memory (de Boa Memória). He was also referred to as “the Good” (o Bom), sometimes “the Great” (o Grande), and more rarely, especially in Spain, as “the Bastard” (Bastardo).

John was born in Lisbon, son of king Peter I of Portugal with a woman named Teresa, who, according to the royal chronicler Fernão Lopes, was a noble Galician. In 1364, by request of Nuno Freire de Andrade, a Galician Grand Master of the Order of Christ, John was created Grand Master of the Order of Aviz. On the death without a male heir of his half-brother, king Ferdinand I, in October 1383, strenuous efforts were made to secure the succession for Beatrice, Ferdinand’s only daughter. As heir presumptive, Beatrice had married king John I of Castile, but popular sentiment was against an arrangement in which Portugal would have been virtually annexed by Castile. The 1383–1385 Portuguese interregnum followed, a period of political anarchy, when no monarch ruled the country.

On 6th April 1385, the Council of the Kingdom (the Portuguese Cortes) met in Coimbra and declared John, then Master of Aviz, to be king of Portugal. This was followed by the liberation of almost all of the Minho Province in the course of two months as part of a war against Castile in opposition to its claims to the Portuguese throne. Soon after, the king of Castile again invaded Portugal with the purpose of conquering Lisbon and removing John I from the throne. John I of Castile was accompanied by French allied cavalry while English troops and generals took the side of John of Aviz. John and Nuno Álvares Pereira, his constable and talented supporter, repelled the attack in the decisive Battle of Aljubarrota on 14th August 1385. John I of Castile then retreated. The Castilian forces abandoned Santarém, Torres Vedras and Torres Novas, and many other towns were delivered to John I by Portuguese nobles from the Castilian side. As a result, the stability of the Portuguese throne was permanently secured.

On 11th February 1387, John I married Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, who had proved to be a worthy ally. The marriage consolidated an Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, cemented in the Treaty of Windsor that endures to the present day.

John I of Castile died in 1390 without issue from his wife Beatrice, which meant that a competing legitimate bloodline with a claim to the throne of Portugal died out. John I of Portugal was then able to rule in peace and concentrate on the economic development and territorial expansion of his realm. The most significant military actions were the siege and conquest of the city of Ceuta by Portugal in 1415, and the successful defense of Ceuta from a Moroccan counterattack in 1419. These measures were intended to help seize control of navigation off the African coast and trade routes from the interior of Africa.

The raids and attacks of the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula created captives on both sides who were either ransomed or sold as slaves. The Portuguese crown extended this practice to North Africa. After the attack on Ceuta, the king sought papal recognition of the military action as a Crusade. Such a ruling would have enabled those captured to be legitimately sold as slaves. In response to John’s request, pope Martin V issued the Papal bull Sane charissimus of 4th April 1418, which confirmed to the king all of the lands he might win from the Moors. Under the auspices of his son, Henry the Navigator, voyages were organized to explore the African coast. These led to the discovery of the uninhabited islands of Madeira in 1417 and the Azores in 1427 which were claimed by the Portuguese crown.

Contemporaneous writers describe John as a man of wit who was intent on concentrating power on himself, but at the same time possessed a benevolent and kind demeanor. His youthful education as master of a religious order made him an unusually learned king for the Middle Ages. His love for knowledge and culture was passed on to his sons, who are often referred to collectively by Portuguese historians as the “illustrious generation” (Ínclita Geração): Edward, the future king, was a poet and a writer; Peter, duke of Coimbra, was one of the most learned princes of his time; and Henry the Navigator, the duke of Viseu, invested heavily in science and the development of nautical pursuits. In 1430, John’s only surviving daughter, Isabella, married Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and enjoyed an extremely refined court culture in his lands. She was the mother of Charles the Bold.

Here is a video of the making of a traditional Portuguese dish – cataplana (named after the cooking vessel – a fish stew.

Apr 102019
 

On this date in 1815 the eruption of Mount Tambora, one of the most powerful in recorded history, reached its peak. With a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7, it is the most recently known VEI-7 event and the only unambiguously confirmed VEI-7 eruption since the Lake Taupo eruption in about 180 CE. By comparison, the explosion of Krakatoa in 1883 (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/krakatoa/ ) which produced the loudest explosion ever recorded, was a mere VEI-6 event. Indonesia has its moments.

Mount Tambora experienced several centuries of dormancy before 1815, caused by the gradual cooling of hydrous magma in its closed magma chamber. Inside the chamber at depths between 1.5 and 4.5 kilometers (0.93 and 2.80 mi), the exsolution of a high-pressure fluid magma formed during cooling and crystallization of the magma. An over-pressurization of the chamber of about 4,000–5,000 bar (58,000–73,000 psi) was generated, with the temperature ranging from 700–850 °C (1,292–1,562 °F). In 1812, the volcano began to rumble and generated a dark cloud.

On 5th April 1815, a very large eruption occurred, followed by thunderous detonation sounds heard in Makassar on Sulawesi 380 kilometers (240 mi) away, Batavia (now Jakarta) on Java 1,260 kilometers (780 mi) away, and Ternate on the Molucca Islands 1,400 kilometers (870 mi) away. On the morning of 6th April, volcanic ash began to fall in East Java with faint detonation sounds lasting until 10th April. What was first thought to be the sound of firing guns was heard on 10th April on Sumatra, more than 2,600 kilometers (1,600 mi) away.

At about 7 pm on 10th April, the eruptions intensified. Three columns of flame rose up and merged. The whole mountain was turned into a flowing mass of fire. Pumice stones of up to 20 centimeters (7.9 in) in diameter started to rain down around 8 pm, followed by ash at around 9–10 pm. Pyroclastic flows cascaded down the mountain to the sea on all sides of the peninsula, wiping out the village of Tambora. Loud explosions were heard until the next evening. The ash veil spread as far as West Java and South Sulawesi. A nitrous odor was noticeable in Batavia, and heavy tephra-tinged rain fell, finally receding between 11th and 17th April.

An estimated 41 cubic kilometers (9.8 cu mi) of pyroclastic trachyandesite were ejected, weighing about 10 billion tonnes. This left a caldera measuring 6–7 kilometers (3.7–4.3 mi) across and 600–700 meters (2,000–2,300 ft) deep. The density of fallen ash in Makassar was 636 kg/m3 (1,072 lb/cu yd). Before the explosion, Mount Tambora’s peak elevation was about 4,300 meters (14,100 ft), making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. After the explosion, its peak elevation had dropped to only 2,851 meters (9,354 ft), about two-thirds of its previous height. The 1815 Tambora eruption is the largest observed eruption in recorded history. The explosion was heard 2,600 kilometers (1,600 mi) away, and ash fell at least 1,300 kilometers (810 mi) away.

All vegetation on the island was destroyed. Uprooted trees, mixed with pumice ash, washed into the sea and formed rafts up to 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) across. Between 1st and 3rd October the British ships Fairlie and James Sibbald encountered extensive pumice rafts about 3,600 kilometers (2,200 mi) west of Tambora. Clouds of thick ash still covered the summit on 23rd April. Explosions ceased on 15th  July, although smoke emissions were observed as late as 23rd August. Flames and rumbling aftershocks were reported in August 1819, four years after the event.

A moderate-sized tsunami struck the shores of various islands in the Indonesian archipelago on 10th April, with a height of up to 4 meters (13 ft) in Sanggar around 10 pm. A tsunami of 1–2 meters (3 ft 3 in–6 ft 7 in) in height was reported in Besuki, East Java, before midnight, and one of 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) in height in the Molucca Islands. The total death toll has been estimated to be around 4,600.

The eruption column reached the stratosphere at an altitude of more than 43 kilometers (141,000 ft). The coarser ash particles settled out one to two weeks after the eruptions, but the finer ash particles stayed in the atmosphere from a few months to a few years at altitudes of 10–30 kilometers (33,000–98,000 ft). Longitudinal winds spread these fine particles around the globe, creating optical phenomena. Prolonged and brilliantly colored sunsets and twilights were seen frequently in London between 28th June and 2nd July, and 3rd September and 7th October 1815. The glow of the twilight sky typically appeared orange or red near the horizon and purple or pink above.

During the northern hemisphere summer of 1816, global temperatures cooled by 0.53 °C (0.95 °F). This very significant cooling directly or indirectly caused 90,000 deaths. The eruption of Mount Tambora was the most significant cause of this climate anomaly. While there were other eruptions in 1815, Tambora eclipsed all others by at least one order of magnitude (VEI-7 is ten times stronger than VEI-6).

In the spring and summer of 1815, a persistent “dry fog” was observed in the northeastern United States. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the “fog”. It was identified as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil. In summer 1816, countries in the Northern Hemisphere suffered extreme weather conditions, dubbed the “Year Without a Summer”. Average global temperatures decreased by about 0.4 to 0.7 °C (0.7 to 1.3 °F), enough to cause significant agricultural problems around the globe. On 4th June 1816, frosts were reported in the upper elevations of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and northern New York. On 6th June 1816, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine. Such conditions occurred for at least three months and ruined most agricultural crops in North America. Canada experienced extreme cold during that summer. Snow 30 cm (12 in) deep accumulated near Quebec City from 6th to 10th June 1816.

Sumbawa’s cuisine contains numerous dishes that are common to Indonesia but with their own twist. Babingka cake can be found throughout the region, but Sumbawa’s is a little simpler than others. It is made with ketan flour, a flour made from glutinous rice.

Babingka

Ingredients

250 gm ketan flour
100 gm grated coconut
250 ml coconut milk
100 gm brown sugar
25 ml white sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Line a greased 8” x 10” baking tin with baker’s parchment.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Pour into the baking tin, and bake until golden (about 40 minutes).

Cool in the tin a few minutes, then turn on to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares.