Oct 162018
 

Two of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, were burnt at the stake in Oxford on this date in 1555. The third, Thomas Cranmer was burnt 5 months later on 21st March 1556. They have become celebrated in English church history because they were caught up in the politics of the day and executed for their faith. Latimer and Ridley are honored by the Anglican church on this date, because of their martyrdom. Cranmer has a separate feast day.

Being a cleric in Tudor England was a dangerous business. Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of the Church of England purely because he wanted a divorce. He had no interest in changing anything else in the church. There were reformers within the English church who wanted to see changes, but they held off until Henry died, because the upper clergy were split between traditionalists and reformers, and Henry sided with the traditionalists, refusing to allow any changes in doctrine or ceremony. When Henry’s son, Edward, was crowned king, the reformers saw their chance. Thomas Cranmer was archbishop of Canterbury early in Henry’s reign and facilitated the split with Rome to be able to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The annulment also put the legitimacy of Mary, Catherine’s only daughter, in jeopardy. Edward, Henry’s third child, took precedence over Mary for the throne because of Salic Law (male heirs take precedence over females, regardless of age) – and, interestingly, Salic Law has only recently been overturned in England.

Cranmer

Edward was 9 years old when he came to the throne in 1537. He had been raised Protestant, but he was king in name only. England was governed by a regency council, and the reform of the church was left in the hands of bishops, of whom Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were key players.  Because Edward was in no position to oppose reform of doctrine and ceremony as Henry had done, the bishops had free hand, and the foundations of the current Church of England were laid at this time. Cranmer was the chief architect of reform. He was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. He published the first officially authorized vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany, under Henry, but his major reforms were under Edward. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he changed doctrine in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications. As the chief reformer under Edward, his fate was sealed when Mary came to the throne. Latimer and Ridley were lesser players, but their fate was also sealed because of their closeness to Edward.

Ridley

When Edward died in 1553, the church and government were thrown into turmoil. The royal council knew that if Mary ascended the throne, England would be forced back to Catholicism, and there was considerable opposition to this possibility. In consequence, Edward’s council convinced him to name his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor, and to declare both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth as illegitimate, when it became clear he was dying. On 17th June 1553 the king made his will noting Jane would succeed him, contravening the Third Succession Act.

Ridley signed the letters patent giving the English throne to Lady Jane Grey. On 9th July 1553 he preached a sermon at St Paul’s cross in which he affirmed that the princesses Mary and Elizabeth were bastards. By mid-July, there were serious provincial revolts in Mary’s favor and support for Jane in the council fell. As Mary was proclaimed queen, Ridley, Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, and others were imprisoned. Ridley was sent to the Tower of London. Throughout February 1554 the political leaders who were supporters of Jane were executed, including Jane herself. After that, there was time to deal with the religious leaders of the English Reformation and so on 8th March 1554 the Privy Council ordered Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer to be transferred to Bocardo prison in Oxford to await trial for heresy.

Latimer

Latimer was a bit of an odd man out. Before the English Reformation he had been a staunch papist, even describing himself as “as obstinate a papist as any was in England”. But in the mid-1520s he was converted to Protestantism through the teaching of prominent scholars, and became as zealous against the Catholic church as he had once been for it. He even advocated a new translation of the Bible into English even though William Tyndale’s translation of the Greek Testament was still banned. In 1539 when Henry VIII was confronted with radical Lutheran teaching from the continent he produced the Six Articles, reaffirming the heart of Catholic doctrine:

Transubstantiation (real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the mass),

The reasonableness of withholding the cup from the laity during communion,

Clerical celibacy,

Observance of vows of chastity,

Permission for private masses,

Importance of auricular confession.

Latimer opposed the Six Articles and was promptly imprisoned in the Tower of London. When Edward came to the throne he was restored to favor, and became the royal preacher until 1550. He was chaplain to the duchess of Suffolk when Mary came to the throne, and so, unlike Cranmer and Ridley, was not in the direct line of fire. He could have fled England, as many other high churchmen did, but he chose to remain and was caught up in Mary’s net, which ensnared all prominent Protestant theologians who remained. At his heresy trial in Oxford Latimer is recorded as saying, “’I thank God most heartily that He hath prolonged my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by that kind of death.” The prosecutor replied, (and I paraphrase), “If this faith takes you to heaven, I won’t be joining you.”

Latimer and Ridley’s death sentence was carried out just north of Oxford city wall where Broad street is now while Cranmer was taken to a tower to watch. Ridley burned extremely slowly and suffered a great deal: his brother-in-law had put more tinder on the pyre, in order to speed his death, but they caused only his lower parts to burn. Latimer is supposed to have said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” This was quoted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the center of the road outside the front of Balliol College marks the site of execution. The Victorian spire-like Martyrs’ Memorial, at the south end of St Giles’ nearby, commemorates the events. It is claimed that the scorch marks from the flames can still be seen on the doors of Balliol College (now rehung between the Front Quadrangle and Garden Quadrangle).

It is painfully easy, and all too common, to point to events like the execution of Latimer and Ridley, and say, “Look where religion leads.” It is a lot wiser to say, “Look what happens when religion and politics get entwined.” Mary did her best in her short reign to get rid of all people who had stood in her way, and because religious matters were deeply tied to her succession, religious leaders were swept up in her persecutions. I’ll admit that she had the deep convictions of her faith, but she was also a ruthless monarch, and the Catholic church by her day had become more a tool of state than an avenue to spiritual truth. People still use religious doctrine to buttress political beliefs, and this practice is as wrongheaded now as it was in Tudor times – and leads down the same paths.

I have given quite a few Oxford recipes in the past, so here’s video on Tudor cooking from the kitchen of Hampton Court, built by Henry VIII’s primate cardinal Wolsey.

Oct 152018
 

On this date in 2012 Norodom Sihanouk (នរោត្តម សីហនុ), also known as សម្តេចឪ, (father prince), who was both king of Cambodia and prime minister at one time, died of a heart attack. The anniversary of his date of death is a federal holiday in Cambodia.

Sihanouk was born to the Khmer royal family in the French Protectorate of Cambodia, the only child of the daughter of the king, Sisowath Monivong. When Monivong died in 1941, Sihanouk was appointed king by the French Governor-General of Indochina, Sihanouk’s appointment as king was formalized the following day by the Cambodian Crown Council, and his coronation ceremony took place on 3rd May 1941. During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, he dedicated most of his time to sports, filming, and the occasional tour to the countryside. In March 1945, the Japanese military, which had occupied Cambodia since August 1941, dissolved the nominal French colonial administration. Under pressure from the Japanese, Sihanouk proclaimed Cambodia’s independence and assumed the position of prime minister while serving as king at the same time.

Post-war, Sihanouk secured Cambodian independence from France in 1953. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated the throne and formed the political organization Sangkum, which won the 1955 general election. As prime minister, he governed Cambodia under one-party rule, suppressed political dissent, and declared himself head of state in 1960. A 1970 military coup ousted him and paved the way for the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic. Sihanouk fled to China and North Korea, forming a government-in-exile there and a resistance movement. After the Cambodian Civil War resulted in victory for the Khmer Rouge in 1975, Sihanouk returned to Cambodia, now renamed Democratic Kampuchea, as its figurehead head of state. Although initially supportive of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, his relations with them declined and in 1976 he resigned. He was placed under house arrest until 1979, when Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge.

Sihanouk went into exile again, and in 1981, he formed FUNCINPEC (Front uni national pour un Cambodge indépendant, neutre, pacifique et coopératif), a resistance party. The following year, Sihanouk became president of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), a broad coalition of anti-Vietnamese resistance factions. This coalition retained Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations, making Sihanouk Cambodia’s internationally recognized head of state. In the late 1980s, informal talks were carried out to end hostilities between the Vietnam-supported People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the CGDK. In 1990, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia was formed as a transitional body to oversee Cambodia’s sovereign matters, with Sihanouk as its president. In 1991, peace accords were signed and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established the following year. The UNTAC organized general elections in 1993, and a coalition government, jointly led by his son Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, was subsequently formed. In 1993, Sihanouk was reinstated as Cambodia’s head of state and king. In 2004, he abdicated again with his son, Norodom Sihamoni, elected as his successor.

Between 2009 and 2011, Sihanouk spent most of his time in Beijing for medical care. He made a final public appearance in Phnom Penh on his 89th birthday and 20th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords on 30th October 2011. Thereafter, Sihanouk expressed his intent to stay in Cambodia indefinitely, but returned to Beijing in January 2012 for further medical treatment at the advice of his Chinese doctors.

In January 2012, Sihanouk issued a letter to express his wish to be cremated after his death, and for his ashes to be interred in a golden urn. A few months later, in September 2012, Sihanouk said that he would not return to Cambodia from Beijing for his 90th birthday, citing fatigue. On 15th October 2012, Sihanouk died of a heart attack.

Sihanouk pursued an artistic career during his lifetime, and wrote several musical compositions. He produced 50 films between 1966 and 2006, at times directing and acting in them.

    

Cookbooks often say that curries originated in India, but the word “curry” and its cognates, which are more or less the same in virtually all south and southeast Asian dialects, is no more useful than the word “stew” and no more helpful in talking about specific dishes. The curries of south and southeast Asia are incredibly diverse with individual names for specific dishes that may or may not include the word “curry.” “Red curry” is a common name for dishes in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia, but their ingredients and spices vary to the point where you cannot think of them as in any sense the same dish, except that they have a red color. Here is a video of how to make Cambodian red curry with chicken. I make this dish quite often although I commonly buy the curry paste to save time. Notice that Cambodian curry looks more like a thick soup than a stew. A main meal in Cambodia often consists of a soupy stew, rice, and grilled fish.

Oct 142018
 

Today is the birthday (1906) of Johanna “Hannah” Cohn Arendt, a German-born philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory. Arendt is counted among the most important political philosophers of the 20th century. Arendt was born in Hanover, but largely raised in Königsberg in a secular merchant Jewish culture to parents who were supporters of the Social Democrats. Her father died when she was 7, so she was raised by her mother and grandfather. After completing her secondary education, she studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger, with whom she had a brief affair, but who had a lasting influence on her thinking. She obtained her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 at the University of Heidelberg with Karl Jaspers.

Arendt married Günther Stern in 1929, but soon began to encounter increasing antisemitism in 1930s Germany. Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, and while researching antisemitic propaganda for the Zionist Federation of Germany in Berlin that year, Arendt was denounced and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo. On release, she fled Germany, living in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland before settling in Paris. There she worked for Youth Aliyah, assisting young Jews to emigrate to Palestine. Divorcing Stern in 1937, she married Heinrich Blücher in 1940, but when Germany invaded France in 1940 she was detained by the French as an alien, despite having been stripped of her German citizenship in 1937. She escaped and made her way to the United States in 1941 via Portugal.

She settled in New York, which remained her principal residence for the rest of her life. She became a writer and editor and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, becoming an American citizen in 1950. With the appearance of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, her reputation as a thinker and writer was established and a series of seminal works followed. These included The Human Condition in 1958, and both Eichmann in Jerusalem and On Revolution in 1963. She taught at many American universities, while declining tenure-track appointments. She died suddenly from a heart attack in 1975, at the age of 69, leaving her last work, The Life of the Mind, unfinished.

Her works cover a broad range of topics, but she is best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In the popular mind she is best remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, her attempt to explain how ordinary people become active supporters of totalitarian systems, and for the phrase “the banality of evil”. She is commemorated by institutions and journals devoted to her thinking, the Hannah Arendt Prize for political thinking, and on stamps, street names and schools, amongst other things.

Here is a sampling of her writing, all of which is poignant and right on target:

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.

There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.

Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.

No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.

I have given well-known Königsberg recipes before, including for Königsberger Klopse here — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/immanuel-kant/  Now I will switch gears and talk about Königsberg marzipan, a confection that was traditionally produced in the German city of Königsberg, but not now that it is the Russian city of Kaliningrad. Königsberg’s first marzipan production was established by the Pomatti brothers in 1809, who became confectioners of the Royal Prussian Court. They were joined by Sterkau, Petschliess, Liedtke, Siegel, Steiner, Gehlhaar, Plouda in Kneiphof, as well as Wald in Berlin and Schwermer in Bad Wörishofen.  Königsberg marzipan is known for its flamed surface, which results in a golden-brown finish. It contains rose water and is often filled with jam. These characteristics distinguish it from the more common Lübeck Marzipan, which also frequently comes in more elaborate forms. First a video – apologies for the German, but it’s not hard to understand:

Now that you have the idea, you might want to try to replicate these dainties. They are not hard to make, just time consuming. Marzipan is not difficult to make from scratch, but I often buy it readymade.

Königsberger Marzipan

Ingredients

500 gm marzipan
350 gm powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp kirsch
1 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp water
maraschino cherries and candied lemon peel

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.

In a bowl, knead the marzipan with 200 grams (approximately 1 cup) of the powdered sugar into a smooth dough.

On a baking board, roll the dough to 1 cm (approximately ¼ inch) thick. Cut out small shapes like hearts or circles. Cut narrow strips from the remaining dough.

Whisk the egg whites in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolk in a separate bowl. Brush the strips with the egg white and lay on the outsides of the shapes like a border. Use knitting needles or wooden skewers to indent notches into the border. Brush the edges with the egg yolk. Place the marzipan hearts and circles on a baking sheet and bake on the top shelf until starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To decorate: in a bowl, stir the remaining powdered sugar with the kirsch, rosewater, and water until smooth. Brush into the centers of the hearts and circles. Cut the cherries and lemon peel into small pieces. Decorate the marzipan cakes with the cherries and lemon peel.

Oct 132018
 

Today is Rwagasore Day in Burundi, commemorating the day in 1961 when crown prince Louis Rwagasore, prime minister of Burundi, was assassinated shortly before Burundian independence. The investigation into his murder was clearly mismanaged by the Belgian authorities, in charge at the time. Many believe that the mismanagement was deliberate because the Belgian government was involved in the assassination.

Louis Rwagasore was the son of Mwami (king) Mwambutsa IV and his first wife, Thérèse Kayonga. He attended Groupe Scolaire d’Astrida (now Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare) in Rwanda. He briefly attended university in Belgium, but left to spearhead his country’s anti-colonial movement. He founded a series of African cooperatives to encourage economic independence, but these were quickly banned by Belgium in 1958. That same year he established a nationalist political movement, Union for National Progress (UPRONA). Believing that the royal family should transcend partisan politics, his father promoted him to Chief of Butanyerera, but Rwagasore turned down the appointment so that he could devote himself fully to the nationalist cause. Rwagasore, a Ganwa (a royal kinship group identified with Tutsi), married a woman who most people thought was a Hutu. It is believed that Rwagasore did so in a bid to play down the ethnic divisions between ethnic groups, especially between Tutsi and Hutu, which he believed the Belgian colonial rule had pitched against one another. At the first UPRONA Congress in March 1960, Rwagasore demanded complete independence for Burundi and called on the local population to boycott Belgian stores and refuse to pay taxes. Because of these calls for civil disobedience, he was placed under house arrest.

Despite setbacks, UPRONA won a clear victory in elections for the colony’s legislative assembly on 8th September 1961, winning 80 percent of the vote. The next day, Rwagasore was declared prime minister, with a mandate to prepare the country for independence

Just two weeks later, on 13th October 1961, Rwagasore was assassinated while dining at the Hotel Tanganyika in Usumbura (modern-day Bujumbura). The assassin, a Greek national named Jean Kageorgis, was accompanied by three Burundians, all members of the pro-Belgian Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Within three days, all four suspects were arrested and they quickly implicated two high-ranking members of the PDC (Jean-Baptiste Ntidendereza and Joseph Biroli), with one initially admitting his guilt but later retracting his confession. Following the assassination inter-ethnic rivalries between the Hutu and Tutsi within UPRONA flared.

Historians have suggested that the Belgian colonial authorities may have played a significant role in the assassination although no official inquiry has ever been carried out. As early as the 1970s, René Lemarchand, an expert on Burundian history, claimed that the PDC’s European secretary, Ms. Belva, was told by the Belgian regent Roberto Régnier that “Rwagasore must be killed.” In addition, several days before his assassination, Rwagasore filed a complaint against seven Belgian officials including the Belgian Governor-General, Jean-Paul Harroy and Régnier. Before being executed for the murder, Kageorgis explicitly accused Harroy and Régnier of responsibility.

In 2011 the Belgian journalist, Guy Poppe, published De moord op Rwagasore, de Burundese Lumumba (The Death of Rwagasore, the Burundian Lumumba) which claimed that irregularities in the investigation of the prince’s murder included, among other details, a lack of questioning of witnesses including Harroy, Régnier, Kageorgis’ Belgian fiancée, and Ms. Belva. Poppe discovered that files from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s archives, including a transcript from an interview that was conducted with Régnier following his return to Belgium from Burundi, had been lost. Poppe also claimed that the Foreign Ministry had threatened to fire three former colonial officers if they traveled to Burundi in order to testify during Kageorgis’ trial. Poppe noted the investigation’s failure to follow up links between the Burundian PDC party and the Belgian Christian Social Party (PSC-CVP).

Red kidney beans are the dominant staple in Burundian cooking. Also used commonly are corn, bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, and manioc.  Some lamb and mutton is used, but it is not common, nor are cooked desserts. On the whole, the recipes are relatively plain and simple. Here is a recipe for Burundi beans and bananas.

Beans and Bananas

Ingredients:

500 ml dried red kidney beans
4 green bananas or plantains, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp palm oil
1 small onion, peeled and sliced thin
salt
red pepper

Instructions:

Soak the beans in cold water for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Drain the beans, place them in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes. Drain.

Heat the palm oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until uniformly golden-brown, stirring often. Add the beans and bananas, season with salt and red pepper to taste and continue frying for 2 minutes. Cover with water and let the beans and bananas simmer until the water has reduced and thickened considerably. Serve hot.

Oct 102018
 

Jean-Antoine Watteau, commonly known as Antoine Watteau, a French painter in the style dubbed Rococo, was baptized on this date in 1684. His birth date is unknown. Watteau is credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes, scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, suffused with a theatrical air. Some of his best known subjects were drawn from the world of Italian commedia dell’arte and ballet.

Watteau was born in October 1684 in the town of Valenciennes which had recently passed from the Spanish Netherlands to France. Watteau may have been apprenticed to Jacques-Albert Gérin, a local painter.His first artistic subjects were charlatans selling quack remedies on the streets of Valenciennes. He left for Paris in 1702. And there he found employment in a workshop at Pont Notre-Dame, making copies of popular genre paintings in the Flemish and Dutch tradition. It was in that period that he developed his characteristic sketchlike technique.

By 1705 he was employed as an assistant by the painter Claude Gillot, whose work represented a reaction against the turgid official art of Louis XIV’s reign. In Gillot’s studio Watteau became acquainted with the characters of the commedia dell’arte, a favorite subject of Gillot’s that would become one of Watteau’s lifelong passions. Afterward he moved to the workshop of Claude Audran III, an interior decorator, under whose influence he began to make drawings admired for their elegance. In fact, throughout Watteau’s lifetime, his drawings were much more popular than his paintings. Audran was the curator of the Palais du Luxembourg, where Watteau was able to see the magnificent series of canvases painted by Peter Paul Rubens for Queen Marie de Medici. Rubens would become one of his major influences, together with the Venetian masters he later studied in the collection of his patron and friend, the banker Pierre Crozat.

In 1709 Watteau tried to obtain the Prix de Rome and was rejected by the Academy. In 1712 he tried again and by then was considered so good that, rather than receiving the one-year stay in Rome for which he had applied, he was accepted as a full member of the Academy. He took five years to deliver the required “reception piece”, but it was one of his masterpieces: the Pilgrimage to Cythera, also called the Embarkation for Cythera.

Watteau lacked aristocratic patrons; his buyers were bourgeois bankers and dealers. Among his most famous paintings, beside the two versions of the Pilgrimage to Cythera, one in the Louvre, the other in the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, are Pierrot (long identified as “Gilles”), Fêtes venitiennes, Love in the Italian Theater, Love in the French Theater, “Voulez-vous triompher des belles?” and Mezzetin. The subject of his hallmark painting, Pierrot (Gilles), is an actor in a white satin costume who stands isolated from his four companions, staring ahead with an enigmatic expression on his face.

Watteau’s final masterpiece, the Shop-sign of Gersaint, changes his usual pastoral forest locale for a mundane urban setting at an art dealer’s.

Watteau alarmed his friends by a carelessness about his future and financial security, as if foreseeing he would not live for long. In fact he had been sickly and physically fragile since childhood. In 1720, he traveled to London to consult Dr. Richard Mead, one of the most fashionable physicians of his time and an admirer of Watteau’s work. However, London’s damp and smoky air offset any benefits of Dr. Mead’s wholesome food and medicines. Watteau returned to France and spent his last few months on the estate of his patron, Abbé Haranger, where he died in 1721, perhaps from tubercular laryngitis, at the age of 36. The Abbé said Watteau was semi-conscious and mute during his final days, clutching a paint brush and painting imaginary paintings in the air.

His nephew, Louis Joseph Watteau, son of Antoine’s brother Noël Joseph Watteau (1689–1756), and grand nephew, François-Louis-Joseph Watteau, son of Louis, followed him into painting as a career. Here’s my customary gallery. Watteau is not a fav of mine, so this is more for completeness than interest:

Valenciennes, Watteau’s birthplace, is noted for its fish dishes and sole Valenciennes is a standard of chefs worldwide.

Fillets of Sole Valenciennes

Ingredients

salt and pepper
¼ tsp ground mace
¼ tsp dried thyme
6 sole fillets
½ cup dry vermouth
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp melted butter, plus extra
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp minced onion
30 small mushroom caps
chopped fresh parsley
lemon wedges

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Instructions

Combine the mace and thyme with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the fillets. Place the fish in a buttered skillet with a lid.

Combine the vermouth, lemon juice and butter and pour over the fish. Sprinkle with the chives and onion. Place the mushrooms on and around the fish. Cover the pan and very slowly bring it to a boil over low heat. Immediately uncover the pan and place it in the oven. Bake, basting often with the wine-butter mixture, for fifteen minutes.

Place the fish on a heated serving plate and pour over the cooking liquid and mushrooms. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

Oct 092018
 

Today is the first day of the two-day autumn festival in Takayama Japan, started in the 16th or 17th century. The autumn festival is centered on the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine and is referred to as the Hachiman Festival. It is held after the crops are harvested. The festivals are famous for the large ornate floats, or yatai, which are pushed around the city at night. The floats date back to the 17th century, and are decorated with intricate carvings of gilded wood and detailed metal-work, similar in style to art from Kyoto during the Momoyama period (late 16th century), and blended with elements from the early Edo period (17th century). Detailed carving, lacquering and decorative metal-work is found not only on the outside of the floats, but inside as well, under the roof and behind the panels, where the work is extraordinarily detailed. The floats are also decorated with embroidered drapery.

The Yatai floats are lined up before dusk, and once the town is dark, as many as 100 chochin lanterns are lit on each of the floats. The floats are moved around the city by people, but unlike floats in other Japanese locations, these are wheeled carts and the bearers are not required to carry them. The floats are escorted on a tour of the city by people in traditional kimono or hakama. Each float reflects the district in Takayama which it represents.

The floats have intricate marionettes which perform on top. The marionettes are made of wood, silk and brocade or embroidered cloth. They are operated by strings and push rods from within the yatai. The puppets, like the Yatai, represent the skilled craftsmen of the area. The three marionettes on Hotei Tai (the god of fortune) require 9 puppet masters to manipulate the 36 strings which make the marionettes move in a lifelike manner, with gestures, turns and other movements. A problem with the puppets are parts needed to repair the puppets. The springs in the puppets are made of Right whale baleen and cannot be replaced with steel springs or the baleen of other whales. Other materials used to make the springs cannot duplicate the movements of the springs made with Right whale baleen.

The tall festive floats are displayed during the two days of both festivals when not being pushed around the town. During inclement weather the floats are returned to their storage houses. The Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan stores four of the 11 autumn floats; the others are stored in special storehouses throughout the city, when not in use. During inclement weather, the outer doors to the Yatai Kaikan are open so visitors may view them. The floats in the Yatai Kaikan are changed several times a year. The Yatai Kaikan is located in the northern end of Takayama’s old town, a 15-20 minute walk from the station. The Yatai Kaikan is open is from 08:30 to 17:00 from March to November and from 09:00 to 16:30 from December to February.

Takayama is known for its local foods, including sansai (mountain vegetables), wasakana (river fish), beef, soba, ramen. A dish of soba or ramen and sansai would be ideal as a celebration, but you really need to go to Japan for them because the wild mountain vegetables are not available elsewhere. Traditional noodles are also hard to find, even within Japan. Here’s a video on making soba in Takayama.

 Posted by at 8:11 pm
Oct 082018
 

Modern scholars assert that today is the birth date in 1150 of Narapati Sithu (နရပတိ စည်သူ, also Narapatisithu, Sithu II or Cansu II), king of the Pagan dynasty of Burma from 1174 to 1211. Contemporary chronicles vary widely concerning his birth date and year, however. He is considered to be the last significant king of Pagan, and his peaceful and prosperous reign gave rise to a Burmese culture which finally emerged from the shadows of Mon and Pyu cultures. Subsequently, Burman leadership of the kingdom was unquestioned. The Pagan Empire reached its peak during his reign, and declined gradually after his death.
Narapati Sithu was the son of Narathu and his wife (later known as Myauk Pyinthe, “Queen of the Northern Palace”) in Pagan (now Bagan). In 1171, his elder brother Naratheinkha succeeded to the throne of Pagan, but was greeted with multiple rebellions by the Kudus in the Tagaung region in the north and the Mons of Tenasserim coast in the south. Naratheinkha appointed Narapati Sithu as the heir apparent and commander-in-chief to deal with the rebellions. In 1174, Naratheinkha seized Narapati’s wife Weluwaddy (Veluvati) after he sent Narapati on a mission. Narapati retaliated by sending a group of 80 led by Aungzwa to assassinate his brother. After the assassination, he ascended the throne as Sithu II in honor of his grandfather Alaungsithu. He came to power some time between 27th March 1174 and 10th August 1174, most probably between April and May 1174.
One of the first acts of Sithu II was to found the Royal Palace Guards, whose sole duty was to guard the palace and the king. (The Palace Guards later evolved to become the nucleus round which the Burmese army assembled in war time.) He then had to pacify the kingdom, which had seen much instability since the death of Alaungsithu in 1167, and had grown increasingly restless. He successfully persuaded the great-grandson of the Mon king Manuha not to start a rebellion. The rest of the reign was free of rebellions.


By all accounts, his reign was peaceful and prosperous. Following Anawratha’s footsteps, Narapatisithu worked on increasing Upper Burma’s economic and human advantages over the Irrawaddy valley. He continued to develop the Kyaukse region by building the Kyaukse weir, and expanded the irrigable areas by starting the Mu canals in the present-day Shwebo District. His attempts to expand irrigation southwards into Minbu District by building a canal system repeatedly failed, and had to be abandoned. Through his efforts, the kingdom grew even more prosperous. The prosperity of the kingdom is reflected in the superb the Gawdawpalin and Sulamani temples in Pagan he built. He also built the Minmalaung, Dhammayazika and Chaukpala nearby. His lesser pagodas, such as the Zetawun in Myeik District, the Shwe Indein Pagoda in Nyaungshwe (Shan State) shows the reach of his kingdom.
His reign also saw the rise of Burmese culture which finally emerged from the shadows of Mon and Pyu cultures. The Burmans, who had entered the Irrawaddy valley en masse only in the 9th and 10th centuries, had led the Pagan kingdom under the name of the Pyu. But now, the Burman leadership of the kingdom was now unquestioned. For the first time, the term Mranma (the Burman people) was openly used in Burmese language inscriptions. (The earliest use of Mranma was found in a Mon inscription dedicated to Kyansittha dated 1102.) The Burmese script became the primary script of the kingdom, replacing Mon and Pyu scripts.


Narapatisithu appointed Nadaungmya, great-grandson of Nyaung-U Hpi (one of the great Paladins during Anawrahta’s reign), chief justice. His chief minister was Ananda Thuriya, reportedly a man of valor who continually hunted down robbers and presented them alive to the king. He had the first Burmese customary law based on his grandfather Alaungsithu’s judgments compiled, and used as the common system of law for the entire kingdom.


He encouraged reforms of Burmese Buddhism. By the efforts of his primate Shin Uttarajiva, the majority of the Burmese Buddhist monks realigned themselves with the Mahavihara school of Ceylon away from the less orthodox Conjeveram-Thaton school. This influence is still felt in Myanmar, where Theravada Buddhism is dominant and widespread.

Sithu II died at age 73 on 18th August 1211 (11th waxing of Tawthalin 573 ME). On his deathbed, he placed the hands of his five sons on his chest and enjoined them to rule with mercy and justice, and to live together in brotherly love. His immediate successor was his son Htilominlo (r. 1211—1235), followed by his grandson Kyaswa (r. 1235–1249). They were able to live off the stable and bountiful conditions Sithu passed on with little state-building on their part. Htilomino hardly did any governing. He was a devout Buddhist and scholar, gave up the command of the army, and left administration to a privy council of ministers. The seeds of Pagan’s decline were sown during this seemingly idyllic period. The state had stopped expanding, but the practice of donating tax-free land to religious groups had not. The continuous growth of tax-free religious wealth greatly reduced the tax base of the kingdom and ended in its collapse.


What is called “royal cuisine” in Myanmar these days is much more modern than the cuisine of the Pagan dynasty, but it probably reflects the ethos, if not the practice of bygone days. Rice is the main component, accompanied with an array of side dishes – many of them vegetarian, reflecting the Buddhist culture of Myanmar.

Here’s a video for preparing Nga Pi Chet. Rotsa ruck finding the ingredients if you don’t live in SE Asia:

Oct 062018
 

Euridice, an opera by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini is the oldest surviving opera, first performed in Florence on this date in 1600 at the Palazzo Pitti with Peri himself singing the role of Orfeo. An earlier opera by Peri, Dafne (1597), is now lost. The libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini is based on books X and XI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which recount the story of the legendary musician Orpheus and his wife Euridice. Because Europe’s actual oldest opera is lost, this date is the best we can do for dating the genesis of modern opera. Euridice was created for the marriage of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici.

At the premiere, many of the roles were filled by members of Caccini’s entourage, including his daughter Francesca Caccini. Peri composed all of the music for the first production, but owing to the integral involvement of Caccini and his performers, some of Peri’s music was finally replaced by that of Caccini. When Caccini discovered that Peri intended to publish the opera with the added Caccini pieces, he rushed to finish his own version of Euridice using the same libretto, and managed to have his published before Peri’s. In his preface, Peri notes that all of the music was completed by the date of the first performance earning his efforts the designation Prima Euridice.

In creating the music for Euridice, Peri envisioned a vocal style that is half sung and half spoken. For less dramatic parts he created vocal lines close to the style of spoken language set over a sustained accompaniment. For impassioned scenes he explored stronger and more rapid melodies with steadily changing harmonies. Peri’s critics have observed that within the score of Euridice, he created no musically remarkable examples of either. However, he did use ranges and widths of register, as well as frequency and power of cadences, to distinguish different characters and dramatic moods. The voice and accompaniment are carefully paced to emphasize the tension and release in the text. Rhythmic and melodic inflections in the vocal lines closely, almost scientifically, imitate dramatic speech. In addition, impassioned exclamations are set with unprepared dissonances and unexpected movements in the bass. This extract may serve to show the style of the piece. It is pleasant enough, but not remarkable musically.

Euridice has its detractors, but there is general agreement that Peri established sound principles for operatic composition. Classic opera, henceforth, tells a story that exploits the interplay between aria and recitative, and uses a mix of solo, ensemble and choral singing. Peri’s Euridice tells the story of the musician Orpheus and his wife Euridice based on classic Greek legend, but with allowances for artistic license. According to the legend (which is actually retold in a number of ancient texts in Latin), Orpheus was a great musician who journeyed to the underworld to plead with the gods to revive his wife Euridice after she had been fatally injured.

Act 1

Prologue

The opera opens with a simple melody by a singer representing the Tragic Muse, La Tragedia, and a short ritornello. Shepherds nearby and the Tragic Muse sing a conversation in recitatives and choruses, Daphne enters to notify everyone that Euridice has been fatally bitten by a serpent.

Scene 1

All of the nymphs and shepherds gather to celebrate the wedding of Orfeo and Euridice.

Scene 2

Orfeo is content after his wedding but is soon interrupted by Dafne. She brings the terrible news that Euridice has been bitten by a venomous snake and has died. Orfeo then vows to rescue her from the underworld.

Scene 3

Arcetro recounts that while Orfeo lay weeping, Venus, goddess of love, carries him off in her chariot.

Act 2

This opens with Orpheus pleading with Venere, Plutone, Prosperina, Caronte, and Radamanto in the underworld for the return of his beloved wife Euridice. Nearly the entire scene is carried in recitative. When the act closes, Orpheus is back with Tirsi and the other shepherds.

Scene 4

Venus and Orfeo arrive at the gates of the underworld. Venus suggests that through his legendary voice he might persuade Pluto to return Euridice to life. Orfeo succeeds and is allowed to leave with his bride.

Scene 5

Orfeo and Euridice return from the underworld and rejoice.

The entire opera, with libretto in Italian with an English translation, is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIN5btYNn0M 

If you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice you will know that the ending of the opera does not coincide with the Greek legend. In the original, Hades allows Orpheus to take Eurydice back but she is still a “shade” until she reaches the sunlight and gains human form again, and Orpheus must not look back until she is in the sunlight. Because she does not have a body, when she walks behind Orpheus she does not make any sound, and Orpheus, fearing he has been tricked by Hades looks back just before he reaches the surface to check she is there, and she is taken back to the Underworld. Lesson #1 people – HAVE FAITH.

Today’s recipe is for a version of pasta in brodo from the cookery book Opera (first published 1570from Bartolomeo Scappi, who was active from 1536 to 1570 – the period of this opera. I chose it, partly because it is contemporary Italian, partly because I am a fan of pasta in brodo, and partly because of the coincidence of names (“opera” in the book’s title means “works” or “actions”). Note that the soup can be made with broth or milk and that the seasonings include sugar and cinnamon. By all means boil up a crane or hare to make your broth.

 

Per far minestra di tagliatelli

Impastinosi due libre di fior di farina con tre uoua, & acqua tepida, & mescolisi bene sopra una tavola per lo spatio d’un quarto d’hora, & dapoi stendasi sottilmente con il bastone, & lascisi alquanto risciugare il sfoglio, & rimondinosi con lo sperone le parti piu grosse, che son gli orlicci, & quando sarà asciutto però non troppo, perche crepe rebbe, spoluerizzisi di fior di farina con il fetaccio, accioche non si attacchi, piglisi poi il bastone della pasta, & comincisi da un capo, & riuolgasi tutto lo sfoglio sopra il bastone leggiermente, cauisi il bastone, e taglisi lo sfoglio cosi riuolto per lo trauerso con un coltello largo sottile, e tagliati che saranno, slarghinosi, & lassinosi alquanto rasciugare, & asciutti che saranno, fettaccisi fuora per lo criuello il farinaccio, & facciasene minestra con brodo grasso di carne, o con latte, & butiro, & cotti che saranno, seruanosi caldi con cascio, zuccaro, & cannella, & uolendone far lasagne taglisi la pasta sul bastone per lungo, & compartasi la detta pasta in due parti parimente per lungo, e taglisi in quadretti, & faccianosi  cuocere in brodo di lepre, ouero di grua, o d’altra carna, o latte, & seruanosi calde con cascio, zuccaro, & cannella.

To prepare soup with tagliatelle
Work two pounds of flour, three eggs and warm water into a dough, kneading it on a table for a quarter of an hour. Roll it out thin with a rolling pin and let the sheet of dough dry a little. Trim away the irregular parts, the fringes, with a cutting wheel. When it has dried, though not too much because it will break up, sprinkle it with flour through a sieve so it will not stick. Then take the rolling pin and, beginning at one end, wrap the whole sheet loosely on to the pin, draw the pin out and cut the rolled-up dough crosswise with a broad, thin knife. When they are cut, flatten them. Let them dry out a little and, when they are dry, shake off the excess flour through a sieve. Make a soup of them with a fat meat broth, or milk and butter. When they are cooked, serve them hot with cheese, sugar and cinnamon. If you want to make lasagnas of them, cut the dough lengthwise on the pin, and likewise divide it lengthwise in two, and cut that into little squares. Cook them in the broth of a hare, a crane or some other meat, or in milk. Serve them hot with cheese, sugar and cinnamon.

 

 

Oct 052018
 

Today is the birthday (1713) of Denis Diderot, French philosopher, art critic, and writer, best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d’Alembert. I could write a voluminous post on Diderot, but I will be brief, and leave it to you to find out more if you are interested. My set of quotes at the end of this short biography will give you the drift of a profoundly influential man who tends to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, if he is remembered at all. The Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers is scarcely his most influential work in his day – or since.

Diderot began his advanced education by studying philosophy at a Jesuit college and receiving his degree in 1732. He considered working in the church clergy before briefly studying law. When he decided to become a writer in 1734, his father disowned him for not entering one of the learned professions. He lived a bohemian existence for the next decade. He befriended philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1742.

Though his work was broad as well as rigorous, it did not bring Diderot steady employment, and he remained a largely unrecognized scholar (sometimes vilified) throughout his lifetime. He secured none of the posts that were occasionally given to needy men of letters. He could not even obtain the bare official recognition of merit that was implied by being chosen a member of the Académie française. In desperation, he sold his library to provide a dowry for his daughter. Empress Catherine II of Russia heard of his financial troubles and commissioned an agent in Paris to buy the library. She then requested that the philosopher retain the books in Paris until she required them, and act as her librarian with a yearly salary. Between October 1773 and March 1774, the ailing Diderot spent a few months at the empress’s court in Saint Petersburg.

Diderot died of pulmonary thrombosis in Paris on 31st July 1784, and was buried in the city’s Église Saint-Roch. His heirs sent his vast library to Catherine II, who had it deposited at the National Library of Russia. He has several times been denied burial in the Panthéon with other French notables. The French government considered memorializing him in this fashion on the 300th anniversary of his birth but failed to follow through.

Diderot’s literary reputation during his lifetime rested primarily on his plays and his contributions to the Encyclopédie. Many of his most important works, including Jacques the Fatalist, Rameau’s Nephew, Paradox of the Actor, and D’Alembert’s Dream, were published only after his death, and are not household favorites outside France these days (or even in his homeland). Here are some salient quotes:

People will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

 We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.

Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others”

One declaims endlessly against the passions; one imputes all of man’s suffering to them. One forgets that they are also the source of all his pleasures.

Scepticism is the first step towards truth.

A nation which thinks that it is belief in God and not good law which makes people honest does not seem to me very advanced.

Every man has his dignity. I’m willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.

For me, my thoughts are my prostitutes.

Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.

Whether God exists or does not exist, He has come to rank among the most sublime and useless truths.

Life is but a series of misunderstandings.

There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.

Diderot definitely enjoyed his food, and, so, any good 18th century French recipe would work as a tribute on his birthday. He wrote many, many tributes to dishes he ate when dining with friends. However, he died during dinner, and the events are reasonably well recorded by his daughter. He sat down to his noonday meal of soup, boiled mutton and chicory (endive), and then reached for a ripe apricot. His wife cautioned him against eating the fruit, but he ignored her saying, “What the Devil harm can come of it?” He then ate it, but dropped dead while helping himself to cherry compote.

You could finish what Diderot did not by making a cherry compote. For this you will need pitted cherries (I like to use bitter ones), brandy, and sugar. Put the cherries in a saucepan, cover with brandy and add sugar to taste. Stew the cherries in the brandy for about 15 minutes, remove them from the liquid, and reduce it to a thick syrup. Pour it back over the cherries and chill (not icy cold).

Oct 042018
 

On this date in 1957 the Soviet launched Sputnik 1 (Простейший Спутник-1, “Elementary Satellite 1”) into a low Earth orbit, becoming the first artificial Earth satellite. It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. Its radio signal was easily detectable even by radio amateurs, and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth. This surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik Crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the Cold War. Tracking and studying Sputnik 1 from Earth provided scientists with valuable information. The density of the upper atmosphere could be deduced from its drag on the orbit, and the propagation of its radio signals gave data about the ionosphere.

Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1/5, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in the Kazakh SSR (now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled at about 29,000 kilometers per hour (18,000 mph; 8,100 m/s), taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit. It transmitted on 20.005 and 40.002 MHz, which were monitored by radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 21 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26th October 1957. Sputnik burned up on 4th January 1958 while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, after three months, 1440 completed orbits of the Earth, and a distance traveled of about 70 million km (43 million mi).

I was 6 years old when Sputnik was launched and remember the sensation it caused very well even though it had no great meaning for me at the time. I do remember adults making a big fuss about it, however, and as I grew older I got interested in the Space Race, even though its accomplishments paled in comparison with the science fiction stories I became addicted to. I do remember a mixed sense of awe and fear as the news spread: awe that the Space Age had arrived, and fear at that this portended in the context of nuclear weapons and the Cold War.

The chief constructor of Sputnik 1 was Mikhail S. Khomyakov. The satellite was a 585-millimetre (23.0 in) diameter sphere, assembled from two hemispheres that were hermetically sealed with O-rings and connected by 36 bolts. It had a mass of 83.6 kilograms (184 lb). The hemispheres were 2 mm thick, and were covered with a highly polished 1 mm-thick heat shield made of aluminium-magnesium-titanium AMG6T alloy. The alloy is 6% magnesium and 0.2% titanium). The satellite carried two pairs of antennas designed by the Antenna Laboratory of OKB-1 led by Mikhail V. Krayushkin. Each antenna was made up of two whip-like parts: 2.4 and 2.9 meters (7.9 and 9.5 ft) in length,[50] and had an almost spherical radiation pattern, so that the satellite beeps were transmitted with equal power in all directions, making reception of the transmitted signal independent of the satellite’s rotation.

The power supply, with a mass of 51 kg (112 lb), was in the shape of an octagonal nut with the radio transmitter in its hole.[53] It consisted of three silver-zinc batteries, developed at the All-Union Research Institute of Current Sources (VNIIT) under the leadership of Nikolai S. Lidorenko. Two of these batteries powered the radio transmitter and one powered the temperature regulation system. The batteries had an expected lifetime of two weeks, and operated for 22 days. The power supply was turned on automatically at the moment of the satellite’s separation from the second stage of the rocket.

The satellite had a one-watt, 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) radio transmitting unit inside, developed by Vyacheslav I. Lappo from NII-885, the Moscow Electronics Research Institute, that worked on two frequencies, 20.005 and 40.002 MHz. Signals on the first frequency were transmitted in 0.3 sec pulses (under normal temperature and pressure conditions on-board), with pauses of the same duration filled by pulses on the second frequency. Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere. Temperature and pressure were encoded in the duration of radio beeps. A temperature regulation system contained a fan, a dual thermal switch, and a control thermal switch. If the temperature inside the satellite exceeded 36 °C (97 °F) the fan was turned on and when it fell below 20 °C (68 °F) the fan was turned off by the dual thermal switch. If the temperature exceeded 50 °C (122 °F) or fell below 0 °C (32 °F), another control thermal switch was activated, changing the duration of the radio signal pulses. Sputnik 1 was filled with dry nitrogen, pressurized to 1.3 atm. The satellite had a barometric switch, activated if the pressure inside the satellite fell below 130 kPa, which would have indicated failure of the pressure vessel or puncture by a meteor, and would have changed the duration of radio signal impulse.

While attached to the rocket that launched it, Sputnik 1 was protected by a cone-shaped payload fairing, with a height of 80 cm (31.5 in). The fairing separated from both Sputnik and the spent R-7 second stage at the same time as the satellite was ejected.

The rocket that carried Sputnik was launched on 4th October 1957 at 19:28:34 UTC (5 October at the launch site) from Site No.1 at NIIP-5 in Kazakhstan. Telemetry indicated that the strap-on booster rockets separated 116 seconds into the flight and the core stage engine shut down 295.4 seconds into the flight. At shut down, the 7.5 tonne core stage with PS-1 attached had attained an altitude of 223 km (139 mi) above sea level, a velocity of 7,780 m/s (25,500 ft/s) and velocity vector inclination to the local horizon of 0 degrees 24 minutes. This resulted in an initial orbit of 223 km (139 mi) by 950 km (590 mi), with an apogee approximately 500 km (310 mi) lower than intended, and an inclination of 65.1 degrees and a period of 96.2 minutes.

The launch came very close to failure—a postflight examination of telemetry data found that the Blok G strap-on booster had not attained full power at ignition and the resulting imbalanced thrust caused the booster to pitch over by about 2° six seconds after liftoff. Two seconds later, the flight control system tried to compensate by rapidly moving the vernier engines and stabilizer fins. The Blok G strap-on finally reached 100% thrust only one second before the pitch angle would have been great enough to trigger an automatic shutdown command, which would have terminated the launch and sent the R-7 rocket and Sputnik 1 crashing to the ground in a fireball only a short distance from the pad.

A fuel regulator in the booster also failed around 16 seconds into launch, which resulted in excessive RP-1 fuel consumption for most of powered flight and engine thrust 4% above nominal. Core stage cutoff was intended for T+296 seconds, but the premature propellant depletion caused thrust termination to occur one second earlier when a sensor detected overspeed of the empty RP-1 turbopump. There were 375 kilograms (827 lb) of liquid oxygen fuel remaining at cutoff.

At 19.9 seconds after engine cut-off, PS-1 separated from the second stage and the satellite’s transmitter was activated. These signals were detected at the IP-1 station by Junior Engineer-Lieutenant V.G. Borisov, where reception of Sputnik 1’s “beep-beep-beep” tones confirmed the satellite’s successful deployment. Reception lasted for two minutes, until PS-1 fell below the horizon. The Tral telemetry system on the R-7 core stage continued to transmit and was detected on its second orbit.

The Soviets provided details of Sputnik 1 before the launch but few outside the Soviet Union noticed. Organized through the citizen science project Operation Moonwatch, teams of visual observers at 150 stations in the United States and other countries were alerted during the night to watch for the Soviet sphere at dawn and during the evening twilight through binoculars or telescopes as it passed overhead. The USSR asked radio amateurs and commercial stations to record the sound of the satellite on magnetic tape.

Listeners were both thrilled and terrified to hear Sputnik 1’s steady beep. News reports at the time pointed out that “anyone possessing a short wave receiver can hear the new Russian earth satellite as it hurtles over this area of the globe”. Directions, provided by the American Radio Relay League were to “Tune in 20 megacycles sharply, by the time signals, given on that frequency. Then tune to slightly higher frequencies. The ‘beep, beep’ sound of the satellite can be heard each time it rounds the globe.” The first recording of Sputnik 1’s signal was made by RCA engineers near Riverhead, Long Island. They then drove the tape recording into Manhattan for broadcast to the public over NBC radio. However, as Sputnik rose higher over the East Coast, its signal was picked up by W2AEE, the ham radio station of Columbia University. Students working in the university’s FM station, WKCR, made a tape of this, and were the first to rebroadcast the Sputnik signal to the US public (or whoever could receive the FM station).

Given that Sputnik was launched from Kazakhstan, a Kazakh recipe is in order. I’ve already given a recipe for beshbarmak, the national dish that I was able to sample last month when I was in Almaty. I also had baursak, a fried yeast dough.  Here’s a video, mostly in English: