Apr 282019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Apr 272019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 262019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 252019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 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.