Jun 042019
 

I am not posting very often these days because I am traveling in Borneo and have no time (or, often, no WiFi). But I have a quiet evening, so let’s talk about Magenta (town, battle, color, and food).  Today is the anniversary the battle of Magenta, fought on 4 June 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai. It took place near the town of Magenta in the kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, a crown land of the Austrian Empire. Napoleon III’s army crossed the Ticino River and outflanked the Austrian right forcing the Austrian army under Gyulai to retreat. The confined nature of the country, a vast spread of orchards cut up by streams and irrigation canals, precluded elaborate maneuver. The Austrians turned every house into a miniature fortress. The brunt of the fighting was borne by 5,000 grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, still mostly in their First Empire style of uniforms. The battle of Magenta was not a particularly large battle, but it was a decisive victory for the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Patrice Maurice de MacMahon was created duke of Magenta for his role in this battle, and would later go on to serve as one of the presidents of the Third French Republic.

A dye producing the color magenta was invented in 1859, and was named after this battle, reportedly to represent the blood spilled. The first magenta aniline dye was made and patented by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin, who originally called it fuchsine, but it was subsequently renamed to honor the battle. Magenta is an extra-spectral color, meaning that it is not found in the visible spectrum of light. Rather, it is physiologically and psychologically perceived as the mixture of red and violet/blue light, with the absence of green. In the RGB color system, used to create all the colors on a television or computer display, magenta is a secondary color, made by combining equal amounts of red and blue light at a high intensity. In this system, magenta is the complementary color of green, and combining green and magenta light on a black screen will create white. In the CMYK color model, used in color printing, it is one of the three primary colors, along with cyan and yellow, used to print all the rest of the colors. If magenta, cyan, and yellow are printed on top of each other on a page, they make black. In this model, magenta is the complementary color of green, and these two colors have the highest contrast and the greatest harmony. If combined, green and magenta ink will look dark gray or black. The magenta used in color printing, sometimes called process magenta, is a darker shade than the color used on computer screens.

Those who are old enough will remember that 1980s IBM b/w monitors could make magenta and cyan as well, producing some grainy, almost-colored images for games and such.  I went for a Tandy knock-off because it came with a 16-color monitor, but I had several IBM games in black, white, magenta, and cyan, so I remember magenta well.  Here’s magenta sticky rice from Vietnam (using natural plant dye):

May 192019
 

Prior to Thomas Becket’s rise to fame, Dunstan was the most celebrated saint in England. Dunstan was born in Baltonsborough, Somerset. He was the son of Heorstan, a noble of Wessex. Heorstan was the brother of Athelm, the bishop of Wells and Winchester. The anonymous author of the earliest Life places Dunstan’s birth during the reign of Athelstan, while Osbern fixed it at “the first year of the reign of King Æthelstan”, 924 or 925. This date, however, cannot be reconciled with other known dates of Dunstan’s life and creates many obvious anachronisms. Historians therefore assume that Dunstan was born around 910 or earlier.  As a young boy, Dunstan studied under the Irish monks who then occupied the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Accounts tell of his youthful optimism and of his vision of the abbey being restored. While still a boy, Dunstan was stricken with a near-fatal illness and effected a seemingly miraculous recovery. Even as a child, he was noted for his devotion to learning and for his mastery of many kinds of artistic craftsmanship. With his parents’ consent he was tonsured, received minor orders and served in the ancient church of St Mary. He became so well known for his devotion to learning that he is said to have been summoned by his uncle Athelm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to enter his service. He was later appointed to the court of King Athelstan.

Dunstan soon became a favorite of the king and was the envy of other members of the court. A plot was hatched to disgrace him and Dunstan was accused of being involved with witchcraft and black magic. The king ordered him to leave the court and as Dunstan was leaving the palace his enemies physically attacked him, beat him severely, bound him, and threw him into a cesspool. He managed to crawl out and make his way to the house of a friend. From there, he journeyed to Winchester and entered the service of his uncle, Ælfheah, Bishop of Winchester.

The bishop tried to persuade him to become a monk, but Dunstan was doubtful whether he had a vocation to a celibate life. The answer came in the form of an attack of swelling tumors all over Dunstan’s body. This ailment was so severe that it was thought to be leprosy. It was more probably some form of blood poisoning caused by being beaten and thrown in the cesspool. Whatever the cause, it changed Dunstan’s mind. He took Holy Orders in 943, in the presence of Ælfheah, and returned to live the life of a hermit at Glastonbury. Against the old church of St Mary he built a small cell five feet long and two and a half feet deep. It was there that Dunstan studied, worked at his handicrafts, and played on his harp. It is at this time, according to a late 11th-century legend, that the Devil is said to have tempted Dunstan and to have been held by the face with Dunstan’s tongs. Legend also says that the Devil asked Dunstan to make new shoes for his hooves, but when they were attached they pained the Devil so much that he begged for them to be removed.  Subsequently the Devil is said to avoid houses where horseshoes hang over the door.

Dunstan worked as a silversmith and in the scriptorium while he was living at Glastonbury. It is thought likely that he was the artist who drew the well-known image of Christ with a small kneeling monk beside him in the Glastonbury Classbook, “one of the first of a series of outline drawings which were to become a special feature of Anglo-Saxon art of this period.” Dunstan became famous as a musician, illuminator, and metalworker. Lady Æthelflaed, King Æthelstan’s niece, made Dunstan a trusted adviser and on her death she left a considerable fortune to him. He used this money later in life to foster and encourage a monastic revival in England. About the same time, his father Heorstan died and Dunstan inherited his fortune as well. He became influential, and on the death of King Æthelstan in 940, the new king, Edmund, summoned him to his court at Cheddar and made him a minister.

Again, royal favor fostered jealousy among other courtiers and again Dunstan’s enemies succeeded in their plots with the king was preparing to send Dunstan away. But following a death scare whilst hunting Edmund recanted his treatment of Dunstan and instead made him abbot of Glastonbury. He went to work at once on the task of reform and began by establishing Benedictine monasticism at Glastonbury. Nevertheless, not all the members of Dunstan’s community at Glastonbury were monks who followed the Benedictine Rule.

Within two years of Dunstan’s appointment, in 946, Edmund was assassinated. His successor was Eadred. The policy of the new government was supported by the queen mother, Eadgifu of Kent, by the archbishop of Canterbury, Oda, and by the East Anglian nobles, at whose head was the powerful ealdorman Æthelstan the “Half-king”. It was a policy of unification and conciliation with the Danish half of the kingdom. The goal was a firm establishment of royal authority. In ecclesiastical matters it favored the spread of Catholic observance, the rebuilding of churches, the moral reform of the clergy and laity, and the end of the religion of the Danes in England. Against all these reforms were the nobles of Wessex, who included most of Dunstan’s own relatives, and who had an interest in maintaining established customs. For nine years Dunstan’s influence was dominant, during which time he twice refused the office of bishop (that of Winchester in 951 and Crediton in 953), affirming that he would not leave the king’s side so long as the king lived and needed him.

In 955, Eadred died, and the situation was at once changed. Eadwig, the elder son of Edmund, who then came to the throne, was a headstrong youth devoted to the reactionary nobles. According to one legend, the feud with Dunstan began on the day of Eadwig’s coronation, when he failed to attend a meeting of nobles. When Dunstan eventually found the young monarch, he was cavorting with a noblewoman named Ælfgifu and her mother, and refused to return with the bishop. Infuriated by this, Dunstan dragged Eadwig back and forced him to renounce the girl as a “strumpet”. Later realising that he had provoked the king, Dunstan fled to the apparent sanctuary of his cloister, but Eadwig, incited by Ælfgifu, whom he married, followed him and plundered the monastery.

Although Dunstan managed to escape, he saw that his life was in danger. He fled England and crossed the channel to Flanders, where he was unable to speak the language and ignorant of the customs of the locals. The count of Flanders, Arnulf I, received him with honor and lodged him in the abbey of Mont Blandin, near Ghent. This was one of the centers of the Benedictine revival in that country, and Dunstan felt at home. His exile was not long. Before the end of 957, the Mercians and Northumbrians revolted and drove out Eadwig, choosing his brother Edgar as king of the country north of the Thames. The south remained faithful to Eadwig. At once Edgar’s advisers recalled Dunstan.

On Dunstan’s return, Archbishop Oda consecrated him a bishop and, on the death of Coenwald of Worcester at the end of 957, Oda appointed Dunstan to the see. In the following year the see of London became vacant and was conferred on Dunstan, who held it simultaneously with Worcester. In October 959, Eadwig died and his brother Edgar was readily accepted as ruler of Wessex. One of Eadwig’s final acts had been to appoint a successor to archbishop Oda, who died on 2nd June 958. The chosen candidate was Ælfsige of Winchester, but he died of cold in the Alps as he journeyed to Rome for the pallium. In his place Eadwig then nominated the bishop of Wells, Byrhthelm. As soon as Edgar became king, he reversed this second choice on the ground that Byrhthelm had not been able to govern even his first diocese properly. The archbishopric was then conferred on Dunstan.

Dunstan went to Rome in 960, and received the pallium from Pope John XII.[3] On his journey there, Dunstan’s acts of charity were so lavish as to leave nothing for himself and his attendants. On his return from Rome, Dunstan at once regained his position as virtual prime minister of the kingdom. By his advice Ælfstan was appointed to the bishopric of London, and Oswald to that of Worcester. In 963, Æthelwold, the abbot of Abingdon, was appointed to the see of Winchester. With their aid and with the ready support of king Edgar, Dunstan pushed forward his reforms in the English Church. The monks in his communities were taught to live in a spirit of self-sacrifice, and Dunstan actively enforced the law of celibacy whenever possible. He forbade the practices of simony (selling ecclesiastical offices for money) and ended the custom of clerics appointing relatives to offices under their jurisdiction. Good order was maintained throughout the realm and there was respect for the law. Trained bands policed the north, and a navy guarded the shores from Viking raids. There was a level of peace in the kingdom unknown in living memory.

In 973, Dunstan’s statesmanship reached its zenith when he officiated at the coronation of king Edgar. Edgar was crowned at Bath in an imperial ceremony planned not as the initiation, but as the culmination of his reign. This service, devised by Dunstan himself and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony.

Edgar ruled as a strong and popular king for 16 years. In 975 he was succeeded by his eldest son Edward “the Martyr”. His accession was disputed by his stepmother, Ælfthryth, who wished her own son Æthelred to reign. Through the influence of Dunstan, Edward was chosen and crowned at Winchester. Edgar’s death had encouraged the reactionary nobles, and at once there was a determined attack upon the monks, the protagonists of reform. Throughout Mercia they were persecuted and deprived of their possessions. Their cause, however, was supported by Æthelwine, the ealdorman of East Anglia, and the realm was in serious danger of civil war. Three meetings of the Witan were held to settle these disputes, at Kyrtlington, at Calne, and at Amesbury. At the second of them the floor of the hall where the Witan was sitting gave way, and all except Dunstan, who clung to a beam, fell into the room below; several men were killed.

In March 978, king Edward was assassinated at Corfe Castle, possibly at the instigation of his stepmother, and Æthelred (the Unready) became king. His coronation on Low Sunday 31 March 978, was the last state event in which Dunstan took part. When the young king took the usual oath to govern well, Dunstan addressed him in solemn warning. He criticized the violent act whereby he became king and prophesied the misfortunes that were shortly to fall on the kingdom, but Dunstan’s influence at court was ended. Dunstan retired to Canterbury, to teach at the cathedral school. Dunstan’s retirement at Canterbury consisted of long hours, both day and night, spent in private prayer, as well as his regular attendance at Mass and the daily office. He encouraged and protected European scholars who came to England, and was active as a teacher of boys in the cathedral school. On the vigil of Ascension Day 988, it is recorded that a vision of angels warned he would die in three days. On the feast day itself, Dunstan said Mass and preached three times to the people: at the Gospel, at the benediction, and after the Agnus Dei. In this last address, he announced his impending death and wished his congregation well. That afternoon he chose the spot for his tomb, then went to his bed. His strength failed rapidly, and on Saturday morning, 19 May, he caused the clergy to assemble. Mass was celebrated in his presence, then he received Extreme Unction and the Viaticum, and died. Dunstan’s final words are reported to have been, “He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: He hath given food to them that fear Him.”

St Dunstan’s is a charity that provides support, rehabilitation, and respite care to blind ex-service personnel of the British Armed Forces. Periodically they have a recipe competition and bake sale to raise money — https://www.50connect.co.uk/food-drink/articles/phil-vickery-whips-up-support-for-st-dunstan%E2%80%99s-g  Here is one of the winning recipes:

Sticky Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

Ingredients

Cake

175 gm/6 oz unsalted butter
175 gm/6 oz caster sugar
2 whole eggs, beaten
175 gm/6 oz self-raising flour
1 tbsp shredded fresh basil
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
4 tbsp water
25 gm/1 oz poppy seeds

Sticky lemon topping:

3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp water
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Grease and line a 900 gm/2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment paper.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale, light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Fold the flour into the mixture, then stir in the basil, lemon zest, water and poppy seeds. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sticky topping. Heat the caster sugar and 3 tbsp water in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest, increase the heat and bring to a simmer and cook for about 3-5 minutes.

Place the lime juice and icing sugar in another small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Drain the lemon zest, add it to the lime syrup then bring to a simmer. Prick the hot, cooked cake using a skewer, then pour over the hot lime syrup and lemon zest. Leave the cake in the tin until cool, then carefully lift out using the lining paper.

May 092019
 

Today is the feast day of two saints named Beatus: Beatus of Vendôme and Beatus of Lungern who might be the same person, neither of whom may have existed at all.  Their stories are fragmentary, overlapping, and mostly hard to believe. Tomorrow is the 6th birthday of this blog and after that I am going to cease posting routinely, so ending substantive posts today with the celebration of someone who probably did not exist (in multiple ways), seems like a suitably surreal slow fade into the sunset.

Beatus of Lungern, also known as the Apostle of Switzerland, could have been the son of a Scottish king, or could have been born in Ireland in the 1st century CE. His legend states that he was a convert to Christianity, baptized in England by Saint Barnabas. He was allegedly ordained a priest in Rome by Saint Peter the Apostle, whereupon he was sent with a companion named Achates to evangelize the tribe of the Helvetii. The two set up a camp in Argovia near the Jura Mountains, where they converted many of the locals. Beatus then ventured south to the mountains above Lake Thun, taking up a hermitage in what is now known as St. Beatus Caves, near the village later called Beatenberg. Tradition states that he fought a dragon in one of these caves.

Saint Beatus’ grave is located between an Augustinian monastery and the cave entrance. He died at an old age in 112 CE.

Beatus of Vendôme is commonly known as Saint Bienheuré. Tradition states that he lived in a cave near the town of Vendôme also occupied by a dragon. His legend states that Bienheuré fasted and prayed before fighting the dragon. According to the legend, the dragon was so large that when it went to drink from a river at some distance away, its tail still lay in its cave. It was also so large that it drained the Loir when it drank from it. There are three versions of this combat: the first states that the dragon fled at the sight of Saint Bienheuré; the second version states that Saint Bienheuré defeated the dragon with one blow from his staff; the third states that the dragon strangled itself with its chain.

Bienheuré is identified with a missionary who traveled and preached in Garonne, Laon, and Nantes, besides Vendôme, and his place of death is claimed to have been Chevresson, near Laon. A chapel dating from the 5th century was built on the hillside where he is said to have lived.

For a recipe I give you this video which is actually a contest between 2 chefs to make a meal for a unicorn proposed by a 9 yr old girl.  Seems imaginary enough to round out tales of dragons in caves:

May 062019
 

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

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

The WPA was organized into the following divisions:

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

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

The Division of Finance.

The Division of Information.

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

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

The Project Control Division, which processed project applications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackberry Dumpling

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

May 042019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 032019
 

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 302019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Potato Salad

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

Apr 292019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 282019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Apr 272019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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