Nov 202017
 

Today is the birthday (1889) of Edwin Powell Hubble an amazingly influential U.S. astronomer who is probably known chiefly these days outside of astrophysics for the telescope named after him. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology and is regarded in scientific circles as one of the most important astronomers of all time. Hubble discovered that many objects previously thought to be clouds of dust and gas and classified as “nebulae” were actually galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Before Hubble astronomers thought that the Milky Way was the universe. After Hubble the universe was an awful lot bigger and more complex than ever conjectured. Not only that, his calculations directly implied that the universe is expanding.

Hubble was born in Marshfield, Missouri, and moved to Wheaton, Illinois, in 1900. In his youth he was noted more for his athletic prowess than his intellectual abilities, although he did earn good grades in every subject except for spelling. Hubble was skilled in baseball, American football, and basketball, and he ran track in both high school and college. He played a variety of positions on the basketball court from center to shooting guard. In fact, Hubble even led the University of Chicago’s basketball team to their first conference title in 1907. He won seven first places and a third place in a single high school track and field meeting in 1906.

His studies at the University of Chicago were concentrated on law with some science leading to a bachelor of science degree in 1910. Subsequently he spent three years at Queen’s College, Oxford as one of the university’s first Rhodes Scholars, initially studying jurisprudence instead of science (as a promise to his dying father), and later added literature and Spanish. His father died in the winter of 1913, while Edwin was still in England, and in the summer of 1913, Edwin returned to care for his mother, two sisters, and younger brother, as did his brother William.

Hubble did not have the motivation to practice law. Instead, he got a job teaching Spanish, physics and mathematics at New Albany High School in New Albany, Indiana, where he also coached the boys’ basketball team. After a year of high-school teaching, which he did not like very much but where he was liked by all the students, he entered graduate school with the help of his former professor from the University of Chicago to study astronomy at the university’s Yerkes Observatory. He received his PhD in 1917 with a dissertation, “Photographic Investigations of Faint Nebulae.” He was on track. Note to fathers: don’t hobble your sons with your own desires for them.  Let them choose their own paths.

After the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, Hubble rushed to complete his PhD dissertation so he could join the military. Hubble volunteered for the United States Army and was assigned to the newly created 86th Division, where he served in 2nd Battalion, 343 Infantry Regiment. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was found fit for overseas duty on July 9, 1918, but the 86th Division never saw combat. After the end of the war, Hubble spent a year in Cambridge University, where he renewed his studies of astronomy. In 1919, Hubble was offered a staff position at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Mount Wilson Observatory, near Pasadena, California, by George Ellery Hale, the founder and director of the observatory. Hubble remained on staff at Mount Wilson until his death in 1953.

Edwin Hubble’s arrival at Mount Wilson Observatory, California in 1919 coincided with the completion of the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker Telescope, then the world’s largest. At that time, the prevailing view of the cosmos was that the universe consisted entirely of the Milky Way Galaxy. Using the Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson, Hubble identified Cepheid variables (a kind of star used to calculate stellar distances) in several spiral nebulae, including the Andromeda Nebula and Triangulum. His observations, made in 1922–1923, proved conclusively that these nebulae were much too distant to be part of the Milky Way and were, in fact, entire galaxies outside our own, suspected by researchers at least as early as 1755 when Immanuel Kant published General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens. This idea had been opposed by many in the astronomy establishment of the time, in particular by Harvard University-based Harlow Shapley. Despite the opposition, Hubble, then only 35, had his findings first published in the New York Times on November 23, 1924, and then more formally presented in the form of an academic paper at the January 1, 1925 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Hubble’s findings fundamentally changed the scientific view of the universe. Let me repeat that: Hubble’s findings fundamentally changed the scientific view of the universe. Although some of his more renowned colleagues simply scoffed at his results, Hubble ended up publishing his findings on nebulae. Hubble also devised the most commonly used system for classifying galaxies, grouping them according to their appearance in photographic images. He arranged the different groups of galaxies in what became known as the Hubble sequence.

In 1929, Hubble examined the relation between distance and redshift of galaxies. Combining his measurements of galaxy distances with measurements of the redshifts of the galaxies by Vesto Slipher, and by his assistant Milton L. Humason, he found a roughly linear relation between the distances of the galaxies and their redshifts, a discovery that later became known as Hubble’s law (v = Ho d where: v = velocity of a galaxy, in km/s. Ho = Hubble Constant, measured in km/s/Mpc).

This meant that the greater the distance between any two galaxies, the greater their relative speed of separation. If interpreted that way, Hubble’s measurements on 46 galaxies lead to a value for the Hubble Constant of 500 km/s/Mpc, which is much higher than the currently accepted value of 70 km/s/Mpc due to errors in their distance calibrations.

Yet the reason for the redshift remained unclear. In reality, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Catholic priest and physicist, predicted, on theoretical grounds based on Einstein’s equations for General Relativity, the redshift-distance relation two years before the proposal of Hubble’s law. However, many cosmologists and astronomers (including Hubble himself) failed to recognize the work of Lemaître. Hubble remained doubtful about Lemaître’s interpretation for his entire life. In 1931 he wrote a letter to the Dutch cosmologist Willem de Sitter expressing his opinion on the theoretical interpretation of the redshift-distance relation:

Mr. Humason and I are both deeply sensible of your gracious appreciation of the papers on velocities and distances of nebulae. We use the term ‘apparent’ velocities to emphasize the empirical features of the correlation. The interpretation, we feel, should be left to you and the very few others who are competent to discuss the matter with authority.

Today, the “apparent velocities” in question are understood as an increase in proper distance that occurs due to the expansion of spacetime. Light traveling through stretching space will experience a Hubble-type redshift, a mechanism different from the Doppler effect (although the two mechanisms become equivalent descriptions related by a coordinate transformation for nearby galaxies). Basically, objects traveling away from an observer at high speed will be redshifted, that is, the spectrum of light from those objects will be shifted towards the red end of the spectrum. Objects traveling towards the observer will appear violet shifted. ALL stars in the universe appear red shifted to observers on earth, leading to the conclusion that the universe is expanding, as demonstrated in the raisin bread analogy.

In the 1930s, Hubble was involved in determining the distribution of galaxies and spatial curvature. These data seemed to indicate that the universe was flat and homogeneous, but there was a deviation from flatness at large redshifts. There were methodological problems with Hubble’s survey technique that showed a deviation from flatness at large redshifts, however. In particular, the technique did not account for changes in luminosity of galaxies due to galaxy evolution. Earlier, in 1917, Albert Einstein had found that his newly developed theory of General Relativity indicated that the universe must be either expanding or contracting. Unable to believe what his own equations were telling him, Einstein introduced a cosmological constant (a fudge factor) to the equations to avoid this “problem.” When Einstein learned of Hubble’s redshifts, he immediately realized that the expansion predicted by General Relativity must be real, and in later life he said that changing his equations was “the biggest blunder of [his] life.” In fact, Einstein apparently once visited Hubble and tried to convince him that the universe was expanding. In December 1941, Hubble reported to the American Association for the Advancement of Science that results from a six-year survey with the Mt. Wilson telescope did not support the expanding universe theory. Even great scientists make mistakes. These were the days well before the Big Bang theory although Hubble’s observations led in that direction. Until 1964, when the cosmic background radiation was discovered, astrophysicists were split between the Big Bang and the Steady State theories. Now the Big Bang is the prevailing model.

In Hubble’s day the Nobel Prize committee did not recognize work done in astronomy as part of physics and so did not award prizes to astronomers. Hubble spent much of the later part of his career attempting to have astronomy considered an area of physics, instead of being its own science, not least so that astronomers could be recognized by the Nobel committee. This campaign was unsuccessful in Hubble’s lifetime, but shortly after his death, the Nobel Prize Committee decided that astronomical work would be eligible for the physics prize. Sadly, the prize cannot be awarded posthumously.

Given that the raisin bread analogy is the common one for explaining the redshifts of galaxies in an expanding universe, we have to bake raisin bread today. It’s normally baked as a yeast bread, but can be made using baking powder, which I find more convenient. For my money, raisin bread is best served in toasted slices with lashings of butter.

Raisin Bread

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 egg
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup milk

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C.

Grease a 9x5x3” loaf pan.

Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Add the raisins and stir thoroughly. Make a well in center.

In small bowl beat the egg until frothy. Mix in the melted butter and milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients. Stir the ingredients gently so they are just combined, but do not overmix. Scrape the dough into the greased loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour.

Nov 192017
 

On this date in 1969, Apollo 12 mission commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and lunar module pilot Alan L. Bean began just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while command module pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit. Does anyone even remember their names, let alone what they accomplished?  Even if you are too young to remember the first lunar landing you can probably tell me that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. You might also be able to recall his first words on the lunar surface (although he muffed them). Being first at something (or being the best) gets immortalized. Being second tends to be forgotten. I want to take a moment to honor the not-so-famous seconds because being the first or best at something, while a great achievement, is not all there is in the world.

The landing site for the Apollo 12 mission was located in the southeastern portion of the Ocean of Storms. Unlike the first landing on the moon by Apollo 11, Conrad and Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location, the site of the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe, which had landed on April 20, 1967. That’s right; they were better at landing than the first guys, but no one remembers that. Actually, they felt a lot more human to most of us who watched the landing than the first guys. Apollo 11’s lunar module was named Eagle (giving us “The Eagle has landed.”) – all very macho and patriotic. Apollo 12’s module was named Intrepid, which is a bit more toned down, and when Conrad, who was somewhat shorter than Neil Armstrong, stepped on to the lunar surface, his first words were “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.” Armstrong’s remarks were quite clearly scripted and rehearsed, but Conrad’s were off the cuff.

So, what about those unfamous seconds in history? Care to take a quiz?

Who was the second president of the United States? Who was the second prime minister of England (if you can remember the first)? Who was the second person leading a partnership to climb Mt Everest? (And . . . what is the second highest mountain in the world, and who scaled it second?) Who was the second astronaut to orbit the earth?

You get the point. Being second at many things should not diminish their importance, nor the challenges involved. What is it about firsts and superlatives anyway? Why was there a race to the moon in the first place? Obviously, the Cold War and the use of rocketry for intercontinental weaponry were the backdrop. The US began the 1960s way behind the Russians in the Space Race. The Russians had put the first object in orbit and subsequently the first man in orbit. That led JFK to lay down the gauntlet in 1961 challenging NASA to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade – leading the US to have the first crew on the moon in 1969, and a second there before year’s end. These facts lead many people to argue that competition is good because it spurs results. But does it? Is it not possible that co-operation, sharing of ideas and technology, can achieve similar results? Westerners don’t like the idea of sharing much, it’s true. But competition may also encourage haste which can be counterproductive. The Apollo Program suffered a major setback in 1967 when the entire crew of Apollo 1 died in a cabin fire during a pre-launch test because they did not have a properly designed hatch to escape through when the fire started. Haste to be first in the competition can cost lives.

I would have been overjoyed if I had won a silver medal in the Olympic Games for the 400 meter sprint when I was a young man. I ran in the county games as a schoolboy, but that was as high as I ever ranked. What’s wrong with that? In fact, I would have been overjoyed if I’d run in the Olympics at all. Achievements are undervalued when you start ranking them. I know there are plenty of people who will disagree with me, and that’s fine. If you think being first, biggest, best is really important – have at it. I’ll take today to honor those who came in second.

Nowhere for me is the ludicrousness of first and second place winners more evident than in cooking contests. I used to watch cooking shows like Iron Chef, Master Chef, Cupcake Wars, Top Chef and the like all the time when I lived in the US. They were about the only shows I watched. I’m tired of them now, but they held my attention for a time. I wasn’t interested in who won or lost, but I was interested in the recipe ideas.  To make the point I searched the internet and came up with this site: https://bellasunluci.com/blog/first-runner-up It’s from a chef’s blog and he focuses on dishes that entered competitions and came in second. This competition is run by Bella Sun Luci products, and you can find a mountain of such sites promoting commercial products. The blog owner writes:

We LOVED this dish! It was the first runner up…. It’s really well balanced…a ‘whole greater than the sum of its parts’ I like to say, which is the key to a dish becoming a classic. Flavors and textures taking the senses on a journey. Healthy components, as they fit into the Mediterranean Diet, are key. Spinach for example, and farro is healthier (easier to digest, the gluten is water soluble) than other kinds of wheat.

Sounds like a winner to me.  I have not tried it yet, but I will one day. My trouble at the moment is that, living in Cambodia, getting hold of farro is difficult. Farro is heirloom wheat. Here’s the recipe verbatim from the website:

Farro with Sausage and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 jar 8.5oz  Bella Sun Luci Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil and Italian Herbs
1 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage
1 cup Farro
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
10 oz. baby spinach
Splash of balsamic vinegar
4 oz. goat cheese
Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drain the sun dried tomatoes, reserving the oil. Brush the sausages with the oil and place on a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway until cooked through.

Prepare the farro according to package directions.

Coat a skillet with the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Mix in the sun dried tomatoes. Slice the sausage and add along with the farro and goat cheese and mix until combined. Top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Nov 182017
 

On this date in 1928 Steamboat Willie, an animated short film directed by Walt Disney and mostly drawn and animated by Ub Iwerks (who rarely gets credit for his substantial part in making early Disney cartoons), was first shown publicly at Universal’s Colony Theater in New York City. Walt Disney Studios considers the cartoon to be the debut of Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie, although both the characters appeared several months earlier in a test screening of Plane Crazy. In fact, Steamboat Willie was the third cartoon featuring Mickey’s films to be produced, but was the first to be distributed because Walt Disney, having seen The Jazz Singer, had committed himself to producing the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. Because this date is Mickey’s public debut, the Disney corporation considers it to be his birthday, so we should celebrate too. But remember it is Minnie’s birthday as well.

Throughout the earlier years, Mickey’s design bore heavy resemblance to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (an earlier Iwerks and Disney creation), save for the ears, nose, and tail. Ub Iwerks designed Mickey’s body out of circles in order to make the character simple to animate. Disney employees John Hench and Marc Davis believed that this design was part of Mickey’s success as it made him more dynamic and appealing to audiences. Mickey’s circular design is most noticeable in his ears. In animation in the 1940s, Mickey’s ears were animated in a more realistic perspective. Later, they were drawn to always appear circular no matter which way Mickey was facing. This made Mickey easily recognizable to audiences and made his ears an unofficial personal trademark.

Oswald

In 1938, animator Fred Moore redesigned Mickey’s body away from its circular design to a pear-shaped design. Colleague Ward Kimball praised Moore for being the first animator to break from Mickey’s “rubber hose, round circle” design. Although Moore himself was nervous at first about changing Mickey, Walt Disney liked the new design and told Moore “that’s the way I want Mickey to be drawn from now on.” I wonder if at this point the similarity between Disney and Thomas Edison has dawned on you. Both men were skilled in business and marketing, yet get credited with innovations that they did not create. Edison did not invent the light bulb and Disney did not draw Mickey Mouse.

Each of Mickey’s hands has only three fingers and a thumb. Disney said that this was both an artistic and financial decision, explaining “Artistically five digits are too many for a mouse. His hand would look like a bunch of bananas. Financially, not having an extra finger in each of 45,000 drawings that make up a six and one-half minute short has saved the Studio millions.” In the film The Opry House (1929), Mickey was first given white gloves as a way of contrasting his naturally black hands against his black body. The use of white gloves would prove to be an influential design for cartoon characters, particularly with later Disney characters, but also with non-Disney characters such as Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Mouse, and Mario. Whether consciously or unconsciously, there is no question that Mickey’s early appearance, particularly the gloves, and facial characteristics, evolved from blackface caricatures used in minstrel shows.

Mickey’s eyes, as drawn in Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, were large and white with black outlines. In Steamboat Willie, the bottom portion of the black outlines was removed, although the upper edges still contrasted with his head. Mickey’s eyes were later re-imagined as only consisting of the small black dots which were originally his pupils, while what were the upper edges of his eyes became a hairline. This is evident only when Mickey blinks. Fred Moore later redesigned the eyes to be small white eyes with pupils and gave his face a Caucasian skin tone instead of plain white. This new Mickey first appeared in 1938 on the cover of a party program, and in animation the following year with the release of The Pointer. Mickey is sometimes given eyebrows as seen in The Simple Things (1953) and in the comic strip, although he does not have eyebrows in his most recent appearances.

Besides Mickey’s gloves and shoes, he typically wears only a pair of shorts with two large buttons in the front. Before Mickey was seen regularly in color animation, Mickey’s shorts were either red or a dull blue-green. With the advent of Mickey’s color films, the shorts were always red. When Mickey is not wearing his red shorts, he is often still wearing red clothing such as a red bandmaster coat (The Band Concert, The Mickey Mouse Club), red overalls (Clock Cleaners, Boat Builders), a red cloak (Fantasia, Fun and Fancy Free), a red coat (Squatter’s Rights, Mickey’s Christmas Carol), or a red shirt (Mickey Down Under, The Simple Things).

Steamboat Willie is especially notable for being the first Disney cartoon with synchronized sound, including character sounds and a musical score. Disney understood from early on that synchronized sound was the future of film. It was the first cartoon to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack which distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons such as Inkwell Studios’ Song Car-Tunes (1924–1927) and Van Beuren Studios’ Dinner Time (1928). Steamboat Willie became the most popular cartoon of its day.

Music for Steamboat Willie was arranged by Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis, and included the songs “Steamboat Bill,” a composition popularized by baritone Arthur Collins during the 1910s, and “Turkey in the Straw,”  a traditional fiddle tune popularized by minstrelsy in the 19th century. The title of the film is a parody of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), itself a reference to the song by Collins. Walt Disney performed all of the voices in the film, although there is little intelligible dialogue.

The production of Steamboat Willie took place between July and September 1928 with an estimated budget of $4,986. There was initially some doubt among the animators that a sound cartoon would appear believable enough, so before a soundtrack was produced, Disney arranged for a screening of the film to a test audience with live sound to accompany it. This screening took place on July 29 with Steamboat Willie only partly finished. The audience sat in a room adjoining Walt’s office. Roy placed the movie projector outdoors and the film was projected through a window so that the sound of the projector would not interfere with the live sound. Ub Iwerks set up a bed sheet behind the movie screen behind which he placed a microphone connected to speakers where the audience would sit. The live sound was produced from behind the bed sheet. Wilfred Jackson played the music on a mouth organ, Ub Iwerks banged on pots and pans for the percussion segment, and Johnny Cannon provided sound effects with various devices, including slide whistles and spittoons for bells. Walt himself provided what little dialogue there was to the film, mostly grunts, laughs, and squawks. After several practices, they were ready for the audience, which consisted of Disney employees and their wives. The response of the audience was extremely positive, and it gave Walt the confidence to move forward and complete the film. He said later in recalling this first viewing, “The effect on our little audience was nothing less than electric. They responded almost instinctively to this union of sound and motion. I thought they were kidding me. So they put me in the audience and ran the action again. It was terrible, but it was wonderful! And it was something new!” Iwerks said, “I’ve never been so thrilled in my life. Nothing since has ever equaled it.”

Disney traveled to New York City to hire a company to produce the sound system. He eventually settled on Pat Powers’s Cinephone system, created by Powers using an updated version of Lee De Forest’s Phonofilm system without giving De Forest any credit, a decision he would later regret (but typical of Disney). The music in the final soundtrack was performed by the Green Brothers Novelty Band and was conducted by Carl Edouarde. The brothers Joe and Lew Green from the band also assisted in timing the music to the film. The first attempt to synchronize the recording with the film, done on September 15, 1928, was a disaster. Disney had to sell his Moon roadster in order to finance a second recording. This was a success with the addition of a filmed bouncing ball to keep the tempo.

Steamboat Willie’s initial run lasted two weeks. Disney was paid $500 a week which was considered a tidy sum at the time. It played ahead of the independent feature film Gang War, setting up a theater pattern that would last for decades, showing a short cartoon before the feature film. That was the norm when I was a boy.The success of Steamboat Willie not only led to international fame for Walt Disney, but for Mickey as well. On November 21, Variety magazine published a review which read in part “Not the first animated cartoon to be synchronized with sound effects, but the first to attract favorable attention. [Steamboat Willie] represents a high order of cartoon ingenuity, cleverly combined with sound effects. The union brought laughs galore. Giggles came so fast at the Colony [Theater] they were stumbling over each other.”

Let’s turn to another cartoon, Mickey’s Trailer (1938), featuring Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy, for recipe inspiration:

You could make pancakes or corn on the cob, of course, but popcorn is my choice because popcorn is a perennial favorite of moviegoers. Popping corn is about as old as the domestication of corn itself. Corn was first domesticated 9,000 BP in Mesoamerica, and the earliest corn produced in this way could be popped (although it probably wasn’t). However, archaeologists have discovered remnants of popcorn in Mesoamerica dating to around 5600 BP. Popcorn has been around for a very long time.

These days there are popcorn poppers, microwaveable popcorn packets, prepackaged stovetop popcorn assemblages and the like, but when I was a boy my parents made popcorn (very rarely) in very traditional manner using a heavy pot with a lid. It is a lot easier to use a home air popper if you are a big fan of popcorn because the results are always consistent and there is no expertise involved: add unpopped kernels, turn the machine on, and catch the popcorn as it comes out of the spout. Effective, but hardly a challenge. Popping corn the old fashioned way is fun.

Popping results are sensitive to the rate at which the kernels are heated. If heated too quickly, the steam in the outer layers of the kernel can reach high pressures and rupture the hull before the starch in the center of the kernel can fully gelatinize, leading to partially popped kernels with hard centers. Heating too slowly leads to entirely unpopped kernels: the tip of the kernel, where it attached to the cob, is not entirely moisture-proof, and when heated slowly, the steam can leak out of the tip fast enough to keep the pressure from rising sufficiently to break the hull and cause the kernels to pop. So . . .

Use a large, heavy pot with a tight lid. Place a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pot, add three popcorn kernels, cover and place over medium-high heat. Count the pops, and when all three have popped, remove the pot from the heat, discard the popped kernels and add ⅔ cup of unpopped popcorn. Cover and let sit for about 20 seconds. Then put the pot back on the heat, shaking it from time to time. As you begin to hear the popping, shake the pot more vigorously. After about 2 minutes the popping will virtually stop. Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Toss the popcorn in a large paper bag with the seasonings of your choice (e.g. butter and salt or honey and butter), fold over the top of the bag tightly trapping air in the bag.  Shake vigorously a few times then pour the popcorn into a bowl and dig in.

Nov 172017
 

Today is the birthday (1937) of Peter Cook who is widely regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s. Cook had an enormous influence on legendary British comedians who achieved worldwide prominence including his partner Dudley Moore and the Monty Python group (many of whom started on Cook’s shows). He was also a major player in the rise to fame of the likes of David Frost whose stage presence was actually modelled on Cook’s. I want to focus on Cook today because he was both brilliant and completely misunderstood in his personal life and ambitions.  On his death some critics chose to see Cook’s life as tragic, insofar as the brilliance of his youth did not translate into a lifetime of international fame and fortune as it did for so many people he got started in the business. However, Cook himself always maintained he had no ambitions at all for sustained success. He assessed happiness by his friendships and his enjoyment of life. Eric Idle and Stephen Fry said Cook had not wasted his talent but rather that the newspapers had tried to waste him. Some put his lack of fame and ambition down to alcoholism or bad luck or poor choices or whatever. It’s all nonsense. Cook lived the life he wanted and I admire him greatly for that.

In 2005 The Guardian called Cook “the father of modern satire” and he was ranked number one in the Comedians’ Comedian, a poll of over 300 comics, comedy writers, producers, and directors throughout the English-speaking world. He was the master of the dry, laconic, one-line comment that perfectly summed up the absurdity of his era and of life. A very small sample:

All in all, I’d rather have been a judge than a miner. And what’s more, being a miner, as soon as you are too old and tired and sick and stupid to do the job properly, you have to go. Well, the very opposite applies with judges.

What terrible sins I have working for me. I suppose it’s the wages.

As I looked out into the night sky, across all those infinite stars, it made me realize how insignificant they are.

We believe this to be the work of thieves, and I’ll tell you why. The whole pattern is very reminiscent of past robberies where we have found thieves to be involved. The tell-tale loss of property — that’s one of the signs we look for.

Here’s a classic clip of Pete and Dud in a pub scene from Not Only . . . But Also. It’s such a period piece that you’ll never see the likes of it again. You can tell that Cook and Moore are not using a script, but are just working on a dialogue impromptu, based on a general idea they thought up. Cook also “corpses” in the sketch, that is, breaks character with a faint laugh when he is amused by his own banter. Nowadays such scenes would be consigned to blooper reels. In later life Cook readily admitted that one of his favorite things in the world was to sit and chat with friends.  It shows.

Cook was born at his parents’ house, “Shearbridge,” in Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon. He was the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward “Alec” Cook (1906–1984), a colonial civil servant, and his wife Ethel Catherine Margaret, née Mayo (1908–1994). He was educated at Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied French and German. As a student, Cook initially intended to become a career diplomat like his father, but in later life he claimed that he couldn’t because “Britain had run out of colonies.” Cook was a good student and was awarded an upper second in his final tripos. He could have achieved first class honors, but in his final year at Cambridge he was also running reviews in London’s West End. He always considered himself an amateur comedian, and would have sat the Foreign Office exam and joined the diplomatic service if he’d attained a first. Just as well. He did say in later life, though, “I’d still say yes if the governorship of Bermuda came up. I’ve always wanted to wear a plumed hat.”

At Pembroke Cook performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the Cambridge Footlights Club, and became president in 1960. Whilst still at university, Cook wrote for Kenneth Williams, providing several sketches for Williams’ hit West End comedy revue Pieces of Eight and much of the follow-up, One Over the Eight, before finding prominence in his own right in a four-man group satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore. Beyond the Fringe became a great success in London after being first performed at the Edinburgh Festival and included Cook impersonating the prime minister, Harold Macmillan. This was one of the first occasions satirical political mimicry had been attempted in live theater and it shocked audiences. During one performance, Macmillan was in the theater and Cook departed from his script and attacked him verbally.

In 1961, Cook opened The Establishment, a club at 18 Greek Street in Soho in London, presenting fellow comedians in a nightclub setting. Cook said it was a satirical venue modelled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets … which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.” As a members-only venue it was outside the censorship restrictions. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Dudley Moore’s jazz trio played in the basement of the club during the early 1960s.

In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on the Establishment Club, but it was not immediately picked up and Cook went to New York City for a year to perform Beyond The Fringe on Broadway. When he returned, the pilot had been refashioned as That Was the Week That Was and had made a star of David Frost, something Cook resented. He complained that Frost’s success was based on copying Cook’s own stage persona and Cook dubbed him “the bubonic plagiarist.” Cook said that his only regret in life, according to Alan Bennett, had been saving Frost from drowning. This incident occurred in the summer of 1963, when the rivalry between the two men was at its height. Cook said he realized at the time that Frost’s potential drowning would have looked deliberate if he had not been rescued.

Around this time, Cook provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye, supporting it through difficult periods, particularly in libel trials. Cook invested his own money and solicited investment from his friends. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of the Establishment Club. Cook expanded television comedy with Eleanor Bron, John Bird and John Fortune. His first regular television spot was on Granada Television’s Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring character: the static, dour and monotonal E. L. Wisty, whom Cook had conceived for Radley College’s Marionette Society.

Cook’s comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to Not Only… But Also. This was originally intended by the BBC as a vehicle for Moore’s music. The working title was Not Only Dudley Moore, But Also His Guests. But Moore was unsure about going it alone, so he invited Cook along to guest in the pilot (along with Diahann Carroll and John Lennon). The studio audience loved their double act, in particular the first “Dagenham Dialogue,” “A Spot of the Usual Trouble,” and so Cook was invited to become a permanent fixture and the show became Not Only Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, But Also Their Guests, though it was only ever really referred to as Not Only… But Also. Cook played characters such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the two men created their Pete and Dud alter egos for which old gits like me will always remember them. Other sketches included “Superthunderstingcar”, a parody of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows, and Cook’s pastiche of 1960s trendy arts documentaries – satirized in a parody segment on Greta Garbo.

When Cook learned a few years later that the videotapes of the series were to be wiped, a common practice at the time, he offered to buy the recordings from the BBC but was refused because of copyright issues. He suggested he could purchase new tapes so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but this offer was also turned down. Of the original 22 programs, only eight still survive complete. With The Wrong Box (1966) and Bedazzled (1967) Cook and Moore began to act in films together. The underlying story of Bedazzled is credited to Cook and Moore and its screenplay to Cook. Bedazzled is a comic version of the Faust story, starring Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts Stanley Moon (Moore), a frustrated, short-order chef, with the promise of gaining his heart’s desire – the unattainable beauty and waitress at his cafe, Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) – in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him. The film features cameo appearances by Barry Humphries as Envy and Raquel Welch as Lust. Moore composed the soundtrack music and co-wrote (with Cook) the songs performed in the film. His jazz trio backed Cook on the theme, a parodic anti-love song, which Cook delivered in a monotonous deadpan voice and included his familiar put-down, “you fill me with inertia.” The Brendan Fraser 2000 remake of Bedazzled is – mercifully – completely re-written, and is funny in its own way. But it pales in comparison with the original.

I won’t wear you out with reams of biographical stuff from the late 1960s until Cook’s death in 1995. You can look it up.  While you’re at it, find his old routines on YouTube. Cook died from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on 9 January 1995, aged 57. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and his ashes were buried in an unmarked plot behind St John-at-Hampstead, not far from his house in Perrins Walk. Dudley Moore attended Cook’s memorial service at John-at-Hampstead on 30 April 1995. He and Martin Lewis presented a two-night memorial for Cook at The Improv in Los Angeles, on 15 and 16 November 1995, to mark what would have been Cook’s 58th birthday.

Stephen Fry had this to say in memoriam because he was so disgusted with the mainstream obituaries treating Cook as a man with “undeveloped potential” and “unfulfilled promise” (and such):

Being British in this part of the century meant living in the country that had Peter Cook in it. There are wits and there are clowns in comedy, I suppose. Peter was a wit, it goes without saying, but he was funny in an almost supernatural way that has never been matched by anyone I’ve met or even heard about. It wasn’t to do with facial expression or epigrammatic wit, or cattiness or rant or anger or technique: he had funniness in the same way that beautiful people have beauty or dancers have line and grace. He had an ability to make people gasp and gasp and gasp for breath like landed fish.

Fry also said that Peter Cook was, “The funniest man who ever drew breath.”

There’s a certain ironic pleasure in finding a recipe to suit a man called Cook. In a newspaper interview he remarked, “Food is so simple. You go out, buy the best bit of fresh stuff and cook it. What could be simpler? But they will muck it up. My favourite food is asparagus.” I’m not sure you can take him seriously, but it’s a start. In that same interview is this:

He lit another cigarette, pushed his plate away, leaving untouched a side dish of spinach. I said huh, what about the spinach? “What are you, some sort of nanny? I always order spinach when I’m here. I hate spinach. I get my own back by leaving it.”

I love asparagus too, so this is not hard. I had an asparagus patch in my garden for 20 years and loved harvesting great handfuls and cooking it simply: steamed and served with butter or hollandaise sauce. If you grow it at home you can be sure to cut only the tender parts of the stalks, but commercial growers harvest the stalks below ground level and you end up with a lot of useless woody ends. If you buy your asparagus, bend the stems before cooking them. They will naturally snap at the point that divides the edible tender tops from the woody bottoms.

I agree with Cook’s general point – “buy the best bit of fresh stuff and cook it” – but I don’t know what he means by mucking it up. Does he mean cooking it badly, or making too complex a dish? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Asparagus is dead easy to cook badly. Drowning it in water and boiling it for too long will do it. Light steaming for 5 to 10 minutes is all it takes. If you burden asparagus with too many other ingredients you can also lose its subtle flavor. It does not need herbs or spices, and will get lost if you use them.  Butter and eggs are fine partners, though. I’m fond of asparagus omelets, for example. Lightly steam the asparagus first, make an omelet and then add the asparagus as a filling when serving.

My favorite sandwich, without question, is grilled ham and asparagus. Butter two slices of good white bread.  Make a sandwich, with the butter on the outside, with a layer of ham and a layer of steamed asparagus stalks. Cook the sandwich in a hot, dry skillet browning both sides evenly.

Nov 152017
 

On this date in 1532 the conquistador Francisco Pizarro and 169 men (mostly soldiers) arrived in Cajamarca on the invitation of the Inca leader Atahualpa. A black day for the Inca. Atahualpa camped outside Cajamarca with an army of around 80,000 Inca and met Pizarro the following day. Atahualpa assumed, quite mistakenly, that his army of 80,000 had nothing to fear from 170 Spaniards.  Shows how wrong you can be. For Atahualpa it was a fatal mistake, costing him his life and the independence of the Inca people. The conquest of South America by Pizarro and later generals, and of Mesoamerica by Hernán Cortés and those who came after him, are enduring lessons of history. In the Old World, for centuries, massive armies pitted against one another for supremacy as empires rose and fell, but in the New World the all-powerful Inca and Aztec empires were toppled by a handful of men. How could this possibly have happened? One, over-simple, answer is that powerful empires can be conquered if they have internal divisions. The Inca and Aztec empires certainly were rife with internal power struggles at the time of the Spanish conquest. Both Pizarro and Cortés were astute in taking advantages of these rifts in the empires, and were treacherous into the bargain. Trusting their word was a big mistake. Having guns and horses was symbolically very important to the Spanish, but could not have tipped the balance in their grossly uneven contests. If you saw an army of 169, armed with guns, against one of 80,000, armed with spears and arrows, who would you bet on? I’d go with sheer numbers any day.

Pizarro

In January 1531, a Spanish expedition led by Francisco Pizarro, on a mission to conquer the Inca Empire, landed on Puná Island. Pizarro brought with him 169 men and 69 horses. The Spaniards headed south and occupied Tumbes, where they heard about the civil war that Atahualpa and his half-brother, Huáscar, were waging against each other. In September 1532, after reinforcements arrived from Spain, Pizarro founded the city of San Miguel de Piura, and then marched towards the heart of the Inca Empire, with a force of 106 foot-soldiers and 62 horsemen. Atahualpa, in Cajamarca with his army of 80,000 troops, heard that this party of strangers was advancing into the empire, and sent an Inca noble to investigate. The noble stayed for two days in the Spanish camp, making an assessment of the Spaniards’ weapons and horses. Atahualpa decided that 168 Spaniards were not a threat to him and his 80,000 troops, so he sent word inviting them to visit Cajamarca and meet him, expecting to capture them. Pizarro and his men thus advanced unopposed through some very difficult terrain. They arrived at Cajamarca on 15 November 1532.

Atahualpa

Atahualpa and his army had camped on a hill just outside Cajamarca. He was staying in a building close to the Konoj hot springs, while his soldiers were in tents set up around him. When Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca, the town was mostly empty except for a few hundred acllas (sequestered virgins). The Spaniards were billeted in long buildings on the main plaza, and Pizarro sent an embassy to the Inca, led by Hernando de Soto. The group consisted of 15 horsemen and an interpreter; shortly thereafter de Soto sent 20 more horsemen as reinforcements in case of an Inca attack. These were led by his brother, Hernando Pizarro.

The Spaniards invited Atahualpa to visit Cajamarca to meet Pizarro, which he resolved to do the following day. Meanwhile, Pizarro was preparing an ambush to trap the him. While the Spanish cavalry and infantry occupied three long buildings around the plaza, some musketeers and four pieces of artillery were located in a stone structure in the middle of the square. The plan was to persuade Atahualpa to submit to the authority of the Spaniards and, if this failed, there were two options: a surprise attack, if success seemed possible, or to keep up a friendly stance if the Inca forces appeared too powerful.

The following day, Atahualpa left his camp at midday, preceded by a large number of men in ceremonial attire. Because the procession was advancing slowly, Pizarro sent his brother Hernando to invite the Inca to enter Cajamarca before nightfall. Atahualpa entered the town late in the afternoon in a litter carried by eighty lords; with him were four other lords in litters and hammocks and 5–6,000 men carrying small battle axes, slings, and pouches of stones underneath their clothes. Juan Diez de Betanzos, who married Atahualpa’s wife after Atahualpa’s death recorded this eyewitness testimony:

He [Atahualpa] was very drunk from what he had imbibed in the [thermal] baths before leaving as well as what he had taken during the many stops on the road. In each of them he had drunk well. And even there on his litter he requested drink.

The Inca found no Spaniards in the plaza, as they were all inside the buildings. The only man to emerge was the Dominican friar Vincente de Valverde with an interpreter. Although there are different accounts as to what Valverde said, most agree that he invited Atahualpa to come inside to talk and dine with Pizarro. Atahualpa instead demanded the return of everything the Spaniards had taken since they landed. According to eyewitness accounts, Valverde spoke about the Catholic religion but did not deliver the official requerimiento, a speech requiring the listener to submit to the authority of the Spanish Crown and accept the Christian faith, as ordained by the Spanish Crown in 1513. This was actually a formal responsibility that would have excused Pizarro’s subsequent actions in the eyes of the Spanish government and the Catholic church if Atahualpa refused to submit.

At Atahualpa’s request, Valverde gave him his breviary but, after a brief examination, he threw it to the ground. Valverde hurried back toward Pizarro, calling on the Spaniards to attack. At that moment, Pizarro gave the signal; the Spanish infantry and cavalry came out of their hiding places and charged the unsuspecting Inca retinue, killing a great number while the rest fled in panic. Pizarro led the charge on Atahualpa, but captured him only after killing all those carrying him and turning over his litter. Not a single Spanish soldier was killed.

On 17 November the Spaniards sacked the Inca army camp, in which they found great treasures of gold, silver, and emeralds. Noticing their lust for precious metals, Atahualpa offered to fill a large room about 22 feet (6.7 m) long and 17 feet (5.2 m) wide up to a height of 8 feet (2.4 m) once with gold and twice with silver within two months. It is commonly believed that Atahualpa offered this ransom to regain his freedom, but he may have made the offer thinking it would save his life. None of the early chroniclers mentions any commitment by the Spaniards to free Atahualpa once the valuables were delivered.

After several months in fear of an imminent attack from general Rumiñahui, the outnumbered Spanish considered Atahualpa to be too much of a liability and decided to execute him. Pizarro staged a mock trial and found Atahualpa guilty of revolting against the Spanish (which was a fake accusation in the absence of the requerimiento), practicing idolatry, and murdering Huáscar, his half-brother. Atahualpa was sentenced to execution by burning. He was horrified, since the Inca believed that the soul would not be able to go on to the afterlife if the body were burned. Friar Vincente de Valverde, who had earlier offered his breviary to Atahualpa, intervened, telling Atahualpa that, if he agreed to convert to Catholicism, the friar could convince Pizarro to commute the sentence. Atahualpa agreed to be baptized into the Catholic faith. He was given the name Francisco Atahualpa in honor of Francisco Pizarro. In accordance with his request, he was executed by strangling with a garrote on 26 July 1533.

At 1:30 a.m. on 26 July 1533, Atahualpa was interrogated before his death by his Spanish captors about his birthplace. Atahualpa verbally declared that his birthplace is in what the Incas called the Kingdom of Quito, in a place called Caranqui (today located 2 km southeast of Ibarra, Ecuador). Most chroniclers suggest that Atahualpa was born in what the Incas used to call the Kingdom of Quito, though other stories suggest various other birthplaces. When questioned about his age Atahualpa answered, “We do not use this western way of calculating time; but I can tell you that my life has seen 31 harvests since I was born, thanks to my mother’s help in telling me of my beginnings.” Following his execution, his clothes and some of his skin were burned, and his remains were given a Christian burial. Atahualpa was succeeded by his brother, Túpac Huallpa, and later by another brother Manco Inca. The independence of the Inca was, however, for all intents and purposes over although there were still many battles in the future.

Pachamanca is an Inca dish with a long history that predates the Spanish conquest, but a version of it is made to this day with updated ingredients.  I’ll give you a video on how it’s made traditionally, followed by a recipe using a home kitchen.  The traditional recipe requires baking the meat and vegetables in a pit in the ground using heated rocks. This method yields incomparable results, but isn’t practical for the average household. Still if you want to give it a shot here’s the method. The commentary is in Spanish, but it’s not necessary to understand it. The recipe that follows fills in the details.

The word “pachamanca” comes from Quechua pacha “earth” and manka “pot” (that is, the ground is your cooking pot), which pretty much sums up the method. The earthen oven is known as a huatia, and these days the main ingredient is often pork, lamb, mutton, or chicken, but traditionally it would be guinea pig or perhaps llama. The meat is always marinated in spices, and this may present a problem outside the Andes. They give the meat a unique flavor that cannot be replicated. So, when I give you a home recipe it comes with a warning: this is nothing like traditional pachamanca. Other Andean produce, such as potato, green lima beans, sweet potato, cassava or yuca, and humitas, as well as ears of corn, tamale and chile can all be included in the baking at cook’s choice. You can cook this on the stove top or in the oven. Cooking times will vary according to your choice of meat. Chicken can cook in about an hour, pork in a bit longer, and lamb longer still.

Pachamanca

Ingredients

2 kg meat of your choice (pork, lamb, chicken, guinea pig), cut into meal-sized portions
3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
3 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
3 sweetcorn kernels
450 ml water
30 gm huacatay leaves (or cilantro), chopped
corn husks (optional)

Marinade

200 gm ají panca paste (recipe below)
3 tbsp onion and garlic paste (recipe below)
15 gm cilantro leaves
2 tbsp dried oregano
40 ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl.

Marinate the meat and vegetables for 2 hours or longer in the refrigerator. (See my HINT tab). Marinating in a bowl will work will enough, but you have to keep turning the ingredients periodically.

Layer the ingredients in a large flameproof casserole dish as follows: the 450 ml of water, meat, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and corn kernels. Top with the chopped huacatay (or cilantro), and add the marinade.

Cover with the corn husks or a circle of baking paper, and cover tightly with a lid.

Cook over low heat on the stove top or in a 300˚F oven. Cooking time will be determined by the choice of meat (2 hours will work for most meats). Make sure the casserole is tightly sealed throughout.

Ají Panca Paste

Ingredients

250 gm dried ají panca chiles
60 ml white wine vinegar
375 gm caster sugar

Instructions

Cut the chiles in half lengthways and remove the veins and seeds. Wash the chiles in water with a tablespoon of vinegar added. Repeat the washing several times, with fresh vinegar each time.

Leave the chiles to soak in cold water for 5 hours.

Drain the chiles and place in a saucepan, cover with water and add all the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes.

Drain and then repeat the simmering process 5 times (but without sugar), changing the water each time.

Drain the chiles, place in a blender and blend to a smooth paste.

The paste can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

 

Onion and Garlic Paste

Ingredients

90 ml sunflower oil
250 gm whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 kg onions, peeled and diced

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over a medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and sauté until very lightly browned. Set the garlic aside.

Turn the heat under the skillet to low, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until they are light brown.

Transfer the onions, garlic, and oil to a blender and blend to a purée. Leave to cool, then cover tightly and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Nov 142017
 

Manet

Today is coincidence day – again. My title is deliberately misleading because I am not going to deal with Édouard Manet nor Felix Mendelssohn. Today is the birthday of Julie Manet (1878-1966), Édouard’s niece, and of Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847), Felix’s sister. Both worked in areas similar to their more well-known kin, but tended to be pushed aside in their lifetimes in favor of the men in their lives. I am not in a position to do much to redress the balance, but I can set you on the right path.

Julie Manet was a painter, but is better known as a model for the likes of Manet, Berthe Morisot (her mother), and Renoir. She also kept a detailed diary documenting the life and times of a variety of Impressionist artists, and held an extensive collection of late 19th and early 20th century art, in large part because of her association with active artists in Paris.

Julie Manet was born in Paris, the daughter and only child of artist Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet, younger brother of Édouard Manet. Both of her parents by the time she was 16, and so she came under the guardianship of the poet/critic Stéphane Mallarmé and went to live with her cousins. She also received support from the family’s artist friends, Renoir in particular.

Throughout her life Julie posed frequently for her mother and other Impressionist artists, including Renoir and her uncle Édouard. Here’s a small gallery:

Morisot

 

Manet

 

Renoir

Manet began a diary as a teenager; not the usual diary of a well-off girl bound in leather, but a series of memories jotted down in notebooks and on scraps of paper, published in English in 1987 as Growing up with the Impressionists. Of particular importance are her reminiscences of the effect that the Dreyfus Affair of the late 19th/early 20th century had on the art community. The Affair began in December 1894 with the treason conviction of captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent, sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. Dreyfus was later proven innocent, and a combination of military corruption and anti-Semitism were shown to be to blame for convicting him in the first place. But between 1894 and 1906 public opinion in Paris was deeply divided between those for and those against Dreyfus. Many Parisians simply could not believe that the military would fake evidence and falsely accuse an innocent man (which is exactly what they did), and anti-Semitism was rife. Dinner parties were notorious for descending into near brawls if the Dreyfus Affair were brought up.

The art community was as deeply divided and as passionate about their opinions as any other, stating them quite openly. But Renoir insisted on being neutral in public.  He claimed that he was neither pro- or anti-Dreyfus, but was, first and foremost, a Frenchman. Julie Manet’s diary tells a different story. According to her written accounts, Renoir was quite obviously anti-Semitic and argued vehemently in private that Dreyfus was guilty, even though the evidence suggested otherwise.

In May 1900 Julie Manet married Ernest Rouart, artist and nephew of the painter Henri Rouart. The wedding, which took place in Passy, was a double ceremony in which Julie’s cousin Jeannie Gobillard married Paul Valéry.

Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn, later Fanny [Cäcilie] Mendelssohn Bartholdy and, after her marriage, Fanny Hensel, was a pianist and composer, rivaling her brother Felix in both respects. She composed over 460 pieces of music in her short lifetime. Her compositions include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her compositions were originally published under her brother’s name in his opus 8 and 9 collections, because it was not considered appropriate at the time for a woman to be a composer (including by Felix himself). Many of Fanny’s works were not disentangled from Felix’s oeuvre for decades, and, some are still under debate.  Her Easter sonata, for example, was not shown to be hers, and not Felix’s until 2010, after years of painstaking research by a a doctoral candidate at Duke University, and performed for the first time with Fanny listed as composer in 2012.

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, the oldest of four children. She was descended on both sides from distinguished Jewish families. Her parents were Abraham Mendelssohn (who was the son of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and later changed the family surname to Mendelssohn Bartholdy), and Lea, née Salomon, a granddaughter of the entrepreneur Daniel Itzig. She was not however brought up as Jewish, and never practiced Judaism.

Mendelssohn received her first piano instruction from her mother, who had been trained in the Berliner-Bach tradition by Johann Kirnberger, who was himself a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. Thus, as a 13 year old, she could already play all 24 Preludes from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier by heart, and she did so in honor of her father’s birthday in 1818. She studied briefly with the pianist Marie Bigot in Paris, and finally with Ludwig Berger. In 1820 Fanny, along with her brother Felix, joined the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin which was led by Carl Friedrich Zelter. Zelter at one point favored Fanny over Felix. He wrote to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1816, introducing Abraham Mendelssohn to the poet: “He has adorable children and his oldest daughter could give you something of Sebastian Bach. This child is really something special.” Much later, in an 1831 letter to Goethe, Zelter described Fanny’s skill as a pianist with what he considered the highest praise for a woman at the time: “She plays like a man.” Both Fanny and Felix received instruction in composition with Zelter starting in 1819.

Fanny showed prodigious musical ability as a child and began to write music. Visitors to the Mendelssohn household in the early 1820s, including Ignaz Moscheles and Sir George Smart, were equally impressed by both siblings. However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Her father wrote to her in 1820 “Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.” Although Felix was privately broadly supportive of her as a composer and a performer, he was cautious (professedly for family reasons) of her publishing her works under her own name. He wrote:

From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it.

Felix did arrange with Fanny for some of her songs to be published under his name, which resulted in an embarrassing moment when Queen Victoria, receiving Felix at Buckingham Palace, expressed her intention of singing the composer her favorite of his songs, “Italien” (words by Franz Grillparzer), which Felix had to admit was by Fanny.

In 1829, after a courtship of several years, Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel and the following year she had her only child, Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel. Her husband was supportive of her composing. Subsequently, her works were often played alongside her brother’s at the family home in Berlin in a Sunday concert series (Sonntagskonzerte), which was originally organized by Fanny’s father, and after 1831 carried on by Fanny herself. Her public debut at the piano (and only known public performance) came in 1838, when she played her brother’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In 1846, she decided, without consulting Felix, to publish a collection of her songs (as her Op. 1).

Fanny died in Berlin in 1847 of complications from a stroke suffered while rehearsing one of her brother’s oratorios, The First Walpurgis Night. Felix himself died less than six months later from the same cause (which was also responsible for the deaths of both of their parents and of their grandfather Moses), but not before completing his String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, written in memory of his sister.

In recent years, Fanny Mendelssohn’s music has become better known thanks to concert performances and a number of CDs being released.  A sample:

Finding a recipe that celebrates the lives of two very different women who lived at different periods in the 19th century and were born into very different cultures is a real challenge. I figured that a recipe from Auguste Escoffier might be able to bridge the gap if I searched diligently enough. Early in his career Escoffier served in Metz as chef de cuisine of the Rhine Army after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War being one of the factors leading up to the Dreyfus Affair. Although Escoffier is indubitably the founder of classic French cuisine of the 19th and 20th centuries, he took ideas from a variety of cultures, including German, and wove them into his culinary world. So, here’s his recipe (modified) for côtes de porc à la flamande (Escoffier 2921), which would be equally at home in Hamburg as in Paris.

Côtes de Porc à la Flamande

Ingredients

4 pork chops
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
juice of ½ lemon
35g unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Place the apple slices in a bowl, squeeze lemon juice over them and toss them in the juice.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a pan over high heat, and quickly brown the pork chops on both sides. Remove them to an earthenware or ceramic baking pan in a single layer. Cover the chops with apple slices and drizzle them with the butter and pan juices from the searing.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Remove the dish from the oven, let the pork chops rest for a few minutes, then serve them with mashed or boiled new potatoes.

Nov 132017
 

On this date in 1841 Scottish surgeon James Braid first saw a demonstration of “animal magnetism,” which led him to study the subject and came up with his own, rather different version which he eventually called hypnotism. The concept of “animal magnetism” had been developed by Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) who believed that there is a magnetic force or “fluid” within the universe that influences the health of the human body. In consequence he experimented with magnets in order to promote healing. By around 1774, he had concluded that the same effect could be created by passing the hands in front of the subject’s body, later referring to this action as making “Mesmeric passes.” He used the word “mesmerize,” formed from his last name, to distinguish practitioners of mesmerism from the various “fluid” and “magnetic” theories included within the label “magnetism” at the time.

In 1784, at the request of Louis XVI of France, a Board of Inquiry started to investigate whether animal magnetism existed. Among the board members were Antoine Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who, despite giving his name to a method of execution that he did not invent, was an expert on the management of pain. They investigated the practices of a disaffected student of Mesmer, Charles d’Eslon (1750–1786), and though they concluded that Mesmer’s results were valid, their placebo-controlled experiments using d’Eslon’s methods convinced them that the positive effects of mesmerism were most likely due to belief and imagination rather than to an invisible energy (“animal magnetism”) transmitted from the body of the mesmerist. In writing the majority opinion, Franklin said: “This fellow Mesmer is not flowing anything from his hands that I can see. Therefore, this mesmerism must be a fraud.” Mesmer left Paris and went back to Vienna to practice mesmerism there.

Mesmer

Following the French committee’s findings, Dugald Stewart, an influential academic philosopher of the Scottish School of Common Sense, encouraged physicians in his Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1818) to salvage elements of Mesmerism by replacing the supernatural theory of “animal magnetism” with a new interpretation based upon “common sense” laws of physiology and psychology. Braid quotes the following passage from Stewart:

It appears to me, that the general conclusions established by Mesmer’s practice, with respect to the physical effects of the principle of imagination (more particularly in cases where they co-operated together), are incomparably more curious than if he had actually demonstrated the existence of his boasted science [“animal magnetism”]: nor can I see any good reason why a physician, who admits the efficacy of the moral [i.e., psychological] agents employed by Mesmer, should, in the exercise of his profession, scruple to copy whatever processes are necessary for subjecting them to his command, any more than that he should hesitate about employing a new physical agent, such as electricity or galvanism.

In Braid’s day, the Scottish School of Common Sense provided the dominant theories of academic psychology, and Braid refers to other philosophers within this tradition throughout his writings. Braid therefore revised the theory and practice of Mesmerism and developed his own method of hypnotism as a more rational and common sense alternative.

It may here be requisite for me to explain, that by the term Hypnotism, or Nervous Sleep, which frequently occurs in the following pages, I mean a peculiar condition of the nervous system, into which it may be thrown by artificial contrivance, and which differs, in several respects, from common sleep or the waking condition. I do not allege that this condition is induced through the transmission of a magnetic or occult influence from my body into that of my patients; nor do I profess, by my processes, to produce the higher [i.e., supernatural] phenomena of the Mesmerists. My pretensions are of a much more humble character, and are all consistent with generally admitted principles in physiological and psychological science. Hypnotism might therefore not inaptly be designated, Rational Mesmerism, in contra-distinction to the Transcendental Mesmerism of the Mesmerists.

Despite briefly toying with the name “rational Mesmerism”, Braid ultimately chose to emphasize the unique aspects of his approach, carrying out informal experiments throughout his career in order to refute practices that invoked supernatural forces and demonstrating instead the role of ordinary physiological and psychological processes, such as suggestion, and focused attention on producing the observed effects.

Braid worked very closely with his friend and ally the eminent physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter, an early neuro-psychologist who introduced the “ideo-motor reflex” theory of suggestion. Carpenter had observed instances of expectation and imagination apparently influencing involuntary muscle movement. A classic example of the ideo-motor principle in action is the so-called “Chevreul pendulum” (named after Michel Eugène Chevreul). Chevreul claimed that divinatory pendulae (or divining rods and the like) were made to swing by unconscious muscle movements brought about by focused concentration alone.

Carpenter

Braid soon assimilated Carpenter’s observations into his own theory, realizing that the effect of focusing attention was to enhance the ideo-motor reflex response. Braid extended Carpenter’s theory to encompass the influence of the mind upon the body more generally, beyond the muscular system, and therefore referred to the “ideo-dynamic” response and coined the term “psycho-physiology” to refer to the study of general mind/body interaction.

In his later works, Braid reserved the term “hypnotism” for cases in which subjects entered a state of altered consciousness resembling sleep. For other cases, he spoke of a “mono-ideodynamic” principle to emphasize that the eye-fixation induction technique worked by narrowing the subject’s attention to a single idea or train of thought (“monoideism”), which amplified the effect of the consequent “dominant idea” upon the subject’s body by means of the ideo-dynamic principle.

For several decades Braid’s work became more influential abroad than in his own country, except for a handful of followers, most notably Dr. John Milne Bramwell. The eminent neurologist Dr. George Miller Beard took Braid’s theories to the United States. Meanwhile, his works were translated into German by William Thierry Preyer, professor of physiology at Jena University. The psychiatrist Albert Moll subsequently continued German research, publishing Hypnotism in 1889. France became the focal point for the study of Braid’s ideas after the eminent neurologist Dr. Étienne Eugène Azam translated Braid’s last manuscript (On Hypnotism, 1860) into French and presented Braid’s research to the French Academy of Sciences. At the request of Azam, Paul Broca, and others at the French Academy of Science, which had investigated Mesmerism in 1784, examined Braid’s writings shortly after his death in 1860.

Azam’s enthusiasm for hypnotism influenced Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, a country doctor. Hippolyte Bernheim discovered Liébeault’s enormously popular group hypnotherapy clinic and subsequently became an influential hypnotist. The study of hypnotism subsequently revolved around the fierce debate between Bernheim and Jean-Martin Charcot, the two most influential figures in late 19th-century hypnotism. Charcot operated a clinic at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, while Bernheim had a clinic in Nancy (known as the “Nancy School”). Charcot, who was influenced more by the Mesmerists, argued that hypnotism was an abnormal state of nervous functioning found only in certain hysterical women. He claimed that it manifested in a series of physical reactions that could be divided into distinct stages. Bernheim argued that anyone could be hypnotized, that it was an extension of normal psychological functioning, and that its effects were due to suggestion. After decades of debate, Bernheim’s view dominated. Charcot’s theory is now just a historical curiosity.

Pierre Janet (1859–1947) reported studies on a hypnotic subject in 1882. Charcot subsequently appointed him director of the psychological laboratory at the Salpêtrière in 1889, after Janet had completed his Ph.D., which dealt with psychological automatism. In 1898, Janet was appointed psychology lecturer at the Sorbonne, and in 1902 he became chair of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France. Janet reconciled elements of his views with those of Bernheim and his followers, developing his own sophisticated hypnotic psychotherapy based upon the concept of psychological dissociation, which, at the turn of the century, rivaled Freud’s attempt to provide a more comprehensive theory of psychotherapy.

Charcot

Freud studied hypnotism at the Paris School under Charcot and briefly visited the Nancy School. At first, Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy. At first he hypnotized patients and used various techniques to help them concentrate while attempting to recover (supposedly) repressed memories. Subsequently he began to emphasize both hypnotic regression and ab reaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. He wrote a favorable encyclopedia article on hypnotism, translated one of Bernheim’s works into German, and published an influential series of case studies with his colleague Joseph Breuer entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). This became the founding text of the subsequent tradition known as “hypno-analysis” or “regression hypnotherapy”.

However, Freud gradually abandoned hypnotism in favor of psychoanalysis, emphasizing free association and interpretation of the unconscious. Struggling with the great expense of time that psychoanalysis required, Freud later suggested that it might be combined with hypnotic suggestion to hasten the outcome of treatment, but that this would probably weaken the outcome. He wrote, “It is very probable, too, that the application of our therapy to numbers will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis plentifully with the copper of direct [hypnotic] suggestion.” Only a handful of Freud’s followers were sufficiently qualified in hypnosis to attempt the synthesis of conventional psychoanalysis with hypnosis. Their work had a limited influence on the hypno-therapeutic approaches now known variously as “hypnotic regression,” “hypnotic progression,” and “hypnoanalysis.”

There is a strange relationship between hypnosis, primarily self-hypnosis, and cooking that I am dimly aware of from the internet.

Knowing what and how to cook your nutritious foods is just as important as the foods themselves. This site, for example, offers help in all manner of mental health issues from phobias to addictions as well as a variety of lifestyle disorders. http://www.actnowcenter.com/Services/faq.asp?id=122   Apparently hypnosis can also help if you struggle with cooking for the following reasons:

There are tons of ways to cook and some ways are healthier than others. We will go over barbecue, sauté, grilling, steaming, baking, and everything in between. We have recommendations that are simple and delicious. Ditch that micro-wave, we can show you how to cook meals with limited time. Even though we won’t be in your kitchen we will have support material to guide you through.

Many individuals get off work late and don’t feel like they have enough energy to cook a meal. Some people just don’t have enough time and others, plain and simple, can’t cook. To that first group, energy perpetuates. Try it my way for a week and see if you are still too tired to make a meal. All of that fast food and those frozen processed microwavable dinners are not giving you the nutrients you need and by replacing them with a healthier choice you will see a change. To that second group, I am a time bandit! If you can’t find it I will steal it for you. I used to get home at 11:00 at night and still cook my meals, if there’s a will there’s a way. To that last group, I was once in your shoes and I learned just like anything else this takes effort. I will have some step by step information to assist your new endeavors, never give up.

I am neither a clinical psychologist nor a professional hypnotist, so I cannot speak to the effectiveness of this treatment for the “maladies” described. Lack of energy, time, or knowledge are not problems I have when it comes to cooking, and my amateur opinion is that hypnosis is not going to be much help in this regard – but what do I know? Hypnosis versus a good cooking class as effective ways to learn how to cook? Not a tough choice in my opinion, although I do understand that some people think cooking is more complex than it is. To be fair, some things that seem pretty simple, such as French-fried potatoes or omelets, are not as easy as they seem. If you are a novice, leave them to experienced cooks. But there’s a mountain of great dishes that are very simple and are not just a few boiled things on a plate. Here’s a decent video on a good dish – 5 ingredient lemon chicken with asparagus. A little commentary is in order, though. First, a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, is the best cooking utensil; otherwise non-stick, using a little butter in the pan, more for flavor and color than to avoid sticking. Second, use medium-high heat throughout. Third, make sure the chicken is thoroughly browned on both sides, and let it rest after cooking. It’s important that it’s not raw in the middle, but also that it’s not overcooked and dry. If it’s brown on both sides and has had a chance to rest it should be cooked through. You can check by cutting into one of the breasts.

Nov 112017
 

Today is the birthday of Frans Snyders or Snijders (1579-1657), a Flemish painter noted for his paintings of animals, hunting scenes, market scenes and still lifes. He was one of the earliest specialists in specifically animal paintings without humans in them, and he is credited with initiating a wide variety of new still-life and animal subjects in Antwerp. He was a regular collaborator with leading Antwerp painters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. I have always been a fan of Flemish and Dutch still lifes and, in fact, often recreated them with real fruit and vegetables as centerpieces at dinner parties.

Snyders was born in Antwerp, son of Jan Snijders, the keeper of a wine inn frequented by artists. Snyders had five siblings. His brother Michiel also became a painter but no works by him are known to have survived. Snyders was recorded as a student of Pieter Brueghel the Younger in 1593, and subsequently trained with Hendrick van Balen, who was the first master of Anthony van Dyck. Snyders became a master of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1602. He travelled to Italy in 1608-9 where he first lived in Rome. He subsequently traveled from Rome to Milan. Jan Brueghel the Elder had introduced him there by letter to the famous art collector Cardinal Borromeo. Brueghel asked Snyders to paint a copy after a portrait by Titian in the Borromeo collection. This act is regarded as evidence that Snyders was a skilled figure painter before he turned his attention to still life painting, although his collaborations with other artists involved him painting animals and backgrounds and the other artists painting the human figures. is collaboration with Rubens started in the 1610s.

Snyders had many patrons including the Ghent Bishop Antonius Triest who commissioned four paintings of market scenes around 1615 (Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg). He was a friend of van Dyck who painted Snyders and his wife more than once (leading image). Snyders was commercially successful and was able to purchase a house on the high-end Keizerstraat in Antwerp. In 1628 he became the dean of the Guild of Saint Luke.

In the period 1636-1638 he was one of the Antwerp artists who assisted Rubens in a large commission for decorations for the hunting pavilion Torre de la Parada of Philip IV of Spain. The two artists also worked together on decorations for the Royal Alcazar of Madrid and the royal Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid. Snyders painted about 60 hunting paintings and animal pieces after designs by Rubens. In 1639 Rubens and Snyders received a follow-up commission for an additional 18 paintings for the hunting pavilion.

In the years 1641 and 1642 Snyders traveled with other artists to the Dutch Republic. In 1646 Snyders was probably in Breda working on a commission. Snyders became a widower in 1647. He died  on 19 August 1657 in Antwerp. He died childless and bequeathed his fortune to his sister, a beguine (a lay sister in a religious community).

Snyders initially devoted himself to painting flowers, fruit and still lifes. Later he turned to painting animals. He was particularly interested in depicting wild animals, which he showed engaged in lively hunts and fierce combats. He was one of the earliest specialist animaliers. His work as an animal painter was very influential on his contemporaries as well as on 18th-century French animal painters.

His stay in Italy is believed to have had an important influence on his style of fruit painting. He is likely to have seen Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit in Cardinal Borremeo’s collection in Milan.

He painted many market scenes and his earliest work in this area was inspired by the work of Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer who had pioneered and developed the genre in 16th century Antwerp. Whereas Aertsen and Beuckelaer often included a religious scene in the background of their market pieces, Snyders dispensed with this. Initially he worked in a Mannerist idiom. His style gradually matured as a result of his exposure to Italian art during his trip to Italy and the work of Rubens after his return to Antwerp. As a result the dark surroundings of his early still lifes disappeared after 1614 and he became a fine colorist with strong compositional skills allowing him to structure a profusion of disparate objects.

He not only created many large market and pantry scenes and game still lifes, usually including dead deer. He also painted smaller works which were reminiscent of the breakfast pieces and still lifes that originated in northern art around 1600. Rather than continue the descriptive manner of the Antwerp painter Osias Beert, Snyders’ innovative still lifes combined objects in groups to form a geometrically structured composition. Recurring motifs were dead hares and birds, tazze (shallow dishes on a tall foot), baskets with grapes and other fruit, enameled pitchers and Chinese Kraak porcelain.

Snyders typically depicted game in the stage before it is prepared as food. These dead animals therefore resemble hunting trophies, which were often not even intended as food but rather for stuffing. Snyders often included live animals such as cats to create a contrast between the animate and inanimate elements. Snyders’ large game pieces were very influential and the Dutch painter Jan Davidsz. de Heem, who worked in Antwerp for a significant period of time took inspiration from Snyders’ work to develop his own large-scale game pieces.

Snyders is believed to have been a skilled figure painter in his own right as is evidenced by Jan Breughel the Elder’s request that he make a copy after a Titian portrait in the Borromeo collection during his stay in Milan. Even so he still often collaborated with figure artists such as Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, his brother-in-law Cornelis de Vos, Theodoor van Thulden and Jan Boeckhorst, who painted the figures in compositions to which he added the still life elements. He also collaborated with landscape specialists such as Jan Wildens, who provided the landscape setting for his hunting scenes.

Collaborations with Rubens were particularly frequent. Snyders’ expressiveness and ability to render different textures of furs and skins excited the admiration of Rubens. Rubens frequently employed him to paint animals, fruit and still life in his own pictures. Snyders developed a particularly close collaborative relationship with Rubens between 1610 and 1640. Their collaborative efforts are well documented. In the early period of their collaboration, Rubens would paint an oil sketch of the complete composition and mark out clearly where Snyders would have to put his contribution. This has been documented for the painting The recognition of Philopoemen. It is possible that in this early period Rubens was not sure about Snyders’ compositional skills and wanted to show him the way. In the later Prometheus bound the process was reversed and Snyders made a sketch leaving the space for the figure by Rubens. The recognition of Philopoemen is reckoned to be the first Baroque still life with figures.

A famous collaboration between Rubens and Snyders is the Medusa (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Painted around 1613-1617/1618, this small-scale work showed that Snyders’ manner was not only well suited to Rubens’ large pieces, but also adaptable to his smaller-scale works. Rubens relied on Snyders to create the visual richness that went hand in hand with his Baroque style, which stressed abundance and bounteousness. The two artists’ brushwork was so close that contemporaries had difficulty distinguishing their contributions in collaborative works.

Snyders also painted the still life elements for other Antwerp painters such as Jacob Jordaens, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, Jan Janssens and other artists. Frans Snyders collaborated with his second brother-in-law Cornelis de Vos. An example is the Still life with fruit and vegetables, which likely represents a larder of a fine house. The impression given by this composition is one of abundance as well as chaos. Closer inspection shows that the produce is arranged in a hierarchy reflecting their value and rarity. Cheaper root vegetables are on the ground while highly prized peas and asparagus are placed in the basket on the right.

One of the symbolic representations that Snyders created and to which he returned regularly is the concert of birds. Compositions on this theme represent different species of birds perched on tree trunks in the form of a concert of birds, sometimes with a musical score. The theme of the concert of birds predates the courtly fashion of the Baroque period of maintaining aviaries.

His compositions with monkeys wreaking havock in a pantry became very popular. The Louvre collection holds two monkey-themed paintings. They show two capuchin monkeys in a pantry pillaging a basket of fruit and toppling dishes. While the monkey had since the Middle Ages symbolized the sinner – a greedy, lecherous creature, driven by its senses only – during the 16th and 17th centuries it became the prime symbol of stupidity.

Here’s a 17th century Flemish/Dutch recipe for the day. It comes from an anonymous text of 1667: De verstandige kock, of sorghvuldige huys houdster (the wise cook, or caring householder). I am a little uncertain of my translation in places, given that I speak no Dutch. It says to spice the meat with “Noten” for example, which usually means “nuts” but is translated as “nutmeg” in some versions online of this recipe. I have not tried this recipe yet, but on first glance I can see problems with placing egg yolks raw inside a ground veal wrapping. It seems like a pretty idea but rather difficult to manage. I’d be inclined to boil some eggs first, take out the yolks whole, then pack the ground veal mix around them and wrap them in lettuce leaves. It’s also possible that this whole idea is a misreading of the recipe, but it is specific about one yolk per meatball.

Om Frickedillen in Krop-Salaet te maken.

Neemt gehakt kalfs-vlees, met kalfsvet wat vetter als ordinaris,  en dat wel gekruydt met Noten en een weynich Foelie, Peper en Sout na behooren, kneet wel ondereen, neemt dan soo veel van de malste kroppen salaet als’t u belieft, en suyvert die van de buytenste bladeren, en dan schoon uytgewassen en de krop van binnen de bladers wat open ghedaen, neemt dan soo veel eyren als gy kroppen hebt, maeckt oock soo veel Frickedillekens, en doet in’t midden van yder den door van een ey, leght dan in de krop en bindt hem met een draedt toe, en als’t water koockt, doet in de pot als het gaer is, kont dan in’t sop een weynigh fijn gestooten beschuyt doen, en wat boter, wat Kruys-bessen of onrijpe Druyven, Verjuys, naer elck sijn believen.

To make meatballs in lettuce head.

Take chopped veal with veal-fat, a little fatter than usual, and spice it with nutmeg and a little mace, pepper and salt as appropriate. Knead everything together, then take as many tender lettuce heads as you please, and take off the outer leaves. Wash the heads and open up the inner leaves. Take as many eggs as you have heads and make as many little meatballs [from the ground veal mixture]. Place an egg yolk in the middle of each [meatball], and put it inside the head. Tie it up with string. Boil water in a pot and place them in the boiling water. When cooked you can add to the broth a little finely crushed rusk and some butter, some gooseberries or unripe grapes or verjuice, according to your tastes.

Nov 102017
 

On this date in 1871 Henry Morton Stanley found David Livingstone who had reportedly disappeared in Africa on his quest to discover the source of the Nile. Stanley reputedly greeted Livingstone with the now-famous phrase, “Dr Livingstone, I presume” but no one who has investigated the issue seriously believes the report. Nonetheless, it has gone down in history as a catch phrase for all manner of situations.

Henry Stanley was born in 1841 as John Rowlands in Denbigh in Wales. His mother Elizabeth Parry was 18 years old at the time of his birth. She abandoned him as a very young baby and cut off all communication. Stanley never knew his father, who died within a few weeks of his birth. As his parents were unmarried, his birth certificate describes him as a bastard, and the stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life.

The boy John was given his father’s surname of Rowlands and brought up by his maternal grandfather Moses Parry, a once-prosperous butcher who was living in reduced circumstances. He cared for the boy, but died when Rowlands was 5. Rowlands stayed with families of cousins and nieces for a short time, but he was eventually sent to the St. Asaph Union Workhouse for the Poor. The overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in his being frequently abused by older boys. When Rowlands was 10, his mother and two half-siblings stayed for a short while in this workhouse, but he did not recognize them until the headmaster told him who they were.

Rowlands emigrated to the United States in 1859 at age 18. He disembarked at New Orleans and, according to his autobiography, became friends by accident with Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy trader. He saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job openings. He claims he did so in the British style: “Do you need a boy, sir?” The childless man had, according to Stanley’s account, been wishing he had a son, and the inquiry led to a job and a close relationship between them. Out of admiration John took Stanley’s name. Later, he wrote that his adoptive father died two years after their meeting, but in fact the elder Stanley did not die until 1878. Discrepancies of this sort call into question much of what Stanley later wrote about his life. Tim Jeal in chapter 2 of his biography of Stanley subjects Stanley’s account in his posthumously published Autobiography to detailed analysis. Because Stanley got so many basic facts wrong about his reputedly adoptive father, Jeal concludes that it is very unlikely that he ever met rich Henry Hope Stanley, and that an ordinary grocer, James Speake, was Rowlands’ true benefactor until Speake’s sudden death in October 1859.

Stanley reluctantly joined in the American Civil War, first enrolling in the Confederate States Army’s 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and fighting in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. After being taken prisoner at Shiloh, he was recruited at Camp Douglas, Illinois, by its commander Colonel James A. Mulligan as a “Galvanized Yankee.” He joined the Union Army on 4 June 1862 but was discharged 18 days later because of severe illness. After recovering, he served on several merchant ships before joining the US Navy in July 1864. He became a record keeper on board the USS Minnesota, which led him into freelance journalism. Stanley and a junior colleague jumped ship on 10 February 1865 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Stanley was possibly the only man to serve in the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy.

Following the Civil War, Stanley became a journalist in the days of frontier expansion in the American West. He then organized an expedition to the Ottoman Empire that ended catastrophically when he was imprisoned. He eventually talked his way out of jail and received restitution for damaged expedition equipment. In 1867 Stanley offered his services to James Gordon Bennett Jr. of the New York Herald as a special correspondent with the British expeditionary force sent against Tewodros II of Ethiopia, and Stanley was the first to report the fall of Magdala in 1868. An assignment to report on the Spanish Civil War followed.

In 1869 Stanley received instructions to undertake a roving commission in the Middle East, which was to include the relief of Dr. David Livingstone, of whom little had been heard since his departure for Africa in 1866 to search for the source of the Nile. Stanley travelled to Zanzibar in March 1871, later claiming that he outfitted an expedition with 192 porters. In his first dispatch to the New York Herald, however, he stated that his expedition numbered only 111. This was in line with figures in his diaries. Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald and source of funds for the expedition, had delayed sending to Stanley the money he had promised, so Stanley borrowed money from the United States Consul.

During the 700-mile (1,100 km) expedition through the tropical forest, his thoroughbred stallion died within a few days after a bite from a tsetse fly, many of his porters deserted, and the rest were decimated by tropical diseases. Stanley found Livingstone on 10 November 1871 in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania. He later reported that he greeted him with the line, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” but this may be one of his many fabrications and cannot be confirmed given that he tore out the pages relating to the encounter from his journal. Neither man mentioned the phrase in any of the letters they wrote at this time and Livingstone’s account of the encounter does not mention these words. The phrase is first quoted in a summary of Stanley’s letters published by The New York Times on 2 July 1872. Stanley biographer Tim Jeal argued that the explorer invented it afterwards to help raise his standing because of “insecurity about his background.”

The Herald‘s own first account of the meeting, published 1 July 1872, reports:

Preserving a calmness of exterior before the Arabs which was hard to simulate as he reached the group, Mr. Stanley said: – “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” A smile lit up the features of the pale white man as he answered: “Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.”

Stanley joined Livingstone in exploring the region, finding that there was no connection between Lake Tanganyika and the Nile. On his return, he wrote a book about his experiences: How I Found Livingstone; travels, adventures, and discoveries in Central Africa.

Maybe I’ll post more about Stanley’s exploits in Africa at another time. My brief notes on Livingstone can be found here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/livingstone-and-burton/ 

I’ll give you a Zanzibar recipe today since this was Stanley’s stepping off point in his quest to find Livingstone, and may be more interesting to you than a classic Bantu dish which would have been common in the central African region at the time Stanley located Livingstone there. Zanzibar is now an autonomous coastal region of Tanzania which has for hundreds of years had an eclectic cuisine combining Bantu, Arab, Portuguese, Indian, and British cooking styles. Dishes of Indian origin are popular in Zanzibar nowadays, but Zanzibar mix, which is common street food, is both thoroughly local and also the blending of multiple influences. The dish starts with a soup called urojo to which you can add numerous ingredients such as bhajias, fried mashed potatoes, chutneys of different types and so forth. I’ll just give a recipe for the urojo soup and I have included a helpful video at the end for the full story. It’s narrated in Swahili but you should get the point. If you are familiar with Indian cooking you’ll know about atta flour and gram flour (besan). You won’t find them in the local supermarket or health food store, but if you live near a sizeable Indian population you’ll find them in one of their groceries. Or you can find them online.

Urojo Soup

Ingredients

3 tbsp gram flour
3 tbsp atta flour
½ cup coconut milk (optional)
salt
3 tbsp grated raw mango
juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp garlic paste
1 green or red chile
2 potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cubed
2 tsp turmeric powder

Instructions

Place 1 liter of water in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, lemon juice, chile powder, whole chile, garlic paste, turmeric powder, and coconut milk if you chose to use it, and mix well. Bring back to a simmer and add the mango. Some cooks dice rather than grate it.

Put the flour in a bowl, add some water and mix well to make a thick batter, until smooth. Add a ladle of the warm soup to the flour mix and whisk well. Then add the flour mix to the soup slowly while whisking well to avoid any lumps. Keep stirring and mixing for at least 25 minutes until the flour is thoroughly cooked.

Add in the diced potatoes and warm through.

Serve the soup in deep bowls with your choice of toppings.

Nov 092017
 

Today is the birthday (1801) of Gail Borden II, a native New Yorker who settled in Texas in 1829, where he worked as a land surveyor, newspaper publisher, and inventor. He is best known as the developer of a method for condensing milk which he patented in 1853. This gives me the opportunity to talk about both Borden and condensed milk. For starters, condensed milk is somewhat similar to, but not the same as, evaporated milk – as any cook knows. Go here for the history of evaporated milk: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/evaporated-milk/  Condensed milk was developed before evaporated milk because it was easier to manufacture. Its high sugar content is a natural antibacterial and preservative, but it changes the character of the milk.

Borden was born in Norwich, New York to Gail Borden Jr. (1777–1863), a pioneer and landowner, and his wife Philadelphia Wheeler (1780–1828), who died at age 48 from yellow fever in Nashville, Tennessee. The details of Borden’s childhood are unclear, but he moved twice with his family while growing up, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky (renamed as Covington in 1814), and in 1816 to New London, Indiana. Borden received his only formal schooling in Indiana, attending school during 1816 and 1817 to learn the art of surveying.

In 1822, Borden set out with his brother, Thomas. They intended to move to New Orleans, but settled in Amite County, Mississippi. Borden stayed in Liberty for seven years. He worked as the county surveyor and as a schoolteacher in Bates and Zion Hill. He was well known around town for running rather than walking to school every morning. While living in Mississippi, Borden met Penelope Mercer, whom he married in 1828. The couple had six children during their 16-year marriage. Borden and his family left Mississippi in 1829 and moved to Texas, following his brother John Borden. Thomas also settled in Texas. As a surveyor, Borden plotted the towns of Houston and Galveston. He collaborated on drawing the first topographical map of Texas in 1835.

In February 1835, Borden and his brother John entered into partnership with Joseph Baker to publish a newspaper. They based their newspaper in San Felipe de Austin, which was centrally located among the colonies in eastern Texas. The first issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register appeared on October 10, 1835, days after the Texas Revolution began. Soon after the newspaper began publishing, John Borden left to join the Texian Army, and his brother Thomas took his place as Borden’s partner. As the Mexican army moved east into the colonies, the Telegraph was soon the only newspaper in Texas still in operation. Their 21st issue was published on March 24. This contained the first list of names of Texans who died at the Battle of the Alamo. On March 27, the Texas Army reached San Felipe, carrying word that the Mexican advance guard was approaching. According to a later editorial in the Telegraph, the publishers were “the last to consent to move.” The Bordens dismantled the printing press and brought it with them as they evacuated with the rear guard on March 30. The Bordens retreated to Harrisburg. On April 14, as they were in the process of printing a new issue, Mexican soldiers arrived and seized the press. The soldiers threw the type and press into Buffalo Bayou and arrested the Bordens. The Texas Revolution ended days later.

Lacking funds to replace his equipment, Borden mortgaged his land to buy a new printing press in Cincinnati. The 23rd issue of the Telegraph was published in Columbia on August 2, 1836. Although many had expected Columbia to be the new capital, the First Texas Congress instead chose the new city of Houston. Borden relocated to Houston, and published the first Houston issue of his paper on May 2, 1837. The newspaper was in financial difficulty, as the Bordens rarely paid their bills. In March 1837, Thomas Borden sold his interest in the enterprise to Francis W. Moore Jr., who took over as chief editor. Three months later, Gail Borden transferred his shares to Jacob W. Cruger.

In Texas, Borden shifted into politics. He was a delegate at the Convention of 1833, where he assisted in writing early drafts of a Republic of Texas constitution. He also shared administrative duties with Samuel M. Williams during 1833 and 1834 when Stephen F. Austin was away in Mexico. President Sam Houston appointed Borden as the Republic of Texas Collector of Customs at Galveston in June 1837. Houston’s successor to the presidency, Mirabeau B. Lamar, removed Borden from office in December 1838, replacing him in the patronage position with a lifelong friend from Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Willis Roberts, newly arrived in Texas. Roberts’ son later was appointed Secretary of State of the Republic. However, Borden had been so well liked, the newcomer was resented. The Galveston News frequently criticized the new regime concerning malfeasance. When a shortfall in government funds came to light, Roberts offered to put up several personal houses and nine slaves as collateral until the matter could be settled. Two resentful desk clerks were later determined to have been embezzling funds, but this came too late for the doctor, who lasted in the job only until December 1839. Lamar appointed another man of his choice. After Houston was re-elected to the presidency, he reappointed Borden to the post, and he served from December 1841 to April 1843. He finally resigned after a dispute with Houston.

Borden then turned his attention to real estate matters. He found a position at the Galveston City Company, where he served for 12 years as a secretary and agent. During that period, he helped sell 2,500 lots of land, for a total of $1,500,000. During these years, he began to experiment with disease cures. His wife Penelope died of yellow fever on September 5, 1844. It caused frequent epidemics and had a high rate of fatalities during the 19th century. Borden began experimenting with finding a cure for the disease via refrigeration. He also developed an unsuccessful prototype for a terraqueous machine. This was a sail-powered wagon designed to travel over land and sea, which he completed in 1848.

By around 1849, Borden was experimenting with the creation of a dehydrated beef product known as the “meat biscuit”, which was loosely based upon the traditional Native American food, pemmican. Pioneers seeking gold in California needed a readily transportable food source that could endure harsh conditions and Borden marketed the meat biscuit as a suitable solution. Borden was operating a factory in Galveston to produce meat biscuits by 1851, and the product won him the Great Council Medal at the 1851 London World’s Fair. Notably, explorer Elisha Kane even carried a supply of meat biscuits on the Second Grinnell Expedition into the Arctic. However, Borden had been relying heavily upon the United States Army to issue him a lucrative contract to supply meat biscuits for use by American soldiers. When the military declined to buy into the product, Borden’s meat biscuit proved to be a failure.

During Borden’s return voyage from the Exhibition in London, a disease infected both cows aboard the ship. The cows eventually died, along with several children who drank the contaminated milk. Contamination threatened other supplies of milk across the country. In part, the event inspired Borden’s interest in preserving milk. In 1856, after three years of refining his model, Borden received the patent for his process of condensing milk by vacuum. At that time, he abandoned the meat biscuit, to focus on his new product. Having lost so much money in his beef biscuit endeavors, Borden was forced to recruit partners to begin production and marketing of this new product. He offered Thomas Green three-eighths of his patent rights and gave James Bridge a quarter interest on his investment; together, the three men built a condensery in Wolcottville, Connecticut (within modern-day Torrington), which opened in 1856. Green and Bridge were eager for profits, and when the factory was not immediately successful, they withdrew their support; it closed within a year.

Borden persuaded them and a third investor, Reuel Williams, to build a new factory, this time in Burrville, Connecticut (also within modern-day Torrington), which opened in 1857. This second factory was hurt by the Panic of 1857 and had trouble turning a profit. The following year, Borden’s fortunes began to change when he met Jeremiah Milbank, a financier from New York, on a train. Milbank was impressed by Borden’s enthusiasm for and confidence in condensed milk, and the two became equal partners. Together, they founded the New York Condensed Milk Company. As a railroad magnate and banker, Milbank understood large-scale finance, which was critical to development of the business and Borden’s success. Milbank invested around $100,000 into Borden’s business. When Milbank died in 1884, the market value of his holdings was estimated at around $8,000,000.

With the founding of the New York Condensed Milk Company, sales of Borden’s condensed milk began to improve. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 soon after created a large demand for condensed milk from the Union Army. In 1861, Borden closed the factory in Burrville, opening the first of what would be many condensed milk factories in upstate New York and Illinois.

As the Civil War continued, he expanded his New York Condensed Milk Company quickly to meet the growing demand. Many new factories were built and licenses were granted to individuals to begin producing condensed milk in their own factories using Borden’s patent. Despite the quick growth of the company, Borden put a high value on sanitation. He developed cleanliness practices that continue to be used in the production of condensed milk to this day. While all of this rapid growth was occurring, Borden continued to experiment with the condensing of meat, tea, coffee, and cocoa, and in 1862 while operating a factory in Amenia, New York, he patented the condensing of juice from fruits, such as apples and grapes.] Borden tried to incorporate these other products into the line of the New York Condensed Milk Company, but the greatest demand was always for milk. It continued as the company’s major product.

Condensed milk can be used in 100s of recipes. My mother, when she missed Argentina and wanted some dulce de leche used to place a can in simmering water and cook it for 3 hours or so.  Works perfectly. Nowadays in Britain the contents of a boiled can are used as the layer between biscuit base and the banana and cream level in banoffee. During the communist era in Poland, it was common to boil a can of condensed milk in water for about three hours also, making what they called kajmak (although the original kaymak is a product similar to clotted cream). Homemade kajmak is less common nowadays, but recently some manufacturers of condensed milk introduced canned, ready-made kajmak which now is widely commercially produced, and is a national favorite for dessert fillings. In Russia, the same product is called варёная сгущёнка (varionaya sguschyonka, “boiled condensed milk”). One of Russia’s most famous cakes, “bird’s milk cake”, is often made with condensed milk.

Condensed milk is used in recipes for the popular Brazilian sweet brigadeiro, key lime pie, caramel candies, and other desserts. Condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk is also sometimes used in combination with clotted cream to make fudge in the UK and the US.

In many parts of SE Asia (notably Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar) as well as Europe, sweetened condensed milk is the preferred milk to be used to make coffee or tea. In Malaysia, teh tarik is made from tea mixed with condensed milk, and condensed milk is an integral element in Hong Kong tea culture. In the Canary Islands, it is served as the bottom stripe in a glass of the local café con leche and in Valencia it is served as a café bombón.

A popular treat in Asia is to put condensed milk on toast and eat it in a similar way as jam and toast. In West Yorkshire, in the years after World War II, condensed milk was an alternative to jam. Nestlé has even produced a squeeze bottle for this very purpose. Condensed milk is a major ingredient in many Indian desserts and sweets. While most Indians start with normal whole milk and reduce it, condensed milk has also become popular because it saves time.

In New Orleans, sweetened condensed milk is commonly used as a topping on chocolate or similarly cream-flavored snowballs. In Scotland, it is mixed with sugar and butter then boiled to form a popular sweet candy called tablet or Swiss-milk-tablet, very similar to a version of Brazilian brigadeiro called branquinho. In some parts of the Southern United States, condensed milk is a key ingredient in lemon ice box pie, a sort of cream pie. In the Philippines, condensed milk is mixed with some evaporated milk and eggs, spooned into shallow metal containers over liquid caramelized sugar, and then steamed to make a stiffer and more filling version of crème caramel known as leche flan, also common in Brazil under the name pudim de leite.

In Mexico, sweetened condensed milk is one of the main ingredients of a cold cake dessert combined with evaporated milk, Marie biscuits, lemon juice, and tropical fruit. In Brazil, this recipe is also done exchanging pudding for the fruit, most commonly vanilla and chocolate, known as torta de bolacha.

In Jamaica, Guinness Punch is prepared using condensed milk mixed with bottled stout. This is often flavored with nutmeg and cocoa.

In Latin American countries as well as many parts of the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and some other parts of Europe condensed milk (along with evaporated milk and whole milk or canned cream) is used as a key ingredient in the popular tres leches cake dessert. It probably originates in Nicaragua but quickly spread. There are numerous variants depending on whether you make a sponge cake or a butter cake, and whether you add a whipped cream topping (possibly with fruit) or not.  Here’s one recipe:

Tres Leches

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
5 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
1 (14 fl oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fl oz) can evaporated milk
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Grease and flour a 9×13” baking pan.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture 2 tablespoons at a time mixing well until thoroughly blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, pierce the cake several times with a fork. Cool in the pan on a rack when it is cooked.

Combine the whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk together. Pour over the top of the cooled cake.

Whip the whipping cream, the remaining 1 cup of the sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla together until thick. Spread over the top of cake. Refrigerate.  Serve in squares.