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.

Nov 082017
 

On this date in 1901, the Gospel Riots, which had been taking place on the streets of Athens in November 1901, reached a climax when eight demonstrators were killed. The riots were primarily a protest against the publication in the newspaper Akropolis of a translation into modern spoken Greek, demotic Greek, of the gospel of St Matthew, although there were deeper issues at stake. The Riots marked a turning point in the history of the so-called “Greek language question”, and the beginning of a long period of bitter antagonism between the Orthodox Church and the demoticist movement over what form of Greek should be used both in the church and in official documents. In the aftermath of the violence the Greek Orthodox Church reacted by banning any translation of the Bible into any form of modern demotic Greek, and by forbidding the employment of demoticist teachers, not just in Greece but anywhere in the Ottoman Empire.

The issues involved are complex, but I’ll try to break them down succinctly for you. In the process I will continue my discourse on why people and their governments frequently spar over what should be the official language of a nation. Control of what counts as an official language is power. In Greece’s case you have numerous factors to consider because of the socio-political ramifications of the evolution of the language. Being simplistic, as always, you can break Greek into two significant language groups: classical Greek on the one hand, and modern Greek on the other. The two are mutually unintelligible, just as Latin and Italian or Anglo-Saxon and modern English are mutually unintelligible. The Greek situation is further complicated by the fact that classical Greek was used by schools, government, and the church well into the 20th century. Many people in positions of power felt that classical Greek was somehow “purer” than later dialects, free from the taint of “foreign” influences.

Defining classical Greek is not a simple matter either. There is the Greek of Plato and Homer, which was the standard for schools throughout Europe for hundreds of years. But then there is the Greek of the Bible, called koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine empires down to the early Middle Ages. Koine itself had numerous dialects, but at least classical Greek and koine Greek were mutually intelligible. The differences are mostly a matter of vocabulary, and koine Greek’s grammar is much simpler than classical Greek’s. Modern demotic Greek shares an alphabet with classical Greek and not much else.

By 1901 the long debate known as the “Greek language question” had been underway for 135 years. Initial hopes that classical Greek could be revived as the language of the newly liberated Greek nation had proven illusory. As a compromise, a grammatically simplified version of classical Greek known as katharevousa glossa (‘language tending towards purity’) had been adopted as the written language of the new Greek state in 1830, (declared after a prolonged war of independence from the Ottoman empire). This meant that the spoken and written languages were now different. This was quite intentional. It was hoped that written katharevousa would provide a model for imitation, and that spoken Greek would naturally ‘purify’ itself by becoming more like this written form, and therefore more like classical Greek, within a matter of decades. To provide additional motivation, the current spoken or demotic Greek was widely condemned as “base” and “vulgar”, the damaged product of centuries of linguistic corruption by subjection to Ottoman despotism.

The plan did not work. After 50 years, spoken demotic still showed no sign at all of becoming ‘purified’ into something more like classical Greek. On the other hand, katharevousa was proving unsatisfactory in use as a general-purpose written language. Scholars could not agree on its grammatical rules; and as a purely written language with no native speakers, it could not evolve a natural grammar of its own. Its classical Greek vocabulary could not be used to write about the objects and events of ordinary life without sounding ridiculously stilted and unnatural.

The problem was compounded by the educational system. Until 1881 only classical Greek — not even katharevousa — was taught in Greek primary schools, continuing the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church, which had exercised an effective monopoly over education for centuries. The Church had always taught the ancient koine Greek of the gospels and the Divine Liturgy. The children thus had to learn to read and write in a language they did not speak, or even hear outside church. This had been acceptable in previous centuries, when the schools had concentrated on training future priests; but it could not provide universal popular literacy.

By 1880 many Greeks were beginning to feel that katharevousa had outlived its usefulness, and that it might be distracting the nation from its real destiny. It was quite natural for the fragile young state of 1830 to have clung to the classical Greek written tradition as a symbol of its national identity, but 50 years on, many were looking for the true soul of Greece in the actual language spoken by the people, and in the oral traditions and folk-songs of the country, rather than in the ancient glories of the far distant past.

In the 1880s there was a burst of creative activity in this direction. Kostis Palamas led the New Athenian School in a renaissance of demotic poetry. The writer and journalist Emmanuel Roïdis pinpointed the deficiencies of katharevousa, and coined the word diglossia to describe the unhealthy split between the spoken and written languages; and finally, in 1888, Ioannis Psycharis published My Journey, which transformed the language debate. Psycharis proposed the immediate abandonment of katharevousa and the adoption of demotic for all written purposes. But he did not reject the relationship with classical Greek; on the contrary, as an evolutionary linguist, he argued that spoken demotic really was classical Greek, merely 2,000 years further along in its evolutionary history. As for written katharevousa, he regarded it as an artificial construct, scarcely a language at all. As a Neogrammarian, he believed that the essence of language was passed on by speech rather than writing.

Many agreed with him up to this point. But Psycharis went further. If demotic were to be used as the written language of a modern state, it would need a larger technical vocabulary. Educated everyday speech in the 1880s simply borrowed such terms from written katharevousa. For example, for “evolution” the word ἐξέλιξις was commonly used, altered to ἐξέλιξη to conform to the morphology of spoken demotic. Psycharis however regarded katharevousa as an artificial contamination of the naturally evolved Greek language, and rejected all such borrowings. Instead he coined the word ξετυλιξιά, which he claimed was the word spoken Greek would have evolved for the concept of evolution if it had been free of the corrupting influence of katharevousa. He created many such words on the same principle; his declared aim was to set up a revitalized, scientifically derived demotic as a new written standard based entirely on the spoken language, isolated from katharevousa and independent of it. This part of Psycharis’ doctrine split the Greek intellectual world. Some found the new coinages ugly and unnatural: Psycharis’ versions sounded like mispronunciations of learned words by uneducated people, who would be unlikely to be familiar with many of these words in the first place. Others were inspired by Psycharis’ vision and became enthusiastic supporters of his version of demotic. Psycharis is widely credited with turning demoticism from an idea into a movement, which steadily gained strength during the 1890s.

So, by 1896 classical Greek was established firmly in the Church, in secondary schools, and also in primary schools (with some katharevousa there since 1881). Katharevousa was still used for every kind of administration and for non-fiction literature, but in prose fiction it was just beginning to give way to demotic. In poetry, demotic had taken the lead. In 1897, however, politics became more important than linguistic theories.

Early in 1897 the Greek government embarked on military action against the Ottoman Empire, starting in Crete but developing into an attempt to conquer the strip of Ottoman territory to the North by force. The Greek armed forces (which had not seen action for 70 years) performed poorly against the Ottoman troops (who were more numerous, better armed, and advised by a German military mission). The short Greco-Turkish War (1897) ended in defeat and national humiliation. The episode became known as Black ’97, and all sides set about assigning the blame. The military defeat also raised fears that neighboring Bulgarians would seize the opportunity of Greece’s evident military weakness to invade. Participants in the language debate could not help being drawn into what quickly became a political snake-pit.

The Eastern Orthodox Church had never had theological objections, in principle, to translation of the Ancient koine Greek gospels into a more modern form of Greek closer to the spoken language. The first translation appeared in the 11th century and until the beginning of the 19th century as many as 25 had been published. Some of these translations were officially solicited by the Patriarchate at Constantinople, while others were the work of prominent theologians and monks. Solicited or not, these translations were done by members of the Orthodox church and so were not a direct threat to its authority. Starting in 1790, however, Protestant missionary societies opened missions all over Greece, the Levant and the Near East, bringing with them new translations of the Bible into the local vernacular languages.

The Eastern Orthodox Church regarded these Protestant-sponsored translations as attempts at proselytism, and therefore as a direct threat to its religious authority. Accordingly, in 1836 and 1839 two encyclicals were issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (and approved by the newly-independent Autocephalous Church of Greece) commanding that all translations undertaken by “enemies of our faith” should be confiscated and destroyed. At the same time all previous translations, even if undertaken by “our co-religionists”, were condemned.

Fast forward to 1901. Two translations of the gospels into modern Greek in that year. One was by the queen Olga Constantinovna who had served as queen consort of the Hellenes since her marriage in 1867 to King George I. She was only 16 when she first arrived in Greece after the wedding, and had won the respect of her adopted country by learning Greek within a year and engaging in a wide-ranging program of charitable and educational work, which did much to maintain the prestige and popularity of the Greek monarchy. However, as the decades passed and the ‘Bulgarian threat’ loomed larger in the North, her close family ties to the Romanov dynasty of Russia began to make her an object of suspicion to those who saw, or claimed to see, Pan-Slavic conspiracies behind every setback. After the trauma of Black ’97 these rumors of conspiracy became much more widespread, and therefore more useful to political opponents of the monarchy. Queen Olga undertook her translation of the Gospels from the best of motives. In the aftermath of Black ’97, she had spent much time in the military hospitals, at the bedsides of the wounded soldiers of the defeated army. However, when she tried to raise their spirits by reading the Gospels to them, she discovered that few could understand the classical Greek words; they called it “deep Greek for the learned”

The second translation was by Alexandros Pallis, a member of Psycharis’ inner circle, and an enthusiastic user and promoter of his new ‘scientifically derived demotic’. Pallis had also published his own work, starting in 1892 with the first part of his translation of the Iliad.  Pallis was making a particular linguistic point with his choice of material to translate. He wanted to show that demotic was capable of embodying the spirit of the founding texts of pagan and Christian Greek literature which included the Homeric epics and the four Gospels. As a devout Christian, he also felt a moral and religious imperative. Pallis spent most of his life working in the British Empire, becoming a British citizen in 1897, and came to share its general belief that all nations and peoples should have access to the Gospels in their own spoken languages.

On Sunday 9 September 1901 (Old Style), the front page of the daily broadsheet Akropolis carried the first installment of Pallis’ translation of the Gospel of Matthew, under a full-width headline reading “ΤΟ ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΓΛΩΣΣΑΝ ΤΟΥ ΛΑΟΥ”, or “THE GOSPEL IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE PEOPLE”. Akropolis was essentially the creation of one man, Vlasis Gavriilidis, who founded it in 1883 and played a major part in running it until his death in 1920. By 1901 it had established a solid reputation as the most progressive of Greece’s newspapers and one “of the few which cultivates a taste for general, non-political articles”.

The translation itself occupied the right-most column, under a sub-heading quoting (in Greek) St Paul’s words: “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how shall it be known what is spoken?” (1 Corinthians 14.9) The long editorial, starting in the left-most column, was written by Gavriilidis himself and is headed “Akropolis is continuing the work of the Queen”. However, it placed Pallis’ version in a very different social setting from that of the Queen. He wrote:

Who amongst the peasants and the workers, who even among the merchants and the clerks and all those who have not completed secondary education can understand the language of the Gospels? No one.

Rarely, perhaps for the first time, has the vernacular language taken on such a godlike gentleness and sweetness and harmoniousness as in the language of Mr Pallis. It is as though one is listening to the tinkling of the bells of a distant flock, such as those that first greeted the Birth of Christ.

As you can imagine, the battle lines were drawn and the Gospel Riots of November 1901 were the result. Language problems remained for a further 75 years as Greece’s political spectrum continued in its complications, including the coup of the Colonels in 1967, who went on to support katharevousa as superior to demotic Greek, which they argued did not really have a grammar and was vulgar in every respect. Katharevousa became so closely identified with the Colonels that when their unpopular regime collapsed in July 1974, support for katharevousa and enforced diglossia crumbled with it, never to recover. The new democratic government of Konstantinos Karamanlis then set about language reform for one last time. The Greek language question was finally laid to rest on 30 April 1976, when Article 2 of Law 309—still written in katharevousa—stipulated that modern Greek should be the sole language of education at all levels, starting with the school year 1977–78. This law defined modern Greek as:

 … the Demotic that has been developed into a Panhellenic instrument of expression by the Greek People and the acknowledged writers of the Nation, properly constructed, without regional and extreme forms.

I wouldn’t exactly class this as a rigorous definition, but you get the point. You also perhaps now, assuming you have waded through all of this, understand a little more how language usage can arouse deep passions.

To be a little quirkier than usual I’ll give you a recipe for tsoureki, Greek Easter bread, first in demotic Greek, and then in English. The original Greek recipe is from this website https://www.argiro.gr/recipe/tsoureki-2/ The translation is mine (rather loose for clarity). My training is in classical Greek, but I can manage with demotic if pushed. I am sure that for most readers the Greek is simply an aesthetic appendage, but I hope there are some who can read it. I’ll give notes before the English version.

Τσουρέκι

Υλικά Συνταγής

700 γραμμ. αλεύρι για τσουρέκι
1-1/2 κύβος νωπή μαγιά 40 γρ.
200 γραμμ. χλιαρό νερό
120 γραμμ. βούτυρο γάλακτος
180 γραμμ. ζάχαρη κρυσταλλική
3 αυγά
1 κ.γλ. μαχλέπι
1/2 κ.γλ. κακουλέ
1/2 κ.γλ. γλυκάνισο
1 πρέζα μαστίχα

Εκτέλεση

Για να πιάσουμε τη μαγιά, διαλύουμε – θρυμματίζουμε τον κύβο μαγιάς σε μπολ, προσθέτουμε το χλιαρό νερό και 1 κ.σ. ζάχαρη από τη συνταγή και αλεύρι τόσο ώστε να έχουμε μια αραιή ζύμη (περίπου 150 γραμμ.).

Τ’ ανακατεύουμε πολύ καλά. Σκεπάζουμε το μπολ και την αφήνουμε σε ζεστό μέρος κοντά σε καλοριφέρ ή στις εστίες για περίπου 20΄ και δεν κουνάμε ούτε μετακινούμε το μπολ.

Μετά από περίπου 20΄ θα δούμε ότι έχει ανέβει και στην επιφάνεια έχουν σχηματιστεί φυσαλίδες. Σε κατσαρολάκι σε πολύ χαμηλή φωτιά ή σε μπεν μαρί λιώνουμε το βούτυρο, προσθέτουμε τη ζάχαρη και ανακατεύουμε καλά μέχρι να διαλυθεί η ζάχαρη.

Τότε ρίχνουμε τ’ αυγά και με σύρμα και γρήγορες κινήσεις ανακατεύουμε καλά. Προσοχή στη θερμοκρασία των υλικών, η εστία να είναι στο 1. Σε γουδί χτυπάμε το μαχλέπι, τη μαστίχα και τα σποράκια (το εσωτερικό) κακουλέ με 1 κ.σ. ζάχαρη (από τη συνολική ζάχαρη της συνταγής).

Κοσκινίζουμε το αλεύρι σε λεκάνη. Προσθέτουμε τη μαγιά (που έχει γίνει πλέον) και το μείγμα αυγό-βούτυρο-ζάχαρη. Προσθέτουμε κακουλέ, μαχλέπι, μαστίχα και αρχίζουμε να ζυμώνουμε μέχρι πλέον η ζύμη να μην κολλάει στα χέρια. Ίσως χρειαστεί να πασπαλίσουμε λίγο αλεύρι επιπλέον.

Σκεπάζουμε το μπολ με τη ζύμη και την αφήνουμε να διπλασιαστεί σε όγκο, περίπου 1 ώρα εάν είναι σε ζεστό σημείο. Όταν φουσκώσει η ζύμη τη χωρίζουμε σε τρία μέρη. Πλάθουμε τρία φιτίλια και τα πλέκουμε σε κοτσίδα. Εδώ αν θέλουμε μπήγουμε κόκκινα αυγά στην ένωση.

Το τοποθετούμε σε λαμαρίνα στρωμένη με λαδόκολλα και το σκεπάζουμε πάλι για να φουσκώσει και να διπλασιαστεί σε όγκο. Πριν το φουρνίσουμε το αλείφουμε με χτυπημένο αυγό και νερό.

Έχουμε προθερμάνει καλά το φούρνο στους 160-170°C και το ψήνουμε για 45΄ μέχρι να φουσκώσει καλά και να ροδίσει. Αν θέλουμε να γυαλίσει, όταν το βγάλουμε απ’ το φούρνο τ’ αλείφουμε με λίγο βούτυρο.

Το τυλίγουμε με μεμβράνη αφού κρυώσει για να μην ξεραθεί.

I have added some comments in square brackets to my translation for clarity. Some of the ingredients for tsoureki need explanation and may not be easy to come by. The recipe calls for “flour for brioche” for example, for which I use plain, unbleached flour. Mahleb is a Greek spice made from cherry pits from a special species of cherry, Prunus mahaleb. It’s an essential flavoring, and there’s really no substitute. Mastic is a tree resin used in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. You can sometimes find it in pharmacies or health food stores as Arabic gum (NOT gum Arabic) or Yemen gum. The recipe does not mention dyed eggs in the list of ingredients but includes them as an option in the instructions.  For Easter it is traditional to add a red-dyed egg to the bread. Also note that some cooks make a straight braid, others a circle.

Tsoureki

700 grams flour for brioche
40 gm fresh yeast
200 ml lukewarm water
120 gm unsalted butter
180 gm granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp mahlepi (mahleb)
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp anise
1 pinch of mastic

Instructions

Dissolve the yeast in a bowl with the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar from the recipe. Add a little flour to make a thin dough (about 150 grams). Mix the ingredients well, cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place near a radiator or a hotplate for about 20 minutes. Do not move the dough or the bowl. After about 20 minutes you will see that it has expanded and bubbles have formed on the surface.

In a saucepan on a low heat or in a double boiler, melt the butter, add the [remaining] sugar [minus another tablespoon] and stir well until the sugar dissolves. Add the eggs and whisk vigorously. Pay close attention to the temperature of the ingredients. [A double boiler is best so as not to scramble the eggs. You want an emulsion.]

Use a mortar and pestle to grind together the mahleb, mastic, cardamom, and anise with 1 tbsp. sugar (from the total sugar of the recipe).

Sift the [remaining] flour into a basin. Add the yeast/flour mixture, and the egg-butter-sugar mixture. Add the flavorings, [mix well to form a dough], and start kneading until the dough does not stick to your hands. You may need to sprinkle on some additional flour.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and allow it to double in volume (about 1 hour in a warm spot). When the dough has risen [punch it down and] divide it into three parts. Braid the three parts. If you want, you can add red-dyed eggs at this point.

Place the braid on a sheet of paper and cover it again to inflate and double in volume. Before baking, brush it with beaten egg and water.

Preheat the oven to 160-170°C and bake for 45 minutes, until it rises well and browns. If you want to glaze it, when you take it out of the oven, brush it with some [melted] butter.

Wrap the loaf with cooking wrap after it has cooled to prevent it from drying out.

Nov 072017
 

On this date in 1908 Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, usually known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, died in San Vicente in southern Bolivia under slightly mysterious circumstances, and their deaths have sometimes been challenged by historians. I think there is little doubt, however, that this was the end of the road for the duo. While it is true that they were a bank-robbing partnership in South America their status as a duo is overblown by media, especially the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is closer to the truth to say that for several years Parker was the leader of what became known as Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, and Longabaugh was a member whom Parker recruited. When the gang split up in 1901, Parker and Longabaugh relocated to Patagonia in Argentina to escape relentless pursuit in the US by detectives from the Pinkerton agency, so their real partnership began in South America where they lived for 7 years.

In early 1894, Parker became involved romantically with outlaw and rancher Ann Bassett. Bassett’s father, rancher Herb Bassett, did business with Parker, supplying him with fresh horses and beef. That same year, Parker was arrested at Lander, Wyoming, for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket among the local ranchers there. He was imprisoned in the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, Wyoming. After serving 18 months of a two-year sentence, Parker was released and pardoned in January 1896 by Governor William Alford Richards. He became involved briefly with Ann Bassett’s older sister, Josie, before returning to Ann.

Parker associated with a broad circle of criminals, most notably his closest friend William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, Ben Kilpatrick, Harry Tracy, Will “News” Carver, Laura Bullion, and George “Flat Nose” Curry, who collectively became the nucleus of the so-called “Wild Bunch”. The gang assembled some time after Parker’s release from prison in 1896 and took its name from the Doolin–Dalton gang, also known as the “Wild Bunch.”

On August 13, 1896, Parker, Lay, Logan and Bob Meeks robbed the bank at Montpelier, Idaho, escaping with approximately $7,000. Shortly thereafter Parker recruited Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a native of Pennsylvania also known as “The Sundance Kid,” into the Wild Bunch. In early 1897, Parker was joined at Robbers Roost in Utah by Ann Bassett, Elzy Lay, and Lay’s girlfriend Maude Davis. The four hid there until early April, when Lay and Parker sent the women home so that the men could plan their next robbery. On April 22, 1897, in the mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, Parker and Lay ambushed a small group of men carrying the payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, stealing a sack containing $7,000 in gold, with which they fled again to Robbers Roost.

On June 2, 1899, the gang robbed a Union Pacific Overland Flyer passenger train near Wilcox, Wyoming, a robbery which earned the Wild Bunch a great deal of notoriety and resulted in a massive manhunt. Many notable lawmen of the day took part in the hunt for the robbers, but they were not found. During a shootout with lawmen following the train robbery, both Kid Curry and George Curry shot and killed Sheriff Joe Hazen. Tom Horn, a killer-for-hire employed by the Pinkerton Agency, obtained information from explosives expert Bill Speck about the Hazen shooting, and then passed this information to Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo, who was assigned the task of capturing the outlaws. The gang escaped to Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming and were sometimes thereafter called the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Siringo became friends with Elfie Landusky, who was using the last name Curry after allegedly becoming pregnant by Kid Curry’s brother, Lonny. Through her, Siringo intended to locate the gang.

On July 11, 1899, Lay and others were involved in a Colorado and Southern Railroad train robbery near Folsom, New Mexico, which Parker may have planned and personally directed. A shootout ensued with local law enforcement, during which Lay killed Sheriff Edward Farr and Henry Love. Lay was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

The Wild Bunch would typically separate following a robbery and flee in different directions, later reuniting at a predetermined location, such as the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, Robbers Roost, or Madame Fannie Porter’s brothel in San Antonio, Texas. Parker appears to have approached Governor Heber Wells of Utah, (which achieved statehood in 1896), to negotiate an amnesty. Wells appears to have declined, advising Parker to instead approach the Union Pacific Railroad to persuade them to drop their criminal complaints against him. Union Pacific Railroad chairman E. H. Harriman attempted to meet with Parker through his old ally Matt Warner. On August 29, 1900, Parker, Longabaugh, and others robbed Union Pacific train No. 3 near Tipton, Wyoming, violating Parker’s earlier promise to the Governor of Wyoming and ending any chance for amnesty.

Posse for Wild Bunch

On February 28, 1900, lawmen attempted to arrest Kid Curry’s brother, Lonny, at his aunt’s home. Lonny was killed in the shootout that followed, and his cousin Bob Lee was arrested for rustling and sent to prison in Wyoming. On March 28, Kid Curry and News Carver were pursued by a posse from St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona after being identified passing currency from the Wilcox, Wyoming train robbery. The posse engaged them in a shootout, during which Deputy Andrew Gibbons and Deputy Frank LeSueur were killed. Carver and Curry escaped. On April 17, George Curry was killed in a shootout with Grand County, Utah Sheriff John Tyler and Deputy Sam Jenkins. On May 26, Kid Curry rode into Moab, Utah and killed both Tyler and Jenkins in another shootout in retaliation for the deaths of George and Lonny.

Pinkerton agents

Parker, Longabaugh, and Carver traveled to Winnemucca, Nevada, where on September 19, 1900, they robbed the First National Bank of $32,640. In December, Parker posed alongside Longabaugh, Logan, Carver, and Ben Kilpatrick in Fort Worth, Texas for the now-famous “Fort Worth Five” photograph (above). The Pinkerton Detective Agency obtained a copy of the photograph and began to use it for wanted posters. On July 3, 1901, Kid Curry and a group of men robbed a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana. This time, they took over $60,000 in cash (equivalent to about $1,750,000 in 2017). The gang split up, and News Carver was killed by a posse led by Sheriff Elijah Briant. On December 12, 1901, Ben Kilpatrick was captured in Knoxville, Tennessee with Laura Bullion. On December 13, during another shootout, Kid Curry killed Knoxville policemen William Dinwiddle and Robert Saylor and then escaped. Despite being pursued by Pinkerton agents and other law enforcement officials, Curry returned to Montana, where he shot and killed rancher James Winters in retaliation for the killing of his brother Johnny years before.

With the gang breaking up, and feeling continuous pressure from the numerous law enforcement agencies pursuing them, Parker and Longabaugh fled to New York City. On February 20, 1901, along with Etta Place, Longabaugh’s female companion, they departed for Buenos Aires aboard the British steamer Herminius. Parker posed as James Ryan, Place’s fictitious brother. They settled in a four-room log cabin on a 15,000-acre (61 km2) ranch that they purchased on the east bank of the Rio Blanco near Cholila, just east of the Andes in the Argentine province of Chubut.

On February 14, 1905, two English-speaking bandits, who may have been Parker and Longabaugh, held up the Banco de Tarapacá y Argentino in Río Gallegos, 700 miles (1,100 km) south of Cholila, near the Strait of Magellan. Escaping with a sum that would be worth at least US$100,000 today, the pair vanished north across the Patagonian steppes. On May 1, fearing that law enforcement had located them, the trio sold the Cholila ranch. The Pinkerton Agency had known their location for some time, but the snow and the hard winter of Patagonia had prevented their agent, Frank Dimaio, from making an arrest. Governor Julio Lezana issued an arrest warrant, but before it could be executed, Sheriff Edward Humphreys, a Welsh-Argentine who was friendly with Parker and enamored of Etta Place, tipped them off.

The trio fled north to San Carlos de Bariloche where they embarked on the steamer Condor across Nahuel Huapí Lake and into Chile. By the end of the year they had returned to Argentina. On December 19, Parker, Longabaugh, Place and an unknown male associate robbed the Banco de la Nación branch in Villa Mercedes, 400 miles (640 km) west of Buenos Aires, taking 12,000 pesos. Pursued by armed lawmen, they crossed the Pampas and the Andes to reach the safety of Chile.

On June 30, 1906, Etta Place decided that she had had enough of life on the run, and was escorted back to San Francisco by Longabaugh. Parker, under the alias James “Santiago” Maxwell, obtained work at the Concordia Tin Mine in the Santa Vera Cruz range of the central Bolivian Andes, where he was joined by Longabaugh upon his return. Their main duties included guarding the company payroll. Still wanting to settle down as a respectable rancher, in late 1907 Parker traveled with Longabaugh to Santa Cruz, a frontier town in Bolivia’s eastern savannah.

The facts surrounding Parker’s and Longabaugh’s deaths are uncertain. On November 3, 1908, near San Vicente in southern Bolivia, a courier for the Aramayo Franke and Cia Silver Mine was conveying his company’s payroll, worth about 15,000 Bolivian pesos, by mule, when he was attacked and robbed by two masked American bandits believed to be Parker and Longabaugh. The bandits then proceeded to the small mining town of San Vicente, where they lodged in a small boarding house owned by a local resident miner named Bonifacio Casasola.

Casasola became suspicious of his two foreign lodgers. A mule they had in their possession was from the Aramayo Mine, identifiable from the mine company’s brand on the mule’s left flank. Casasola left his house and notified a nearby telegraph officer who notified a small Bolivian Army cavalry unit stationed nearby, the Abaroa Regiment. The unit dispatched three soldiers, under the command of Captain Justo Concha, to San Vicente, where they notified the local authorities. On the evening of November 6, the lodging house was surrounded by the soldiers, the police chief, the local mayor and some of his officials, who intended to arrest the Aramayo robbers.

When the soldiers approached the house, the bandits opened fire, killing one of the soldiers and wounding another. A gunfight then ensued. At around 2 a.m., during a lull in the firing, the police and soldiers heard a man screaming from inside the house. Soon, a single shot was heard from inside the house, whereupon the screaming stopped. Minutes later, another shot was heard. The standoff continued as locals kept the place surrounded until the next morning when, cautiously entering, the authorities found two dead bodies, both with numerous bullet wounds to the arms and legs. One of the men had a bullet wound in the forehead and the other had a bullet hole in the temple. The local police report speculated that, judging from the positions of the bodies, one bandit had probably shot his fatally wounded partner-in-crime to put him out of his misery, just before killing himself with his final bullet. In the following investigation by the Tupiza police, the bandits were identified as the men who robbed the Aramayo payroll transport, but the Bolivian authorities didn’t know their real names, nor could they positively identify them. Historians now generally agree that this was the fate of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. The movie version of their end is pure fiction:

I thought a classic Bolivian dish would suit the memory of the duo given that they spent the last years of their lives in Bolivia, and what better than the larger-than-life silpancho? Silpancho (from the Quechua Sillp’anchu) comes originally from the city of Cochabamba. When prepared properly, this dish makes a large and filling meal laden with carbohydrates and protein. It’s always too much for me. It consists of a base layer of white rice, followed by a layer of boiled, sliced, and fried potatoes; next, a thin layer of breaded meat (milanesa), followed by a layer of chopped tomato, onion, beet, and parsley mixed together, and topped with either one or two fried eggs.

Do you really need a recipe? Start with a bed of plain boiled white rice. Peel and boil potatoes until they are soft, slice them, and fry the slices a few at a time in hot olive oil until they are golden on both sides. Make one or two milanesas according to the recipe here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/fingerprinting/ . Make sure that all the cooked ingredients are warm when you layer them. I keep them warm in the oven while frying the eggs. Chop and mix together equal portions of tomato, onion and cooked beetroot seasoned with parsley and salt to taste. This part can be done ahead of time. When ready to serve, start frying an egg, remove the heated plate of rice potatoes and milanesa from the oven, add the chopped vegetables on top, finish off with the fried egg and serve.

Nov 062017
 

Today is the birthday (1566) of Suleiman I (سلطان سليمان اول‎ Sultan Süleyman-ı Evvel) commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the West and Kanunî Sultan Süleyman (Lawgiver Suleiman) in his realm, the 10th and longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to his death in 1566. Under his administration, the Ottoman state/empire was at its apogee ruling between 15 and 25 million people in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Suleiman was one of the most prominent monarchs of 16th-century Europe, personally leading Ottoman armies in conquering the Christian strongholds of Belgrade and Rhodes as well as most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed much of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large areas of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and through the Persian Gulf.

Suleiman personally instituted major legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation and criminal law. His reforms, carried out in conjunction with the empire’s chief judicial official Ebussuud Efendi, harmonized the relationship between the two forms of Ottoman law: sultanic (Kanun) and religious (Sharia). He was a distinguished poet and goldsmith, and also was a great patron of the arts, literature and architecture creating what many historians see as the Golden Age of Ottoman culture.

Suleiman broke with Ottoman tradition when he married Hurrem Sultan, a woman from his harem: a Christian of Rusyn origin who converted to Islam, and who became famous in the West by the name Roxelana. Their son Selim II succeeded Suleiman following his death in 1566 after 46 years of rule. Suleiman’s other potential heirs Mehmed and Mustafa had died, the former from smallpox and the latter had been strangled to death 13 years earlier at the sultan’s order. His other son Bayezid was executed in 1561 on Suleiman’s orders, along with his four sons, after a rebellion. Although scholars no longer believe that the empire declined after his death, in the decades after Suleiman’s reign, the empire began to experience significant political, institutional, and economic changes, a phenomenon often referred to as the Transformation of the Ottoman Empire.

Upon succeeding his father, Suleiman began a series of military conquests, eventually suppressing a revolt led by the Ottoman-appointed governor of Damascus in 1521. Suleiman soon made preparations for the conquest of Belgrade from the Kingdom of Hungary—something his great-grandfather Mehmed II had failed to achieve because of John Hunyadi’s strong defense in the region. Its capture was vital in removing the Hungarians and Croats who, following the defeats of the Albanians, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Byzantines and the Serbs, remained the only formidable force who could block further Ottoman gains in Europe. Suleiman encircled Belgrade and began a series of heavy bombardments from an island in the Danube. Belgrade, with a garrison of only 700 men, and receiving no aid from Hungary, fell in August 1521. The fall of Christendom’s major strongholds spread fear across Europe. As the ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire to Constantinople noted, “The capture of Belgrade was at the origin of the dramatic events which engulfed Hungary. It led to the death of King Louis, the capture of Buda, the occupation of Transylvania, the ruin of a flourishing kingdom and the fear of neighboring nations that they would suffer the same fate …”

The road to Hungary and Austria lay open, but Suleiman turned his attention instead to the Eastern Mediterranean island of Rhodes, the home base of the Knights Hospitaller. In the summer of 1522, taking advantage of the large navy he inherited from his father, Suleiman dispatched an armada of some 400 ships towards Rhodes, while personally leading an army of 100,000 across Asia Minor to a point opposite the island itself. Here Suleiman built a large fortification, Marmaris Castle, that served as a base for the Ottoman Navy. Following the brutal five-month Siege of Rhodes (1522), Rhodes capitulated and Suleiman allowed the Knights of Rhodes to depart.

While Sultan Suleiman was known as “the Magnificent” in the West, he was always Kanuni Suleiman or “The Lawgiver” (قانونی) to his own Ottoman subjects. As the historian Lord Kinross notes, “Not only was he a great military campaigner, a man of the sword, as his father and great-grandfather had been before him. He differed from them in the extent to which he was also a man of the pen. He was a great legislator, standing out in the eyes of his people as a high-minded sovereign and a magnanimous exponent of justice”. The overriding law of the empire was the Shari’ah, or Sacred Law, which as the divine law of Islam was outside of the Sultan’s powers to change. Yet an area of distinct law known as the Kanuns (قانون, canonical legislation) was dependent on Suleiman’s will alone, covering areas such as criminal law, land tenure and taxation. He collected all the judgments that had been issued by the nine Ottoman Sultans who preceded him. After eliminating duplications and choosing between contradictory statements, he issued a single legal code, all the while being careful not to violate the basic laws of Islam. It was within this framework that Suleiman, supported by his Grand Mufti Ebussuud, sought to reform the legislation to adapt to a rapidly changing empire. When the Kanun laws attained their final form, the code of laws became known as the kanun‐i Osmani (قانون عثمانی), or the “Ottoman laws”. Suleiman’s legal code was to last more than three hundred years.

Suleiman gave particular attention to the plight of the rayas, Christian subjects who worked the land of the Sipahis (land-owning cavalry). His Kanune Raya, or “Code of the Rayas”, reformed the law governing levies and taxes to be paid by the rayas, raising their status above serfdom to the extent that Christian serfs would migrate to Turkish territories to benefit from the reforms. Suleiman also played a role in protecting the Jewish subjects of his empire for centuries to come. In late 1553 or 1554, on the suggestion of his favorite doctor and dentist, the Spanish Jew Moses Hamon, the Sultan issued a firman (فرمان) formally denouncing blood libels against the Jews. Furthermore, Suleiman enacted new criminal and police legislation, prescribing a set of fines for specific offenses, as well as reducing the instances requiring death or mutilation. In the area of taxation, taxes were levied on various goods and produce, including animals, mines, profits of trade, and import-export duties. In addition to taxes, officials who had fallen into disrepute were likely to have their land and property confiscated by the Sultan.

Education was also important to Suleiman. Schools attached to mosques and funded by religious foundations provided a largely free education to Muslim boys, well in advance of the Christian countries of the time. In his capital, Suleiman increased the number of mektebs (مكتب, primary schools) to 14, teaching boys to read and write as well as the principles of Islam. Young men wishing further education could proceed to one of 8 medreses (مدرسه, colleges), whose studies included grammar, metaphysics, philosophy, astronomy and astrology. Higher medreses provided education of university status, whose graduates became imams (امام) or teachers. Educational centers were often one of many buildings surrounding the courtyards of mosques, others included libraries, baths, soup kitchens, residences and hospitals for the benefit of the public.

Under Suleiman’s patronage, the Ottoman Empire entered the golden age of its cultural development. Hundreds of imperial artistic societies (called the اهل حرف Ehl-i Hiref, “Community of the Craftsmen”) were administered at the Imperial seat, the Topkapı Palace. After an apprenticeship, artists and craftsmen could advance in rank within their field and were paid commensurate wages in quarterly annual installments. Payroll registers that survive testify to the breadth of Suleiman’s patronage of the arts, the earliest of documents dating from 1526 list 40 societies with over 600 members. The Ehl-i Hiref attracted the empire’s most talented artisans to the Sultan’s court, both from the Islamic world and from the recently conquered territories in Europe, resulting in a blend of Arabic, Turkish and European cultures. Artisans in service of the court included painters, book binders, furriers, jewelers and goldsmiths. Whereas previous rulers had been influenced by Persian culture (Suleiman’s father, Selim I, wrote poetry in Persian), Suleiman’s patronage of the arts saw the Ottoman Empire assert its own artistic legacy.

Suleiman himself was an accomplished poet, writing in Persian and Turkish under the takhallus (nom de plume) Muhibbi (محبی, “Lover”). Some of Suleiman’s verses have become Turkish proverbs, such as the well-known “Everyone aims at the same meaning, but many are the versions of the story.” When his young son Mehmed died in 1543, he composed a moving chronogram to commemorate the year, “Peerless among princes, my Sultan Mehmed.” In addition to Suleiman’s own work, many great talents enlivened the literary world during Suleiman’s rule, including Fuzuli and Baki.  Suleiman’s most famous verse is:

The people think of wealth and power as the greatest fate,
But in this world a spell of health is the best state.
What men call sovereignty is worldly strife and constant war;
Worship of God is the highest throne, the happiest of all estates.

Suleiman also became renowned for sponsoring a series of monumental architectural developments within his empire. The Sultan sought to turn Constantinople into the center of Islamic civilization by a series of projects, including bridges, mosques, palaces and various charitable and social establishments. The greatest of these were built by the Sultan’s chief architect, Mimar Sinan, under whom Ottoman architecture reached its zenith. Sinan became responsible for over three hundred monuments throughout the empire, including his two masterpieces, the Süleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—the latter built in Adrianople (now Edirne) in the reign of Suleiman’s son Selim II. Suleiman also restored the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Jerusalem city walls (which are the current walls of the Old City of Jerusalem), renovated the Kaaba in Mecca, and constructed a complex in Damascus.

Suleiman had two known consorts:

Mahidevran Sultan (m. 1512/14), a Circassian or Albanian “Ottoman”.

Hürrem Sultan (also known as Roxelana) (m. 1531)

Suleiman was infatuated with Hürrem Sultan, a harem girl from Ruthenia, then part of Poland. Western diplomats, taking notice of the palace gossip about her, called her “Russelazie” or “Roxelana”, referring to her Ruthenian origins. She was the daughter of an Orthodox priest, captured by Tatars from Crimea, sold as a slave in Constantinople, and eventually rose through the ranks of the Harem to become Suleiman’s favorite. Breaking with two centuries of Ottoman tradition, Suleiman made a former concubine his legal wife, much to the astonishment of the observers in the palace and the city. He also allowed Hürrem Sultan to remain with him at court for the rest of her life, breaking another tradition—that when imperial heirs came of age, they would be sent along with the imperial concubine who bore them to govern remote provinces of the Empire, never to return unless their progeny succeeded to the throne.

Under his pen name, Muhibbi, Sultan Suleiman composed this poem for Hürrem Sultan:

Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful …
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf …
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this room …
My Istanbul, my karaman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of misery …
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.

Hürrem and Mahidevran bore Suleiman six sons, four of whom survived past the 1550s: Mustafa, Selim, Bayezid, and Cihangir. Of these, the eldest, was not Hürrem Sultan’s son, but rather Mahidevran Sultan’s, and therefore preceded Hürrem’s children in the order of succession. Hürrem was aware that should Mustafa become Sultan her own children would be strangled. Yet Mustafa was recognized as the most talented of all the brothers and was supported by Pargalı İbrahim Pasha, who was by this time Suleiman’s Grand Vizier. The Austrian ambassador Busbecq would note “Suleiman has among his children a son called Mustafa, marvelously well educated and prudent and of an age to rule, since he is 24 or 25 years old; may God never allow a Barbary of such strength to come near us”, going on to talk of Mustafa’s “remarkable natural gifts”. Hürrem is usually held at least partly responsible for the intrigues in nominating a successor. Although she was Suleiman’s wife, she exercised no official public role. This did not, however, prevent Hürrem from wielding powerful political influence. Since the Empire lacked, until the reign of Ahmed I, any formal means of nominating a successor, successions usually involved the death of competing princes in order to avert civil unrest and rebellions. In attempting to avoid the execution of her sons, Hürrem used her influence to eliminate those who supported Mustafa’s accession to the throne.

Thus in power struggles apparently instigated by Hürrem, Suleiman had Ibrahim murdered and replaced with her sympathetic son-in-law, Rüstem Pasha. By 1552, when the campaign against Persia had begun with Rüstem appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition, intrigues against Mustafa began. Rüstem sent one of Suleiman’s most trusted men to report that since Suleiman was not at the head of the army, the soldiers thought the time had come to put a younger prince on the throne; at the same time he spread rumors that Mustafa had proved receptive to the idea. Angered by what he came to believe were Mustafa’s plans to claim the throne, the following summer upon return from his campaign in Persia, Suleiman summoned him to his tent in the Ereğli valley, saying he would “be able to clear himself of the crimes he was accused of and would have nothing to fear if he came”.

Mustafa was confronted with a choice: either he appear before his father at the risk of being killed; or, if he refused to attend, he would be accused of betrayal. In the end, Mustafa chose to enter his father’s tent, confident that the support of the army would protect him. Busbecq, who claims to have received an account from an eyewitness, describes Mustafa’s final moments. As Mustafa entered his father’s tent, Suleiman’s eunuchs attacked Mustafa, with the young prince putting up a brave defense. Suleiman, separated from the struggle only by the linen hangings of the tent, peered through the chamber of his tent and “directed fierce and threatening glances upon the mutes, and by menacing gestures sternly rebuked their hesitation. Thereupon, the mutes in their alarm, redoubling their efforts, hurled Mustafa to the ground and, throwing the bowstring round his neck, strangled him.”

Cihangir is said to have died of grief a few months after the news of his half-brother’s murder. The two surviving brothers, Selim and Bayezid, were given command in different parts of the empire. Within a few years, however, civil war broke out between the brothers, each supported by his loyal forces. With the aid of his father’s army, Selim defeated Bayezid in Konya in 1559, leading the latter to seek refuge with the Safavids along with his four sons. Following diplomatic exchanges, the Sultan demanded from the Safavid Shah that Bayezid be either extradited or executed. In return for large amounts of gold, the Shah allowed a Turkish executioner to strangle Bayezid and his four sons in 1561, clearing the path for Selim’s succession to the throne five years later.

On 6 September 1566, Suleiman, who had set out from Constantinople to command an expedition to Hungary, died before an Ottoman victory at the Battle of Szigetvár in Hungary and the Grand Vizier kept his death secret during the retreat for the enthronement of Selim II. Just the night before the sickly sultan died in his tent, two months before he would have turned 72. The sultan’s body was taken back to Istanbul to be buried, while his heart, liver, and some other organs were buried in Turbék, outside Szigetvár. A mausoleum was constructed above the burial site, and came to be regarded as a holy place and pilgrimage site. Within a decade a mosque and Sufi hospice were built near it.

Ottoman palace cuisine under Suleiman and his successors was highly refined, but largely secret. No texts concerning recipes were ever written. This diverse cuisine was perfected in the Imperial palace’s kitchens by chefs brought from various parts of the empire to create and experiment with different ingredients. These chefs were tested and hired simply by their method of cooking rice. They were brought over from various places for the express purpose of experimenting with exotic textures and ingredients and inventing new dishes. Each cook specialized in specific tasks. All dishes intended for the sultan were first passed by the palate of the Chesnidjibashi, or imperial food taster, who tested the food for both poison and taste. A few of the creations of the Ottoman palace’s kitchens filtered down to the common population, but the vast bulk are lost to posterity.

Ayva dolma, stuffed quinces, is believed to have originated in the palace kitchen, and is now a rare but succulent specialty in some parts of the former Ottoman empire.  This recipe comes from Azerbaijan. Getting hold of good-sized quinces is going to be your chief challenge.

Ayva Dolma

Ingredients

200 g/8 oz lamb, ground
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and finely chopped
25 g/1 oz melted butter
4-6 chestnuts
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn allspice
2-3 strands saffron
salt and pepper
5 soft, ripe quinces
2 tbsp of sugar or honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup rich stock (preferably lamb)

Instructions

Steep the saffron in a cup with 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.

Pierce the chestnuts. Cover them with water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove them from the water one at a time and shell. They are difficult to peel when dry, so do this one at a time  Roughly chop the shelled chestnuts.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F.

Put the ground lamb, chopped onion, chopped chestnuts, spices, melted butter, and salt to taste into a bowl and mix well with your hands.

Mix the honey and lemon juice in a saucer or small bowl.

Wash the quinces and scrub them to remove any down from the skin. Slice off the tops and set them aside. Remove the cores and some of the flesh of the fruit, using a melon baller, to create a hollow for the stuffing. Rub the insides of the quinces with the honey and lemon juice mixture. This step is both for flavor and to prevent the quinces from browning on the inside. Stuff the quinces with the meat mixture, pressing the filling down hard. Put the tops back on as lids. Wrap each quince in foil and stand them upright in a baking dish or ovenproof shallow pan.  Add the stock to the baking dish. Place the dish in the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the fruit are soft.

Pour the cooking juice over each quince when serving. Serve with rice or fresh crusty bread and plain yoghurt.

Nov 052017
 

Today is the birthday (1890) of Jan Zrzavý, a major Czech graphic artist, illustrator, and scenographer, representative of the avant-garde in Prague at the beginning of the 20th century. He is well known these days in the Czech Republic among artists and graphic designers, and you can see his influence in a variety of Czech media. He is not especially well known outside eastern Europe, except among the cognoscenti. In part this is because he was a private, solitary figure not drawn to fame.  He is sometimes called malíř snů (the painter of dreams), because his paintings can evoke a sense of other-worldliness and alienation from reality.

Zrzavý was born in Okrouhlice near Havlíčkův Brod. He wrote poems and plays but is mostly remembered in the visual arts. He studied at the UMPRUM (Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design) in Prague for two years before being expelled. After that, he made four attempts to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague without success. Thenceforth he studied privately with Czech painters, such as, Karel Reisner, Vladimír Županský, and František Ženíšek.

When you look at Zrzavý’s oeuvre you can see he was influenced by many world-famous artists and many artistic styles, especially Italian Renaissance masters, as well as Medieval Gothic paintings. He also found inspiration in the works of modernists such as Munch, Seurat, and Gauguin. Religious imagery is evident throughout his collection.

At first he was drawn to symbolism and impressionism, for example in his paintings Údolí smutku (Valley of Sorrow) or Nokturno (Nocturno).

There is a marginal influence of cubism seen in, for example, Zátiší s konvalinkami (Still life with Lily of the Valley) and Meditace (Meditation).

After the First World War Zrzavý emphasized plain volumes and shapes, soft contours and muted coloring.

Between the wars he traveled to Italy, Belgium and France and focused his effort on landscapes, in particular in Venice, Bretagne and Bohemia.

During the Second World War his landscape paintings featured fatalism tinged with lyricism.

After the Second World War the lyricism, or lightness, became more prominent.

Beside being a prolific painter, Zrzavý was also a distinctive illustrator. His best known illustrations can be found in Mácha’s Máj (May) and in Karel Jaromír Erben’s Kytice (The Garland). In addition, he produced stage settings – for example, for operas performed at the stage of the National Theatre and the Estates Theatre in Prague (Mozart – Idomeneus, Verdi – Rigoletto, Debussy –The Prodigal Son, Dvořák – Armida).

After the war he became an associate professor at Palacký University of Olomouc, Department of Visual Art at the Faculty of Philosophy, teaching painting and composition. In 1965 he was honored with the National Artist title. In 1972 he published a book of his memories simply called Jan Zrzavý vzpomíná (Jan Zrzavý recollecting).

Despite long periods of poor health, Zrzavý died at the age of 86, on 12th October 1977 in Prague.

Kulajda is one of the great classic soups of the Czech Republic. It has a potato and mushroom base soured with vinegar and sour cream, seasoned with dill, and served with a poached egg on top. Classic. The mushrooms need to be well flavored, not your generic white agarics. Czechs often use strong dried mushrooms. If you use dried mushrooms, soak them in warm water for an hour or so, and use the water in cooking.

Kulajda

Ingredients

3 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ cup flour
¾ cup sour cream
4 eggs
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup sliced mushrooms
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp caraway seeds
salt

Instructions

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and barely cover with water. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, caraway seeds and salt to taste, bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are very soft. Mash some of the potatoes with a fork and stir the soup. Mix the flour in a bowl with the sour cream making sure there are no lumps. You can use a whisk or fork, but mix very well.  Add some liquid from the hot soup to the sour cream a few tablespoons at a time whisking until it is smooth. Then pour the mixture through a fine strainer back into the soup pot.  Bring to a simmer until the soup thickens.  Then add the vinegar, mushrooms and chopped fresh dill.

While the soup is heating through poach the eggs. Some people get fancy and poach them right in the soup. I find this a bit risky, so I poach them separately.

Serve in shallow bowls with a poached egg in the center of each.

Serves 4

Nov 042017
 

On this date in 1737 the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Naples began performances with Domenico Sarro’s Achille in Sciro. San Carlo is the oldest continuously active venue for public opera in the world. Nowadays the opera season runs from late January to May, with a ballet season from April to early June. The house once had a seating capacity of 3,285, but has now been reduced to 1386 seats. San Carlo became the model for numerous theaters throughout Europe. The theater was commissioned by the Bourbon king Charles III of Naples because he wanted to endow Naples with a new and larger theatre to replace the old, dilapidated, and too-small Teatro San Bartolomeo of 1621, which had served the city well, especially after Scarlatti had moved there in 1682 and had begun to make Naples one of the major opera centers in Europe.

The new opera house was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano, a military architect, and Angelo Carasale, the former director of the San Bartolomeo. The horseshoe-shaped auditorium is the oldest in the world. It was built at a cost of 75,000 ducats. The hall was 28.6 meters long and 22.5 meters wide, with 184 boxes, including those of proscenium, arranged in six orders, plus a royal box capable of accommodating ten people, for a total of 1,379 seats. Including standing room, the theatre could hold over 3,000 people. The fastidious composer and violinist Louis Spohr reviewed the size and acoustic properties of this opera house very thoroughly on 15 February 1817 and concluded that:

There is no better place for ballet and pantomime. Military movements of infantry and cavalry, battles, and storms at sea can be represented here without falling into the ludicrous. But for opera, itself, the house is too large. Although the singers, Signora Isabella Colbran, [Prima Donna of the Teatro San Carlo opera company and Rossini’s future wife], and the Signori Nozzari, Benedetti, etc., have very strong voices, only their highest and most stentorian tones could be heard. Any kind of tender utterance was lost.

When it was opened, the opera house was much admired for its architecture, its gold decorations, and the sumptuous blue upholstery (blue and gold being the official colors of the Bourbons), and was, at the time, the biggest opera house in the world. In 1809 Domenico Barbaia was appointed manager of the royal opera houses in Naples and remained in charge until 1841. He soon established a reputation for innovative and dazzling productions, which attracted leading singers to the opera house. On 13 February 1816 a fire broke out during a dress-rehearsal for a ballet performance and quickly spread to destroy a part of building. On the orders of Ferdinand IV, of Charles III, Barbaia was able to rebuild the opera house within ten months. It was rebuilt as a traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium with 1,444 seats, and a proscenium, 33.5m wide and 30m high. The stage was 34.5m deep.

On 12 January 1817, the rebuilt theatre was inaugurated with Johann Simon Mayr’s Il sogno di Partenope. Stendhal attended the second night of the inauguration and wrote: “There is nothing in all Europe, I won’t say comparable to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like…, it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul…”

In 1844 the opera house was re-decorated, changing the appearance of the interior to the now-traditional red and gold. Apart from the creation of the orchestra pit, suggested by Verdi in 1872, the installation of electricity in 1890, the subsequent abolition of the central chandelier, and the construction of the new foyer and a new wing for dressing rooms, the theatre underwent no substantial changes until repair of the bombing damage in 1943.

When San Carlo was built, the Neapolitan School of opera enjoyed great success all over Europe, not only in the field of opera buffa but also in that of opera seria. Naples became the capital of European music and even foreign composers considered the performance of their compositions at the San Carlo theater as the pinnacle of their careers. Likewise, the most prominent singers performed and consolidated their fame at the San Carlo.

From 1815 to 1822, Gioachino Rossini was house composer and artistic director of the royal opera houses, including the San Carlo. During this period he wrote ten operas: Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (1815), La gazzetta, Otello, ossia il Moro di Venezia (1816), Armida (1817), Mosè in Egitto, Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818), Ermione, Bianca e Falliero, Eduardo e Cristina, La donna del lago (1819), Maometto II (1820), and Zelmira (1822). After the composition of Zelmira, Rossini left Naples.

To replace Rossini, Barbaja first signed up Giovanni Pacini and then another rising star of Italian opera, Gaetano Donizetti. As artistic director of the royal opera houses, Donizetti remained in Naples from 1822 until 1838, composing sixteen operas for the theatre, among which Maria Stuarda (1834), Roberto Devereux (1837), Poliuto (1838) and the famous Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), written for soprano Tacchinardi-Persiani and for tenor Duprez.

Giuseppe Verdi was also associated with the theater. In 1841, his Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio was performed there and in 1845 he wrote his first opera for the theater, Alzira; a second, Luisa Miller, followed in 1849. His third should have been Gustavo III, but the censor made such significant changes that it was never performed in that version nor under that title (until a re-created version was given in 2004). It was later performed in Rome with significant revisions to the plot and its location, while the title became Un ballo in maschera.

The unification of Italy in 1861 lead to Naples losing its status as the musical center of Italy and the home of the country’s leading opera house to La Scala as power and wealth moved northwards. By 1874 the fall in income from performances led to the closing of the opera house for a year. Its fortunes were able to recover due to the continued support in the later half of the 19th century and into the 20th century by Giacomo Puccini and other composers of verismo operas, such as Pietro Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano, and Cilea, who staged their works here.

In the late 19th century, the house created its own in-house orchestra under Giuseppe Martucci, which helped attract a number of respected conductors including Arturo Toscanini, Pietro Mascagni and composer Richard Strauss, whose influence expanded the opera house’s repertoire.

One performer who did not appear in Naples from 1901 onward was Naples-born Enrico Caruso, who after being booed by a section of the audience during a performance of L’elisir d’amore, vowed never to return.

Here’s a small taste:

Speaking of taste, one of the most beloved Neapolitan dishes, perhaps as part of a pre-opera dinner is spaghetti alle vongole napolitano. It’s very simple to make and is one of my favorites.  You must use very small clams, but you can use linguine in place of spaghetti.

Spaghetti Alle Vongole Napolitano

Ingredients

500 gm fresh small clams in their shells
200 gm cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
500 gm spaghetti

Instructions

Wash the clams thoroughly and keep them in salt water for half an hour before cooking.

Cook the spaghetti in abundant boiling water.  Check every few minutes once it is soft to make sure it is cooked al dente and no more.

Sauté the garlic gently over medium heat in oil in a deep skillet (with a lid) for about 2 minutes. Do not let it take on any color. Add the tomatoes, salt to taste, and half of the parsley. Stir slowly and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Drain the clams and add them to the skillet. Stir and cover until the clams are open (3-4 minutes). If the sauce is too dry add a small amount of boiling water from the pasta pan.

When the spaghetti is cooked al dente, drain and put it back into the same pot. Pour over it the juices from the cooked clams.  Stir for 1 minute over low heat.

Empty the spaghetti on to a serving dish and serve with the clams and tomatoes garnished with the remaining parsley.

Serves 4

Nov 032017
 

Today is the central day (full moon) of Bon Om Touk (បុណ្យអុំទូក]), the Cambodian Royal Water Festival, that marks a reversal of the flow of the Tonlé Sap river. The Tonlé Sap river is unique in that it reverses flow twice a year. The river runs between Tonlé Sap lake in central Cambodia and the Mekong river in Phnom Penh and its direction of flow is determined by the height of the water in the lake. At the end of the monsoon season the lake reaches its maximum height and the Mekong is at its minimum, so flow begins out of the lake into the Mekong. In May/June inflow begins.

The full moon this lunar month, the Buddhist month of Kadeuk, is considered especially fortuitous. At midnight tonight the faithful will worship in temples throughout Cambodia. They will also make offerings of, and eat, ak ambok, a special rice dish produced only for the festival. It is made by parching rice in the husk, pulverizing it flat, then mixing it with banana and coconut. Don’t try this at home !!!

I live in Phnom Penh and so get to witness Bon Om Touk first hand. All of the photos in this post are my own from this year (2017). Bon Om Touk is celebrated in various ways throughout Cambodia, but the biggest and most famous festival takes place in Phnom Penh. Websites say that millions flock here each year, from parts of Cambodia and abroad, but I think that “millions” may be stretching it a bit. Walking around by day and by night has been crowded in places, but relatively easy in comparison with many other festivals I have been to world wide where you can be hemmed in on all sides.

The festival in Phnom Penh has 3 major components:

  1. Boat racing on the Tonlé Sap river.

These races take place over three days, consisting of rowing teams from all over Cambodia representing villages, work organizations, and other associations.  There are about 40 rowers per team, and the races take place continuously in daylight hours. They race in pairs which cross the finish line about once every minute or so. Spectators sit on the palace quay or stand on the banks. It’s not a mob scene, not least because few observers know precisely what’s going on, or who is racing at any particular time.

According to tradition the boat racing dates from the year 1177 when an enemy fleet moved upstream and across Tonlé Sap lake to sack the city of Angkor. Although they did sack it, the Cambodian king Jayavarman VII chased them down the river with his own navy and defeated them.

  1. Illuminated barges.

After dark, illuminated, highly decorated barges sail along the river in front of the palace quay. The barges represent various Cambodian agencies and associations.

3. Fireworks

 

Each night after dusk there are massive firework displays over the river (while the barges are sailing along). They last between 20 and 30 minutes and are non-stop barrages of light and sound.

After the activities on the river there are carnivals near the palace with food, music, and dancing.

You guessed it.  You want Cambodian festival food?  Come to Cambodia.  Here’s a video which shows that the techniques are not that difficult, but you won’t find the ingredients.  I eat this omelet all the time. It’s readily available in the market. It’s common to eat it with plain rice.

Nov 022017
 

Today is All Souls’ Day commemorating All Souls, the Holy Souls, or the Faithful Departed, that is, the souls of Christians who have died. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with the three days of Allhallowtide, including All Saints’ Day (1 November) and its vigil, All Hallows Eve (31 October):

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/allhallowtide/

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/all-saints-day/

It’s taken me quite a few years to tick off all three days of the triduum, but this year I can complete the set with All Souls. Just about every culture I know of, worldwide, has a special day (or season) to pay homage to the dead. Eventually – if I keep posting – I’ll mention Celtic Samhain which occurs around this time, marking the passage from the summer to the winter season, and is associated with the appearance of spirits of the dead. Unfortunately customs from Samhain and Halloween have merged over the years, and it will be good to pull them apart, as is my wont.

In the Catholic Church, “the faithful” refers specifically to baptized Catholics. The term “all souls” commemorates the church penitent of souls in Purgatory, whereas “all saints” commemorates the church triumphant of saints in Heaven. In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church (the Latin Church) it is called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Commemoratio omnium fidelium defunctorum). Protestants don’t buy into the idea of Purgatory, but both Lutherans and Calvinists have a long tradition of honoring the day. Anglicans are iffy about it (which fits my general belief that Anglicans have never quite made up their minds about whether they want to be Catholic or not – they can’t make up their minds about much of anything).

Saint Odilo of Cluny (c. 962 – 1 January 1049), fifth Benedictine Abbot of Cluny, established All Souls’ Day on 2nd November in Cluny and its monasteries as the annual commemoration to pray for all the faithful departed. The practice was soon adopted throughout the whole Western church (but not the Eastern rite). Among continental Protestants the All Souls tradition has been tenaciously maintained. During Luther’s lifetime, All Souls’ Day was widely observed in Saxony although the Roman Catholic meaning of the day was discarded. Ecclesiastically in the Lutheran Church, the day was merged with, and is often seen as an extension of All Saints’ Day, with many Lutherans still visiting and decorating graves on all the days of Allhallowtide, including All Souls’ Day. Just as it is the custom of French people to decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, so German, Polish, Czech, and Hungarian people visit graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers and special grave lights.

I may get round to a lengthier exposition on the Day of the Dead in Mexico one year. Indigenous celebrations of the departed have been going on in Mexico for millennia. After Spanish colonization these celebrations became linked to the Allhallowtide triduum in some parts of Mexico, especially the south. El Día de Muertos (NOT El Día de LOS Muertos, you Anglophone heathens), can be celebrated on November 1 or 2 or both. In some traditions the 1st is reserved for departed infants and children, and the 2nd for departed adults. Plans for the day are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves. Most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (altars), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchil (originally named cempoaxochitl, Nāhuatl for “twenty flowers”). In modern Mexico the marigold is sometimes called Flor de Muerto. These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased’s favorite candies on the grave. Some families have ofrendas in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto, and sugar skulls; and beverages such as atole.

Here’s my favorite requiem for the day (favorite because I sang in it as a teen):

You’ve got a wide range of possibilities for recipes today. I’ve already given you recipes for soul cakes and mashed potatoes and turnips with fish to celebrate the season. I’ll go with eggs in Purgatory today.

Eggs in Purgatory

Ingredients:

6 to 8 large eggs
2 large cans tomatoes, drained and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
¾ cup shredded melting cheese
1 lb fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring until they become soft and their juices, if any, have evaporated. Add the tomatoes and stir to heat thoroughly. With a spoon, make 6 to 8 (for each egg) nest spaces and break an egg into each space. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and cover evenly with cheese. Cover the pan and cook on low heat until the eggs are set. Garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty bread or toast.

Nov 012017
 

Today is the birthday (1871) of Stephen Crane who was a prolific novelist, poet, and short story writer during his short life. He wrote notable works in what is now called the American Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. I knew nothing about Crane until I moved to Orange County, New York near to Port Jervis where he grew up. He’s well known in the U.S. for The Red Badge of Courage, a stark portrayal of a battle during the American Civil War that was quite at odds with the writing of the time because of its unflinching description of the horrors of battle. I expect the book is (or was) required reading in high school literature classes, but American literature passed me by in its totality when I was in secondary school. Things may have changed. As soon as I lived near Port Jervis, and traveled there all the time for shopping and business, it was impossible to avoid Crane’s aura.

Crane was born on November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, to Jonathan Townley Crane, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church, and Mary Helen Peck Crane, daughter of a clergyman. He was the 14th and last child born to the couple. Nine survived to adulthood. The young Stephen was raised primarily by his sister Agnes, who was 15 years his senior. The family moved to Port Jervis, New York, in 1876, where his father became the pastor of Drew Methodist Church, a position that he retained until his death.

As a child, Stephen was often sickly and afflicted by constant colds. Despite his fragile nature, Crane was an intelligent child who taught himself to read before the age of four. Crane was not regularly enrolled in school until January 1880, but he had no difficulty in completing two grades in six weeks. Recalling this feat, he wrote that it “sounds like the lie of a fond mother at a teaparty, but I do remember that I got ahead very fast and that father was very pleased with me.”

Crane’s father died on February 16, 1880, at the age of 60; Stephen was 8 years old. After her husband’s death, Crane’s mother moved to Roseville, near Newark, leaving Stephen in the care of his older brother Edmund who lived in Sussex County, New Jersey. He next lived with his brother William, a lawyer, in Port Jervis for several years. His older sister Helen took him to Asbury Park to be with their brother Townley and his wife, Fannie. Townley was a professional journalist who headed the Long Branch department of both the New-York Tribune and the Associated Press, and also served as editor of the Asbury Park Shore Press. Agnes, another Crane sister, joined the siblings in New Jersey. She took a position at Asbury Park’s intermediate school and moved in with Helen to care for the young Stephen.

Within a couple of years, the Crane family suffered more losses. First, Townley and his wife lost their two young children. His wife Fannie died of Bright’s disease in November 1883. Agnes Crane became ill and died on June 10, 1884, of meningitis at the age of 28. In late 1885 Crane enrolled at Pennington Seminary, a ministry-focused coeducational boarding school 7 miles (11 km) north of Trenton. His father had been principal there from 1849 to 1858. In 1886 Luther Crane, another of Stephen’s siblings, died after falling in front of an oncoming train while working as a flagman for the Erie Railroad. It was the fourth death in six years among Stephen’s immediate family.

After two years, Crane left Pennington for Claverack College, a quasi-military school. He later looked back on his time at Claverack as “the happiest period of my life although I was not aware of it.” While he held an impressive record on the drill field and baseball diamond, Crane generally did not excel in the classroom. Not having a middle name, as was customary among other students, he took to signing his name “Stephen T. Crane” in order “to win recognition as a regular fellow.” Crane was seen as friendly, but also moody and rebellious. He sometimes skipped class in order to play baseball in which he was a star catcher. He was also greatly interested in the school’s military training program. He rose rapidly in the ranks of the student battalion.

In mid-1888, Crane became his brother Townley’s assistant at a New Jersey shore news bureau, working there every summer until 1892. Crane’s first publication under his byline was an article on the explorer Henry M. Stanley’s famous quest to find the Scottish missionary David Livingstone in Africa. It appeared in the February 1890 Claverack College Vidette. Within a few months, Crane was persuaded by his family to forgo a military career and transfer to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, in order to pursue a mining engineering degree. He registered at Lafayette on September 12, and promptly became involved in extracurricular activities. He took up baseball again and joined the largest fraternity, Delta Upsilon. He infrequently attended classes and ended the semester with grades for only four of the seven courses he had enrolled in. After one semester, he transferred to Syracuse University, where he enrolled as a non-degree candidate in the College of Liberal Arts. He roomed in the Delta Upsilon fraternity house and joined the baseball team. He attended just one class (English Literature) during the middle trimester, and remained in residence while taking no courses in the third trimester.

He focused on his writing while at Syracuse and began to experiment with tone and style while trying out different subjects. He published his fictional story, “Great Bugs of Onondaga,” simultaneously in the Syracuse Daily Standard and the New York Tribune. Having declared college “a waste of time” he decided to become a full-time writer and reporter. He attended a Delta Upsilon chapter meeting on June 12, 1891, but shortly thereafter left college for good. It’s getting quite normal for me to write that a famous author or writer quit school at a young age because he (or she) was fed up with its limitations. It’s less possible in the sciences and technical fields these days, but was the norm in these fields also at one time because education was dominated by Latin and Greek, with theology thrown in for good measure down to the 19th century.

Crane lived for only 9 years after college, but his life was packed with adventure. You can read about that on your own. I’ll, instead talk about The Red Badge of Courage and the role Port Jervis played in the writing of it. Not only did Crane spend significant portions of his boyhood in Port Jervis, he was a frequent visitor as an adult, staying with his brother, William. The house where William lived and practiced law on East Main Street is still used as law offices: now one of the grand old buildings in a part of the city that are too expensive to be used as private dwellings. In its heyday Port Jervis was a prosperous, thriving, bustling city located on a key turn in the Delaware and Hudson canal (hence the “port” part) which ran from Honesdale on the eastern tip of the coal fields of Pennsylvania to Kingston, New York, on the Hudson. The canal supplied coal to New York city (via the Hudson river), fueling the Industrial Revolution there. It was also the conduit for all manner of supplies such as bluestone, used as paving stones and building materials for the city, fine glassware and crystal, and a host of manufactured goods. The canal followed the Delaware river eastwards to Port Jervis, then struck north to Kingston. Until the canal was built Port Jervis did not exist as anything other than a minor village on the junction of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Afterwards it was a major center for manufacturing and commerce. In Crane’s time the city was in its absolute heyday

Drew Methodist church, where Crane’s father was pastor and where the Crane family lived, is adjacent to one of the city’s parks, now called Veteran’s Park, with various monuments to the 124th New York State Volunteers, generally known as the Orange Blossoms, who fought in major campaigns in the American Civil War, and who were recruited in major urban centers of Orange County, especially Port Jervis. Local tradition has it that Crane spent time, both as a boy and as an adult, listening to tales of war from veterans in that park. In fact, it used to be called Stephen Crane Memorial Park until 1983 when the name was changed because locals objected to it because they felt that The Red Badge of Courage was a disservice to the memory of civil war veterans, many of whose descendants still live in Port Jervis. No comment.

The central battle in The Red Badge of Courage is not named, but historians universally agree that it is a fictionalized account of the Battle of Chancellorsville where the Orange Blossoms served with distinction. You’ll have to read the book, if you haven’t already, to get the general feeling of it. Here’s some morsels:

He vaguely desired to walk around and around the body and stare; the impulse of the living to try and read in dead eyes the answer to the Question.

The youth took note of a remarkable change in his comrade since those days of camp life upon the river bank. He seemed no more to be continually regarding the proportions of his personal prowess. He was not furious at small words that pricked his conceits. He was no more a loud young soldier. There was about him now a fine reliance. He showed a quiet belief in his purposes and his abilities. And this inward confidence evidently enabled him to be indifferent to little words of other men aimed at him.

It was perhaps that they dreaded to be killed in insignificant ways after the times for proper military deaths had passed. Or, perhaps, they thought it would be too ironical to get killed at the portals of safety.

Even today readers marvel at the accuracy with which Crane was able to portray the inner feelings of soldiers in war time even though he had no experience of combat. Without question he spent long hours talking to veterans, probably in Port Jervis, and elsewhere.

Camp cooking during the American Civil War has been analyzed many times. The big problem at the start of the war was that the soldiers had no experience with cooking. Men didn’t cook at home in those days – end of story. In consequence the army had to devise a strategy to keep the men as well fed as possible. One solution was to divide the soldiers into mess units of 100 with a man appointed as main cook with another man helping on a rotating basis. For general reference to help the cooks Captain James Sanderson wrote Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or, Culinary Hints for the Soldier. You can find the complete text as a .pdf file here:

https://books.googleusercontent.com/books/content?req=AKW5Qaef3NK3YNUKcQUrOwz6KhRxlwJ1iCTm2kmWbIQ-EODOcjXLOUfGiG9RvPjde7ZN17vttRu8jQuY5sXRIpnJoplTAsD3nBT66PHH3tJj7is-nfubu1KMSXDgmhNgTpzMDql8Qp2NC03i95-TZf8398A3Qm6EJ5G5Faxn0aHI_HHLiEBqEaOFLtfdtbFPnbzkn8O8mg6T2U4_HrbYmEgriy_V86KoRQRU75irJz_tUydY7XJtTnQ8BxMRuZ5aNxJbUB3gU3tFE1QsTzROpmxSpZgE6eO0GNltEnqxtKzVt2soPaYpuZM 

The recipes are not bad and can easily be replicated at home. They are very detailed to help novice cooks, unlike other cookbooks of the era than were written for chefs and home cooks with some experience. I cooked in much the same over my fire pit in Orange County, not thinking at the time that I was re-enacting battlefield cooking. A few excerpts:

KITCHEN PHILOSOPHY.

Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets; and fat is more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than in anything else in this world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer, and scour, are the true secrets of good cooking.

BOILED PORK AND BEEN (sic) SOUP.

Never serve beans until they have been soaked over night. At eight o’clock in the morning, put eight quarts into two kettles, and fill up with clean cold water. Boil constantly, over a brisk fire, for an hour or more, during which many of the beans will rise to the top. At the end of this time, take the kettles off the fire for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then pour off all the water, replacing it with fresh clean water. Add to each kettle a pound of parboiled pork, without rind, and boil continuously for an hour and a half longer.

At quarter past eight o’clock, fill three kettles loosely with pieces of pork weighing from three to five pounds, cover with water, and boil briskly for one hour; then pour off all the liquid, and fill up with clean hot water, and boil for one hour and a half longer; then take out all the pork, and lay it aside. Take out also one-half of the beans from the other kettles, placing them aside for breakfast next morning, and add to the remainder the liquor in which the pork was boiled. To each kettle add also two onions chopped or sliced, with plenty of black or red pepper, some salt, and a tablespoonful of vinegar. After fifteen minutes’ longer boiling, mash the beans with a wooden stick made for the purpose, and serve, with a slice of pork, in a separate dish.

If onions are plenty, mince fine eight or ten of them, fry them in a pan with a little flour and fat, with half a pint hot water, and the same quantity of the liquor in which the pork was boiled. After cooking five minutes, add pepper, salt, and half a glass of vinegar, and pour over the slices of pork.