Jun 192018
 

Today is Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, a US holiday that commemorates the June 19th, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States. The name is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth.” Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in forty-five US states, observed primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and reading of works by noted African-American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations may include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862, with an effective date of January 1st, 1863. It declared that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were to be freed. This excluded the five states known later as border states, which were the four “slave states” not in rebellion—Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri—and those counties of Virginia soon to form the state of West Virginia, and also the three zones under Union occupation: the state of Tennessee, lower Louisiana, and Southeast Virginia. Because it was isolated geographically, Texas was not a battleground, and thus the people held there as slaves were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation unless they escaped. Planters and other slaveholders had migrated into Texas from eastern states to escape the fighting, and many brought enslaved people with them, increasing by the thousands the enslaved population in the state at the end of the Civil War.Although most enslaved people lived in rural areas, more than 1000 resided in both Galveston and Houston by 1860, with several hundred in other large towns. By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.

The news of Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9th moved slowly, and didn’t reach Texas until May 1865. The Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd. On June 18th, Union Army general Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The following day, standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Formerly enslaved people in Galveston rejoiced in the streets after the announcement, although in the years afterward many struggled against resistance from whites. The following year, freedmen organized the first of what became the annual celebration of Juneteenth in Texas. In some cities African-Americans were barred from using public parks because of state-sponsored segregation of facilities. Across parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land to hold their celebrations, such as Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.

Although the date is sometimes referred to as the “traditional end of slavery in Texas,” abolition was not given (state) legal status until a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874. In the early 20th century, economic and political forces led to a decline in Juneteenth celebrations. From 1890 to 1908, Texas and all former Confederate states passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disenfranchised African-Americans, excluding them from the political process. White-dominated state legislatures passed Jim Crow laws imposing second-class status. The Great Depression forced many African-American people off farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, African Americans had difficulty taking the day off to celebrate.

The Second Great Migration began during World War II, when many African-Americans migrated to the West Coast where skilled jobs in the defense industry were opening up. From 1940 until 1970, in the second wave of the Great Migration, more than 5 million African-Americans left Texas, Louisiana and other parts of the South for the North and West Coast. By the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement focused the attention of African-American youth on the struggle for racial equality and the future. But, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. Following the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign to Washington D.C. called by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, many attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations in areas where the day was not previously celebrated.

Since the 1980s and 1990s, the holiday has been more widely celebrated among African-American communities. In 1994 a group of community leaders gathered at Christian Unity Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana to work for greater national celebration of Juneteenth. Informal Juneteenth observances have spread to many other states, and even outside the United states. US military bases in other countries sponsor celebrations, in addition to those of private groups. Organizations such as the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are working toward gaining Congressional approval to designate Juneteenth as a national day of observance.

In 1980, Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday under legislation introduced by freshman Democratic state representative Al Edwards. Juneteenth is a “skeleton crew” day in the state; government offices do not close but agencies may operate with reduced staff. By 2008, nearly half of US states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. As of May 2016, when the Maryland legislature approved official recognition of the holiday, 45 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. States that do not recognize it are Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In 1996 the first legislation to recognize “Juneteenth Independence Day” was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who “successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day”, and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. In 2018 Apple added Juneteenth to its calendars in iOS under official US holidays.

You have to go with a Texas recipe on this date, which moves Texas BBQ and Texas chili to the front of the line for a day. “American cuisine” as a generic category is actually more or less meaningless. “As American as apple pie,” for example, is ridiculous. Apples are not indigenous to North America, and Europeans were making apple pies before Columbus even set sail. Most of what passes for “American cuisine” in diners and restaurants across the US is a set of standard dishes from Europe. Hamburgers and hot dogs can – perhaps – be put in a special category of dishes that have roots in Germany, but reached a classic form in the US. You can expand that special category somewhat if you care to, but it’s not much. The regional cooking of the US is a different tale. There are hundreds of regional specialties that are legitimately local cuisine, even if they have antecedents in other cultures. Texas chili most definitely fits the bill. There are cooking contests throughout Texas with myriad recipes, with only one common rule: Texas chili does not have beans in it. What spices you use, how hot it is, whether you chop or grind the meat, etc. etc. etc. are subjects of endless disagreements, and there may be as many recipes as there are Texans. This site gives recipes for award winning chilis: https://www.dallasnews.com/life/cooking/2018/02/22/best-real-texas-chili-recipes-no-beans-allowed  In making chili the number and type of ingredients vary enormously, but one rule should be paramount – cook your chili for a very long time (and refrigerate it overnight). Very slow simmering plus overnight refrigeration marries complex flavors producing a deeper and richer result. I use this as a cardinal rule for all my soups and stews. I prefer my Texas chili to be made from chopped, rather than ground beef. Chuck is my favored cut.

 

My basic recipe is to peel and dice an onion, and cook it over low heat in a skillet with a little vegetable oil until the onion begins to turn color. Then I turn up the heat, add the beef, and brown it on all sides. At the tail end of the process, I add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced, and some diced bell pepper. When the meat has browned I cover it with rich beef stock, plus a can of diced tomatoes and some tomato puree. For seasonings I add in sliced hot red peppers, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and paprika. I let the whole pot simmer for several hours, replenishing the stock if the dish gets too dry. Most Texas cooks use a deep saucepan rather than a skillet, because the stock does not evaporate so quickly in a saucepan. Either way, the finished product should not be soupy, but should have a thick sauce clinging to the meat. Both the tomato puree and dry spices are key to thickening the sauce.

 

I have been deliberately vague about my cooking technique here because it varies from batch to batch. You have to go to Texas to get the real deal to begin with, and then you have to adjust everything to suit your tastes. If I have not said it enough already in previous posts: taste the sauce repeatedly and often, and adjust your seasonings as you go. Some years ago, I took to adding a little finely diced onion to the sauce at the tail end of cooking, right before serving. I don’t like adding completely raw onion as a garnish to the finished bowl, as some Texans do, but I like the brightness that freshly cooked onion adds. Your choice.

Apr 182016
 

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On this date in 1981, the longest game in professional baseball history began, between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two teams from the Triple-A International League. It lasted for 33 innings, with eight hours and 25 minutes of playing time. 32 innings were played April 18/19, 1981 at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and the final 33rd inning was played June 23, 1981. Pawtucket won the game, 3–2.

One of the reasons I loved baseball when I lived in New York (Mets fan), is its quirkiness, especially when it comes to issues of time and space. W. P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe (which became the movie Field of Dreams) and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy is one of several madmen obsessed with baseball whom I admire. He too is captivated by the fact that baseball is determined by its own internal rules (and contradictions) and not by external factors. So, for example, the length of any game is determined by play, not by a clock. An inning for example could, in theory, last 10 minutes, or 2 hours depending on play. If the score is tied after 9 innings there’s no telling how long it will go on for. Likewise, the ball park is theoretically limitless in size. The foul lines can be extended ad infinitum. This fact has led Kinsella to argue that all points in the universe are within the foul lines of every major league ball park. He needs a geometry lesson, but you get the point.

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The game in question here began on Saturday, April 18, 1981 at 8:25 p.m., after a delay of about 30 minutes due to problems with stadium lights, with 1,740 in attendance. It continued through the night and into Easter morning. Although most leagues have a curfew rule that would have suspended the game—the International League’s activates at 12:50 a.m.—the rule book that the home plate umpire Dennis Cregg had did not contain this rule. After Pawtucket’s Russ Laribee’s sacrifice fly drove in Chico Walker in the bottom of the ninth inning and tied the game at one run each, the teams continued playing.

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Several times, one side neared victory before circumstances changed. When Wade Boggs drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 21st inning after a Rochester run, even the Pawtucket players groaned. He recalled that, “I didn’t know if the guys on the team wanted to hug me or slug me.” The weather was so cold that players burned broken bats and the stadium’s wooden benches to warm themselves, and the clubhouses ran out of food. The wind blew into the infield, making hits difficult; Pawtucket’s Dave Koza later claimed that otherwise his team would have won in nine innings, with “four or five shots that would have been out of the park”. For example, Sam Bowen hit a fly ball to center that reportedly left the field before the wind blew it back to Rochester outfielder Dallas Williams. Williams went 0–for–13 in 15 plate appearances, one of many records achieved during the game.

Dan Berry

After Pawtucket’s Luis Aponte pitched the 7th to 10th innings in relief, manager Joe Morgan—who himself would be ejected in the 22nd inning by Cregg—let him leave before the game ended. Aponte’s wife did not believe his explanation for coming home at 3 a.m. Sunday. He promised that the Sunday newspaper would prove his story, but since the game’s postponement occurred too late to appear in it, Aponte had to wait until the Monday edition. Cregg had brought his nephew David to the game; David’s father became concerned for his family and called the police, who told him that the game had not ended.

By 4 a.m. the players were quoted as being “delirious from exhaustion.” Rochester’s Dave Huppert had caught the first 31 innings before being replaced, and Jim Umbarger pitched 10 scoreless innings from the 23rd inning, striking out nine and giving up four hits. The president of the league, Harold Cooper, was finally reached on the phone by Pawtucket public relations manager Mike Tamburro some time after 3:00 a.m. The horrified Cooper ordered that play stop at the end of the current inning. Finally at 4:07 a.m., at the end of the 32nd inning and more than eight hours after it began, the game was stopped. There were 19 fans left in the seats—not including David Cregg, who had fallen asleep—all of whom received season or lifetime passes to McCoy Stadium. As the players went home to rest before returning at 11 a.m. for an afternoon game that Sunday, they saw people going to Easter sunrise services. When Boggs’ father complimented him for getting four hits in the game, he admitted that he had had 12 at bats.

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Both teams signed a baseball on Sunday for display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooper had suggested that the game resume that day, but Rochester manager Doc Edwards requested a delay because of the risk of injury. Instead, it resumed on the evening of Tuesday, June 23, the next time the Red Wings were in town. A sellout crowd of 5,746 and 140 reporters from around the world were present, partly because the major leagues were on strike at the time; the players voted against an offer to resume the game at Fenway Park to avoid crossing the picket line. On that evening, it took just one inning and 18 minutes to finish the game, with Koza driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 33rd. The losing pitcher was Steve Grilli, who had joined Rochester in the interim since the game’s suspension.

Russ Laribee of the PawSox went 0–for–11 with a sacrifice fly, striking out seven times, becoming the first player in history to surpass the titanium sombrero (six strikeout) level. Based on a nine-inning game, Laribee would only have struck out three times per nine innings.

Between the two teams, pitchers faced a total of 246 batters (219 AB, 23 BB, 4 HBP).

A total of 882 pitches were thrown.

Pawtucket’s Dave Koza had the most hits of any player in the game: five, including the game-winner.

53 runners were left on base (30 by Rochester and 23 by Pawtucket).

Two future Hall of Famers were part of the historic game. Cal Ripken, Jr., who was inducted in 2007, went 2–for–13 on the night playing third base for Rochester. Ripken was the American League’s Rookie of the Year the following year. Wade Boggs, who was inducted in 2005, played third base for Pawtucket and went 4–for–12 with a double and an RBI. The Baseball Hall of Fame possesses other artifacts of the game, including the official scorecard.

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23 other future major leaguers played in the game.

From Pawtucket:

Bob Ojeda, the winner of the game after pitching a scoreless 33rd inning, would go on to pitch for 15 major league seasons, most notably for the New York Mets (going 18–5 in 1986 to help the team win the World Series that year), Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. While many of Pawtucket’s players would play key roles in the 1986 World Series as members of the Boston Red Sox, Ojeda would go on to play for their opponent, the New York Mets. He then became the lone survivor in a boat crash that claimed the lives of two other pitchers in spring training before Ojeda’s first season with the Cleveland Indians.

Bruce Hurst pitched for 15 seasons in the majors for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. His career record was 145–113, a .562 winning percentage.

Rich Gedman caught for the Boston Red Sox for most of his 13-year major league career.

Marty Barrett played ten major league seasons at second base for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, hitting .278 for his career.

Chico Walker later played 11 seasons in the majors with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, California Angels, and New York Mets.

Mike Smithson started 204 games for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox.

Manny Sarmiento pitched in 228 major league games for the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Luis Aponte made 110 pitching appearances as a reliever with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.

Julio Valdez played 65 games with the Boston Red Sox, mostly serving as a shortstop and second baseman.

From Rochester:

Floyd Rayford went on to play third base and catch for seven years with the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals. His best year was 1985, when he hit .306 with 18 home runs and 48 RBI.

Jim Umbarger appeared in 133 games as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics between 1975 and 1978. He pitched in the minors until 1983.

Steve Grilli’s major league career was already over by the time he pitched in (and lost) this game. Grilli pitched in 69 games for the Detroit Tigers from 1975–77, and one game as a Toronto Blue Jay in 1979. Grilli, the father of Jason Grilli, retired from baseball at the end of the 1981 season.

Cliff Speck went on to pitch for the Atlanta Braves in 1986, appearing in 13 games, including one start.

Mark Corey played in 59 games in his three years as a Baltimore Oriole outfielder.

Bobby Bonner played for four years in the early ’80s as a middle-infielder with the Baltimore Orioles.

Strictly speaking I shouldn’t be advocating anything but a hot dog to celebrate this game, and I’m about to put one on to heat as I am writing. However, I’ve covered hot dogs extensively before. On the other hand, Pawtucket is dubiously famous for its chili recipe, so let’s go with that. If you want you can pour some over a hot dog.  The thing about this recipe, which is not really far out of the ordinary, is that it is meatless.

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Pawtucket Chili

Ingredients

40 oz can kidney beans (or two 16 oz cans)
15 oz can chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz tomato sauce
14¼ oz can whole tomatoes
1 tbsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp basil
3 tbsp chili powder

Instructions

Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil in a heavy pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low heat for about an hour. You want the sauce to thicken as it cooks down.

That’s it folks. A great deal quicker than the game !! Serve in deep bowls, topped with shredded cheese if you like. I add a good dose of hot sauce.

May 042014
 

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Today is International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD). It was instituted after a proposal was emailed out across the world on January 4, 1999 following the deaths of five firefighters in tragic circumstances in a wildfire in Australia. May 4 used to be a traditional Firefighters’ Day in many European countries, because it is the feast day of Saint Florian, patron saint of firefighters.

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On 2 December 1998, firefighters in Linton in the Australian state of Victoria were fighting a large wild fire near the town and called for mutual aid. This mutual aid call brought two trucks from the volunteer Geelong West Fire Brigade to the scene as a strike team. As the trucks entered the hot zone the wind suddenly changed direction and the trucks were engulfed in flames. Five firefighters – Garry Vredeveldt, Chris Evans, Stuart Davidson, Jason Thomas, and Matthew Armstrong – were killed. IFFD was instituted to commemorate not only their deaths, but the deaths of all firefighters in action, and to honor the bravery and dedication of all firefighters worldwide.

Linton memorial

Linton memorial

One of the ways to show your support is to wear or sport a red and blue ribbon as shown above. Red represents fire and the blue, water. You can wear the ribbon, decorate your car or house with the colors, place tokens on your front lawn. Be creative. Show your support.

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The patron saint of firefighters is St Florian. Florian was born about 250 CE in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin in present-day Sankt Pölten in Austria. He joined the Roman army and advanced in the ranks, rising to commander of the imperial army in the Roman province of Noricum. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing firefighting brigades. Florian organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires, and so is sometimes honored as the founder of professional firefighting. Among miracles attributed to him was the extinguishing of a raging village fire using a single bucket of water. It is also said that he was executed during the Diocletian persecution of Christians. Reports reached Rome that Florian was not enforcing the proscriptions against Christians in his territory. Aquilinus was sent to investigate these reports. When Aquilinus ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods in accordance with Roman religion, he refused. Florian was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying “If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames.” Instead they drowned him in the Enns river with a millstone around his neck. His death thus ironically combines fire and water.

Although International Firefighters Day originated from the deaths of firefighters in Linton, the day is meant as a memorial and celebration of people in all branches of emergency services including hazardous materials specialists, fire prevention specialists, heavy equipment operators/mechanics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), auxiliaries, and more. Do something special today to honor people in these services in your own way.

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I would like to celebrate the day by honoring the members of my old company, Cuddebackville Fire Department (CFD). I was a volunteer firefighter/EMT with them for 7 years. During that time I had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Cuddebackville is a small rural community in the region of New York that borders Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You might think that a village of around 600 people would not need a fire company, but CFD performs all manner of emergency duties and community services – medical emergencies, road accidents, river rescue, flood control, ice rescue, and so forth. In the busiest year when I was in the squad we were called out 235 times. The camaraderie I shared with my brothers and sisters in those years is very special to me. They called me “the professor.” At the time I weighed 135lbs and you would never have mistaken me for a body builder. But I was part of a team, and we all did the jobs we were trained for in harmony. It was the teamwork and dedication that inspired me.

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There is a saying in emergency services that I like, “We run towards things that other people run away from.” So . . . a great big, heartfelt shout out to all people who put their lives on the line without hesitation in the service of others.

All firehouses, career and volunteer, have a kitchen. Career firefighters have shifts that last for 24 hours, several days in a row, and they must live and take their meals at the firehouse during that time. Occasionally volunteer firefights also live at the firehouse, for example, during times of extended bad weather when driving to the firehouse would be hazardous. But volunteer firehouses also need kitchens for times when the squad is called out for a structural fire, or other extended duty, when it is necessary to provide meals for people on site. A structure fire may take a day or more to bring under control.

That firefighters love chili is a slightly overworked cliché, but it is based in reality. So I’ll present you here with my recipe. Nothing starts an argument faster that just about every aspect of chili, including the spelling of the word. In the U.K. it is often “chilli” and in the U.S. sides are divided between “chili” and “chile.” I’m not going to get in the middle of this one, but simply state that I use “chili” for the dish, and “chile” for the hot peppers that go into it. There are also endless disputes about the ingredients of chili – with or without beans is a big one. Tomatoes or not? Chunked or ground meat? Beef or another meat? What spices? All are arguments that get some people hot under the collar, but I can’t be bothered with them. I make chili the way I like it, and it happens to be close to what is usually called “firehouse chili” in the U.S.  I do also make Cincinnati chili but that’s a story for another day.

I won’t give you a formal recipe because, as with all soups and stews, I don’t ever measure anything, and ingredients can vary. It’s not really feasible to make a small amount.  I usually make a batch of at least a gallon. It freezes well, but I rarely have to.  I can eat a gallon in 2 days, no worries. Here are the basics.

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Firehouse Chili

Bring beef stock to a simmer in a stock pot. It should be around ¼ full.

Use a dry skillet to brown ground beef in a skillet. Make sure you break up any clumps of meat. Add the browned beef to the stock.

Add a little vegetable oil to the skillet and gently sauté coarsely chopped onions until golden. For the last minute or so add finely chopped garlic, but do not let it brown otherwise it will be bitter. Add the onions and garlic to the stock.

Add roughly chopped canned tomatoes and tomato paste to the stock along with chopped green or red bell peppers, hot peppers to suit your tastes, cumin, oregano, paprika, and parsley.

It’s your choice whether to add beans at this stage. I do. They can be canned or pre-cooked. It really does not matter what beans you choose. I usually use pinto beans, but I find black beans make a nice change.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for an hour or more. Over time the stock will reduce and thicken. You do not want the final product to be watery.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread or flour tortillas.