May 292018
 

Today is the birthday (1874) of Gilbert Keith “G.K.” Chesterton, KC*SG, English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Chesterton was at one time well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics, but his star is perhaps a little pale over the horizon these days. As you will see from the few quotes I give at the end, I greatly value his wit and intellect. I have yet to glean why so many High Anglicans of his era converted to Catholicism in later life. Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an “orthodox” Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism. I have no doubt that many do not understand my Protestantism. I come by it honestly (and wear it lightly).

Chesterton was born in Campden Hill in Kensington, London, the son of Marie Louise, née Grosjean, and Edward Chesterton. He was baptized at the age of one month into the Church of England, though his family themselves were irregularly practicing Unitarians. According to his autobiography, as a young man Chesterton became fascinated with the occult and, along with his brother Cecil, experimented with Ouija boards. Chesterton was educated at St Paul’s School, then attended the Slade School of Art, a department of University College, London, to become an illustrator. He also took classes in literature, but did not complete a degree in either subject.

Chesterton married Frances Blogg in 1901 and the marriage lasted his whole life. In September 1895 Chesterton began working for the London publisher Redway, where he remained for just over a year. In October 1896 he moved to the publishing house T. Fisher Unwin, where he remained until 1902. During this period he also undertook his first journalistic work, as a freelance art and literary critic. In 1902 the Daily News gave him a weekly opinion column, followed in 1905 by a weekly column in The Illustrated London News, for which he continued to write for the next 30 years.

Chesterton had planned to become an artist, and his writing often shows a sense of the visual that grounds the abstract in the concrete Father Brown is perpetually correcting the incorrect vision of the bewildered people at the scene of the crime and wandering off at the end with the criminal to exercise his priestly role of recognition and repentance. For example, in the story “The Flying Stars,” Father Brown entreats the character Flambeau to give up his life of crime: “There is still youth and honour and humour in you; don’t fancy they will last in that trade. Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down. The kind man drinks and turns cruel; the frank man kills and lies about it. Many a man I’ve known started like you to be an honest outlaw, a merry robber of the rich, and ended stamped into slime.”

Chesterton loved to debate, often engaging in friendly public disputes with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow. According to his autobiography, he and Shaw played cowboys in a silent film that was never released.

Chesterton was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and weighing around 20 stone 6 pounds (130 kg; 286 lb). His girth gave rise to a famous anecdote. During the First World War a lady in London asked why he was not “out at the Front”; he replied, “If you go round to the side, you will see that I am.” On another occasion he remarked to Shaw, “To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.” Shaw replied, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it.” P. G. Wodehouse once described a very loud crash as “a sound like G. K. Chesterton falling onto a sheet of tin.”

Chesterton usually wore a cape and a crumpled hat, with a swordstick in hand, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He had a tendency to forget where he was supposed to be going and miss the train that was supposed to take him there. It is reported that on several occasions he sent a telegram to his wife Frances from some distant (and incorrect) location, writing such things as “Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” to which she would reply, “Home.” (Chesterton himself tells the story, omitting his wife’s alleged reply, in ch. XVI of his autobiography.)

In 1931, the BBC invited Chesterton to give a series of radio talks. He accepted, tentatively at first. However, from 1932 until his death, Chesterton delivered over 40 talks per year. He was allowed (and encouraged) to improvise on the scripts. This allowed his talks to maintain an intimate character, as did the decision to allow his wife and secretary to sit with him during his broadcasts. The talks were very popular. A BBC official remarked, after Chesterton’s death, that “in another year or so, he would have become the dominating voice from Broadcasting House.”

Chesterton died of congestive heart failure on the morning of 14 June 1936, at his home in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. His last known words were a greeting spoken to his wife. The homily at Chesterton’s Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral, London, was delivered by Ronald Knox on 27th June 1936. Knox said, “All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton’s influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton.” He is buried in Beaconsfield in the Catholic Cemetery. Near the end of Chesterton’s life, Pope Pius XI invested him as Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great (KC*SG). The Chesterton Society has proposed that he be beatified. He is remembered liturgically on 13th June by the Episcopal Church, with a provisional feast day as adopted at the 2009 General Convention.

My favorite quote from Chesterton of all time (which I cite often) is:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

If he had said no more, that would be sufficient. [Bold italics seem about right to me.] But he had much, much more to say. A sampling:

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.

It’s not that we don’t have enough scoundrels to curse; it’s that we don’t have enough good men to curse them.

If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkeness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by Poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.

Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.

To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

The rich are the scum of the earth in every country.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that Chesterton loved his food, and cheese was certainly high on his list of favorites:

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.

His actual food favorites are not easy discern, except that his secretary noted that he rarely ate vegetable, but preferred meat and potatoes. He also went through long spells of heavy drinking. At age 40 he came close to dying from the ill effects on his heart of his obesity. Surprisingly, as a young man he was rail thin, and often teased about it. But from his 30s onward, he waged a battle with excessive eating and drinking. He put his height and weight at 6’ 2” and 300 lbs, although he claimed that the weight was just a guess. Normal scales don’t typically go much over 250 lbs, and he was usually heavier than that.

I’m sure Chesterton ate roast ribs of beef in the quantity recommended by Mrs Beeton:

ROAST RIBS OF BEEF.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—Beef, a little salt.

Mode.—-The fore-rib is considered the primest roasting piece, but the middle-rib is considered the most economical. Let the meat be well hung (should the weather permit), and cut off the thin ends of the bones, which should be salted for a few days, and then boiled. Put the meat down to a nice clear fire, put some clean dripping into the pan, dredge the joint with a little flour, and keep continually basting the whole time. Sprinkle some fine salt over it (this must never be done until the joint is dished, as it draws the juices from the meat); pour the dripping from the pan, put in a little boiling: water slightly salted, and strain the gravy over the meat. Garnish with tufts of scraped horseradish, and send horseradish sauce to table with it (see No. 447). A Yorkshire pudding (see Puddings) sometimes accompanies this dish, and, if lightly made and well cooked, will be found a very agreeable addition.

Time.—10 lbs. of beef, 2-1/2 hours; 14 to 16 lbs., from 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

Average cost, 8-1/2d. per lb.

Sufficient.—A joint of 10 lbs. sufficient for 8 or 9 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

MEMORANDA IN ROASTING.—The management of the fire is a point of primary importance in roasting. A radiant fire throughout the operation is absolutely necessary to insure a good result. When the article to be dressed is thin and delicate, the fire may be small; but when the joint is large, the fire must fill the grate. Meat must never be put down before a hollow or exhausted fire, which may soon want recruiting; on the other hand, if the heat of the fire becomes too fierce, the meat must be removed to a considerable distance till it is somewhat abated. Some cooks always fail in their roasts, though they succeed in nearly everything else. A French writer on the culinary art says that anybody can learn how to cook, but one must be born a roaster. According to Liebig, beef or mutton cannot be said to be sufficiently roasted until it has acquired, throughout the whole mass, a temperature of 158°; but poultry may be well cooked when the inner parts have attained a temperature of from 130° to 140°. This depends on the greater amount of blood which beef and mutton contain, the colouring matter of blood not being coagulable under 158°.

 

 

Jun 132016
 

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On this date in 313 the Edict of Milan was posted in Nicomedia. The precise dating of the Edict and its exact nature is still under dispute, but in general it was a Roman proclamation (one of several) to declare that Christians were to be treated fairly throughout the empire. It was originally devised in February of that year, but no other definitive dates are known, nor has the original document survived. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I, and Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Milan and among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the Edict of Toleration by Galerius issued 2 years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity a legal status, but did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire.

The document we now call the Edict of Milan (Edictum Mediolanense) is found in Lactantius’ De Mortibus Persecutorum and in Eusebius of Caesarea’s History of the Church with marked divergences between the two. Whether or not there was actually a formal ‘Edict of Milan’  is debatable. The version found in Lactantius is not in the form of an edict. It is a letter from Licinius to the governors of the provinces in the Eastern Empire he had just conquered by defeating Maximinus later in the same year and issued in Nicomedia.

Ever since the fall of the Severan dynasty in 235, rivals for the imperial throne had bid for support by either favoring or persecuting Christians. The previous Edict of Toleration by Galerius had been recently issued by the emperor Galerius from Serdica and was posted at Nicomedia on 30 April 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had “followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity”, were granted an indulgence:

Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the commonwealth may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes.

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Their confiscated property, however, was not restored until 313, when instructions were given for the Christians’ meeting places and other properties to be returned and compensation paid by the state to the current owners:

. . . the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception.

It directed the provincial magistrates to execute this order at once with all energy so that public order may be restored and the continuance of divine favor may “preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state.”

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The actual letters have never been retrieved. However, they are quoted at length in Lactantius’ On the Deaths of the Persecutors (De mortibus persecutorum), which gives the Latin text of both Galerius’ Edict of Toleration as posted at Nicomedia on 30 April 311 and of Licinius’s letter of toleration and restitution addressed to the governor of Bithynia and posted at Nicomedia on 13 June 313.

Eusebius of Caesarea translated both documents into Greek in his History of the Church (Historia Ecclesiastica). His version of the letter of Licinius must derive from a copy posted in the province of Palaestina Prima (probably at its capital, Caesarea) in the late summer or early autumn of 313, but the origin of his copy of Galerius’s Edict of 311 is unknown since that does not seem to have been promulgated in Caesarea. In his description of the events in Milan in his Life of Constantine, Eusebius eliminated the role of Licinius, whom he portrayed as the evil foil to his hero Constantine.

The Edict was actually directed against Maximinus Daia, the Caesar in the East who was at that time styling himself as Augustus. Having received the emperor Galerius’ instruction to repeal the persecution in 311, Maximinus had instructed his subordinates to desist, but had not released Christians from prisons or virtual death-sentences in the mines, as Constantine and Licinius had both done in the West. Following Galerius’ death, Maximinus was no longer constrained. He enthusiastically took up renewed persecutions in the eastern territories under his control, encouraging petitions against Christians. One of those petitions, addressed not only to Maximinus but also to Constantine and Licinius, is preserved in a stone inscription at Arycanda in Lycia:

Christians, who have long been disloyal and still persist in the same mischievous intent, should at last be put down and not be suffered by any absurd novelty to offend against the honor due to the gods.

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The Edict of Milan is popularly, but falsely, thought to concern only Christianity, and even to make Christianity the official religion of the Empire (which did not actually occur until the Edict of Thessalonica in 380). In fact, the Edict expressly grants religious liberty not only to Christians, who had been the object of special persecution, but goes even further and grants liberty to all religions:

When you see that this has been granted to [Christians] by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion.

Because Licinius composed the Edict with the intent of publishing it in the east following his hoped-for victory over Maximinus, it expresses the religious policy accepted by Licinius, a pagan, rather than that of Constantine, who was already practicing some form of Christianity. Constantine’s own policy went beyond merely tolerating Christianity: he tolerated paganism and other religions, but he actively promoted Christianity.

People commonly point to the Edict of Milan as Constantine’s first great act as a Christian Emperor, although, it is unlikely that the Edict of Milan was an act of genuine Christian faith on Constantine’s part. The document instead should more accurately be seen as the first step in creating an alliance with the Christian God, whom Constantine considered the strongest deity – among many. Constantine at that time was more concerned about social stability and the protection of the empire from the wrath of the Christian God than he was for justice or care for the Christians. The Edict of Milan is more indicative of the Roman culture’s genuine desire for seeking the gods’ intervention – which ones might prove profitable –  than of Constantine’s or Licinius’ religious beliefs.

The Edict of Milan required that the wrong done to the Christians be righted as thoroughly as possible. From the state’s perspective all wrongs should be righted as it claims “it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever.” The edict further demanded that individual Romans right any wrongs towards the Christians as well. These provisions indicate that more than just the establishment of justice was intended. After stating that they should return what was lost to the Christians immediately, the edict states that this should be done so that “public order may be secured,” not for the intrinsic value of justice or even for the glory of God. The sense of urgently righting wrongs reflects the leaders’ desires to avoid unfavorable consequences, which in this case included social unrest and both internal and external weakness.

Constantine is known to have been superstitious and believed in the existence of a number of gods. Because Constantine actually revered all the gods worshiped in the Roman Empire at that time, his fear of, and desire to form an alliance with, the Christian God (as demonstrated in the Edict of Milan), is insufficient to claim he was actually a Christian in the conventional sense. He was just trying to cover all bases. Nonetheless, the Edict stopped the persecution of Christians, which many historians see as both a blessing and a curse.

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Constantine was first exposed to Christianity by his mother, Helena. At the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with the Christian symbol in accordance with a vision that he had had the night before. After winning the battle, Constantine was able to claim the emperorship in the West. How much Christianity Constantine had adopted at this point is difficult to discern. The Roman coins minted up to eight years subsequent to the battle still bore the images of Roman gods. Nonetheless, the accession of Constantine was a turning point for the Christian Church. After his victory, Constantine supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges such as exemption from certain taxes to clergy, promoted Christians to some high-ranking offices, and returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian.

Between 324 and 330, Constantine built, virtually from scratch, a new imperial capital that came to be named for him: Constantinople. It had overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls, and had no pagan temples. In accordance with a prevailing custom, Constantine was baptized on his deathbed.

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Constantine also played an active role in the leadership of the Church. In 316, he acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council. Constantine thus established a precedent for the emperor as responsible to God for the spiritual health of his subjects, and, thus, with a duty to maintain orthodoxy. The emperor was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. As far as I am concerned this is the curse.

Constantine’s son’s successor, known as Julian the Apostate, was a philosopher who upon becoming emperor renounced Christianity and embraced a Neo-platonic and mystical form of paganism shocking the Christian establishment. He began reopening pagan temples and, intent on re-establishing the prestige of the old pagan beliefs, he modified them to resemble Christian traditions such as the episcopal structure and public charity (previously unknown in Roman paganism). Julian’s short reign ended when he died while campaigning in the East.

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Subsequently Church Fathers such as Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, John Chrysostom and Athanasius published extensive theological texts, and argued non-stop about the correct interpretation of canonical texts including the gospels and the Pauline epistles. This all led to the entrenchment of the rigidly dogmatic and hierarchical Catholic Church that was opposed periodically by various elements, leading to the kaleidoscope of sects we have today. I suspect that the Christian Church was a great deal more faithful to the precepts of Jesus before the Edict of Milan than it ever was subsequently, even following the Protestant Reformation.

I could give a recipe from De Re Coquinaria of Apicius. The period is right (4th century) as well as the general provenance. But I’ve given quite a few already. Search for Apicius in the search box and you’ll find plenty. They are really very much all on the same theme and are not easy to understand. A lot of the time he just gives lists of ingredients which all seem to be limited to the same items, such as here:

Piper, cuminum frictum, ligusticum, mentam, uuam passam enucleatam aut Damascena, mel modice. uino myrteo temperabis, aceto, liquamen et oleo.

Pepper, roasted cumin seeds, mint, grapes or raisins, honey, myrtle wine, vinegar, liquamen (fermented fish sauce) and olive oil.

These are pretty standard seasonings for Apicius, and, trust me, I’ve searched his work extensively. What we’re looking at is a sauce that is sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Could be classic Chinese!

Let’s take a small, and slightly anachronistic detour. The village of Gorgonzola is in the Milan district and gives its name to the famous blue cheese, which can be found easily throughout Lombardy, and is immensely popular. The cheese was probably not made until the 9th century at the earliest, so it does not fit the period of the Edict, but it is regionally suitable. Like Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses, I’m fond of a midday snack of a Gorgonzola sandwich because I usually have some on hand, and it’s quick and easy – nothing additional necessary because Gorgonzola is rich, complex, and tangy. Gorgonzola is a good addition to pasta sauces too.

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For a basic Gorgonzola sauce, heat one or two tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil in a wide, deep skillet over medium heat. Add some finely diced onion and cook gently until soft (2 to 3 minute). Add equal quantities of shredded gorgonzola and heavy cream, and stir until the cheese melts. Then add small cooked pasta, such as penne, farfalle, or conchiglie, and stir until the sauce coats the pasta completely. I like to add a little cooked spinach to the sauce for both color and flavor. Very traditional.

Apr 132015
 

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Today is the birthday (1743) of Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of the U.S., the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). He was a spokesman for democracy, and embraced the principles of republicanism and the rights of the individual worldwide. At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia, and then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781). In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France and later the first United States Secretary of State (1790–1793) serving under President George Washington. In opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s Federalism, Jefferson and his close friend, James Madison, organized the Democratic-Republican Party, and later resigned from Washington’s cabinet. Elected Vice President in 1796 in the administration of John Adams, Jefferson opposed Adams, and with Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which attempted to nullify the Alien and Sedition Acts (designed to limit immigration and suppress freedom of speech). His opposition helped him defeat Adams in the 1800 presidential election.

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Elected president in what Jefferson called the “Revolution of 1800”, he oversaw acquisition of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806), and later three others, to explore the new west. Jefferson doubled the size of the United States during his presidency. His second term was beset with troubles at home, such as the failed treason trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr. When Britain threatened American shipping challenging U.S. neutrality during its war with Napoleon, he tried economic warfare with his embargo laws, which only impeded American foreign trade. In 1803, President Jefferson initiated a process of Indian tribal removal to the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River, having opened lands for eventual American settlers. In 1807 Jefferson drafted and signed into law a bill that banned slave importation into the United States.

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A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath in the arts, sciences, and politics. Considered an important architect in the classical tradition, he designed his home Monticello and other notable buildings. Jefferson was keenly interested in science, invention, architecture, religion, and philosophy; he was an active member and eventual president of the American Philosophical Society. He was conversant in French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, and studied other languages and linguistics, interests which led him to found the University of Virginia after his presidency. Although not a notable orator, Jefferson was a skilled writer and corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe throughout his adult life.

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As long as he lived, Jefferson expressed opposition to slavery, yet he owned hundreds of slaves and freed only a few of them. Historians generally believe that after the death of his wife Jefferson had a long-term relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and fathered some or all of her children. Although criticized by many present-day scholars over the issues of racism and slavery, Jefferson is consistently rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.

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Throughout his life Jefferson was intensely interested in theology, religious studies, and morality. Given that a post of this nature cannot cover more than a small fraction of Jefferson’s life and works I am going to limit myself to his religious beliefs which influenced so much of his political thought and action. Jefferson was most closely connected with Unitarianism. He was sympathetic to and in general agreement with the moral precepts of Christianity, believed in an afterlife and in the active involvement, or guidance, of God in the affairs of humanity. He considered the teachings of Jesus as having “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,” yet he held that the pure teachings of Jesus appeared to have been appropriated by some of Jesus’ early followers, resulting in a Bible that contained both “diamonds” of wisdom and the “dung” of ancient political agendas.

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As the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, Jefferson articulated a statement about human rights that most Americans regard as nearly sacred. Jefferson held that “acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence” (as in his First Inaugural Address) was important and in his second inaugural address, expressed the need to gain “the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old.” Still, together with James Madison, Jefferson carried on a long and successful campaign against state financial support of churches in Virginia. It is Jefferson who created the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut. During his 1800 campaign for the presidency, Jefferson had to contend with critics who argued that he was unfit to hold office because of their discomfort with his “unorthodox” religious beliefs.

Jefferson used certain passages of the New Testament to compose The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (aka the “Jefferson Bible”), which excluded any miracles by Jesus and stressed his moral message. Though he often expressed his opposition to many practices of the clergy, and to many specific popular Christian doctrines of his day, Jefferson repeatedly expressed his admiration for Jesus as a moral teacher, and consistently referred to himself as a Christian (though following his own unique type of Christianity) throughout his life. Jefferson opposed Calvinism, Trinitarianism, and what he identified as Platonic elements in Christianity. In private letters Jefferson also described himself as subscribing to other certain philosophies, in addition to being a Christian. In these letters he described himself as also being an “Epicurean” (1819), a “19th century materialist” (1820), Upon the disestablishment of religion in Connecticut, he wrote to John Adams: “I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character,” a “Unitarian by myself” (1825), and “a sect by myself” (1819). Historians have often associated Jefferson with “rational religion” or deism, however Jefferson’s expressed beliefs in divine interventionism, and in an afterlife would seem to disqualify him from being labeled as a true Deist, as the word Deist is understood in modern day usage (belief in a god who did to interfere in human affairs). Jefferson saw a certain harmony between the various philosophies that he ascribed to, but his understandings of these philosophies themselves were sometimes at odds with the more popular or “orthodox” understandings of these philosophies of his day.

Jefferson was raised in the Church of England at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Before the Revolution, parishes were units of local government, and Jefferson served as a vestryman, a lay administrative position in his local parish. Office-holding qualifications at all levels—including the Virginia House of Burgesses, to which Jefferson was elected in 1769—required affiliation with the current state religion and a commitment that one would neither express dissent nor do anything that did not conform to church doctrine. Jefferson counted clergy among his friends, and he contributed financially to the Anglican Church he attended regularly.

Following the Revolution, the Church of England in America was disestablished. It reorganized as the Episcopal Church in America. Margaret Bayard Smith, whose husband was a close friend of Jefferson, records that during the first winter of Jefferson’s Presidency he regularly attended service on Sunday in a small humble Episcopalian church out of respect for public worship. This was the only church in the new city, with the exception of a little Catholic chapel. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives, a custom had not yet begun while he was Vice President, and which featured preachers of every Christian sect and denomination.

In January 1806, a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience”. Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings, which were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary, and because he believed that religion was an important support for republican government.

Henry S. Randall, the only biographer permitted to interview Jefferson’s immediate family, recorded that Jefferson

. . . attended church with as much regularity as most of the members of the congregation—sometimes going alone on horse-back, when his family remained at home”, and that he also “contributed freely to the erection of Christian churches, gave money to Bible societies and other religious objects, and was a liberal and regular contributor to the support of the clergy. Letters of his are extant which show him urging, with respectful delicacy, the acceptance of extra and unsolicited contributions, on the pastor of his parish, on occasions of extra expense to the latter, such as the building of a house.

While Jefferson did use the term Deism to describe Jesus’ teachings, his usage of this term in this context may not have had exactly the same meaning as contemporary usage of the term “Deism” most typically implies today. Even though Jefferson did indeed reject the miracles and the divinity of Jesus, he still maintained a belief in an afterlife, and in divine interventionism. In modern day understandings of Deism, divine interventionism is specifically opposed by Deism, and a belief in an afterlife is generally tolerated but certainly not a core belief. Jefferson was never known to have described his own self as a Deist.

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In 1760, at age 16, Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, and for two years he studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small. He introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of the British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. Jefferson biographers say that he was influenced by deist philosophy while at William & Mary.

Phrases such as “Nature’s God”, which Jefferson used in the Declaration of Independence, are typical of Deism, although they were also used at the time by non-Deist thinkers, such as Francis Hutcheson. In addition, it was part of Roman thinking about natural law, and Jefferson was influenced by reading Cicero on this topic.

For Jefferson, separation of church and state was a necessary reform of the religious tyranny whereby a religion received state endorsement, and those not of that religion were denied rights, and even punished. Following the Revolution, Jefferson played a leading role in the disestablishment of religion in Virginia. Previously as the established state church, the Anglican Church received tax support and no one could hold office who was not an Anglican. The Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches did not receive tax support. As Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia, pre-Revolutionary colonial law held that “if a person brought up a Christian denies the being of a God, or the Trinity …he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office …; on the second by a disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy …, and by three year’ imprisonment.” Prospective officer-holders were required to swear that they did not believe in the central Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

In 1779 Jefferson proposed “The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom”, which was adopted in 1786. Its goal was complete separation of church and state; it declared the opinions of people to be beyond the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate. He asserted that the mind is not subject to coercion, that civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, and that the opinions of men are not the concern of civil government. This became one of the American charters of freedom. This elevated declaration of the freedom of the mind was hailed in Europe as “an example of legislative wisdom and liberality never before known”.

From 1784 to 1786, Jefferson and James Madison worked together to oppose Patrick Henry’s attempts to assess general taxes in Virginia to support churches. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779. It was one of only three accomplishments he put in his epitaph. The law read:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

In his 1787 Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson stated:

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth. … Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them. Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws.

During the 1800 presidential campaign, the New England Palladium wrote, “Should the infidel Jefferson be elected to the Presidency, the seal of death is that moment set on our holy religion, our churches will be prostrated, and some infamous ‘prostitute’, under the title of goddess of reason, will preside in the sanctuaries now devoted to the worship of the most High.” Federalists attacked Jefferson as a “howling atheist” and infidel, claiming that his attraction to the religious and political extremism of the French Revolution disqualified him from public office. At that time, calling a person an infidel could mean a number of things, including that they did not believe in God. It was an accusation commonly leveled at Deists, although they believe in a deity. It was also directed at those thought to be harming the Christian faith in which they were raised.

While opposed to the institutions of organized religion, Jefferson consistently expressed his belief in God. For example, he invoked the notion of divine justice in 1782 in his opposition to slavery, and invoked divine Providence in his second inaugural address. Yet Jefferson did not shrink from questioning the existence of God. In a 1787 letter to his nephew and ward, Peter Carr, who was at school, Jefferson offered the following advice:

Fix Reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear. … Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.

Jefferson sought what he called a “wall of separation between Church and State”, which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment. Jefferson’s phrase has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause, including in cases such as Reynolds v. United States (1878), Everson v. Board of Education (1947), and McCollum v. Board of Education (1948).

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, he wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Regarding the choice of some governments to regulate religion and thought, Jefferson stated:

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

In an 1821 letter he wrote:

No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advances towards rational Christianity. When we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus; when, in short, we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since His day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines He inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily His disciples; and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from His lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian. I know that the case you cite, of Dr. Drake, has been a common one. The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an impostor. Had there never been a commentator, there never would have been an infidel. … I have little doubt that the whole of our country will soon be rallied to the unity of the Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.

Biographer Merrill D. Peterson summarizes Jefferson’s theology:

First, that the Christianity of the churches was unreasonable, therefore unbelievable, but that stripped of priestly mystery, ritual, and dogma, reinterpreted in the light of historical evidence and human experience, and substituting the Newtonian cosmology for the discredited Biblical one, Christianity could be conformed to reason. Second, morality required no divine sanction or inspiration, no appeal beyond reason and nature, perhaps not even the hope of heaven or the fear of hell; and so the whole edifice of Christian revelation came tumbling to the ground.

There is much more, but this epitome must suffice.

Jefferson had an adventurous palate and active interest in a wide range of foods. In his four years in Paris he sampled widely French cuisine, making copious notes of dishes he liked so he could serve them back home. In Holland he sampled waffles for the first time and was so pleased he immediately bought a waffle iron…A particular tea in Amsterdam appealed to him; he bought some to take along. In Nancy it was chocolate that caught his fancy, and in southern France he made notes on the differences in oranges in various communities he visited. Notes made on a visit to Rozzano included details of butter- and Parmesan cheese-making. He tasted a frozen delicacy (ice cream) and observed that “snow vives the most delicate flavor to creams, but ice is the most powerful congealer and lasts longer.” Like many a traveler returning home, Jefferson missed the dishes to which he had become accustomed. To his valet returning after him he sent a request for him to “bring a stock of macaroni, Parmesan cheese, figs of Marseilles…raisins, almonds, mustard…vinegar, oil and anchovies.”…President Jefferson was particularly addicted to intricate dishes and brought back from Paris. His bouilli, daubes, ragouts, gateaux, soufflés, ices, sauces, and wine cookery. Jefferson confessed a preference for French cooking “because the meats were more tender.” He was especially fond of fresh vegetables and kept a careful chart of the season when certain ones would be available in the local mark. A gourmet. Jefferson ate lightly.He preferred vegetables to meats and was particularly fond of olives, figs, mulberries, crabs, shad, oysters, partridge, venison, pineapple, and light wines. He was a connoisseur as well of delicate French pastries, soufflés, light cakes.His table drinks were cider and malt drinks; his greatest field of expertise was wine, his favorite being Madeira. (see The Presidents’ Cookbook, Poppy Cannon & Patricia Brooks 1968)

Recipes included in this book are Old-Fashioned Coffee Cake, Dutch Waffles, Capitolade of Chicken, Batter Cakes, Soup à la Julienne, Gumbo, Potato Soup, Mexican Black Bean Soup, Okra Soup, Jamablaya, Noodles à la Jefferson, Macaroni and Cheese Pudding, and Bachelor Buttons (cookies).

Here is Capitolade of Chicken:

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Capitolade of Chicken

Ingredients

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

3⁄4 cup packed fresh breadcrumb

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large shallots, minced

6 ounces small tender wild mushrooms, thinly sliced (chicken-of-the-woods, oyster, portobello, or button mushrooms)

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1⁄4 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1⁄2 cup half-and-half

1⁄2 teaspoon salt (to taste)

3 cups diced cooked chicken

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, chervil, or summer savory

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F

Butter a medium baking dish.

To make the bread crumbs: melt 2 teaspoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat; stir in the bread crumbs and toast them until golden; stirring occasionally.

Scrape bread crumbs out of the skillet and reserve.

To make the hash: melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat.

Stir in the shallots and mushrooms; cook about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are limp.

Sprinkle in the flour and, when incorporated, pour in the wine and simmer briefly until reduced by half.

Pour in the stock and the half-and-half, add salt, and cook 5 minutes longer or until lightly thickened.

Stir in the chicken and heat through; remove from heat and add the parsley. Spoon the capitolade into the prepared dish; sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake 15-20 minutes, until the bread crumbs are nicely browned and the sauce is bubbly.

Nov 292013
 

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Today is the birthday (1898) of Clive Staples Lewis – commonly called C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as “Jack” – novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He was born in Belfast and held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925–1954, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 1954–1963. He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Chronicles of Narnia, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to the Anglican Communion, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England.” His faith had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity during WW II brought him wide acclaim.

At the age of four, shortly after his dog Jacksie was killed by a car, he announced that his name was now Jacksie. At first, he would answer to no other name, but later accepted Jack, the name by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life. When he was seven, his family moved into “Little Lea,” the family home of his childhood, in the Strandtown area of East Belfast.

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As a boy, Lewis had a fascination with anthropomorphic animals, falling in love with Beatrix Potter’s stories and often writing and illustrating his own animal stories. He and his brother Warnie together created the world of Boxen, inhabited and run by animals. Lewis loved to read; and, as his father’s house was filled with books, he felt that finding a book to read was as easy as “walking into a field and finding a new blade of grass.”

As a teenager, he was fascinated by the songs and legends of what he called Northernness, the ancient literature of Scandinavia preserved in the Icelandic sagas. These legends intensified an inner longing he later called “joy.” He also grew to love nature; its beauty reminded him of the stories of the North. His teenage writings moved away from the tales of Boxen, and he began using different art forms (epic poetry and opera) to try to capture his new-found interest in Norse mythology and the natural world. Through boyhood study of Classics he also developed love of Greek literature including works in rhetoric and logic, as well as the familiar legends and mythology. In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship at University College, Oxford to study Classics. Before he was allowed to attend Oxford, however, Lewis was conscripted into the First World War. His experience of the horror of war confirmed his atheism.

On 15 April 1918, Lewis was wounded and two of his colleagues were killed by a British shell falling short of its target. While being trained for the army, Lewis shared a room with another cadet, Edward Courtnay Francis “Paddy” Moore (1898–1918). Maureen Moore, Paddy’s sister, said that the two made a mutual pact that if either died during the war, the survivor would take care of both their families. Paddy was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy had earlier introduced Lewis to his mother, Jane King Moore, and a friendship quickly sprang up between Lewis, who was eighteen when they met, and Jane who was forty-five. The friendship with Moore was particularly important to Lewis while he was recovering from his wounds in hospital, as his father did not visit him.

Lewis lived with and cared for Jane Moore until she was hospitalized in the late 1940s. He routinely introduced her as his “mother,” and referred to her as such in letters. Lewis, whose own mother had died when he was a child and whose father was distant, demanding and eccentric, developed a deeply affectionate friendship with Moore.

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In 1930, Lewis and his brother Warnie moved, with Jane Moore and her daughter Maureen, into “The Kilns,” a house in Headington Quarry on the outskirts of Oxford, now part of the suburb of Risinghurst. They all contributed financially to the purchase of the house, which passed to Maureen, who by then was Dame Maureen Dunbar, when Warnie died in 1973.

Lewis experienced a degree of culture shock on first arriving in England.  In Surprised by Joy he wrote, “No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England. The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons. But what was worst was the English landscape. I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal.”

He slowly re-embraced Christianity, influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien, whom he seems to have met for the first time on 11 May 1926, and by the book The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton. He fought greatly up to the moment of his conversion, noting that he was brought into Christianity like a prodigal, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” He described his last struggle in Surprised by Joy:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

After his conversion to theism in 1929, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931, following a long discussion and late-night walk with his close friends Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. He records making a specific commitment to Christian belief while on his way to the zoo with his brother. He became a member of the Church of England – somewhat to the disappointment of Tolkien, who had hoped that he would join the Catholic Church.

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Lewis was a committed Anglican who upheld a largely orthodox Anglican theology, though in his apologetic writings, he made an effort to avoid embracing any one denomination. In his later writings, he espoused ideas such as purification of venial sins after death in purgatory (The Great Divorce and Letters to Malcolm) and mortal sin (The Screwtape Letters), which are generally considered to be Roman Catholic teachings, although they are also widely held in Anglicanism (particularly in high church Anglo-Catholic circles). Regardless, Lewis considered himself an entirely orthodox Anglican to the end of his life, reflecting that he had initially attended church only to receive communion and had been repelled by the hymns and the poor quality of the sermons.

In Lewis’s later life, he corresponded with and later met Joy Davidman Gresham, a U.S. writer of Jewish background, a former Communist, and a convert from atheism to Christianity. She was separated from her alcoholic and abusive husband, the novelist William L. Gresham, and went to England with her two sons, David and Douglas. Lewis at first regarded her as an agreeable intellectual companion and personal friend, and it was at least overtly on this level that he agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her so that she could continue to live in the U.K. His brother wrote, “For Jack the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun.” However, after complaining of a painful hip, she was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, and the relationship developed to the point that they sought a Christian marriage. Since she was divorced, this was not straightforward in the Church of England at the time, but a friend, the Rev. Peter Bide, performed the ceremony at her bed in the Churchill Hospital on 21 March 1957.

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Joy’s cancer soon went into a brief remission, and the couple lived as a family (together with Warnie) until her eventual relapse and death in 1960. The year she died, the couple took a brief holiday in Greece and the Aegean; Lewis was fond of walking but not of travel, and this marked his only crossing of the English Channel after 1918. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed describes his experience of bereavement in such a raw and personal fashion that Lewis originally released it under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk to keep readers from associating the book with him. Ironically, many friends recommended the book to him as a method for dealing with his own grief. After his death, his authorship was made public by Faber’s, with the permission of the executors.

Lewis continued to raise Gresham’s two sons after her death. While Douglas Gresham is, like Lewis and his mother, a Christian, David Gresham turned to the faith into which his mother had been born and became an Orthodox Jew. His mother’s writings had featured the Jews, particularly one “shohet” (ritual slaughterer), in an unsympathetic manner. David informed Lewis that he was going to become a ritual slaughterer in order to present this type of Jewish religious functionary to the world in a more favorable light.

In early June 1961, Lewis began experiencing medical problems and was diagnosed with inflammation of the kidneys which resulted in blood poisoning. His illness caused him to miss the Michaelmas term at Cambridge, though his health gradually began improving in 1962 and he returned that April. Lewis’s health continued to improve, and according to his friend George Sayer, Lewis was fully himself by early 1963. On 15 July 1963 he fell ill and was admitted to hospital. The next day at 5:00 pm, Lewis suffered a heart attack and lapsed into a coma, unexpectedly awaking the following day at 2:00 pm. After he was discharged from the hospital, Lewis returned to The Kilns, though he was too ill to return to work. As a result, he resigned from his post at Cambridge in August. Lewis’s condition continued to decline, and in mid-November he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. On 22 November 1963, exactly one week before his 65th birthday, Lewis collapsed in his bedroom at 5:30 pm and died a few minutes later. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington, Oxford

I am not a great fan of Lewis’s fiction. I find The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, heavy handed in its thinly disguised Christian symbolism and moralizing, and never could get far in any of the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Nor do I find his overall reasoning within his Christian apologetics compelling. Despite claiming to be ecumenical in his Christian writing, seeking common ground among all denominations, his work is dominated by high church Anglican theology which I find repellant for the most part (I was raised and ordained in the Scots Presbyterian tradition).  His justification for believing in a loving God despite the existence of pain and evil in the world strikes me as hopelessly naïve, and his thoughts on universal morality show a complete ignorance of cultures outside of the West.  Yet I have read all of his Christian apologetic works, some many times, because he has the knack of summing up profound problems in a pithy phrase. No end of times I will be reading his work, and just stop and muse for a long time on one sentence.  Here is a sampling chosen more or less at random:

“I sometimes wonder if all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.”

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

“It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

“Of all the bad men, religious bad men are the worst.”

“We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

It is no surprise to me that C. S. Lewis quotes are among the most popular on social media.

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C. S. Lewis by his own admission was extremely fond of traditional British cooking — ham and eggs being his favorite, but also steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, fried sausages, bread and cheese, roast mutton. So once again I get to extol the virtue of this cuisine, much maligned by the ignorant.  To celebrate C.S. Lewis I give you veal, ham, and egg pie which I always used to make around Christmas.  It uses what is known as “slack pastry,” unusual in that it is made with a mix of boiling water and lard.  The pastry is flaky on the outside, but sturdy enough that pies made of it can stand alone without a container.

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©Veal, Ham, and Egg Pie

Ingredients:

1lb/450 g ground veal
4ozs/110 ground boiled ham
2 tbsps fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp powdered mace
¼ tsp powdered bay leaves
shaved zest of 1 lemon
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Slack pastry

4 ozs/110 g lard, plus extra for greasing the tin
7 fl oz/ 200 ml Water
12 ozs/350 g all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Aspic

2 tsps gelatin
½ pint /300 ml light stock

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350 °F/ 180 °C

Grease a 2 ½ pint/1.4 litre loaf tin well with lard.

Put the veal, ham, parsley, mace, bay leaves, and lemon zest in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Put the lard and water in a saucepan and gently heat until the lard has melted. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and tip quickly into the flour.

First with a wooden spoon, then with your hands as soon as it is cool enough to work, mix the ingredients until you have a soft pliable dough.

Take two-thirds of the dough while it is still warm and roll it flat.  Place it in the greased tin and work it up the sides with your fingers, making sure it is evenly distributed and over laps the rim.

Press in half the meat mixture and place the eggs in a line down the centre. Fill with the remaining meat mixture.

Roll out the remaining pastry for the lid. Cover the pie with the pastry and seal the edges.

Use the pastry trimmings to decorate the top, then make one large hole in the center of the pie.

Bake for 1 ½ hours. If necessary, cover the pastry with foil towards the end of the cooking time to prevent over-browning.

Leave to cool for 1 hour.

Make up an aspic jelly by dissolving the gelatin in boiling stock. Cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a funnel pour the liquid aspic through the hole in the top of the pie. You need to take your time with this step because the pie will appear to be filled, but then the aspic will seep down slowly through the meat filling.

Chill the pie for at least 3 hours or overnight (preferable).

To turn out leave the pie to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour, then immerse the tin in very hot water, making sure not to dampen the pastry top, for several minutes.

Cut into thick slices, and serve on a bed of watercress or lettuce, with hot English mustard(cook gets the end pieces as a bedtime snack).

Yield: 8-10 slices.

Jun 272013
 

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Today is one of several days celebrated as Seven Sleepers Day.  In Germany it is called Siebenschläfertag (I love those German mashed-together words), and it is believed that whatever the weather is on this day, it will remain so for seven weeks.  Apparently this forecast is about as accurate as Groundhog Day forecasts in the U.S. The story of the Seven Sleepers has many versions and is widespread throughout the Christian and Muslim worlds.  It has been told and retold repeatedly from ancient times to the present day.

The earliest Syriac version of the tale states that during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Decius, around 250, seven young men were accused of being Christians. They were given some time to recant their faith, but chose instead to give their worldly goods to the poor and retire to a mountain cave to pray, where they fell asleep. The emperor, seeing that their attitude towards their faith had not changed, ordered the mouth of the cave to be sealed. Decius died in 251, and many years passed during which Christianity went from being persecuted to being the state religion of the Roman Empire. At some later time—usually given as during the reign of Theodosius II (408–450)—the landowner decided to open up the sealed mouth of the cave, thinking to use it as a cattle pen. He opened it and found the sleepers inside. They awoke, imagining that they had slept for a single day, and sent one of their number to Ephesus to buy food, with instructions to be careful in case the Romans were to recognize him and seize him. Upon arriving in the city, this youth was astounded to find buildings with crosses attached. The townspeople for their part were amazed to find a man trying to spend old coins from the reign of Decius. The bishop was summoned to interview the sleepers; they told him their miracle story, and died praising God.

As the earliest versions of the legend spread from Ephesus, an early Christian catacomb came to be associated with it, attracting scores of pilgrims. On the slopes of Mount Pion (Mount Coelian) near Ephesus (near modern Selçuk in Turkey), the cave of the Seven Sleepers with ruins of the church built over it was excavated in 1927–28. The excavation brought to light several hundred graves which were dated to the 5th and 6th centuries. Inscriptions dedicated to the Seven Sleepers were found on the walls of the church and in the graves. This cave is now a local tourist attraction.

The earliest version of this story comes from the Syrian bishop Jacob of Sarug (c. 450-521), which is itself derived from an earlier Greek source, now lost. An outline of this tale appears in De gloria martyrum (Glory of the Martyrs) by Gregory of Tours (538- 594), and in Paul the Deacon’s (720-799) History of the Lombards. The best known Western version of the story appears in Jacobus de Voragine’s (c. 1230- 1298) “best-seller” Legenda sanctorum (Tales of the Saints).

The story of the Seven Sleepers is probably best known in the Muslim world.  It is told in the Qur’an (Surah 18, verse 9-26). The Qur’anic rendering of this story doesn’t state exactly the number of sleepers; the exact number is believed to be known to God alone. It also gives the number of years that they slept as 300 solar years (equivalent to 309 lunar years). Unlike the Christian story, the Islamic version includes mention of a dog who accompanied the youths into the cave, and was also asleep. But when people passed by the cave it looked as if the dog was just keeping watch at the entrance, making them afraid of seeing what is in the cave once they saw the dog. In Islam, these youths are referred to as “The People of the Cave.”

There are numerous retellings of the tale in early modern and modern literature.   John Donne’s (1572-1631) poem “The good-morrow” contains the lines

were we not wean’d till then?
But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?”

Serbian writer Danilo Kiš retells the story of the Seven Sleepers in a short story, “The Legend of the Sleepers”, in his book The Encyclopedia of the Dead. Italian author Andrea Camilleri incorporates the story in his novel The Terracotta Dog. The Seven Sleepers appear in two books of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series; Will Stanton awakens them in The Grey King, and in Silver on the Tree they ride in the last battle against the Dark. The Seven Sleepers series by Gilbert Morris takes a modern approach to the story, in which seven teenagers must be awakened to fight evil in a post-nuclear-apocalypse world.

The Persian–Dutch writer Kader Abdolah gives his own spin on the Islamic version of the story in the 2000 book Spijkerschrift (English trans. 2006 “My Father’s Notebook”), based on the writer’s experience in the left-wing opposition to both the Shah’s regime and the Islamic Republic. At the book’s end the narrator’s sister and fellow-activist escape from prison and together with other escaped political prisoners hide in a mountain cave in north Iran, where they would sleep until Iran is free of oppression.

The legend of the Seven Sleepers has given origin to a number of proverbial phrases: sjusovare or syvsover (or variants), in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, Siebenschläfer in German, zevenslaper in Dutch, hétalvó in Hungarian, sedmispá? in Czech, and a saith cysgadur in Welsh, all literally meaning a “seven sleeper,” that is, someone who sleeps late in the day. In some countries the word is also used to mean the hibernating rodent called the edible dormouse (see blog post for June 25).

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The game of Seven Sleepers was copyrighted by E.I. Horsman in 1891 and included The 24 Puzzle challenge within its directions.  It is a board game played on a board like a chess board but with special markings to denote the original positions of the pieces in the home rank.  The object of the game is to get one’s pieces across the board lined up in original position in one’s opponent’s rank whilst capturing the “sleepers” in the middle.  The game is surprisingly complex and requires considerable strategy to win.

Given that the sleepers were hungry when they awoke and sent one of their number to buy food, I thought a local Turkish recipe found at roadside food stalls would be suitable for the day. Gözleme are flaky pastry packets stuffed with a mix of feta cheese and spinach plus herbs and spices. Variants can be found throughout Turkey and Greece.  They can also be stuffed with ground lamb flavored with garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Once in a while you will come across them with both fillings in one.

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Gözleme

Ingredients:

Dough
2 cups (250 g) plain flour, unbleached
2 cups (250 g) wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
vegetable oil

Filling
2 cups (450 g) grated feta cheese or
2 cups (200 g) finely chopped spinach leaves
½ cup (50 g) chopped fresh mint leaves
½ cup (50 g)chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup (80 g) chopped green onion
½ cup (80 g) diced white onion
1 tsp (5 g) white pepper
1 tsp (5 g) allspice
1 tsp (5 g) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 g) dried sage

Instructions:

Sift the flours and salt and mix with 1 ½ cups (210 ml) of water in an electric mixer with a dough hook or knead by hand for at least ten minutes.

Keep adding more water a little at a time until you get a very pliable, elastic dough that is easy to knead, but not so watery that it is too sticky to handle.

Dust frequently with the extra flour.

Allow the dough to stand, covered, overnight (at least 10 hours).

When ready to cook, divide the dough into six round portions. Dust with flour.

Roll one of the rounds flat with a rolling pin on a flour-dusted surface, into a rectangle shape, as thinly as possible.

Brush on a little oil, then fold over into a square. Fold over twice more into a square. Repeat the dusting, rolling out to a large rectangle, folding, oiling, dusting process three more times.

Repeat the entire process for each of the six rounds

Take one of the folded dough squares and roll it out very thinly for the final time, into a large square. Sprinkle on the filling sparingly – – as you would for a pizza topping but on half of the square only.

Start with a layer of cheese. Mix the spinach, mint, green onion and parsley together in a bowl, and add some of this as the next layer. Mix together the white onion, spices, and dried herbs, and add some as a final topping.

Fold over the uncovered half of the square to cover the filling. Press down lightly all over.

Cook on a pre-heated oiled heavy skillet (cast iron if possible). Make sure the skillet is not too hot.  It takes about 10 minutes to cook everything through. Turn them often until the outside is golden and crisp.

Cut into smaller squares and serve with lemon wedges.

Yield 6.