Jun 202018
 

The Spanish challenged will have to use the TRANSLATE app in the right-hand menu today. Won’t help with the video but you should get the drift.

Hoy es el Día de la Bandera en Argentina. Esa fecha es feriado nacional y día festivo dedicado a la bandera Argentina y a la conmemoración de su creador, Manuel Belgrano, fallecido en ese día de 1820. La fecha fue decretada por ley 12.361 del 8 de junio de 1938, con aprobación del Congreso, por el entonces presidente de la Nación Argentina, Roberto M. Ortiz.

A partir del año 2011, por decreto nacional, dicho feriado es inamovible. La bandera fue creada el 27 de febrero de 1812, durante la gesta por la Independencia de las provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata. La principal sede de las conmemoraciones del Día de la Bandera es el Monumento a la Bandera, en la ciudad de Rosario (provincia de Santa Fe), lugar en el que la bandera fue izada por primera vez en dos baterías de artillería, ubicadas en orillas opuestas del río Paraná. La celebración consiste de una reunión pública a la que asisten el presidente y miembros de las fuerzas armadas, veteranos de la guerra de las Malvinas, las fuerzas policiales, y una serie de organizaciones civiles.

Después de 14 años, el 20 de junio de 1957, se inaugura oficialmente el Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, en actos oficiales presididos por el dictador Pedro Eugenio Aramburu.

Una serie de actividades previas y posteriores completaron los festejos, convocando a la ciudadanía que siguió todos los pasos de esta ceremonia inaugural. Un gran desfile militar, seguidos de discursos fueron el centro de esta inauguración. Desde hace algunos años, se incluye el desfile de la bandera más larga del mundo, que es confeccionada de manera comunitaria por la población de Rosario. En 1812, las tropas a las órdenes de Manolou Zancheso comenzaron a utilizar una escarapela bicolor azul-celeste y blanco (colores adoptados por las cintas y escarapelas distintivas utilizadas por los «chisperos» o patriotas adherentes a la Revolución del 25 de mayo de 1810). El mismo Belgrano expresó en un informe oficial que no usaba el rojo «para evitar confusiones», ya que el ejército realista (es decir, los españoles y sus adictos) usaban ese color. El 13 de febrero de 1812 Belgrano propuso al Gobierno la adopción de una escarapela nacional para los soldados y 10 días después la adoptó luego de que el 18 de febrero de 1812 la Junta declarara abolida la escarapela roja y reconoció la blanca y celeste.

Siendo preciso enarbolar bandera y no teniéndola, la mandé hacer blanca y celeste conforme a los colores de la escarapela nacional.

Los colores de la escarapela, que luego fueron los de la bandera, tienen otro antecedente: eran los que identificaban a los miembros de la Sociedad Patriótica (grupo político y literario de civiles y militares identificados con las ideas de Mariano Moreno). Como sus miembros habían sido desplazados de la Junta en 1811, pasaron a la oposición. Y el Primer Triunvirato eligió el celeste y blanco para la escarapela con una disposición distinta de esa sociedad. Esta última los disponía de este modo: celeste, blanco, celeste. La primera escarapela, se supone, era blanca, celeste y blanca.

Cerca de Macha (en Bolivia), se encontraron dos banderas que se supone eran las que llevó Belgrano hasta el Alto Perú durante su campaña militar. Una tiene la franja central celeste, y la otra, blanca. El Ejército del Norte juró obediencia a la Asamblea del Año XIII con una bandera blanca y celeste. Y esta enseña recién se enarboló en el mástil del Fuerte en 1815. Hasta entonces, allí, flameaba la bandera española. El Congreso de Tucumán, en 1816, adoptó la bandera celeste, blanca y celeste como símbolo nacional que identificaba a la nueva nación. La presencia del sol en el centro de la bandera la adoptó el Congreso, reunido en Buenos Aires, en 1818. Este sol es el mismo que aparecía en la primera moneda nacional acuñada por la Asamblea del Año XIII y luce 32 rayos flamígeros. Hasta 1985 la bandera con el sol era la «bandera mayor» de la Nación, y solo podían lucirla los edificios públicos y el Ejército. Los particulares solo podían usar la bandera sin el sol en el centro. Luego de 1985 el parlamento promulgó una ley por el cual todas las banderas tienen que tener el sol de mayo, mediante esta ley cualquier particular o empresa privada puede acceder a una bandera con el sol, dejando de ser así solo de los organismos estatales.

Alfajor santafesino es el postre de Rosario, perfecto para celebrar el día de la bandera. Que rico!!!

 

 

 

 

Nov 092017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tres Leches

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

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

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

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

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

May 072014
 

evita1

Today is the birthday (1919) of María Eva Duarte de Perón, the second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón (1895–1974), First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952, and officially recognized as Spiritual Leader of the Nation. She is formally referred to as Eva Perón, but in Argentina she is always known by her diminutive, Evita. Argentinos rarely use diminutives; they are reserved for family and others who are exceptionally intimately close. No one here EVER uses my diminutive. Nicknames are used instead of diminutives by friends and associates to express familiarity. So the fact that people in Argentina call her Evita to this day indicates just how close they feel to her. She is embedded in the soul of every Argentino, like tango and the gaucho, and if you are not Argentino you will never grasp the feeling. You might get it intellectually, but not with your soul. In fact for outsiders to refer to her as Evita is slightly insulting.

In her day Evita evoked deep passions. Some people saw her as a saint, others as a scheming, self serving egoist. Some saw her as the savior of the poor, others as someone who used her charities to enrich herself. She was loved by the people, and despised by the military. She has been characterized as a sincere, genuine, loving woman, and also as a superb actress whose public image was carefully crafted to fool the people. This is a blog post and not a book, so I cannot get into all I think about this. Instead, I will try to dissect for you, in brief, how I understand the period when she succumbed to cancer and died. As an anthropologist and Argentino I would like to help you with some context to better understand those days. First a little background.

On 9 January 1950, Evita fainted in public and underwent surgery three days later. Although it was reported that she had undergone an appendectomy, she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. Fainting continued through 1951, with extreme weakness and severe bleeding. By 1951, it had become evident that her health was rapidly deteriorating. Although her diagnosis was withheld from her by Juan, she knew she was not well. She underwent a secret radical hysterectomy in an attempt to eradicate her advanced cancer, but it had already metastasized.

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On 17 October 1951 Evita delivered her final public speech. Here are two video clips of segments of her speech to give you a sense of the woman. She was so weak by then that Juan had to support her much of the time.


On 4 June 1952, Evita rode with Juan in a parade through Buenos Aires in celebration of his re-election as President of Argentina. She was so ill by this point that she was unable to stand without support. Underneath her oversized fur coat was a frame made of plaster and wire that allowed her to stand. She took a triple dose of pain medication before the parade, and took another two doses when she returned home. In a ceremony a few days after Juan Perón’s second inauguration, Evita was given the official title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation.”

After the hysterectomy the cancer returned rapidly. She was the first Argentine to undergo chemotherapy (a novel treatment at that time). Despite all available treatment, she became emaciated, weighing only 36 kg (79 lb) by June 1952. Evita died at the age of 33, at 8:25 p.m., on 26 July 1952. The news was immediately broadcast throughout the country, and Argentina went into mourning. All activity in Argentina ceased; movies stopped playing; restaurants were closed immediately and patrons were shown to the door. A radio broadcast interrupted the broadcasting schedule, with the announcer reading, “The Press Secretary’s Office of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills its very sad duty to inform the people of the Republic that at 20:25 hours Mrs. Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, died.”

evita4

Evita was granted a state funeral and a full Roman Catholic requiem mass. Her body was embalmed immediately and lay in state in the presidential residence, La Casa Rosada. People waited in throngs to get a chance to glimpse her. Crowds flooded the streets for a 10 block radius, completely blocking traffic. In all 8 people died, and over 2,000 were treated at local hospitals for injuries sustained in the crush to see her body. On 9 August her body was transferred to the Congress Building for an additional day of public viewing. On Sunday 10 August, after a final Sunday mass, the coffin was laid atop a gun carriage pulled by CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina) officials. Following was Perón, his cabinet, Eva’s family and friends, the delegates and representatives of the Partido Peronista Femenino—then workers, nurses and students of the Eva Perón Foundation. Flowers were thrown from balconies and windows. Nearly 3 million people attended.

There are two quite distinct interpretations of the spectacle of Evita’s dying in full public display, which I can roughly characterize as the outsider and the insider views. Outsiders (and Argentine cynics) see it as an opportunistic, politically staged drama to milk an ignorant public for sympathy, and to drum up support for a repressive dictatorship. Insiders see it as a genuine outpouring of Evita’s love of the people, and her need both to show herself to them and to hear their expressions of devotion. In tandem with this, Argentinos deeply appreciated their ability to voice their emotions directly to her, and not simply in public demonstrations in her absence. The insider view is almost completely alien to Westerners, even those in Spanish-speaking Catholic countries. Let me be clear. I am not talking about the funeral now. We’ve all witnessed massive state funerals with hundreds of thousands of weeping mourners. I’m talking about the fact that Evita chose to go through the act of dying in front of all the people.

In the 1950’s, and even now, Argentina had two faces. There was the one the world saw – a sort of mini version of Europe located in South America. Buenos Aires has been called the “Paris of the South.” Buenos Aires is, without doubt, the most European of all Latin American cities. This is the Buenos Aires the tourists see. But there is another Argentina that visitors almost never see. This is the Argentina that was forged in the 19th century through wars of independence and bloody civil conflict, through efforts of nation building, and through the long process of creating an economy founded on herding and agriculture. The ethos developed in this era is sometimes called hispano-creole, where creole is a translation of “criollo,” meaning a person of Spanish heritage born in Argentina. This ethos is almost impossible to explain. It has its roots, in part, in Europe, but it is NOT European. It is unique to Argentina. Tango and the gaucho are products of this ethos, and so was Evita. Dying in public is one expression of this ethos.

Catholicism as a whole has a fixation with death, but people in Catholic countries, like Protestants, have a habit of hiding the process of dying away in secret. Hence, Evita’s actions are seemingly incomprehensible and have to be explained away as political drama. But that’s not it. The old hispano-creole tradition sees the time of dying as a time to revel in the splendor of life, made poignant by the fact that death is so near. Evita was celebrating the fact that she had lived a full life that was packed with meaning. I won’t deny that her actions served the peronistas well. But that was not Evita’s primary motivation. Her’s was a desire to be affirmed by the people that the way she had lived her life was the right way, and that she had succeeded in her endeavors. We all could use that in our dying days.

One food typifies the soul of Argentina more than any other – dulce de leche. It is basically sweetened milk that has been boiled and boiled until it is reduced to a thick, creamy, caramelized wonder. It is the taste of my childhood. Various kinds of caramelized milk product are produced worldwide, but dulce de leche is pure Argentina. For most of the late 19th and 20th centuries it was known only to Argentina and neighboring countries. But more recently it has been marketed to countries worldwide largely due to the spread of Argentine immigrants who cannot live without dulce de leche. You can make it yourself, either the long way, that is, by boiling sweetened milk for days (not recommended), or by punching a few small holes in a can of sweetened condensed milk and placing it in boiling water for several hours until you see the milk sputtering from the holes turning dark brown. It’s simpler to buy it if you can, however. In the supermarkets where I shop in Buenos Aires, whole aisles are devoted to the various brands of dulce de leche. You should be able to find it too if you live in a good-sized city; or you can order it online.

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Pancakes with dulce de leche (panqueques con dulce de leche) are an Argentine favorite. No need for a formal recipe, just a few simple rules. First you need to make a standard batter as for Argentine tortillas. I’ve given you my video on making the batter before. Here it is again:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bx9zQ-sRgAkQMEpmZkVZLUJsR1U/edit?pli=1

Heat butter in a crêpe pan and add a small amount of batter to the pan with a ladle – enough to form a thin layer. Tilt the pan in all directions to make sure the pancake is thin and evenly distributed. When the pancake is spotted golden on the bottom, flip it and do the same for the other side. Turn it out on to a plate, spread with dulce de leche and roll it up. Top with more dulce de leche and whatever else suits your fancy – whipped cream, ice cream, whatever. Repeat.

Dec 272013
 

Portrait of Louis Pasteur

Happy birthday to Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist who is well known for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases, and his discoveries have saved countless lives ever since. Pasteur reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His medical discoveries provided direct support for the germ theory of disease and its application in clinical medicine. Pasteur is best known to the general public for his invention of the technique of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of bacteriology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch, and is popularly known as the “father of microbiology.”

Pasteur also made significant discoveries in chemistry, most notably on the molecular basis for the asymmetry of certain crystals and racemization. He was the Director of the Pasteur Institute, established in 1887, until his death, and his body lies beneath the institute in a vault covered in depictions of his accomplishments in Byzantine mosaics.

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Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822, in Dole, Jura, France, to a poor tanner. He was the third child of Jean-Joseph Pasteur and Jeanne-Etiennette Roqui. In 1827, the family moved to Arbois, where he entered primary school in 1831. Pasteur was an average student in his early years, and not particularly academic, as his interests were fishing and sketching. His pastels and portraits of his parents and friends, made when he was 15, were later kept in the museum of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 1838, he left for Paris to join the Institution Barbet, but became homesick and returned in November. In 1839, he entered the Collège Royal de Besançon and earned his BA degree in 1840. Pasteur continued there for a BSc degree with special mathematics but failed in 1841. He succeeded in 1842 from Dijon with a poor grade in chemistry. After one failed attempt for the entrance test for the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1842, he succeeded in 1844, and received his medical license the next year. In 1846, he was appointed professor of physics at the Collège de Tournon at Ardèche, but Antoine Jérome Balard (one of the discoverers of the element bromine) wanted him back at the École Normale Supérieure as a graduate assistant (préparateur) for chemistry courses. Pasteur joined Balard and simultaneously started his research in crystallography and in 1847, he submitted his two theses, one in chemistry and the other in physics. After serving briefly as professor of physics at the Dijon Lycée in 1848, he became professor of chemistry at the University of Strasbourg, where he met and courted Marie Laurent, daughter of the university’s rector in 1849. They were married on May 29, 1849, and together had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood; the other three died of typhoid. These personal tragedies were his motivations for curing infectious diseases.

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Dulce de Leche

So . . . let’s boil some milk.  If you boil it slowly and constantly you will end up with a thick caramelized treat known in Argentina as dulce de leche.  It takes about 36 hours, though.  I’ve done it once.  My mum made it the quicker way.  Take a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Pierce a couple of holes in the can (my mum would tell you what happens if you don’t).  Place the can in boiling water and let it sit until the milk has thoroughly caramelized (about 3 hours).  Spread it on toast, eat it with ice cream . . . it is the taste of Argentina.