Feb 082019
 

Today is the birthday (1828) of Jules Gabriel Verne, a French novelist, widely known for his collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel leading to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a popular series of adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Between 1863 and 1905 Verne published 54 novels in the series.

I first encountered Verne and Around the World in Eighty Days, as a small boy via the David Niven movie (1956). This was in the days before most people owned televisions, and my family used to go out to the cinema once a week to see whatever was playing that week. Around the World in Eighty Days, is one of the few I remember because it appealed to me, and I also remember being excited by the poster. I was not aware until much later – because at the time I was unaware of famous actors – just how star studded the cast was. The cast list looks like an inventory of actors from the 1940s and ‘50s. A few years later I read the book and was as captivated as by the movie, and so began reading all of Verne’s works I could get hold of. Around the World in Eighty Days is the only one that has held my attention over the years, partly because even as a boy I was a world traveler (I had been around the world by age 14), and I have never stopped. Mainly I liked it because of Verne’s characterization of Phileas Fogg.

Fogg is certainly a caricature, but a kind one.  Although Verne was thoroughly French, he certainly captured the Englishness of Fogg, and he also portrays him with a sense of deep admiration. When we first meet Fogg he is punctilious to a fault – always leaves home at exactly the same time, takes exactly the same number of steps to his club, dines at the same time, reads the same newspapers for the same amount of time, plays whist with the same partners, etc, etc. Yet . . . on a whim, it seems, he offers a wager of £20,000, half his net worth (and he is a very comfortably rich man), that he can travel around the world in 80 days, and takes the other £20,000 with him, expecting to use it for expenses on the journey. Not only that, he leaves that very night, convinced that he can achieve his goal, while no one else believes that he can. On his journey he faces unimaginable difficulties with aplomb, and, against all odds, returns precisely 80 days later.  Fogg is adventurous, courageous, intelligent, unflappable, and honorable throughout the trip. Verne’s message is that to French eyes the English gentleman is stuffy, predictable and staid (that is, boring), but that phlegmatic exterior hides wonders. It is such a marvelous tale, and Verne is an excellent storyteller.

Let is remember that in 1873, going around the world in eighty days did, indeed seem impossible, and we have to put ourselves back in that era to understand its impossibility. Nowadays we can fly around the world in well under eighty hours, and an orbiting craft could accomplish the same feat in eighty minutes. Let us also remember that reporter Nellie Bly copied Fogg and managed a circumnavigation in 72 days: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/around-the-world-in-72-days/ So, it could be done, and Fogg’s timetable was not very far off. Think about that when you jet halfway round the world effortlessly.

On the first day we encounter Phileas Fogg he has this breakfast (more like lunch actually):

His breakfast consisted of a side-dish, a broiled fish with Reading sauce, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with mushrooms, a rhubarb and gooseberry tart, and a morsel of Cheshire cheese, the whole being washed down with several cups of tea, for which the Reform is famous.

I gave a recipe for Reading sauce here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/photography/ so let’s turn our attention to rhubarb and gooseberry tart.

Rhubarb and Gooseberry Tart

Ingredients

1 lb rhubarb, cut in chunks
½ lb gooseberries
1 cup sugar
lemon rind
sweet shortcrust pastry (see HINTS)
egg wash (milk and egg beaten together)
caster sugar
heavy cream

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Top and tail the gooseberries and place them in a saucepan with the rhubarb, sugar, a small piece of lemon rind, and half a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain the fruit, reserve the juice, and discard the lemon rind.

Line a 9 inch pie plate with pastry. Add the drained fruit. You can simply cover with a top crust, or make a lattice top. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle over a little caster sugar. If the crust  is a whole sheet, cut some slits in it for steam to escape. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

Serve hot or cold with cream and the reserved juice.

Mar 262018
 

Today is the birthday (1909) of John William Pilbean Goffage, generally known by his screen name, Chips Rafferty. Back when I was a boy Chips was the archetypical movie bush Aussie, much as Crocodile Dundee became a generation later. I remember him from a TV commercial for Pope refrigerators in the late 1950s. The commercial was set in Marble Bar – “hottest little town in Australia” – with the opening lines:

“What’s it like out there Chips?”

“Hot, mate, hot.”

The slogan at the end from Chips was “You can depend on Pope.” Not exactly Shakespeare, but has stuck with me all these years, as has the image of Chips chugging a cold beer in the blazing Outback. Here he is in another commercial:

Chips was born in Broken Hill, New South Wales, to John Goffage, an English-born stock agent, and Australian-born Violet Maude Joyce. He attended Parramatta Commercial High School, where he got the nickname Chips, and after that worked a variety of jobs, including opal miner, sheep shearer, drover, RAAF Officer, and pearl diver.

He made his film debut in the comedy Ants in His Pants in 1938, as an extra, produced by Ken G. Hall. At that time, he was managing a wine cellar in Bond Street in Sydney. He then got another unbilled role, as one of several inept firemen in Hall’s Dad Rudd, M.P. (1940). Chips gained international fame when cast as one of the three leads in Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940), directed by Charles Chauvel. Chauvel described him as “a cross between Slim Summerville and James Stewart, and has a variety of droll yet natural humour.” He played a laconic, tall (he was 6’5”) bushman. Forty Thousand Horsemen was enormously popular and was screened throughout the world, becoming one of the most-seen Australian films made to that point. Although the film’s romantic leads were Grant Taylor and Betty Bryant, Rafferty’s performance received considerable acclaim.

Rafferty married Ellen Kathleen “Quentin” Jameson on 28 May 1941. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force the next day and entertained troops. During the war, Rafferty was allowed to make films on leave. He appeared in a short featurette, South West Pacific (1943), directed by Hall. He was reunited with Chauvel and Grant Taylor in The Rats of Tobruk (1944), an attempt to repeat the success of Forty Thousand Horsemen. Rafferty was discharged on 13 February 1945, at the rank of Flying Officer.

Ealing Studios were interested in making a feature film in Australia after the war, and assigned Harry Watt to find a subject. He came up with The Overlanders (1946), a story of a cattle drive during war time (based on a true story) and gave the lead role to Rafferty who Watt called an “Australian Gary Cooper.” Rafferty’s fee was £25 a week. Ealing were so pleased they signed Rafferty to a long term contract even before the film was released. The film was a massive critical and commercial success and Rafferty became fully established as a film star.

Chips went to England to promote The Overlanders, and Ealing put him in The Loves of Joanna Godden. While promoting the film in Hollywood he met Hedda Hopper who said Rafferty,

created quite a stir. They call him the Australian Gary Cooper, but if he were cut down a bit he would be more like the late Will Rogers. I don’t know how they’ll get him on the screen unless they do it horizontally… He is as natural as an old shoe.

Ealing and Watt wanted to make another film in Australia and decided on a spectacle, Eureka Stockade. Rafferty was cast in the lead as Peter Lalor, the head of the rebellion, despite pressures in some quarters to cast Peter Finch. The result was a box office disappointment and Rafferty’s performance much criticized.  He was meant to follow this with a comedy for Ealing co-starring Tommy Trinder. Instead, Ealing put the two actors in a drama about aboriginal land rights Bitter Springs (1950). The film was not widely popular and Ealing wound up their filmmaking operation in Australia.

Subsequently he was cast by 20th Century Fox in a melodrama they shot in Australia, Kangaroo (1952). The studio liked his performance enough that they flew him (and Charles Tingwell) over to Los Angeles to play Australian soldiers in The Desert Rats (1953), a war movie. By that time film production in Australia had slowed to a trickle and Rafferty decided to move into movie production. He wanted to make The Green Opal, a story about immigration but could not get finance. However he then teamed up with a producer-director Lee Robinson and they decided to make movies together. Their first movie was The Phantom Stockman (1953), directed by Robinson and starring Rafferty, and produced by them both. The film was profitable. It was followed by King of the Coral Sea, which was even more popular, and introduced Rod Taylor to cinema audiences. Rafferty and Robinson attracted the interest of the French, collaborated with them on the New Guinea adventure tale, Walk Into Paradise (1956). This was their most popular movie to date.

Rafferty also appeared as an actor only in a British-financed comedy set in Australia, Smiley (1956). It was successful and led to a sequel, Smiley Gets a Gun (1958), in which Rafferty reprised his role. In England he appeared in The Flaming Sword (1958). He also participated in cinema advertisements that were part of an Australian Government campaign in 1957 called “Bring out a Briton” (the year my family migrated). The campaign was launched in a bid to increase the number of British migrants settling in Australia. Rafferty and Robinson raised money for three more movies with Robinson. He elected not to appear in the fourth film he produced with Robinson, Dust in the Sun (1958), their first flop together. Nor was he in The Stowaway (1959) and The Restless and the Damned (1960). All three films lost money and Rafferty found himself in financial difficulty.

Rafferty returned to being an actor only. He had a small role in The Sundowners (1960), with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr and played a coastwatcher in The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960) with Jack Lemmon and Ricky Nelson. He was in the Australian-shot TV series Whiplash (1961).

He was then cast as one of the mutineers in MGM’s Mutiny on the Bounty, with Marlon Brando. The filming of Bounty dragged on – meant to take six months in Tahiti, it would end up taking 14. However, the money Chips earned (he called the film The Bounteous Mutiny) restored his finances after the failure of his production company. His income enabled him to buy a block of flats which supported him for the rest of his life.

In the 1960s Chips played parts in a great number of English and US television series including, Emergency-Ward 10 (1964), The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1965) Gunsmoke (1966), Daktari (1966), The Girl from UNCLE (1967), Tarzan (1967) and The Monkees, as well as the Elvis Presley movie Double Trouble (1967) and the adventure tale Kona Coast (1968). Back in Australia he guest-starred in Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Adventures of the Seaspray (1967), Rita and Wally (1968), Woobinda, Animal Doctor (1970) and Dead Men Running (1971). His final film role was in 1971’s Wake in Fright, where he played an outback policeman. (The movie was filmed mainly in and around his home town of Broken Hill.) In a review of the film, a critic praised Rafferty’s performance, writing that he “exudes an unnerving intensity with a deceptively menacing and disturbing performance that ranks among the best of his career.” Chips collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking down a Sydney street at the age of 62 shortly after completing his role in Wake in Fright. His remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered into his favorite fishing hole in Lovett Bay.

Instead of giving a recipe today to honor Chips I am going to give a plug for a website that sells bush tucker. https://www.bushtuckershop.com/  Here you can find:

Aniseed Myrtle
Bush Tomatoes
Davidsons (Rainforest) Plum
Forest Berry Herb
Finger Limes
Lemon Myrtle
Lilli Pilli
Mountain Pepper
Native Mint
Pepperberries
Hibiscus (Rosella) Flowers
Quandongs
Wattleseed

After that it’s up to you what you do with the ingredients, or you can order prepared foods using native ingredients.

 

Feb 022016
 

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Today is Groundhog Day in the United States. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks. The custom derives from European celebrations of Candlemas which I describe in detail here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/candlemas/

At one time in southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges celebrated the holiday with fersommlinge, social events at which food was served, speeches were made, and one or more g’spiel (plays or skits) were performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect was the only language spoken at the event, and those who spoke English paid a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken, with the money put into a bowl.

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Groundhog Day was adopted in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1887, when Clymer H. Freas, the editor of the local paper Punxsutawney Spirit, began promoting the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day meteorologist.” Thus, to this day the largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, with Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition in The United States, received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day (which my son and I watch religiously every year on 2nd February).

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The celebration began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has its origins in European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator, as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the festival of Imbolc (the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication): http://www.bookofdaystales.com/imbolc-and-brigid/ .

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The first documented U.S. reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, by storekeeper James Morris of Morgantown, Pennsylvania:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

This reflects old European traditions, such as in this rhyme from England:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year.

And from Germany:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

Several scenes in the movie Groundhog Day take place in a diner, the Tip Top Café. Here’s one scene in which blueberry waffles are featured.

I used to make these when I lived in New York State and had a waffle maker. They make a hearty breakfast for a cold early February morning.

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Blueberry Waffles

Waffles:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1⅔ cups milk
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup butter, melted
⅔ cup fresh blueberries

Sauce:

1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup orange juice
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp cornstarch

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together the milk, egg yolks and butter and stir them into dry ingredient gently. Don’t beat too much. Fold in the blueberries.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the batter.

Cook the batter in portions in a preheated waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For the sauce, combine the blueberries, ¼ cup orange juice and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Combine the cornstarch and remaining orange juice until smooth and then gradually stir it into the berry mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Serve the waffles with warm syrup, fresh blueberries, and whipped cream.

 

 

Oct 042014
 

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The Orient Express was the name of a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). On this date in 1883 the original Orient Express began its first official run. There had been some previous trials but this was the beginning of the scheduled service.

There is a certain amount of confusion in the popular mind about the Orient Express because it is often thought of as a particular train with a particular route. But the route and rolling stock of the Orient Express changed many times. Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variants thereof. Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Istanbul, the original endpoints of the timetabled service.

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The Orient Express was a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when traveling was still rough and dangerous. CIWL soon developed a dense network of luxury trains all over Europe, whose names are still remembered today and associated with luxury travel. Such as the Blue Train, the Golden Arrow, North Express and many more. CIWL became the first and most important modern multinational dedicated to transport, travel agency, hospitality with activities spreading from Europe to Asia and Africa.

In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul. Its immediate successor, a through overnight service from Paris to Vienna, ran for the last time from Paris on Friday, June 8, 2007. After this, the route, still called the “Orient Express”, was shortened to start from Strasbourg instead, occasioned by the inauguration of the LGV Est which affords much shorter travel times from Paris to Strasbourg. The new curtailed service left Strasbourg at 22.20 daily, shortly after the arrival of a TGV from Paris, and was attached at Karlsruhe to the overnight sleeper service from Amsterdam to Vienna.

On 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a “victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines”. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 30s, continues to run from London to Venice and to other destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul.

As a trial, in 1882, Georges Nagelmackers, a Belgian banker’s son, invited guests to a railway trip of 2,000 km (1,243 mi) on his ‘Train Eclair de luxe’ (lightning luxury train). The train left Paris Gare de l’Est on Tuesday, October 10, 1882, just after 18:30 and arrived in Vienna the next day at 23:20. The return trip left Vienna on Friday, October 13, 1882, at 16:40 and, as planned, re-entered the Gare de Strasbourg at 20:00 on Saturday October 14, 1882. Georges Nagelmackers was the founder of Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, which expanded its luxury trains, travel agencies and hotels all over Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its most famous train remains the Orient-Express.

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The train consisted of:

Baggage car
Sleeping coach with 16 beds (with bogies)
Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
Restaurant coach
Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
Baggage car

The first menu on board (October 10, 1882): oysters, soup with Italian pasta, turbot with green sauce, chicken ‘à la chasseur,’ fillet of beef with ‘château’ potatoes, ‘chaud-froid’ of game animals, lettuce, chocolate pudding, buffet of desserts.

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The original scheduled route of the Orient Express, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l’Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria, to pick up another train to Varna. They then completed their journey to Istanbul by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Niš, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul.

In 1889, the train’s eastern terminus became Varna in Bulgaria, where passengers could take a ship to Istanbul. On June 1, 1889, the first non-stop train to Istanbul left Paris (Gare de l’Est). Istanbul remained its easternmost stop until May 19, 1977. The eastern terminus was the Sirkeci Terminal by the Golden Horn. Ferry service from piers next to the terminal would take passengers across the Bosphorus to Haydarpaşa Terminal, the terminus of the Asian lines of the Ottoman Railways.

The onset of World War I in 1914 saw Orient Express services suspended. They resumed at the end of hostilities in 1918, and in 1919 the opening of the Simplon Tunnel allowed the introduction of a more southerly route via Milan, Venice and Trieste. The service on this route was known as the Simplon Orient Express, and it ran in addition to continuing services on the old route. The Treaty of Saint-Germain contained a clause requiring Austria to accept this train: formerly, Austria allowed international services to pass through Austrian territory (which included Trieste at the time) only if they ran via Vienna. The Simplon Orient Express soon became the most important rail route between Paris and Istanbul.

The 1930s saw the zenith of Orient Express services, with three parallel services running: the Orient Express, the Simplon Orient Express, and also the Arlberg Orient Express, which ran via Zürich and Innsbruck to Budapest, with sleeper cars running onwards from there to Bucharest and Athens. During this time, the Orient Express acquired its reputation for comfort and luxury, carrying sleeping-cars with permanent service and restaurant cars known for the quality of their cuisine. Royalty, nobles, diplomats, business people and the bourgeoisie in general patronized it. Each of the Orient Express services also incorporated sleeping cars which had run from Calais to Paris, thus extending the service right from one edge of continental Europe to the other.

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The start of the Second World War in 1939 again interrupted the service, which did not resume until 1945. During the war, the German Mitropa company had run some services on the route through the Balkans, but Yugoslav Partisans frequently sabotaged the track, forcing a stop to this service. Following the end of the war, normal services resumed except on the Athens leg, where the closure of the border between Yugoslavia and Greece prevented services from running. That border re-opened in 1951, but the closure of the Bulgarian–Turkish border from 1951 to 1952 prevented services running to Istanbul during that time. As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, the service continued to run, but the Communist nations increasingly replaced the Wagon-Lits cars with carriages run by their own railway services.

By 1962, the Orient Express and Arlberg Orient Express had stopped running, leaving only the Simplon Orient Express. This was replaced in 1962 by a slower service called the Direct Orient Express, which ran daily cars from Paris to Belgrade, and twice weekly services from Paris to Istanbul and Athens.

In 1971, the Wagon-Lits company stopped running carriages itself and making revenues from a ticket supplement. Instead, it sold or leased all its carriages to the various national railway companies, but continued to provide staff for the carriages. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the Paris–Athens direct service, and in 1977, the Direct Orient Express was withdrawn completely, with the last Paris–Istanbul service running on May 19 of that year.

The withdrawal of the Direct Orient Express was thought by many to signal the end of Orient Express as a whole, but in fact a service under this name continued to run from Paris to Budapest and Bucharest as before (via Strasbourg, Munich, and Budapest). This continued until 2001, when the service was cut back to just Paris–Vienna, the coaches for which were attached to the Paris–Strasbourg express. This service continued daily, listed in the timetables under the name Orient Express, until June 8, 2007.

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However, with the opening of the LGV Est Paris–Strasbourg high speed rail line on June 10, 2007, the Orient Express service was further cut back to Strasbourg–Vienna, departing nightly at 22:20 from Strasbourg, and still bearing the name.

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The Orient Express features in a number of books and films sometimes as a major character. Perhaps the most famous is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, both a book and several films. I am very fond of the 1974 film adaptation with Albert Finney as Poirot. Christie had not been happy with previous film versions of her books and only grudgingly agreed to sell the rights. After viewing the film, Christie’s biographer Gwen Robyns quoted her as saying, “It was well made except for one mistake. It was Albert Finney, as my detective Hercule Poirot. I wrote that he had the finest moustache in England — and he didn’t in the film. I thought that a pity — why shouldn’t he?”

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Dracula escapes from England to Varna by sea, but the cabal sworn to destroy him travels to Paris and takes the Orient Express, arriving in Varna ahead of him. In Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser: Sir Harry Paget Flashman travels on the train’s first journey as a guest of the journalist Henri Blowitz. In the film, From Russia with Love (1963) James Bond (Sean Connery) fights with a rival spy aboard the train.

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There have also been numerous television shows and made for television movies that feature the Orient Express such as, Istanbul Express (1968), a thriller, made for television, starring Gene Barry, Travels with My Aunt (1972), in which Henry Pulling accompanies his aunt, Augusta Bertram, on a trip from London to Turkey, and Minder on the Orient Express (1985), a comedy/thriller television film made as a spin-off from the successful television series Minder. In Mystery on the Orient Express, a television special featuring illusionist David Copperfield, Copperfield rode aboard the train and, at its conclusion, made the dining car seemingly disappear. There was also a syndicated TV series, Orient Express, in the early-to-mid-1950s. Filmed in Europe, its half-hour dramas featured such stars as Paul Lukas, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Geraldine Brooks, and Erich von Stroheim.

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There are several games and animations featuring the train. The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu RPG uses the train for one of its more famous campaigns, Horror on the Orient Express. The Last Express is a murder mystery game set around the last ride of the Orient Express before it suspended operations at the start of World War I. Robert Cath, an American doctor wanted by French police as he is suspected of the murder of an Irish police officer, and becomes involved in a maelstrom of treachery, lies, political conspiracies, personal interests, romance and murder. The game has 30 characters representing a cross-section of European forces at the time.

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Given the time that the Orient Express was in service probably just about any fine dish would have been served in dining cars at some point. But the menu from the first trial run seems the most appropriate from which to choose. The chaud-froid of game meats would be wonderful to recreate. A chaud-froid is essentially meat in an aspic jelly to which cream is added. But I have picked poulet chasseur because it is a favorite of mine. “Chasseur” is French for hunter, and the lyrical folklore is that this is a dish that hunters could make on the way home using wild mushrooms as the main flavoring ingredient (ditto the Italian chicken cacciatore).

Sauce chasseur can be used for a variety of meats including game. It is a simple or compound brown sauce used in French cuisine made using demi-glace or an espagnole sauce as a base, and often includes mushrooms and shallots. It may also include tomatoes and a finishing of fines herbes. Sauce chasseur is thought to have been invented by Philippe de Mornay, who is also credited with inventing Mornay sauce, Béchamel, sauce Lyonnaise, and sauce Porto.

Poulet chasseur is not hard to make and you can find hundreds of recipes online. Unfortunately for simplicity the great bulk use plain chicken stock or bouillon rather than demi-glace. This is a great shame because demi-glace adds a special richness. You will find my recipe for this intensely flavored kitchen essential here:

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/cardinal-richelieu/

Or you can buy it.  It’s usually as good as homemade (if you buy the right stuff) and saves an awful lot of time.

This recipe is an adaptation of Jacques Pepin’s from La Technique

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Poulet Chasseur

Ingredients

1 tbsp. butter
1 2 1/2 -3 lb pound chicken, quartered
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped fine
½ cup dry white wine
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
6 to 8 mushrooms, sliced
½ cup demi-glace
1 tbsp each fresh parsley and tarragon chopped fine
salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the chicken thoroughly on both sides.

Add the chopped shallots and sauté until transluscent.

Add the garlic, white wine, tomato, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms.

Cover and simmer another 5 minutes. DO NOT overcook the chicken.

Using a spoon, transfer the chicken and solids to a heated serving dish and keep warm.

Add ½ cup demi-glace to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to 1 cup. Season with parsley and tarragon and pour the sauce on top of the chicken.

Serve at once with boiled new potatoes.

Serves 4