Aug 282016
 

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The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington, or The Great March on Washington, was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and demanded civil and economic rights for African Americans. Tens of thousands of people headed to Washington D.C. on Tuesday August 27, 1963, and on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, the “march” officially took place culminating in a rally on the mall with speeches and songs. The final scheduled speaker of the rally was Martin Luther King, Jr. who, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his now historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

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The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who built an alliance of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations that came together under the banner of “jobs and freedom.” Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. The most widely cited estimate is 250,000 people. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were Black, which means that a substantial number of marchers were White. The march is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and preceded the Selma Voting Rights Movement which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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OK, if you know your history this is old news to you. If you were alive at the time and living in the US it is even older news, and should be a powerful memory. I was alive at the time but living in Australia, so the event had no impact on me when it happened. When JFK was assassinated later that same year, it made the headlines and I took notice. Segregation in the US, and other Civil Rights problems worldwide, such as apartheid, were what they were and we debated them in school occasionally (in the abstract). Australia had its own racist policies and problems, but they did not have much impact on me. My town was a heavily White town, populated by European immigrants or people of European descent.  There were aborigines living there, and some attended my school. Australia’s racial problems that eventually exploded had to do with colonization, not slavery, so I could not related to racism in the US until I moved there.

To be clear, I’ll use the words “Black” and “White” (both capitalized) for simplicity, not because I think the terms are unambiguous or neutral. Words matter, and sensitivities change over time. Martin Luther King was comfortable using the word “negro,” but it’s offensive to many now.  Also to be clear, “race” is a cultural term not a biological one. There is ZERO way to define race biologically.  The term “race” can only refer to how you identify yourself, not what your biology reveals about you. One more thing to be clear (especially in light of current political tensions in the US), if you think the color of a person’s skin has ANYTHING to do about ANYTHING (except degree of pigmentation), you are a racist.

The background and content of the March is now mostly forgotten or overshadowed by the lingering legacy of “I Have a Dream” and King’s murder.  The organizers themselves disagreed over the purpose of the march. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration. Randolph, King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) saw it as a way of raising both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration’s inaction and lack of concrete support for civil rights.

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Despite their disagreements, the group came together on a set of goals:

Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation;

Immediate elimination of school segregation;

A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed;

A Federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring;

A $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide;

Withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination;

Enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens;

A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas;

Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

Although in years past, Randolph had supported “Negro only” marches, partly to reduce the impression that the civil rights movement was dominated by White communists, organizers in 1963 agreed that Whites and Blacks marching side by side would create a more powerful image.

The Kennedy Administration cooperated with the organizers in planning the March, and one member of the Justice Department was assigned as a full-time liaison. Chicago and New York City (as well as some corporations) agreed to designate August 28 as “Freedom Day” and give workers the day off. The march was not universally supported among civil rights activists. Some, including Rustin (who assembled 4,000 volunteer marshals from New York), were concerned that it might turn violent, which could undermine pending legislation and damage the international image of the movement. The march was condemned by Malcolm X, at the time spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, who termed it the “farce on Washington”

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Organizers pushed hard for an expensive ($16,000) sound system, saying, “We cannot maintain order where people cannot hear.” The system was obtained and set up at the Lincoln Memorial, but was sabotaged on the day before the March and its operators were unable to repair it. They contacted Attorney General Robert Kennedy and his civil rights liaison Burke Marshall, demanding that the government fix the system. Organizers reportedly told them: “We have a couple hundred thousand people coming. Do you want a fight here tomorrow after all we’ve done?” The system was successfully rebuilt overnight by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

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The march commanded national attention by preempting regularly scheduled television programs. As the first ceremony of such magnitude ever initiated and dominated by Blacks in the US, the march also was the first to have its nature wholly misperceived in advance. Dominant expectations ran from paternal apprehension to dread. On Meet the Press, reporters grilled Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King about widespread foreboding that “it would be impossible to bring more than 100,000 militant Negroes into Washington without incidents and possibly rioting.” Life magazine declared that the capital was suffering “its worst case of invasion jitters since the First Battle of Bull Run.” The Pentagon readied 19,000 troops in the suburbs and the jails shifted inmates to other prisons to make room for those arrested in mass arrests; the city banned all sales of alcoholic beverages; hospitals made room for riot casualties by postponing elective surgery. With nearly 1,700 extra correspondents supplementing the Washington press corps, the march drew a media assembly larger than the Kennedy inauguration two years earlier.

This is the full agenda for the day (click to enlarge):

MS 2003-36 March on Washington Program - front

You can see that there was a lot going on, and King’s speech capped a very full event. Here’s footage of the speech beginning with some images of participants:

Analysis of the speech has pretty well been done to death. It’s hailed as a “masterpiece of rhetoric” etc etc. Stripped of its context I don’t see it as any great piece of brilliant oratory. It’s more or less stock stuff I’ve heard from countless Southern preachers with way too much metaphor for my tastes. It’s been well documented, also, that King had delivered similar speeches before. The point that grabs my attention is that if you watch the video, and don’t just hear the words or read them, you see the key transition. He starts out reading a prepared speech and he glances between it and the crowd. But then he gets to the “I have a dream” section and his prepared speech is in the dust. From then on he speaks from the soul. Supposedly the switch happened when Mahalia Jackson shouted from the crowd, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” Who knows what the speech would have been like if not for that moment?

Of course, the context is all important. People had been traveling days under harsh conditions, the city and the nation were on edge, people had been singing and praying, followed by countless speeches . . . and then King took the stage, and he electrified the crowd and the nation. His speech was a turning point. Even though JFK was assassinated, LBJ kept up the pressure and got key legislation through congress, and leaned on states to pass civil rights laws.

Wouldn’t it be nice if passing laws changed people overnight? Racist laws got struck down, but racism remained . . . and still remains in the US. It’s depressing to think that we are more than 50 years on from the March and we still have to contend with rampant racism, even though there’s a fair element of the privileged White who want to deny its existence.

It’s very easy to sound racist when recommending food for today, so, instead I give you this site that a Black woman from Tennessee posted:

http://www.aceweekly.com/2013/01/what-were-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-s-favorite-foods-a-guide-to-celebrating-his-birthday/

There’s plenty here to chew on. Her claim is that King enjoyed fried chicken with collards, black-eyed peas, and corn bread on Sundays, growing up in Atlanta. Sounds good to me.

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This comes from the site:

Time to hit the kitchen.

Blackeyed peas can be one of the greatest southern foods you will ever be fortunate enough to put in your mouth. We make an insanely delicious version that is known as Hoppin’ John.

Growing up in Kentucky means you better have a good fried chicken recipe in your arsenal. This is one of the best ones we’ve ever implemented.

Collard greens is another southern staple. We’ve never penned a recipe, cause they are so easy to cook it’s just silly. First and most important, you’ll need a pint of pork stock. This is crucial. Here’s how we make it.

After you have your pork stock ready prep four bunches of collards by washing thoroughly and roughly chopping. Bring pint of pork stock to boil and place collards in kettle. Simmer with lid off til collards are done. You may like them al dente, but we like them “cooked down” which is to say extremely tender. By this time your stock should be almost completely evaporated. Add one cup whipping cream and 1 tablespoon dried red chile flakes to kettle. Cook 20 minutes more. You now have creamy, spicy collards that are so deliciously piggy they will turn even the most ardent hater of greens into a stark raving mad collard green addict.

Cornbread. Once again, we’ve never penned a corn bread recipe cause we can make a pone in our sleep. We’ve done it a thousand times. Here’s a quick primer. Take a cup of self rising corn meal. Add buttermilk til thick batter forms, now add tap water til batter is runny, pour into cold, greased (we use clarified bacon fat) cast iron pan, bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

There are links within the text to recipes. One caution – having a recipe isn’t all you need. To make great Southern fried chicken you have to be born knowing how to make it.  My wife was born in Kentucky and made excellent fried chicken. But she always bowed to her mother whose fried chicken was, indeed, superb. There are a few “secrets” that cooks swear by – such as soaking the chicken pieces overnight in buttermilk – but when it comes down to it, experience is what matters.

Nov 082015
 

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Today is the birthday (1900) of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind. As always I will be honest and say up front that I dislike the book and the film, but I think it’s worth celebrating her life. She did make an impact. When I say I “dislike” the book and the film, I need to be a little nuanced. I’ve tried to watch the film three times and just can’t keep watching it. The book is typical of the endless 19th-century novel that once I put down I can’t pick up again. It is important to realize, however, that the book and the film are completely different animals. The film is vastly simplified and, if possible, overly romanticized. Lots of people adore both, however. I’m not sure why. They both represent visions of the Old South I find repellent.

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Mitchell was a Southerner and a lifelong resident and native of Atlanta, Georgia. She was born into a wealthy and politically prominent family. Her father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, was an attorney, and her mother, Mary Isabel “May Belle” (or “Maybelle”) Stephens, was a suffragist. She had two brothers, Russell Stephens Mitchell, who died in infancy in 1894, and Alexander Stephens Mitchell, born in 1896. Mitchell spent her early childhood on Jackson Hill, east of downtown Atlanta. Her family lived near her grandmother, Annie Stephens who had been a widow for several years prior to Margaret’s birth; Captain John Stephens died in 1896. After his death, she inherited property on Jackson Street where Margaret’s family lived. Mitchell’s relationship with her grandmother would become quarrelsome in later years as she entered adulthood. However, for Mitchell, her grandmother was a great source of “eye-witness information” about the Civil War and Reconstruction in Atlanta.

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You’d have to say that Mitchell’s image of the South and, especially, the Old South was deeply influenced by her own childhood and the people she spoke to. As my old professor of Southern History said, there are “many Souths.” Privileged white Atlanta is one of many. One important image of “the South” was fixed in Mitchell’s imagination when at six years old her mother took her on a buggy tour through ruined plantations and “Sherman’s sentinels,” the brick and stone chimneys that remained after Sherman’s “march and torch” through Georgia. Mitchell would later recall what her mother had said to her:

She talked about the world those people had lived in, such a secure world, and how it had exploded beneath them. And she told me that my world was going to explode under me, someday, and God help me if I didn’t have some weapon to meet the new world.

Mitchell said she heard Civil War stories from her relatives when she was growing up:

On Sunday afternoons when we went calling on the older generation of relatives, those who had been active in the Sixties, I sat on the bony knees of veterans and the fat slippery laps of great aunts and heard them talk.

On summer vacations, she visited her maternal great-aunts, Mary Ellen (“Mamie”) Fitzgerald and Sarah (“Sis”) Fitzgerald, who still lived at her great-grandparents’ plantation home in Jonesboro. Mamie had been twenty-one years old and Sis was thirteen when the Civil War began.

Gone with the Wind was first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman’s March to the Sea. The story is a Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem about lost love written by Ernest Dowson.

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Gone With The Wind was popular with U.S. readers from the outset and was the top U.S. fiction bestseller in the year it was published and in 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of U.S. readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.

Gone With The Wind is Southern plantation fiction of a certain type that I despise. Its portrayal of slavery and African-Americans is abominable, as well as its use of a racial stereotypes and ethnic slurs. Slavery in Gone With The Wind is a backdrop to a story that is essentially about other things. Southern plantation fiction (also known as Anti-Tom literature) from the early 19th century culminating in Gone With The Wind is written from the perspective and values of the slaveholder and tends to present slaves as docile and happy.

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The characters in the novel are organized into two basic groups along class lines: the white planter class, such as Scarlett, and the black house servant class. The slaves depicted in Gone With The Wind are primarily loyal house servants, such as Mammy, Pork, Prissy, and Uncle Peter. House servants are the highest “caste” in Mitchell’s caste system of the slaves. They stay on with their masters even after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and subsequent Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 sets them free. Of the servants that stayed on at Tara, Scarlett thinks to herself, “There were qualities of loyalty and tirelessness and love in them that no strain could break, no money could buy.” This may be superficially endearing, but condescending at heart.

The field slaves make up the lower class in Mitchell’s caste system. The field slaves from the Tara plantation and the foreman, Big Sam, are taken away by Confederate soldiers to dig ditches and apparently never return to the plantation. There were yet other field slaves, Mitchell wrote, who were “loyal” and “refused to avail themselves of the new freedom,” but there are no field slave characters in the novel that stay on the plantation after they have been emancipated. This “loyalty” or lack thereof, is true slaveholder wishful thinking. What field hand would want to be loyal to a master who beat him, raped his wife, and sold his children?

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The crude stereotypes in Gone With The Wind – southern belle, rascally but brave and lovable scoundrel, loving mammy etc. etc. – continue to be perpetuated in modern consciousness in the South, not least because of this novel which portrays a world that never existed, but which some people believe in and wish could be restored. I can’t believe the nonsense spewed by contemporary southern politicians who argue that slavery was essentially a good thing. My blood simply boils. That Mitchell encourages this mindset is horrifying to me.

Let me not pass over the inherent sexism in the novel either. Marriage was the goal of all southern belles, and all social and educational pursuits were directed towards it. Regardless of war and the loss of eligible men, young women were still subjected to the pressure to marry. By law and Southern social convention, household heads were adult, white propertied males, and all white women (and all African Americans) were thought to require protection and guidance because they lacked the capacity for reason and self-control. Scarlett’s Reconstruction-era pursuits belie the facts. A woman of the period could not have run a sawmill. If women worked outside the home at all, which was looked down upon, it was as teachers or nurses, under the control and guidance of men.

All right, enough said.

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Southern fried chicken seems like a suitably stereotypical recipe to complement Gone With The Wind. I’ve never made it because that was the province of my wife and her mother’s family – all from the Kentucky mountains. My mother-in-law’s fried chicken was masterful, and we always asked her to make it when we visited from New York. You can find recipes galore, but they won’t help you to make the “real thing.” It’s the lifelong experience and family tradition that makes it. It’s very hard to explain. I mean, I can tell you what to do, but without that family history, you are not going to get it right.

The basics are that you cut a frying chicken into 8 pieces – drumsticks, thighs, wings, and breast. Soak the pieces in buttermilk overnight. (I don’t know why this bit works, but it does). Heat lard or vegetable shortening in a cast-iron skillet to about 325°F. The fat should about half fill the skillet. Good cooks just know when it reaches the right temperature – amateurs use a thermometer. Drain the chicken pieces and dredge them in flour seasoned with pepper and salt. Fry until golden on all sides, then drain on wire racks. Paper towels will only keep the chicken greasy. You are looking for a crispy outside and a tender, juicy inside. Maybe after 3 or 4 generations you’ll get it right. Serve with corn on the cob, cole slaw, potato salad, and cornbread.

Jun 092014
 

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On this date in 1815 the delegates at the Congress of Vienna signed the final treaty setting the stage for European political history for 100 years and more. It is, without question, one of the most significant international political summits in European history. The Congress of Vienna reconciled the multiple conflicts of interest between the European powers and created a period of almost 40 years without major European conflicts. Peace came at a price, though. All the egalitarian, democratic, and liberal ideals of the French revolution were cast aside, and Europe stepped back to a political landscape much like that before 1789, setting the stage for revolutionary upheaval in 1848 – the year of revolutions.

On a more mundane note, the Congress was a cultural event without peer before or since. For ten months, Vienna entertained more than 200 delegates from all over Europe with a marathon cultural calendar. It consisted of daily balls and society events to cater to the vanities and emotional well being of its top guests. The Congress of Vienna played a pivotal role in anchoring Vienna’s image as a society of waltz dancing, cake eating bohemians who love life, and who use their culture to outshine their European rivals. In Prince Charles de Ligne’s famous words:

“Le Congrès danse, mais il ne marche pas.” (The Congress dances but it does not move forward)

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After years of raging war, Napoleon Bonaparte had left Europe in tatters. While he was in exile on the Italian island of Elba, the European state system needed re-structuring. The First Treaty of Paris established a congress in Vienna where all participants of the war would decide on a substantial political re-order in post-war Europe. Vienna as the epicenter of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire with its vast territories and regional interests, seemed an obvious choice. In September 1814, about six months after the fall of Napoleon, Habsburg Emperor Francis I invited the European rulers and their key diplomats to the Congress of Vienna.

The Congress of Vienna was essentially concerned with:

  • re-installing the absolutist monarchies in Europe before the French Revolution of 1789, also known as the Restoration
  • legitimizing the ruling monarchies and fiefdoms
  • re-structuring Germany’s internal affairs
  • weakening France’s political power
  • creating rules for mediating and managing conflicts among European rulers in a peaceful way.

It was not about the various peoples and their needs for freedom and prosperity, but of restoring the interests of the old European dynasties.

The five European super powers Russia, Great Britain, Prussia, Austria, and France were represented through their heads of state and senior diplomats at the Congress of Vienna. In addition, the other German courts, previously sovereign cities, Switzerland, and other European states sent delegates to Vienna. All in all, approximately 200 rulers and their diplomats flocked to the Austrian capital. The major players were:

Metternich

Metternich

Austrian Empire

Emperor Francis I was the Congress’ official host. Although he detested Napoleon Bonaparte he agreed to the marriage between Napoleon and his own daughter Marie Louise in 1810. His subsequent alliance with Napoleon against Russia ended in defeat. However, the Treaty of Paris of 1814 boosted Francis’ territorial powers. He came to rule the largest territory the Habsburgs and their predecessors had ever possessed. Prince Metternich, called the “coachman of Europe,” presided and played a key role in the difficult negotiations among the Great Powers, especially with France. Metternich said: “The first and foremost objective of our Government’s endeavors, and that of all allied Governments since the restoration of Europe’s independence, is to maintain the existing order, which is the fortunate result of this restoration.” His repressive politics worked for more than 30 years. However, for Metternich, 1848 (the year of the revolution) finally put an end to them. Metternich was also interested in strengthening France’s role in Europe and using it to counterbalance Russia’s power.

Alexander I

Alexander I

Russia

Tsar Alexander I was educated based on Rousseau’s liberal ideas, but was a weak and inconsistent ruler. At the Congress of Vienna, he promoted peaceful collaboration and order, obtained the neutral status of Switzerland and provided his new Polish territory with a liberal constitution. He invented the idea of the Holy Alliance (Russian, Austria, and Prussia), for mutual aid. Karl Robert (Vassilievich), Count Nesselrode, was the leader of the Russian delegation at the Congress. He turned into one of the most fervent promoters and defenders of the Holy Alliance.

Wellington

Wellington

Great Britain

Lord Henry Robert Stewart Castlereagh was, like Metternich, a strong conservative who detested Napoleon’s liberal ideas. Together with Metternich and Prince Talleyrand, he formed an alliance against Russia and Prussia. As a result, Russia won large parts of Poland. Prussia lost significant territories of Saxony. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was a British diplomat in France of British-Irish origin. He took over the negotiations at the Vienna Congress from Lord Castlereagh on 1st February 1815. He later led the coalition army in the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s final defeat, which ended nine days after the official end of the Congress.

Hardenberg

Hardenberg

Prussia

Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg was State Chancellor of Prussia and one of the leading state reformers of the 19th century – liberal minded and a promoter of democratic principles with the monarchy. At the Congress of Vienna, he managed to achieve equal status for Prussia and re-position it among the leading European Powers. Wilhelm von Humboldt was a famous German philosopher and liberal reformer of the German educational system. At the Congress of Vienna, he successfully promoted Jewish civil rights but was defeated in his objectives to create a liberal constitution for the German Bund. King Frederick William III of Prussia was also in Vienna, playing his role behind the scenes.

Talleyrand

Talleyrand

France

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord: was the leader of the French delegation. He almost managed to position the defeated France as an equal negotiation partner at the Congress of Vienna. Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba and France’s defeat in the battle of Waterloo, however, thwarted his efforts.

On 9 June 1815, the five signatory states signed the Treaty of Vienna. You can see the newly created territories and their boundaries in the historic map below (click to enlarge). The battle of Waterloo was still raging on, ending in Napoleon’s defeat nine days later.

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The vast majority of territories was re-distributed to the Great Powers as before the Napoleonic Wars. The big winner, however, was Russia, which obtained large parts of the Duchy of Warsaw (Poland). Germany was not successful in pushing through its aim to create a united German state. Austria received large territories in Italy, including Dalmatia, Friulia, Istria, Lombardy, and Venice; and re-obtained regions such as Croatia, Upper Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, and Galicia (Poland). On the other hand, it had to resign from its territories in Brisgau and the Austrian Netherlands. Switzerland was structured into 22 cantons and obtained neutral status. Sweden lost Finland and Swedish-Pommern but retained its Norwegian territories.

At the time, the Congress of Vienna was considered a big success by the signatories. It had achieved its main aim, to re-create a balance of power in Europe pre-Napoleon. Friedrich von Gentz, Prince Metternich’s secretary of state, summarized: “The task of this Congress was difficult and complicated. It was about restoring everything that 20 years of disorder had destroyed, re-constructing the political system from the large ruins with which a terrible tremor had covered Europe’s soil. This big task is accomplished. As they part today, the Sovereigns have committed themselves to one single, simple and holy obligation: that of deferring all other considerations in relation to peace keeping, and of nipping in the bud every plan of destroying the existing order, with all available means.”

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Following the battle of Waterloo, France ended up losing key territories and was forced to pay 700 million Francs of indemnity and return the European art treasures stolen by Napoleon. The Ottoman Empire (later known as the “Sick Man of Europe”) was excluded from the Congress and, therefore, continued on a path of stagnation and disintegration through the 19th century. Other key achievements of the Congress included the proscription of slave trade, and free international stream navigation.

There is no doubt that in terms of its stated aims the Congress of Vienna was an enormous success. Its goal was to create stability and prevent Europe-wide war by creating a finely tuned balance of power among the key states, and by creating neutral states, such as the Low Countries and Switzerland, to act as buffers between the major powers. But there was a big price to pay. Ethnic groups in gigantic empires such as Austria and Russia were lumped together under one polity with no chance at autonomy, nationhood, and self governance. Likewise the egalitarian and democratic ideals of the French Revolution were squashed as states returned to monarchic rule. Thus, while continent-wide conflict was eliminated, the impulse towards internal revolution and reform throughout Europe increased in intensity. In consequence, in 1848 all Europe erupted in revolution, following a domino effect, with only Great Britain escaping violent revolt.

The Viennese cooking tradition (not to be confused with Austrian cooking), developed from many different sources. Italian influence has been strong since roughly the early 17th century. In the 18th century, French cuisine became influential in Vienna, along with French etiquette and diplomatic language. The term “Wiener Küche” (Viennese cuisine) first appeared in German language cookbooks around the end of the 18th century. In the second half of the 19th century, cookbooks started to include Bohemian, Hungarian (particularly with Gulaschsuppe, originally a Hungarian stew), Italian, Jewish, Polish, and Southern Slavic features in Viennese cuisine. The croissant is also thought to have originated in Vienna after the defeat of the Turks in the Siege of Vienna (1529).

Classic Viennese dishes, many of which are well known outside Austria, include apfelstrudel, palatschinken (Viennese crêpes), sachertorte, and germknödel (sweet yeast dumpling). The Danish pastry is said to originate from Vienna, and in Denmark is called wienerbrød (Viennese bread), probably because it uses a certain kind of dough consisting of butter and flour in the classic cuisine referred to as “Viennese Dough.” This pastry is called “Kolatsche” (from the Czech kolá? from kolo for wheel) in Viennese.

But the great iconic dish is wiener schnitzel, thin cutlets of veal breaded and fried. Sadly for us, wiener schnitzel did not appear in Vienna until the mid 19th century, long after the Congress, so it cannot be considered symbolic of the times. There is hope though. Wiener schnitzel likely started out life as a variant of backhendl, breaded fried chicken, and this was a favored aristocratic dish at the time of the Congress. Backhendl is like versions of fried chicken found in many parts of the world, with the difference being that all the meat was boned. Nowadays the bones are usually left in. Lard was the common frying medium, and is still the best for truly crispy chicken. Vegetable oil is healthier, though. Your choice.

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Weiner Backhendl

Ingredients:

2 small chickens including livers
2 cups/200 g flour
2 ¾ cups/300 g breadcrumbs
5 eggs, beaten
lard or peanut oil
1 bunch parsley
salt

Instructions

Cut each chicken into 6 pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts. Bone the thighs and drumsticks. Skin all pieces.

Line up three bowls containing separately flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Designate one of your hands the dry hand and the other the wet hand. Using your dry hand, roll a chicken piece in flour to coat thoroughly and then place it in the egg (without the dry hand touching the egg). Use your wet hand to coat the chicken with egg and place it in the breadcrumbs. Use your dry hand to evenly and completely coat the chicken with breadcrumbs then place it on a wire rack. Do not press the breadcrumbs into the meat. If you do not keep the duties of your hands separated like this the egg eventually gets into the dry ingredients and they clump. Repeat for all the chicken pieces and the livers.

Put enough oil in a heavy skillet so that it is about ½ in/1.25 cm deep. Heat to 325°F/160 °C.

Fry the chicken in batches that do not overcrowd the skillet for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the coating is golden. Drain on wire racks. Salt to taste.

Briefly fry the parsley (30 sec) and use it to garnish the chicken. Serve with a green salad or potato salad.

Serves 4-6