Oct 032018
 

Today is the Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) commemorating the anniversary of German reunification in 1990 when the goal of a united Germany, that originated in the middle of the 19th century, was fulfilled again. The name addresses neither the re-union nor the union, but the unity of Germany. Today is a two-fer, however, because it is also the saints’ day of the two Ewalds, Ewald the Black and Ewald the Fair, who were reportedly martyred on this date in Old Saxony, now Westphalia, in 692.

The Day of German Unity on 3 October has been the German national holiday since 1990, when the reunification was formally completed. An alternative choice to commemorate the reunification could have been the day the Berlin Wall came down, 9th November 1989, which coincided with the anniversary of the proclamation of the German Republic in 1918, and the defeat of Hitler’s first coup in 1923. However, 9th November was also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the first large-scale Nazi-led pogrom against Jews in 1938, so the day was considered inappropriate as a national holiday. Therefore, 3rd  October 1990, the day of the formal reunification, was chosen instead and replaced the “Day of German Unity” on 17th June, the national holiday of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1954.

The Day of German Unity is celebrated each year with a ceremonial act and a citizens’ festival (Bürgerfest), hosted by a different major city each year, usually the state capital, in the German state presiding over the Bundesrat in the respective year (a sequence determined by the Königstein Agreement). After Bonn in 2011, Frankfurt am Main was the second non-state capital to host the celebrations in 2015; however, both cities bear a significance for German history (Bonn as former capital of West Germany and Frankfurt Parliament of 1848/49).

The Two Ewalds, Saint Ewald the Black and Saint Ewald the Fair, were companion missionaries with the same name, and distinguished by the color of their hair. They both priests, and both natives of Northumbria in England, but of Saxon heritage. As was common at the time, they spent several years as students in schools in Ireland. Ewald the Black was the more learned of the two, but both were equally renowned for their holiness. They were apparently acquainted with St. Willibrord, the Apostle of Friesland, and were inspired by his zeal for the conversion of Germanic peoples. Some sources number them among the eleven companions of that saint. More probably, however, they set out from England after St. Willibrord’s departure, in an attempt to convert their own compatriots in Old Saxony.

They entered upon their mission about 690 in an area covered by the dioceses of Münster, Osnabrück, and Paderborn. At first the Ewalds took up lodgings in the house of the steward of a Saxon earl or ealdorman (satrapa). Bede remarks that “the old Saxons have no king, but they are governed by several satrapas who during war cast lots for leadership, but who in time of peace are equal in power.” The steward entertained his two guests for several days, and promised to conduct them to the chieftain, whom they intended to Christianity.

Local Saxons, witnessing these activities, suspected that the Ewalds intended to destroy their temples and supplant their religion, and decided to kill them. An uprising followed and both priests were seized. Ewald the Fair was killed quickly by sword; Ewald the Black was tortured and torn limb from limb, after which both their bodies were cast into the Rhine. This is understood to have happened on 3rd October at a place called Aplerbeck, today a district of Dortmund, where a chapel still stands. When the ealdorman heard of what had been done, he became angry and fearful of reprisals, and punished the murderers by putting them to death and burning their villages.

Christian sources describe various miracles after the priests’ deaths, including their martyred bodies being miraculously carried against the stream for the space of forty miles to the place where their companions were residing. “As they floated along,” says the Catholic Encyclopedia, “a heavenly light, like a column of fire, was seen to shine above them.” Even the murderers are said to have witnessed the miraculous brightness. Moreover, one of the martyrs appeared in a vision to the monk Tilmon (a companion of the Ewalds), and told him where the bodies would be found: “that the spot would be there where he should see a pillar of light reaching from earth to heaven”. Tilmon arose and found the bodies, and interred them with the honors due to martyrs. From that time onwards, the memory of the Ewalds was annually celebrated in those parts. A spring of water is said to have gushed forth in the place of the martyrdom. The Saxons were eventually converted to Christianity by force in the 8th century by Charlemagne. The two Ewalds are honored as patrons in Westphalia. Their feast is celebrated in the dioceses of Cologne and Münster.

Westfälisches Blindhuhn is a well known Westphalian soup. It literally means “Westphalian blind fowl” but is actually a bean soup with bacon and fruit. Recipes vary greatly from cook to cook, but this one is reasonably standard.

Westfälisches Blindhuhn

Ingredients

1 cup dried white beans
½ lb slab bacon, cut in large pieces
1½ lb cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1½ lb cooking pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 lb fresh green string beans, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 cup coarsely diced carrots
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Place the beans in a large pot, cover with 1 quart of water, bring to a boil and cook, uncovered for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans soak for one hour.

Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Add a fresh quart of water, add the bacon, and bring to a simmer Cover the pot and simmer very slowly for at least an hour or until the beans are just tender.

Add the apples, pears, green beans, carrots, and potatoes to the pot. Season with pepper to taste, and additional salt if needed. Partially cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes longer, or until the vegetables and fruit are tender and the beans fully cooked.

Serve hot in deep bowls with sliced pumpernickel.

 

Feb 042018
 

Today is the birthday (1906) of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has become a modern classic. Both the book and Bonhoeffer’s exemplary life were deeply inspiring to me as I prepared myself for ordination. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing, and weeks before his prison camp was liberated by the Allies. I make no apologies for the length of this post: Bonhoeffer is of fundamental importance to me.

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), into a large family. In addition to his other siblings, Dietrich had a twin sister, Sabine Bonhoeffer Leibholz. He and Sabine were the 6th and 7th children out of 8. His father was psychiatrist and neurologist Karl Bonhoeffer, and his mother Paula Bonhoeffer, née von Hase, was a teacher and the granddaughter of Protestant theologian Karl von Hase and painter Stanislaus Kalckreuth. His oldest brother Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer became a chemist, and, along with Paul Harteck, discovered the spin isomers of hydrogen in 1929. Walter Bonhoeffer, the second born of the Bonhoeffer family, was killed in action during World War I, when the twins were 12. The third Bonhoeffer child, Klaus, was involved in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, along with Dietrich. He, too, was executed by the Nazis. Both of Bonhoeffer’s older sisters, Ursula Bonhoeffer Schleicher and Christel Bonhoeffer von Dohnanyi, married men who were eventually executed by the Nazis. Christel was imprisoned by the Nazis but survived. Sabine and their youngest sister Susanne Bonhoeffer Dress each married men who survived Nazism. His cousin Karl-Günther von Hase was the German Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1977. Bonhoeffer completed his Staatsexamen, the equivalent of both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, at the Protestant Faculty of Theology of the University. He went on to complete his Doctor of Theology degree at Berlin University in 1927.

At 24 years old Bonhoeffer was too young to be ordained. Bonhoeffer went to the United States in 1930 for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. Although Bonhoeffer found the US seminary not up to his exacting standards (“There is no theology here” – he remarked), he had life-changing experiences and friendships. He studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and met Frank Fisher, an African-American seminarian who introduced him to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school and formed a lifelong love for African-American spirituals, a collection of which he took back to Germany. He heard Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., preach the Gospel of Social Justice, and became sensitive not only to social injustices experienced by minorities, but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration. Bonhoeffer began to see things “from below”—from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed, “Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.” Later Bonhoeffer referred to his impressions abroad as the point at which he “turned from phraseology to reality.” He also learned to drive a car, although he failed the driving test three times. He traveled by car through the United States to Mexico, where he had been invited to speak on the subject of peace. His early visits to Italy, Libya, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba opened Bonhoeffer to ecumenism.

After returning to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer became a lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Berlin. Deeply interested in ecumenism, he was appointed by the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches (a forerunner of the World Council of Churches) as one of its three European youth secretaries. At this time he seems to have undergone something of a personal conversion from being a theologian primarily attracted to the intellectual side of Christianity to being a dedicated man of faith, resolved to carry out the teaching of Christ as he found it revealed in the Gospels. On 15 November 1931—at the age of 25—he was ordained at the Old-Prussian United St. Matthew’s Church (St. Matthäuskirche) in Berlin.

Bonhoeffer’s promising academic and ecclesiastical career was dramatically altered with the Nazi ascension to power on 30 January 1933. He was a determined opponent of the regime from its first days. Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer). He was cut off the air in the middle of a sentence, though it is unclear whether the newly elected Nazi regime was responsible. In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised the first voice for church resistance to Hitler’s persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”

In November 1932, two months before the Nazi takeover, there had been an election for presbyters and synodals (church officials) of the German Landeskirche (Protestant established churches). This election was marked by a struggle within the Old-Prussian Union Evangelical Church between the nationalistic German Christian (Deutsche Christen) movement and Young Reformers—a struggle which threatened to explode into schism. In July 1933, Hitler unconstitutionally imposed new church elections. Bonhoeffer put all his efforts into the election, campaigning for the selection of independent, non-Nazi officials.

Despite Bonhoeffer’s efforts, in the rigged July election an overwhelming number of key church positions went to Nazi-supported Deutsche Christen people. The Deutsche Christen won a majority in the general synod of the Old-Prussian Union Evangelical Church and all its provincial synods except Westphalia, and in synods of all other Protestant church bodies, except for the Lutheran churches of Bavaria, Hanover, and Württemberg. The non-Nazi opposition regarded these bodies as uncorrupted “intact churches,” as opposed to the other so-called “destroyed churches.”

In opposition to Nazification, Bonhoeffer urged an interdict upon all pastoral services (baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.), but Karl Barth and others advised against such a radical proposal. In August 1933, Bonhoeffer and Hermann Sasse were deputized by opposition church leaders to draft the Bethel Confession, a new statement of faith in opposition to the Deutsche Christen movement. Notable for affirming God’s faithfulness to Jews as His chosen people, the Bethel Confession was so watered down to make it more palatable that Bonhoeffer ultimately refused to sign it.

In September 1933, the national church synod at Wittenberg voluntarily passed a resolution to apply the Aryan paragraph within the church, meaning that pastors and church officials of Jewish descent were to be removed from their posts. Regarding this as an affront to the principle of baptism, Martin Niemöller founded the Pfarrernotbund (Pastors’ Emergency League). In November, a rally of 20,000 Deutsche Christens demanded the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was seen by many as heresy, further swelling the ranks of the Emergency League.

Within weeks of its founding, more than a third of German pastors had joined the Emergency League. It was the forerunner of the Bekennende Kirche (Confessing Church), which aimed to preserve traditional Christian beliefs and practices. The Barmen Declaration, drafted by Barth in May 1934 and adopted by the Confessing Church, insisted that Christ, not the Führer, was the head of the church. The adoption of the declaration has often been viewed as a triumph, although by Wilhelm Niemöller’s estimate, only 20% of German pastors were supporting the Confessing Church.

When Bonhoeffer was offered a parish post in eastern Berlin in the autumn of 1933, he refused it in protest at the nationalist policy, and accepted a two-year appointment as a pastor of two German-speaking Protestant churches in London: the German Lutheran Church in Dacres Road, Sydenham. and the German Reformed Church of St Paul’s, Goulston Street, Whitechapel. He explained to Barth that he had found little support for his views—even among friends—and that “it was about time to go for a while into the desert.” Barth regarded this as running away from real battle. He sharply rebuked Bonhoeffer, saying, “I can only reply to all the reasons and excuses which you put forward: ‘And what of the German Church?'” Barth accused Bonhoeffer of abandoning his post and wasting his “splendid theological armory” while “the house of your church is on fire,” and chided him to return to Berlin “by the next ship.”

Bonhoeffer, however, did not go to England simply to avoid trouble at home; he hoped to put the ecumenical movement to work in the interest of the Confessing Church. He continued his involvement with the Confessing Church, running up a high telephone bill to maintain his contact with Martin Niemöller. In international gatherings, Bonhoeffer rallied people to oppose the Deutsche Christen movement and its attempt to amalgamate Nazi nationalism with the Christian gospel. When Bishop Theodor Heckel—the official in charge of German Lutheran Church foreign affairs—traveled to London to warn Bonhoeffer to abstain from any ecumenical activity not directly authorized by Berlin, Bonhoeffer refused to abstain.

In 1935, Bonhoeffer was presented with a much-sought-after opportunity to study non-violent resistance under Gandhi in his ashram, but, perhaps remembering Barth’s rebuke, decided to return to Germany in order to head an underground seminary in Finkenwalde for training Confessing Church pastors. As the Nazi suppression of the Confessing Church intensified, Barth was driven back to Switzerland in 1935; Niemöller was arrested in July 1937; and in August 1936, Bonhoeffer’s authorization to teach at the University of Berlin was revoked after he was denounced as a “pacifist and enemy of the state” by Theodor Heckel.

Maria von Wedemeyer

Bonhoeffer’s efforts for the underground seminaries included securing necessary funds. He found a great benefactor in Ruth von Kleist-Retzow. In times of trouble, Bonhoeffer’s former students and their wives would take refuge in von Kleist-Retzow’s Pomeranian estate, and Bonhoeffer was a frequent guest. Later he fell in love with Kleist-Retzow’s granddaughter, Maria von Wedemeyer, to whom he became engaged three months before his arrest. By August 1937, Himmler decreed the education and examination of Confessing Church ministry candidates illegal. In September 1937, the Gestapo closed the seminary at Finkenwalde, and by November arrested 27 pastors and former students. It was around this time that Bonhoeffer published his best-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, a study on the Sermon on the Mount, in which he not only attacked “cheap grace” as a cover for ethical laxity, but also preached “costly grace.”

Bonhoeffer spent the next two years secretly traveling from one eastern German village to another to conduct “seminary on the run” supervision of his students, most of whom were working illegally in small parishes within the old-Prussian Ecclesiastical Province of Pomerania. The von Blumenthal family hosted the seminary on its estate of Groß Schlönwitz. The pastors of Groß Schlönwitz and neighbouring villages supported the education by employing and housing the students (among whom was Eberhard Bethge, who later edited Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers from Prison”), as vicars in their congregations.

In 1938, the Gestapo banned Bonhoeffer from Berlin. In summer 1939, the seminary was able to move to Sigurdshof, an outlying estate (Vorwerk) of the von Kleist family in Wendish Tychow. In March 1940, the Gestapo shut down the seminary there following the outbreak of World War II. Bonhoeffer’s monastic communal life and teaching at Finkenwalde seminary formed the basis of his books, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

Bonhoeffer’s sister Sabine, along with her Jewish-classified husband Gerhard Leibholz and their two daughters, escaped to England by way of Switzerland in September 1940.

In February 1938, Bonhoeffer made an initial contact with members of the German Resistance when his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi introduced him to a group seeking Hitler’s overthrow at Abwehr, the German military intelligence service. Bonhoeffer also learned from Dohnányi that war was imminent and was particularly troubled by the prospect of being conscripted. As a committed pacifist opposed to the Nazi regime, he could never swear an oath to Hitler and fight in his army, though not to do so was potentially a capital offense. He worried also about consequences his refusing military service could have for the Confessing Church, as it was a move that would be frowned upon by most Christians and their churches at the time.

It was at this juncture that Bonhoeffer left for the United States in June 1939 at the invitation of Union Theological Seminary in New York. Amid much inner turmoil, he soon regretted his decision despite strong pressures from his friends to stay in the United States. He wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr:

I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.

He returned to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.

Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer was further harassed by the Nazi authorities as he was forbidden to speak in public and was required to regularly report his activities to the police. In 1941, he was forbidden to print or to publish. In the meantime, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr (a German military intelligence organization). Dohnányi, already part of the Abwehr, brought him into the organization on the claim his wide ecumenical contacts would be of use to Germany, thus protecting him from conscription to active service. Bonhoeffer presumably knew about various 1943 plots against Hitler through Dohnányi, who was actively involved in the planning. In the face of Nazi atrocities, the full scale of which Bonhoeffer learned through the Abwehr, he concluded that “the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote, “When a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.” In a 1932 sermon, Bonhoeffer said, “The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”

Under cover of the Abwehr, Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions to the Western Allies in hope of garnering their support, and, through his ecumenical contacts abroad, to secure possible peace terms with the Allies for a post-Hitler government. His visits to Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland were camouflaged as legitimate intelligence activities for the Abwehr. In May 1942, he met Anglican Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a member of the House of Lords and an ally of the Confessing Church, contacted by Bonhoeffer’s exiled brother-in-law Leibholz; through him feelers were sent to British foreign minister Anthony Eden. However, the British government ignored these, as it had all other approaches from the German resistance. Dohnányi and Bonhoeffer were also involved in Abwehr operations to help German Jews escape to Switzerland. During this time Bonhoeffer worked on Ethics and wrote letters to keep up the spirits of his former students. He intended Ethics as his magnum opus, but it remained unfinished when he was arrested. On 5 April 1943, Bonhoeffer and Dohnányi were arrested and imprisoned.

On 13 January 1943, Bonhoeffer had become engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer. Bonhoeffer remained a reluctant suitor in part because there was a significant age gap between him and Maria: he was 36, she was 18. The two also spent almost no time alone together prior to the engagement and did not see each other between becoming engaged and Bonhoeffer’s 5 April arrest. Once he was in prison, however, Maria’s status as fiancée became invaluable, as it meant she could visit Bonhoeffer and correspond with him. While their relationship was troubled, she was a source of food and smuggled messages. Bonhoeffer made Eberhard Bethge his heir, but Maria, in allowing her correspondence with Bonhoeffer to be published after her death, provided an invaluable addition to the scholarship.

For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel military prison awaiting trial. There he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. Sympathetic guards helped smuggle his letters out of prison to Eberhard Bethge and others, and these uncensored letters were posthumously published in Letters and Papers from Prison. One of those guards, a corporal named Knobloch, even offered to help him escape from the prison and “disappear” with him, and plans were made for that end. But Bonhoeffer declined it, fearing Nazi retribution against his family, especially his brother Klaus and brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi, who were also imprisoned.

After the failure of the 20 July Plot on Hitler’s life in 1944 and the discovery in September 1944 of secret Abwehr documents relating to the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer was accused of association with the conspirators. He was transferred from the military prison Tegel in Berlin, where he had been held for 18 months, to the detention cellar of the house prison of the Reich Security Head Office, the Gestapo’s high-security prison. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg concentration camp.

On 4 April 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators be destroyed. Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner, Payne Best, to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”

Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945 by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defense in Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp, three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Here a few salient quotes:

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.

A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.

Bonhoeffer was very fond of the Advent season for the same reasons that I am (that is, if you “unpack” Christmas as I do, rather than treat it as a giant buying spree overlaid with a jumble of sacred and secular images). Advent is a season of hope and expectation. It is also filled with wonderful foods. For one Advent in prison his family smuggled in for him some German smoked goose. I give you two methods for preparing goose breast, the first more traditional German than the second. Usually Germans buy smoked goose rather than prepare it themselves. For me the joy is in the preparation. First method, you can prepare the breast for smoking by using a dry rub. This mix uses Instacure No. 1, also known as pink curing salt. It is about 94% sodium chloride (table salt) and 6% sodium nitrite. It is used to speed up the curing process in preparation for smoking. Second method, prepare the breast for smoking using a marinade.

German Smoked Goose Breast

Ingredients

2 lb boned goose breast, skin on

Dry Rub

45 gm kosher salt
3 gm of Instacure No. 1
25 gm sugar, about 2 tablespoons
4 gm crushed juniper berries
10 gm freshly ground black pepper

Marinade

½ cup orange juice
⅓  cup olive oil
⅓ cup Dijon mustard
⅓ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder

Instructions

For the dry rub: mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Place the goose breasts on a platter and dredge them liberally with the rub on both sides, pressing the rub into the meat making sure that the rub covers the entire surface of the meat. Wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days, periodically turning the meat and adding more rub as needed.

For the marinade: whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, mustard, sugar, soy sauce, honey, onion, and garlic powder in a bowl. Either use the ziplok bag method (see HINTS) or place the goose breasts in the marinade in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

For smoking: Here you are on your own. If you have a smoker, follow the instructions. I used to have an outdoor wood smoker with a fire chamber which generated the smoke which then flowed into the smoking chamber where I place the meat on racks. Breast meat should take around 45 minutes. The internal temperature should be 165˚F/74˚C.

Jun 162016
 

sikh1arjan

On this date, devout Sikhs honor the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, fifth of the ten Sikh gurus. His actual date of death is not known, but this is the conventional date of memorial in the Sikh calendar. It’s not a big festival day, but it is an important memorial because of the importance of Guru Arjan in the development of Sikhism, particularly as a martyr. His death spawned the militant branch of Sikhism that has persisted for centuries, spurring endless violence between Sikhs and Muslims, as well as with other sects. Let me state this emphatically at the outset. Violence in the name of religion is wrong – period. Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, you name it, are all religions that are fundamentally opposed to violence, yet numerous followers use their “faith” to conduct holy wars or acts of terrorism. This is just plain wrong, and is nothing more than using religion as a cover for their own brands of bigotry and hatred.

Guru Arjan (sometimes spelled Arjun) was born in Goindval, Punjab, the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Mata Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das. Guru Arjan was the Guru of Sikhism for a quarter of a century. He completed the construction of Amritsar and founded other cities, such as Taran Taran and Kartarpur. The greatest contribution Guru Arjan made to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus’ writings, along with selected writings of other saints from different backgrounds which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib. It is, perhaps, the only Sikh scripture which still exists in the form first published (a hand-written manuscript) by the Guru.

sikh2arjan

Guru Arjan introduced the Masands, a group of representatives who taught and spread the teachings of the Gurus and received the Dasvand, a voluntary offering of a Sikh’s income in money, goods or service. Sikhs paid the Dasvand to support the building of gurdwaras and langars (shared communal kitchens). Although the introduction of the langar was started by Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan is credited with laying the foundation of the systematic institution of langars as a religious duty, one that has continued ever since.

Guru Arjan was arrested under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and ordered to convert to Islam. He refused, was tortured and executed in 1606 CE. Historical records and the Sikh tradition are unclear whether Guru Arjan was executed by drowning or died during torture. His martyrdom is considered a watershed event in the history of Sikhism.

sikh2

Sikhism is not especially well understood in the West although it is easy to spot a Sikh male by his beard and turban. Sikhism ( ਸਿੱਖੀ Sikkhi), is a monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region of South Asia during the 15th century. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s life (marriage is an important obligation). Although one of the youngest amongst the major world religions, with over 25 million adherents worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world.

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Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru, and the ten successive Sikh gurus. After the death of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, became the general spiritual guide for Sikhs. Sikhism emphasizes simran (meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib), that can be expressed musically through kirtan or internally through Nam Japo as a means to feel God’s presence, and to have control over the “Five Thieves” (lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit). Secular life is considered to be intertwined with the spiritual life. Guru Nanak taught that living an “active, creative, and practical life” of “truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity” is above  metaphysical truth, and that the ideal disciple (i.e. sikh) is one who “establishes union with God, knows the Will of God, and carries out that Will.” Sikhs established the system of the langar, or communal kitchen, in order to demonstrate the need to share and have equality between all people. Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, established that the political/temporal (Miri) and the spiritual (Piri) realms should be mutually coexistent.

Sikhs also reject claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on Absolute Truth. The development of Sikhism was influenced by the Bhakti movement, which developed out of the Vedic tradition of Hinduism. However, Sikhism was not simply an extension of the Bhakti movement, but a radical change in direction – rejecting polytheism, for example. Sikhism developed while the Punjab region was being ruled by the Mughal Empire. Both Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, after they refused to convert to Islam, were tortured and executed by the Mughal rulers. The Islamic era persecution of Sikhs triggered the founding of the Khalsa, as a militant order to defend freedom of conscience and religion. A Sikh is expected to embody the qualities of a “Sant-Sipāhī” – a saint-soldier.

God in Sikhism is known as Ik Onkar, the One Supreme Reality. or the all-pervading spirit (which is taken to mean God). This spirit has no gender in Sikhism, though translations may present it as masculine. It is also Akaal Purkh (beyond time and space) and Nirankar (without form). In addition, Guru Nanak wrote that there are many worlds on which Ik Onkar has created life.

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Guru Nanak further states that the understanding of Akaal is beyond human beings, but at the same time not wholly unknowable. Akaal is omnipresent (sarav viāpak) in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Guru Nanak stressed that Ik Onkar must be seen with “the inward eye”, or the “heart”, of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment of “higher” life. Guru Nanak emphasized revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application permits communication between God and human beings.

The Mul Mantar, the opening line of the Guru Granth Sahib and each subsequent raga, invokes Ik Oankar:

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥

Transliteration: ikk ōankār sat(i)-nām(u) karatā purakh(u) nirabha’u niravair(u) akāl(a) mūrat(i) ajūnī saibhan gur(a) prasād(i).

There is but one all pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, You will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!

In Sikhism, only lacto-vegetarian food is served in the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) but Sikhs are not bound to be meat-free. The consensus is that Sikhs are free to adopt a meat diet or not as they choose. Sikhs, once they become Amritdhari (initiated) via the Amrit Sanskar (initiation ceremony), are forbidden from eating Kutha or ritually-slaughtered (Halal, Kosher)meat because it transgresses one of the four restrictions in the Sikh Code of Conduct. According to the Akal Takht (Central Body for Sikh Temporal Affairs), Sikhs are allowed only to eat Jhatka meat (meat from animals that are slaughtered instantly by a single blow).

Guru Nanak said it was pointless to debate the merits of either not eating or eating meat in the context of religion, as maintaining a strict diet does not make one blessed or elevate one to a superior status over another, spiritually or otherwise. Being a member of a religion incorporates not only one’s dietary customs, but the entire way in which devotees govern their lives. He advocated a life consisting of honest, hard work and humility, focus and remembrance of God, and compassion for all of humanity. These three key principles take precedence over one’s dietary habits.

I tend to agree with one branch of Sikhism which argues that both plants and animals have life, and so it is not rational to separate the one from the other by arguing that eating meat involves taking life whereas eating plants does not. Just because a carrot does not scream when you harvest it does not mean that it is less of a living thing than a cow. Humans eat living things – and they eat us. Such is the nature of life.

Nonetheless I’ll highlight a classic vegetarian Punjabi dish here, aloo gobi. It’s one of my favorites, and has taken me a long time to perfect. It’s a dry spicy dish made with potatoes and cauliflower. For a very thorough account of how to go about cooking it go here: http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/aloo-gobi-recipe-punjabialoo-gobi/  It takes a lot of practice to get it right. The potatoes and cauliflower have to be cooked properly without boiling. The dish is very spicy, but dry, unlike the more usual heavily sauced curries you find in Indian restaurants that cover the waterfront from Goa, Kerala, Bengal, Madras, Gujarat, etc, but which can be highly generic.

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The principal seasoning of aloo gobi, added towards the end, is garam masala. I usually buy mine readymade, but it can vary considerably in content and quality. The basic ingredients are black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg, and green cardamom. If you’re a real purist you can buy these spices whole and grind them together yourself. Ghee (clarified butter) is the preferred cooking oil, but plain vegetable oil is all right, and makes the dish vegan.

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Aloo Gobi

1 medium cauliflower (450 g), cut into florets
5 or 6 medium size potatoes (350 g), pealed and sliced in wedges
2 inches ginger peeled and chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp garam masala powder
coriander leaves for garnish
4 tbsp oil or ghee

Instructions

You need a deep, heavy skillet with a tight fitting lid for a successful dish.

Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the potatoes and cauliflower. Sauté the vegetables for about 10 minutes, but do not let them take on color. Stir continuously while cooking.

Add the ginger and turmeric and stir thoroughly to make sure that they are evenly distributed. Cover tightly and reduce the heat to low. Cook undisturbed for about 20 minutes. The water in the vegetables will steam them.

Uncover the pot, add the garam masala, turn the heat to medium high. You may need to add a little more oil at this stage if the pan is completely dry. Sauté for a few minutes to release all the flavors from the garam masala, stirring constantly to make sure the vegetables are evenly coated.

Serve with plain boiled basmati rice, chutneys, pickles, and flat bread.

Jun 012016
 

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On this date in 1660 Mary Dyer, born Marie Barrett, an English and colonial North American Puritan turned Quaker was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony. She is one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs. While her place of birth is not known, she was married in London in 1633 to the milliner William Dyer. Mary and William were Puritans who were interested in reforming the Anglican Church from within, without separating from it. Because the English king, James VI & I, and parliament increased pressure on the Puritans, they left England by the thousands to go to New England in the early 1630s. Mary and William arrived in Boston by 1635, joining the Boston Church in December of that year. Like most members of Boston’s church, they soon became involved in the Antinomian Controversy, a theological crisis lasting from 1636 to 1638. Mary and William were strong advocates of Anne Hutchinson and John Wheelwright in the controversy, and as a result Mary’s husband was disenfranchised and disarmed for supporting these “heretics” and also for harboring his own heretical views. Subsequently, they left Massachusetts with many others to establish a new colony on Aquidneck Island (later Rhode Island) in Narraganset Bay.

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Before leaving Boston, Mary had given birth to a severely deformed infant that was stillborn. Because of the prevailing theological sentiments of the time concerning such a birth, the baby was buried secretly. When the Massachusetts authorities learned of this birth, its facts became public, and in the minds of the colony’s ministers and magistrates, the “monstrous” birth was clearly a result of Mary’s “monstrous” religious opinions. More than a decade later, in late 1651, Mary Dyer went by ship to England, and stayed there for over five years, becoming an avid follower of the Quaker faith that had been established by George Fox several years earlier. Because Quakers were considered among the most heinous of heretics by the Puritans, Massachusetts enacted several laws against them. When Dyer returned to Boston from England, she was immediately imprisoned, and then banished. Defying her order of banishment, she was again banished, this time upon pain of death. Deciding that she would die as a martyr if the anti-Quaker laws were not repealed, Dyer once again returned to Boston and was sent to the gallows in 1659, having the rope around her neck when a reprieve was announced. Not accepting the reprieve, she again returned to Boston the following year, and was then hanged to become the third of four Quaker martyrs.

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I’ll leave you to delve the details of Antinomian Controversy, free grace theology, and whatnot if you are interested. This happens to be an interest of mine, personally and professionally, but I don’t need to inflict a theological debate on you. What I will comment on, however, is the gross religious intolerance of the Massachusetts Colonial Puritans. It boggles the mind that Puritans who left England because they were not free to practice their religious beliefs, should turn around and be as intolerant of others as their former masters, whom they were fleeing, had been. But it makes sense, particularly in light of many current religious beliefs in the U.S.

What comes to mind for me are the speculations of the cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky who argues that the “first effective occupance” of a colony creates a permanent imprint for future generations. His arguments are a little too circular for my tastes, but I think there is a valid core to what he says. His thesis was put to me as a graduate student of folklore in this way: North Carolina was first settled by the English and so has an English feel to it nowadays, whereas Louisiana was first settled by the French and so has a French feel to it. The flaws in the argument are self evident. Louisiana was colonized by the Spanish before it was French.  Why is there not more Spanish influence? Why is there not more Dutch influence in New York? Zelinsky focuses on the word “effective” here in circular manner. These attempts at colonization were not “effective” because they were swamped by later arrivals. In brief what he ends up saying is that the cultures of these “effective” colonists lasted, because they lasted !!! Enough said. My take on the whole debate is somewhat different. I see a certain strain of Puritanism and intolerance as everlasting in the United States, which is deeply ironic given the initial reasons that the Puritans fled England, and the underlying values of tolerance of the American Revolutionary and Independence movement.

The fact is that the Puritans were not tolerant by nature. They were convinced of the rightness of their beliefs to the point that they wanted everyone to be like them. Oliver Cromwell is the poster boy of this stance. “I think plays and dancing will lead to Hell, so NO ONE may go to plays or dance.” Well, the English eventually told him what they thought of his ideas. Over time the English proved to be more tolerant than the people they expelled. The North American colonies were not founded on toleration, they were built as bastions of intolerance: places where individual sects could practice their own brands of belief but where dissent was not allowed.

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The Independence movement of the 18th century was not rooted in religious freedom but in economic and, hence, political realities. The French ideals of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity are all well and good, but it scarcely needs to be pointed out that these “ideals” were promoted in North America by slave holders who saw women as second-class citizens who could not hold property and could not vote. In order for the colonies to be united in opposition to England there had to be some compromises. The colonies valued their individual natures and their individual freedom from each other as much as they wanted freedom from England. Thus, federalism was born – a monster child if ever there was one. Under a federal system, states are free to pass laws on certain matters as long as they do not conflict with the overarching laws of the central government. How this works – or doesn’t – can be seen in the history of Supreme Court judgments; the Supreme Court exists to make sure that state law does not conflict with the (universal) Constitution.

The American Revolutionary War could not have begun without the colonies first being united against a common enemy. This political reality, and not the founding principles of the original colonies, undergirds the idea of religious tolerance.  The notion that there was to be no religious test for public office ensured that separate sects would not be disenfranchised nationally, not because one group valued the beliefs of others.  They didn’t. For political purposes, the founding fathers enshrined religious tolerance in the Constitution.

Back we come to Zelinsky. The founding ideas of Puritanism and intolerance still cling tight to segments of the population. Papering over the cracks in the federalist compromise won’t hide that fact. To this day there are segments of the population in the American South that believe that the Northern states had no right to abolish slavery in the Southern states, and that the Civil War was a gross miscarriage of justice.

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Mary Dyer was a deliberate martyr for the cause of religious freedom and individual rights, and her name is not well known enough. Her stillbirth was not her fault and she should not have been stigmatized for it. Neither should she have been imprisoned, sentenced to death, and banished from Massachusetts for her beliefs. The fact that she could have lived out her life in another colony was not good enough for her. She kept defying laws and death sentences imposed on her by returning to Boston because she believed that these laws were unjust and hoped to change hardened hearts by her death – a true emulation of Christ (i.e. Christian).  We do well to remember her on the anniversary of her death.

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Given my Christian allusions, lamb seems like an appropriate dish for today. Here is a period English recipe taken from The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery (1675)

To make a Lamb Pye.

First, Cut your Lamb into pieces, and then Season it with Nutmegs, Cloves, and Mace, and some Salt with Currans, Raisins of the Sun, and Sweet Butter; and if you will eat it hot, when it is baked put in some Yolks of Eggs, with Wine-Vinegar and Sugar beaten together; but if you will eat it cold, put in no Eggs, but only Vinegar and Sugar.

You can fill out the instructions without too much trouble. It’s a typical 17th century mélange of meat and dried fruits with sweet spices. You’ll need a flaky pastry crust for the top. I’d be inclined to add some stock to the vinegar for additional flavor, but the fruit, sugar, and vinegar combination is a good sweet and sour mix. The egg yolks act to thicken the gravy. You can use flour instead if you wish, but eggs are richer.

Apr 142016
 

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Today there are many minor celebrations worldwide. I will talk about three of them together – under the rubric Cuckoo Day – because they are minimally related. Let’s start with the feast day, the feast of SS Tiburtius, Valerian and Maximus, martyrs in Rome.  Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus are three Christian martyrs who were buried on 14 April of some unspecified year in the Catacombs of Praetextatus on the Via Appia near Rome. The Acts of Saint Cecilia represent Valerian as her husband, Tiburtius as his brother, and Maximus as a soldier or official who was martyred with the other two. But this work is generally considered not to be historical.

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They were traditionally honored with a joint feast day on 14 April, as shown in the Tridentine Calendar. The 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar removed this celebration, since the only thing really known about them is the historical fact of their burial in the Catacombs of Praetextatus. However, it allowed them to be honored in local calendars.

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All three were given parts in the legend of St Cecilia http://www.bookofdaystales.com/st-cecilia/  and honored in Rome from an early date. The Roman Martyrology says that Tiburtius and the others suffered under Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who ruled from 222 – 235. (Valerian is also known as Valerianus.)

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An old English saying says: “The  cuckoo sings from St Tiburtius’s Day to St John’s day [June 24]”. Hence today is sometimes celebrated as Cuckoo Day in England Although strongly identified with St Tiburtius’s Day, Cuckoo Day may better be described as a moveable feast dependent upon the variability of Nature.  The common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, overwinters in Africa and returns to the UK in Spring, but the arrival date varies.  Several communities in England, notably Marsden in Yorkshire, have cuckoo fairs in April to welcome spring. Marsden Cuckoo Festival takes place each year on a designated Saturday in April near to 14 April.

Legend has it that the people of Marsden were aware that when the cuckoo arrived, so did the Spring and sunshine. They tried to keep Spring forever, by building a tower around the cuckoo. Unfortunately, as the last stones were about to be laid, the cuckoo flew away. As the legend says, it “were nobbut just wun course too low.”

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I remember as a schoolboy in England, newly arrived from Australia, walking to school down a wooded country lane and hearing a clear and unmistakable coooo koooo from a tree to my right. “No,” I thought, “that’s somebody hiding and making that sound.” It was so clear and obvious. The first cuckoo of Spring, and my first ever cuckoo.

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The common cuckoo is well known for laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. The cuckoo hatches first and tosses out the other eggs so that the poor “mother” is left to raise the cuckoo instead of its own chicks.

From Shakespeare’s time on, “cuckoo’s nest” has been used as a euphemism for a woman’s “private parts,” as represented in this traditional song:


The tune was used in the South Midlands for a morris dance in some villages. In the group I used to dance for it is customary when we get together for a feast for the eldest bachelor to begin the singing after dinner with his rendition of the song.

So we migrate to Black Day. This is an Asian celebration begun in South Korea but now spreading to other parts of Asia. Black Day is the third in a trinity of celebrations on the 14th of the month. First is 14 February celebrated worldwide as Valentine’s Day (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/st-valentine/ ), then 14 March or White Day (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/white-day/ ), begun in Japan as a marketing ploy; a day to reciprocate gifts given on Valentine’s Day. South Korean businesses then followed with Black Day on 14 April, a day for single people to lament/celebrate their status.  Those who didn’t give or receive gifts on Valentine’s Day or White Day, can get together and eat jajang myeon (jja jang myeong), Korean-Chinese noodles with black bean sauce to commiserate their singledom.

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Jajangmyeon (자장면; 짜장면; jjajangmyeon) is a Korean Chinese dish of special noodles dish topped with a thick sauce made of chunjang (a salty black soybean paste), diced pork and vegetables, and sometimes also seafood. Jajang (alternately spelled jjajang), the name of the sauce when heated, is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters 炸醬, which literally means ” deep fried sauce.” Myeon (also spelled myun) means “noodle”, which is represented by the Chinese character 麵.

The dish originated from zhajiangmian (炸醬麵, literally “fried sauce noodles”) in China’s Shandong region.  Zhajiangmian was adapted in Korea to fit the Korean palate. Jajangmyeon is legendarily traced back to the Joseon Dynasty. When the Joseon opened the Incheon port, many Chinese people from the Shandong region moved to a town in Incheon, which is now known as Incheon China Town. These people started Chinese restaurants and adapted the traditional Shandong food zhajiangmian in a way that Korean people could enjoy. Originally jajangmyeon was a cheap dish that the working class enjoyed and was more akin to Shandong region’s zhajiangmian than the current day Korean jajamyeon. After the Korean War, Korean chunjang was invented. Korean chunjang has caramel added to give it a sweet taste. After this jajangmyeon became a completely different dish from zhajiangmian. The pronunciation of the dish’s name is nearly identical to that of its Korean counterpart. But Korean jajangmyeon differs from Chinese zhajiangmian, as Korean jjajangmyeon uses black Korean chunjang including caramel, and onions.

Jajangmyeon uses thick noodles made from white wheat flour. The noodles, which are made entirely by hand and not by machines, are called sutamyeon (수타면; 手打麵) are praised in South Korea as an essential ingredient of good jajangmyeon. While in Beijing cuisine, yellow soybean paste (黃醬) is used, in Tianjin and other parts of China tianmianjiang (甜麵醬), hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), or broad (fava) bean sauce (荳瓣醬) may be used in place of the yellow soybean paste. However, In Korea, the sauce is made with a dark soybean paste. This paste, which is made from roasted soybeans and caramel, is called chunjang (literally “spring paste”, hangul: 춘장; Chinese: 春醬) when unheated, while the heated sauce (containing vegetables and meat or seafood) is called jjajang (literally “fried sauce”). Chunjang is stir-fried with diced onions, ground meat (either beef or pork) or chopped seafood, and other ingredients. The meat stock is added to reduce the salty taste, and potato starch or cornstarch is added to give the sauce a thick consistency. The sauce is served hot over noodles, sometimes with sliced raw cucumbers. The same sauce is also used to make jajangbap (rice served with the sauce) and jajangtteokbokki (tteokbokki made with the sauce instead of the usual spicy sauce).

Jajangmyeon is usually served with a small amount of danmuji (단무지). Danmuji are made of radish, specifically daikon. The dish is often served with a small amount of sliced raw onions, seasoned with rice vinegar, accompanied with a little chunjang sauce. The diner eats the noodles with danmuji and onions dipped in chunjang sauce.

I am ostensibly single these days. Actually I am a widower and choose to live alone, but I fit in the broad class of people who did not get a gift on Valentine’s Day or White Day. So I will make black food. By chance I found cuttlefish ink in the supermarket yesterday, so I am going to make a black risotto – common favorite in coastal Croatia. If you can get hold of black bean paste you can make a simulacrum of jjajangmyeon or its Chinese equivalent. When I lived in Yunnan I made pork with black bean paste and noodles all the time as a quick evening meal. This site will guide you through the process of making classic jjajangmyeon  with step-by-step pictures and a video http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/jjajangmyun

If this does not appeal, you can minimally celebrate with the Faroese who by custom never eat eggs on this day, which marks the end of winter. Tradition says that anyone who does will suffer boils for rest of year !!!

Nov 222014
 

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Today is the feast of Saint Cecilia. She is best known as the patron saint of musicians, but she is also patron of church music, poets, Albi in France, the Archdiocese of Omaha and Mar del Plata in Argentina (a favorite spot of mine and prime vacation destination for porteños). In addition there are many religious sites dedicated to her. Her patronage of musicians is based on the legend that when she sang on her wedding day it was if her heart were speaking to God. Her feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches on November 22. She is one of seven women, excluding Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, even though the familiar stories about her are undoubtedly not founded on verifiable historical material. The main “evidence” of the facts of her life comes from 5th and 6th century collections of tales of the saints which are clearly pious but of dubious credibility as regular readers of this blog will acknowledge. Cecilia perhaps lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries (texts vary), fully 300 years before the stories about her were written. Furthermore there is no evidence that these texts were based on anything other than popular folklore. Her feast day has been celebrated since around the 4th century.

It has long been supposed that she was a noble Roman woman who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus. However, Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), says that she perished in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180. This discrepancy alone should clue you in to the reliability of the material written about her.

According to the popular story, when the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told her new husband,Valerian, that she had an angel of the Lord watching over her who would punish him if he dared to violate her virginity but who would love him if he could respect her maidenhood. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he would see the angel if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized there by Pope Urbanus.

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The martyrdom of Cecilia is said to have followed that of Valerian and his brother by the prefect Turcius Almachius. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.

There is no mention of Cecilia in the Depositio Martyrum, but there is a record of an early Roman Christian church founded by a woman of this name. However, the name “Cecilia” was shared by all women of the Roman gens (clan sharing a common ancestor) known as the Caecilii, whose name may be related to the root of ‘caecus,’ blind. Hence, the church could have been founded by any of hundreds of women from the gens. It was a family name, not a given name. Legends and hagiographies, mistaking it for a personal name, suggest fanciful etymologies. Among those cited by Chaucer in “The Second Nun’s Tale” are: lily of heaven; the way for the blind; and contemplation of heaven and the active life.

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The Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere is reputedly built on the site of the house in which she lived. The original church was constructed in the fourth century; her remains were placed there in the ninth century and the church was rebuilt in 1599, at which time her tomb was opened and her body was reported to be incorrupt (a common claim for saints but this is the earliest).

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The first record of a music festival in her honor was held at Évreux in Normandy in 1570. The National Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest musical institutions in the world. It was founded by the papal bull, Ratione congruit, issued by Sixtus V in 1585, which invoked two saints prominent in Western musical history: Gregory the Great, for whom the Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia.

Her feast day became a regular date for musical concerts and literary festivals that occasioned well-known poems by John Dryden (“A Song for St Cecilia’s Day”) and Alexander Pope (“Ode on St Cecilia’s Day”), and music by Henry Purcell (Ode to St. Cecilia), several oratorios by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (In honorem Caeciliae, Valeriani et Tiburtij canticum, and several versions of Caecilia virgo et martyr, to libretti probably written by Philippe Goibaut), George Frideric Handel (Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Alexander’s Feast), Charles Gounod (Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cecile), as well as Benjamin Britten, (who was born on her feast day). Herbert Howells’ “A Hymn to Saint Cecilia” has words by Ursula Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi’s “For Saint Cecilia,” Op. 30, was set to verses written by Edmund Blunden, Michael Hurd’s 1966 composition “A Hymn to Saint Cecilia” sets John Dryden’s poem, and Frederik Magle’s “Cantata to Saint Cecilia” is based on the history of Cecilia. Most, if not all, of these pieces can be found on YouTube if you are interested. Here’s the Purcell and Handel (only so much time I can spend searching on the web for a daily blog !!).

Purcell’s “Hail! Bright Cecilia” (Z.328), also known as “Ode to St. Cecilia,” is a setting of a text by Nicholas Brady composed in 1692. It was first performed at the annual St Cecilia’s Day concert sponsored by the Musical Society of London. Purcell had already written Cecilian pieces in previous years, but this Ode remains the best known. The first performance was a great success, and received an encore.

Brady’s poem is full of references to musical instruments, and Purcell’s work requires a wide variety of vocal soloists and obbligato instruments. Brady extols the birth and personality of musical instruments and voices, and Purcell treats these personalities as if they were dramatic characters. The airs employ a variety of dance forms. For example, “Hark, each Tree” is a sarabande on a ground. It is a duet on a ground-bass between, vocally, soprano and bass, and instrumentally, between recorders and violins (“box and fir” are the woods used in the making of these instruments). “With That Sublime Celestial Lay” and “Wond’rous Machine” are in praise of the organ. “Thou tun’st this World” is set as a minuet. “In vain the am’rous Flute” is set to a passacaglia bass. In spite of Brady’s conception of the speaking forest (English organs of the period typically had wooden pipes), Purcell scored the warlike music for two brass trumpets and copper kettle drums instead of fife and (field) drum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn4_0vKO1F8

The Handel piece (HWV 76) is a cantata that is a setting of the poem by Dryden. The main theme of the text is the Pythagorean theory of harmonia mundi, that music was a central force in the Earth’s creation. The premiere was on 22 November 1739 at the Theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Much of the instrumentation and use of percussion are exemplars of 18th century style, in great part initiated by Handel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPMqWnTBKlA

Among other things, Cecilia has become a symbol of the conviction that good music is an integral part of liturgy. She is frequently depicted playing a viola, a small organ, or other musical instrument.

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Other images focus on her martyrdom and subsequent crowning, with Valerian, in heaven.

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The Sisters of Saint Cecilia are a group of consecrated religious sisters. They are the ones who shear the lambs’ wool used to make the pallia of new metropolitan archbishops. The lambs are raised by the Cistercian Trappist Fathers of the Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) Abbey in Rome. The lambs are blessed by the Pope every January 21, the Feast of the martyr Saint Agnes. The pallia are given by the Pope to the new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29.

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St Cecilia’s Abbey, on the Isle of Wight, was founded in 1882. The nuns live a traditional monastic life of prayer, work and study in accordance with the ancient Rule of St Benedict.

Food is not generally associated with St Cecilia given that her feast is celebrated primarily with music. I was able to dig up a couple of related recipes, however. There is a little known dessert sauce called St Cecilia Sauce which seems to me rather uninteresting. It is basically egg yolks beaten with powdered sugar, and then folded into whipped cream to which has been added some flavoring such as vanilla or sherry. Yawn.

There is also a drink known as St Cecilia Society Punch created for the exclusive St Cecilia Society of Charleston, SC, founded in the 18th century as an exclusive club of rich patrons of music. The society still exists, but no longer supports music. As longtime readers know, I very rarely include recipes for drinks. I don’t really think of them as recipes as such. But this one clears the bar, barely.

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St Cecilia Society Punch

Ingredients

2 lemons, thinly sliced
¾ cup brandy
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 bags green tea
¾ cup dark rum
½ small pineapple, peeled, cored, sliced ½ in thick, and cut into small wedges
1 750 ml bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled
6 cups sparkling water, chilled

Instructions

Put the lemon slices in a large bowl and pour the brandy over them. Let macerate at room temperature overnight.

In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining the sugar with ¾ cup water and bringing to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the tea bags and let the syrup cool.

Combine the macerated lemons, brandy, syrup, rum, and pineapple in a large punch bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably longer.

Just before serving add a block of ice to the bowl. Add the sparkling wine and sparkling water, and gently stir.

Serves 1 (sorry, old joke)

Jan 212014
 

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Today is the feast of Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304) a virgin–martyr, also known simply as St Agnes or St Ines. She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins. Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for “lamb,” agnus. The name “Agnes” is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective “hagn?” (????) meaning “chaste, pure, or sacred.”

According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304. As with all early saints there are a great many fabulous stories surrounding her martyrdom, but the nugget that lies at the heart appears to be that being from a noble family, she was courted by a great many men who were not Christians.  She refused them all and so she was reported to the emperor as a Christian.  Diocletian held one of the most brutal series of purges of Christians during imperial times, so this seems entirely plausible.  An early account of Agnes’ death, stressing her steadfastness and virginity, but not the legendary features of the tradition, is given by Saint Ambrose.

Her bones are said to be interred under the altar of Sant’Agnese fuori le mura, a basilica built over ancient catacombs in Rome (which can still be visited).

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It is customary on her feast day for two lambs to be brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome to be blessed by the Pope. On Holy Thursday they are shorn, and from the wool is woven the pallium which the pope gives to a newly consecrated metropolitan archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the pope

In popular tradition the feast of St Agnes is a lot less important than the eve of the feast (i.e. Jan 20th), which is a day/night of prognostication for unmarried women to perform certain rituals which, if done correctly, allow the women to dream of their future husbands.  In one version, a girl could see her future husband in a dream if on the eve of St. Agnes she would go to bed without any supper, undress herself so that she was completely naked and lie on her bed with her hands under the pillow and looking up to the heavens and not to look behind. Then the proposed husband would appear in her dream, kiss her, and feast with her.

A Scottish version of the ritual involved young women meeting together on St. Agnes’ Eve at midnight, they would go one by one, into a remote field and throw in some grain, after which they repeated the following rhyme in a prayer to St. Agnes:

“ Agnes sweet, and Agnes fair, Hither, hither, now repair; Bonny Agnes, let me see The lad who is to marry me. ”

John Keats used these traditions as the basis for his poem, “The Eve of St. Agnes,” a long poem that is rather reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, although with a less tragic end.  Madeline, the heroine, is the member of a warlike family, sworn enemy to the family of Porphyro, the man she loves.  On the eve of St Agnes Madeline’s kin become involved in a long drinking session while Madeline pines for the love of Porphyro. The old women of the household have told her she may receive sweet dreams of love from him if on this night, St. Agnes’ Eve, she retires to bed under the proper ritual of silence and receptiveness.

Porphyro makes his way to the castle and braves entry, seeking out Angela, an elderly woman friendly to his family, and persuades her to lead him to Madeline’s room at night where he may gaze upon her sleeping form. Angela is persuaded only with difficulty, saying she fears damnation if Porphyro does not afterward marry the girl.

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Concealed in an ornately carved closet in Madeline’s room, Porphyro watches as Madeline makes ready for bed, and then, beholding her full beauty in the moonlight, creeps forth to prepare for her a feast of rare delicacies. Madeline wakes and sees before her the same image she has seen in her dream, and thinking Porphyro part of it, receives him into her bed. Awakening in full and realizing her mistake, she tells Porphyro she cannot hate him for his deception since her heart is so much in his.

Porphyro declares his love for Madeline and promises her a home with him over the southern moors. They escape the castle past drunken revelers, and flee into the night.

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I admit that the bald story is not much, you have to read the poem.  But for your food treat for the day, this is what Porphyro prepared for his love:

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,            
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,      
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;                      
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,        
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;             
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d              
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,         
From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.

 

Dec 262013
 

The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen

Today is the feast of St Stephen, first Christian martyr. Stephen, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech fiercely denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul), a Pharisee who would later convert to Christianity and become an apostle.The only primary source for information about Stephen is the Biblical book Acts of the Apostles. Stephen was one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected for a fairer distribution of welfare to the Greek speaking widows in Acts 6:

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

Thus was inaugurated the office of deacon, which remains to this day in many Christian denominations a position of service to the community, especially to the poor and needy. Besides his official duties, however, Stephen also preached to the people and raised the ire of some:

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin is reported in Acts 7; the longest speech recorded in the Greek Bible.  It’s fiery stuff not calculated to win any friends on the Sanhedrin. For example,

51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

The consequences for Stephen were dire:

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

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Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek, Stephanos, meaning “crown.” Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyr’s palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer.

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St Stephen’s day is a widespread holiday in Europe associated with a host of customs.  In Ireland, the day is one of nine official public holidays. In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín, meaning the Day of the Wren or Wren’s Day. This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. Boys and young men dress up in old clothes or disguises  and travel from door to door begging for money “for the wren.” At one time they carried a wren on a pole which they had killed that morning, but nowadays they carry a fake wren.  Each group had a song they sang as they walked the streets. This one was popularized by the group Steeleye Span:

The custom is not very common these days, although it is being revived in some communities.  I had the good fortune to see the traditional wren boys in Letterkenny, Co, Donegal in 1971 late at night as they paraded through the town with lighted fire brands. Fun, but just a tad scary too. Fifty or so young farm boys who have been drinking all day, disguised and carrying live fire – hmmmm. The people in the town were absolutely jubilant as they passed through.

In the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the day following Christmas is a holiday known as Boxing Day, so called because of the custom in the 19th century of service people going to their employers to receive Christmas “boxes,” that is, bonuses for good service.  Household servants had to work on Christmas Day but had Boxing Day off.  There are numerous customs associated with the day, too numerous to mention.  My favorite is the tradition of linked sword dancing which is very common in the NE of England.  Here is a sample from Grenoside in Yorkshire:

Boxing Day is typically a day for using up leftovers from Christmas dinner in creative ways.  St Stephen’s Day pie is a great recipe for this.  It’s a variant of the classic shepherd’s pie or cottage pie; ground meat and veggies in gravy topped with mashed potato and then baked.  This recipe should also teach you that you can make a pie out of just about anything topped with potatoes.  I like to make a mix of fish and shellfish in a white sauce.  The world is your oyster.

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St Stephen’s Day Pie

Ingredients:

2 lbs cold turkey meat
1 lb cold ham or bacon
4 ozs butter plus extra for the topping
1 ½ cups chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ½ cups poultry stock
1 ¼ cups turkey gravy
8 ozs small button mushrooms
4 tsps chopped parsley
4 tsps chopped chives
2 tsps marjoram, sage, or thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
? cup heavy cream
2 pounds mashed potato

Instructions:

Cut the turkey and ham/bacon into 1″ pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet or saucepan, add the chopped onions, cover and sauté for about 10 minutes until they are soft, but not browned.

Wash and slice the mushrooms.

When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add to the onion and garlic.

Toss the cold turkey and ham /bacon in the hot pan, using a little extra butter if necessary. Add the mushrooms and onions. De-glaze the pan with the turkey stock. Add the cream and chopped herbs and bring to a boil. Add the gravy, meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Pour the filling into a deep pie dish and top with potatoes. Dot the top with butter to ensure browning. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.

Serves 6-8