Jul 272018
 

Today in 1940 was the official debut of Bugs Bunny, in the animated short, A Wild Hare. A rabbit with some of the features of Bugs had appeared in earlier cartoons, but this was his formal entrance to the world of cartoons. Bugs Bunny was not my favorite Warner Bros character, Daffy Duck was. I liked Bugs well enough, but there was something about Daffy that appealed more. You could ask my therapist why that is, but I don’t have one. The thing is that I do not find tricksters appealing. Let’s get into some of the early history of Bugs. The recipe will have to involve carrots, of course.

A rabbit with some of the personality of Bugs, though looking very different, was originally featured in the film Porky’s Hare Hunt, released on April 30th, 1938. It was co-directed by Ben “Bugs” Hardaway and an uncredited Cal Dalton (who was responsible for the initial design of the rabbit). This cartoon has an almost identical plot to Avery’s Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937), which had introduced Daffy Duck http://www.bookofdaystales.com/daffy-duck/ . Porky Pig is again cast as a hunter tracking a silly prey who is more interested in driving his pursuer insane than in escaping. Hare Hunt replaces the little black duck with a small white rabbit. The rabbit introduces himself with the odd expression “Jiggers, fellers,” and Mel Blanc gave the character a voice and laugh much like those he would later use for Woody Woodpecker. Hare Hunt also gives its rabbit the famous Groucho Marx line, “Of course you realize, this means war!” (used later by Bugs as a tag line). The rabbit character was popular enough with audiences that the Termite Terrace (Warner Bros animation) staff decided to use it again. According to Friz Freleng, Hardaway and Dalton had decided to dress the duck in a rabbit suit. The white rabbit had an oval head and a shapeless body. In characterization, he was “a rural buffoon”. He was loud, zany with a goofy, guttural laugh. Blanc provided him with a hayseed voice.

The rabbit comes back in Prest-O Change-O (1939), directed by Chuck Jones, where he is the pet rabbit of unseen character Sham-Fu the Magician. Two dogs, fleeing the local dogcatcher, enter his absent master’s house. The rabbit harasses them but is ultimately bested by the bigger of the two dogs. This version of the rabbit was cool, graceful, and controlled. He retained the guttural laugh but was otherwise silent.

The rabbit’s third appearance comes in Hare-um Scare-um (1939), directed again by Dalton and Hardaway. This cartoon—the first in which he is depicted as a grey bunny instead of a white one—is also notable as the rabbit’s first singing role. Charlie Thorson, lead animator on the film, gave the character a name. He had written “Bugs’ Bunny” (i.e. the Bunny drawn by Bugs (Hardaway) – note the apostrophe) on the model sheet that he drew for Hardaway. In promotional material for the cartoon, including a surviving 1939 press kit, the name on the model sheet was altered to become the rabbit’s own name: “Bugs” Bunny (quotation marks only used, on and off, until 1944). The name was not used in the cartoon, however.

Thorson had been approached by Tedd Pierce, head of the story department, and asked to design a better rabbit. The decision was influenced by Thorson’s experience in designing hares. He had designed Max Hare in Toby Tortoise Returns (Disney, 1936). For Hardaway, Thorson created the model sheet previously mentioned, with six different rabbit poses. Thorson’s model sheet is “a comic rendition of the stereotypical fuzzy bunny”. He had a pear-shaped body with a protruding rear end. His face was flat and had large expressive eyes. He had an exaggerated long neck, gloved hands with three fingers, oversized feet, and a “smart aleck” grin. The end result was influenced by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ tendency to draw animals in the style of cute infants (technically called paedomorphism).  He had an obvious Disney influence, but looked like an awkward merger of the lean and streamlined Max Hare from The Tortoise and the Hare (1935), and the round, soft bunnies from Little Hiawatha (1937).

In Jones’s Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940), the rabbit first meets Elmer Fudd. This time the rabbit looks more like the present-day Bugs, taller and with a similar face—but retaining the more primitive voice. Candid Camera‘s Elmer character design is also different: taller and chubbier in the face than the modern model, though Arthur Q. Bryan’s character voice is already established.

While Porky’s Hare Hunt was the first Warner Bros. cartoon to feature a Bugs Bunny-like rabbit, A Wild Hare, directed by Tex Avery and released on July 27th, 1940, is widely considered to be the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon. It is the first film where both Elmer Fudd and Bugs, both redesigned by Bob Givens, are shown in their fully developed forms as hunter and tormentor, respectively; the first in which Mel Blanc uses what would become Bugs’s standard voice; and the first in which Bugs uses his catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” A Wild Hare was a huge success in theaters and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cartoon Short Subject. For the film, Avery asked Givens to remodel the rabbit. The result had a closer resemblance to Max Hare. He had a more elongated body, stood more erect, and looked more poised. If Thorson’s rabbit looked like an infant, Givens’ version looked like an adolescent. Blanc gave Bugs the voice of a city slicker – maybe a Damon Runyon character (part Brooklyn, part Bronx). The rabbit was as audacious as he had been in Hare-um Scare-um and as cool and collected as in Prest-O Change-O.

Immediately following on A Wild Hare, Bob Clampett’s Patient Porky (1940) featured a cameo appearance by Bugs, announcing to the audience that 750 rabbits have been born. The gag uses Bugs’ Wild Hare visual design, but his goofier pre-Wild Hare voice characterization.

The second full-fledged role for the mature Bugs, Chuck Jones’s Elmer’s Pet Rabbit (1941), is the first to use Bugs’s name on-screen: it appears in a title card, “featuring Bugs Bunny,” at the start of the film (which was edited in following the success of A Wild Hare). However, Bugs’s voice and personality in this cartoon are noticeably different, and his design was slightly altered as well. Bugs’s visual design is based on the prototype rabbit in Candid Camera, but with yellow gloves and no buck teeth, has a lower-pitched voice and a more aggressive, arrogant and thuggish personality instead of a fun-loving personality. After Pet Rabbit, however, subsequent Bugs appearances returned to normal. The Wild Hare visual design and personality returned, and Blanc re-used the Wild Hare voice characterization.

Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (1941), directed by Friz Freleng, became the second Bugs Bunny cartoon to receive an Academy Award nomination. The fact that it didn’t win the award was later spoofed somewhat in What’s Cookin’ Doc? (1944), in which Bugs demands a recount (claiming to be a victim of “sa-bo-TAH-gee”) after losing the Oscar to James Cagney and presents a clip from Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt to prove his point.

Bugs appeared in a number of cartoons from 1942 to 1945 promoting enlistment in the military, but his most well-known shorts were made between 1946 to 1964, after which he was retired. Bugs starred in over 167 theatrical short films, most of which were directed by Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones. Freleng’s Knighty Knight Bugs (1958), in which a medieval Bugs trades blows with Yosemite Sam and his fire-breathing dragon (which has a cold), won an Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short Subject (becoming the first Bugs Bunny cartoon to win an oscar). Three of Jones’s films — Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! — make up what is often referred to as the “Rabbit Season/Duck Season” trilogy and are famous for originating the “historic” rivalry between Bugs and Daffy Duck. Jones’s classic What’s Opera, Doc? (1957), casts Bugs and Elmer Fudd in a parody of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. It was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992, the first cartoon short to receive this honor. In the fall season of 1960, ABC debuted the prime-time television program The Bugs Bunny Show. This show packaged many of the post-1948 Warner cartoons with newly animated wraparounds.

Bugs’s carrot chewing and talking with his mouth full is purported to come from this scene in It Happened One Night (1934):

There is also a false tale commonly told that Mel Blanc was allergic to carrots but had to chew them when voicing Bugs because substitutes such as celery did not have the right sound. Consequently, he had to spit them out because of the allergy. I debunked that story here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/mel-blanc/ He did spit out what he was chewing so that he could deliver the next line, not because of any allergy. I gave a carrot soup recipe in that post, so here I will give you carrot cake, one of my all-time favorites. I don’t like many cakes, but I will eat multiples slices of this one in a heartbeat. You have a few options here. I don’t like raisins in my carrot cake, so I omit them. I use allspice rather than cinnamon, which is more customary, because I like my cake to be spicy. I like walnuts in mine, but you can also use pecans. Some people like to garnish the frosting with nuts as well, but I usually don’t. It’s all your choice.

Carrot Cake

Ingredients

For the cake

2 cups/260 gm all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp ground allspice
1 ¼ cups/295 ml vegetable oil
1 cup/200 gm granulated sugar
1 cup/200 grams brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 cups/300 gm grated peeled carrots
1 cup/100 gm coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup/65 gm raisins (optional)

For the frosting

8 oz/225 gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 ¼ cups/140 gm powdered sugar
⅓ cup/80 ml heavy whipping cream
½ cup/50 grams coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C.

Grease and flour the bottoms and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans.

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and all spice in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, sugars and vanilla, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 parts, stirring well after the addition of each part, making sure that the batter is smooth, and that all dry pockets have been mixed before adding the next part. Make sure the dough is completely mixed and smooth. Then stir in the carrots, nuts, and raisins (if used).

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake for around 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in their pans for 15 minutes then turn them out on to cooling racks, and let them cool completely.

Using a stand mixer, or handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it is soft and creamy. Then beat in the powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time until the mixture is fluffy. Pour in the cream and continue beating for 1 minute. Cover and chill.

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and spread half of the frosting on top. Place the other cake layer on top and frost the top of it with the remaining frosting. Do not frost the sides. Use walnuts to decorate the top if you like.

Apr 282017
 

Today is the birthday (1926) of Nelle Harper Lee who was known to friends and family as Nelle, but more widely known as Harper Lee, author of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. I count her among some distinguished “one hit wonders” of the literary world, such as J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind). They all had odds and ends published in their lifetimes, but their most famous novels are far and away their signature works. Of all three only To Kill a Mockingbird interests me at all. I found Catcher in the Rye tedious, and could not finish Gone With the Wind. On the other hand, I found To Kill a Mockingbird mesmerizing: book and film. It’s possible that these interests of mine are a function of the time of my life when I read the books.  I was a young schoolteacher in England when I read Salinger and Mitchell, but I was a graduate student in anthropology in North Carolina when I tackled Harper Lee, so I was sensitized to the book’s themes.

To Kill a Mockingbird, burst on the scene right at the time that the Civil Rights movement in the US was uncovering the blatant racism of the American South (not that other parts of the US were guiltless). Segregation, poverty, and injustice were the social norms throughout the South, but were unparalleled in Deep South states such as Alabama and Mississippi. To Kill a Mockingbird could be said to have been as instrumental in vitalizing sentiments towards Civil Rights in the U.S.in the 1960s as Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a century earlier, in the movement to abolish slavery.  Mississippi did not get around to ratifying the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, until 2013 !!! Of course, it was a completely symbolic gesture because the Amendment was passed by enough states to make it law in 1865.  Rather surprisingly, of the 4 states that rejected ratification 2 were northern (New Jersey and Delaware) and 2 were Southern (Kentucky and Mississippi). Kentucky ratified in 1976 and Mississippi began the process in 1995.

The plot and characters of To Kill a Mockingbird are loosely based on Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.  Truman Capote was a childhood friend and is the basis for the boy Dill in the book. The novel deals with the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as depicted through the eyes of two children, especially 6-year-old Scout Finch. The lead character, Atticus Finch, is still frequently upheld as an absolute model of honesty and integrity in the face of social injustice, not only by lawyers, but by the general public as a whole. Many people who knew him said that Gregory Peck was perfect to play the role in the movie, because he was the living embodiment of these values in his personal life.

Various federal laws passed in the 1960s, and afterwards, ended many of the overtly racist practices of Southern (and other) states, almost like a reprise of the Civil War a century earlier. But what was ended de jure continued de facto, and still continues, in many regions of the U.S. in full force. The 2016 presidential election highlighted this fact, which many open-minded people wanted to believe was a thing of the past, and which many closed-minded people did not want to acknowledge.  For this reason alone I would vote for To Kill a Mockingbird as one of the greatest 20th-century novels if not the greatest. It captures the spirit of its time perfectly, and represents ongoing realities across the U.S.

To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant success both critically and as a publication. Yet, some critics treated it with some disdain, not because of the racial themes, but because they felt it had confusing themes: the unjust trial of an African-American man, on the one hand, and the narrative thread of the strange and reclusive “Boo” Radley, on the other. I don’t see this at all. The novel is a comprehensive view of the many complexities, involving race and class, among other things, of a rural Southern town in the 20th century. It is a small ethnography, in fiction, of the stark truth.

Some critics, including modern ones, object to the language, notably the use of the word “nigger.” People in the US are still frightened to say the word, even when all they are doing is quoting someone. Of course, actually using the word against someone is deeply offensive, but reporting what someone else said (perhaps indicating their racism), ought to be allowed. Instead EVERYONE in the media reports something like, “He used the N-word . . .” as if saying the word itself (even though you are reporting the speech of others), somehow includes you in its racism. Harper Lee used the word in the mouths of racists because it was true to life.  In 1966, Lee wrote a letter to the editor of the Richmond News Leader in response to the attempts of a Richmond, Virginia, area school board to ban To Kill a Mockingbird as “immoral literature” (not least because she used the word “nigger” 48 times). It is a priceless gem:

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.

James J. Kilpatrick, the editor of the Richmond News Leader, started the Beadle Bumble fund to pay fines for victims of what he termed “despots on the bench” (named for a famous Dickens character). He built the fund using contributions from readers, and later used it to defend books as well as people. After the board in Richmond ordered schools to dispose of all copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, Kilpatrick wrote, “A more moral novel scarcely could be imagined.” In the name of the Beadle Bumble fund, he then offered free copies to children who wrote in, and by the end of the first week, he had given away 81 copies.

The book was turned into a movie in 1962 and was unfortunate to run up against Lawrence of Arabia for the Oscars that year, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score. Peter O’Toole had been nominated for Best Actor for his performance as T. E. Lawrence, but Peck won for Mockingbird. The movie also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It is, indeed, a faithful rendering of the book in many important ways, and Harper Lee approved of its translation from book to film and consulted on the set.

The choice of black and white for the film, instead of the more popular color at the time, may have been a budgetary decision, but I think that it would have been ruined by color. It could also be said that black and white was the inherent message of the film (and book). Hands down the following clip is my favorite from the movie, and still brings tears to my eyes:

The film also marked the screen debut of Robert Duvall as Arthur “Boo” Radley, who before working on the film was a stage actor.

Just about every line of To Kill a Mockingbird is quotable. This is a very small sample of my numerous favorites, most obvious first:

Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.

Finding a recipe to celebrate Harper Lee is a piece of cake – literally. The book, especially in the opening chapters, is laden with references to food, but mentions of Lane cake are classic. Scout reports, “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” “Shinny” is a slang term for liquor. Also, Miss Maudie bakes a Lane cake for Mr. Avery, who was severely injured in an attempt to put out a fire in her home. “Mr. Avery will be in bed for a week—he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things like that and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another think coming.”

Lane cake, also known as prize cake or Alabama Lane cake, is a bourbon-laden baked cake traditional in the American South. According to food historian Neil Ravenna, the inventor was Emma Rylander Lane, of Clayton, Alabama, who won first prize with it at the county fair in Columbus, Georgia. She called it “Prize Cake” when she self-published a cookbook, A Few Good Things to Eat in 1898. Her published recipe included raisins, pecans, and coconut, and called for the layers to be baked in pie tins lined with ungreased brown paper rather than in cake pans.

This recipe is from Emma Rylander Law, Mrs. Lane’s granddaughter, and was published in an article by Cecily Brownstone for the Associated Press on Dec. 19, 1967. I’ve edited it very slightly and added a recipe for boiled white frosting which is missing from the original.

Lane Cake

Cake

Ingredients

3 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 1/6 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 egg whites
1 cup milk

Instructions

On wax paper sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add egg whites, in four additions, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Fold in flour mixture alternately with milk; begin and end with dry ingredients. Batter should be smooth but look slightly granular.

Turn into 4 ungreased 9-inch round layer-cake pans lined on the bottom with wax paper.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until edges shrink slightly from sides of pans and tops spring back when gently pressed with finger, or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean — about 20 minutes. Place pans on wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes.

Turn out on wire racks; remove wax paper; turn right side up; cool completely.

Put layers together (on a cake plate) with Lane Cake Filling, stacking carefully; do not spread filling over top. Cover top and sides with swirls of Boiled White Frosting.

Cover with a tent of foil or a cake cover; or cover tightly in a large deep bowl in tin box. Store in a cool place; if refrigerated, allow to stand at room temperature for half a day before serving because cake texture is best when cake is not served chilled

Filling

Ingredients

8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup seedless raisins, finely chopped
1 – 3 cup bourbon or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

In a 2-quart saucepan, beat the egg yolks well; beat in sugar and butter. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until quite thick. Remove from heat; stir in raisins, bourbon and vanilla. Cool slightly; use as directed.

Boiled White Frosting

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
⅓ cup water
1 tbsp light corn syrup
⅛ tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon to mix completely. Boil the mixture over medium-high heat without stirring until  it reaches 238 – 242˚F (114 – 117˚C), or will spin a long thread when a little is dropped from a spoon held above the pan (see HINTS tab on sugar).

It is best to use a mixer for this step. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but still moist. Then pour the hot syrup slowly over the beaten egg whites while continuing to beat. Continue until the mixture is very fluffy, and will hold its shape. Add the vanilla and keep beating until blended. If the icing does not seem stiff enough, beat in 2 or 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff enough to hold its shape. Spread immediately on your cake.

Jul 262016
 

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Today is the birthday (1856) of George Bernard Shaw, who preferred simply Bernard Shaw but is often referred to now as Shaw or GBS. He was an Irish playwright, critic and polemicist whose influence on Western theatre, culture and politics has extended from the 1880s to the present day. He wrote more than sixty plays, including perennial favorites such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). Pygmalion was the basis for My Fair Lady, of course. Shaw was the leading dramatist of his generation, and is the only person to have won both a Nobel Prize in Literature, and an Oscar.

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Shaw was born in Dublin, and moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer. Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. He sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas. By the early 20th century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes that included Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra.

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Shaw’s views were, let us say, controversial. On the more mundane side, he wanted a reform of the system of writing English, including an end to the use of the apostrophe. One certainly can’t quarrel with his demonstrations that English spelling lacks logic, and is an impediment to literacy. He promoted eugenics, and opposed vaccination and organized religion. He courted unpopularity by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable, and castigated British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. By the late 1920s he spoke favorably of dictatorships on the right and left, expressing admiration for both Mussolini and Stalin. In the final decade of his life he was largely a recluse, but continued to write prolifically.  He refused all state honors including the Order of Merit in 1946.

I don’t believe that there is any need to ramble on about Shaw’s life nor his beliefs. I’m not particularly keen on his plays, but I do like In Good King Charles’s Golden Days, because it’s his opportunity to explore key themes of the Enlightenment period. It’s a discussion play in which the issues of nature, power, and leadership are debated between King Charles II (‘Mr Rowley’), Isaac Newton, George Fox and the artist Godfrey Kneller, with interventions by three of the king’s mistresses (Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland; Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth; and Nell Gwynn) as well as his queen, Catherine of Braganza.

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This little exchange at the beginning gives the flavor:

MRS BASHAM.  And you have been sitting out there forgetting everything else since breakfast.  However, since you have one of your calculating fits on I wonder would you mind doing a little sum for me to check the washing bill.  How much is three times seven?

NEWTON.  Three times seven?  Oh, that is quite easy.

MRS BASHAM.  I suppose it is to you, sir; but it beats me.  At school I got as far as addition and subtraction; but I never could do multiplication or division.

NEWTON.  Why, neither could I: I was too lazy.  But they are quite unnecessary: addition and subtraction are quite sufficient.  You add the logarithms of the numbers; and the antilogarithm of the sum of the two is the answer.  Let me see: three times seven?  The logarithm of three must be decimal four seven seven or thereabouts.The logarithm of seven is, say, decimal eight four five.  That makes one decimal three two two, doesnt it?  What’s the antilogarithm of one decimal three two two?  Well, it must be less than twentytwo and more than twenty.  You will be safe if you put it down as–

Sally returns.

SALLY.  Please, maam, Jack says it’s twentyone.

NEWTON.  Extraordinary!  Here was I blundering over this simple problem for a whole minute; and this uneducated fish hawker solves it in a flash!  He is a better mathematician than I.

Let me add a few more quotes from Shaw’s other works that I like:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

The man with a toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty-stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.

A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income.

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.

Human beings are the only animals of which I am thoroughly and cravenly afraid.

Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.

The last quote is often repeated. Shaw was well known for his vegetarianism, inspired by his desire to avoid harm to animals. In his day his avoidance of meat was heavily remarked upon because it was so unusual. I had no luck discovering what, if any, was Shaw’s favorite dish, but I figured an Irish vegetarian dish would be suitable.

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In digging I found this 8th century Irish poem, “The Hermit’s Song” or “Marbán to Guaire” all about wild foods in Ireland:

To what meals the woods invite me
All about!
There are water, herbs and cresses,
Salmon, trout.
A clutch of eggs, sweet mast and honey
Are my meat,
Heathberries and whortleberries for a sweet.
All that one could ask for comfort
Round me grows,
There are hips and haws and strawberries,
Nuts and sloes.
And when summer spreads its mantle
What a sight!
Marjoram and leeks and pignuts,
Juicy, bright.

Pignuts are mentioned at the tail end, so let’s begin there. The pignut, Conopodium majus is a small perennial herb, whose underground part resembles a chestnut and is sometimes eaten as a wild or cultivated root vegetable. The plant has many English names (many of them shared with Bunium bulbocastanum, a related plant with similar appearance and uses) including kippernut, cipernut, arnut, jarnut, hawknut, earth chestnut, groundnut, and earthnut. From its popularity with pigs come the names pignut, hognut, and more indirectly Saint Anthony’s nut, for Anthony the Great or Anthony of Padua, both patron saints of swineherds. The plant is common through much of Europe and parts of North Africa. It grows in woods and fields, and is an indicator of long-established grassland.

Pignuts are favorites of wild food foragers. You can find a good description here:

https://cumbriafoodie.com/2011/06/04/pignuts-a-little-hidden-gem-for-the-forager/

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Pignuts remind me a little of Jerusalem artichokes although they are smaller and the taste is rather different. Because I love leeks so much and because marjoram, leeks, and pignuts are mentioned in the same line in the poem, why not make a soup of all three. I’d normally use chicken stock as the base but because I want to be vegetarian here I’ll use vegetable stock. Quantities are not important as long as you have equal portions of pignuts and leeks. Jerusalem artichokes or salsify will work in place of pignuts, but will have to be cut into chunks.

© Pignut and Leek Soup

Ingredients

½ kg pignuts, washed and peeled
½ kg leeks, washed and sliced thickly
vegetable stock
fresh marjoram, finely shopped
salt and pepper

Instructions

Place the pignuts in a heavy pot and cover with stock. Season to taste with marjoram, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, covered, for about 30 minutes. Add the leeks and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Add more stock if needed, but don’t make the soup too thin. Cooking times really depend on how you like your vegetables. I like mine al dente. Add more fresh marjoram at the very end, and serve in deep bowls with crusty bread.