Dec 132017
 

Today is the birthday (1830) of Mathilde Fibiger, noted Danish campaigner for equal rights for women, novelist, and professional telegraph operator. She was born in Copenhagen. Her first novel, Clara Raphael, Tolv Breve (Clara Raphael, Twelve Letters), published in 1851, championed women’s rights. It is the partially autobiographical story of a young woman, Clara Raphael, who works as a governess in the provinces. It is based in part on Fibiger’s experiences as a private tutor on the island of Lolland in 1849. The novel consists largely of letters written by Clara to her friend, Mathilde. Clara’s ideas about women living an independent life run counter to the beliefs of the local population, and she resolves to make women’s emancipation her life objective. The book created a great deal of controversy on its publication in 1851. The Danish literary establishment was sharply divided between those who supported her and those who felt that her ideas were too radical, but they all agreed on the literary merit of her work. She was only 20 when the novel was published, and, in doing so, she was the first public figure in Denmark to champion women’s rights.

Countering public opposition to women’s rights, Fibiger published two pamphlets, “Hvad er Emancipation?” (What is Emancipation?) and “Et Besøg” (A Visit). Her later novels included En Skizze efter det virkelige Liv (A Sketch from Real Life) (1853) and Minona. En Fortaelling (Minona: A Tale) (1854). En Skizze efter det virkelige Liv is the story of two sisters who are orphaned at an early age, and the men with whom they develop relationships. The older sister rejects her suitor, feeling that men are weak, while the younger sister falls in love. Minona created new controversy with its complex plot involving unwed mothers and incest. Minona, the chief character, overcomes her incestuous attraction after converting to Christianity.

While Fibiger’s novels generated critical acclaim, they were not commercially successful, and she began to look for other means to support herself. She supplemented a meager allowance, received from the state, by dressmaking and translating German literary works. In 1863, she began training as a telegraph operator for the Danish State Telegraph service, which had recently decided to hire women as operators under the management of Director Peter Faber. In 1866, she completed her training at the Helsingør telegraph station, and became the first woman to be employed as a telegraph operator in Denmark.

After two years in Helsingør, she was transferred to Nysted in 1869 to manage a newly opened station. Not surprisingly, she encountered resistance from male operators, who saw the employment of women as operators as a threat to their livelihood. In spite of her managerial position, her pay at Nysted was scarcely sufficient to enable her to pay her expenses. The following year, she applied for a transfer to the telegraph station in Aarhus.

She continued to experience difficulties in Aarhus, where the station manager had opposed her assignment. The problems she experienced in her telegraphic work began to affect her health. She died in Aarhus in 1872 at the age of 41. She is remembered today in Denmark not only as a pioneering feminist who wrote in support of women’s rights, but also as the woman who opened the door for the employment of women in the Danish State Telegraph service.

Because of her prominence in early efforts in Denmark to gain equal rights for women, the Dansk Kvindesamfund (Danish Women’s Society) created Mathildeprisen (The Mathilde Prize) in her honor. The Mathilde Prize was established in 1970 and is awarded to both men and women in recognition of work that advances gender equality. Recipients of the prize includes Suzanne Brøgger, Joan-søstrene, Kenneth Reinicke, Anja Andersen, and Anja C. Andersen.

Also, a small garden square adjacent to the Women’s Museum in central Aarhus is named Mathilde Fibigers Have in her honor, and a Danish stamp was issued recognizing her importance in Danish history.

Danish cuisine tends to be a bit on the basic side even though there is a strong emphasis on good, natural flavors and local ingredients. Denmark is world famous for its butter and pork products, dairying and pig farming having been natural complements for centuries. Stegt flæsk med persillesovs, pork belly with parsley sauce, as of 2014 is the official national dish of Denmark, after a popular vote. You don’t really need a recipe, but I’ll give you one. Stegt flæsk literally translates as fried pork, but the pork in question is pork belly. Some people translate flæsk as bacon, but that is incorrect. Stegt flæsk uses either plain or salt cured pork belly, but never smoked. The difficulty in many countries is getting plain pork bellies.  When I lived in New York I used to get them from butchers in Chinatown. The pork slices need to be about ¼ inch thick. Nowadays, Danish cooks often roast the pork slices in the oven, but traditionally it was fried, and that’s how I prepare it.

Stegt flæsk med persillesovs

Ingredients

600 g sliced pork belly
1 kg potatoes
30g butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk (approx.)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and white pepper

Instructions

Boil the potatoes whole until they are soft (about 20 minutes). I like to use small potatoes that can be served whole. I boil them with skins on and then peel them after they have cooked.

Dry the pork thoroughly and season it with salt and pepper to taste. If it is salt cured it will not need more salt. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and fry the pork in batches, turning frequently until they are golden and crispy. Pat off excess fat with paper towels and keep warm in the oven.

Make a white roux with the butter and flour. Begin by melting the butter over low heat in a pan. When it has melted, but before it starts to bubble, add the flour and whisk to combine. Do not let the roux take on any color. Add a little milk and whisk well to blend. Continue adding milk a little at a time and whisking over low heat. It will be very thick at first, and will still be thick when you have added all the milk.  Let it simmer gently for a few minutes, then add the parsley, plus salt and white pepper to taste. As far as I am concerned, you cannot add too much parsley.

Serve slices of pork belly with the parsley sauce poured over the potatoes.

Velbekomme

Nov 012017
 

Today is the birthday (1871) of Stephen Crane who was a prolific novelist, poet, and short story writer during his short life. He wrote notable works in what is now called the American Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. I knew nothing about Crane until I moved to Orange County, New York near to Port Jervis where he grew up. He’s well known in the U.S. for The Red Badge of Courage, a stark portrayal of a battle during the American Civil War that was quite at odds with the writing of the time because of its unflinching description of the horrors of battle. I expect the book is (or was) required reading in high school literature classes, but American literature passed me by in its totality when I was in secondary school. Things may have changed. As soon as I lived near Port Jervis, and traveled there all the time for shopping and business, it was impossible to avoid Crane’s aura.

Crane was born on November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, to Jonathan Townley Crane, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church, and Mary Helen Peck Crane, daughter of a clergyman. He was the 14th and last child born to the couple. Nine survived to adulthood. The young Stephen was raised primarily by his sister Agnes, who was 15 years his senior. The family moved to Port Jervis, New York, in 1876, where his father became the pastor of Drew Methodist Church, a position that he retained until his death.

As a child, Stephen was often sickly and afflicted by constant colds. Despite his fragile nature, Crane was an intelligent child who taught himself to read before the age of four. Crane was not regularly enrolled in school until January 1880, but he had no difficulty in completing two grades in six weeks. Recalling this feat, he wrote that it “sounds like the lie of a fond mother at a teaparty, but I do remember that I got ahead very fast and that father was very pleased with me.”

Crane’s father died on February 16, 1880, at the age of 60; Stephen was 8 years old. After her husband’s death, Crane’s mother moved to Roseville, near Newark, leaving Stephen in the care of his older brother Edmund who lived in Sussex County, New Jersey. He next lived with his brother William, a lawyer, in Port Jervis for several years. His older sister Helen took him to Asbury Park to be with their brother Townley and his wife, Fannie. Townley was a professional journalist who headed the Long Branch department of both the New-York Tribune and the Associated Press, and also served as editor of the Asbury Park Shore Press. Agnes, another Crane sister, joined the siblings in New Jersey. She took a position at Asbury Park’s intermediate school and moved in with Helen to care for the young Stephen.

Within a couple of years, the Crane family suffered more losses. First, Townley and his wife lost their two young children. His wife Fannie died of Bright’s disease in November 1883. Agnes Crane became ill and died on June 10, 1884, of meningitis at the age of 28. In late 1885 Crane enrolled at Pennington Seminary, a ministry-focused coeducational boarding school 7 miles (11 km) north of Trenton. His father had been principal there from 1849 to 1858. In 1886 Luther Crane, another of Stephen’s siblings, died after falling in front of an oncoming train while working as a flagman for the Erie Railroad. It was the fourth death in six years among Stephen’s immediate family.

After two years, Crane left Pennington for Claverack College, a quasi-military school. He later looked back on his time at Claverack as “the happiest period of my life although I was not aware of it.” While he held an impressive record on the drill field and baseball diamond, Crane generally did not excel in the classroom. Not having a middle name, as was customary among other students, he took to signing his name “Stephen T. Crane” in order “to win recognition as a regular fellow.” Crane was seen as friendly, but also moody and rebellious. He sometimes skipped class in order to play baseball in which he was a star catcher. He was also greatly interested in the school’s military training program. He rose rapidly in the ranks of the student battalion.

In mid-1888, Crane became his brother Townley’s assistant at a New Jersey shore news bureau, working there every summer until 1892. Crane’s first publication under his byline was an article on the explorer Henry M. Stanley’s famous quest to find the Scottish missionary David Livingstone in Africa. It appeared in the February 1890 Claverack College Vidette. Within a few months, Crane was persuaded by his family to forgo a military career and transfer to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, in order to pursue a mining engineering degree. He registered at Lafayette on September 12, and promptly became involved in extracurricular activities. He took up baseball again and joined the largest fraternity, Delta Upsilon. He infrequently attended classes and ended the semester with grades for only four of the seven courses he had enrolled in. After one semester, he transferred to Syracuse University, where he enrolled as a non-degree candidate in the College of Liberal Arts. He roomed in the Delta Upsilon fraternity house and joined the baseball team. He attended just one class (English Literature) during the middle trimester, and remained in residence while taking no courses in the third trimester.

He focused on his writing while at Syracuse and began to experiment with tone and style while trying out different subjects. He published his fictional story, “Great Bugs of Onondaga,” simultaneously in the Syracuse Daily Standard and the New York Tribune. Having declared college “a waste of time” he decided to become a full-time writer and reporter. He attended a Delta Upsilon chapter meeting on June 12, 1891, but shortly thereafter left college for good. It’s getting quite normal for me to write that a famous author or writer quit school at a young age because he (or she) was fed up with its limitations. It’s less possible in the sciences and technical fields these days, but was the norm in these fields also at one time because education was dominated by Latin and Greek, with theology thrown in for good measure down to the 19th century.

Crane lived for only 9 years after college, but his life was packed with adventure. You can read about that on your own. I’ll, instead talk about The Red Badge of Courage and the role Port Jervis played in the writing of it. Not only did Crane spend significant portions of his boyhood in Port Jervis, he was a frequent visitor as an adult, staying with his brother, William. The house where William lived and practiced law on East Main Street is still used as law offices: now one of the grand old buildings in a part of the city that are too expensive to be used as private dwellings. In its heyday Port Jervis was a prosperous, thriving, bustling city located on a key turn in the Delaware and Hudson canal (hence the “port” part) which ran from Honesdale on the eastern tip of the coal fields of Pennsylvania to Kingston, New York, on the Hudson. The canal supplied coal to New York city (via the Hudson river), fueling the Industrial Revolution there. It was also the conduit for all manner of supplies such as bluestone, used as paving stones and building materials for the city, fine glassware and crystal, and a host of manufactured goods. The canal followed the Delaware river eastwards to Port Jervis, then struck north to Kingston. Until the canal was built Port Jervis did not exist as anything other than a minor village on the junction of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Afterwards it was a major center for manufacturing and commerce. In Crane’s time the city was in its absolute heyday

Drew Methodist church, where Crane’s father was pastor and where the Crane family lived, is adjacent to one of the city’s parks, now called Veteran’s Park, with various monuments to the 124th New York State Volunteers, generally known as the Orange Blossoms, who fought in major campaigns in the American Civil War, and who were recruited in major urban centers of Orange County, especially Port Jervis. Local tradition has it that Crane spent time, both as a boy and as an adult, listening to tales of war from veterans in that park. In fact, it used to be called Stephen Crane Memorial Park until 1983 when the name was changed because locals objected to it because they felt that The Red Badge of Courage was a disservice to the memory of civil war veterans, many of whose descendants still live in Port Jervis. No comment.

The central battle in The Red Badge of Courage is not named, but historians universally agree that it is a fictionalized account of the Battle of Chancellorsville where the Orange Blossoms served with distinction. You’ll have to read the book, if you haven’t already, to get the general feeling of it. Here’s some morsels:

He vaguely desired to walk around and around the body and stare; the impulse of the living to try and read in dead eyes the answer to the Question.

The youth took note of a remarkable change in his comrade since those days of camp life upon the river bank. He seemed no more to be continually regarding the proportions of his personal prowess. He was not furious at small words that pricked his conceits. He was no more a loud young soldier. There was about him now a fine reliance. He showed a quiet belief in his purposes and his abilities. And this inward confidence evidently enabled him to be indifferent to little words of other men aimed at him.

It was perhaps that they dreaded to be killed in insignificant ways after the times for proper military deaths had passed. Or, perhaps, they thought it would be too ironical to get killed at the portals of safety.

Even today readers marvel at the accuracy with which Crane was able to portray the inner feelings of soldiers in war time even though he had no experience of combat. Without question he spent long hours talking to veterans, probably in Port Jervis, and elsewhere.

Camp cooking during the American Civil War has been analyzed many times. The big problem at the start of the war was that the soldiers had no experience with cooking. Men didn’t cook at home in those days – end of story. In consequence the army had to devise a strategy to keep the men as well fed as possible. One solution was to divide the soldiers into mess units of 100 with a man appointed as main cook with another man helping on a rotating basis. For general reference to help the cooks Captain James Sanderson wrote Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or, Culinary Hints for the Soldier. You can find the complete text as a .pdf file here:

https://books.googleusercontent.com/books/content?req=AKW5Qaef3NK3YNUKcQUrOwz6KhRxlwJ1iCTm2kmWbIQ-EODOcjXLOUfGiG9RvPjde7ZN17vttRu8jQuY5sXRIpnJoplTAsD3nBT66PHH3tJj7is-nfubu1KMSXDgmhNgTpzMDql8Qp2NC03i95-TZf8398A3Qm6EJ5G5Faxn0aHI_HHLiEBqEaOFLtfdtbFPnbzkn8O8mg6T2U4_HrbYmEgriy_V86KoRQRU75irJz_tUydY7XJtTnQ8BxMRuZ5aNxJbUB3gU3tFE1QsTzROpmxSpZgE6eO0GNltEnqxtKzVt2soPaYpuZM 

The recipes are not bad and can easily be replicated at home. They are very detailed to help novice cooks, unlike other cookbooks of the era than were written for chefs and home cooks with some experience. I cooked in much the same over my fire pit in Orange County, not thinking at the time that I was re-enacting battlefield cooking. A few excerpts:

KITCHEN PHILOSOPHY.

Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets; and fat is more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than in anything else in this world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer, and scour, are the true secrets of good cooking.

BOILED PORK AND BEEN (sic) SOUP.

Never serve beans until they have been soaked over night. At eight o’clock in the morning, put eight quarts into two kettles, and fill up with clean cold water. Boil constantly, over a brisk fire, for an hour or more, during which many of the beans will rise to the top. At the end of this time, take the kettles off the fire for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then pour off all the water, replacing it with fresh clean water. Add to each kettle a pound of parboiled pork, without rind, and boil continuously for an hour and a half longer.

At quarter past eight o’clock, fill three kettles loosely with pieces of pork weighing from three to five pounds, cover with water, and boil briskly for one hour; then pour off all the liquid, and fill up with clean hot water, and boil for one hour and a half longer; then take out all the pork, and lay it aside. Take out also one-half of the beans from the other kettles, placing them aside for breakfast next morning, and add to the remainder the liquor in which the pork was boiled. To each kettle add also two onions chopped or sliced, with plenty of black or red pepper, some salt, and a tablespoonful of vinegar. After fifteen minutes’ longer boiling, mash the beans with a wooden stick made for the purpose, and serve, with a slice of pork, in a separate dish.

If onions are plenty, mince fine eight or ten of them, fry them in a pan with a little flour and fat, with half a pint hot water, and the same quantity of the liquor in which the pork was boiled. After cooking five minutes, add pepper, salt, and half a glass of vinegar, and pour over the slices of pork.

 

 

Nov 132016
 

wk3

I would have thought that the name World Kindness Day is self explanatory. It’s actually St Brice’s Day as well, but I think this is just a coincidence. It would be nice if there were no need for a special day for people to be kind on. This site lists the member nations of the World Kindness Movement which seeks – vainly I imagine – to promote kindness in the world: http://www.theworldkindnessmovement.org/member-nations/  The impression I get is that the “member nations” are not really governments who have signed on to pledge being kind in the world, but, rather, organizations within various nations who are dedicated to spreading kindness. This endeavor is, in my estimation, the foundation of Christianity, which appears to have been forgotten by the bulk of people who claim to be followers of Christ.

wk1

So . . . before I go on to talk about St Brice’s Day and its associated activities let me exhort you to go out of your way today to be more than usually kind to people around you – not just friends, but strangers as well. Jesus told us to love our enemies. That’s probably pushing it for most people. Being kind to strangers is at least a step in the right direction. It beats the rudeness and selfishness I see daily. Let someone ahead of you in line, give up your seat to someone on the bus or subway, hold the door for someone with a big package . . . you know the drill. You don’t have to spend a fortune, or even spend anything at all. The point of the day is to shift your consciousness from one of looking inward to one of looking outward.

wk4

I’m assuming Brice of Tours, whose celebration is today, was a kind man. Not much is known about him. Brice (Bricius) – c. 370 – 444 –  was the 4th bishop of Tours, succeeding his mentor, Martin of Tours, in 397. According to legend, Brice was an orphan. He was rescued by the bishop Martin and raised in the monastery at Marmoutiers. He later became Martin’s pupil, although the ambitious and volatile Brice was rather the opposite of his master in temperament.

As Bishop of Tours, Brice performed his duties, but was also said to succumb to worldly pleasures. After a nun in his household gave birth to a child that was rumored to be his, he performed a ritual by carrying hot coal in his coat to the grave of Martin, showing his unburned coat as proof of his innocence. The people of Tours, however, did not believe him and forced him to leave Tours. He could return only after he had travelled to Rome and had been absolved of all his sins by the Pope.

After seven years of exile in Rome, Brice returned to Tours when the administrator he had left in his absence died. Apparently he was a changed man. Upon returning, he served with such humility that on his death he was venerated as a saint. His memorial day is noted for two things: the St Brice’s Day massacre in England, and the running of the bulls in Stamford in Lincolnshire.

wk5

The St. Brice’s Day massacre was the killing of Danes in the Kingdom of England, ordered by King Æthelred the Unready on 13 November 1002. It’s not possible to ascertain now the extent to which this order was carried out. Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II (Old English: Æþelræd),was king of the English from 978 to 1013, and again from 1014 to 1016. His modern sobriquet, Unready, is a misreading of the Old English unræd (meaning bad-counseled), a twist on his name ” Æþelræd”, meaning “noble-counseled”. It should not be interpreted as “unprepared”, but rather “ill-advised”.

From 991 onwards, Æthelred paid tribute, or Danegeld, to the Danish king. England had been ravaged by Danish raids every year from 997 to 1001, and in 1002 the king was told that the Danish men in England “would faithlessly take his life, and then all his councillors, and possess his kingdom afterwards”. In response, he “ordered slain all the Danish men who were in England”.

wk12

There was certainly significant loss of life but the extent of the slaughter is unclear. Among those thought to have been killed is Gunhilde, who may have been the sister of King Sweyn I of Denmark. Her husband Pallig Tokesen, the Danish Ealdorman of Devonshire, may also have died in the massacre although, according to a different version, he was killed while defecting to join raiders ravaging the south coast.

The massacre in Oxford was justified by Æthelred in a royal charter of 1004 explaining the need to rebuild St Frideswide’s Church (now Christ Church Cathedral):

For it is fully agreed that to all dwelling in this country it will be well known that, since a decree was sent out by me with the counsel of my leading men and magnates, to the effect that all the Danes who had sprung up in this island, sprouting like cockle amongst the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination, and thus this decree was to be put into effect even as far as death, those Danes who dwelt in the afore-mentioned town, striving to escape death, entered this sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the planks and burnt, as it seems, this church with its ornaments and its books. Afterwards, with God’s aid, it was renewed by me.

The skeletons of 34 to 38 young men, all aged 16 to 25, were found during an excavation at St John’s College, Oxford in 2008. Chemical analysis carried out in 2012 by Oxford University researchers suggests that the remains are Viking; older scars on the bones provide evidence that they were professional warriors. It is thought that they were stabbed repeatedly and then brutally slaughtered. Charring on the bones is consistent with historical records of the church burning.

wk13

It seems unlikely that Æthelred directed his edict towards all Danes in England, including the inhabitants of the Danelaw, because the latter were numerous and well armed. More likely it was confined to frontier towns such as Oxford, and larger towns with small Danish communities, such as Bristol, Gloucester, and London. In response to the massacre King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark invaded England in 1003. Æthelred fled to Normandy in 1013 and was replaced by Sweyn. He returned as king, however, after Sweyn’s death in 1014.

wk8

The Stamford Bull Run was a bull-running and bull-baiting festival held on St Brice’s Day in the town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, supposedly for almost 700 years, until it was abandoned in 1837. According to local tradition (with zero primary evidence), the custom dates to the time of King John (1199 – 1216) when William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey, standing on the battlements of the castle, saw two bulls fighting in the meadow beneath. Some butchers came to part the combatants and one of the bulls ran into the town, causing a great uproar. The earl, mounting his horse, rode after the animal, and enjoyed the sport so much, that he gave the meadow in which the fight began to the butchers of Stamford on condition that they provide a bull, to be run in the town every 13 November, for ever after. Typical invented story. There are solid references to the custom in the 17th century continuing into the 19th century. That’s about par for the course for calendar customs that are purportedly “ancient.” The town of Stamford acquired common rights in the grassy flood plain next to the River Welland, which until the last century was known as Bull-meadow, and today just as The Meadows.

The event was officially opened by the ringing of St Mary’s Church bells at 10.45 am, announcing the closing and boarding of shops and the barricading of the street with carts and wagons. By 11 am crowds had gathered and the bull was released, baited by the cheering of the crowd. It was then chased through the main street and down into the Welland River, where it was caught, killed and butchered. Its meat was sometimes sold to the poor supported as a charity by donations.

Local archivists in the 17th century described how the bull was chased and tormented for the day before being driven to the Bull-meadow and slaughtered. “Its flesh [was] sold at a low rate to the people, who finished the day’s amusement with a supper of bull-beef.” Given that the custom occurred around St Martin’s Day (11 Nov.) when Martlemas beef was a customary celebratory dish around England, I’d surmise a connexion somewhere.

wk9

The event was a time of general drunken disorder and was abandoned in the 19th century after a campaign by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the intervention of special constables, the military and police brought in from outside put a stop to it – although it took several years. Some Stamford residents defended their ancient custom as a “traditional, manly, English sport; inspiring courage, agility and presence of mind under danger.” Its defenders argued that it was less cruel and dangerous than fox hunting, and one local newspaper asked “Who or what is this London Society that, usurping the place of constituted authorities, presumes to interfere with our ancient amusement?”

The last bull run was in 1839. The last known witness of the bull running was James Fuller Scholes who spoke of it in a newspaper interview in 1928 before his 94th birthday:

I am the only Stamford man living who can remember the bull-running in the streets of the town. I can remember my mother showing me the bull and the horses and men and dogs that chased it. She kept the St Peter’s Street – the building that was formerly the Chequers Inn at that time and she showed me the bull-running sport from a bedroom window. I was only four years old then, but I can clearly remember it all. The end of St Peter’s Street (where it was joined by Rutland Terrace) was blocked by two farm wagons, and I saw the bull come to the end of the street and return again. My mother told me not to put my head out of the window – apparently because she was afraid I should drop into the street.

wk10

Nowadays Stamford has a quasi-revival of the bull run as part of its Georgian Festival in September. They construct a bull in effigy which they parade through the streets (participants dressed in Georgian costume), and set light to it with fireworks in the meadow in the evening.

wk6

You could reprise spiced beef from my Martin of Tours post, if you like. That seems fitting. Or you could try pork haslet. Pork haslet is an old traditional Lincolnshire dish that is certainly also suitable for today. Lincolnshire pork sausages, as well as haslet, are noted for their prominence of sage. Haslet is a classic meatloaf that is usually served sliced cold as a sandwich filling along with hot English mustard, or with sliced tomatoes and green onions. The latter usage is one of the memorable tastes of my childhood.

wk7

©Lincolnshire Haslet

Ingredients

1 lb/450 gm  pork shoulder
1 onion, peeled and quartered
5 oz/150 gm  breadcrumbs
sage leaves
salt and pepper
melted pork lard

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Run the pork, onion, and sage leaves (to taste) twice through the coarse blade of a grinder (or pulse in a food processor). Add the breadcrumbs and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and mix well. Grease a loaf tin well with pork lard and fill it with the pork mix.

Place the loaf tin in a larger pan of water so that the water comes about halfway up the side of the loaf tin, and bake in the oven for 90 minutes.

Cool the loaf tin on a wire rack until it is cool enough to handle, but still warm to the touch. Unmold the haslet on to a plate and let cool completely.

Slice thickly and serve with mustard, or use as a sandwich filling with tomatoes and green onions. Wholewheat bread is a must.

In honor of World Kindness Day it would be a nice gesture to make haslet, or anything for that matter, and give some away to a stranger.

Jul 082015
 

vdg6

On this date in 1497 Dom Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, a Portuguese explorer, set out on his first voyage to India thus becoming the first European to reach India by sea, linking Europe and Asia for the first time by ocean route, as well as the Atlantic and the Indian oceans entirely and definitively, and in this way, the West and the Orient.

Da Gama’s discovery was of major significance and opened the way for an age of global imperialism and for the Portuguese and others to establish long-lasting colonial empires in Asia (which you may consider fortunate or unfortunate). The route meant that the Portuguese would not need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabian Peninsula, because the whole voyage could be made by sea. The sum of the distances covered in the outward and return voyages made this expedition the longest ocean voyage ever made until then, far longer than a full voyage around the world by way of the Equator.

vdg4

One century after the discovery, European powers such as England, the Netherlands and France were finally able to challenge and break Portugal’s monopoly and naval supremacy in the Cape Route around Africa, the Indian Ocean and in the Far East, opening a new era of European imperialism in the East.

After decades of sailors trying to reach the Indies with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, da Gama landed in Calicut on 20 May 1498. Reaching the legendary Indian spice routes unopposed helped the Portuguese Empire improve its economy that, until da Gama’s discovery, was based mainly on trading along northern and coastal West Africa. The spices obtained were mostly pepper and cinnamon at first, but soon included other products, all new to Europe and leading to a commercial monopoly for several decades.

vdg7

Da Gama’s fleet of four ships had a crew of 170 men when it set out from Lisbon. The navigators included Portugal’s most experienced, Pero de Alenquer, Pedro Escobar, João de Coimbra, and Afonso Gonçalves. It is not known for certain how many people were in each ship’s crew but approximately 55 returned, and two ships were lost. Two of the vessels were newly built for the voyage, possibly a caravel and a supply boat.

vdg9

The four ships were:

The São Gabriel, commanded by Vasco da Gama; a carrack of 178 tons, length 27 m, width 8.5 m, draft 2.3 m, sails of 372 m²

The São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama; similar dimensions to the São Gabriel

The caravel Berrio, slightly smaller than the former two (later renamed São Miguel), commanded by Nicolau Coelho

A storage ship of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás, along the east coast of Africa.

It is astonishing to imagine the small size of these vessels for a journey of such magnitude and danger. You wouldn’t get me to set sail in one, except maybe on a calm lake in June.

The expedition set sail from Lisbon on 8 July 1497. It followed the route pioneered by earlier explorers along the coast of Africa via Tenerife and the Cape Verde Islands. After reaching the coast of present day Sierra Leone, da Gama took a course south into the open ocean, crossing the Equator and seeking the South Atlantic westerlies that Bartolomeu Dias had discovered in 1487. This course proved successful and on 4 November 1497, the expedition made landfall on the African coast. For over three months the ships had sailed more than 10,000 kilometres (6,000 mi) of open ocean, by far the longest journey out of sight of land made by that time by Europeans.

By 16 December, the fleet had passed the Great Fish River (Eastern Cape, South Africa) – where Dias had turned back – and sailed into waters previously unknown to Europeans. With Christmas pending, da Gama and his crew gave the coast they were passing the name Natal, which carried the connotation of “birth of Christ” in Portuguese.

Vasco da Gama spent 2 to 29 March 1498 in the vicinity of Mozambique Island. Arab-controlled territory on the East African coast was an integral part of the network of trade in the Indian Ocean. Fearing the local population would be hostile to Christians, da Gama impersonated a Muslim and gained audience with the Sultan of Mozambique. With the paltry trade goods he had to offer, da Gama was unable to provide a suitable gift to the ruler and soon the local populace became suspicious of da Gama and his men. Forced by a hostile crowd to flee Mozambique, da Gama departed the harbor, firing his cannons into the city in retaliation.

vdg8

In the vicinity of modern Kenya, the expedition resorted to piracy, looting Arab merchant ships – generally unarmed trading vessels without heavy cannons. The Portuguese became the first known Europeans to visit the port of Mombasa 7th to 13 April 1498, but were met with hostility and soon departed.

Da Gama continued north, arriving at the friendlier port of Malindi on 14 April 1498 – whose leaders were then in conflict with those of Mombasa – and there the expedition first noted evidence of Indian traders. Da Gama and his crew contracted the services of a pilot whose knowledge of the monsoon winds allowed him to bring the expedition the rest of the way to Calicut, located on the southwest coast of India. Sources differ over the identity of the pilot, calling him variously a Christian, a Muslim, and a Gujarati. One traditional story describes the pilot as the famous Arab navigator Ibn Majid, but other contemporaneous accounts place Majid elsewhere, and it is now believed he could not have been near the vicinity at the time. Also, none of the Portuguese historians of the time mention Ibn Majid. Vasco da Gama left Malindi for India on 24 April 1498.

vdg3

The fleet arrived in Kappadu near Calicut, India, on 20 May 1498. The King of Calicut, the Samudiri (Zamorin), who was at that time staying in his second capital at Ponnani, returned to Calicut on hearing the news of the foreign fleet’s arrival. The navigator was received with traditional hospitality, including a grand procession of at least 3,000 armed Nairs, but an interview with the Zamorin failed to produce any concrete results. The presents that da Gama sent to the Zamorin as gifts from Dom Manuel—four cloaks of scarlet cloth, six hats, four branches of corals, twelve almasares, a box with seven brass vessels, a chest of sugar, two barrels of oil and a cask of honey—were trivial, and failed to impress. While Zamorin’s officials wondered at why there was no gold or silver, the Muslim merchants who considered da Gama their rival suggested that the latter was only an ordinary pirate and not a royal ambassador.

vdg2

Da Gama’s request for permission to leave a factor behind him in charge of the merchandise he could not sell was turned down by the King, who insisted that da Gama pay customs duty—preferably in gold—like any other trader, which strained the relation between the two. Annoyed by this, da Gama carried a few Nairs and sixteen fishermen (mukkuva) off with him by force. Nevertheless, da Gama’s expedition was successful beyond all reasonable expectation, bringing back cargo that was worth sixty times the cost of the expedition. His path would be followed up thereafter by yearly Portuguese India Armadas. The spice trade would prove to be a major asset to the Portuguese royal treasury and the sea route broke the monopoly of Asian Silk Road traders.

vdg5

Vindaloo is an Indian curry, popular in the region of Goa (and now worldwide), which evolved under many influences from a popular Portuguese pork stew made with wine and garlic, imported by Portuguese sailors. The word “vindaloo” is a corruption of the Portuguese “carne de vinha d’alhos” (meat in wine and garlic). The dish was adapted in India to local ingredients and tastes. There was no wine in India, but Franciscan priests fermented wine vinegar from local palm wine. Local ingredients like tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom were also incorporated along with chile peppers – a legacy of Portugal’s global empire – imported to India from the Americas.

Nowadays vindaloo is well known across Europe and the Western world but has become a rather generic curry with a little more heat than most, but otherwise undistinguished. I prefer to make mine with the sourness of vinegar and tamarind prominent, although I will admit to using commercial vindaloo pastes suitably doctored. Pork is still common in Goa because the Goanese were converted to Christianity and, therefore, had no prohibitions against it.

I suggest the following recipe from memory. Vary the spices as you see fit but make sure you include tamarind.

©Pork Vindaloo

Place in a food processor 1 cup of white wine vinegar, a 2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped, 1 teaspoon of lightly roasted cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds, 10 whole black peppercorns, 6 red chiles (fresh or dried), 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped, ½ cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds, and 1 stick of cinnamon (Malabar if you can get it) broken in pieces. Pulse until you have a smooth paste.

Place the paste in a sealable bag along with 1 kg of pork cut into cubes. Boneless pork shoulder is cheap and works well. It can be reasonably, but not too, fatty. Seal up the bag leaving a small air hole. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal completely. Shake the bag around so that the pork is fully coated with the marinade and refrigerate over night.