Feb 112018
 

Today is the commemoration of Cædmon (fl. c. AD 657–684) in the Anglican communion: the earliest English poet whose name is known. Cædmon was an Anglo-Saxon lay brother at the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy (657–680) of St. Hilda (614–680). He was reputedly unaware of the “the art of song” but learned to compose one night in the course of a dream, according to the 8th-century historian Bede. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational Christian poet.

is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets identified in medieval sources, and one of only three of these for whom both roughly contemporary biographical information and examples of literary output have survived. His story is related in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (“Ecclesiastical History of the English People”) by Bede who wrote,

There was in the Monastery of this Abbess [St Hilda] a certain brother particularly remarkable for the Grace of God, who was wont to make religious verses, so that whatever was interpreted to him out of scripture, he soon after put the same into poetical expressions of much sweetness and humility in Old English, which was his native language. By his verse the minds of many were often excited to despise the world, and to aspire to heaven.

Cædmon’s only known surviving work is Cædmon’s Hymn, the nine-line alliterative vernacular praise poem in honor of God which he supposedly learned to sing in his initial dream. The poem is one of the earliest attested examples of Old English and is, with the runic Ruthwell Cross and Franks Casket inscriptions, one of three candidates for the earliest attested example of Old English poetry. It is also one of the earliest recorded examples of sustained poetry in a Germanic language. In 1898, Cædmon’s Cross was erected in his honor in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Whitby.

The sole source of original information about Cædmon’s life and work is Bede’s Historia. According to Bede, Cædmon was a lay brother who cared for the animals at Streonæshalch (now known as Whitby Abbey). One evening, while the monks were feasting, singing, and playing a harp, Cædmon left early to sleep with the animals because he knew no songs. The impression clearly given by St. Bede is that he lacked the knowledge of how to compose the lyrics to songs. While asleep, he had a dream in which “someone” (quidam) approached him and asked him to sing principium creaturarum, “the beginning of created things.” After first refusing to sing, Cædmon subsequently produced a short eulogistic poem praising God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Upon awakening the next morning, Cædmon remembered everything he had sung and added additional lines to his poem. He told his foreman about his dream and gift and was taken immediately to see the abbess, believed to be St Hilda of Whitby. The abbess and her counselors asked Cædmon about his vision and, satisfied that it was a gift from God, gave him a new commission, this time for a poem based on “a passage of sacred history or doctrine”, by way of a test. When Cædmon returned the next morning with the requested poem, he was invited to take monastic vows. The abbess ordered her scholars to teach Cædmon sacred history and doctrine, which after a night of thought, Bede records, Cædmon turned into the most beautiful verse. According to Bede, Cædmon was responsible for a large number of splendid vernacular poetic texts on a variety of Christian topics. Here is the spoken version of Cædmon’s hymn in Northumbrian dialect (plus Modern English translation).

After a long and zealously pious life, Cædmon died like a saint: receiving a premonition of death, he asked to be moved to the abbey’s hospice for the terminally ill where, having gathered his friends around him, he died after receiving the Holy Eucharist, just before nocturns. Although he is often listed as a saint, this is not confirmed by Bede. The details of Bede’s story, and in particular of the miraculous nature of Cædmon’s poetic inspiration, are not generally accepted by scholars as being entirely accurate, but there seems no good reason to doubt the existence of a poet named Cædmon. Bede’s narrative has to be read in the context of Christian belief at the time, and it shows at the very least that Bede, an educated and thoughtful man, believed Cædmon to be an important figure in the history of English intellectual and religious life.

Bede gives no specific dates in his story. Cædmon is said to have taken holy orders at an advanced age and it is implied that he lived at Streonæshalch at least in part during Hilda’s abbacy (657–680). Book IV Chapter 25 of the Historia appears to suggest that Cædmon’s death occurred at about the same time as the fire at Coldingham Abbey, an event dated in the E text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to 679, but after 681 by Bede. The reference to his temporibus “at this time” in the opening lines of Chapter 25 may refer more generally to Cædmon’s career as a poet. However, the next datable event in the Historia ecclesiastica is King Ecgfrith’s raid on Ireland in 684 (Book IV, Chapter 26). Taken together, this evidence suggests an active period beginning between 657 and 680 and ending between 679 and 684.

We have no record of the music associated with Cædmon’s hymn in his lifetime, but it is sometimes put to some version of plain chant.

Whitby is both a sea port and a fishing port on the Yorkshire coast in what would have been the kingdom of Northumbria in Cædmon’s day. The exact nature of a monk’s diet in the north of England in the 7th century is very difficult to specify accurately, but we can make some educated guesses. The fact that Cædmon looked after the abbey’s animals seems to point to meat being on the menu for some of the residents some of the time. Also, fish would have been readily available. We have a few recipes for fish and meat for the period, largely invented based on limited documents. We also know that they ate a lot of pottage and pease pudding in that part of the country. So here’s a recipe for pease pudding, which is still popular in the northeast of England. It is often touted as an acquired taste which I do not understand at all.

Yorkshire Pease Pudding

Ingredients

7 oz/500g yellow split peas, soaked overnight in cold water
1 onion, peeled and quartered,
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. malt vinegar
salt and white pepper
1 ¼ tbsp/20g butter, cut into chunks

Instructions

Drain the soaked yellow peas and put them into a saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, bay leaves, and cover with cold water. Bring the peas to the boil, once boiling, lower the heat and simmer gently for an hour or until the peas are tender. Occasionally skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

Remove the onion, carrot, and bay leaves from the pan and then tip the peas into a blender or food processor. Pulse to a thick puree but do not blend all the way until smooth. The peas should be a little chunky. Pour the peas into a clean pan. Add the malt vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Gradually beat in the butter a cube at a time.

Keep the pease pudding warm until ready to serve. The pudding will thicken as it cools and thins again when hot.

Serve with ham steaks or fish.

Feb 082018
 

Today is the birthday (1810) of Éliphas Lévi Zahed, born Alphonse Louis Constant, French occult author and ceremonial magician. “Éliphas Lévi”, the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names “Alphonse Louis” into classical Hebrew. Constant was the son of a shoemaker in Paris. He attended the seminary of Saint Sulpice from 1830, studying to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. However, while at the seminary he fell in love and left in 1836 without being ordained. He spent the following years among his socialist and Romantic friends, including Henri-François-Alphonse Esquiros and so-called petits romantiques such as Gérard de Nerval and Théophile Gautier. During this time, he turned to a radical socialism that was decisively inspired by the writings of Félicité de Lamennais, the former leader of the influential neo-Catholic movement who had recently broken with Rome and propagated a Christian socialism. When Constant published his first radical writing, La Bible de la liberté (1841, The Bible of Liberty), he was sentenced to an eight-month prison term and a heavy fine. Contemporaries saw in him the most notorious “disciple” of Lamennais, although the two men do not seem to have established a personal contact. In the following years, Constant described his ideology as communisme néo-catholique and published a number of socialist books and pamphlets. Like many socialists, he propagated socialism as “true Christianity” and denounced the various denominations as corruptors of the teachings of Christ.

Key friends at that time include, next to Esquiros, the feminist Flora Tristan, the eccentric socialist mystic Simon Ganneau, and the socialist Charley Fauvety. In the course of the 1840s, Constant developed close ties to the Fourierist movement, publishing in Fourierist publications and praising Fourierism as the “true Christianity” (see http://www.bookofdaystales.com/charles-fourier/ ). Several of his books were published by the Fourierist Librairie phalanstérienne. He also embraced the Catholic traditionalist Joseph de Maistre, whose works were popular in socialist circles. An especially radical pamphlet, “La voix de la famine” (1846, The Voice of Famine), earned Constant another prison sentence that was significantly shortened at the request of his pregnant second wife, Marie-Noémi Cadiot.

In his “Testament de la liberté” (1848), Constant reacted to the atmosphere that produced the February Revolution. In 1848, he was the leader of an especially notorious Montagnard club known for its radicalism. Although it has been claimed that the Testament marked the end of Constant’s socialist ambitions, it has been argued that its content is in fact highly euphoric, announcing the end of the people’s martyrdom and the “resurrection” of Liberty: the perfect universal, socialist order. Like many other socialists, the course of events, especially the massacres of the June Uprising in 1849, left him devastated and disillusioned. As his friend Esquiros recounted, their belief in the peaceful realization of a harmonious universal society had been shattered.

In December 1851, Napoleon III organized a coup that ended the Second Republic and gave rise to the Second Empire. Similar to many other socialists at the time, Constant saw the emperor as the defender of the people and the restorer of public order. In the Moniteur parisien of 1852, Constant praised the new government’s actions as “veritably socialist,” but he soon became disillusioned with the rigid dictatorship and was eventually imprisoned in 1855 for publishing a polemical chanson against the Emperor. What had changed, however, was Constant’s attitude towards “the people.” As early as in La Fête-Dieu and Le livre des larmes from 1845, he had been skeptical of the uneducated people’s ability to emancipate themselves. Similar to the Saint-Simonians, he had adopted the theocratical ideas of Joseph de Maistre in order to call for the establishment of a “spiritual authority” led by an élite class of priests. After the disaster of 1849, he was completely convinced that the “masses” were not able to establish an harmonious order and needed instruction.

Constant’s activities reflect the socialist struggle to come to terms both with the failure of 1848 and the tough repressions by the new government. He contributed to the socialist Revue philosophique et religieuse, founded by his old friend Fauvety, wherein he propagated his “Kabbalistic” ideas, for the first time in public, in 1855-1856 (notably using his civil name). The debates in the Revue do not only show the tensions between the old “Romantic Socialism” of the Saint-Simonians and Fourierists, they also demonstrate how natural it was for a socialist writer to discuss topics like magic, the Kabbalah, or the occult sciences in a socialist journal. Constant developed his ideas about magic in a specific milieu that was marked by the confluence of socialist and magnetistic ideas. Influential authors included Henri Delaage (1825–1882) and Jean du Potet de Sennevoy (1796–1881), who were, to different extents, propagating magnetistic, magical, and kabbalistic ideas as the foundation of a superior form of socialism.

Lévi began to write Histoire de la magie in 1860. The following year, in 1861, he published a sequel to Dogme et rituel, La clef des grands mystères (“The Key to the Great Mysteries”). In 1861 Lévi revisited London. Further magical works by Lévi include Fables et symboles (Stories and Symbols), 1862, Le sorcier de Meudon (The Wizard of Meudon, an extended edition of two novels originally published in 1847) 1861, and La science des esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le grand arcane, ou l’occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled),published posthumously in 1898.

Constant resumed the use of openly socialist language after the government had loosened the restrictions against socialist doctrines in 1859. From La clef on, he extensively cited his radical writings, even his infamous Bible de la liberté. He continued to develop his idea of an élite of initiates that would lead the people to its final emancipation. In several passages he explicitly conflated socialism, Catholicism, and occultism.

The magic propagated by Éliphas Lévi became a great success, especially after his death. Spiritualism being popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1850s contributed to this success. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the initiate of some ancient or fictitious secret society. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later on the ex-Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley. He was also the first to declare that a pentagram or five-pointed star with one point down and two points up represents evil, while a pentagram with one point up and two points down represents good. It was largely through the occultists inspired by him that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the 20th-century revival of magic.

Constant not only developed his “occultism” as a direct consequence of his socialist and neo-Catholic ideas, but he continued to propagate the realization of “true socialism” throughout his life. According to the narrative developed by the occultist Papus (Gérard Encausse) and cemented by the occultist biographer Paul Chacornac, Constant’s turn to occultism was the result of an “initiation” by the eccentric Polish expatriate Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński. However, this narrative had been developed before Papus and his companions had any access to reliable information about Constant’s life. Also, a journey to London that Constant made in May 1854 did not cause his preoccupation with magic, although he seems to have been involved in practical magic for the first time. Instead, it was the aforementioned socialist-magnetistic context that formed the background of Constant’s interest in magic. It should also be noted that the relationship between Constant and the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton was not as intimate as it is often claimed. In fact, Bulwer-Lytton’s famous novel A Strange Story (1862) includes a rather unflattering remark about Constant’s Dogme et ritual.

Lévi’s works are filled with various definitions for magic and the magician. They are also replete with general wisdom which should see great light in my neverendingly humble opinion:

To practice magic is to be a quack; to know magic is to be a sage.

Magic is the divinity of man conquered by science in union with faith; the true Magi are Men-Gods, in virtue of their intimate union with the divine principle.

To be rich is to give; to give nothing is to be poor; to live is to love; to love nothing is to be dead; to be happy is to devote oneself; to exist only for oneself is to damn oneself, and to exile oneself to hell.

He looks on the wicked as invalids whom one must pity and cure; the world, with its errors and vices, is to him God’s hospital, and he wishes to serve in it.

When we love, we see the infinite in the finite. We find the Creator in the creation.

A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard.

Judge not; speak hardly at all; love and act.

There is nothing more to controlling demons than to do good and fear nothing.

Lévi believed that physical preparation for deep ritual was vital and diet was a key component. During the process he abstained from meat and ate simply. Being a vegetarian in France or England in the mid-nineteenth century was no easy task. There were, however, advocates of a diet that was supposedly healthier than normal. By modern standards the health benefits are questionable. This recipe is for a vegetarian version of British steamed pudding using mushrooms in place of meat. It comes from the Vegetarian Society of London which was founded in 1847.

Mushroom pudding

One pint of mushrooms, half a pound of bread crumbs, and two ounces of butter. Put the butter in the bread crumbs, adding pepper and salt, and as much water as will moisten the bread; add the mushrooms cut in pieces; line a basin with paste, put in the mixture, cover with paste, tie a cloth over, and boil an hour and a-half. It is equally good baked.

Jan 272018
 

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international memorial day commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, 9,000 homosexual men, as well as thousands of Slavs, dissidents, intellectuals, and the mentally and physically disabled by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust. The date was chosen because on 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

Prior to the 60/7 resolution, there had been national days of commemoration, such as Germany’s Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (The Day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism), established in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog on 3 January 1996; and the Holocaust Memorial Day observed every 27th January since 2001 in the UK.

Resolution 60/7 establishing 27th January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide. It rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an event, and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief. It also calls for actively preserving the Holocaust sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps and prisons, as well as for establishing a U.N. program of outreach and mobilization of society for Holocaust remembrance and education.

Resolution 60/7 and the International Holocaust Day was an initiative of the State of Israel. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, Silvan Shalom, was the head of the delegation of Israel to the United Nations.

The essence of the text lies in its twofold approach: one that deals with the memory and remembrance of those who were massacred during the Holocaust, and the other with educating future generations of its horrors.

The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is thus a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights. […]

We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands.

The UK goes one step further on this date in commemorating not only those who suffered in The Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, but also those in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere. The Nazi Holocaust is fading rapidly from active memory. There are few survivors and they are all aged. Therefore, it is more important than ever to keep the lessons learned alive to make the best effort to prevent future genocides. I live in Phnom Penh where the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge is still active in memory, and the effects were devastating on the country. The Khmer Rouge murdered 25% of the population, based largely on ethnicity, but they also massacred monks, dissidents, and intellectuals (meaning, anyone with a university education).

The murder of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust is prominent in commemoration events, as it should be. Jews were the main target of the Nazis, and the number murdered far outweighs any other group. That said, I would like to take a moment to remember the Gypsies (Roma) who were victims of the Nazis. Numbers vary depending on what you count as a “Gypsy,” but a figure commonly agreed upon is 600,000.

After the war, discrimination against Roma continued throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Federal Republic of Germany determined that all measures taken against Roma before 1943 were legitimate official measures against persons committing criminal acts, not the result of policy driven by racial prejudice. This decision effectively closed the door to restitution for thousands of Roma victims, who had been incarcerated, forcibly sterilized, and deported out of Germany for no specific crime. The postwar Bavarian criminal police took over the research files of the Nazi regime, including the registry of Roma who had resided in the Greater German Reich.

It was not until late 1979 that the West German Federal Parliament identified the Nazi persecution of Roma as being racially motivated, creating eligibility for most Roma to apply for compensation for their suffering and loss under the Nazi regime. By this time, many of those who became eligible had already died.

There is now a memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism in Berlin, dedicated to the memory of the Gypsies murdered in the Porajmos (a Roma word for the Holocaust). It was designed by Dani Karavan and was officially opened on 24 October 2012 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the presence of President Joachim Gauck. The memorial is on Simsonweg in the Tiergarten in Berlin, south of the Reichstag and near the Brandenburg Gate.

The memorial was designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, and consists of a dark, circular pool of water at the center of which is a triangular stone. The triangular shape of the stone is in reference to the brown triangular badges that had to be worn by concentration camp prisoners of Roma descent. The stone is retractable and a fresh flower is placed upon it daily.In bronze letters around the edge of the pool is the poem ‘Auschwitz’ by Roma poet Santino Spinelli, although the monument commemorates all Roma and Sinti murdered during the Porajmos:

    Gaunt face
    dead eyes
    cold lips
    quiet
    a broken heart
    out of breath
    without words
    no tears

Information boards surround the memorial and provide a chronology of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma.

The following is one of a series of recipes provided by English Roma that can be found on this site which commemorates the Roma victims of the Holocaust — https://hmd.org.uk/sites/default/files/nazi_persecution_recipe_card_hmd_2017_final.pdf It is a classic English suet pudding, but was collected from indigenous Roma in England. It is cheap to make, and can be boiled all day on the yog (communal campfire) while people are at work. Potatoes and cabbage were usually added to the water used for steaming the pudding.

Bacon and Onion Pudding

Ingredients

225g plain white flour
100g shredded beef suet
10-16 bacon rashers (smoked or unsmoked)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 beef stock cube
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Mix the suet and flour together with around 150 to 200ml water to form a suet pastry. Add the

water gradually to get the right consistency.

Take the suet pastry dough and roll it out quite thinly on a floured surface into a rough rectangular or oval shape. It should be around quarter of an inch thick. Any thicker and it will become to wet and doughy when it is steamed. The pastry expands in the steaming process.

Trim any excess fat from the bacon and place slices on the rolled out pastry. Sprinkle the chopped onions on top, ensuring an even coverage. Sprinkle with the crumbled stock cube and add salt and pepper to taste. Carefully roll the pastry up, as you would when making a Swiss roll. Make sure you have enough pastry at the ends to seal the roll, crimping the edges to ensure it stays together.

Wrap the pudding in foil or a new clean muslin or tea towel. Make sure you seal it well to prevent steam or water getting in when cooking.

Place the pudding in a steamer and steam for two and a half hours. Alternatively, boil it in a large pan of water. Make sure to keep an eye on the water level and top up as needed.

Carefully lift the pudding out of the pan and unwrap. Slice into individual portions and serve with cabbage and potatoes.

 

Jan 202018
 

On this date in 1265 Simon de Montfort called a parliament that, for the first time in English history, included commoners as well as nobles. Many historians date the formation of the House of Commons from this moment.  Things are a lot murkier than that, of course. Historians can be a bit over the top from time to time. Nonetheless, it was a significant turning point in the way that English kings viewed their subjects, and de Montfort is often spoken of as the founder of the House of Commons, even though that’s a bit of a stretch. Prior to de Montfort’s parliament, the nobility ruled their lands without any concern for the opinions or desires of the common people. Over the centuries, the situation completely reversed itself – but it took time.

Henry III

In 1258, Henry III of England faced a revolt among the English barons. Anger had grown about the way the king’s officials were raising funds, the influence of his Poitevin relatives at court (bloody foreigners !!), and his unpopular Sicilian policy (he wanted to control the kingdom as a gift for his son, Edmund). Even the English Church had grievances over its treatment by Henry. Within Henry’s court there was a strong feeling that the king would be unable to lead the country through these problems. On 30 April, Hugh Bigod marched into Westminster in the middle of the king’s parliament, backed by his co-conspirators, including Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, and carried out a coup d’état. Henry, fearful that he was about to be arrested and imprisoned, agreed to abandon his policy of personal rule and instead govern through a council of 24 barons and churchmen, half chosen by the king and half by the barons.

The pressure for reform continued to grow unabated and a parliament met in June. The term “parliament” had first appeared in the 1230s and 1240s to describe large gatherings of the royal court, and parliamentary gatherings were held periodically throughout Henry’s reign. They were used to agree upon the raising of taxes which, in the 13th century, were single, one-off levies, typically on movable property, intended to support the king’s normal revenues for particular projects. During Henry’s reign, the counties had begun to send regular delegations to these parliaments, and came to represent a broader cross-section of the community than simply the major barons – but they were still nobles.

The new parliament passed a set of measures known as the Provisions of Oxford, which Henry swore to uphold. These provisions created a smaller council of 15 members, elected solely by the barons, which then had the power to appoint England’s justiciar, chancellor and treasurer, and which would be monitored through triennial parliaments. Pressure from the lesser barons and the gentry present at Oxford also helped to push through wider reform, intended to limit the abuse of power by both the king’s officials and the major barons. More radical measures were passed by the new council the next year, in the form of the Provisions of Westminster.

The disagreements between the leading barons involved in the revolt soon became evident. De Montfort championed radical reforms that would place further limitations on the authority and power of the major barons as well as the Crown. Others promoted only moderate change, while the conservative barons expressed concerns about the existing limitations on the king’s powers. Over the next 4 years, neither Henry nor the barons were able to restore stability in England, and power swung back and forth between the different factions. By early 1263, what remained of Henry’s authority had disintegrated and the country slipped back towards open civil war. De Montfort convened a council of rebel barons in Oxford to pursue his radical agenda and by October, England faced a likely civil war. De Montfort marched east with an army and London rose up in revolt. De Montfort took Henry and Queen Eleanor prisoner, and although he maintained a fiction of ruling in Henry’s name, the rebels completely replaced the royal government and household with their own, trusted men.

Simon de Montfort

De Montfort’s coalition began to fragment quickly. Henry regained his freedom of movement, and renewed chaos spread across England. Henry appealed to his brother-in-law Louis IX of France for arbitration in the dispute. De Montfort was initially hostile to this idea, but, as war became more likely again, he decided to agree to French arbitration as well. Initially de Montfort’s legal arguments held sway, but in January 1264, Louis announced the Mise of Amiens, condemning the rebels, upholding the king’s rights and annulling the Provisions of Oxford. The Second Barons’ War finally broke out in April, when Henry led an army into de Montfort’s territories. Becoming desperate, Montfort marched in pursuit of Henry and the two armies met at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May. Despite their numerical superiority, Henry’s forces were overwhelmed. Captured, Henry was forced to pardon the rebel barons and reinstate the Provisions of Oxford, leaving him a figurehead only.

Simon de Montfort claimed to be ruling in the king’s name through a council of officials. However, he had effective political control over the government even though he was not himself the monarch, the first time this had happened in English history. De Montfort successfully held a parliament in London in June 1264 to confirm new constitutional arrangements for England; four knights were summoned from each county, chosen by the county court, and were allowed to comment on general matters of state – the first time this had occurred. De Montfort was unable to consolidate his victory at Lewes, however, and widespread disorder persisted across the country. In France, Eleanor made plans for an invasion of England with the support of Louis.

In response, and hoping to win wider support for his government, de Montfort summoned a new parliament for 20th January 1265 which continued until mid-March that year. It was held at short notice, with the summons being issued on 14th December, leaving little time for attendees to respond. He summoned not only the barons, senior churchmen and two knights from each county, but also two burgesses from each of the major towns such as York, Lincoln, Sandwich, and the Cinque Ports, the first time this had been done. Due to the lack of support for de Montfort among the barons, only 23 of them were summoned to parliament, in comparison to the summons issued to 120 churchmen, who largely supported the new government. It is unknown how many burgesses were called. The event was overseen by king Henry, and held in the Palace of Westminster in London, the largest city in England, whose continuing loyalty was essential to de Montfort’s cause.

This parliament was a populist, tactical move by de Montfort in an attempt to gather support from the regions, and was made up of selected, partisan representatives. It was not some kind of proto-democratic representative body.  The business of the parliament focused on enforcing the Provisions of Westminster, in particular its restrictions on the major nobles, and promising judicial help to those who felt they were suffering from unfair feudal lordship.

The parliament bought temporary calm, but opposition grew once more, particularly as de Montfort and his immediate family began to amass a huge personal fortune. Prince Edward escaped his captors in May and formed a new army, resulting in a fresh outbreak of civil war. Edward pursued de Monfort’s forces through the Welsh Marches, before striking east to attack his fortress at Kenilworth and then turning once more on the rebel leader himself. De Montfort, accompanied by the captive Henry, was unable to retreat and the Battle of Evesham ensued. Edward was triumphant. De Montfort was killed, and his corpse was mutilated by the victors.

The rebellion dragged on in pockets and was not fully crushed until July 1267. Henry III ruled England until his death in 1272, continuing to summon parliaments, sometimes including the county knights and on one occasion including burgesses from the towns. After 1297 under Edward I’s reign, this became the norm, and by the early 14th century it was normal to include the knights and burgesses, a grouping that would become known as the “Commons” of England and, ultimately, form the “House of Commons.”

Simon de Montfort’s parliament of 1265 is sometimes referred to as the first English parliament, because of its inclusion of both the knights and the burgesses, and de Montfort himself is often regarded as the founder of the House of Commons. This is certainly a case of overreach, or, at best, looking at history in hindsight. The House of Commons did eventually develop into a fully representative and democratically elected body, so historians can look back to how it evolved, and where it started. By looking backwards from what developed later, historians can mark de Montford’s parliament as the first body that involved commoners, and, by that standard, peg it as the beginning of the House of Commons. But the burgesses at the court were chosen by de Montfort, and, although they were free to speak on matters beyond taxation, they could not initiate nor pass laws. Whether this was the beginning of the House of Commons seems a stretch, but you can decide.

De Montfort’s parliament met in the palace of Westminster, and parliaments still do, although the buildings have changed considerably in the interim. The current building was built in 1834, after a fire destroyed large sections of the old one.

Back when I posted about Big Ben I mentioned HP sauce, because HP stands for Houses of Parliament: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/big-ben/ Now we are not talking about the Houses of Parliament in general, but the House of Commons, which meets in a chamber of the palace of Westminster. Therefore, we should focus on another recipe. The House of Commons once put out a cookbook of favorite recipes by MPs, so you could check that out if you want.

I am going to give a recipe (not from the book) for House of Commons pudding. It’s a bit like spotted dick except that the pudding is sponge cake and crumbled ratafia biscuits (or almond macaroons), infused with egg custard, mixed with raisins, and steamed.

House of Commons Pudding

Ingredients

2 oz/50 g seedless raisins
2 tbsp/30 ml medium-dry sherry
4 trifle sponges, cut into ½ inch dice
9 ratafias or 2 almond macaroons, crumbled
14 fl oz/400 ml milk
3 eggs
1 oz/25 gm caster sugar
vanilla essence
glace cherries
angelica, cut in strips
butter (for greasing)

Instructions

Put the raisins in a small bowl with the sherry and macerate overnight.

Grease a pudding basin with butter and line it with greaseproof paper. Decorate the bottom with glace cherries and angelica.

Place the diced sponges in a mixing bowl. Mix in the crumbled ratafias (or macaroons).

Drain the raisins and discard the sherry.

Place a layer of the sponge mixture in the pudding base, being careful not to disturb the cherries and angelica. Sprinkle in a few of the raisins. Repeat the layering until the basin is filled.

Bring the milk to just below boiling point over medium heat in a saucepan. Take off the heat. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl, then pour in the scalded milk. Add a few drops of vanilla essence.

Slowly strain the custard mix on to the sponge mix in the pudding basin, so that it seeps down through the layers. Let it rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile prepare a steamer setup. You can either use a conventional steamer with boiling water in the bottom, and a perforated top part to hold the pudding basin. Or you can invert a saucer in the bottom of a saucepan and add one or two inches of water, and set the pot to boil. The saucer will keep the pudding basin off the bottom of the pan.

Cover the pudding basin with greaseproof paper, and secure it with string. You can also add a layer of aluminium foil.

Place the basin in the top of the steamer or on the saucer, cover the pan and steam for 1 hour.

Carefully remove the basin from the steamer, place a plate over the top, invert the basin and plate, and unmold the pudding carefully. Serve with egg custard.

Dec 272017
 

On this date in 1836, the worst avalanche in English history happened in Lewes in Sussex, on the south coast. I know that initially you want to say, “WHAT !!!! An avalanche in England – on the south coast ???? Are you kidding me?” No, I’m not. Sussex is not in the Alps, it’s true, but the avalanche happened, and 8 people died in it. Not surprisingly, it remains, to this day, the deadliest avalanche on record in the United Kingdom.

The town of Lewes (pronounced /Lewis/) is about 7 miles north of the Sussex coast, on the River Ouse in a gap in the South Downs, and is known in Sussex for its steep hills. I’ve visited Lewes a number of times on my travels in Sussex. I lived in Sussex for 5 years as a small boy, and my mother and her sister were born there. So, I go back once in a while to see old friends, and mooch about. Lewes is a picturesque town, loaded with local historic sites and good places to eat. Hills rise above the town to the east and west, with Cliffe Hill to the east rising to 538 feet (164 meters) above sea level. The hill has a precipitously sloping western edge which dominates the eastern panorama from the town. In 1836, a row of 7 flimsily constructed workers’ cottages called Boulder Row, on South Street, stood immediately at the foot of Cliffe Hill. The total number of inhabitants of Boulder Row is unknown, but contemporary reports indicate that 15 people were in the cottages when the avalanche struck.

The winter of 1836–1837 was exceptionally severe across the whole of Great Britain, with heavy snow, gale force winds and freezing temperatures being recorded in locations all around the country from the end of October 1836 until  April 1837. Very heavy snowfall began across South East England, and in particular over the South Downs, on 24th December 1836, and continued unabated over the Christmas period. Strong winds at the same time created blizzard conditions, with reports of snowdrifts over 10 feet high in some areas of Lewes. Unknown to the inhabitants of the town, the accumulation of snow at the top of Cliffe Hill, driven by a particularly severe gale on Christmas night, had been forming into a large cornice overhanging its almost sheer western edge. On the evening preceding the disaster, a significant build-up of snow was observed falling from the top of the hill into a timber yard close to Boulder Row. The inhabitants were warned that they could be at risk and were advised to leave their homes until the danger had passed, but for their own reasons they chose to ignore the warning.

At 10.15 on the morning of Tuesday 27 December the cornice collapsed more extensively, producing an enormous avalanche of accumulated snow directly on to Boulder Row. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser, reporting the testimony of eyewitnesses, stated: “The mass appeared to strike the houses first at the base, heaving them upwards, and then breaking over them like a gigantic wave. There was nothing but a mound of pure white.” A rescue operation by townspeople succeeded in pulling 7 survivors from the wreckage before hypothermia or suffocation could claim them, but 8 other individuals were found dead. Their names are recorded on a commemorative tablet on the inside wall of South Malling parish church, one mile away, where their funerals and burials took place. The fatalities included people with the family names Barnden, Bridgman and Geer, while survivors included a young laborer Jeremiah Rooke, a middle-aged woman named Fanny Sherlock (or Sharlock) and a two-year-old child, Fanny Boakes, believed to be Sherlock’s granddaughter (the 1841 census records two people matching these names and ages living at the same address in South Street). In the aftermath of the tragedy, a fund was set up by prominent townspeople to provide financial assistance to the survivors and families of the deceased.

A public house called the Snowdrop Inn was built in South Street on the site once occupied by Boulder Row, and still trades under the same name today. The name is testament to the stalwart but black sense of humor of Sussex people. I’ve been to the pub a few times with an old friend from Ferring who enjoys hurtling over the South Downs in antique convertibles, and I humor him. There’s a certain macabre wonder to drinking a pint of Harvey’s (from Lewes brewery), in the location of the deadliest avalanche in UK history. The white dress being worn by Fanny Boakes when she was rescued was preserved and is now in the Anne of Cleves House museum in Lewes.

Lewes is an excellent place for good traditional Sussex cooking at its many pubs, including the Snowdrop, and puddings of all sorts are high on the list of Sussex favorites. Sussex pond pudding is a classic, and I’ve already given a recipe. Sussex bacon pudding is another favorite of mine. It’s a steamed suet pudding, but, unlike its kin, it is not meat surrounded by suet crust; instead, the bacon and suet pudding are all mixed together and steamed. It’s a treat for a snowy day.

Sussex Bacon Pudding

Ingredients

4 oz/125 gm all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 oz /50 gm shredded suet
1 onion, finely chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 tsp powdered sage
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
milk

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, suet, onion, bacon, sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg and fold all the ingredients together to make a soft dough. Add a little milk if necessary, but do not make the dough too moist.

Grease a 1 pint (600 ml) pudding basin and lay cheesecloth or greaseproof paper inside and overlapping the edges. Put the pudding mixture in the basin, and cover the top with the excess cheesecloth or greaseproof paper. Cover the top with foil, and either tuck it under the rim or secure it with string.

Place the basin in a steamer and steam for 1 ½ hours. When I don’t have a steamer I put a saucer in the bottom of a saucepan, place the basin on top, fill with water to come halfway up the side of the basin, and let the water simmer with the pot covered. Make sure to check the water level every 15 minutes or so. Keep a kettle boiling nearby in case you need to replenish your pot.  Do not let the water go off the boil.

It is traditional to serve this pudding with a white parsley sauce.

Mar 172017
 

Today is the birthday (1880) and also, possibly, the date of the death (1912) of Captain Lawrence Edward Grace “Titus” Oates, an English army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition led by Scott. I gave a reasonably detailed accounting of the Terra Nova Expedition here — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/robert-falcon-scott/ — so there’s no need to repeat it.  The members of the Expedition died on their return journey due to an unfortunate combination of errors in judgment and bad luck. There’s no point in rehashing all the details.  No one can doubt the courage of all the men who made it to the pole, and the death of Oates has always stood out in my memory: rightly so. Scott ensured his immortality via his journal.

Oates was born in Putney, London, the son of William and Caroline Oates. His family inherited old money, having had land at Gestingthorpe, Essex, for centuries. His father moved the family there when his children were small after succeeding to the Manor of Over Hall, Gestingthorpe. Oates lived in Putney from 1885–91, from the ages of 5 to 11 at 263 Upper Richmond Road. He was one of the first pupils to attend the prep Willington School around the corner in Colinette Road. He was further educated at Eton College, which he left after less than two years owing to ill health. He then attended an army “crammer” in Eastbourne. His father died of typhoid fever in Madeira in 1896 when Oates was aged 16.

In 1898, Oates was commissioned into the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. He saw military service during the Second Boer War as a junior officer in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, having been transferred to that regiment as a second lieutenant in May 1900. He took part in operations in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and Cape Colony. In March 1901, he suffered a gunshot wound to his left thigh which shattered his leg and, when it healed, left it an inch shorter than his right leg. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross for his actions and was brought to public attention at the time.

He was promoted to lieutenant on 8 February 1902, and left Cape Town for England in June that year, after peace had been signed in South Africa the previous month. He was mentioned in despatches by Lord Kitchener in his final despatch dated 23 June 1902. He was promoted to captain in 1906. He later served in Ireland, Egypt, and India. He was often referred to by the nickname “Titus Oates,” after the notorious perjurer – English humor !! In the history books that I read as a boy he was always called “Titus” and I am sure that part of it had to do with the fact that he was legendarily strong and fit.

In 1910, he applied to join Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, and was accepted mainly on the strength of his experience with horses and, to a lesser extent, his ability to make a financial contribution of £1,000 (over £50,000 in modern currency) towards the expedition. Nicknamed “the soldier” by his fellow expedition members, his role was to look after the nineteen ponies that Scott intended to use for sledge hauling during the initial food depot-laying stage and the first half of the trip to the South Pole. Scott eventually selected him as one of the five-man party who would travel the final distance to the Pole.

Oates disagreed with Scott many times on issues of management of the expedition. ‘Their natures jarred on one another,’ a fellow expedition member recalled. When he first saw the ponies that Scott had brought on the expedition, Oates was horrified at the £5 animals, which he said were too old for the job and ‘a wretched load of crocks.’ He later said: ‘Scott’s ignorance about marching with animals is colossal.’ He also wrote in his diary “Myself, I dislike Scott intensely and would chuck the whole thing if it were not that we are a British expedition….He [Scott] is not straight, it is himself first, the rest nowhere…” However, he also wrote that his harsh words were often a product of the hard conditions. Scott, less harshly, called Oates “the cheery old pessimist” and wrote “The Soldier takes a gloomy view of everything, but I’ve come to see that this is a characteristic of him”.

Captain Scott, Captain Oates and 14 other members of the expedition set off from their Cape Evans base camp for the South Pole on 1 November 1911. At various pre-determined latitude points during the 895-mile (1,440 km) journey, the support members of the expedition were sent back by Scott in teams until on 4 January 1912, at latitude 87° 32′ S, only the five-man polar party of Scott, Edward A. Wilson, Henry R. Bowers, Edgar Evans and Oates remained to walk the last 167 miles (269 km) to the Pole. On 18 January 1912, 79 days after starting their journey, they finally reached the Pole only to discover a tent that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his four-man team had left behind at their Polheim camp after beating them in the race to be first to the Pole. Inside the tent was a note from Amundsen informing them that his party had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911, beating Scott’s party by 35 days.

Scott’s party faced extremely difficult conditions on the return journey, mainly due to the exceptionally adverse weather, poor food supply, injuries sustained from falls, and the effects of scurvy and frostbite, all slowing their progress. On 17 February 1912, near the foot of the Beardmore glacier, Edgar Evans died, suspected by his companions to be the result of a blow to his head suffered during a fall into a crevasse a few days earlier. Oates’s feet had become severely frostbitten and it has been suggested (but never evidenced) that his war wound had re-opened due to the effects of scurvy. He was certainly weakening faster than the others. In his diary entry of 5th March, Scott wrote “Oates’ feet are in a wretched condition… The poor soldier is very nearly done.”

Oates’ slower progress, coupled with the unwillingness of his three remaining companions to leave him, was causing the party to fall behind schedule. With an average of 65 miles (105 km) between the pre-laid food depots and only a week’s worth of food and fuel provided by each depot, they needed to maintain a march of over 9 miles (14 km) a day to have full rations for the final 400 miles (640 km) of their return journey across the Ross Ice Shelf. However, 9 miles (14 km) was about their best progress any day and this had lately reduced to sometimes only 3 miles (4.8 km) a day due to Oates’ worsening condition. On 15 March, Oates told his companions that he could not go on and proposed that they leave him in his sleeping-bag, which they refused to do. He managed a few more miles that day but his condition worsened that night.

Waking on the morning of 16th March, Oates walked out of the tent into a blizzard, and −40 °F (−40 °C) temperatures, to his death. Scott wrote in his diary, “We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.” Oates’ sacrifice, however, made no difference to the eventual outcome.

Scott, Wilson, and Bowers continued onwards for a further 20 miles (32 km) towards the ‘One Ton’ food depot that could save them but were halted at latitude 79°40’S by a fierce blizzard on 20th March. Trapped in their tent by the weather and too weak, cold and malnourished to continue, they eventually died nine days later, only eleven miles short of their objective. Their frozen bodies were discovered by a search party on 12 November 1912. Oates’s body was never found. Near where he was presumed to have died, the search party erected a cairn and cross bearing the inscription; “Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L. E. G. Oates, of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard, to try and save his comrades, beset by hardships.” According to Scott’s diary, before Oates exited the tent and walked to his death, he uttered the words “I am just going outside and may be some time.”

We cannot be sure if Oates survived long enough to actually die on his birthday or succumbed the day before. If he died on his birthday he is in good company.  Shakespeare is often said to have been born and died on the same day (ironically, St George’s Day), but his date of birth is only presumed from his baptismal date. We have a similar problem with the Renaissance painter Raphael. Much more assured cases are Ingrid Bergman, Merle Haggard, Betty Friedan, and FDR. I’m not sure how I feel about dying on my birthday. I think it would be fine as long as I was having a party, surrounded by friends, and well into my 90s.

I think it’s a bit morbid to give a recipe for polar survival food on this date given that malnourishment was one of the causes of the party’s slow progress and ultimate death. Besides, I’ve given quite a few already. Instead let’s be a bit more cheery and think about traditional Essex recipes, the county where the Oates family had their hereditary seat. Many Essex recipes focus on oysters and seafood because of the county’s coastline and (former) abundant fisheries. But Gestingthorpe is well inland in farm country, so a farm recipe is in order.  Essex traditional food is not exactly bright with well-known favorites, but there are a few of note.  Essex meat layer pudding looks like a winner.  I will confess that I have not tried it yet, but I will have a go over the weekend and update the post with photos if I have any success. Right now the problem is that suet is impossible to find in Mantua, and I don’t have a pudding basin. The unusual thing about this pudding is that the suet pastry is layered into it, rather than surrounding the pudding.   Judging from the various recipes I’ve read, you can use whatever meat suits.  A mix of pork, veal, and chicken (or 2 out of the 3) is quite common.  This recipe is my version of one taken from this site — https://www.essextouristguide.co.uk/information/in-the-news/articleid/69/favourite-essex-recipes  It looks trustworthy, but I’ve modified it a bit based on experience with steamed puddings.  You can use ground or chopped meat as you prefer.

Essex Meat Layer Pudding

Ingredients

Pastry:

6 oz. flour
¼ tsp salt
3 oz. shredded suet
¼ cup cold water (approx)

Filling:

1 tbsp butter
2 onions, peeled and sliced
½ lb. ground pork
½ lb. minced veal (or chicken)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp flour
2 egg yolks,
2 tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper

Instructions

For the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and mix in the suet. Add just enough water to make a stiff but pliable dough. Wrap in foil or greaseproof paper and chill in the refrigerator whilst you make the filling.

For the filling, sauté the onions in butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are golden. Add the meats, herbs, seasonings and flour. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes stirring well, then remove the pan from heat. Beat together the egg yolks and cream and add them to the meat mixture. Sauté over low heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Butter a 2½ pint pudding basin, line it with foil,  greaseproof paper, or (best) cheesecloth. Butter this lining as well.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of about ¼-inch. Cut a small circle to fit the bottom of the basin and put it in place. Spoon on a layer of meat mixture (about 1½-inches deep) then add another circle of dough to fit. (As you proceed you will need to push the scraps of dough together and roll them out again).  Add another layer of meat. Continue until the filling and dough have been used up, finishing with layer of dough. There should be 3 layers of meat mixture. There should be some room at the top of the basin so that the dough can expand while steaming.

Cover the top of the basin with greaseproof paper or pull up the cheesecloth around the top. Then seal the top with foil.  Steam for about 4 hours. [I am a little iffy about this length of time. I will know better when I try it. 3 hours ought to be enough, but 4 hours won’t hurt, especially if you use chopped rather than ground meat.]

Serves 4

Nov 212016
 

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On this date in  1953  The Natural History Museum in London announced that the “Piltdown Man” skull, initially believed to be one of the most important fossilized hominid skulls ever found, was a hoax. In 1912 amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed he had discovered the “missing link” between ape and human. After finding a section of a human-like skull in Pleistocene gravel beds near Piltdown, East Sussex, Dawson contacted Arthur Smith Woodward, Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum. Dawson and Smith Woodward made further discoveries at the site which they connected to the same individual, including a jawbone, more skull fragments, a set of teeth and primitive tools.

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Smith Woodward reconstructed the skull fragments and hypothesized that they belonged to a human ancestor from 500,000 years ago. The discovery was announced at a Geological Society meeting and was given the Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni (“Dawson’s dawn-man”). The questionable significance of the assemblage remained the subject of considerable controversy until it was conclusively exposed in 1953 as a forgery. It was found to have consisted of the altered mandible and some teeth of an orangutan deliberately combined with the cranium of a fully developed, though small-brained, modern human (from the Middle Ages).

The Piltdown hoax is prominent for two reasons: the attention it generated around the subject of human evolution in general, and the length of time, 45 years, that elapsed from its alleged initial discovery to its definitive exposure as a composite forgery.

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At a meeting of the Geological Society of London on 18 December 1912, Charles Dawson claimed that a workman at the Piltdown gravel pit had given him a fragment of the skull four years earlier. According to Dawson, workmen at the site discovered the skull shortly before his visit and broke it up in the belief that it was a fossilized coconut. Revisiting the site on several occasions, Dawson found further fragments of the skull and took them to Arthur Smith Woodward, keeper of the geological department at the British Museum. Greatly interested by the finds, Woodward accompanied Dawson to the site. Though the two worked together between June and September 1912, Dawson alone recovered more skull fragments and half of the lower jaw bone. The skull unearthed in 1908 was the only find discovered in situ, with most of the other pieces found in the gravel pits’ spoil heaps.

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At the same meeting, Woodward announced that a reconstruction of the fragments indicated that the skull was in many ways similar to that of a modern human, except for the occiput (the part of the skull that sits on the spinal column) and for brain size, which was about two-thirds that of a modern human. He went on to indicate that save for the presence of two human-like molar teeth, the jaw bone found would be indistinguishable from that of a modern, young chimpanzee. From the British Museum’s reconstruction of the skull, Woodward proposed that Piltdown Man represented an evolutionary “missing link” between apes and humans, since the combination of a human-like cranium with an ape-like jaw tended to support the notion then prevailing in England that human evolution began with the brain.

Almost from the outset, Woodward’s reconstruction of the Piltdown fragments was strongly challenged by some researchers. At the Royal College of Surgeons, copies of the same fragments used by the British Museum in their reconstruction were used to produce an entirely different model, one that in brain size and other features resembled a modern human. This reconstruction, by Prof. (later Sir) Arthur Keith, was called Homo piltdownensis in reflection of its more human appearance. The find was also considered legitimate by Otto Schoetensack who had discovered the Heidelberg fossils just a few years earlier. He described it as being the best evidence for an ape-like ancestor of modern humans. French Jesuit paleontologist and geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin participated in the uncovering of the Piltdown skull with Woodward.

Woodward’s reconstruction included ape-like canine teeth, which was itself controversial. In August 1913, Woodward, Dawson and Teilhard de Chardin began a systematic search of the spoil heaps specifically to find the missing canines. Teilhard de Chardin soon found a canine that, according to Woodward, fitted the jaw perfectly. A few days later Teilhard de Chardin moved to France and took no further part in the discoveries. Noting that the tooth “corresponds exactly with that of an ape,” Woodward expected the find to end any dispute over his reconstruction of the skull. However, Keith attacked the find. Keith pointed out that human molars are the result of side to side movement when chewing. The canine in the Piltdown jaw was impossible as it prevented side to side movement. To explain the wear on the molar teeth, the canine could not have been any higher than the molars. Grafton Elliot Smith, a fellow anthropologist, sided with Woodward, and at the next Royal Society meeting claimed that Keith’s opposition was motivated entirely by ambition. Keith later recalled, “Such was the end of our long friendship.”

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As early as 1913, David Waterston of King’s College London published in Nature his conclusion that the sample consisted of an ape mandible and human skull. Likewise, French paleontologist Marcellin Boule concluded the same thing in 1915. A third opinion from American zoologist Gerrit Smith Miller concluded Piltdown’s jaw came from a fossil ape. In 1923, Franz Weidenreich examined the remains and correctly reported that they consisted of a modern human cranium and an orangutan jaw with filed-down teeth.

From the outset, some scientists expressed skepticism about the Piltdown find (see above). G.S. Miller, for example, observed in 1915 that “deliberate malice could hardly have been more successful than the hazards of deposition in so breaking the fossils as to give free scope to individual judgment in fitting the parts together.” In the decades prior to its exposure as a forgery in 1953, scientists increasingly regarded Piltdown as an enigmatic aberration inconsistent with the path of hominid evolution as demonstrated by fossils found elsewhere.

Finally, on this date in 1953, Time magazine published evidence gathered variously by Kenneth Page Oakley, Sir Wilfrid Edward Le Gros Clark and Joseph Weiner proving that the Piltdown Man was a forgery and demonstrating that the fossil was a composite of three distinct species. It consisted of a human skull of medieval age, the 500-year-old lower jaw of an orangutan and chimpanzee fossil teeth. Someone had created the appearance of age by staining the bones with an iron solution and chromic acid. Microscopic examination revealed file-marks on the teeth, and it was deduced from this that someone had modified the teeth to a shape more suited to a human diet.

The Piltdown Man hoax succeeded so well because, at the time of its discovery, the scientific establishment believed that the large modern brain preceded the modern omnivorous diet, and the forgery provided exactly that evidence. It has also been thought that nationalism and cultural prejudice played a role in the less-than-critical acceptance of the fossil as genuine by some British scientists. It satisfied European expectations that the earliest humans would be found in Eurasia, and the British, it has been claimed, also wanted a first Briton to set against fossil hominids found elsewhere in Europe.

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The identity of the Piltdown forger remains uncertain. Suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Keith, Martin A. C. Hinton, Horace de Vere Cole and Arthur Conan Doyle (who lived near Piltdown). Martin Hinton is now generally deemed to be the most likely suspect. In 1970 a long-overlooked trunk was found among his belongings at the Natural History Museum containing bones and teeth that had been artificially stained and aged, similar to the Piltdown “finds.” Hinton joined the staff of the Natural History Museum in 1910, working on mammals, in particular rodents. He became Deputy Keeper of Zoology in 1927 and Keeper in 1936, retiring in 1945. Apparently he had a longstanding quarrel with Woodward, and this hoax may have been payback. Newspapers have tended to be less than cautious in asserting that Hinton was the perpetrator of the hoax. He is definitely a strong contender.

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The area of Sussex around Piltdown is well known for an abundance of traditional recipes. Here’s Ashdown partridge pudding. Suet puddings are not as popular as they used to be because of the heavy doses of animal fat in the crust, but I love them. I see that I have never given a recipe for suet pastry. It’s not complicated mix together a 3 to 1 ratio of flour and finely shredded suet. Mix together thoroughly and then add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough coheres but is not damp. Work it with your hands on a floured surface to make it pliable. This recipe makes a pretty big pudding.

Ashdown Partridge Pudding

Ingredients

1 partridge, jointed
2 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 oz rump steak, sliced
¼ cup claret,
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (sage, thyme)
½ pt game or beef stock,
2lb suet paste

Instructions

Line a well greased pudding basin with 2/3 of the suet paste, and place in the partridge, beef, mushrooms and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the claret and enough of the stock to cover. Cover with the remaining paste, tie down with a covering of greaseproof paper and a pudding cloth or kitchen foil. Place the basin in the top of a steamer and steam for about 3 hrs. Turn the pudding out on a warmed serving platter, and serve hot.

Nov 042016
 

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Today is the celebration of Our Lady of Kazan, also called Theotokos of Kazan (Казанская Богоматерь),  a holy icon of the highest stature within the Russian Orthodox Church, representing the Virgin Mary as the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan, and a palladium (protector) of all of Russia. According to legend, the icon was originally acquired from Constantinople, lost in 1438 and miraculously recovered in pristine state in 1579. Two major cathedrals, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, are consecrated to Our Lady of Kazan, and display copies of the icon, as do numerous churches throughout the Orthodox community. The original icon in Kazan was stolen, and likely destroyed, in 1904.

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The “Fátima image” is a 16th-century copy of the icon, or possibly the 16th-century original, stolen from St. Petersburg in 1917 and purchased by F. A. Mitchell-Hedges in 1953. It was housed in Fátima in Portugal from 1970 to 1993, in the study of Pope St. John Paul II in the Vatican from 1993 to 2004, when it was returned to Kazan, where it is now kept in the Monastery of the Theotokos. Copies of the image are also venerated in the Roman Catholic Church.

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According to tradition, the original icon of Our Lady of Kazan was brought to Russia from Constantinople in the 13th century. After the Tatar conquest of Kazan (1438), the icon disappeared and is not mentioned for more than a century. Its recovery is described in Hermogen’s chronicle, written 1595. According to this account, after a fire destroyed Kazan in 1579, the Virgin appeared to a little girl, Matrona, revealing the location where the icon was hidden. The girl told the archbishop about the dream but was not taken seriously. However, on 8 July 1579, after repetitions of the dream, the girl and her mother recovered the icon on their own, buried under a destroyed house.

Other churches were built in honor of the revelation of the Virgin of Kazan and copies of the image displayed at the Kazan Cathedral of Moscow, at Yaroslavl, and at St. Petersburg. Invocation of the Virgin Mary through the icon was credited by the Russian commanders, Dmitry Pozharsky and Mikhail Kutuzov, with helping the country to repel the Polish invasion of 1612, the Swedish invasion of 1709, and Napoleon’s invasion of 1812.

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On the night of June 29, 1904, the icon was stolen from the church in Kazan where it had been kept for centuries (the cathedral was later blown up by the communist authorities). Thieves apparently wanted the icon’s gold frame, which was ornamented with jewels. Several years later, Russian police apprehended the thieves and recovered the frame. The thieves originally declared that the icon itself had been cut to pieces and burnt, although one of them eventually confessed that it was housed in a monastery in the wilds of Siberia. This one, however, was believed to be a fake; and the Russian police refused to investigate, using the logic that it would be very unlucky to venerate a fake icon as though it were authentic. The Orthodox Church interpreted the disappearance of the icon as a sign of tragedies that would plague Russia after the image of the Holy Protectress of Russia had been lost. In fact, some of the Russian peasantry credited all the evils of the Revolution of 1905, as well as Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, to the desecration of the image. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, there was speculation that the original icon was in fact preserved in St. Petersburg. Reportedly, an icon of Our Lady of Kazan was used in processions around Leningrad fortifications during the Siege of Leningrad.

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There was a conflicting theory that the image had been sold by the Bolsheviks abroad, although such theories were not accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church. The history of the stolen icon between 1917 and 1953 is unknown. In 1953, F. A. Mitchell-Hedges purchased the icon from Arthur Hillman. Although the status of the icon as the original Kazan icon remained disputed, Cyril G.E. Bunt concluded “that it is the work of a great icon painter of the 16th century […] the pigments and the wood of the panel are perfectly preserved as exhaustive X-ray tests have proved, and have mellowed with age”, suggesting that while it was a copy of the original icon, it was nevertheless the original icon carried by Pozharski in 1612. It was exhibited at the World Trade Fair in New York in 1964/5. On 13 September 1965, members of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima spent the night in adoration of the icon in the pavillion in New York. The Blue Army eventually bought the icon from Anna Mitchell-Hedges for $125,000 in January 1970, and the icon was enshrined in Fátima, Portugal.

In 1993, the icon from Fátima was given to Pope St. John Paul II, who took it to the Vatican and had it installed in his study, where he venerated it for eleven years. In his own words, “it has found a home with me and has accompanied my daily service to the Church with its motherly gaze.” John Paul expressed a desire to visit Moscow or Kazan to return the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church personally. When these efforts were blocked by the Moscow Patriarchate, the icon was presented to the Russian Church unconditionally in August 2004. On August 26, 2004, it was exhibited for veneration on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica and then delivered to Moscow. On the next feast day of the holy icon, July 21, 2005, Patriarch Alexius II and Mintimer Shaymiev, the President of Tatarstan, placed it in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin.

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The icon is enshrined in the Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, part of the former Monastery of the Theotokos, on the site where the original icon of Our Lady of Kazan was found and plans are underway to make the monastery’s other buildings into an international pilgrimage centre.

Burnt milk pudding is a famous Turkish dish, probably of Tatar origin, in Kazan. If you happen to be in Kazan you can easily find it in stores and restaurants. It’s also easy to make at home. It is best made a day or two ahead of time. You will need a flameproof 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan. It must be made entirely of metal without an enamel coating. Glass or pyrex could shatter. Mastic may be a little hard to come by. Extra vanilla is all right as a substitute, although mastic is more authentic.

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Burnt Milk Pudding

Ingredients

1 pea-sized piece of mastic
1 ½ cups/300 g plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
½ cup/60 g cornstarch
½ cup/55 g all-purpose flour
3 cups/475 ml whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Grind the mastic with 1 teaspoon sugar in a mortar and pestle.

Dissolve the cornstarch and flour in 1 ½ cups cold water in a mixing bowl.

Heat the milk and remaining sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch and flour mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Put a 9-by-13-inch flameproof metal baking pan over a medium-high burner and ladle in about 1 cup of the milk mixture, or enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. This is the tricky part. You want to caramelize the milk heavily, so you need to watch carefully as it boils. To get an evenly burned milky bottom, occasionally shift the pan back and forth over the burner using oven mitts. The milk will turn brown and then get darker and darker. The darker the gets, the more flavorful the finished dish will be. Look for a deep chocolate brown color, almost but not completely black. Set the baking pan aside.

Add the vanilla and the mastic mixture to the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then pour it over the burned pudding in the baking pan. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Cut into small squares and transfer with a spatula to individual serving bowls, burned bottoms up.

 

Dec 022015
 

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The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated in CP-1 on this date in 1942, under the supervision of Enrico Fermi, who described the apparatus as “a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers”. Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) was the world’s first nuclear reactor to achieve criticality. Its construction was part of the Manhattan Project, the Allied effort to create atomic bombs during World War II. It was built by the Manhattan Project’s Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, under the west viewing stands of the original Stagg Field.

The reactor was assembled in November 1942 under the supervision of Fermi, in collaboration with Leo Szilard, discoverer of the chain reaction, and Herbert L. Anderson, Walter Zinn, Martin D. Whitaker, and George Weil. It contained 45,000 graphite blocks weighing 400 short tons (360 t) used as a neutron moderator, and was fueled by 6 short tons (5.4 t) of uranium metal and 50 short tons (45 t) of uranium oxide. In the pile, some of the free neutrons produced by the natural decay of uranium were absorbed by other uranium atoms, causing nuclear fission of those atoms, and the release of additional free neutrons. Unlike most subsequent nuclear reactors, it had no radiation shield or cooling system as it only operated at very low power. The shape of the pile was intended to be roughly spherical, but as work proceeded Fermi calculated that critical mass could be achieved without finishing the entire pile as planned.

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In 1943, CP-1 was moved to Red Gate Woods, and reconfigured to become Chicago Pile-2 (CP-2). There, it was operated until 1954, when it was dismantled and buried. The stands at Stagg Field were demolished in August 1957, but the site is now a National Historic Landmark and a Chicago Landmark.

The idea of chemical chain reactions was first put forth in 1913 by the German chemist Max Bodenstein for a situation in which two molecules react to form not just the molecules of the final reaction products, but also some unstable molecules which can further react with the parent molecules to cause more molecules to react. The concept of a nuclear chain reaction was first hypothesized by the Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard on 12 September 1933. Szilard realized that if a nuclear reaction produced neutrons or dineutrons, which then caused further nuclear reactions, the process might be self-perpetuating. Szilard proposed using mixtures of lighter known isotopes which produced neutrons in copious amounts, although he did entertain the possibility of using uranium as a fuel. He filed a patent for his idea of a simple nuclear reactor the following year. The discovery of nuclear fission by German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1938, followed by its theoretical explanation (and naming) by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch, opened up the possibility of creating a nuclear chain reaction with uranium or indium, but initial experiments were unsuccessful. Fermi’s experiment marked the dawn of a new era.

I could give you a lot more historical and technical details. It mostly bores me so I cannot imagine what it will do for you. Instead here’s two pieces of relatively unimportant information which amuse me.

First, Fermi christened his apparatus a “pile”. Emilio Segrè later recalled that:

I thought for a while that this term was used to refer to a source of nuclear energy in analogy with Volta’s use of the Italian term pila to denote his own great invention of a source of electrical energy [a battery]. I was disillusioned by Fermi himself, who told me that he simply used the common English word pile as synonymous with heap. To my surprise, Fermi never seemed to have thought of the relationship between his pile and Volta’s.

Pila is still the common Spanish word for a (small disposable) battery. I’m not sure about Italian (I’ll have to ask my students). I know that pila can be used in Italian for a battery, but I am not sure how common it is, or what type of battery. I do remember early on in Buenos Aires asking in a store for batteries for my camera and using batterias only to get blank stares. Batteria in Spanish is used for car batteries and such.

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Anyway, Volta used the word pila for his invention for reasons that are obvious when you see a photo of it. It’s a pile of stuff. It’s amazing how dense world-class physicists can be when it comes to a simple matter of etymology.

Second, I now teach at a technical high school in Mantua named after Fermi: Istituto Superiore Enrico Fermi. I’m not sure how much the students know about Fermi; I’ll find out later when I go in.

While writing the appendix for the Italian edition of the book Fundamentals of Einstein Relativity by August Kopff in 1923, Fermi was the first to point out that hidden inside the famous Einstein equation (E = mc2) was an enormous amount of nuclear potential energy to be exploited. “It does not seem possible, at least in the near future”, he wrote, “to find a way to release these dreadful amounts of energy—which is all to the good because the first effect of an explosion of such a dreadful amount of energy would be to smash into smithereens the physicist who had the misfortune to find a way to do it.” Interesting remarks from the man who was, in fact, the first physicist to do it and was not smashed into smithereens. See http://www.bookofdaystales.com/e-mc%C2%B2/

Chocolate Pudding in a Glass Dish

Apparently in March 1942 Fermi wrote a recipe for chocolate pudding. The essence is that you melt 30 grams of chocolate with ½ teaspoon of sugar per serving in a double boiler. Remove from the heat and whip the chocolate with one egg yolk per person. Pour into individual cups and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Serve with toasted almonds and/or whipped cream. This recipe appeared in a newspaper article whose provenance I don’t know. No matter. It’s from Fermi and that’s good enough for me.

Nov 262013
 

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On this date in 1379, New College, Oxford, was founded by William of Wykeham.  This is taken from the college’s website:

New College was founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham (1324-1404), bishop of Winchester, as ‘the college of St Mary of Winchester at Oxford’. Almost immediately it became known as ‘New College’ to distinguish it from the other Oxford college dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Oriel (1326).

New College was founded to praise God; support the Faith, pray for the souls of the Founder, his relatives and other benefactors; and to provide higher education for the clergy. Wykeham had risen from modest beginnings in rural Hampshire to become the chief minister of Edward III, his parvenu status being reflected in his self-confident personal motto adopted by his college: ‘Manners Makyth Man’.

His statutes provided for a college comprising a Warden and 70 fellows, both graduates and, a novelty at the time, undergraduates. Senior fellows taught the juniors, the beginning of a formal tutorial system. Every fellow had to have been a scholar of Wykeham’s other foundation, Winchester College (1382). The provision of religious services, chaplains and choristers were central to Wykeham’s scheme; the choir and choir school persist to this day.

Architecturally New College was innovative in its enclosed quadrangle (finished 1386). The cloisters were completed in 1400.

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In its first medieval heyday, it produced leaders of church and state such as Archbishops of Canterbury Henry Chichele and William Warham and humanist scholars such as William Grocyn, the first teacher of Greek at Oxford.

The Reformation stripped the college of its intellectual leadership, late sixteenth and seventeenth century fellows tending to introspective learning. After the Civil War, during which the college supported the king, the college expanded in wealth and luxury. An additional storey was added to the Front Quad in the 1670s. Between 1682 and 1707 the Garden Quad was built to accommodate a handful of fee-paying Gentlemen Commoners.

Many fellows only lingered after taking their degrees until appointed to lucrative college parishes at which point they resigned and could get married. Until the 1860s, fellows could not marry, although Wardens had done so since 1551.

While not entirely a sybaritic, slothful backwater, New College was prevented by its medieval statutes from adapting to rising demand for university education. The largest college by far in 1379, by 1800, it was one of the smallest, with at most 20 of the 70 Fellows undergraduates, all exclusively Wykehamist and dominated by Founders’ Kin.

I like the “not entirely” in that last paragraph.  Of course, now New College is as up to date as any Oxford college (although I had a couple of pals there in my freshman year for whom “sybaritic” and “slothful” would have been entirely apt epithets).

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At the time of its founding, the College was a grand example of the “Perpendicular style” (late English Gothic)  with the closest resembling college being Merton. New College was larger than all of the six existing Oxford Colleges combined.  At this time the Quadrangle did not have the upper storey seen today, and the the bell tower was added later in the fifteenth century. The upper storey was added in the sixteenth century as attics which, in 1674, were replaced by a third storey as seen today. Also, the oval turf is an eighteenth-century addition. Today, the college is one of Oxford’s most widely visited.  The College’s grounds are among the largest of the Oxford University colleges.

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The Hall, the dining room and formerly lecture hall of the college, measures 80′ by 40′. The paneling was added when Archbishop Warham was bursar of the College in the late fifteenth century. The marble flooring replaced the original flooring in 1722. The open oak roof had been covered by a ceiling at the end of the eighteenth century and little is known of it. It was not until the Junior Common Room offered one thousand pounds to restore the hall roof, that work began on the roof seen today,under the architect Sir Gilbert Scott in 1865. The windows were replaced at the time with painted glass and the portraits moved to a higher level. In giving the uses of the Hall, Wykeham forbade wrestling, dancing, and all noisy games because the chapel adjoined it, and prescribed the use of Latin in conversation.

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The Cloisters and the Chapel are of particular note; much of the medieval stained glass in the ante-chapel has recently been restored. Renowned for its grand interior, some of the stained glass windows were designed by the 18th-century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds and contain designs by Sir Jacob Epstein and El Greco. The organ was built by the firm of Grant, Degens, and Bradbeer in 1969, in a case designed by George Pace. Somewhat revolutionary at the time, it remains a remarkable instrument today.

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The choir stalls contain 62 14th-century misericords (folding shelves to lean against during long standing prayers), which are of outstanding beauty.

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The niches of the reredos (altar screen) were provided by Sir Gilbert Scott and were fitted with statues in the 19th century.  Near the east end of the chapel is the Founder’s Crosier, a relic overlaid with silver gilt and enamel that resembles a pastoral staff. The bell tower contains one of the oldest rings of ten bells in England, rung by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers and the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry, English change ringing is a mystery to all but the chosen few.  Just accept that a tower with a ring of ten bells is a BIG DEAL. Bell ringers wait years to have a chance to ring them — once or twice in a lifetime.

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The cloisters are often used for dramatic productions.  As an undergraduate I saw a wonderful set of Medieval plays performed here — a perfect location. The cloisters can also be seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Some Oxford colleges are famous for their recipes.  Queen’s college, for example, originated the tradition of the decorated boar’s head for Christmas, and Magdalen college has served specially marinated venison (culled from its deer herd) once a year at a special dinner every year for over 250 years.  These recipes have entered modern cookbooks.  Other colleges’ recipes are less well known, and may not be used nowadays, although they can be found in the college archives.  Such is the case with New College puddings. Recipes can be found in several eighteenth century cookbooks such as this one in English Housewifry by Elizabeth Moxon (1764)

422. To make new COLLEGE PUDDINGS.

Grate an old penny loaf, put to it a like quantity of suet shred, a nutmeg grated, a little salt and some currans, then beat some eggs in a little sack and sugar, mix all together, and knead it as stiff as for manchet, and make it up in the form and size of a turkey’s egg, but a little flatter; take a pound of butter, put it in a dish or stew-pan, and set it over a clear fire in a chafing-dish, and rub your butter about the dish till it is melted, then put your puddings in, and cover the dish, but often turn your puddings till they are brown alike, and when they are enough grate some sugar over them, and serve them up hot.

For a side-dish you must let the paste lie for a quarter of an hour before you make up your puddings.

The entire text of the original book can be found here: http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/book1764moxon.htm

A virtually identical recipe is reported by Janet Clarkson, “the old foodie,” in her excellent blog:, http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2009/07/old-pudding-time.html, taken from Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife (1736), entitled “To make New-College Puddings.” I am ever so slightly perturbed by the lower case “n” in Moxton, making it seem that this is a new recipe for college pudding (a boiled suet pudding reminiscent of Christmas pudding) rather than a recipe from New College.  But I am going to tamp down my qualms and accept that this recipe is, indeed, from New College, even though I asked an old friend who went to New College about them and he said he had never heard of them.  Not surprising; my college has old recipes it never uses, even for special occasions.  Here is my effort at creating the dish.

New College Pudding

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Combine 1 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 cup of shredded suet. Rub the flour and suet well together with your fingers as you would for pastry, and then add a small handful of raisins and a pinch of salt.  The recipe calls for currants, but I cannot get them in Argentina. Currants would be more delicate.

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Mix together 1 egg with an equal volume of sherry (sack) or brandy, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of nutmeg, and add this to the flour/suet mix.  Knead with your hands to form a stiff dough.  Let it rest 15 minutes.

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Form into slightly flat egg-shaped balls.

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Fry in ½ inch of vegetable oil heated to 325°F/160°C until they are browned on one side, then flip them.  Do this in batches to avoid lowering the temperature of the oil too much, and overcrowding.

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Drain on a wire rack and dust with granulated sugar.

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They are delicious hot, but a bit heavy cold.  Using self raising flour in place of the breadcrumbs would make them lighter. They screamed to me to be dipped in whipped cream.

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I was not willing to spring for 1lb of butter for frying but I did save one pudding to shallow fry in a knob of butter. It was definitely richer and sweeter than those fried in oil.  In future I will shallow fry them all in butter.

Yield: 6 puddings.