May 312015


On this date in 1859, Big Ben in the clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London started chiming the hours. As every smarty pants knows Big Ben is NOT the name of the clock nor of the clock tower. Big Ben is the nickname (not the official name) of the bell that sounds the hours. Its actual name is Great Bell. The tower is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, renamed as such to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II (prior to being renamed in 2012 it was known as simply “Clock Tower”). The tower was completed in 1858 and had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place. The tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.


Clock Tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on the night of 16 October 1834. The new Parliament was built in a Neo-gothic style. Although Barry was the chief architect of the Palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall. The design for the tower was Pugin’s last design before his final descent into madness and death, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry’s last visit to him to collect the drawings: “I never worked so hard in my life for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful. The tower is designed in Pugin’s celebrated Gothic Revival style, and is 315 feet (96.0 m) high.

The bottom 200 feet (61.0 m) of the tower’s structure consists of brickwork with sand colored Anston limestone cladding. The remainder of the tower’s height is a framed spire of cast iron. The tower is founded on a 50 feet (15.2 m) square raft, made of 10 feet (3.0 m) thick concrete, at a depth of 13 feet (4.0 m) below ground level. The four clock dials are 180 feet (54.9 m) above ground.


Due to changes in ground conditions since construction, the tower leans slightly to the north-west, by roughly 230 millimeters (9.1 in) over 55 m height, giving an inclination of approximately 1/240. This includes a planned maximum of 22 mm increased tilt due to tunneling for the Jubilee line extension. Due to thermal effects it oscillates annually by a few millimeters east and west.

Journalists during Queen Victoria’s reign called it St Stephen’s Tower. As MPs originally sat at St Stephen’s Hall, these journalists referred to anything related to the House of Commons as news from “St. Stephens” (The Palace of Westminster contains a feature called St Stephen’s Tower, a smaller tower over the public entrance). The usage persists in Welsh, where the Westminster district, and Parliament by extension, is known as San Steffan.


The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock dial in gilt letters is the Latin inscription:


O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.

Unlike most other Roman numeral clock dials that show the ‘4’ position as ‘IIII’, the Great Clock faces depict ‘4’ as ‘IV’. The dial also has an adapted ‘X’, used for number ‘9’, ’10’, ’11’ and ’12’. This is due to Pugin and his dislike of the numeral ‘X’. You’ve gotta love eccentric Brits.


The clock’s movement is famous for its reliability. The designers were the lawyer and amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent; after his death in 1853 his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in 1854. As the tower was not complete until 1859, Denison had time to experiment: Instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire as originally designed, Denison invented the double three-legged gravity escapement. This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weighs 660 pounds (300 kg) and beats every 2 seconds. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs 5 tons. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum’s centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day.


The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. The original bell was a 16 ton (16.3-tonne) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was supposedly nicknamed in honor of Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt who was called “Big Ben” which became a name for anything that was biggest in its class. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honor of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.

Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. Cast in 1856, the first bell was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast on 10 April 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13½ ton (13.76-tonne) bell. This was pulled 200 ft (61.0 m) up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours.


It is 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) tall and 9 feet (2.74 m) diameter. This new bell first chimed in 1859. In September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service. According to the foundry’s manager, George Mears, Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was repaired. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with a slightly different tone ever since and is still in use today complete with the crack. At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until “Great Paul”, a 16¾ ton (17 tonne) bell currently hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, was cast in 1881.


Along with the Great Bell, the belfry houses four quarter bells which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours. The four quarter bells sound G♯, F♯, E, and B. They were cast by John Warner & Sons at their Crescent Foundry in 1857 (G♯, F♯ and B) and 1858 (E). The Foundry was in Jewin Crescent, in what is now known as The Barbican, in the City of London. The quarter bells play a once-repeating, 20-note sequence of rounds and four changes in the key of E major: 1–4 at quarter past, 5–12 at half past, 13–20 and 1–4 at quarter to, and 5–20 on the hour (which sounds 25 seconds before the main bell tolls the hour). Because the low bell (B) is struck twice in quick succession, there is not enough time to pull a hammer back, and it is supplied with two wrench hammers on opposite sides of the bell. The tune is that of the Cambridge Chimes, first used for the chimes of Great St Mary’s church, Cambridge, and supposedly a variation, attributed to William Crotch, based on violin phrases from the air “I know that my Redeemer liveth” in Handel’s Messiah. The notional words of the chime, again derived from Great St Mary’s and in turn an allusion to Psalm 37:23–24, are: “All through this hour/Lord be my guide/And by Thy power/No foot shall slide”. They are written on a plaque on the wall of the clock room.

One of the requirements for the clock was that the first stroke of the hour bell should register the time, correct to within one second per day. So, at twelve o’clock, for example, it is the first of the twelve hour-bell strikes that signifies the new day (the New Year on New Year’s Day at midnight).


The great British brown sauce for steaks, sauces, chops, pies, or whatever found in British pubs and cafes is HP sauce® I suspect that few people realize that HP stands for “Houses of Parliament,” although it ought to be obvious given the image on the label (with Big Ben prominent). You could do worse, therefore, than make yourself a roast beef sandwich on whole wheat bread with HP sauce® to celebrate the day.


Or, here is a simple marinade for BBQ from the HP kitchen:

¼ cup HP steak sauce
¼ cup dry wine (red or white, your choice)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced

Here’s the main site for HP recipes:

Apr 122015


In 1603, James VI of Scotland inherited the English and Irish thrones (as James I of England), thereby uniting the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland in a personal union (which remained separate states). On 12 April 1606, a new flag to represent this regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George’s Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire, diagonal cross) on a blue background, known as the saltire or St Andrew’s Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of Great Britain and first union flag:

By the King: Whereas, some differences hath arisen between Our subjects of South and North Britaine travelling by Seas, about the bearing of their Flagges: For the avoiding of all contentions hereafter. We have, with the advice of our Council, ordered: That from henceforth all our Subjects of this Isle and Kingdome of Great Britaine, and all our members thereof, shall beare in their main-toppe the Red Crosse, commonly called St George’s Crosse, and the White Crosse, commonly called St Andrew’s Crosse, joyned together according to the forme made by our heralds, and sent by Us to our Admerall to be published to our Subjects: and in their fore-toppe our Subjects of South Britaine shall weare the Red Crosse onely as they were wont, and our Subjects of North Britaine in their fore-toppe the White Crosse onely as they were accustomed.

This royal flag was, at first, to be used only at sea on civil and military ships of both England and Scotland, whereas land forces continued to use their respective national banners. In 1634, King Charles I restricted its use to the royal ships. After the Acts of Union 1707, the flag gained a regularized status as “the ensign armorial of the Kingdom of Great Britain”, the newly created state. It was then adopted by land forces as well, although the blue field used on land-based versions more closely resembled that of the blue of the flag of Scotland.

Various shades of blue have been used in the saltire over the years. The ground of the current Union Flag is a deep “navy” blue (Pantone 280), which can be traced to the color used for the Blue Ensign of the Royal Navy’s historic “Blue Squadron”. (Dark shades of color were used on maritime flags on the basis of durability.) In 2003 a committee of the Scottish Parliament recommended that the flag of Scotland use a lighter “royal” blue, (Pantone 300). (The Office of the Lord Lyon does not detail specific shades of color for use in heraldry.)

A thin white stripe, or fimbriation, separates the red cross from the blue field, in accordance with heraldry’s rule of tincture where colors (like red and blue) must be separated from each other by metals (like white, i.e. argent or silver).

Wales had no explicit recognition in the Union Jack as it had been a part of the Kingdom of England since being annexed by Edward I of England in 1282 and its full integration by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, and was therefore represented by the flag of England.


The Kingdom of Ireland, which had existed as a personal union with England since 1541, was likewise unrepresented in the original versions of the Union Jack. However, the flag of The Protectorate from 1658 to 1660 was inescutcheoned with the arms of Ireland. These were removed at the Restoration, because Charles II disliked them.

The original flag appears in the canton (upper left) of the Commissioners’ Ensign of the Northern Lighthouse Board. This is the only contemporary official representation of the pre-1801 Union Jack in the United Kingdom and can be seen flying from their George Street headquarters in Edinburgh. This version of the Union Jack is also shown in the canton of the Grand Union Flag (also known as the Congress Flag, the First Navy Ensign, the Cambridge Flag, and the Continental Colours), the first widely used flag of the United States, slowly phased out after 1777.


Lord Howe’s action, or the Glorious First of June, painted in 1795, shows a Union Jack flying from HMS Queen Charlotte on the “Glorious First of June” 1794. The actual flag, preserved in the National Maritime Museum, is a cruder approximation of the proper specifications; this was common in 18th– and early 19th-century flags. The flag is also flown beside Customs House in Loftus Street, Sydney, to mark the approximate location at which Captain Phillip first raised the Union Jack, and claimed New South Wales in 1788. On the plaque it is referred to as the “Jack of Queen Anne”.

Various other designs for a common flag were drawn up following the union of the two Crowns in 1603, but were rarely, if ever, used. One version showed St George’s cross with St Andrew’s cross in the canton, and another version placed the two crosses side by side. A painted wooden ceiling boss from Linlithgow Palace, dated to about 1617, depicts the Scottish royal unicorn holding a flag where a blue Saltire surmounts the red cross of St. George.

In objecting to the design of Union Flag adopted in 1606, whereby the cross of Saint George surmounted that of Saint Andrew, a group of Scots took up the matter with John Erskine, 18th Earl of Mar, and were encouraged by him to send a letter of complaint to James VI, via the Privy Council of Scotland, which stated that the flag’s design


will breid some heit and miscontentment betwix your Majesties subjectis, and it is to be feirit that some inconvenientis sail fall oute betwix thame, for our seyfaring men cannot be inducit to resave that flage as it is set down

Although documents accompanying this complaint which contained drafts for alternative designs have been lost, evidence exists, at least on paper, of an unofficial Scottish variant, whereby the Scottish cross was uppermost. There is reason to think that cloth flags of this design were employed during the 17th century for unofficial use on Scottish vessels at sea. This flag’s design is also described in the 1704 edition of The Present State of the Universe by John Beaumont, which contains as an appendix “The Ensigns, Colours or Flags of the Ships at Sea: Belonging to The several Princes and States in the World.”


On land, evidence confirming the use of this flag appears in the depiction of Edinburgh Castle by John Slezer, in his series of engravings entitled Theatrum Scotiae, c. 1693. Appearing in later editions of Theatrum Scotiae, the North East View of Edinburgh Castle engraving depicts the Scotch (to use the appropriate adjective of that period) version of the Union Flag flying from the Palace block of the Castle.[38] However, it is not shown on the North Prospect of the City of Edenburgh engraving.[39]

On 17 April 1707, just two weeks prior to the Acts of Union coming into effect, and with Sir Henry St George, Garter King of Arms, having presented several designs of flag to Queen Anne and her Privy Council for consideration, the flag for the soon to be unified Kingdom of Great Britain was chosen. At the suggestion of the Scots representatives, the designs for consideration included that version of Union Jack showing the Cross of Saint Andrew uppermost; identified as being the “Scotts union flagg as said to be used by the Scotts”. However, the Queen and her Council approved Sir Henry’s original effort, numbered “one”.

The Union Flag was found in the canton (upper left-hand quarter) of the flags of many colonies of Britain, while the field (background) of their flags was the color of the naval ensign flown by the particular Royal Navy squadron that patrolled that region of the world. Nations and colonies that have used the Union Flag at some stage have included Aden, Barbados, Borneo, Burma, Canada, Ceylon, Cyprus, British East Africa (Kenya Colony), Gambia, Gold Coast (Ghana), Hong Kong, Jamaica, Lagos, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Palestine, Penang (Malaysia), Rhodesia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somaliland, British India, Tanganyika, Trinidad, Uganda, and the United States. As former British Empire nations were granted independence, these and other versions of the Union Flag were decommissioned. The most recent decommissioning of the Union Flag came on 1 July 1997, when the former Dependent Territory of Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China.




British Indian Navy

British Indian Navy



Hong Kong

Hong Kong




A manuscript compiled in 1785 by William Fox and in possession of the Flag Research Center includes a full plate showing “the scoth [sic] union” flag. This could imply that there was still some use of a Scottish variant before the addition of the cross of St Patrick to the Union Flag in 1801.


The current and second Union Jack dates from 1 January 1801 with the Act of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The new design added a red saltire, the cross of Saint Patrick, for Ireland. This is counterchanged with the saltire of St Andrew, such that the white always follows the red clockwise. As with the red cross, so too the red saltire is separated by a white fimbriation from the blue field. This fimbriation is repeated for symmetry on the white portion of the saltire, which thereby appears wider than the red portion. The fimbriation of the cross of St George separates its red from the red of the saltire.

Apart from the Union Jack, Saint Patrick’s cross has seldom been used to represent Ireland, and with little popular recognition or enthusiasm; it is usually considered to derive from the arms of the powerful FitzGerald family rather than any association with the saint.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty was concluded on 6 December 1921 and the creation of the new Irish Free State was an imminent prospect, the question arose as to whether the cross of Saint Patrick should remain in the Union Jack. The New York Times reported that on 22 January 1922:

At the College of Arms it was stated that certain modifications were under consideration and that if any action were taken it would be done by the King in Council. No parliamentary action would be necessary. Heraldry experts say that alterations in arms are very expensive. Some years ago there was a demand from Irish quarters that the blue ground of the golden harp on the royal standard should be changed to green. It was then estimated that the alteration would cost at least £2,000,000. To remove all reference to Ireland from the present Union Jack and Royal Arms would be vastly more expensive.

There was some speculation on the matter in British dominions also, with one New Zealand paper reporting that:

   …the removal of the cross of St. Patrick Cross after 120 years will transform the appearance of the flag. It will certainly become a flag under which great victories were won in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but to most minds the sentimental loss will be great. Probably it will be found that the deletion is not absolutely necessary. Other possible changes include the abolition of the title of the United Kingdom, and the removal of the harp from the Royal Standard and the Coat of Arms, and the substitution of the Ulster emblem.

However, the fact that it was likely that Northern Ireland would choose not to remain part of the Irish Free State after its foundation and remain in the United Kingdom, gave better grounds for keeping the cross of St. Patrick in the Union Jack. In this regard, Sir James Craig, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland remarked in December 1921 that he and his government were “glad to think that our decision [to opt back into the United Kingdom] will obviate the necessity of mutilating the Union Jack.” Though remaining within the United Kingdom, the new Northern Irish government dispensed with the St Patrick’s Saltire in favour of a new flag derived from the coat-of-arm of the Burkes, Earls of Ulster, and quite similar to England’s St George’s Cross. This state-sanctioned flag was abolished in 1973 with the reintroduction of direct-rule from London over Northern Ireland.

Ultimately, when the British home secretary was asked on 7 December 1922 (the day after the Irish Free State was established) whether the Garter King of Arms was to issue any regulations with reference to the Union Jack, the response was no and the flag has never been changed.

A Dáil (Irish lower house) mooted raising the removal of the cross of St Patrick with the British government; Frank Aiken, the Irish minister for external affairs, declined to “waste time on heraldic disputations”.

In 2003, a private individual started a campaign – dubbed “reflag” or “Union Black” – to interpret the Union Flag in a racial context, and introduce black stripes in it. The proposal was universally met with opposition and was denounced by MSP Phil Gallie as “ridiculous tokenism [that] would do nothing to stamp out racism”. The campaign is now defunct.


Since there is no uniquely Welsh element in the Union Jack, Wrexham’s Labour MP Ian Lucas proposed on 27 November 2007 in a House of Commons debate that the Union Flag be combined with the Welsh flag to reflect Wales’ status within the UK, and that the red dragon be added to the Union Flag’s red, white, and blue pattern. He said the Union Jack currently only represented the other three UK nations, and Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism Margaret Hodge conceded that Lucas had raised a valid point for debate. She said, “the Government is keen to make the Union Flag a positive symbol of Britishness reflecting the diversity of our country today and encouraging people to take pride in our flag.” This development sparked design contests with entries from all over the world; some of the entries incorporated red dragons and even anime characters and leeks. The lack of any Welsh symbol or colours in the flag is due to Wales already being part of the Kingdom of England when the flag of Great Britain was created in 1606.

In the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, various non-official suggestions were made for how the flag could be redesigned without the St Andrew’s Cross in the event that Scotland left the Union. However, as Scotland voted against independence the issue did not arise.

The Union Jack lends itself naturally to cake design. If you search you will find dozens of them. I have chosen three of them. The first, my favorite and inexplicably called “pizza,” is from Betty Crocker.



The second is for cupcakes, designed for the royal wedding.


The third is for a Battenburg cake (see

I am sure that you all can come up with your own. I’d love to see a real pizza for example. Not sure what to use for the blue element (tomatoes for red and light cheese for white).There are cocktails called Union Jack layered with red, white and blue ingredients, but this seems a stretch to me.

Apr 022015


Today is the birthday (1827) of William Holman Hunt OM, English painter, and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalize art by emphasizing the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of medieval art, in opposition to the alleged rationalism of the Renaissance embodied by Raphael (hence Pre-Raphaelite).

Hunt married twice. After a failed engagement to his model Annie Miller, he married Fanny Waugh, who later modeled for the figure of Isabella. When she died in childbirth in Italy he sculpted her tomb at Fiesole, having it brought down to the English Cemetery, beside the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. His second wife, Edith, was Fanny’s sister. At this time it was illegal in Britain to marry one’s deceased wife’s sister, so Hunt was forced to travel abroad to marry her. This led to a serious breach with other family members, notably his former Pre-Raphaelite colleague Thomas Woolner, who had once been in love with Fanny and had married Alice, the third sister of Fanny and Edith.

Hunt’s works were not initially successful, and were widely attacked in the art press for their alleged clumsiness and ugliness. He achieved some early note for his intensely naturalistic scenes of modern rural and urban life, such as The Hireling Shepherd and The Awakening Conscience. However, it was with his religious paintings that he became famous, initially The Light of the World (1851–1853), now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford; a later version (1900) toured the world and now has its home in St Paul’s Cathedral.


In the mid-1850s Hunt traveled to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, and to “use my powers to make more tangible Jesus Christ’s history and teaching,” there he painted The Scapegoat, The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple and The Shadow of Death, along with many landscapes of the region. Hunt also painted many works based on poems, such as Isabella and The Lady of Shalot. He eventually built his own house in Jerusalem.

hh19  hh20

He eventually had to give up painting because failing eyesight meant that he could not get the level of quality that he wanted. His last major works, The Lady of Shalott and a large version of The Light of the World were completed with the help of his assistant Edward Robert Hughes.

His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid color and elaborate symbolism. These features were influenced by the writings of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, according to whom the world itself should be read as a system of visual signs. For Hunt it was the duty of the artist to reveal the correspondence between sign and fact. Out of all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Hunt remained most true to their ideals throughout his career. He was always keen to maximize the popular appeal and public visibility of his works.


Many of Hunt’s paintings were overtly Christian, such as The Light of the World and the Importunate Neighbour, being taken directly from Biblical verses. But many, many more are generally spiritual or moralistic with the messages conveyed through elaborate symbolism.


The Awakening Conscience (1853) is a typical example. It depicts a young woman rising from her position in the lap of a man and gazing transfixed out of the window of a room. Initially the painting would appear to be one of a momentary disagreement between husband and wife, or brother and sister, but the title and a host of symbols within the painting make it clear that this is a mistress and her lover. The woman’s clasped hands provide a focal point and the position of her left hand emphasizes the absence of a wedding ring. Around the room are dotted reminders of her “kept” status and her wasted life: the cat beneath the table toying with a bird; the clock concealed under glass; a tapestry which hangs unfinished on the piano; the threads which lie unraveled on the floor; the print of Frank Stone’s Cross Purposes on the wall; Edward Lear’s musical arrangement of Tennyson’s poem “Tears, Idle Tears” which lies discarded on the floor, and the music on the piano, Thomas Moore’s “Oft in the Stilly Night”, the words of which speak of missed opportunities and sad memories of a happier past. The discarded glove and top hat thrown on the table top suggest a hurried assignation. The room is too cluttered and gaudy to be in a Victorian family home; the bright colors, unscuffed carpet, and pristine, highly-polished furniture speak of a room recently furnished for a mistress. Art historian Elizabeth Prettejohn notes that although the interior is now viewed as “Victorian” it still exudes the “‘nouveau-riche’ vulgarity” that would have made the setting distasteful to contemporary viewers. The painting’s frame is decorated with further symbols: bells (for warning), marigolds (for sorrow), and a star above the girl’s head (a sign of spiritual revelation). It also bears a verse from the Book of Proverbs (25:20): “As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart”.

The mirror on the rear wall provides a tantalizing glimpse out of the scene. The window — opening out onto a spring garden, in direct contrast to the images of entrapment within the room — is flooded with sunlight. The woman’s face does not display a look of shock that she has been surprised with her lover; whatever attracts her is outside of both the room and her relationship. The Athenæum commented in 1854:

The author of “The Bridge of Sighs” could not have conceived a more painful-looking face. The details of the picture, the reflection of the spring trees in the mirror, the piano, the bronze under the lamp, are wonderfully true, but the dull indigoes and reds of the picture make it melancholy and appropriate, and not pleasing in tone. The sentiment is of the Ernest Maltravers School: to those who have an affinity for it, painful; to those who have not, repulsive.

The model for the girl was Annie Miller, who sat for many of the Pre-Raphaelites and to whom Hunt was engaged until 1859. The male figure may be based on Thomas Seddon or Augustus Egg, both painter friends of Hunt. The look on the girl’s face in the modern painting is not the look of pain and horror that viewers saw when the painting was first exhibited, and which shocked and repulsed many of the contemporary critics. The painting was commissioned by Thomas Fairbairn, a Manchester industrialist and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites who later succeeded his father as 2nd Baronet, after Egg discussed Hunt’s ideas and possibly showed him some of the initial sketches. Fairbairn paid Hunt 350 guineas. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854, along with The Light of the World. Fairbairn found himself unable to bear looking on the woman’s expression day-to-day, so persuaded Hunt to soften it. Hunt started work but fell ill and allowed the painting to be returned to Fairbairn for display at the Birmingham Society of Artists exhibition in 1856 before he was completely happy with the result. Later he was able to work on it again and confided to Edward Lear that he thought he had “materially bettered it.” As noted in the spandrels, Hunt retouched the painting in 1864 and again in 1886 when he repaired some work that had been carried out by a restorer in the interim.

The Victorian art theorist John Ruskin praised The Awakening Conscience as an example of a new direction in British art in which the narrative was created from the artist’s imagination rather than chronicling an event. Ruskin’s reading of the painting was also to a moral end. In an 1854 letter to The Times defending the work, he claimed that there is “not a single object in all that room…but it becomes tragical if read rightly.” He was struck by both the stark realism of the room — Hunt had hired a room in a “maison de covenance” (where lovers would take their mistresses) in order to capture the feeling — and the symbolic overtones and compared the revelation of the subjects’ characters through the interiors favorably with that of William Hogarth’s Marriage à-la-mode. The “common, modern, vulgar” interior is overwhelmed by lustrous, unworn objects that will never be part of a home. To Ruskin, the exquisite detail of the painting only called attention to the inevitable ruin of the couple: “The very hem of the poor girl’s dress, at which the painter has labored so closely, thread by thread, has story in it, if we think how soon its pure whiteness may be soiled with dust and rain, her outcast feet failing in the street.” The idea of a visual morality tale, based on a single moment, influenced Augustus Egg’s 1858 series of three paintings, Past and Present.

hh6  hh2

Sheep feature very commonly as symbols of innocence in Hunt’s work, sometimes in contrast with corrupt humans. Sheep are shown as being astray because their shepherds, who should be looking after them, are engaged in corrupt activities. The Hireling Shepherd is the classic example, where the sheep are left untended by the shepherd who is seducing a young woman instead of performing his job.

This then leads me to a consideration of lamb and mutton. Lamb is, without doubt, my favorite meat. I’m not sure about mutton because I have never tried it – it is very hard to find. I cook lamb in just about every conceivable way: roast leg, shoulder, and loin, braised breast or shank, shepherd’s pie, sheep’s head soup, Scotch broth, grilled chops, curry, fried kidneys, tripe in 100 ways, baked ribs, neck bone stew . . . and on and on.

Lamb was plentiful and cheap when I lived in South Australia; the local butcher had his own flock, and there were dozens of sheep pastures right beside where we lived. Roast shoulder or leg of lamb was our constant Sunday dinner. Once a year my father made a haggis (boiled in a sheep’s stomach). Once in a while we had sheep’s tripe or brains, which I detested then, but love now.


For me nothing can beat roast leg of lamb. I slice several cloves of garlic thin and insert the slices into knife slits under the skin – as many as you can make. I roast the leg at 450°F in a roasting pan with potatoes and leeks, for about an hour, basting frequently. The meat should be pink, but not too bloody. Towards the end I make a gravy with the drippings and flour plus stock, and seasoned with garlic and rosemary. Fresh peas make a suitable vegetable accompaniment.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts and recipes from Mrs Beeton, contemporary with Holman Hunt. For a complete transcription of chapters XIV (general observations) and XV (recipes) on mutton and lamb go here:



678. OF ALL WILD or DOMESTICATED ANIMALS, the sheep is, without exception, the most useful to man as a food, and the most necessary to his health and comfort; for it not only supplies him with the lightest and most nutritious of meats, but, in the absence of the cow, its udder yields him milk, cream, and a sound though inferior cheese; while from its fat he obtains light, and from its fleece broadcloth, kerseymere, blankets, gloves, and hose. Its bones when burnt make an animal charcoal—ivory black—to polish his boots, and when powdered, a manure for the cultivation of his wheat; the skin, either split or whole, is made into a mat for his carriage, a housing for his horse, or a lining for his hat, and many other useful purposes besides, being extensively employed in the manufacture of parchment; and finally, when oppressed by care and sorrow, the harmonious strains that carry such soothing contentment to the heart, are elicited from the musical strings, prepared almost exclusively from the intestines of the sheep.



South Down

South Down





682. NO OTHER ANIMAL, even of the same order, possesses in so remarkable a degree the power of converting pasture into flesh as the Leicestershire sheep; the South Down and Cheviot, the two next breeds in quality, are, in consequence of the greater vivacity of the animal’s nature, not equal to it in that respect, though in both the brain and chest are kept subservient to the greater capacity of the organs of digestion. Besides the advantage of increased bulk and finer fleeces, the breeder seeks to obtain an augmented deposit of tissue in those parts of the carcase most esteemed as food, or, what are called in the trade “prime joints;” and so far has this been effected, that the comparative weight of the hind quarters over the fore has become a test of quality in the breed, the butchers in some markets charging twopence a pound more for that portion of the sheep. Indeed, so superior are the hind quarters of mutton now regarded, that very many of the West-end butchers never deal in any other part of the sheep.

693. DIFFERENT NAMES HAVE BEEN GIVEN to sheep by their breeders, according to their age and sex. The male is called a ram, or tup; after weaning, he is said to be a hog, or hogget, or a lamb-hog, tup-hog, or teg; later he is a wether, or wether-hog; after the first shearing, a shearing, or dinmont; and after each succeeding shearing, a two, three, or four-shear ram, tup, or wether, according to circumstances. The female is called a ewe, or gimmer-lamb, till weaned, when she becomes, according to the shepherd’s nomenclature, a gimmer-ewe, hog, or teg; after shearing, a gimmer or shearing-ewe, or theave; and in future a two, three, or four-shear ewe, or theave.

[All across Britain there are counting systems shepherds used to count their sheep. Go here for a complete survey]

696. THE GENTLE AND TIMID DISPOSITION of the sheep, and its defenceless condition, must very early have attached it to man for motives less selfish than either its fleece or its flesh; for it has been proved beyond a doubt that, obtuse as we generally regard it, it is susceptible of a high degree of domesticity, obedience, and affection. In many parts of Europe, where the flocks are guided by the shepherd’s voice alone, it is no unusual thing for a sheep to quit the herd when called by its name, and follow the keeper like a dog. In the mountains of Scotland, when a flock is invaded by a savage dog, the rams have been known to form the herd into a circle, and placing themselves on the outside line, keep the enemy at bay, or charging on him in a troop, have despatched him with their horns.

697. THE VALUE OF THE SHEEP seems to have been early understood by Adam in his fallen state; his skin not only affording him protection for his body, but a covering for his tent; and accordingly, we find Abel intrusted with this portion of his father’s stock; for the Bible tells us that “Abel was a keeper of sheep.” What other animals were domesticated at that time we can only conjecture, or at what exact period the flesh of the sheep was first eaten for food by man, is equally, if not uncertain, open to controversy. For though some authorities maintain the contrary, it is but natural to suppose that when Abel brought firstlings of his flock, “and the fat thereof,” as a sacrifice, the less dainty portions, not being oblations, were hardly likely to have been flung away as refuse. Indeed, without supposing Adam and his descendants to have eaten animal food, we cannot reconcile the fact of Jubal Cain, Cain’s son, and his family, living in tents, as they are reported to have done, knowing that both their own garments and the coverings of the tents, were made from the hides and skins of the animals they bred; for the number of sheep and oxen slain for oblations only, would not have supplied sufficient material for two such necessary purposes. The opposite opinion is, that animal food was not eaten till after the Flood, when the Lord renewed his covenant with Noah. From Scriptural authority we learn many interesting facts as regards the sheep: the first, that mutton fat was considered the most delicious portion of any meat, and the tail and adjacent part the most exquisite morsel in the whole body; consequently, such were regarded as especially fit for the offer of sacrifice. From this fact we may reasonably infer that the animal still so often met with in Palestine and Syria, and known as the Fat-tailed sheep, was in use in the days of the patriarchs, though probably not then of the size and weight it now attains to; a supposition that gains greater strength, when it is remembered that the ram Abraham found in the bush, when he went to offer up Isaac, was a horned animal, being entangled in the brake by his curved horns; so far proving that it belonged to the tribe of the Capridae, the fat-tailed sheep appertaining to the same family.



704. INGREDIENTS.—Breast of mutton, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoonfuls of minced savoury herbs (put a large proportion of parsley), pepper and salt to taste.

Mode.—Cut off the superfluous fat; bone it; sprinkle over a layer of bread crumbs, minced herbs, and seasoning; roll, and bind it up firmly. Boil gently for 2 hours, remove the tape, and serve with caper sauce, No. 382, a little of which should be poured over the meat.

 Time.—2 hours. Average cost, 6d. per lb.

 Sufficient for 4 or 6 persons.

 Seasonable all the year.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD.—The sheep’s complete dependence upon the shepherd for protection from its numerous enemies is frequently referred to in the Bible; thus the Psalmist likens himself to a lost sheep, and prays the Almighty to seek his servant; and our Saviour, when despatching his twelve chosen disciples to preach the Gospel amongst their unbelieving brethren, compares them to lambs going amongst wolves. The shepherd of the East, by kind treatment, calls forth from his sheep unmistakable signs of affection. The sheep obey his voice and recognize the names by which he calls them, and they follow him in and out of the fold. The beautiful figure of the “good shepherd,” which so often occurs in the New Testament, expresses the tenderness of the Saviour for mankind. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”—John, x. 11. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known by mine.”—John, x. 14. “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”—John, x. 16.

VARIOUS QUALITIES OF MUTTON—Mutton is, undoubtedly, the meat most generally used in families; and, both by connoisseurs and medical men, it stands first in favour, whether its the favour, digestible qualifications, or general wholesomeness, be considered. Of all mutton, that furnished by South-Down sheep is the most highly esteemed; it is also the dearest, on account of its scarcity, and the great demand of it. Therefore, if the housekeeper is told by the butcher that he has not any in his shop, it should not occasion disappointment to the purchaser. The London and other markets are chiefly supplied with sheep called half-breeds, which are a cross between the Down and Lincoln or Leicester. These half-breeds make a greater weight of mutton than the true South-Downs, and, for this very desirable qualification, they are preferred by the great sheep-masters. The legs of this mutton range from 7 to 11 lbs. in weight; the shoulders, necks, or loins, about 6 to 9 lbs.; and if care is taken not to purchase it; the shoulders, necks, or loins, about 8 to 9 lbs.; and it cure is taken not to purchase it too fat, it will be found the most satisfactory and economical mutton that can be bought.

SHEPHERDS AND THEIR FLOCKS.—The shepherd’s crook is older than either the husbandman’s plough or the warrior’s sword. We are told that Abel was a keeper of sheep. Many passages in holy writ enable us to appreciate the pastoral riches of the first eastern nations; and we can form an idea of the number of their flocks, when we read that Jacob gave the children of Hamor a hundred sheep for the price of a field, and that the king of Israel received a hundred thousand every year from the king of Moab, his tributary, and a like number of rams covered with their fleece. The tendency which most sheep have to ramble, renders it necessary for them to be attended by a shepherd. To keep a flock within bounds, is no easy task; but the watchful shepherd manages to accomplish it without harassing the sheep. In the Highlands of Scotland, where the herbage is scanty, the sheep-farm requires to be very large, and to be watched over by many shepherds. The farms of some of the great Scottish landowners are of enormous extent. “How many sheep have you on your estate?” asked Prince Esterhazy of the duke of Argyll. “I have not the most remote idea,” replied the duke; “but I know the shepherds number several thousands.”

CURRIED MUTTON (Cold Meat Cookery).

713. INGREDIENTS.—The remains of any joint of cold mutton, 2 onions, 1/4 lb. of butter, 1 dessertspoonful of curry powder, 1 dessertspoonful of flour, salt to taste, 1/4 pint of stock or water.

Mode.—Slice the onions in thin rings, and put them into a stewpan with the butter, and fry of a light brown; stir in the curry powder, flour, and salt, and mix all well together. Cut the meat into nice thin slices (if there is not sufficient to do this, it may be minced), and add it to the other ingredients; when well browned, add the stock or gravy, and stew gently for about 1/2 hour. Serve in a dish with a border of boiled rice, the same as for other curries.

Time.—1/2 hour.

Average cost, exclusive of the meat, 6d.

Seasonable in winter.


725. INGREDIENTS.—Kidneys, butter, pepper and salt to taste.

Mode.—Cut the kidneys open without quite dividing them, remove the skin, and put a small piece of butter in the frying-pan. When the butter is melted, lay in the kidneys the flat side downwards, and fry them for 7 or 8 minutes, turning them when they are half-done. Serve on a piece of dry toast, season with pepper and salt, and put a small piece of butter in each kidney; pour the gravy from the pan over them, and serve very hot.

Time.—7 or 8 minutes.

Average cost, 1-1/2d. each.

Sufficient.—Allow 1 kidney to each person.

Seasonable at any time.

Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

MUTTON PIE (Cold Meat Cookery).

733. INGREDIENTS.—The remains of a cold leg, loin, or neck of mutton, pepper and salt to taste, 2 blades of pounded mace, 1 dessertspoonful of chopped parsley, 1 teaspoonful of minced savoury herbs; when liked, a little minced onion or shalot; 3 or 4 potatoes, 1 teacupful of gravy; crust.


Mode.—Cold mutton may be made into very good pies if well seasoned and mixed with a few herbs; if the leg is used, cut it into very thin slices; if the loin or neck, into thin cutlets. Place some at the bottom of the dish; season well with pepper, salt, mace, parsley, and herbs; then put a layer of potatoes sliced, then more mutton, and so on till the dish is full; add the gravy, cover with a crust, and bake for 1 hour.

 Time.—1 hour.

 Seasonable at any time.

 THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD.—James Hogg was perhaps the most remarkable man that ever wore the maud of a shepherd. Under the garb, aspect, and bearing of a rude peasant (and rude enough he was in most of these hings, even after no inconsiderable experience of society), the world soon discovered a true poet. He taught himself to write, by copying the letters of a printed book as he lay watching his flock on the hillside, and believed that he had reached the utmost pitch of his ambition when he first found that his artless rhymes could touch the heart of the ewe-milker who partook the shelter of his mantle during the passing storm. If “the shepherd” of Professor Wilson’s “Noctes Ambrosianae” may be taken as a true portrait of James Hogg, we must admit that, for quaintness of humour, the poet of Ettrick Forest had few rivals. Sir Walter Scott said that Hogg’s thousand little touches of absurdity afforded him more entertainment than the best comedy that ever set the pit in a roar. Among the written productions of the shepherd-poet, is an account of his own experiences in sheep-tending, called “The Shepherd’s Calender.” This work contains a vast amount of useful information upon sheep, their diseases, habits, and management. The Ettrick Shepherd died in 1835.

[Go here for links to his works]


740. INGREDIENTS.—6 sheep’s brains, vinegar, salt, a few slices of bacon, 1 small onion, 2 cloves, a small bunch of parsley, sufficient stock or weak broth to cover the brains, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice, matelote sauce, No. 512.

Mode.—Detach the brains from the heads without breaking them, and put them into a pan of warm water; remove the skin, and let them remain for two hours. Have ready a saucepan of boiling water, add a little vinegar and salt, and put in the brains. When they are quite firm, take them out and put them into very cold water. Place 2 or 3 slices of bacon in a stewpan, put in the brains, the onion stuck with 2 cloves, the parsley, and a good seasoning of pepper and salt; cover with stock, or weak broth, and boil them gently for about 25 minutes. Have ready some croûtons; arrange these in the dish alternately with the brains, and cover with a matelote sauce, No. 512, to which has been added the above proportion of lemon-juice.

Time.—25 minutes. Average cost, 1s. 6d.

Sufficient for 6 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

SHEEP’S FEET or TROTTERS (Soyer’s Recipe).

741. INGREDIENTS.—12 feet, 1/4 lb. of beef or mutton suet, 2 onions, 1 carrot, 2 bay-leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 oz. of salt, 1/4 oz. of pepper, 2 tablespoonfuls of flour, 2-1/2 quarts of water, 1/4 lb. of fresh butter, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1 teaspoonful of flour, 3/4 teaspoonful of pepper, a little grated nutmeg, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 gill of milk, the yolks of 2 eggs.

Mode.—Have the feet cleaned, and the long bone extracted from them. Put the suet into a stewpan, with the onions and carrot sliced, the bay-leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper, and let these simmer for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoonfuls of flour and the water, and keep stirring till it boils; then put in the feet. Let these simmer for 3 hours, or until perfectly tender, and take them and lay them on a sieve. Mix together, on a plate, with the back of a spoon, butter, salt, flour (1 teaspoonful), pepper, nutmeg, and lemon-juice as above, and put the feet, with a gill of milk, into a stewpan. When very hot, add the butter, &c., and stir continually till melted. Now mix the yolks of 2 eggs with 5 tablespoonfuls of milk; stir this to the other ingredients, keep moving the pan over the fire continually for a minute or two, but do not allow it to boil after the eggs are added. Serve in a very hot dish, and garnish with croûtons, or sippets of toasted bread.

Time.—3 hours. Average cost, 1s. 6d.

Sufficient for 4 persons.

Seasonable at any time.


742. INGREDIENTS.—1 sheep’s head, sufficient water to cover it, 3 carrots, 3 turnips, 2 or 3 parsnips, 3 onions, a small bunch of parsley, 1 teaspoonful of pepper, 3 teaspoonfuls of salt, 1/4 lb. of Scotch oatmeal.

Mode.—Clean the head well, and let it soak in warm water for 2 hours, to get rid of the blood; put it into a saucepan, with sufficient cold water to cover it, and when it boils, add the vegetables, peeled and sliced, and the remaining ingredients; before adding the oatmeal, mix it to a smooth batter with a little of the liquor. Keep stirring till it boils up; then shut the saucepan closely, and let it stew gently for 1-1/2 or 2 hours. It may be thickened with rice or barley, but oatmeal is preferable.

Time.—1-1/2 or 2 hours. Average cost, 8d. each.

Sufficient for 3 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

THE LAMB AS A SACRIFICE.—The number of lambs consumed in sacrifices by the Hebrews must have been very considerable. Two lambs “of the first year” were appointed to be sacrificed daily for the morning and evening sacrifice; and a lamb served as a substitute for the first-born of unclean animals, such as the ass, which could not be accepted as an offering to the Lord. Every year, also, on the anniversary of the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, every family was ordered to sacrifice a lamb or kid, and to sprinkle some of its blood upon the door-posts, in commemoration of the judgment of God upon the Egyptians. It was to be eaten roasted, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, in haste, with the loins girded, the shoes on the feet, and the staff in the hand; and whatever remained until the morning was to be burnt. The sheep was also used in the numerous special, individual, and national sacrifices ordered by the Jewish law. On extraordinary occasions, vast quantities of sheep were sacrificed at once; thus Solomon, on the completion of the temple, offered “sheep and oxen that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.”

758. INGREDIENTS.—Sweetbreads, egg and bread crumbs, 1/2 pint of gravy, No. 442, 1/2 glass of sherry.

Mode.—Soak the sweetbreads in water for an hour, and throw them into boiling water to render them firm. Let them stew gently for about 1/4 hour, take them out and put them into a cloth to drain all the water from them. Brush them over with egg, sprinkle them with bread crumbs, and either brown them in the oven or before the fire. Have ready the above quantity of gravy, to which add 1/2 glass of sherry; dish the sweetbreads, pour the gravy under them, and garnish with water-cresses.

Time.—Rather more than 1/2 hour. Average cost, 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. each.

Jul 292014


Today is the feast day of Lazarus of Bethany brother of Martha of Bethany (see 29 July 2013) whose tale I recounted on this date last year. The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the longest narrative in the gospel of John outside of the passion narrative. It represents the culmination of Jesus’ ministry. Here it is in its entirety.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.  It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

This narrative is very commonly depicted in art of all eras:

laz4  laz1

laz8  laz10

The reputed first tomb of Lazarus at al-Eizariya in the West Bank (generally believed to be the biblical Bethany) continues to be a place of pilgrimage to this day. Several Christian churches have existed at the site over the centuries. Since the 16th century, the site of the tomb has been occupied by the al-Uzair Mosque. The adjacent Roman Catholic Church of Saint Lazarus, designed by Antonio Barluzzi and built between 1952 and 1955 under the auspices of the Franciscan Order, stands upon the site of several much older ones. In 1965, a Greek Orthodox church was built just west of the tomb.


The entrance to the tomb today is via a flight of uneven rock-cut steps from the street. As it was described in 1896, there were twenty-four steps from the then-modern street level, leading to a square chamber serving as a place of prayer, from which more steps led to a lower chamber traditionally believed to be the tomb of Lazarus.

While there is no further mention of Lazarus in the Bible, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions offer varying accounts of the later events of his life. He is most commonly associated with Cyprus, where he is said to have become the first bishop of Kition (Larnaka), and Provence, where he is said to have been the first bishop of Marseille.

According to Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, some time after the Resurrection of Jesus, Lazarus was forced to flee Judea because of rumored plots on his life and went to Cyprus. There he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first bishop of Kition. He lived there for thirty more years, and on his death was buried there for the second and last time. There is also a legend that his bishop’s omophorion was presented to Lazarus by the Virgin Mary, who had woven it herself.

According to tradition, Lazarus never smiled during the thirty years after his resurrection, worried by the sight of unredeemed souls he had seen during his four-day stay in Hell. The only exception was, when he saw someone stealing a pot, he smilingly said: “the clay steals the clay” (reference to Adam being made of clay).


In 890, a tomb was found in Larnaca bearing the inscription “Lazarus the friend of Christ.” Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium had the remains from the tomb transferred to Constantinople in 898. The transfer was apostrophized by Arethas, bishop of Caesarea, and is commemorated by the Orthodox Church each year on October 17. In recompense to Larnaca, Emperor Leo had the Church of St. Lazarus, which still exists today, erected over Lazarus’ tomb. The marble sarcophagus can be seen inside the church under the Holy of Holies.

In the 16th century, a Russian monk from the Monastery of Pskov visited St. Lazarus’s tomb in Larnaca and took with him a small piece of the relics. Perhaps that piece led to the erection of the St. Lazarus chapel at the Pskov Monastery (Spaso-Eleazar Monastery, Pskov), where it is kept today.

On November 23, 1972, human remains in a marble sarcophagus were discovered under the altar, during renovation works in the church of Church of St. Lazarus at Larnaka, and were considered as part of the saint’s relics.


In the West, according to an alternative medieval tradition (centered in Provence), Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, were “put out to sea by the Jews hostile to Christianity in a vessel without sails, oars, or helm, and after a miraculous voyage landed in Provence at a place called today the Saintes-Maries.” The family is then said to have separated and gone into different parts of southeastern Gaul to preach; Lazarus going to Marseilles. He became first bishop of Marseilles and converted many people to Christianity there, he becomes the first Bishop of Marseille. According to tradition, during the persecution of Domitian, Lazarus was imprisoned and beheaded in a cave beneath the prison Saint-Lazare. His body was later translated to Autun, where it is buried in the Autun Cathedral, dedicated to Lazarus as Saint Lazare. However, the inhabitants of Marseilles claim to be in possession of his head which they still venerate.

In referring to John’s account of the resurrection of Lazarus, the name Lazarus is often used to connote apparent restoration to life. For example, the scientific term “Lazarus taxon” denotes organisms that reappear in the fossil record after a period of apparent extinction; and the Lazarus phenomenon refers to an event in which a person spontaneously returns to life (the heart starts beating again) after resuscitation has been given up. There are also numerous literary uses of the term.

Here is a favorite dish of mine from Cyprus in the Greek tradition. I enjoy stuffed peppers in many manifestations. In fact when I first began cooking as a student, this was one of my regular dishes to make for dinner parties. Other common fillings I like are spicy beef and rice, or chicken with feta cheese. Always – cook’s choice.


Red Peppers Stuffed with Couscous


1 generous handful couscous
1 small handful of fresh or frozen peas
olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
6 cherry tomatoes
2 red peppers
salt and pepper to taste


Place the couscous in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover plus about an inch.

Boil the peas for about 3 to 4 minutes in salted water, drain and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil on medium-low in a heavy sauté pan and then add the spices. Heat for about a minute then add the shallots, garlic and tomatoes. Sauté gently until the shallots have softened and are translucent. Do not let them brown

Spread a little of the couscous into a shallow oven-proof dish.

Cut the peppers in half top to bottom preserving the stalks. Cut out the seeds and any white pith being careful not to puncture the peppers, then place them in the dish bedded into the couscous.

Mix the shallot/tomato mixture with the remaining couscous and the drained peas, and then spoon it into the empty peppers.

Place in a pre-heated oven and bake at 350°F/180°C for about 20 minutes.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Apr 282014


The Mutiny on the Bounty was a mutiny aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789. The mutiny was led by Master’s Mate and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian against their captain, Lieutenant William Bligh. Even today scholars still dispute the causes of the mutiny. Some hold that it was Bligh’s exceptionally harsh treatment of the men that led to the revolt, while others suggest that the men were unable to adjust to the rigors of naval life following their idyllic five-month stint on Tahiti. I have come to the conclusion after reading many of the documents of the era, and following Bligh’s subsequent career, that it was a combination of the two. Bligh was a petty, cruel man, but there were many like him in the Royal Navy who did not have to deal with mutiny. The Bounty crew might have lived with his tyranny were it not for their sojourn on Tahiti which showed them the alternative to vile food, cramped shipboard conditions, rats, and the cat o’ nine tails. Nor should it be forgotten that Christian was a headstrong man with a talent for leadership. What is beyond dispute is that Bligh, despite his flaws was a superb seaman. When he was set adrift with eighteen loyal seamen in a23-foot (7 m) open launch, equipped only with a quadrant and pocket watch and without charts or compass, he navigated them on a 47-day voyage to Timor in the Dutch East Indies. He recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km; 4,164 mi).

HMS Bounty began her career as the collier Bethia, a small vessel built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard in Hull. On 26 May 1787 she was bought by the Royal Navy for £2,600, refitted, and renamed Bounty. Bligh was appointed commanding lieutenant of Bounty on 16 August 1787, at the age of 32, after a career that included a tour as sailing master of James Cook’s HMS Resolution during Cook’s third and final voyage (1776–79).

The Royal Navy bought the ship for a single mission in support of an experiment: she was to travel to Tahiti, pick up breadfruit plants, and transport them to the West Indies, in the hope that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. The experiment, promoted through a prize offered by the Royal Society, was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks (Cook’s botanist), who recommended Bligh as commander, Banks at the time being the unofficial director of Kew Gardens.

In June 1787, Bounty was refitted at Deptford. The captain’s cabin was converted to house the potted breadfruit plants, and glazed windows were fitted to the upper deck, while a lead lining was installed on the deck to catch and re-use run-off to water the plants. Bligh was quartered in a small cramped cabin next to crew and officers.

HMS Bounty II

HMS Bounty II

On 23 December 1787, Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti with a crew of 46 officers and men. For a full month, she attempted to round Cape Horn, but adverse weather blocked her. Bligh ordered her turned about, and proceeded east, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and crossing the width of the Indian Ocean. During the outward voyage, Bligh demoted the ship’s sailing master, John Fryer, replacing him with Fletcher Christian. This act seriously damaged the relationship between Bligh and Fryer, and Fryer would later claim Bligh’s act was entirely personal. Bounty reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788, after ten months at sea.

Bligh and his crew spent five months in Tahiti, then known as “Otaheite,” collecting and preparing a total of 1,015 breadfruit plants. This layover was unplanned, but was required to allow the plants to reach the point of development where they could be safely transported by ship. Bligh allowed the crew to live ashore and care for the potted breadfruit plants where they became socialized to the customs and culture of the Tahitians. Many of the seamen and some of the “young gentlemen” (boys of high birth destined as officers) had themselves tattooed in native fashion. Master’s Mate and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian married Maimiti, a Tahitian woman. Other warrant officers and seamen of the Bounty were also said to have formed “connections” with native women.


Bligh was not surprised by his crew’s reaction to the Tahitians. He later recorded his analysis:

The women are handsome … and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved – The chiefs have taken such a liking to our people that they have rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made promises of large possessions. Under these and many other attendant circumstances equally desirable it is therefore now not to be wondered at … that a set of sailors led by officers and void of connections … should be governed by such powerful inducement … to fix themselves in the midst of plenty in the finest island in the world where they need not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are more than equal to anything that can be conceived.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere, relations between Bligh and his men, and particularly between Bligh and Christian, deteriorated whilst in Tahiti. Christian was routinely humiliated by the captain—often in front of the crew and the native Tahitians—for real or imagined slackness, while severe punishments were handed out to men whose carelessness had led to the loss or theft of equipment. Floggings, rarely administered during the outward voyage, now became a common occurrence. As a consequence, crewmen Millward, Muspratt, and Churchill deserted the ship. They were quickly recaptured, and a search of their belongings revealed a list of names which included those of Christian and Peter Heywood. Bligh confronted the pair and accused them of complicity in the desertion plot, which they strenuously denied. Without further corroboration, Bligh could not act against them.

As the date for departure grew closer, Bligh’s outbursts against his officers became more frequent. One witness reported: “Whatever fault was found, Mr. Christian was sure to bear the brunt.” Tensions rose among the men, who faced the prospect of a long and dangerous voyage that would take them through the uncharted Endeavour Strait, followed by many months of hard sailing. But Bligh was impatient to be away. On 5 April, Bounty finally weighed anchor and made for the open sea with its breadfruit cargo.


The mutiny occurred on 28 April 1789, 23 days out and 1,300 miles west of Tahiti. Fletcher Christian had that morning contemplated making a raft and deserting the ship by paddling around 30 nautical miles (56 km/35 mi) to the nearby island of Tofua. Instead he and several of his followers entered Bligh’s cabin, which he always left unlocked. They awakened Bligh and pushed him on deck wearing only his nightshirt, where he was guarded by Christian holding a bayonet. When Bligh entreated Christian to be reasonable, Christian would only reply, “I am in hell, I am in hell!” Despite strong words and threats on both sides, the ship was taken bloodlessly and apparently without struggle by any of the loyalists except Bligh himself. Of the 42 men on board aside from Bligh and Christian, 18 joined the mutiny, two were passive, and 22 remained loyal to Bligh. The mutineers ordered Bligh, the ship’s master, two midshipmen, the surgeon’s mate, and the ship’s clerk into Bounty’s launch. Several more men voluntarily joined Bligh rather than remaining aboard, as they knew that those who remained on board would be considered de jure mutineers under the Articles of War, and, thus, could be hanged.


In all, 18 of the loyal crew were in the launch with Bligh; 4 other loyalists were forced to stay with the 18 mutineers and 2 passive crew. Bligh and his crew headed for Tofua (in a bay that they subsequently called “Murderers’ Cove”) to augment their meager provisions. The only casualty during this voyage was a crewman, John Norton, who was stoned to death by some locals of Tofua. Bligh then navigated the 23-foot (7 m) open launch on a 47-day voyage to Timor. Equipped with a quadrant and a pocket watch and with no charts or compass, he recorded the distance as 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km; 4,164 mi). He was chased by locals in what is now known as Bligh Water in Fiji, and passed through the Torres Strait along the way, landing in Kupang, Timor, on 14 June. Shortly after the launch reached Timor, the cook and botanist died. Three other crewmen died in the coming months.

Bligh returned to Britain and reported the mutiny to the Admiralty on 15 March 1790, 2 years and 11 weeks after leaving England. Meanwhile, the mutineers sailed for the island of Tubuai, where they tried to settle. After three months of being attacked by the island’s locals they returned to Tahiti. Twelve of the mutineers and the four loyalists who had been unable to accompany Bligh remained there, taking their chances that the Royal Navy would not find them and bring them to justice. Two of the mutineers died in Tahiti between 1789 and 1790. Matthew Thompson shot Charles Churchill and was subsequently stoned to death by Churchill’s Tahitian family in an act of vendetta.

HMS Pandora, under the command of Captain Edward Edwards, was dispatched on 7 November 1790 to search for Bounty and the mutineers. Pandora carried twice the normal number of master’s mates, petty officers, and midshipmen, as it was expected that the extras would man Bounty when she was recovered from the mutineers. Pandora reached Tahiti on 23 March 1791. Four of the men from Bounty came on board Pandora soon after her arrival, and ten more were arrested within a few weeks. These fourteen, mutineers and loyal crew alike, were imprisoned in a makeshift cell on Pandora’s deck, which they derisively called “Pandora’s Box.” On 8 May 1791, Pandora left Tahiti, spending about three months visiting islands to the west of Tahiti in search of Bounty and the remaining mutineers, without finding anything except flotsam (including some spars and a yard on Palmerston Island). Heading west through the Torres Strait, Pandora ran aground on a reef (part of the Great Barrier Reef) on 29 August 1791. The ship sank the next morning, and 31 of the crew and four of the prisoners (Skinner, Sumner, Stewart, and Hillbrandt) were lost. The remaining 89 of the ship’s company and ten prisoners (released from their cell at the last moment by William Moulter, a boatswain’s mate on the Pandora) assembled in four small launches, and sailed for Timor, in a voyage similar to that of Bligh. They arrived at Timor on 16 September 1791.


After being repatriated to Britain, the ten surviving prisoners were tried by a naval court. During the trial, great importance was attached to which men had been seen to be holding weapons during the critical moments of the mutiny, since under the Articles of War, failure to act when able to prevent a mutiny was considered no different from being an active mutineer. In the judgment delivered on 18 September 1792, four men whom Bligh had designated as innocent were acquitted. Two were found guilty, but pardoned; one of these was Peter Heywood, who later rose to the rank of captain himself; the second was James Morrison, who also continued his naval career and died at sea. Another was reprieved due to a legal technicality and later also received a pardon. The other three men were convicted, and hanged aboard HMS Brunswick on 29 October 1792. In other trials, both Bligh and Edwards were court-martialed for the loss of their ships (an automatic proceeding under British naval law, and not indicative of any particular suspicion of guilt). Both were acquitted.

Bligh resumed his naval career and went on to attain the rank of Vice Admiral. His career was marked by another insurrection. In 1808, while Bligh was Governor of New South Wales, troops of New South Wales arrested him in an incident known as the Rum Rebellion. This insurrection confirms many scholars’ belief that, in an era when tyrannical and cruel leaders were common and harsh punishments were normal, Bligh was a terrible commander.

Immediately after setting sixteen men ashore in Tahiti in September 1789, Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 18 women, one with a baby, set sail in the Bounty hoping to elude the Royal Navy. According to a journal kept by Edward Young, one of the mutineers, all but three of the Tahitian women had been kidnapped when Christian set sail without warning them. Bounty passed through the Fiji and Cook Islands, but feared that they would be found there. Continuing their quest for a safe haven, on 15 January 1790, they rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been misplaced on the Royal Navy’s charts. After the decision was made to settle on Pitcairn, livestock and other provisions were removed from Bounty. To prevent the ship’s detection, and anyone’s possible escape, the ship was burned on 23 January 1790 in what is now called Bounty Bay. Some of  the ship’s remains, such as her ballast stones, are still partially visible in its waters. Her rudder is displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva. An anchor of Bounty was recovered by Luis Marden in Bounty Bay in 1957. The map below shows the voyage of the Bounty under Bligh (in red), the voyage under Christian (in yellow), and Bligh’s course by launch to Timor (in green).


The Pitcairn Island community began life with bright prospects. There was ample food, water, and land for everyone, and the climate was mild. Although many of the Polynesians were homesick, and the Britons knew they were marooned on Pitcairn forever, they settled into life on Pitcairn fairly quickly. A number of children were born. At the time the community on Pitcairn was first visited by outsiders, John Adams was the sole surviving mutineer.

Little is agreed upon regarding Fletcher Christian’s role once the mutineers were established on Pitcairn Island. Adams claimed “Christian was always cheerful” but also claimed Christian would “retreat and brood [in a cave, and] had by many acts of cruelty and inhumanity, brought on himself the hatred and detestation of his companions.” Adams variously claimed that Christian had been killed “in a single massacre that occurred on the island about four years after arrival” and that Christian had committed suicide. Adams at another point claimed the “mutineers had divided into parties, seeking every opportunity on both sides to put each other to death.” While the details were inconsistent, Adams usually agreed with the journal of Young that Christian died as the result of a massacre: “The massacre … had taken place in several waves of violence, and principally arose from the fact that the Englishmen had come to regard their [Tahitian] friends as slaves.” The women, “passed around from one ‘husband’ to the other, as men died and the balance of power shifted,” eventually rebelled as well. Their descendents still live on Pitcairn, but some resettled to Norfolk Island off the east coast of Australia in 1856 when Pitcairn became too small for the growing population.


What else could I recommend but breadfruit to commemorate this day? It is not easy to find fresh, but can be bought, in season, in Caribbean markets in Europe and North America. There are also websites that offer it frozen, such as I did locate one site that offered fresh breadfruit, but it turned out to be a commercial site and I would have had to order several tons. I’ll admit it was cheap!


There are many ways to cook breadfruit. In Sri Lanka, it is either cooked as a curry using coconut milk and spices, or plain boiled and served with a sambal of shaved coconut and hot peppers. Fritters of breadfruit are also a local delicacy of coastal Karnataka. In Seychelles, it was traditionally eaten as a substitute for rice, as an accompaniment to the main dish. It would either be boiled (friyapen bwi) or grilled (friyapen griye), where it would be put whole in the wood fire used for cooking the main meal. It is also eaten as a dessert, called ladob friyapen, where it is boiled in coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. It is often said in Seychelles, that travelers who visit Seychelles will always come back if they eat breadfruit cooked in Seychelles.

In Puerto Rico, it is traditionally eaten boiled with bacalao (salted codfish). It is also used to make rellenos de pana (mashed breadfruit filled with seasoned meat), mofongo, tostones de pana (double fried breadfruit), and even lasagna de pana (cooked mashed breadfruit layered with meat and topped with cheese). There is also a popular dessert made with sweet ripe breadfruit: flan de pana (breadfruit custard/flan).

If you are curious, visit this site: It will tell you all that you need to know about breadfruit including a host of recipes, new and old.  Pretty much any recipe for potatoes or sweet potatoes can be adapted for breadfruit.  It is usually sold unripe or semi-ripe in markets outside the tropics, which must be cooked. Fully ripe breadfruit can be eaten raw.  It has a taste reminiscent of freshly baked bread, hence the name.

Mar 292014


On this date in 1886 Dr. John Pemberton (pictured) brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a back yard in Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton had been a colonel in the Confederate army, was wounded in the Civil War, became addicted to morphine, and henceforth began a quest to find a substitute for the opiate which he considered dangerous. The prototype Coca-Cola recipe was formulated over time at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, originally as a coca wine. He was inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European coca wine which was no more than a blend of Bordeaux wine and cocaine. In 1885, Pemberton registered his own French Wine Coca nerve tonic which he sold mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta’s increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton said the drink would benefit “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion.” Pemberton claimed astounding medicinal properties for his French Wine Coca, which he marketed as a patent medicine. The beverage was advertised as a cure for nerve trouble, dyspepsia, mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, wasting diseases, constipation, headache, neurasthenia and impotence. It was also suggested as a cure for morphine addiction, which was increasingly common after the Civil War.


In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a nonalcoholic version of French Wine Coca, replacing the alcohol with caffeine from Kola nuts.   The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health. Pemberton produced the Coca-Cola syrup which was mixed with carbonated water at the soda fountains.  Pemberton claimed that, like coca wine, Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.

When first launched, Coca-Cola’s two key ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the “K” in Kola was replaced with a “C” for marketing purposes). Pemberton called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose. In 1891, when Asa Candler took over the company, he said that his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton’s original) contained only a tenth of this amount. Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. In 1903, the cocaine was removed completely.


After 1904, instead of using fresh leaves, Coca-Cola started using “spent” leaves – the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with only trace levels of cocaine. Coca-Cola now uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey. In the United States, the Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri, pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.

Kola nuts act as a flavoring and the source of caffeine in Coca-Cola. In Britain, for example, the ingredient label states “Flavourings (Including Caffeine).” Kola nuts contain about 2.0 to 3.5% caffeine, are bitter in flavor, and are commonly used in cola soft drinks. In 1911, the U.S. government initiated United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, hoping to force Coca-Cola to remove caffeine from its formula. The case was decided in favor of Coca-Cola. Subsequently, in 1912, the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act was amended, adding caffeine to the list of “habit-forming” and “deleterious” substances which must be listed on a product’s label. Coca-Cola contains 34 mg of caffeine per 12 fluid ounces (9.8 mg per 100 ml).

The first bottling of Coca-Cola occurred in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the Biedenharn Candy Company in 1891. The proprietor of the bottling works was Joseph A. Biedenharn. The original bottles were Biedenharn bottles, very different from the much later fluted design of 1915 now so familiar.  It was then a few years later that two entrepreneurs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead, proposed the idea of opening an exclusive Coca-Cola bottling factory and were so persuasive that Candler signed a contract giving them control of the procedure for only one dollar. Candler never collected his dollar, but in 1899, Chattanooga became the site of the first Coca-Cola bottling company. Candler remained content just selling his company’s syrup. The loosely termed contract proved to be problematic for The Coca-Cola Company for decades to come. Legal matters were not helped by the decision of the bottlers to subcontract to other companies, effectively becoming parent bottlers.


The longest running commercial Coca-Cola soda fountain anywhere was Atlanta’s Fleeman’s Pharmacy, which first opened its doors in 1914. Jack Fleeman took over the pharmacy from his father and ran it until 1995; closing it after 81 years.  Fountain Coca-Cola could be made in two ways.  The oldest method was simply to add syrup to a glass and then top it up with carbonated water.  I don’t know whether soda fountains of this sort still exist, but there were one or two in North Carolina when I lived there in the early 70’s.  The great advantage of this method was that customers could ask for extra syrup if they wished, and could also add extra flavorings such as cherry and vanilla (which later became special flavors produced by bottlers).  The second method was to use a proprietary fountain which dispensed the syrup and soda water simultaneously – now the universal method for fountains.


On July 12, 1944, the one-billionth gallon of Coca-Cola syrup was manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company. The parent company still produces only concentrate, which it sells to licensed Coca-Cola bottlers throughout the world. The bottlers, who hold territorially exclusive contracts with the company, produce finished product in cans and bottles from the concentrate in combination with filtered water and sweeteners. The bottlers then sell, distribute and merchandise Coca-Cola to retail stores and vending machines. The Coca-Cola Company also sells concentrate for soda fountains to major restaurants and food service distributors.


The Coca-Cola logo was created by John Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885. Robinson came up with the name and chose the logo’s distinctive cursive script. The typeface used, known as Spencerian script, was developed in the mid-19th century and was the dominant form of formal handwriting in the United States during that period. Robinson also played a significant role in early Coca-Cola advertising. His promotional suggestions to Pemberton included giving away thousands of free drink coupons and plastering the city of Atlanta with publicity banners and streetcar signs.


The Coca-Cola bottle, called the “contour bottle” within the company, was created by bottle designer Earl R. Dean. In 1915, the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition among its bottle suppliers to create a new bottle for their beverage that would distinguish it from other beverage bottles, “a bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.”

Chapman J. Root, president of the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, turned the project over to members of his supervisory staff, including company auditor T. Clyde Edwards, plant superintendent Alexander Samuelsson, and Earl R. Dean, bottle designer and supervisor of the bottle molding room. Root and his subordinates decided to base the bottle’s design on one of the soda’s two ingredients, the coca leaf or the kola nut, but were unaware of what either ingredient looked like. Dean and Edwards went to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library and were unable to find any information about coca or kola. Instead, Dean was inspired by a picture of the gourd-shaped cocoa pod in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Dean made a rough sketch of the pod and returned to the plant to show Root. He explained to Root how he could transform the shape of the pod into a bottle. Root gave Dean his approval.

Faced with the upcoming scheduled maintenance of the mold-making machinery, over the next 24 hours Dean sketched out a concept drawing which was approved by Root the next morning. Dean then proceeded to create a bottle mold and produced a small number of bottles before the glass-molding machinery was turned off.

Chapman Root approved the prototype bottle and a design patent was issued on the bottle in November 1915. The prototype never made it to production since its middle diameter was larger than its base, making it unstable on conveyor belts. Dean resolved this issue by decreasing the bottle’s middle diameter. During the 1916 bottler’s convention, Dean’s contour bottle was chosen over other entries and was on the market the same year. By 1920, the contour bottle became the standard for the Coca-Cola Company. Today, the contour Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognized packages on the planet…”even in the dark!”

As a reward for his efforts, Dean was offered a choice between a $500 bonus or a lifetime job at the Root Glass Company. He chose the lifetime job and kept it until the Owens-Illinois Glass Company bought out the Root Glass Company in the mid-1930s. Dean went on to work in other Midwestern glass factories.

I well remember my first taste of Coca-Cola.  It was in Aden in January 1958 when my family was on the way from England to Australia as new immigrants.  We had been wandering around bazaar stalls in baking heat, so my father suggested we have a Coke.  It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my young life.  Because I had never heard of it until that point, and because the writing on the bottle was mostly in Arabic script, I was convinced it was some exotic Arabian brew.


It was just marvelous, and I can still conjure up the exact taste image of that first sip.  I know that the Coca-Cola company denies that they alter the recipe from country to country, but it seems to me that the Aden version was sweeter than other versions I have tasted.  I’m willing to be proven wrong, however, given that one’s first taste of anything can be heightened by its newness.

The Coca-Cola company maintains an extensive file of recipes using Coke, mostly submitted by readers.  There are several recipes for marinades and sauces for grilled or roasted meats, but most of the recipes are for desserts.  I have not tried any of them, but by all means browse away to see if anything tickles your fancy:

I don’t drink sweetened carbonated beverages any more, but as a boy my favorite way to have a Coke was as a Coke float, which we called a “spider” in South Australia – a glass of Coke topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  All way too sweet for me nowadays, but then I would have one as often as I could.


Saludos John Pemberton!


Nov 272013


Today is the birthday of James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix), U.S. born musician, singer, and songwriter. Despite a relatively brief mainstream career spanning four years, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

I am not going to ramble on too much about his life and career.  Chances are if you know that for live performances he first plugged his guitar into a Vox Wah-Wah pedal, then into an Arbiter Fuzz Face, and then into a Uni-Vibe, before connecting to a Marshall amplifier, I don’t need to remind you; and if you don’t, you probably don’t care.  So . . . some highlights, a few classic videos, quotes, and a recipe.

There are 3 clear phases in Jimi’s career:

  1. Backing musician in U.S.
  2. Breakout in England.
  3. U.S. and worldwide fame.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. In 1961, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was granted an honorable discharge the following year. Soon afterward, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing gigs on the “chitlin circuit,” eventually earning a place in the Isley Brothers’ backing band and later finding work with Little Richard, with whom he continued to play through mid-1965. He then joined Curtis Knight and the Squires.

After being befriended by bassist Chas Chandler of the Animals he moved to England in late 1966.. Within months, Hendrix had earned three U.K. top ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”  No one in the U.S. paid any attention.  I am glad to have been part of this era. I was a teenager in England at the time and loved him.  I vividly recall the first time I saw him playing the guitar with his teeth. My parents were not amused.  Here’s “Purple Haze” – containing the phrase “ ’scuse me while I kiss the sky” which we all misheard as “ ’scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

He immediately had a following of British rock royalty – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Eric Clapton.

He achieved fame in the US after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 when he famously set his guitar on fire.

I still howl with laughter watching the audience reaction – peace and love California hippy wannabees, already horrified watching The Who as Pete Townshend smashed his guitar and Keith Moon exploded his drum kit.  They were all relieved when a shell shocked Mamas and Papas came on, but Jimi skyrocketed to fame.

He closed out Woodstock in 1969, playing all day. His rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” is legendary.

Most rock historians think of this performance as a commentary on the Vietnam war, but Hendrix himself said he thought of it as a way of uniting people in the U.S.

In 1970 he headlined the Isle of Wight Festival as the world’s highest-paid performer. On September 18, 1970 he died from barbiturate-related asphyxia, at the age of 27.

Here’s an assortment of quotes from Jimi I like:

It’s funny how most people love the dead, once you’re dead you’re made for life.

The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.

I’m gonna put a curse on you, and all your kids will be born completely naked.

I wish they’d had electric guitars in cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would’ve been straightened out.

I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.

I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to.

And . . . this from Clapton:

Who I am as a guitarist is defined by my failure to become Jimi Hendrix.


For some reason there are quite a few drinks recipes honoring Jimi’s name, such as this one:

Hendrix Cocktail

1 bottle Jim Beam® bourbon whiskey

1 bottle Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee whiskey

1 bottle Bacardi® white rum

1 bottle Captain Morgan® Original spiced rum

5 bottles A&W® root beer

2 bottles Hawaiian Punch®

Mix all the ingredients together in a huge vat and stir with a big cauldron stick.

Or this:


Jimi was a pretty mean drunk, however. When stoned out of his pumpkin on acid or weed, he was as mellow as they come.  But alcohol made him violent. He had several run-ins with the law because of it.  So I don’t feel like celebrating Jimi with a signature drink.

There is this psychedelic steak dish if you are interested, but it has little to do with Jimi’s preferences, I believe:

I found online a copy of a magazine questionnaire that was given to The Experience in 1967 by a teen magazine. For the question “Favorite Food,” Jimi answered “Strawberry shortcake, spaghetti.” Probably a joke.  He did not care for English food, and preferred Indian and Chinese restaurants when living there. I don’t blame him. In those days mainstream English food was still suffering from post-war rationing malaise – although I will repeat: English food is WONDERFUL. It just hit a bump during WW II. I ate curries a lot too in those days (along with steak and kidney pies and puddings, and plaice and chips).

I also remember reading that Jimi liked “soul food.” So here is my smothered pork chops and hominy with greens and hush puppies, learnt in coastal North Carolina in 1978 when I was living in a small fishing village doing research.  It would border on sacrilege to give a formal recipe; they are passed on by watching and doing, and exist in memory. Cooking comes from the soul.



Smothered Pork Chops and Hominy with Greens and Hush Puppies


Bacon grease is the preferred frying medium.  Loads of browned onions piled on a fried pork chop.


You can get canned white hominy, but it is best if you cook it yourself.  Boil dried white hominy in plenty of water with chopped onions, garlic, and parsley. It usually takes 2 hours or more for the hominy to soften.


Collards are the iconic greasy greens. Chop them and boil them in a large quantity of water with a slab of salt pork for hours and hours and hours.  My landlady started them after breakfast for that day’s dinner. And she cooked them EVERY day.


Hush puppies are simply cornbread batter rolled into balls and deep fried.

Serves: anyone who is around at dinner time.



Oct 112013


Today is the birthday (1844) of Henry John Heinz, U.S. businessman of German descent who founded the H. J. Heinz Company. Normally I would be a tad reluctant to celebrate the founder of a multi-national company, particularly one that specialized in processed foods. But Heinz was a man of admirable qualities that are still reflected in the company (even behind the obvious public rhetoric). Among other things, Heinz was noted for his scrupulously honest business practices, his desire to make his products healthy and unadulterated, and his genuine concern for all his workers. When he ran the company he provided his employees with free medical care, recreation facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, and gardens; and educational opportunities such as libraries, free concerts, and lectures. Heinz also led a successful lobbying effort in favor of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.  The point that seems lost on so many corporate “leaders” today is that Henry Heinz was an honest man turning an honest buck; he did not need to resort to unfair practices and backroom deals to be successful.  Nor was greed his motive. He wanted his customers to enjoy his products because they were good. As such, I think his life is worthy of celebration. His motto was: “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”


The following (in italics) is a slightly edited, and much abridged, appraisal of Heinz taken from George F. Redmond, Financial Giants of America (1922), Vol. 2, 286-295:

For some time he helped his father, who made bricks, until he observed that there was really more produce in the little four acre family garden than they could use themselves. He suggested that he might be able to sell the surplus in the neighborhood. With his father’s consent he started out on his first business venture. In one summer alone, before he had reached the age of seventeen, he sold over $2,000 of garden-truck from the Heinz farm.

He proved that he possessed the shrewd business ability of his ancestors and had an unlimited power to make friends. He was so successful with his small marketing business that his parents relinquished their fond hopes and wishes of some day seeing their son in the ministry. They sent him to a business college rather than to a theological school. There he studied hard, always keeping in mind the fact that he might learn something to help the folks “back home.” He specialized particularly in commercial accounting and sure enough, when he went back to the brickyard he became his father’s bookkeeper and assistant. He introduced new methods by which they could make brick in the winter as well as the summer. His father was justly proud and pleased and gave him a partnership in the business to show his appreciation.


Henry thought that the opportunities in his father’s business were not sufficient for him so he left, with his father’s consent and formed a partnership in Beaver Falls in a business similar to that of his father’s. When he had worked on the farm, and met with such success as a salesman he had had visions of a more extensive market for the produce. This idea was constantly in the back of his mind so he finally left brick-making and with L. C. Noble opened up a small packing and preserving house in one room of a small building in Sharpsburg, Pa. Heinz realized the value of concentrated effort so he at first dealt in horseradish only. All the raw product was taken from the little family garden and treated in a new way and bottled. Heinz himself used to peddle this horseradish carrying his stock in a basket. The business grew and he acquired a wheel-barrow to help him distribute the relish which met with such popularity. Finally he had to get a horse and wagon.


He added different lines of pickles, jams, and jellies as his profits warranted. E. J. Noble was added to the partnership and the business was moved to a large four story building in Pittsburgh. The Nobles retired from the firm after a very successful three years, and Henry Heinz in 1875 sold an interest to his brother, John H., and his cousin Frederick. In 1882 vinegar was added to the other relishes sold, and a vinegar plant was established. The business kept growing and in 1905 was incorporated with Henry John Heinz as president.


Through all the years of development Mr. Heinz insisted on absolute cleanliness throughout the plant. He saw the ideas of his youth bear fruit, and his plans and business ambitions always kept well ahead of the rapidly growing industry. From the first he wanted to give the public tasty relishes, well preserved and packed, at a reasonable price. Though he had many chances to make more by charging higher rates he never deviated from this underlying principle. It is said that his favorite maxim was “Make all you can honestly; save all you can prudently; give all you can wisely.”


[. . .]

Life insurance policies are given outright to any employee who has been with the company for three years. The face of the policy grows from $250 at its inception to $1,000, depending on the length of service of the worker. These policies have no red-tape attached and do not protect either the company or the employee, but are protection for the dependent the employee has chosen as his beneficiary.

Heinz established welfare work on a firm footing long before it came into vogue as a sound, paying business proposition for industrial concerns to adopt. He was animated not by the quest of the almighty dollar but by the thoughtfulness and generosity of his nature which was his outstanding characteristic. Of course he realized that welfare work increases the efficiency of his force thereby increases the output, but by no means did he put it on the basis of dollars and cents alone. He had erected a roof-garden, and under it a library, gymnasium, auditorium, picture-gallery, dance-hall, baths, swimming pool, educational classes, a hospital, and other projects of a similar nature. Such organizations as Dockstader’s Minstrels are taken to the Heinz plant to give a special performance whenever they come to town.

These activities and benefits are shared by friends as well as by employees. The customary notice “For Employees Only” is not seen in the welfare work of this great man. The homes of the employees are made brighter and happier by the philanthropy of the Heinz institution. Friends are always welcome at all amusement features. The Dental Department not only cares for the teeth of the employees but it gives instruction in oral hygiene to their families.


Heinz wanted to treat his co-workers fairly and squarely, and he did. In the matter of promotions, which has caused no little trouble in other plants, the existing atmosphere at the Heinz institution is reported by an employee who said, “The only man around here who has a better job than I have is the fellow who has been here longer.”A rather unusual business rule was adopted early in the life of the industry by Mr. Heinz which was adhered to always, namely “no one in my employ shall ever have his wages reduced.”

Another of the big business principles he put into practice and found very successful was that the organization must always be self-perpetuating. Everyone must have an understudy, and at the same time be understudying someone other than himself or herself. Through such a system, which provided amply for expansion, material for high salaried positions was always available without going afield to pick a man for the job. Heinz wanted his employees to know that they had a future before them, he wanted them to stay with his concern and grow with it.


 The wonderful organization which he built up had as its basis his own personality. He was respected and loved by those who worked for him. He was always happy to talk, to work, or to play with even the commonest laborer. He knew many by name, and whenever he saw a new face when he went through the plant he made it a point to make the new man feel at home. He would always make the advances. This practice was so well known, and so highly thought of that it is the affectionate jest of many of the men to take one another by the arm and say imitatingly, “Young man, how long have you been with us?” Yet this is not done in the spirit of mockery, but is done with all due respect and pride in the fact that their employer was genuinely interested in them.

At Christmas time Heinz remembered every one of his employees. He originated the happy custom of giving to the parents in his employ a silver spoon, whenever the stork visits their household. The sick were visited by someone that he had sent, if he was unable to go himself. Weddings were made merrier, and the sadness of funerals soothed by the big-heartedness of the man. He relieved those in financial distress very quietly, frequently keeping his name out of the transaction entirely.


Years before his death Mr. Heinz said, “I am no longer trying to make money. What I am interested in now is to make more success.” And this was the thought he brought home at all the salesmen’s conventions. He did not talk of sales records, or quote prices, or complain about expenses. Instead he emphasized character above everything else. He once said, “Rather a man with 50 per cent ability and 100 per cent character than a man with 100 per cent ability and 50 per cent character.” In the sales rooms there is no motto to the effect that sales must be increased 100 per cent. Instead he had framed and placed there the quotation, “The ruling principle of our business must be to secure the permanent satisfaction of the consumer and the full confidence of the trade.”


Individually, the principles Henry Heinz instilled in his company can seem simple and almost quaint. Taken together though, they’re an all-too-rare combination in today’s business world. Fortunately, Henry Heinz himself showed that common sense, decency and social justice is a proven recipe for enduring business success.

I know this may seem like something of a puff piece, but it was written in 1922 when this sort of writing was more common, and shows genuine affection.  I’ve hunted around a fair bit and have found nothing to contradict anything said here.  It was NOT written by the company.

As a boy, Heinz baked beans and ketchup were household staples.  There cannot be too many Brits or Aussies my age who did not have beans on toast on a regular basis.  I’ve used a fair number of Heinz products over the years (which now include some items such as Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, which are still indispensable in the kitchen). But rather than haul out a recipe with a Heinz product in it somewhere, I am simply going to give you two links.  The first is to their general recipe area:



Heinz Baked Beans

The second is to their British site focusing on beans (or beanz).  Still a perennial favorite there, I gather.

Sep 242013


On this date in 768 Charlemagne, along with his brother Carloman I, became co-ruler of the Franks on the death of their father Pepin the Short.  Carloman’s sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom.  Charlemagne went on to conquer a large portion of Western Europe establishing the Carolingian Empire (which eventually developed into the Holy Roman Empire and which lasted until 1806).  Charlemagne spent almost all of his life in military campaigns.  I’ll let all that pass.  Instead I will focus on a brilliant age in cultural development he ushered in, usually called the Carolingian Renaissance – a great flowering of scholarship, literature, art, and architecture. The main impetus for this transformation was the opportunity for broad contact between scholars across cultures due to Charlemagne’s unification of the empire along with his personal devotion to the cause.


Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well educated, and even studying himself (in a time when leaders who promoted education did not take time to learn themselves) under the tutelage of Peter of Pisa, from whom he learned grammar; Alcuin an Anglo-Saxon from York, with whom he studied rhetoric, dialectic (logic), and astronomy; and Einhard, a Frank, who assisted him in studying  arithmetic.

Charlemagne systematically collected books from all across Europe and set monks to the task of copying and disseminating them. To Charlemagne is owed the enormous legacy of preserving so many ancient texts. Most of the presently surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scribes and scholars. In fact, the earliest manuscripts available for many ancient texts are Carolingian. It is almost certain that a text which survived to the Carolingian age survives to this day.


In order to facilitate the dissemination of books Charlemagne oversaw the creation of a script now known as Carolingian minuscule that was clearer and easier to read than previous scripts, which were dense and crabbed.  Alcuin played a major part in this development. Charlemagne himself was probably functionally illiterate.  It is known that he could not write.  Einhard notes, “He . . . tried to write, and used to keep tablets and blanks in bed under his pillow, that at leisure hours he might accustom his hand to form the letters; however, as he did not begin his efforts in due season, but late in life, they met with ill success. Einhard does not say whether he could read or not. It is recorded, however, that Charlemagne had classics read to him over dinner in place of the usual Medieval entertainments.

Charlemagne took an intense interest in church music, and its propagation and adequate performance throughout his empire. He not only helped liturgical music to flourish in his own time throughout his empire in Western Europe, but he also laid the foundations for the subsequent musical culture of the region.  Aided by a technical knowledge of the subject, he appreciated the reasons why the Church attaches importance to music in worship, and the manner of its performance. To this end, he took members of his own chapel to Rome with him, in order that they might learn at the fountainhead, and asked Pope Adrian I, in 774, to let him have two of his papal singers. One of these, Theodore, was sent to Metz, and the other, Benedict, to the schola cantorum at Soissons. According to Ekkehart IV, a chronicler of the tenth century, Adrian sent two more singers to the Court of Charlemagne. One of these, Peter, reached Metz, but Romanus, at first being detained at St. Gall by sickness, afterwards obtained permission from the emperor to remain there. Manuscripts found there were used in the recovery of the original form of the Gregorian chant.


The sons of nobles of his empire and of his vassals were expected, by imperial commands to be instructed in grammar, music, and arithmetic, while the boys in the public schools were taught music and how to sing, especially the Psalms.

Carolingian architecture was a conscious attempt to emulate Roman architecture and to that end it borrowed heavily from Early Christian and Byzantine architecture, though there are nonetheless innovations of its own, resulting in a unique character.


The gatehouse of the monastery at Lorsch, built around 800, exemplifies classical inspiration for Carolingian architecture, built as a triple-arched hall dominating the gateway, with the arched facade interspersed with attached classical columns and pilasters above.

The Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) constructed between 792 – 805 was inspired by the octagonal Justinian church of San Vitale in Ravenna, built in the 6th century, but at Aachen there is a tall monumental western entrance complex, as a whole called a westwork – a Carolingian innovation.

carol13  carol12

Carolingian churches generally are basilican, like the Early Christian churches of Rome, and commonly incorporated westworks, which is arguably the precedent for the western facades of later medieval cathedrals. An original westwork survives today at the Abbey of Corvey, built in 885.

The most numerous surviving works of the Carolingian renaissance in art are illuminated manuscripts. A number of luxury manuscripts, mostly Gospel books, have survived, decorated with a relatively small number of full-page miniatures, often including evangelist portraits, and lavish canon tables, following the precedent of the Insular art of Britain and Ireland. Narrative images and especially cycles are rarer, but many exist, mostly of the Old Testament, especially Genesis. New Testament scenes are more often found on the ivory reliefs on the covers. The over-sized and heavily decorated initials of Insular art were adopted, and the so called “historiated initial” (an initial letter illustrated with a story) was developed.

carol7  carol6

By Charlemagne’s time the French vernacular had already diverged significantly from Latin. This is evidenced by one of the regulations of the Council of Tours, which required that the parish priests preach either in the “rusticam Romanam linguam” (Romance) or “Theotiscam” (the Germanic vernacular) rather than in Latin. The goal of this rule was to make the sermons comprehensible to the common people, who must therefore have been either Romance speakers or Germanic speakers. Charlemagne himself probably spoke a Rhenish Franconian dialect of Old High German. Apart from his native language he also spoke Latin and understood a bit of Greek. According to Einhard “he could understand Greek better than he could speak it.”

Charlemagne’s personal appearance is known from a good description by Einhard:

“He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, since his height was seven times the length of his own foot. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and he enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end, he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat.”


The physical portrait provided by Einhard is confirmed by contemporary depictions of the emperor, such as coins and his 8-inch bronze statue kept in the Louvre. In 1861, Charlemagne’s tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and estimated it to be measured 74.9 in. An estimate of his height from an X-ray and CT Scan of his tibia performed in 2010 is 72 in. This puts him in the 99th percentile of height for men of his period, given that average male height of his time was 67 in.


Rather than give a specific recipe in celebration of Charlemagne I am going to talk in general about the vegetable kohlrabi which was known before Charlemagne’s time, but he was responsible for its widespread planting in his empire, especially in Germanic regions.  Even today Germany has the highest production and consumption of kohlrabi, and has to import large quantities to meet demand.

Kohlrabi is a descendant of wild European cabbage with a bulbous base and leafy top.  Both parts are edible although the bulb’s skin is tough.  The bulb may be eaten raw or cooked, and country people in Germany are known to simply cut a bulb in the fields and eat it much like an apple.  It comes in two varieties: red and white (green skin).  The white variety is hothouse grown and is mellower and softer than the red variety which grows in fields. Until recently it was not easy to find kohlrabi in supermarkets, but it is now more readily available, particularly in upmarket groceries.  The bulb is less perishable than the leaves, which probably explains why more often than not it is sold with the leaves cut off.  If you do find the leaves, prepare them as you would collards or kale (see post 23 Sept.).  Select small kohlrabi bulbs for cooking. The larger they are, the more fibrous they are. Smaller ones have a soft easily cooked flesh, and can be eaten raw.  In the main you can cook kohlrabi as an excellent replacement for potatoes (one of their principle uses along with turnips before potatoes arrived from the New World).



One of the simplest ways to prepare kohlrabi is to create thin strips with a peeler and mix them with your other salad ingredients.

You can also make a salad like a potato salad by dicing the peeled bulbs and poaching them to al dente (15 to 20 minutes) and mixing the cooled dice with mayonnaise and herbs.  Some crumbled bacon bits are a nice addition.


Side dishes

There’s nothing wrong with a dish of plain kohlrabi dice served with a knob of butter and a fresh parsley garnish. The commonest way of serving them in Germany, however, is to toss them in a white sauce which you prepare by make a white roux of equal parts flour and butter, and then adding whole milk or half and half plus a little grated nutmeg.

A favorite of mine is kohlrabi casserole.  For this you sauté diced kohlrabi in a little olive oil with some cubed ham until they are lightly browned. Place in a baking dish and pour over a mix of egg yolk, whipping cream, and flour, seasoned with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg (for 3lb of kohlrabi, you need 3 yolks, 1 cup of cream, and 2 tbsp of flour).  Bake in a medium oven until golden (30 to 40 mins).

May 142013


Today we celebrate St Engelmund of Velsen who died on this date c.739.  It is customary to celebrate a saint on the day of his/her death, but St Engelmund is also honored on June 21.  He was born in England of Frisian parents, and went on to be a Benedictine monk, then priest, then abbot. Eventually he decided to move to Frisia where he worked with Saint Willibrord, also English, bringing Christianity to the Frisian people.  His home base was in Velsen.

In art, Saint Engelmund is usually depicted as a pilgrim abbot with a fountain springing under his staff. He is venerated in Frisia and invoked against toothache.

Frisia is a sprawling territory lying on the southeast corner of the North Sea. It stretches across the coastlands of modern Holland and Germany up to the border of Denmark.   Velsen is in the Dutch part.  Frisians speak the Frisian language, which is very closely related to English.  Currently there are around 500,000 native speakers in Holland. Dutch Frisia is primarily an agricultural area with dairying and cheese making predominating. The largest Dutch cheese manufacturer is in Frisia. Frisia is also famous for world class speed skaters who practice on frozen canals in the winter.  There is a local sport involving canals called fierljeppen, vaguely similar to pole vaulting.  A jump consists of an intense sprint to a pole somewhere between 8 and 13 meters (26 and 42 feet) long, jumping and grabbing it, then climbing to the top while trying to control the pole’s forward and lateral movements over a canal,  finishing with a landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point. The aim is to see how far one can leap.  The current record is 21.51 meters (70.51 feet). The sport is believed to have originated with farmers vaulting across drainage ditches to reach different parts of their farms.

Yeast pancakes are a very common holiday treat in Frisia.  They are often served drizzled with Beerenburg, a characterstic liqueur made from Dutch gin flavored with a secret blend of herbs and spices.

Fryske Pannekoek – Frisian pancake


2 cups milk
1 teaspoon yeast
2 ½ cups flour
pinch salt

Beerenburg (optional)


Dissolve the yeast in a part of the lukewarm milk and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mixture in the hole.

Beat the flour and yeast mixture while adding the rest of the milk to make a smooth batter.

Cover and let the batter rise 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat some butter in a pancake or frying pan. Spoon a quarter of the batter in and move the pan around so the batter covers the complete bottom. Fry the pancake over low heat to golden brown and turn when the upper surface is dry. Fry the second side over higher heat until brown.

Fry the other 3 pancakes keeping the cooked pancakes warm.

Serve the pancakes with butter and sugar and some Beerenburg drizzled over them if you wish. You can also substitute any herbed liqueur such as Benedictine (given that Engelmund was a Benedictine monk).

Serves  4.