Feb 022014
 

candle2

February 2nd is most generally known as Candlemas, a day that has both sacred and secular meanings.  In the secular world in Britain it marked a turning point in the agricultural year, and was a quarter day in Scotland and northern England when rents were due and spring farm hiring began.  In the church it can be celebrated either as Candlemas, when the candles to be used in the church for the coming year are blessed, or as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple/the Purification of Mary celebrating an episode in the infancy of Jesus.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., ‘Meeting’ in Greek). In the Roman Catholic Church the “Feast of the Presentation of the Lord” is a major feast day, between the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle on 25 January and the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle on 22 February. In some Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

In the Latin Church of the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. It was also reflected in the practice of the churching of new mothers, forty days after the birth of a child.

The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40). According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn with an animal sacrifice, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary took the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1-4 indicates that this event should take place forty days (inclusive) after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

candle4

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: to be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).

There are numerous settings of the Nunc Dimittis. Here’s Holst.  (There is quite a bit of Candlemas music which I am embedding just in case you are interested.  No need to view if not!)

Simeon then prophesied to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35).

The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38).

candle7

The event forms a common component of artistic representations of the Life of Christ and also of the Life of the Virgin from the late Middle Ages on. Early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically shown at the entrance to the Temple, and this is continued in Byzantine art and Eastern Orthodox icons to the present day. In the West, beginning in the 8th or 9th century, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to a Jewish high priest, and conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family and Anna. In the West Simeon is more often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images the Virgin is more likely still to hold Jesus.

Many motets and anthems have been composed to celebrate this feast and are performed as part of the liturgy, among them an anthem by 16th century German composer Johannes Eccard (1553-1611), Maria wallt zum Heiligtum, often translated in English as “When Mary to the Temple went”.

The Lutheran church of the Baroque observed the feast as “Mariae Reinigung” (Purification of Mary). Johann Sebastian Bach composed several cantatas to be performed in the church service of the day, related to Simeon’s canticle Nunc dimittis as part of the prescribed readings:

Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde, BWV 83, (1724)

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125, (1725)

Ich habe genug, BWV 82, (1727)

Candlemas is the last feast day in the Christian year dated by reference to Christmas. Subsequent feasts are calculated with reference to Easter. Traditionally the Western term “Candlemas” (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In Poland the feast is called Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej (Feast of Our Lady of Thunder candles). This name refers to the candles that are blessed on this day, called gromnice, since these candles are lit during (thunder) storms and placed in windows to ward off storms.

candle5

Within the Roman Catholic Church, since the liturgical revisions of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasized in favor of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. This feast never falls in Lent (the earliest Ash Wednesday can fall is 4 February, for the case of Easter on 22 March in a non-leap year). According to over eight centuries of tradition, the swaddling clothes that baby Jesus wore during the presentation at the Temple are kept in Dubrovnik Cathedral, Croatia.

candle14

In the Byzantine tradition (Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic), the Meeting of the Lord is unique among the Great Feasts in that it combines elements of both a Great Feast of the Lord and a Great Feast of the Theotokos (Mother of God). It has a forefeast of one day, and an afterfeast of seven days.  The holy day is celebrated with an all-night vigil on the eve of the feast, and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy the next morning, at which beeswax candles are blessed. This blessing traditionally takes place after the Little Hours and before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (though in some places it is done after). The priest reads four prayers, and then a fifth one during which all present bow their heads before God. He then censes the candles and blesses them with holy water. The candles are then distributed to the people and the Liturgy begins.

It is because of the biblical events recounted in the second chapter of Luke that the Churching of Women came to be practiced in both Eastern and Western Christianity. This was a blessing of women after childbirth akin to the Jewish purification. Though the usage has mostly died out in the West, except among traditionalist Catholics, the ritual is still practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The date of Candlemas is established by the date set for the Nativity of Jesus; it comes forty days afterwards. Under Mosaic law as found in the Torah, a mother who had given birth to a male child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for three and thirty days “in the blood of her purification.” Candlemas therefore corresponds to the day on which Mary, according to Jewish law, should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification (Leviticus 12:2-8). The Gospel of Luke 2:22–39 relates that Mary was purified according to the religious law, followed by Jesus’ presentation in the Jerusalem temple, and this explains the formal names given to the festival, as well as its falling 40 days after the Nativity.

candle15

The Feast of the Presentation is among the most ancient feasts of the Church. There are sermons on the feast by 4th century bishops and theologians. The earliest reference to specific liturgical rites surrounding the feast are by the intrepid nun Egeria, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381–384). She reported that 14 February was a day solemnly kept in Jerusalem with a procession to Constantine I’s Basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily preached on Luke 2:22 (which makes the occasion perfectly clear), and a Divine Liturgy. This so-called Itinerarium Peregrinatio (“Pilgrimage Itinerary”) of Egeria does not, however, offer a specific name for the Feast. The date of 14 February indicates that in Jerusalem at that time, Christ’s birth was celebrated on 6 January. Egeria writes for her beloved fellow nuns at home:

XXVI. The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honor, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day, and Symeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw him, treating of the words which they spake when they saw the Lord, and of that offering which his parents made. And when everything that is customary has been done in order, the sacrament is celebrated, and the dismissal takes place.

Originally, the feast was a minor celebration. But in 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, killing thousands. The Emperor Justinian I, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire Empire. And, on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages and a solemn prayer service to ask for deliverance from evils, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, in 542 the feast was elevated to a more solemn celebration and established throughout the Eastern Empire by the emperor.

candle3

Candlemas initially was not an important feast in the Middle Ages in Europe; in fact it spread slowly in the West. It is not found in the Lectionary of Silos (650) nor in the Calendar (731–741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris. The tenth-century Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, has a formula used for blessing the candles. Candlemas did become important enough to find its way into the secular calendar, though. It was the traditional day to remove the cattle from the hay meadows, and from the field that was to be ploughed and sown that spring. References to it are common in later medieval and early Modern literature; Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is recorded as having its first performance on Candlemas Day 1602. It remains one of the Scottish quarter days, at which debts are paid and farm workers hired.

candle13

In Armenia, celebrations at the Presentation may have been influenced by pre-Christian customs, such as the spreading of ashes by farmers in their fields each year to ensure a better harvest, keeping ashes on the roof of a house to keep evil spirits away, and the belief that newlywed women needed to jump over fire to purify themselves before getting pregnant. Young men will also leap over a bonfire. But there is no general evidence that Candlemas was a Christianized version of a pagan festival.

As the poem by Robert Herrick records, the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were traditionally removed from people’s homes because traces of berries, holly and so forth were believed to bring death among the congregation before another year was out.  Herrick’s full poem takes you through the decorations of the whole year, so you do not lament the loss of Christmas holly and mistletoe. The old gives way to the new.

“Down with the rosemary, and so

Down with the bays and mistletoe;

Down with the holly, ivy, all,

Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall”

—Robert Herrick (1591–1674), “Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve”

Herrick’s poem was set to music for west gallery choirs in England, but I cannot find a decent performance.  This version is wretched but gives an idea.

Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned. In Scotland, until a change in the law in 1991, and in much of northern England until the 18th century, Candlemas was one of the traditional quarter days when quarterly rents were due for payment, as well as the day or term for various other business transactions, including the hiring of servants.

In the United Kingdom, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,

Winter will have another bite.

If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

February 2nd is also alleged to be the date that northern European bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather – as well as badgers – who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as a sign that severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. The same is true in Italy, where it is called Candelora.

candle8

In the United States, Candlemas coincides with Groundhog Day, the earliest American reference to which can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

—4 February 1841 — from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris’ diary.

This custom is undoubtedly a New World evolution of German customs watching to see if hibernating bears and badgers come out of hibernation or not.

In France, Candlemas (French: La Chandeleur) is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year. The French though have a completely reversed view of the weather prospects. They say: “Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derriere; Chandeleur couverte quarante jours de perte,” a rhyme that means, more or less: “If Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if the Chandeleur is overcast, forty days winter to last.” But then again they also say: “Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur” which is “A sunny Candlemas will bring winter and misfortune”. Other traditions include “Si point ne veut de blé charbonneux mange des crêpes à la Chandeleur” which is “if you do not at all wish the wheat to blacken eat crêpes at Candlemas,” and “Celui qui la rapporte chez lui allumée. Pour sûr ne mourra pas dans l’année” which is “whoever arrives home (from church) with it (the candle) lit for sure will not die that year.”

candle10

The Virgin of Candelaria is the patron saint of the Canary Islands. The Virgin of Candelaria or Our Lady of Candelaria (Virgen de Candelaria, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria), popularly called La Morenita, appeared on the island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. According to a legend recorded by Alonso de Espinosa in 1594, a statue of the Virgin Mary, bearing a child in one hand and a green candle in the other (hence “Candelaria”), was discovered on the beach of Chimisay (Güímar) by two Guanche goatherds in 1392. This occurred before the Castilian conquest of the island. At first, indigenous islanders identified the statue with their goddess Chaxiraxi (the mother of the gods), but later the Christian conquerors saw the image as the Virgin Mary. The first mass was celebrated at Achbinico on February 2, 1497. The center of worship is located in the city of Candelaria in Tenerife. She is depicted as a Black Madonna. Its main temple and Royal Basilica Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Candelaria (Basilica of Candelaria), which is the main church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Canary Islands

In Southern and Central Mexico, and Guatemala City, Candlemas (Día de La Candelaria) is celebrated with tamales. Tradition indicates that on 5 January, the night before Three Kings Day (the Epiphany), whoever gets one or more of the few plastic or metal dolls (originally coins) buried within the Rosca de Reyes (King Cake) must pay for the tamales and throw a party on Candlemas. In certain regions of Mexico, this is the day in which the baby Jesus of each household is taken up from the nativity scene and dressed up in various colorful, whimsical outfits.

candle1

Snowdrops (Galanthas nivalis) are sometimes known as Candlemas Bells because they often bloom early in the year, even before Candlemas. Some varieties bloom all winter (in the northern hemisphere).  The superstitious used to believe that these flowers should not be brought into the house prior to Candlemas.  However, it is also believed in more recent times that these flowers purify a home.

I’ll save a recipe for French crêpes for another time although I am going to make them for myself today (with mashed pear and cardamom filling).  Instead here is a classic recipe for Mexican tamales. Masa harina is the dried and powdered form of masa de maiz (corn dough), made from yellow hominy, used to make corn tortillas. Choose the chiles with the level of heat you desire.

candle6

Mexican Tamales

Tamale Filling:

1¼ lbs pork loin
1 large onion, halved
1 clove garlic
4 dried hot chile pods
2 cups water
1½ tsps salt

Tamale Dough:

2 cups masa harina
1¼ cups beef broth (approximately)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
? cup lard

Extras

1 (8 oz) package dried corn husks
1 cup sour cream

Instructions:

Place the pork in a Dutch oven with the onion and garlic, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 2 hours.

Remove stems and seeds from the chile pods. Place chiles in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat to cool. Transfer the chiles and water to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, stir in salt, and set aside. Shred the cooked meat and mix in one cup of the chile sauce.

Soak the corn husks in a bowl of warm water.

In a large bowl, beat the lard with a tablespoon of the pork broth until fluffy. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt; stir into the lard mixture, adding broth as necessary to form a spongy dough.

Spread the dough out over the corn husks to between ¼ to ½ inch thickness. Place one tablespoon of the meat filling into the center.

Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and tie the package up. Place in a steamer vertically as pictured.

Steam for 1 hour.

Remove tamales from the husks and drizzle remaining chile sauce over. Top with sour cream. For a creamy sauce, mix the sour cream into the chile sauce.

Yield: 16

 

Sep 042013
 

la2

Los Angeles was founded on this date in 1781, by the Spanish governor of California, Felipe de Neve. It became a part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican–American War, Los Angeles and the rest of California were purchased as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thereby becoming part of the United States. This post focuses on Los Angeles from its founding up to 1848 – the Spanish/Mexican years – when the town was very different from the massive urban sprawl it has become.

In 1777 Governor Neve toured Alta California and decided to establish civic pueblos for the support of the military presidios (fortified bases). The new pueblos would reduce the secular function of the Franciscan missions in the area by reducing the dependency of the military on them. At the same time, they would promote the development of industry and agriculture. Neve identified Santa Barbara, San Jose, and Los Angeles as sites for his new pueblos. His plans for them closely followed a set of Spanish city-planning laws contained in the Leyes de Indias (Laws of the Indies) promulgated by King Philip II in 1573. Those laws were responsible for laying the foundations of the largest cities in the region, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, and San Antonio—as well as Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Fe, San Jose, and Laredo.

The royal regulations were based on the ancient teachings of Vitruvius, who set down the rules for founding of new cities in the Roman Empire. Basically, the Spanish laws called for an open central plaza, surrounded by a fortified church, administrative buildings, and streets laid out in a grid, defining rectangles of limited size to be used for farming and residences. It was in accordance with such precise planning that Governor Neve founded the pueblo of San José de Guadalupe, California’s first municipality, on the great plain of Santa Clara on 29 November 1777.

LA1

According to a written message sent by Governor Neve to report the juridical foundation of Los Angeles, 44 pobladores (settlers) gathered at San Gabriel Mission and, escorted by soldiers and two padres from the mission, set out for the spot that had been chosen twelve years earlier. The official name of the pueblo was “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula” (“The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Porciúncula River”). “The Queen of Angels” is an honorific of the Virgin Mary.

At the end of the first year only eight of the original founders were still in the pueblo; three had been forced out “for being useless to themselves and the town.” But the town grew as soldiers and other settlers came and stayed. In 1784 a chapel was built on the Plaza. The pobladores were given title to their land two years later. By 1800, there were 29 buildings that surrounded the Plaza, flat-roofed, one-storey adobe buildings with thatched roofs made of bullrushes.

la4

By 1821 Los Angeles had grown into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California. Its development conformed strictly to the Leyes de Indias and the Reglamento of Governor Neve. Town planning was based on the unit of measurement, the vara, which was somewhat flexible, but was approximately 33 inches.The pueblo itself included a square of 10,000 varas, five and a quarter miles, on each side. The central Plaza was in the middle, 75 varas (208 ft.) wide and 100 varas (277 ft.) long. On the west side of the Plaza facing east, space was reserved for a church and municipal buildings. Each vecino (freeholder) received a solar (lot), 20 varas (55.5 ft.) wide and 40 varas (110 ft.) long.

Each settler also received four rectangles of land for farming, two irrigated plots and two dry ones. Each plot was 200 square varas. The farm plots were separated from the pueblo by a tract of land 200 varas wide. Some plots of land, propios, were set aside for the pueblo’s general use and revenue. Other plots of land, realengas, were set aside for future settlers. Land outside the city, baldíos, included mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests, and belonged to the king.

la8

When the settlers first arrived, the Los Angeles floodplain was heavily wooded with willows and oaks. The Los Angeles river flowed all year. Wildlife was plentiful, including deer, antelope, and bear, even an occasional grizzly bear. There were abundant wetlands and swamps. Steelhead and salmon swam the rivers. The first settlers built a water system consisting of ditches (zanjas) leading from the river through the middle of town and into the farmlands. The city was first known as a producer of fine wine grapes. The raising of cattle and the commerce in tallow and hides would come later.

Because of the great economic potential for Los Angeles, the demand for labor grew rapidly. Los Angeles began attracting Native Americans from as far away as San Diego and San Luis Obispo. Unlike the missions, the pobladores paid Native Americans for their labor. In exchange for their work as farm workers, vaqueros, ditch diggers, water haulers, and domestic help, they were paid in clothing and other goods as well as cash and alcohol. The pobladores bartered with them for prized sea-otter and seal pelts, sieves, trays, baskets, mats, and other woven goods. This commerce greatly contributed to the economic success of the town and the attraction of other Native Americans to the city.

Not only economic ties but also marriage drew many Native Americans into the life of the pueblo. In 1784—only three years after the founding—the first recorded marriages in Los Angeles took place. The two sons of settler Basilio Rosas, Maximo and José Carlos, married two young Native American women, María Antonia and María Dolores.

The construction on the Plaza of La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles took place between 1818 and 1822, much of it with Native American labor. The new church completed Governor Neve’s planned transition of authority from mission to pueblo. The angelinos would no longer have to make the bumpy 11-mile ride to Sunday Mass at Mission San Gabriel. In 1820 the route of El Camino Viejo was established from Los Angeles, over the mountains to the north and up the west side of the San Joaquin Valley to the east side of San Francisco Bay.

la5

Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821 was celebrated with great festivity throughout Alta California. No longer subjects of the king, people were now ciudadanos, citizens with rights under the law. In the plazas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and other settlements, people swore allegiance to the new government, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the flag of independent Mexico raised. Independence brought economic growth. There was a corresponding increase in population as more Native Americans were assimilated and settlers arrived from the United States, Europe, and other parts of Mexico. Before 1820, there were just 650 people in the pueblo. By 1841, the population nearly tripled to 1,680.

During the rest of the 1820s the agriculture and cattle ranching expanded, as did the trade in hides and tallow. The new church was completed, and the political life of the city developed. The system of ditches which provided water from the river was rebuilt. Trade and commerce further increased with the secularization of the California missions by the Mexican Congress in 1833. Extensive mission lands suddenly became available to government officials, ranchers, and land speculators. The governor made more than 800 land grants during this period.

la zanja madre

In 1834, Governor Pico was married to Maria Ignacio Alvarado in the Plaza church. It was attended by the entire population of the pueblo, 800 people, plus hundreds from elsewhere in Alta California. In 1835, the Mexican Congress declared Los Angeles a city, making it the official capital of Alta California. It was now the region’s leading city. The same period also saw the continued arrival of many foreigners from the United States and Europe. They would play a pivotal role in the U.S. takeover

In May, 1846, the Mexican American War broke out. Because of Mexico’s inability to defend its northern territories, California was exposed to invasion. On August 6, 1846, Commodore Robert F. Stockton anchored off San Pedro and proceeded to march inland to occupy Los Angeles. On August 13, accompanied by John C. Frémont, Stockton marched into the Los Angeles Plaza with his brass band playing “Yankee Doodle” and “Hail Columbia.” Stockton’s troops occupied the headquarters and home of Governor Pico, who had fled to Mexico. After three weeks of occupation, Stockton left, leaving Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie in charge. Subsequent maltreatment by Gillespie and his troops caused a local force of 300 locals to rise up in protest, led by Captain José María Flores, José Antonio Carrillo, and Andrés Pico. Flores demanded the U.S. troops surrender, and promised safe passage to San Pedro. Gillespie accepted and departed, ending the first phase of the Battle of Los Angeles.

John C. Frémont

John C. Frémont

Full-scale warfare came to the area when Los Angeles residents dug up a colonial cannon that had been used for ceremonial purposes. They had buried it for safekeeping when Stockton approached the city. They used it to fire on American Navy troops on 8 October 1846, in the Battle of Dominguez Rancho. The victorious locals named the cannon el piedrero de la vieja (the old woman’s gun). In December, the Mexicans were again victorious at the Battle of San Pascual near present-day Escondido.

Determined to take Los Angeles, Stockton regrouped his men in San Diego and marched north with six hundred troops, along with U.S. Army General Stephen Watts Kearny and his guide Kit Carson. Captain Frémont marched south from Monterey with 400 troops. After a few skirmishes outside the city, the two forces entered Los Angeles, this time without bloodshed. Confronted with overwhelming force, Andrés Pico, who had succeeded Flores as military commander and acting as chief administrative officer, met with Captain Frémont. At a ranch in what is now Studio City, they signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on 13 January 1847. That formally ended the California phase of the Mexican–American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on 2 February 1848, ended the war and ceded California to the U.S.

In honor of the Mexican heritage of Los Angeles I have chosen a recipe for tamales adapted from the cooking of El Cholo restaurant in Irvine (the image is from their website).

la7

El Cholo Tamales

Ingredients:

12 ears yellow corn
¼ lb cornmeal
¼ cup butter
¼ cup lard (or vegetable shortening)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup half and half or light cream
Salt
12 (1 oz/28 g) strips Monterey Jack cheese, halved
1 (12 oz/340 g) can green chiles, cut into strips

Instructions:

Cut both ends off the ears of corn. Remove the husks, careful to keep them whole for wrapping. Put them to soak in warm water for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.  They must be pliable.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and grind them with the cornmeal in a food processor. Set aside.

Beat the lard and butter in mixing bowl until creamy. Add the sugar, half and half, and corn mixture plus salt to taste and mix well. This is your masa (corn dough).

For each tamale, overlap 2 corn husks lengthwise. Spread ¼ cup layer of masa on the husks as thinly and evenly as possible to within 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the edges.

Place 1 cheese strip and 1 chile strip over the masa. Spread 2 tbsps of masa thinly over the top of the filling.

Bring the edges of the corn husks over the filling to cover completely, then fold the ends of the corn husks up. Place husks on square of parchment paper, then fold the sides of the parchment over the tamale and then fold up the ends. Tie string around the packages to hold them in place. Repeat for the rest of the tamales.

Place the packages on end on a steamer rack, and steam over water on a gentle boil for about 40 minutes.

Yield: 24 tamales