Oct 252017
 

Today is the birthday (1881) of Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, usually shortened to Pablo Picasso. Pablo is the first of his many given names and Picasso is his mother’s father’s family name in the combination of Ruiz y Picasso which is the usual Spanish way of denoting father’s and mother’s family names. Picasso needs no introduction, so I am going to dispense with most (not all) of my usual biographical and technical information in posting on him and cut to the chase. I will also admit that I am posting this year about Picasso because I have 2 recipes which he wrote for Vogue magazine. This is a food blog after all. Sometimes people forget that fact.

Picasso was born in Málaga in Andalusia, the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso’s father was a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum. Ruiz’s ancestors were minor aristocrats. Picasso showed a passion and a skill for drawing from an early age. According to his mother, his first words were “piz, piz”, a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for “pencil.” From the age of 7, Picasso received formal artistic training from his father in figure drawing and oil painting. Ruiz was a traditional academic artist and instructor, who believed that proper training required disciplined copying of the masters, and drawing the human body from plaster casts and live models.

The family moved to A Coruña in 1891, where his father became a professor at the School of Fine Arts. They stayed almost 4 years. In 1895, Picasso was traumatized when his 7-year-old sister, Conchita, died of diphtheria. After her death, the family moved to Barcelona, where Ruiz took a position at its School of Fine Arts. Picasso thrived in the city, regarding it in times of sadness or nostalgia as his true home. Ruiz persuaded the officials at the academy to allow his son to take an entrance exam for the advanced class. This process often took students a month, but Picasso completed it in a week, and the jury admitted him, at just 13. Picasso lacked discipline but made friendships that would affect him in later life. His father rented a small room for him close to home so he could work alone, yet he checked up on him numerous times a day, judging his drawings. The two argued frequently.

Picasso’s father and uncle decided to send him to Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the country’s foremost art school. At age 16, Picasso set off for the first time on his own, but he disliked formal instruction and stopped attending classes soon after enrollment. Madrid held many other attractions. The Prado housed paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, and Francisco Zurbarán. Picasso especially admired the works of El Greco; elements such as his elongated limbs, arresting colors, and mystical visages are echoed in Picasso’s later work.

Picasso’s progress as an artist can be traced in the collection of his early works now held by the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, which provides one of the most comprehensive records extant of any major artist’s beginnings. During 1893 the juvenile quality of his earliest work falls away, and by 1894 his career as a painter can be said to have begun. The academic realism apparent in the works of the mid-1890s is well displayed in The First Communion (1896), a large composition that depicts his sister, Lola. In the same year, at the age of 14, he painted Portrait of Aunt Pepa, a dramatic portrait that in hindsight presages great things.

Art historians usually divide Picasso’s oeuvre into “periods,” which I find a bit academic and stilted, but for the sake of brevity I’ll play along. The resultant gallery does show Picasso’s evolution as an artist which is something I like to contemplate with any artist. My question is always: What did this artist paint besides the immediately recognizable stuff? In Picasso’s case it’s more a matter of: “How did he get here from there?”

We start with the blue period (1901-1904) when he painted primarily monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. These somber works painted first in Barcelona and then Paris, are now some of his most popular works, although he had difficulty selling them at the time. During this period Picasso was financially hard up and chronically depressed.  It shows. So does the influence of El Greco (to me, at least).

Picasso’s rose period (1904-1906) presents some more pleasant themes of clowns, harlequins, carnival performers, depicted in cheerful vivid hues of red, orange, pink and earth tones, although the somberness of the blue period is still there. These paintings are largely (not exclusively) based on memory rather than direct observation and marks the beginning of his stylistic experiments with primitivism influenced by pre-Roman Iberian sculpture, Oceanic and African art.

Picasso’s African period (1907-1909), also sometimes called the proto-cubist period, begins with his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Picasso painted this composition in a style inspired by Iberian sculpture, but repainted the faces of the two figures on the right after being powerfully impressed by African artefacts he saw in June 1907 in the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro. When he displayed the painting to acquaintances in his studio later that year, the nearly universal reaction was shock and revulsion. Matisse angrily dismissed the work as a hoax. Consequently, Picasso did not exhibit Le Demoiselles publicly until 1916. Formal ideas developed during this period lead directly into the Cubist period that follows.

Picasso and Georges Braque developed analytic cubism jointly and their paintings in the years 1909 to 1912 often seem stylistically indistinguishable. I am attracted to the cubist paintings of the era by different artists, but I do also notice a fair degree of sameness among them. In mitigation I will also say that I admire collaboration among creative people. I’d appreciate being able to do something similar in my waning years, but I travel too much to settle into a group.

From 1912 to 1919 Picasso’s cubist style shifted from strict analytic cubism to what he called crystal cubism – a more distilled form of cubism – and also towards cubist collage. This is sometimes called his synthetic cubist period. At this point, you can begin to see how the grouping of Picasso’s paintings into “periods,” not especially helpful all along, begins to crumble. During this “period” some of his contemporary complained that he was defecting from cubism back to realism. During this time Picasso entertained a distinguished coterie of friends in the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, including André Breton, Guillaume Apollinaire, Alfred Jarry, and Gertrude Stein. (As an aside, Apollinaire was arrested on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Apollinaire pointed to Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated).

 

In February 1917, Picasso made his first trip to Italy. In the period following the Great War of 1914 to 1918, Picasso produced work in a neoclassical style. This “return to order” is evident in the work of many European artists in the 1920s. Picasso’s paintings and drawings from this period frequently recall the work of Raphael and Ingres.

In 1925 the Surrealist writer and poet André Breton declared Picasso as ‘one of ours’ in his article “Le Surréalisme et la peinture”, published in Révolution surréaliste. Yet Picasso exhibited Cubist works at the first Surrealist group exhibition in 1925; the concept of ‘psychic automatism in its pure state’ defined in the Manifeste du surréalisme never appealed to him entirely.

During the 1930s, the minotaur replaced the harlequin as a common motif in Picasso’s work. His use of the minotaur came partly from his contact with the surrealists, who often used it as their symbol, and it appears in his Guernica (1937). Guernica is Picasso’s depiction of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This large canvas embodies for many the inhumanity, brutality and hopelessness of war. Asked to explain its symbolism, Picasso said, “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.” Guernica was exhibited in July 1937 at the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition, and then became the centerpiece of an exhibition of 118 works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Henri Laurens that toured Scandinavia and England. After the victory of Francisco Franco in Spain, the painting was sent to the United States to raise funds and support for Spanish refugees. Until 1981 it was entrusted to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, as it was Picasso’s expressed desire that the painting should not be delivered to Spain until liberty and democracy had been established in the country.

I saw Guernica in 2007 when I was in Madrid. At the time it was housed in its own exhibit at the Museo Reina Sofia along with dozens of photographs showing Picasso painting it, preliminary sketches Picasso made, and a host of related items exploring the painting’s imagery. I spent a large part of a day at the exhibit.

All right, I’ll leave it there and move to Picasso’s recipes – finally !! These recipes come from Vogue September 1st, 1964, and are reproduced on this website https://www.vogue.com/article/haute-cuisine-pablo-picasso-recipes-vogue At the time Vogue was in the habit of contacting famous people and asking for their favorite recipes. This is Picasso’s contribution. The material is copyright by Vogue.

Picasso’s Omelette Tortilla Niçoise for Four People

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

4 peppers, red and green

3 tomatoes

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

8 eggs

Salt and pepper

In a flat-bottomed frying pan, heat oil gently, adding the onion, sliced and separated into rings. After 5 minutes, add the peppers, seeded and diced. Mix and cook gently for a few minutes, then slip in the tomatoes, seeded, peeled, and cubed. After mixing and seasoning, cover pan and let simmer over a low flame for 1 hour. Vegetables should not stick. Uncover the pan, pour in the wine vinegar, and let cook until liquid is reduced.

Beat the eggs in a bowl. Pour them over the vegetables, mix well, and let the omelette cook gently without touching it. When it is well set, put a big plate over the pan and reverse the omelette onto it, then slide it back into the pan on the other side. Finish over a higher flame until golden underneath. Cut the omelette tortilla like a pie, and serve with a bowl of garlic-mayonnaise seasoned with saffron.

Picasso’s Eel Stew for Four People

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons butter

12 small white onions

1 teaspoon sugar

2 yellow onions, chopped

12 mushrooms

⅓ pound salt pork, cubed

2 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eels of about 1 pound each, cut into four- to five-inch sections

1 bottle of good red wine

1 tablespoon flour

Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Bouquet garni: thyme, bay leaf, parsley, fennel, and a small branch of celery

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan, add small white onions and sprinkle them with sugar. When golden on all sides, cover the pan and cook gently, turning onions carefully from time to time. Be sure they are well caramelized without sticking. After 10 minutes add the salt pork cut in cubes; when transparent, put in the mushroom heads, and let simmer.

At the same time: Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of oil in a casserole. Cover the bottom with 2 chopped onions, minced shallots, garlic, and chopped mushroom stems. Put the bouquet garni in the center and the sections of fish around it. Season and cook gently for 5 minutes, then cover with wine. Bring to a boil, then lower flame as far as possible, to simmer, without boiling, for 15 minutes.

Drain the pieces of eel and place in the frying pan with the small onions. Keep warm over a low flame.

Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, return to high flame and reduce, uncovered for 5 minutes. Work 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon flour into a paste, and add it in bits to thicken sauce; stir to boiling point before removing from stove.

Cover the eel stew with sauce; and serve surrounded by croutons fried in butter.

Jan 022017
 

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On this date in 1492 the city of Granada, last vestige of the emirate of Granada, surrendered to Spanish/Christian forces, meaning that the Reconquista (the Reconquest) of the Iberian peninsula was complete. All of Spain was free from Moorish control after centuries of Moorish colonization followed by centuries of resistance. Note the date most especially. Spanish forces did not stop with the reclamation of Iberia. From this point on they moved outward with the intention of colonizing Africa, and of finding new worlds to conquer. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that 1492 is the year that Ferdinand and Isabella funded Columbus in his first journey of discovery. The Fall of Grenada was the first domino in a long succession of dominos that, in falling, changed the world forever.

The Emirate of Granada had been the last Muslim state in Iberia for more than two centuries by the time of the Granada War (the series of battles and sieges to free Granada from Moorish control). The other remnant al-Andalus states (the taifas) of the once powerful Caliphate of Córdoba had long been conquered by the Christians. Despite being surrounded by hostile states, Granada was wealthy and powerful, and the Christian kingdoms were divided and fought amongst themselves. Granada’s problems began to worsen after Emir Yusuf III’s death in 1417. Succession struggles ensured that Granada was in an almost constant low-level civil war. Clan loyalties were stronger than allegiance to the Emir, making consolidation of power difficult. Often, the only territory the Emir really controlled was the city of Granada itself. At times, the emir did not even control all the city, but rather one rival emir would control the Alhambra, and another the Albayzín, the most important district of Granada.

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This internal fighting greatly weakened the state. The economy declined, with Granada’s once world-famous porcelain manufacture now disrupted and challenged by the Christian town of Manises near Valencia, in Aragon. Despite the weakening economy, taxes were still imposed at their earlier high rates to support Granada’s extensive defenses and large army. Ordinary citizens of Granada paid triple the taxes of (non-tax-exempt) Castilians. The heavy taxes that Emir Abu-l-Hasan Ali (1464–85) imposed contributed greatly to his unpopularity. These taxes did at least support a respected army. Hasan was successful in putting down Christian revolts in his lands, and some observers estimated he could muster as many as 7,000 horsemen.

The frontier between Granada and the Castilian lands of Andalusia was in a constant state of flux. Raids across the border were common, as were intermixing alliances between local nobles on both sides of the frontier. Relations were governed by occasional truces and demands for tribute should one side have been seen to overstep their bounds. Neither country’s central government intervened or controlled the warfare much.

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King Henry IV of Castile died in December 1474, setting off the War of the Castilian Succession between Henry’s daughter Joanna la Beltraneja and Henry’s half-sister Isabella. The war raged from 1475–1479, setting Isabella’s supporters and the Crown of Aragon against Joanna’s supporters, Portugal, and France. During this time, the frontier with Granada was practically ignored. The Castilians did not even bother to ask for or obtain reparation for a raid in 1477. Truces were agreed upon in 1475, 1476, and 1478. In 1479, the Succession War concluded with Isabella victorious. Isabella had married Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469, and this meant that the two powerful kingdoms of Castile and Aragon could stand united, free from inter-Christian war which had helped Granada survive.

The truce of 1478 was still theoretically in effect when Granada launched a surprise attack against Zahara in December 1481, as part of a reprisal for a Christian raid. The town fell, and the population was enslaved. This attack proved to be a great provocation, and factions in favor of war in Andalusia used it to rally support for a counterstrike, quickly moving to take credit for it, and backed a wider war. The seizure of Alhama and its subsequent royal endorsement is usually said to be the formal beginning of the Granada War. Abu Hasan attempted to retake Alhama by siege in March, but was unsuccessful. Reinforcements from the rest of Castile and Aragon averted the possibility of retaking Alhama in April 1482. King Ferdinand himself formally took command at Alhama on May 14, 1482.

The Christians next tried to besiege Loja, but failed to take the town. This setback was balanced by a twist that would prove to aid them greatly: on the same day as Loja was relieved, Abu Hasan’s son, Abu Abdallah or Boabdil, rebelled and styled himself Emir Muhammad XII. The war continued into 1483. Abu Hasan’s brother, al-Zagal, defeated a large Christian raiding force in the hills of the Axarquia east of Málaga. However, at Lucena the Christians were able to defeat and capture King Boabdil. Ferdinand II and Isabella I had previously not been intent on conquering all of Granada. With the capture of King Boabdil, however, Ferdinand decided to use him to conquer Granada entirely. In a letter of August 1483, Ferdinand wrote “To put Granada in division and destroy it We have decided to free him…. He [Boabdil] has to make war on his father.” With Boabdil’s release, now as a pseudo-Christian ally, the Granadan civil war would continue. A Granadan chronicler commented that Boabdil’s capture was “the cause of the fatherland’s destruction.”

In 1485, the fortunes of the Granadan internal conflict shifted yet again. Boabdil was expelled from the Albayzín, his base of power, by Hasan’s brother al-Zagal. Al-Zagal also took command of the nation itself, dethroning his aging brother, who died shortly thereafter. Boabdil was obliged to flee to Ferdinand and Isabella’s protection. The continuing division within the Muslim ranks and the cunning of the Marquis of Cádiz allowed the western reaches of Granada to be seized with unusual speed in 1485. Ronda fell to him after a mere fifteen days, thanks to his negotiations with the city’s leaders. Ronda’s fall allowed Marbella, a base of the Granadan fleet, to come into Christian hands next.

Boabdil was soon released from Christian protection to resume his bid for control of Granada. For the next three years, he would de facto act as one of Ferdinand and Isabella’s vassals. He offered the promise of limited independence for Granada and peace with the Christians to the citizenry and extracted from the Catholic Monarchs the title of Duke for whatever cities he could control.

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Málaga, the chief seaport of Granada, was the main objective of the Castilian forces in 1487. Emir al-Zagal was slow to march to attempt to relieve the siege and was unable to harass the Christian armies safely due to the ongoing civil war; even after he left the city to come to the aid of Málaga, he was forced to leave troops in the Alhambra to defend against Boabdil and his followers.

The first main city to be attacked, Vélez-Málaga, capitulated on 27 April 1487, with local supporters of Boabdil directly aiding the Christian besiegers. Málaga held out during an extended siege that lasted from 7 May 1487 until 18 August 1487; its commander preferred death to surrender, and the African garrison and Christian renegades (converts to Islam) fought tenaciously, fearing the consequences of defeat. Near the end, the notables of Málaga finally offered a surrender, but Ferdindad refused, as generous terms had already been offered twice. When the city finally fell, Ferdinand punished almost all the inhabitants for their stubborn resistance with slavery, while renegades were burned alive or pierced by reeds. The Jews of Malaga, however, were spared, as Castilian Jews ransomed them from slavery.

In 1489, the Christian forces began a painfully long siege of Baza, the most important stronghold remaining to al-Zagal. Baza was highly defensible as it required the Christians to split their armies, and artillery was of little use against it. Supplying the army caused a huge budget shortfall for the Castilians. Occasional threats of deprivation of office were necessary to keep the army in the field, and Isabella came personally to the siege to help maintain the morale of both the nobles and the soldiers. After six months, al-Zagal surrendered, despite his garrison still being largely unharmed; he had become convinced that the Christians were serious about maintaining the siege as long as it would take, and further resistance was useless without the hope of relief, of which there was no sign. Baza was granted generous surrender terms, unlike Málaga.

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With the fall of Baza and the capture of al-Zagal in 1490, it seemed as if the war was over. Ferdinand and Isabella certainly thought this was the case. However, Boabdil was unhappy with the rewards for his alliance with Ferdinand and Isabella, possibly because lands that had been promised to him were being administered by Castile. He broke off his vassalage and rebelled against the Catholic Monarchs, despite holding only the city of Granada and the Alpujarras Mountains. It was clear that such a position was untenable in the long term, so Boabdil sent out desperate requests for external aid. The Sultan of Egypt mildly rebuked Ferdinand for the Granada War, but the Mamluks that ruled Egypt were in a near constant war with the Ottoman Turks. As Castile and Aragon were fellow enemies of the Turks, the Sultan had no desire to break their alliance against the Turks. Boabdil also requested aid from the Kingdom of Fez (modern Morocco), but no reply is recorded by history. North Africa continued to sell Castile wheat throughout the war and valued maintaining good trade relations. In any case, Granada no longer controlled any coastline from which to receive overseas aid. Thus, no help was forthcoming.

An eight-month siege of Granada began in April 1491. The situation for the defenders grew progressively dire, as their forces for interfering with the siege dwindled and advisers schemed against each other. Bribery of important officials was rampant, and at least one of the chief advisers to Boabdil seems to have been working for Castile the entire time. After the Battle of Granada a provisional surrender, the Treaty of Granada, was signed on November 25, 1491, which granted two months to the city. The reason for the long delay was not so much intransigence on either side, but rather the inability of the  government of Granada to coordinate amongst itself in the midst of the disorder and tumult that gripped the city. After the terms, which proved rather generous to the Muslims, were negotiated, the city capitulated on January 2, 1492. The besieging Christians sneaked troops into the Alhambra that day in case resistance materialized, which it did not. Granada’s resistance had come to its end.

The surrender of Granada was seen as a great blow to Islam and a triumph of Christianity. Other Christian states offered their sincere congratulations to Ferdinand and Isabella, while Islamic writers reacted with despair. In Castile and Aragon, celebrations and bullfights were held. People rejoiced in the streets. Not least of the consequences of the Reconquista in general is the civic pageant/dance/celebration of Moros y Cristianos which is one of my professional interests. I have researched and written about the tradition in Europe and the Americas for 40 years.

BENIDORM

There is a dish called Moros y Cristianos made from black beans and white rice that is ubiquitous in the Spanish Diaspora. It is one more version of beans and rice that you can find anywhere. On New Year’s Day, Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice) is a common favorite in the American South, and I always cook it when I can get the black-eyed peas. Yesterday I had to use Italian fagioli cannellini and Jasmine rice because I could not do better – I didn’t plan well enough ahead and the markets were all closed. Today I am making black beans and rice.  There are lots of different ways to make Moros y Cristianos. The standard Cuban way is to cook the beans and then add the rice and cook it in the bean water. This makes the rice grey (i.e. dirty rice).  That’s OK if you like it. I prefer to have my beans black and my rice snowy white, so I cook them separately. This is strictly my version. I’m just giving you some ideas.

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The beans require the normal 2-day effort. First day put them in abundant cold water and soak them overnight. Next day, drain the beans and put them in a stock pot and cover with rich stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until the beans are tender Add whatever flavoring and meats you want during the cooking process and TASTE CONSTANTLY to be sure you have what you want. Today I browned some shallots and sliced leeks along with sliced prosciutto and  whole Italian sausage, and added them to the beans after about 30 minutes. I also added some hot pepper and ground cumin. When the beans are cooked keep them warm while you cook your white rice.

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Then use a slotted spoon to remove the beans from the broth, place them in a pot. Drain the rice and add it to the beans so that you have about equal proportions. Then mix the beans and rice gently together and serve hot.

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I’m going to give you a two-fer today so that you have an authentic dish from Granada. Tortilla del Sacromonte is a very famous dish from Granada which, in its traditional form, is not a great tourist magnet because it is made with offal, such as brains, testicles, and sweetbreads. When it is made with sweetbreads only it is sometimes called tortilla granadina. Spanish tortilla is akin to an omelet or frittata but is unique, and I can’t honestly say that mine matches what can be found in Spain. The thing is that they are often loaded with ingredients cooked inside the tortilla. You need to use a wide, deep skillet for this recipe.

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Tortilla del Sacromonte

Ingredients

150 gm pig’s, cow’s or sheep’s brain
150 gm pig’s, cow’s or sheep’s testicles
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup cooked peas
150 gm cured ham, diced
1 cup diced sweet red pepper
4 slices chorizo, chopped
1 cup diced potatoes
olive oil

Instructions

Wash the brains and testicles well in several changes of water, then plunge them into boiling water and blanch them for about one minute. Drain them, cut them into small squares, and sauté them in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes. At the same time sauté the potatoes in a generous amount of oil. Add the peas, pepper, chorizo, cured ham, brains and testicles, to the potatoes and continue to sauté for a few minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove all the ingredients from the oil and place them in a large bowl.  Add the beaten eggs and mix everything together gently.

Heat a small amount of oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture. Shake the skillet periodically so that the eggs do not stick. When the top of the tortilla starts to firm place a large plate over the top and invert the tortilla on to the plate. Then slide the uncooked side of the tortilla into the skillet and continue cooking until it is cooked through on both sides. Invert again over a large plate and serve.

Oct 142016
 

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Today is World Egg Day, established at the IEC (International Egg Commission) Vienna 1996 conference when it was decided to celebrate World Egg Day on the second Friday in October each year. I love it !! Eggs have their own commission. Well done eggs. No doubt it has a lot to do with business and hype, but . . . so what? I love eggs – chicken, duck, quail, ostrich, fish . . . doesn’t matter. I eat them all.

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Here’s some of the hype from the IEC. Treat it with a pinch of salt (as you would your eggs):

Eggs are among the few foods that can be classified as a “superfood.”They are loaded with nutrients, some of which are rare in the modern diet. Here are 10 health benefits of eggs that have been confirmed in human studies.

    Eggs Are Incredibly Nutritious. Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet.A whole egg contains all the nutrients required to turn a single cell into a baby chicken.

    Eggs Are High in Cholesterol, But They Don’t Adversely Affect Blood Cholesterol

    Eggs Raise HDL (The “Good”) Cholesterol

    Eggs Contain Choline – an Important Nutrient That Most People Don’t Get Enough of

    Eggs Turn LDL Cholesterol From Small, Dense to Large: Linked to a Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

    Eggs Contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Antioxidants That Have Major Benefits For Eye Health

    In the Case of Omega-3 or Pastured Eggs, They Lower Triglycerides as Well

    Eggs Are High in Quality Protein, With All The Essential Amino Acids in The Right Ratios

    Eggs do NOT Raise Your Risk of Heart Disease and May Reduce The Risk of Stroke

    Eggs Are Highly Fulfilling and Tend to Make You Eat Fewer Calories, Helping You to Lose Weight

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A recipe du jour? Surely you jest. I loved the fact that in China duck eggs and quail eggs were as common in markets as hen’s eggs. I routinely made my omelets from duck eggs. One of my favorite street snacks there was fried quail eggs on a stick (flavored with hot spices) – 3 Yuan (50 cents). In Japan I enjoyed a raw quail egg over salmon eggs in battleship sushi.

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In Argentina – onion and potato tortilla. Hands down my favorite diner food in New York is soft poached eggs over corned beef hash – the runny yolk is ambrosial.  Quiche in Lorraine. Need I go on?

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For today’s first meal I made an omelet with fresh shiitake mushrooms – what I happened to have on hand. I call it “first meal” because I don’t live by the designations breakfast, lunch, dinner. I eat when I want, what I want.  The idea that eggs are breakfast food is absurd. Here’s the photo gallery for today’s omelet:

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Sep 082016
 

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September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world. About 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills. According to statistics that are not especially reliable because what counts as “minimally literate” varies from culture to culture, one in five adults is not literate and two-thirds of them are women. The fact that twice as many women as men are illiterate is largely attributable to gender inequities in education in many regions of the world.

I have many thoughts about this subject, some of which will not be popular. At the outset I would like to challenge the unthinking notion that literacy is universally a GOOD THING. Obviously, in the modern developed world being literate has many more advantages than being illiterate. Even so, at what age and in what manner children should be taught to read is an ongoing debate. The great educator Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf schools, felt that 7 was soon enough for children to start learning how to read. He wanted them to experience purely oral culture first. That way they could enjoy the sheer pleasure of language – songs, poetry tales etc. – in oral form only. Therein lies the rub. Cultures that are literate gain something and lose something. Cultures that are non-literate (have no system of writing), are not inferior to ones that are literate; they are different.

There are things that non-literate cultures can do that literate ones cannot. It is believed, for example, that Homer (if he actually existed) was a bard who could not read or write. His epics were probably composed orally and subsequently written down by scribes.  Compare his epics with, let’s say, Virgil’s Aeneid. Virgil is all right, but the Aeneid is scholarly and stuffy, whereas the Iliad and Odyssey are free flowing and imaginative. To compose an epic orally you have to have the kind of memory that is rare in literate people.

Literacy is thought to have first emerged with the development of numeracy and computational devices as early as 8,000 BCE. Script developed independently at least four times in human history in Mesopotamia, Egypt, lowland Mesoamerica, and China.

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The earliest forms of written communication probably originated in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, about 3500-3000 BCE. During this era, literacy was the product of expanding empires that required permanent records of laws and finances. Later, the notable accomplishments of the elite were recorded by scribes.  Writing systems in Mesopotamia first emerged from a recording system in which people used impressed token markings to manage trade and agricultural production. The token system served as a precursor to early cuneiform writing once people began recording information on clay tablets. Proto-cuneiform texts exhibit not only numerical signs, but also ideograms depicting objects being counted.

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Egyptian hieroglyphs emerged from 3300-3100 BCE and focused on the activities of power elites. The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system was the first notation system to have phonetic values.

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Writing in lowland Mesoamerica was first put into practice by the Olmec and Zapotec cultures around 900-400 BCE. These cultures used glyphic writing and bar-and-dot numerical notation systems for purposes related to royal activities and calendar systems.

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The earliest written notations in China date back to the Shang Dynasty in 1200 BCE. These systematic notations were found inscribed on bones and recorded sacrifices made, tributes received, and animals hunted, which were activities of the elite. These oracle-bone inscriptions were the early ancestors of modern Chinese script.

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There are three basic systems of writing that vary in their difficulty in learning and usage — alphabetic, syllabic, and logographic. Alphabetic systems developed early in Mesopotamia, and are now extremely widespread because of their ease of use. A mere 26 letters give you the whole English language. The Roman alphabet used for English is not as phonetic as one might like. This is the fault of history not of the alphabet per se. English has never had an official academy to govern spelling so that it accurately mirrors standard pronunciation. Thus we end up with spellings like “was” “knight” “aisle” and “thorough” which give no clue as to proper pronunciation.  The spellings reflect archaic pronunciations and have never been corrected. Most European languages do better, but they need accents and other diacritics for assistance.

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At the other end of the scale is Chinese which is commonly known as a logographic writing system (although this is misleading). Chinese characters stand for morphemes, units of meaning that can be concepts or words. Learning to read them takes a very long time, as I can personally attest. After 2 years of study (1 in China), I know about 1,000 characters. Defining basic literacy in Chinese runs into political arguments. Are you basically literate if you know 2,000 or 5,000 characters? The upper number is probably the more accurate, but the government likes the lower one. By a personal estimate I’d say it takes about 10 years to be minimally competent in reading Chinese – and I mean minimally. Scholars in imperial China are known to have learned in excess of 50,000 characters. This leaves aside the even more vexing point that knowing how to pronounce the characters is no guarantee that you have a clue what the writer is saying. There is a system of writing Chinese, known as Pinyin, that uses the Roman alphabet, that comes in handy for phone texts or beginners. But no one in China wants Pinyin to replace characters. Too much meaning would be lost. Take the pronouns “he” and “she” for example. They are both pronounced /ta/ and written tā  in Pinyin. But the characters are different 他 (he) 她 (she) reflecting the unspoken, but implied, gender difference.

So . . . is learning how to read a universally GOOD THING? If you want to survive in the modern, developed world it is.  What it comes down to is whether the modern, developed world is a GOOD THING. Great minds differ on this. It’s certainly not obvious that Western culture and its values should be adopted universally. Children in non-Western, non-literate cultures, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, are increasingly forced to go to school “for their own good.” Is it, though? Enforced schooling radically disrupts traditional cultures – permanently. There is ample evidence that such enforced enculturation leads to an impoverished life, both materially and socially. You may say that it’s all well and good for me, a white, educated, privileged male to decry such things. Fair comment. It may well be that traditional cultures are doomed anyway. At least I am asking the question: “What have we done?”

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I could write a whole lot more but you get the point. I can’t complain too much about literacy because it allows me to write this blog. At least I’ve given you food for thought. And speaking about food, let’s talk about recipes. The survival of written recipes from a vast array of historical periods and cultures is a great boon, but it is also limited. If you are a long-time reader you’ll be familiar with my constant complaints about problems in interpreting old recipes, based on only the written word. Too much information is missing. What is more, you really can’t learn how to cook from books alone. Somewhere along the line you need to watch other people cooking and/or take instruction from someone else – orally.  The written word is a supplement. There’d be no need for cooking classes if you can get all you need from books. I’ll readily admit that books are extremely useful for ideas, but I rarely follow a recipe directly.

So here I face a quandary. Do I celebrate literacy by writing down a recipe for you? Or do I indicate the limits of literacy by using a video? I’m going to go with the latter. Here are three instructional videos I made to demonstrate the preparation of an Argentine tortilla – so you’ll get to hear my voice.

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Part 1 is the most useful because it concerns making a basic egg batter for a variety of dishes such as English pancakes, Yorkshire pudding, and a whole lot more. This recipe is so useful that I’ve included it in my HINTS section (upper tab). Here’s the thing. I’ve made 100s of tortillas over the years. They are one of my favorites because they are quick, easy, and immensely versatile. I can make a perfect tortilla in a heartbeat without thinking. But communicating my knowledge is very difficult. I cooked dozens for my ex-girlfriend in her kitchen with her watching, and supervised her in cooking them several times. Hers were then, and still (as far as I know), awful – edible, but hardly worth the effort. She’s a good cook, but there’s a skill she’s missing and I can’t convey in words spoken or written.  You have a try.

Part 1 (The batter)


Part 2 (The filling)


Part 3 (The tortilla)

Sep 012015
 

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Today is the birthday (1145) of Ibn Jubayr (ابنجبير‎ ), geographer, traveler, and poet from al-Andalus. His travel chronicle describes the pilgrimage he made to Mecca from 1183 to 1185, in the years preceding the Third Crusade. His chronicle describes Saladin’s domains in Egypt and the Levant which he passed through on his way to Mecca. Further, on his return journey he passed through Christian Sicily, which had been recaptured from the Muslims only a century before, and he makes several observations on the hybrid polyglot culture which flourished there.

Ibn Jubayr was born in Valencia in Islamic Spain. He was a descendant of ‘Abdal-Salam ibn Jabayr who in 740 had accompanied an army sent by the Caliph of Damascus to put down a Berber uprising in his Spanish provinces. Ibn Jubayr studied in the town of Játiva where his father worked as a civil servant. He later became secretary to the Almohad governor of Granada.

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In the introduction to his Rihla Ibn Jubayr he explains the reason for his travels. As secretary for the ruler of Granada in 1182, he was forced, under threat, to drink seven cups of wine. Seized by remorse, the ruler then filled seven cups of gold dinars which he gave him. To expiate his godless act, although forced upon him, Ibn Jubayr decided to perform the duty of Hajj to Mecca. He left Granada on 3 February 1183 accompanied by a physician from the city.

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Ibn Jubayr left Granada and crossed over the Strait of Gibraltar to Ceuta, then under Muslim rule. He boarded a Genoese ship on February 24, 1183 and set sail for Alexandria. His sea journey took him past the Balearic Islands and then across to the west coast of Sardinia. Whilst offshore he heard of the fate of 80 Muslim men, women and children who had been abducted from North Africa and were being sold into slavery. Between Sardinia and Sicily the ship ran into a severe storm. He said of the Italians and Muslims on board who had experience of the sea that “all agreed that they had never in their lives seen such a tempest”. After the storm the ship went on past Sicily and Crete and then turned south and crossed over to the North African coast. He arrived in Alexandria on March 26.

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Everywhere that Ibn Jubayr travelled in Egypt he was full of praise for the new Sunni ruler, Saladin. For example he says of him that: “There is no congregational or ordinary mosque, no mausoleum built over a grave, nor hospital, nor theological college, where the bounty of the Sultan does not extend to all who seek shelter or live in them. He points out that when the Nile does not flood enough, Saladin remits the land tax from the farmers. He also says that “such is his (Salahuddin’s) justice, and the safety he has brought to his high-roads that men in his lands can go about their affairs by night and from its darkness apprehend no awe that should deter them.” Ibn Jubayr is, on the other hand, very disparaging of the previous Shi’a dynasty of the Fatimids.

Of Cairo, Ibn Jubayr notes, there are colleges and hostels erected for students and pious men of other lands by the Sultan Saladin. In those colleges students find lodging and tutors to teach them the sciences they desire, and also allowances to cover their needs. The care of the sultan also grants them baths, hospitals, and the appointment of doctors who can even come to visit them at their place of stay, and who would be answerable for their cure. One of the Sultan Saladin’s other generous acts was that every day two thousand loaves of bread were distributed to the poor. Ibn Jubayr was also impressed by the number of mosques, estimated at between 8 and 12 thousand; often four or five of them in the same street.

Upon arrival at Alexandria Ibn Jubayr was angered by the customs officials who insisted on taking zakat (religious tax) from the pilgrims, regardless of whether they were obliged to pay it or not. In the city he visited the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which at that time was still standing, and he was amazed by its size and splendor.

One of the greatest wonders that we saw in this city was the lighthouse which Great and Glorious God had erected by the hands of those who were forced to such labor as ‘a sign to those who take warning from examining the fate of others’ [Quran XV,75] and as a guide to voyagers, for without it they could not find the true course to Alexandria. It can be seen for more than seventy miles, and is of great antiquity. It is most strongly built in all directions and competes with the skies in height. Description of it falls short, the eyes fail to comprehend it, and words are inadequate, so vast is the spectacle.

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He was also impressed by the free colleges, hostels for foreign students, baths and hospitals in the city. These were paid for by awqaf and taxes on the city’s Jews and Christians. He noted that there were between 8,000 and 12,000 mosques in Alexandria. After a stay of eight days he set off for Cairo.

He reached Cairo three days later. In the city he visited the cemetery at al-Qarafah, which contained the graves of many important figures in the history of Islam. He noted while in the Cairo of Saladin, the walls of the citadel were being extended by the Mamluks with the object of reinforcing the entire city from any future Crusader siege. Another building work that he saw was the construction of a bridge over the Nile, which would be high enough not to be submerged in the annual flooding of the river. He saw a spacious free hospital which was divided into three sections: one each for men, women and the insane. He saw the pyramids, although he was unaware of who they had been built for, and the Sphinx. He also saw a device that was used for measuring the height of the Nile flood.

In Sicily, at the very late stages of his travels (Dec 1184-Jan 1185), Ibn Jubayr recounts other experiences. He comments on the activity of the volcanoes:

At the close of night a red flame appeared, throwing up tongues into the air. It was the celebrated volcano (Stromboli). We were told that a fiery blast of great violence bursts out from air-holes in the two mountains and makes the fire. Often a great stone is cast up and thrown into the air by the force of the blast and prevented thereby from falling and settling at the bottom. This is one of the most remarkable of stories, and it is true.

As for the great mountain in the island, known as the Jabal al-Nar [Mountain of Fire], it also presents a singular feature in that some years a fire pours from it in the manner of the `bursting of the dam’. It passes nothing it does not burn until, coming to the sea, it rides out on its surface and then subsides beneath it. Let us praise the Author of all things for His marvelous creations. There is no God but He.

Ibn Jubayr was struck by the city of Palermo. He describes it as follows:

It is the metropolis of these islands, combining the benefits of wealth and splendour, and having all that you could wish of beauty, real or apparent, and all the needs of subsistence, mature and fresh. It is an ancient and elegant city, magnificent and gracious, and seductive to look upon. Proudly set between its open spaces and plains filled with gardens, with broad roads and avenues, it dazzles the eyes with its perfection. It is a wonderful place, built in the Cordova style, entirely from cut stone known as kadhan [a soft limestone]. A river splits the town, and four springs gush in its suburbs… The King roams through the gardens and courts for amusement and pleasure… The Christian women of this city follow the fashion of Muslim women, are fluent of speech, wrap their cloaks about them, and are veiled.

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Ibn Jubayr also travelled to Medina, Mecca Damascus, Mosul, Acre and Baghdad. At Basra he saw how Indian timber was carefully used to make Lateen sail ships, returning in 1185 by way of Sicily. His path was not without troubles, including a shipwreck. Frequently quoted is Jubayr’s famous description of the Muslims living well under the Christian crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem:

We moved from Tibnin – may God destroy it – at daybreak on Monday. Our way lay through continuous farms and ordered settlements, whose inhabitants were all Muslims, living comfortably within the Franks… They surrender half their crops to the Franks at harvest time, and pay as well a poll-tax of one dinar and five qirat for each person. Other than that they are not interfered with, save for a light tax on the fruit of their trees. The houses and all their effects are left to their full possession. All the coastal cities occupied by the Franks are managed in this fashion, their rural districts, the villages and farms, belong to the Muslims. But their hearts have been seduced, for they observe how unlike them in ease and comfort are their brethren in the Muslim regions under their (Muslim) governors. This is one of the misfortunes afflicting the Muslims. The Muslim community bewails the injustice of the landlord of its own faith, and applauds the conduct of its opponent and enemy, the Frankish landlord, and is accustomed to justice from him.

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Ibn Jubayr travelled to the East on two further occasions (1189–1191 and 1217), without leaving any account. He died on the 29 November 1217 in Alexandria during the second of these trips.

Ibn Jubayr provides a highly detailed and graphic description of the places he visited during his travels. His book differs from other contemporary accounts in not being a mere collection of place names and descriptions of monuments, but contains observation of geographical details as well as cultural, religious and political matters. Particularly interesting are his notes about the declining faith of his fellow Muslims in Palermo after the recent Norman conquest, and about what he perceived as the Muslim-influenced customs of king William II of Sicily.

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His writing is a foundation of the genre of work called Rihla, or the creative travelogue. This is a mix of personal narrative, description of the areas traveled and personal anecdotes. Ibn Jubayr’s travel chronicle served as a model for later authors, some of whom copied from it without attribution. Ibn Juzayy, who wrote the account of Ibn Battuta’s travels in around 1355, copied passages that had been written 170 years earlier by Ibn Jubayr describing Damascus, Mecca, Medina and other places in the Middle East. Passages copied from Ibn Jubayr are also found in the writings of al-Sharishi, al-Abdari and Al-Maqrizi.

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The cooking of medieval al-Andalus is known from a cookbook of the 13th century whose author is unknown. Several of the recipes are translated here — http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/articles/veggie.html This recipe is easy enough to follow. It’s rather like a very cheesy Spanish (or Argentine) tortilla.

Take soft cheese, not fresh that day but that has passed three or four days, and mash it by hand. To two pounds of this add two ounces of select flour, put it in fresh milk and break in ten eggs and sprinkle with pepper, saffron, canel (cinnamon), lavender, and coriander. Beat all this together in the frying pan and when it is thick, pour fresh milk over it and cover it all with plenty of oil. Place into it fried small birds or pigeons, egg yolks, and minced almonds. Place it in the oven on a moderate fire and leave it until it is dry and thickened and browned on top, take it out so it can cool, and serve it. This dish is also made with mint juice and water of coriander and of cilantro, without saffron, and another dish will result. And he who wishes to make this dish with cheese alone, without fowl or meat, shall do so and in each of these ways it is good.

Nov 082014
 

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On this date in 1519 Hernán Cortés entered Tenochtitlan and was greeted warmly by the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II (c. 1466 – 29 June 1520), also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma the Young)

In 1517, Moctezuma received the first reports of Europeans landing on the east coast of his empire; this was the expedition of Juan de Grijalva who had landed on San Juan de Ulúa, which although within Totonac territory was under the auspices of the Aztec Empire. Moctezuma ordered that he be kept informed of any new sightings of foreigners at the coast and posted extra watch guards to accomplish this.

When Cortés arrived in 1519, Moctezuma was immediately informed and he sent emissaries to meet the newcomers; one of them known to be an Aztec noble named Tentlil in Nahuatl but referred to in the writings of Cortés and Bernal Díaz del Castillo as “Tendile”. As the Spaniards approached Tenochtitlan they made an alliance with the Tlaxcalteca, who were enemies of the Aztec Triple Alliance, and they helped instigate revolt in many towns under Aztec dominion. Moctezuma was aware of this and he sent gifts to the Spaniards, probably in order to show his superiority to the Spaniards and Tlaxcalteca.

On November 8, 1519, Moctezuma met Cortés on the causeway leading into Tenochtitlan and the two leaders exchanged gifts. Moctezuma gave Cortés the gift of an Aztec calendar, one disc of crafted gold and another of silver. Cortés later melted these down for their material value.

Moctezuma brought Cortés to his palace where the Spaniards lived as his guests for several months. Moctezuma continued to govern his empire and even undertook conquests of new territory during the Spaniards’ stay at Tenochtitlan. At some time during that period Moctezuma became a prisoner in his own house. Exactly why this happened is not clear from the extant sources. The Aztec nobility reportedly became increasingly displeased with the large Spanish army staying in Tenochtitlan, and Moctezuma told Cortés that it would be best if they left. Shortly thereafter Cortés left to fight Pánfilo de Narváez, and during his absence a massacre of Spaniards in the main temple turned the tense situation between the Spaniards and Aztecs into direct hostilities, and Moctezuma became a hostage used by the Spaniards to assure their security.

In the subsequent battles with the Spaniards after Cortés’ return, Moctezuma was killed. The details of his death are unknown, with different versions of his demise given by different sources.

In his Historia, Bernal Díaz del Castillo states that on July 1, 1520, the Spanish forced Moctezuma to appear on the balcony of his palace, appealing to his countrymen to retreat. The people were appalled by their emperor’s complicity and pelted him with rocks and darts. He died a short time after that. Bernal Díaz gives this account:

Barely was the emperor’s speech to his subjects finished when a sudden shower of stones and darts descended. Our men who had been shielding Montezuma had momentarily neglected their duty when they saw the attack cease while he spoke to his chiefs. Montezuma was hit by three stones, one on the head, one on the arm, and one on the leg; and though they begged him to have his wounds dressed and eat some food and spoke very kindly to him, he refused. Then quite unexpectedly we were told that he was dead.

Cortés similarly reported that Moctezuma was stabbed by his countrymen. On the other hand, the indigenous accounts claim that he was killed by the Spanish prior to their leaving the city.

The Spaniards were forced to flee the city and they took refuge in Tlaxcala, and signed a treaty with them to conquer Tenochtitlan, offering to the Tlaxcalans freedom from any kind of tribute and the control of Tenochtitlan.

Moctezuma was then succeeded by his brother Cuitláhuac, who died shortly after during a smallpox epidemic. He was succeeded by his adolescent nephew, Cuauhtémoc. During the siege of the city, the sons of Moctezuma were murdered by the Aztec, possibly because they wanted to surrender. By the following year, the Aztec empire had fallen to an army of Spanish and their Indian allies, primarily Tlaxcalans.

Following the conquest, Moctezuma’s daughter Techichpotzin became known in Spanish as Isabel Moctezuma. She was given a large estate by Cortés, who also fathered a child by her, Leonor Cortés Moctezuma. Isabel was married and widowed by a conquistador in Cortés’s original group, Alonso Grado (died. ca. 1527), a poblador (Spaniard who arrived after the conquest), Pedro Gallego (died ca. 1531), and conquistador Juan Cano, who survived her.

We know a great deal about Aztec food and cooking from both indigenous and Spanish sources. I could write a dissertation on the subject, but will, instead, direct you to a couple of good sites if you want detailed information.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_cuisine

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodmaya.html

Bernal Díaz del Castillo (conquistador) gives a now famous description of what he calls an Aztec feast, but which was probably just a normal meal for Moctezuma:

For his meals his cooks had more than thirty styles of dishes made according to their fashion and usage; and they put them on small low clay braziers so that they would not get cold.. They cooked more than three hundred dishes of the food which Motecuhzoma was going to eat, and more than a thousand more for the men of his guard; and when it was time to eat, sometimes Motecuhzoma went out with his nobles and mayordomos, who showed him which dish was the best or of which birds and things they were composed, and as they advised him, so he ate, but he went out to see the food on rare occasions, and only as a pastime, he sat on a low, richly worked soft seat, and the table was also low, and made in the same manner as the seat, and there they put the tablecloths of white fabric, and some rather large handkerchiefs of the same, and four women gave him water for his hands out of a kind of deep accquaminile, which they call jicales, and to catch the water they put down a kind of plate, and gave him the towels, and two other women brought him the tortillas; and when he began to eat they put in front of him a thing like a door of wood all painted up with gold so that he could not be seen eating; and the four women stood aside, and there came to his side four great lords and elders, who stood, and from time to time Motecuhzoma chatted with them and asked them questions, and as a great favor gave each of those old men a dish of what he had been eating; and they said that those old men were his near relations and councilors and judges, and the plates of food that Motecuhzoma gave them they ate standing, with much reverence, and without looking him in the face. They served him on Cholula pottery, some red and some black. While he was eating it was unthinkable that there be any disturbance or loud speech among his guard. The same four women removed the tablecloths and returned with water for his hands, which they did with much reverence. Motecuhzoma spoke to those four old noblemen of worthwhile things, and they took their leave with great respect, and he rested. When the great Motecuhzoma had eaten then all of his guard and many of his house servants ate, and it seems to me that they took our more than a thousand plates of dishes, as well as more than two thousand jars of chocolate with its foam, and no end of fruit.

This is how Bernardino de Sahagún (Franciscan friar and ethnographer) described the Aztec street markets:

They sell meat tamales; turkey meat packets; plain tamales; tamales cooked in an earth oven; those cooked in an olla, grains of maize with chile, tamales with chile, fish tamales, fish with grains of maize, frog tamales, frog with grains of maize, axolotl with grains of maize, axolotl tamales, tamales with grains of maize, mushrooms with grains of maize, tuna cactus with grains of maize, rabbit tamales, rabbit with grains of maize, pocket gopher tamales: tasty–tasty, very tasty, seasoned with chile, salt, tomatoes, squash seeds: shredded, crumbled, juiced. They sell tamales of maize softened in wood ashes, the water of tamales, tamales of maize softened in lime–narrow tamales, fruit tamales, cooked bean tamales; cooked beans with grains of maize, cracked beans with grains of maize; broke, cracked grains of maize. They sell salted wide tamales, tamales bound up on top, with grains of maize thrown in; crumbled, pounded tamales; spotted tamales, pointed tamales, white fruit tamales, red fruit tamales, turkey egg tamales, turkey eggs with grains of maize; tamales of tender maize, tamales of green maize, brick-shaped tamales, braised ones; plain tamales, honey tamales, bee tamales, tamales with grains of maize, squash tamales, crumbled tamales, maize flower tamales. The worst food sellers sell filthy tamales, discolored tamales–broken, tasteless, quite tasteless, inedible, frightening, deceiving; tamales made of chaff, swollen tamales, spoiled tamales, foul tamales–sticky, gummy; old tamales, cold tamales– dirty and sour, very sour, exceedingly sour, stinking. The food seller sells tortillas which are thick, thickish, thick overall, extremely thick; he sells thin — thin tortillas, stretch-out tortillas,; disc-like, straight with shelled beans, cooked shelled beans, uncooked shelled beans; with shelled beans mashed; chile with maize, tortillas with meat and grains of maize, folded with chile–chile wrapped, gathered in the hand; ashen tortillas, washed tortillas. He sells folded tortillas, thick tortillas, coarse tortillas. He sells tortillas with turkey eggs, tortillas made with honey, pressed ones, glove-shaped tortillas, plain tortillas, assorted ones, braised ones, sweet tortillas, amaranth seed tortillas, squash tortillas, green maize tortillas, brick-shaped tortillas, tuna cactus tortillas; broken, crumbled, old tortillas; cold tortillas, toasted ones, dried tortillas, stinking tortillas. He sells foods sauces, hot sauces; fried foods, olla-cooked [boiled] foods, juices, sauces of juices, shredded with chile, with squash seeds, with tomatoes, with smoked chile, with hot chile, with yellow chile, with mild red chile sauce, yellow chile sauce, hot chile sauce, with “bird excrement” sauce, sauce of smoked chile, heated sauces, bean sauce; toasted beans, cooked beans, mushroom sauce, sauce of small squash, sauce of large tomatoes, sauce of ordinary tomatoes, sauce of various kinds of sour herbs, avocado sauce.

So let’s go with avocado sauce even though tamales and tortillas rule the roost. You can find one recipe for tamales here:

Guacamole is the modern Mexican Spanish for “avocado sauce.” It was probably originally no more than avocado mashed in a mortar with some seasonings. The modern version adds tomatoes, onions and cilantro with the option of adding hot chiles.

No need for a detailed recipe. You need nice ripe avocados as the base. Chop them up coarsely and add what you will. I usually add seeded tomatoes, onions chopped fine, and cilantro. Avoid using a food processor because the finished product needs to have some integrity – the ingredients blending but still with the individual components standing out. I use the traditional method of pounding the ingredients in a mortar with a pestle.