Jul 182015

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Today is the birthday (1918) of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.


Mandela was a Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family. Mandela attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the Afrikaner minority government of the National Party established apartheid in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organization’s Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People.


Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) and sat on its Central Committee. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962, he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.


Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Mandela joined negotiations with Nationalist President F. W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory and became South Africa’s first black president. He published his autobiography in 1995.


During his tenure in the Government of National Unity he invited other political parties to join the cabinet, and promulgated a new constitution. He also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. While continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.


Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Denounced as a communist terrorist by critics, he nevertheless gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honors, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”), and is often described as the “Father of South Africa.” Here’s a series of quotes I like:

I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.

Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.

A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

I’ll say a giant AMEN !!! to the last quote because that’s exactly what I do think. I also do not know of any powerful figure – many of whom I have written about here – who was not considered “controversial” in their day and still.  That’s the nature of passion, and I strongly believe in passion.


Mandela also endears himself to me because his favorite dish was tripe. This is attested many times. So I don’t need a feeble excuse to give you a tripe recipe. South African recipes for tripe do tend to be a bit bland for me, although they do make sure you taste the tripe (and not much else). It reminds me of asking a Maasai cook once how to prepare ox tripe and she said, essentially, wash it and clean it, and boil it in water for a long time. Some recipes are slightly more complex. For example, it is common in South Africa to cook tripe with pieces of ox intestines, then add onions and potatoes towards the end of the cooking. Not strictly to my taste, although some cooks add curry powder as well, which gives it a bit of a lift. It’s usually served with samp which is rather like mushy hominy.

Here’s a South African recipe that is rather to my liking, akin to Italian dishes but without seasoning.

South AfricanTripe and Tomato Sauce


1.5 kg tripe, pre-cooked and cubed

Tomato sauce:

vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
115g can tomato paste
410g can chopped tomatoes
250ml (1 cup) dry wine
2 tbsp sugar (optional)


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Sauté the onions, briefly until soft, then add the carrots and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes longer then add the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, and sugar (if used). Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Add the tripe and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with samp, either as a base, or on the side.

Apr 032015


Today is the anniversary of the accession (686 CE) of Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’ or Yuknoom Ixquiac (“Jaguar Paw Smoke”; born on October 6, 649 CE) as the Mayan king of the Kaan kingdom, which had its capital at Calakmul during the Classic Period of Mesoamerican chronology. This king acceded in his thirty-sixth year, but there are indications that he effectively governed the kingdom for a substantial period before this on behalf of the previous king, Yuknoom the Great. The latter, who may have been Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’s father, lived well into his eighties and may have been incapacitated in his later years.

The inscription of Stela 9, from 662 CE in Calakmul, goes into great detail about the birth of Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’ and accords him a full royal title. Thus, military victories in the following years, as well as assertions of the Kaan dynasty’s hegemony, might tentatively be ascribed to Yich’aak K’ahk’. These include military triumphs over rival kingdom Tikal in 677 and (quite probably) 679; supervision of the accessions of kings of Moral and Cancuen in 662 and 677 respectively; the dispatching of Lady Six Sky from Dos Pilas to re-seed the dynasty of Naranjo in 682, and a lieutenant’s action expressive of Kaan overlordship at Piedras Negras in 685.

Yich’aak K’ahk’s accession was recorded at El Peru by local ruler K’inich Bahlam and at Dos Pilas by B’alaj Chan K’awiil. At Naranjo, the son of Lady Six Sky, K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Chaak, acceded in 693.

In 695 Calakmul suffered a military defeat at the hands of Tikal and it was believed that the king was killed or captured in that battle. A stucco scene at Tikal shows a prisoner being “adorned” for sacrifice and names the Kaan king in a related caption; the text is damaged and in its current condition it allowed for the possibility that it referred to Yich’aak K’ahk’ himself instead of him being the overlord of the prisoner to be killed. A new find at La Corona has revealed that the king survived at least until 696, when he made a visit to that town. There are reasons to believe that Yich’aak K’ahk’ is buried in Tomb 4 within Calakmul’s Structure 2.

Yich’aak K’ahk’s monument program does not even begin to compare with that of his immediate predecessor, and the two stelae that still stand (including Stela 105 from 692) are located far from the site core in the Northeast Group.



Calakmul is located in Campeche state in southeastern Mexico, about 35 kilometers (22 mi) north of the border with Guatemala and 38 kilometers (24 mi) north of the ruins of El Mirador. The ruins of El Tintal are 68 kilometres (42 mi) to the southwest of Calakmul and were linked to both El Mirador and Calakmul itself by causeway. Calakmul was about 20 kilometers (12 mi) south of the contemporary city of Oxpemul and approximately 25 kilometers (16 mi) southwest of La Muñeca. The city is located on a rise about 35 meters (115 ft) above a large seasonal swamp lying to the west, known as the El Laberinto bajo (Spanish used in the region for a low-lying area of seasonal marshland).This swamp measures approximately 34 by 8 kilometers (21.1 by 5.0 mi) and was an important source of water during the rainy season. The bajo was linked to a sophisticated water-control system including both natural and artificial features such as gullies and canals that encircled a 22-square-kilometre (8.5 sq mi) area around the site core, an area considered as Inner Calakmul. The location of Calakmul at the edge of a bajo provided two additional advantages: the fertile soils along the edge of the swamp and access to abundant flint nodules. The city is situated on a promontory formed by a natural 35-metre (115 ft) high limestone dome rising above the surrounding lowlands. This dome was artificially leveled by the Maya. During the Preclassic and Classic periods settlement was concentrated along the edge of the El Laberinto bajo, during the Classic period structures were also built on high ground and small islands in the swamp where flint was worked.

At its height in the Late Classic period the city is estimated to have had a population of 50,000 inhabitants and to have covered an area of over 70 square kilometers (27 sq mi). The city was the capital of a large regional state with an area of about 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 sq mi). During the Terminal Classic the city’s population declined dramatically and the rural population plummeted to 10% of its former level.


The Emblem Glyph of Calakmul has a greater distribution than the Emblem Glyph of any other Maya city. The Glyph is also found in more hieroglyphic texts than any other Emblem Glyph, including that of Tikal. Calakmul administered a large domain marked by the extensive distribution of their emblem glyph of the snake head sign, to be read “Kaan.” Calakmul was the seat of what has been dubbed the Snake Kingdom. At times the city had governance over places as far away as 150 kilometers. The kings of Calakmul were known as k’uhul kan ajawob (“Divine Lords of the Snake Kingdom”).


The history of the Maya Classic period is dominated by the rivalry between Tikal and Calakmul, likened to a struggle between two Maya “superpowers.” Earlier times tended to be dominated by a single larger city and by the Early Classic Tikal was moving into this position after the dominance of El Mirador in the Late Preclassic and Nakbe in the Middle Preclassic. However Calakmul was a rival city with equivalent resources that challenged the supremacy of Tikal and engaged in a strategy of surrounding it with its own network of allies. From the second half of the 6th century through to the late 7th century Calakmul gained the upper hand although it failed to extinguish Tikal’s power completely and Tikal was able to turn the tables on its great rival in a decisive battle that took place in AD 695. Half a century later Tikal was able to gain major victories over Calakmul’s most important allies. Eventually both cities succumbed to the spreading Classic Maya collapse.


The great rivalry between these two cities may have been based on more than competition for resources. Their dynastic histories reveal different origins and the intense competition between the two powers may have had an ideological grounding. Calakmul’s dynasty seems ultimately derived from the great Preclassic city of El Mirador while the dynasty of Tikal was profoundly affected by the intervention of the distant central Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan. With few exceptions, Tikal’s monuments and those of its allies place great emphasis upon single male rulers while the monuments of Calakmul and its allies gave greater prominence to the female line and often the joint rule of king and queen.

The Kaan dynasty was not originally established at Calakmul but rather re-located there in the 7th Century from another city. Calakmul experienced its highest achievements during the reign of king Yuknoom Che’en II, sometimes called Yuknoom the Great by scholars. Yuknoom Che’en II was 36 years old when he came to the throne of Calakmul in AD 636. A significant increase in the production of stelae at the city began with his reign and 18 stelae were commissioned by the king. Yuknoom Che’en II was probably responsible for the construction of the palace complexes that form a major part of the site core.


Yuknoom Che’en II died in his eighties, probably at the beginning of 686. When he died, Calakmul was the most powerful city in the central Maya lowlands. Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’ succeeded Yuknoom Che’en II, his crowning on 3 April 686 was recorded on monuments at Dos Pilas and El Peru. He was born in 649 and was likely to have been the son of his predecessor. He already held high office before he was named king and may have been responsible for the major successes of the latter part of Yuknoom Che’en II’s reign. He retained the loyalty of K’inich B’alam of El Peru and B’alaj Chan K’awiil of Dos Pilas and gained that of K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Chaak in 693, when he was installed on the throne of Naranjo at the age of five. However, the texts on sculpted monuments do not reveal the full complexity of diplomatic activity, as revealed by a painted ceramic vase from Tikal, which depicts an ambassador of Calakmul’s king kneeling before the enthroned king of Tikal and delivering tribute. Just four years later, in August 695, the two states were once again at war. Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’ led his warriors against Jasaw Chan K’awiil I in a catastrophic battle that saw the defeat of Calakmul and the capture of the image of a Calakmul deity named Yajaw Maan.



It is unknown what happened to Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’; a stucco sculpture from Tikal shows a captive and the king is mentioned in the accompanying caption but it is not certain if the captive and the king are the same person. This event marked the end of Calakmul’s apogee, with diplomatic activity dropping away and fewer cities recognizing Calakmul’s king as overlord. No stelae remain standing in the site core recording Yuknoom Yich’aal K’ak, although there are some in the Northeast Group and 2 broken stelae were buried in Structure 2.


Tomb 4 was set into the floor of Structure 2B in the 8th century and is the richest burial known from Calakmul. The tomb contained a male skeleton wrapped in textiles and jaguar pelts that were partially preserved with resin. The tomb contained rich offerings that included jade ear ornaments handed down from the Early Classic, a jade mosaic mask, shell and bone beads, spiny oyster shells, eccentric obsidian blades, fine ceramics and the remains of wooden objects. One of the ceramics was a plate with a hieroglyphic text that specifically named king Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’ as its owner. The remains and the offering were placed in an arched wooden bier carved with elaborate decoration and hieroglyphs that was painted in a variety of colors. The bier has almost completely decayed but left an impression in the mud packed around it. Due to the plate and the possible association of Stelae 115 and 116 with the burial the tomb is believed to be that of the late 7th-century king Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’.


Maya diet focused on four domesticated crops (staple crops): maize, squash, beans (typically Phaseolus vulgaris) and chili peppers. The first three cultivars are commonly referred to in North America as the “Three Sisters” and, when incorporated in a diet, complement one another in providing necessary nutrients. A full description of Three Sisters cultivation may be found here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/dia-de-la-raza/ Among the three, maize was the central component of the diet of the ancient Maya, and figured prominently in Maya mythology and ideology. Maize was used and eaten in a variety of ways, but was always nixtamalized. Nixtamalization (ugh!), is a procedure whereby maize is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution. This releases niacin, a necessary B vitamin (vitamin B3) that prevents pellagra and reduces incidents of protein deficiency.


Once nixtamalized, maize was typically ground up on a metate (grinding stone) and prepared in a number of ways. Tortillas, cooked on a comal (baking stone)and used to wrap other foods (meat, beans, etc.), were common and are perhaps the best-known pre-Columbian Mesoamerican food. Tamales consist of corn dough, often containing a filling, that are wrapped in a corn husk and steam-cooked. Both atole and pozole were liquid based gruel-like dishes that were made by mixing ground maize with water, with atole being denser and used as a drinking source and pozole having complete big grains of maize incorporated into a turkey broth. Though these dishes could be consumed plain, other ingredients were added to diversify flavor, including chili peppers, cacao, wild onions and salt. Tamales, tortillas, beans, pozole, etc. all have analogs in modern Mayan cooking, and variants can be found across Mexico and up into the U.S. southwest. I’ve already given recipes for these, so below I give a post-Columbian recipe for tripe, variants of which are also found across Mexico.

Several different varieties of beans were grown, including pinto, red, and black beans. Other cultivated crops, including fruits, contributed to the overall diet of the ancient Maya, including tomato, chile peppers, avocado, breadnut, guava, soursop, mammee apple, papaya, pineapple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and Xanthosoma. Chaya was cultivated for its green leaves. Chayote was cultivated for its fruit, and its tender green shoots were used as a vegetable. Various herbs were grown and used, including vanilla, epazote, achiote (and the annatto seed), canella, hoja santa (Piper auritum), avocado leaves, garlic vine, Mexican oregano, and allspice.

Hunting supplied the Maya with meat, though several animals, such as dog and turkey, may have been domesticated. Animals hunted for meat, as well as for other purposes, include deer, manatee, armadillo, tapir, peccary, monkey, guinea pig and other types of fowl, turtle and iguana. The Maya diet was also supplemented by the exploitation, at least in coastal areas, of maritime resources, including fish, lobster, shrimp, conch, and other shellfish.


The Mayans are believed to be the first people to have discovered and cultivated the cacao plant for food. The cocoa beans were ground up mixed with chili peppers, cornmeal and honey to create a drink called xocolatl. Only the rich and noble could drink this. They also used cacao beans as ceremonial sacrifices to their gods.

Tripe was not eaten by the Maya until Europeans introduced cows and sheep, but it is now extremely popular. Mondongo en Kabik, a red mondongo (tripe soup), is the most common in Yucatan. This version is adapted from Diana Kennedy’s marvelous compendium Mexican Regional Cooking  The main herbal ingredient in this soup is epazote which can be hard to come by. It is very common in Mexican cooking, where it is a typical flavoring for beans (supposedly because it reduces flatulence!). It can sometimes also be found under the names goosefoot, Jerusalem oak, lamb’s quarters, Mexican tea, wormseed, or stinkweed. Fresh epazote has dark green leaves with serrated edges and has a distinctive bitter flavor. If you cannot find fresh, then the dried version is acceptable although it is not as complex in flavor. Dried epazote is also difficult to find, but good Hispanic markets usually carry it. You may substitute cilantro or savory for epazote, but the flavor is totally different, and to my way of thinking makes the dish a little ordinary. One solution, if it proves impossible to find is to grow epazote from seed in a pot on a sunny window ledge. The seeds can be obtained from several companies. I use Redwood City Seed Co., Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064 USA, because they also stock a large number of unusual hot red and green chile seeds. Kennedy recommends using the tripe known in Yucatán as toalla (i.e. towel) for this recipe. It is relatively easy to find because it comes from the second stomach adjacent to the honeycomb tripe. When selecting tripe look over the pieces on offer. Many large pieces of honeycomb tripe come with toalla attached. As the name suggests, it does not have the deep honeycomb texture, but instead looks like a rough towel. Note also that this dish takes at least three days to prepare, so plan ahead.


Mondongo en Kabik


1lb parboiled toalla or honeycomb tripe
2 cups sour orange juice (either fresh or bottled naranja agria)
1 calf’s foot or cowheel (or 1lb beef marrow bones)
6 unpeeled cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ lb plum tomatoes peeled and diced
1 small onion chopped coarsely
½ green pepper chopped coarsely
1 handful of fresh epazote leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried)
3 hot green chiles
1 teaspoon ground annatto


lime slices
finely chopped scallion
chopped Mexican oregano
chopped chives
finely chopped onion



Cut the tripe into 1″ squares and place them in an earthenware bowl. Pour the sour orange juice over the tripe and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

(Next day) Place a heavy (ungreased) iron skillet on high heat until it is hot and ready to smoke. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves in the skillet and agitate them gently until they are nicely charred on all sides. Remove the garlic and repeat the process for the oregano (being careful not to blacken it too much). Finally, do the same for the hot green chiles and set them aside. This toasting process is absolutely essential to get the authentic “burnt” flavor in the broth.

Put the calf’s foot (or marrow bones) in a heavy saucepan with 6 cups of water (or beef stock if you prefer a more heavily flavored soup). Add the toasted garlic and oregano. Bring to a boil and gently simmer covered for one hour. At the end of the hour add the tripe and the sour orange juice marinade. Bring the pot back to the boil and simmer for another hour or until the tripe is tender. Because of the marinade the cooking time is difficult to calculate. In theory the acid marinade is supposed to tenderize the tripe; but I find that it actually takes longer to cook it to the al dente stage than without it. Once the tripe is tender to your taste, cool the pot and refrigerate overnight.

(Next day) A great deal of fat from the tripe and calf’s foot will have congealed and hardened on the surface of the broth. Skim all the fat off and then return the pot to a gentle simmer. Remove the calf’s foot when it is warmed through. Take out and discard the bones, and roughly chop the meat, fat and skin. (If you are using marrow bones, extract the marrow and chop it, and discard the bones). Remove the tripe from the broth and keep it warm along with the chopped meat from the calf’s foot.

Chop the toasted green chiles. Heat the cooking oil on high heat in a heavy skillet. Add the onion, green pepper, and green chiles. Cook until the onions start to take on a little color. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the annatto and two or three tablespoons of the broth from the tripe. Stir until everything is well mixed and heated through. Add this mixture to the tripe broth, and then return the broth to a simmer.

Traditionally the broth is served in bowls to each diner, with a plate of tripe and calf’s foot as an accessory. Large bowls of the garnishes are set on the table to be added to the broth as people please. Big hunks of crusty bread are a common accompaniment as are flour tortillas.   You may also simplify things by serving the meat and broth together as a big hearty soup (again, to be garnished as one pleases).

Serves 6 as a first course or 4 as a main course.

Apr 142014

Der Untergang der Titanic

On this date in 1912 the passenger liner R.M.S. Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 23:40 and sank early the following morning.  Certainly the general events of that night are well known through several (fictionalized) movies as well as websites and documentaries, and need not be repeated here.  Instead I will focus on the passengers’ last meals, in all classes.  Sometimes on this date (particularly on major anniversaries) people like to make a “Titanic dinner.”  But they usually focus on the first class menu for the elite. I would like to take a broader view and look at the menus in all classes.  Fortunately, the dinner menus for all classes for the night of 14 April 1912 survive, as do some details of the various dining salons.

Before I venture into the foodie aspect of the Titanic, though, I would like to pay tribute to the eight musicians who drowned that night and who valiantly played to calm the passengers as the ship sank. Three of them played that night in the first class dining saloon for the passengers’ last meal aboard.


The ship’s eight-member orchestra boarded at Southampton and traveled as second-class passengers. They were not on the payroll of the White Star Line, but were contracted to White Star by the Liverpool firm of C.W. & F.N. Black, who placed musicians on almost all British liners. Until the night of the sinking, the orchestra performed as two separate entities: a quintet led by violinist and official bandleader Wallace Hartley, along with John Clarke (double bass), John Hume (violin), Percy Taylor (cello), and John Woodward (cello), that played at teatime, after-dinner concerts, and Sunday services, among other occasions; and the violin, cello, and piano trio of Roger Bricoux, George Krins and Theodore Brailey, that played at the À La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.

After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. One second class passenger said:

Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.

This is their memorial at Southampton.


Much is made of the menu in the first class à la carte dining saloon on the night in question because the menu survives.  It was a typical upper class Edwardian blowout night after night.  Ten sumptuous courses.  This is an original menu which you can click on to read, or read it here (laid out in courses):



First Course

Hors D’Oeuvres


Second Course

Consommé Olga

Cream of Barley

Third Course

Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Fourth Course

Filet Mignons Lili

Sauté of Chicken, Lyonnaise

Vegetable Marrow Farci

Fifth Course

Lamb, Mint Sauce

Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce

Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes

Green Pea

Creamed Carrots

Boiled Rice

Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Sixth Course

Punch Romaine

Seventh Course

Roast Squab & Cress

Eighth Course

Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course

Pate de Foie Gras


Tenth Course

Waldorf Pudding

Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly

Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs

French Ice Cream

There is no record of the actual recipes but period recipes are not hard to find.  The first-class passengers had several dining options but the à la carte saloon is the only one whose details survive.

The second- and third-class menus are less often discussed but many of them survive, including those on the fateful night.  They are reported in, The Titanic For Dummies by Stephen J. Spignesi. Both classes had separate dining rooms and kitchens with the type of food served based on the class of the ticket.

In the second-class dining saloon, located on the Saloon (D) deck, diners ate at large rectangular tables, often with strangers. The saloon provided starched white linen tablecloths and napkins. It could hold 394 diners, that is, the entire compliment of second-class passengers in one sitting.  The diners sat in swivel chairs fastened to the floor, the idea being for the chairs to swivel and offset the rocking of the ship.  The diners had a few choices but, of course they were more limited than in first class, and more basic.  This is the menu on the night of 14 April 1912


First course

Consommé with tapioca

Second course

Baked haddock with sharp sauce

Curried chicken and rice

Spring lamb with mint sauce

Roast turkey with savory cranberry sauce

Green peas; puree turnips; boiled rice; boiled and roast potatoes

Third course

Plum pudding

Wine jelly

Coconut sandwich

American Ice Cream

Assorted nuts, fresh fruit, cheese, biscuits

In the third-class dining saloon, located in the Middle (F) deck, diners sat at long tables that could seat 20. They hung their hats, coats, and scarves on hooks attached to the walls. The saloon was large and spare. It could seat 473, which means that two sittings were necessary to accommodate all 710 passengers in third class. This is a photograph of the third-class dining saloon as recreated by the designers of the replica Titanic II.


The food was plain and wholesome with no choices, making it quick to prepare and serve.  By good fortune all three menus from 14 April 1912 have survived. I’m pleased to note they had tripe and onions for breakfast. I am also interested to note that this dish was fried rather than prepared in a thickened milk sauce as was usual in England at the time.

Breakfast: Oatmeal porridge and milk; vegetable stew; fried tripe and onions; bread and butter; marmalade; Swedish bread; tea; coffee

Lunch: Bouillon soup; roast beef and brown gravy; green beans, boiled; potatoes; cabin biscuits; bread; prunes and rice

Dinner: Rabbit pie; baked potatoes; bread and butter; rhubarb and ginger jam; Swedish bread; tea

Being the egalitarian that I am, I am going to give a recipe for rabbit pie.  There is no telling exactly how it was prepared but Isabella Beeton can come to the rescue again.  Sorry I have no image for you.  I do not have an oven.


981. INGREDIENTS.—1 rabbit, a few slices of ham, salt and white pepper to taste, 2 blades of pounded mace, 1/2 teaspoonful of grated nutmeg, a few forcemeat balls, 3 hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 pint of gravy, puff crust.

Mode.—Cut up the rabbit (which should be young), remove the breastbone, and bone the legs. Put the rabbit, slices of ham, forcemeat balls, and hard eggs, by turns, in layers, and season each layer with pepper, salt, pounded mace, and grated nutmeg. Pour in about 1/2 pint of water, cover with crust, and bake in a well-heated oven for about 1-1/2 hour. Should the crust acquire too much colour, place a piece of paper over it to prevent its burning. When done, pour in at the top, by means of the hole in the middle of the crust, a little good gravy, which may be made of the breast- and leg-bones of the rabbit and 2 or 3 shank-bones, flavoured with onion, herbs, and spices.

Time.—1-1/2 hour. Average cost, from 1s. to 1s. 6d. each.

Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Note.—The liver of the rabbit may be boiled, minced, and mixed with the forcemeat balls, when the flavour is liked.

The recipe for forcemeat balls is here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/arthur-conan-doyle/

Jul 052013


Today is the birthday of Phineas Taylor Barnum, typically referred to as P.T. He, like everyone I have encountered in life, had his good and not so good qualities.  But I’ll dwell on the good ones, because I like a showman.  Before I get into more detail, know this – Barnum was, above all, a genuine humanist. He said in congress upon the ratification of the 13th amendment to the constitution of the United States (abolition of slavery):

“A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit.”

Sadly he is often remembered for a saying he never uttered – “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  This was a slur spread by rivals who hated his success.  He was the consummate con artist, it is true.  But he saw his job as pleasing people by his scams.  I want to say “Amen and Amen.” I love magicians, I love circuses, and I love weirdoes of all stripes.  My maternal great-grandfather was a trapeze artist.  I come by this love honestly.  If you do not adore carnies, you are missing something.

Barnum is remembered for many things: his tour of Europe with General Tom Thumb (when he was introduced to many crowned heads), his exhibition of the “Feejee Mermaid” (an exhibit described as “a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish”), and other such absurdities.  But here is the thing – yes, he wanted to make a buck; but he wanted to please people.  I can think of worse crimes.

For me his greatest success was introducing Jenny Lind (the Swedish Nightingale) to the public in the U.S. She captured hearts with her breathtaking soprano.  Can you imagine?  He contracted with her for 150 performances at $1,000 per night? She ended up being so successful, care of Barnum’s tireless promotion, that she renegotiated for more money.  She then devoted almost all of her income to the care and education of poor and orphaned children in Sweden.

So, to honor Barnum here is a hoax dish. It involves my much beloved tripe, but has no tripe in it.

Trippa Finta al Pomodoro


8 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
½  a chipotle pepper, or similar, diced fine
½ cup freshly grated pecorino or other hard grating cheese


In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, season with salt and pepper and add the oregano.

In your omelet pan, cook 1 tablespoon of the butter until it foams and subsides. Pour ¼ of the egg mixture into the pan and cook until it has solidified and is easily slid from the pan, about 2 minutes. Repeat this procedure 3 times with the remaining butter and egg mixture, setting each omelet aside to cool.

When the omelets are cool, cut each into ¼ inch thick strips.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the tomato sauce and the hot pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the egg strips and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over pasta. I suggest shells or bowties, but do what you want. Have plenty of grated cheese for a flourish.

Jun 062013
Alexis St Martin at 67

Alexis St Martin at 67

William Beaumont

William Beaumont

On this day in 1822 Alexis St Martin, a Canadian fur trapper who was delivering furs to the fur trading post on Mackinac Island, was accidentally shot in the stomach at close range by a muzzle-loaded shotgun loaded with buckshot. This “happy” accident revolutionized the understanding of the workings of the human digestive system. St Martin was treated by a U.S. Army physician and surgeon, William Beaumont, who had seen such wounds as a doctor during the war of 1812, so he had considerable experience.  He did not have a university education, but had been through a doctor’s apprentice program and then enlisted in the army.  Beaumont did his best to treat the wound, but despite the fact that St Martin was a fit and healthy 20 year old, he was not expected to live. The shot had blown a hole in the skin, destroyed part of his ribs and muscle, and left a hole in his stomach. People did not survive such injuries in those days.

However, contrary to such a dire prognosis, he did live, and eventually his stomach and intestines returned to normal function over a period of weeks. When the wound healed itself, the edge of the hole in St Martin’s stomach had attached itself to the edge of the hole in his skin, creating a permanent gastric fistula (aperture into the stomach).  There was very little scientific understanding of digestion at the time and Beaumont recognized the opportunity he had in St. Martin.  He could literally watch the processes of digestion by dangling food on a string into St. Martin’s stomach.

To grasp the significance of this event it is important to distinguish between anatomy and physiology.  Anatomy is the study of the bits that make up the body.  Anatomy can be studied using dissected cadavers, and was at a reasonably sophisticated level in 1822. Physiology, by contrast, concerns how the bits work, and the facts of digestive physiology at that point were virtually unknown: cadavers don’t eat food. Up until that time it was believed that the stomach was a sort of grinding mechanism.  Beaumont was able to show that the process of digestion, while involving a certain amount of movement, was primarily chemical.  He experimented with St Martin off and on for 11 years.  In 1833 he published Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion, for which he achieved a degree of fame.

St Martin allowed the experiments to be conducted, not as an act to repay Beaumont for keeping him alive, but rather because Beaumont had the illiterate man sign a contract to work as a servant (at the time St Martin was indentured to another man, and Beaumont paid the indenture). Beaumont recalls the chores St Martin did: “During this time, in the intervals of experimenting, he performed all the duties of a common servant, chopping wood, carrying burthens, etc. with little or no suffering or inconvenience from his wound.” Although these chores were not bothersome, some of the experiments were painful to St. Martin. Eventually he was able to leave, and despite entreaties in later life from Beaumont, did not return.

Alexis St. Martin died at St-Thomas de Joliette, Quebec, in 1880 at the age of 79. His family delayed his burial and kept his body under guard to prevent “resurrectionists” from digging it up to dissect. He had the most famous stomach in the world. Ironically, St Martin lived a lot longer than Beaumont who died at 68 as the consequence of a fall on icy steps.

In honor of St Martin’s stomach I am giving you a tripe recipe.  Tripe is, of course, the lining of the stomach of ruminants, and I am something of an aficionado. I’ve collected a little over 4,000 recipes from all over the world, and made a good stab at trying all of them in the course of 10 years. Sometimes I make 8 or 10 at a time.  Tripe is extremely popular worldwide, although it is no longer very well liked in Britain and the U.S.  Given the tripe and onions I had to suffer through as a child, I can understand. But tripe can be absolutely ambrosial if cooked properly.  Here is a recipe for deep fried tripe tacos from Mexico that I defy anyone to push aside after tasting them. The tripe must be precooked, which is the slightly unpleasant side.  Place the tripe in a heavy pot, cover with water and bring to a simmer.  Cook until al dente (about one hour).  It is very important to check the tripe periodically. It should be the same consistency as al dente pasta.  The odor of cooking can be cut significantly by putting a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the cooking water and covering the pot with a tight fitting lid (and turning on the stove fan).  This recipe makes 4 tacos, which is enough for one, if the “one” is me.  Obviously this recipe can be doubled or tripled etc.  Just be sure to cook the tripe in small batches. I don’t usually have an accompaniment but, of course, these tacos can be served as part of a larger Mexican meal with soup, guacamole, rice etc.

Deep Fried Tripe Tacos


6 oz (170 g) cooked tripe
4 small flour tortillas
Tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce, onions, and radishes for garnish
Lime wedges
Cooking oil for deep frying


Chop all the garnishes finely and place in individual bowls.

Cut the tripe into small strips approximately 1 in x ¼ in (2.5 cm x .6 cm).  Size is not critical, but do not make them too small.

Pat the tripe pieces dry on paper towels.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer, or a heavy skillet with about 1 in (2.5 cm) oil to 325° F (160° C). If you do not have a thermometer, check by placing one piece of tripe in the oil.  It should bubble briskly immediately.

Fry the tripe in two batches until golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon or open mesh ladle (best).

Drain the tripe on a rack with a cookie sheet lined with paper towels underneath.

Place ¼ of the tripe in the center of each tortilla and serve on a platter. Garnish the tripe to taste and sprinkle each with lime juice.  Fold the tortilla over in half and eat. You MUST use your hands, this is street food.

Yield: 4 tacos