Oct 122017
 

On this date in 1915 nurse Edith Louisa Cavell (1865 – 1915) was executed by a German firing squad. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination and in helping about 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. She is well known for her statement that “patriotism is not enough, I must have no hate in my heart.” Her strong Anglican beliefs propelled her to help all those who needed help, both German and Allied soldiers. She was quoted as saying, “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.” The Church of England commemorates her in their Calendar of Saints on this date.

Cavell was born on 4 December 1865 in Swardeston, near Norwich, where her father was vicar for 45 years. She was educated at Norwich High School for Girls, then boarding schools in Clevedon, Somerset and Peterborough. After a period as a governess, including for a family in Brussels 1890–1895, she returned home to care for her father during a serious illness. The experience led her to become a nurse after her father’s recovery. In April 1896, at the age of 30, Cavell applied to become a nurse probationer at the London Hospital under Matron Eva Luckes. She worked in various hospitals in England, including Shoreditch Infirmary (now St Leonard’s Hospital). As a private traveling nurse treating patients in their homes.

In 1907, Cavell was recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be matron of a newly established nursing school, L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées, (or The Berkendael Medical Institute) on the Rue de la Culture (now Rue Franz Merjay), in Ixelles, Brussels. In 1910 she launched the nursing journal, L’infirmière” and within a year she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.

When the First World War broke out, she was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk. She returned to Brussels, where her clinic and nursing school were taken over by the Red Cross. Cavell had been offered a position as the matron (head nurse) in a Brussels clinic. In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funneling them out of occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands. Wounded British and French soldiers as well as Belgian and French civilians of military age were hidden from the Germans and provided with false papers by Prince Réginald de Croÿ at his château of Bellignies near Mons. From there, they were conducted by various guides to the houses of Cavell, Louis Séverin and others in Brussels; where their hosts would furnish them with money to reach the Dutch frontier and provide them with guides obtained through Philippe Baucq. This placed Cavell in violation of German military law. German authorities became increasingly suspicious of her actions, further fueled by her outspokenness.

She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harboring Allied soldiers. She had been betrayed by Gaston Quien, who was later convicted by a French court as a collaborator. She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for ten weeks, the last two of which were spent in solitary confinement. She made three depositions to the German police (on 8, 18 and 22 August), admitting that she had been instrumental in conveying about 60 British and 15 French soldiers as well as about 100 French and Belgian civilians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered most of them in her house.

In her court-martial she was prosecuted for aiding British and French soldiers, in addition to young Belgian men, to cross the border and eventually enter Britain. She admitted her guilt when she signed a statement the day before the trial. Cavell declared that the soldiers she had helped escape thanked her in writing when they arrived safely in Britain. This admission confirmed that Cavell had helped the soldiers navigate the Dutch frontier, but it also established that she helped them escape to a country at war with Germany.

The penalty according to German military law was death. Paragraph 58 of the German Military Code said that guilty parties; “Will be sentenced to death for treason any person who, with the intention of helping the hostile Power, or of causing harm to the German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of paragraph 90 of the German Penal Code.” The case referred to in the above-mentioned paragraph 90 consists of “Conducting soldiers to the enemy”, although this was not traditionally punishable by death.  Additionally, the penalties according to paragraph 160 of the German Code, in case of war, applied to foreigners as well as Germans.

While the First Geneva Convention ordinarily guaranteed protection of medical personnel, that protection was forfeit if used as cover for any belligerent action. This forfeiture is expressed in article 7 of the 1906 version of the Convention, which was the version in force at the time. The German authorities instead justified prosecution merely on the basis of the German law and the interests of the German state.

The British government could do nothing to help her. Sir Horace Rowland of the Foreign Office said, “I am afraid that it is likely to go hard with Miss Cavell; I am afraid we are powerless.” Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, advised that, “Any representation by us, will do her more harm than good.” The United States, however, had not yet joined the war and was in a position to apply diplomatic pressure. Hugh S. Gibson, First Secretary of the U.S. legation at Brussels, made clear to the German government that executing Cavell would further harm Germany’s already damaged reputation. Later, he wrote:

We reminded [German civil governor Baron von der Lancken] of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would rank with those two affairs and would stir all civilised countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to the humblest German soldier, and his only regret was that they had not “three or four old English women to shoot.”

Baron von der Lancken is known to have stated that Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives, German as well as Allied. However, General von Sauberzweig, the military governor of Brussels, ordered that “in the interests of the State” the implementation of the death penalty against Baucq and Cavell should be immediate, denying higher authorities an opportunity to consider clemency. Cavell was defended by lawyer Sadi Kirschen from Brussels. Of the 27 persons put on trial, five were condemned to death: Cavell, Baucq (an architect in his thirties), Louise Thuliez, Séverin and Countess Jeanne de Belleville. Of the five sentenced to death, only Cavell and Baucq were executed; the other three were granted reprieve.

When in custody, Cavell was questioned in French, but the session was minuted in German; which gave the interrogator the opportunity to misinterpret her answers. Although she may have been misrepresented, she made no attempt to defend herself. The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her and to give her Holy Communion, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, “Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”

From his sick bed Brand Whitlock, the U.S. minister to Belgium, wrote a personal note on Cavell’s behalf to Moritz von Bissing, the governor general of Belgium. Hugh Gibson; Maitre G. de Leval, the legal adviser to the United States legation; and Rodrigo Saavedra y Vinent, 2nd Marques de Villalobar, the Spanish minister, formed a midnight deputation of appeal for mercy or at least postponement of sentence. Despite these efforts, on 11 October, Baron von der Lancken allowed the execution to proceed. Sixteen men, forming two firing squads, carried out the sentence pronounced on her, and on four Belgian men at the Tir national shooting range in Schaerbeek, at 7:00 am on 12 October 1915.

In the months and years following Cavell’s death, countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images, and books publicized her story. She became an iconic propaganda figure for military recruitment in Britain, and to help increase favourable sentiment towards the Allies in the United States. She was a popular icon because she was a woman, her nursing profession, and her apparently heroic approach to death. Her execution was represented as an act of German barbarism and moral depravity.

The Imperial German Government believed that it had acted fairly towards Cavell. In a letter, German undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Dr Alfred Zimmermann (not to be confused with Arthur Zimmermann, German Secretary for Foreign Affairs) made a statement to the press on behalf of the German government:

It was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed, but it was necessary. She was judged justly…It is undoubtedly a terrible thing that the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a State, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women.

German laws did not make distinctions between sexes, the only exception to this rule being that according to legal customs, women in a “delicate” condition (that is, pregnant), could not be executed. However, in January 1916 the Kaiser decreed that regarding women from then on, capital punishment should not be carried out without his explicit prior endorsement.

I’ve chosen a Norfolk recipe for today because of Cavell’s place of origin: Norfolk dumplings. They are sometimes known as “sinkers and swimmers” because of the habit of some of them to float and some to sink when cooked. You should really prefer the swimmers to the sinkers. Unlike other British dumplings, the Norfolk variety are traditionally made without suet or fat. Because of the lack of fat they are a bit more digestible for invalids I suspect. They can be served on their own as a side dish, but they are usually cooked in stews. This recipe is absolutely plain and basic, but you can add some flavorings such as parsley, if you prefer.

Norfolk Dumplings

Ingredients

½ lb plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
salt

Instructions

Sieve the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Mix all the ingredients together with enough water to make a light dough.

Turn the dough on to a floured board, knead lightly. Then pinch off small pieces and form into round dumplings.

The dumplings can be cooked in gently boiling water for 20 minutes, or added to a stew 20 minutes before serving.

Oct 042017
 

Today is the birthday (1896) of Dorothy Lawrence, an English reporter, who posed as a man so as to be able to work  as a soldier during World War I. She is the only English woman known to have served in any military capacity as a man in World War I. There are dozens of women who have served in the military, openly or disguised as men, but Lawrence’s is a special case for many reasons. She had no intention of picking up a rifle; she just wanted to report on the war, thinking she would have a great scoop on her hands. In this sense she was hopelessly naïve. The government severely censored news reports for fear that the British public would turn against the war and recruitment would dry up.  For example, photos of dead soldiers were forbidden to be published, and events such as the 1914 Christmas truce in the trenches would never have come to light were it not for stories leaked to newspapers in the US:  http://www.bookofdaystales.com/the-christmas-truce/  The High Command was in a panic over the Christmas Truce lest British soldiers saw Germans as people rather than the enemy, and, consequently, refused to fight. Lawrence thought she could send back honest reports from the Western Front; instead her fate was tragic.

Lawrence was likely born in Hendon in Middlesex, of unknown parents. She was probably illegitimate and was adopted as a baby by a guardian of the Church of England in Salisbury. Her parentage is under some dispute, however. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which at time of publication in 2004 did not mention details of her life after 1919) reports that Lawrence was born on 4 October 1896 in Polesworth, Warwickshire and was the second daughter of Thomas Hartshorn Lawrence and Mary Jane Beddall. These details may or may not be erroneous. Regardless, she was adopted as an orphan and grew up in Salisbury.

Lawrence wanted to be a journalist and had had success in having some articles published in The Times. At the outbreak of war she wrote to a number of the Fleet Street newspapers in the hope of reporting the war but was rejected. In consequence she travelled to France in 1915, and volunteered as a civilian employee of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Again she was rejected. Then she decided to enter the war zone via the French sector as a freelance war correspondent, but was arrested by French Police in Senlis, 2 miles (3.2 km) short of the front line, and ordered to leave.  She pent the night sleeping on a haystack in a forest, and returned to Paris where she concluded that it was only in disguise the she could get the story that she wanted to write.

She befriended two British soldiers in a Parisian café, and persuaded them to smuggle her a khaki uniform, piece by piece, within their washing. Ten men eventually shared in this exploit, later referred to in her book, Sapper Dorothy Lawrence, The Only English Woman Soldier, as the “Khaki accomplices.” She then began practicing transforming herself into a male soldier, by flattening her figure with a home-made corset; using sacking and cotton-wool to bulk out her shoulders; and persuading two Scottish military policemen to cut her long, brown hair in a short military style. She darkened her complexion with Condy’s Fluid, a disinfectant made from potassium permanganate; razored the pale skin of her cheeks in the hope of giving herself a shaving rash; and added a shoe-polish tan. Finally she asked her soldier friends to teach her how to drill and march.

Wearing a blanket coat and no underwear, lest soldiers discover her abandoned petticoats, she obtained forged identity papers as Private Denis Smith of the 1st Bn, Leicestershire Regiment, and headed for the front lines. She set out by bicycle for the British sector of the Somme. On her way towards Albert on the Somme, she met Lancashire coalminer turned British Expeditionary Force (BEF) tunnel-digging sapper Tom Dunn, who offered to assist her. Fearing for the safety of a lone woman amongst female-companionship starved soldiers, Dunn found Lawrence an abandoned cottage in Senlis Forest to sleep in. During her time on the front line, she returned there each night to sleep on a damp mattress, fed by any rations that Dunn and his colleagues could spare.

Dunn found her work as a sapper with the 179 Tunnelling Company, 51st Division, Royal Engineers, a specialist mine-laying company that operated within 400 yards (370 m) of the front line. Lawrence writes that she was involved in the digging of tunnels. But later evidence and correspondence from the time after her discovery by British Army authorities, including from the files of Sir Walter Kirke of the BEF’s secret service, suggest that she did not undertake this highly skilled digging work, but work within the trenches with a degree of freedom.

The toll of the job, and of hiding her true identity, soon led to illness including constant chills and rheumatism, and latterly fainting fits. Because she was concerned that if she needed medical attention her true gender would be discovered and the men who had befriended her would be in danger, after 10 days of service she presented herself to the commanding sergeant, who promptly placed her under military arrest.

Lawrence was taken to the BEF headquarters and interrogated as a spy by a colonel, she was declared a prisoner of war. From there she was taken cross country by horse to Third Army headquarters in Calais, where she was interrogated by six generals and approximately twenty other officers. She was ignorant of the term “camp follower” (prostitute) and she later recalled “We talked steadily at cross purposes. On my side I had not been informed what the term meant, and on their side they continued unaware that I remained ignorant! So I often appeared to be telling lies.”

From Calais she was taken to Saint-Omer and further interrogated. The Army was embarrassed that a woman had breached security and was fearful of more women taking on male roles during the war if her story got out. On the orders of a suspicious judge, fearing she could release sensitive intelligence, he ordered that she remain in France until after the Battle of Loos. She was held within the Convent de Bon Pasteur, and was also made to swear not to write about her experiences, and signed an affidavit to that effect, or she would be sent to jail. When she was sent back to London, she travelled across the English Channel on the same ferry as Emmeline Pankhurst, who asked her to speak at a suffragette meeting.

Once in London, she tried to write about her experiences for The Wide World Magazine, a London-based illustrated monthly, but had to scrap her first book on the instructions of the War Office which invoked the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act to silence her.

In 1919, she moved to Canonbury in Islington, and published Sapper Dorothy Lawrence. Although well received in England, America and Australia, it was heavily censored by the War Office, and with a world wishing to move forward it did not become the commercial success that she wanted. With no income and no credibility as a journalist, by 1925 her increasingly erratic behavior was brought to the attention of the authorities. After confiding to a doctor that she had been raped in her teenage years by her church guardian, and with no family to look after her, she was taken into care and later deemed insane. Committed first to the London County Mental Hospital at Hanwell in March 1925, she was later institutionalized at the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in Friern Barnet, north London. She died at what was by then known as Friern Hospital in 1964. She was buried in a pauper’s grave in New Southgate Cemetery, where today the site of her plot is no longer clear.

Lawrence’s story lay dormant for decades, but came to light as part of historical researches concerning the suffragettes on the centenary of their struggles.  A number of newspaper articles and other published materials on her life are now available and there a couple of plays produced in 2015 documenting her life, both in the trenches and in Friern Barnet asylum. The best researched is The Disappearance of Dorothy Lawrence.

I can’t imagine what rations Lawrence’s confidantes managed to smuggle out to her as she hid behind the trenches. I’ve spoken about Great War British rations before, noting that bully beef (tinned corned beef) was a mainstay. But in reality bully beef was the best on offer in the trenches. Worst was probably Maconochie’s stew which the label described as containing the finest beef equivalent to 1 lb on the bone, but was, in fact, mostly fat with unidentifiable vegetables. It was said that it was barely palatable if eaten hot (which was not always possible), but inedible when cold. When opened the can had a deep layer of congealed fat and an unpleasant smell.

These recipes (and ration list) were issued by the army around 1915.  Do with them what you will.  The biscuits in the first recipe are the hard tack that soldiers were issued.

Allowances per person per day, were: 1¼lb fresh or frozen meat, or 1lb salt meat; 4oz bacon; 20oz of bread or 16oz of flour or 4oz of oatmeal; 3oz of cheese; 4oz of butter or margarine; 2oz of tea, 4oz of jam or 4oz of dried fruit; pinch of pepper; pinch of mustard; 8oz of fresh vegetables or a tenth of a gill lime juice; half a gill of rum or 1pt of porter; maximum of 2oz of tobacco.

DINNER TIME

Recipe for Milk Biscuit Pudding (feeds 100 men):

Ingredients: Biscuits (15lb), milk (3lb or 3 tins), sugar (5lb), currants (4lb), spice (a packet), candied peel (4oz)

Method:

Soak biscuits until soft, about three hours in cold water.

Cut up peel finely. Place biscuits, sugar and currants into baking dishes; add milk and mix well with spice and peel.

Place in oven until cooked. Time: One hour.

Recipe for Brown Stew

Ingredients: Meat, onions, flour, mixed vegetables, pepper, salt, stock.

Method:

Bone meat, remove fat, cut into 1oz pieces.

Place 3lb flour, ½oz pepper, ½oz salt in a bowl and mix

Place stock in bottom of cooking vessel and dredge meat in flour.

Peel and cut up onions, wash and peel and cut up the mixed vegetables, add onions and vegetables to meat, mix well together. Barely cover with stock and place in oven to cook.

Stir frequently. Time: 2½ to 3 hours.

Jan 032015
 

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Today is the birthday (1892) of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, English writer, poet, and philologist, best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at my Oxford college, Pembroke, from 1925 to 1945, and in his last years when I was in residence he was often seen at dinner. I had the good fortune to meet him in 1971. His celebrity status as a fantasy writer was in its early phases back then because his books did not gain popularity until the 1960’s. Nonetheless, we were amazed to be able to talk to him. By then he looked like a gnarly old tree from Middle Earth.

There is no real need to talk about his well-known books. Instead I will give you (in synopsis) two aspects of his life that are less well known: his service in the army in the First World War, and his linguistic scholarship.jrr1

In 1914 when the United Kingdom entered the First World War, Tolkien’s relatives were shocked that he did not immediately volunteer for the British Army. In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled, “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” Instead, Tolkien endured the family and public scorn and entered a university program that allowed him to delayed enlistment until completing his degree. By the time he passed his Finals in July 1915, Tolkien recalled that the hints were, “becoming outspoken from relatives.” So he volunteered as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, for eleven months. In a letter to his fiancée, Edith, Tolkien complained, “Gentlemen are rare among the superiors, and even human beings rare indeed.” They were married soon after and lived near the training camp.

On 2 June 1916, Tolkien received a telegram summoning him to Folkestone for transportation to France. He later wrote, “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then … it was like a death.”

On 7 June, Tolkien was informed that he had been assigned as a signals officer to the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, which had been decimated by heavy fighting at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He left for the trenches on 27 June 1916 and joined his new unit at Rubempré, near Amiens and was put in command of enlisted men who were drawn mainly from the mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. According to John Garth, Tolkien “felt an affinity for these working class men,” but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with “other ranks”. Instead, he was required to “take charge of them, discipline them, train them, and probably censor their letters… If possible, he was supposed to inspire their love and loyalty.” He later wrote, “The most improper job of any man… is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”

Tolkien’s brigade was sent to the Somme in early July 1916. In between terms behind the lines at Bouzincourt, he participated in the assaults on the Schwaben Redoubt and the Leipzig Salient. According to the memoirs of the Reverend Mervyn S. Evers, Anglican chaplain to the Lancashire Fusiliers:

On one occasion I spent the night with the Brigade Machine Gun Officer and the Signals Officer [Tolkien] in one of the captured German dugouts … We dossed down for the night in the hopes of getting some sleep, but it was not to be. We no sooner lay down than hordes of lice got up. So we went round to the Medical Officer, who was also in the dugout with his equipment, and he gave us some ointment which he assured us would keep the little brutes away. We anointed ourselves all over with the stuff and again lay down in great hopes, but it was not to be, because instead of discouraging them it seemed to act like a kind of hors d’oeuvre and the little beggars went at their feast with renewed vigour.

Tolkien’s time in combat was a terrible stress for Edith, who feared that every knock on the door might carry news of her husband’s death. To get around the British Army’s postal censorship, the Tolkiens developed a secret code for his letters home. By using the code, Edith could track her husband’s movements on a map of the Western Front.

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On 27 October 1916, as his battalion attacked Regina Trench, Tolkien came down with trench fever, a disease carried by lice. He was invalided to England on 8 November 1916. Many of his dearest school friends were killed in the war. Among their number were Rob Gilson of the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, who was killed on the first day of the Somme while leading his men in the assault on Beaumont Hamel. Fellow T.C.B.S. member Geoffrey Smith was killed during the same battle when a German artillery shell landed on a first aid post. Tolkien’s battalion was almost completely wiped out following.

Tolkien might well have been killed himself, but he had suffered from health problems and had been removed from combat multiple times.

According to John Garth:

Although Kitchener’s army enshrined old social boundaries, it also chipped away at the class divide by throwing men from all walks of life into a desperate situation together. Tolkien wrote that the experience taught him, ‘a deep sympathy and feeling for the Tommy; especially the plain soldier from the agricultural counties.’ He remained profoundly grateful for the lesson. For a long time, he had been imprisoned in a tower, not of pearl, but of ivory.

In later years, Tolkien indignantly declared that those who searched his works for parallels to the Second World War were entirely mistaken:

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.

A weak and emaciated Tolkien spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties, being deemed medically unfit for general service.

During his recovery in a cottage in Little Haywood, Staffordshire, he began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin. Throughout 1917 and 1918 his illness kept recurring, but he had recovered enough to do home service at various camps and was promoted to Lieutenant. When he was stationed at Kingston-upon-Hull, he and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and Edith began to dance for him in a clearing among the flowering hemlock. After his wife’s death in 1971, Tolkien remembered,

I never called Edith Luthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while). In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing – and dance. But the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.

This incident inspired the account of the meeting of Beren and Lúthien and these names are inscribed on their headstone.

Tolkien’s first civilian job after World War I was at the Oxford English Dictionary, where he worked mainly on the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with the letter W. He wrote that he struggled mightily with “walrus.” In 1920, he took up a post as Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and became the youngest lecturer there. While at Leeds, he produced A Middle English Vocabulary and a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E. V. Gordon, both becoming academic standard works for several decades. He also translated other Old English works In 1925, he went to Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, with a fellowship at Pembroke College. During his time at Pembroke he wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

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In the 1920’s, Tolkien began a translation of Beowulf, which he finished in 1926, but never published. It was finally edited by his son and published in 2014, almost 90 years after its completion. Ten years after finishing his translation, Tolkien gave a highly acclaimed lecture on the work entitled “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” which had a lasting influence on Beowulf research. Lewis E. Nicholson said that the article Tolkien wrote about Beowulf is “widely recognized as a turning point in Beowulfian criticism,” noting that Tolkien established the primacy of the poetic nature of the work as opposed to its purely linguistic elements. At the time, the consensus of scholarship deprecated Beowulf for dealing with childish battles with monsters rather than realistic tribal warfare. Tolkien argued that the author of Beowulf was addressing human destiny in general, not as limited by particular tribal politics, and therefore the monsters were essential to the poem. Where Beowulf does deal with specific tribal struggles, as at Finnsburg, Tolkien argued firmly against reading in fantastic elements. In the essay, Tolkien also revealed how highly he regarded Beowulf: “Beowulf is among my most valued sources,” and this influence may be seen throughout the general background of Middle-earth. According to Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien had a unique way of beginning his series of lectures on Beowulf:

He would come silently into the room, fix the audience with his gaze, and suddenly begin to declaim in a resounding voice the opening lines of the poem in the original Anglo-Saxon, commencing with a great cry of Hwæt! (The first word of this and several other Old English poems), which some undergraduates took to be ‘Quiet!’ It was not so much a recitation as a dramatic performance, an impersonation of an Anglo-Saxon bard in a mead hall, and it impressed generations of students because it brought home to them that Beowulf was not just a set text to be read for the purposes of examination, but a powerful piece of dramatic poetry.

Decades later, W.H. Auden wrote in a letter to Tolkien who was one of his teachers at Oxford,

I don’t think that I have ever told you what an unforgettable experience it was for me as an undergraduate, hearing you recite Beowulf. The voice was the voice of Gandalf.

Tolkien learned Latin, French, and German from his mother, and while at school he learned Middle English, Old English, Finnish, Gothic, Greek, Italian, Old Norse, Spanish, Welsh, and Medieval Welsh. He was also familiar with Danish, Dutch, Lombardic, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Swedish and older forms of modern Germanic and Slavonic languages, and started constructing his own languages as a teenager. A true linguist!

Since Tolkien’s primary academic interest was Old English it seems right to give you an Anglo-Saxon recipe. This one has been reconstructed from 7th century descriptions. It’s pretty simple and delicious.  You can use rabbit in place of hare.

jrr2

Hare Stew with Barley

Ingredients

2 oz butter
1 hare
1lb washed and trimmed leeks, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
6 oz pearl barley
3 tbsps vinegar
2 bay leaves
salt and, pepper
15 fresh, roughly chopped sage leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried sage

Instructions

Heat the butter on medium high heat in a heavy saucepan and sauté the garlic and leeks until softened. Reserve them.

Joint the hare and brown with what remains of the butter.

Return the leeks and garlic to the pot. Add the barley, vinegar, bay leaves and sage, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cover with water or light stock.

Bring the pot to the boil and then simmer gently, covered, for at least 1 ½ hours. Make sure the barley is thoroughly cooked and the hare is tender.

Adjust the seasonings and serve in deep bowls with wholewheat bread.

Serves 6

Apr 102014
 

booth1

Today is the birthday (1829) of William Booth, a British Methodist preacher who founded The Salvation Army and became its first General (1878–1912). William Booth was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, the second son of five children born to Samuel Booth and his second wife, Mary Moss. Booth’s father was relatively wealthy by the standards of the time, but during William’s childhood, the family descended into poverty. In 1842, Samuel Booth, who could no longer afford his son’s school fees, apprenticed the 13-year-old William Booth to a pawnbroker. Samuel Booth died on 23 September 1843.

Two years into his apprenticeship Booth converted to Methodism. He then read extensively and trained himself in writing and in speech, becoming a Methodist lay preacher. Booth was encouraged to be an evangelist primarily through his best friend, Will Sansom. Sansom and Booth both began in the 1840s to preach to the poor of Nottingham, and Booth would probably have remained as Sansom’s partner in his new Mission Ministry, as Sansom called it, had Sansom not died of tuberculosis, in 1849.

When his apprenticeship ended in 1848, Booth was unemployed and spent a year looking in vain for work. In 1849, he reluctantly left his family and moved to London, where he again found work with a pawnbroker. He tried to continue lay preaching in London, but the small amount of preaching work that came his way frustrated him, and so he resigned as a lay preacher and took to open-air evangelizing in the streets and on Kennington Common.

In 1851, Booth joined the Reformers (Methodist Reform Church), and on 10 April 1852, his 23rd birthday, he left pawnbroking and became a full-time preacher at their headquarters at Binfield Chapel in Clapham. William styled his preaching after the U.S. revivalist James Caughey, who had made frequent visits to England and preached at the church in Nottingham where Booth was a member, Broad Street Chapel. Just over a month after he started full-time preaching, on 15 May 1852, Booth became formally engaged to Catherine Mumford. In November 1853, Booth was invited to become the Reformers’ minister at Spalding, in Lincolnshire. Booth married Catherine Mumford on 16 June 1855 at Stockwell Green Congregational Church in London. Their wedding was very simple, as they wanted to use their time and money for his ministry. Even on their honeymoon Booth was asked to speak at meetings.

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Though Booth became a prominent Methodist evangelist, he was unhappy that the annual conference of the denomination kept assigning him to a pastorate, the duties of which he had to neglect to respond to the frequent requests that he conduct evangelistic campaigns. At the Liverpool conference in 1861, after having spent three years at Gateshead, his request to be freed for evangelism full-time was refused yet again, and Booth resigned from the ministry of the Methodist New Connexion. In consequence he was barred from campaigning in Methodist congregations, so he became an independent evangelist. His doctrine remained much the same, though. He never moved very far from basic Methodist beliefs.

In 1865 Booth was in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets. Outside The Blind Beggar public house some missioners heard him speaking and were so impressed by his preaching that they invited him to lead a series of meetings they were holding in a large tent.  The tent was set up on an old Quaker burial ground on Mile End Waste in Whitechapel. The first of these meetings was held on 2 July 1865.

Booth soon realized he had found his destiny, and later in 1865 he and his wife Catherine opened ‘The Christian Revival Society’ in the East End of London, where they held meetings every evening and on Sundays, preaching to the poorest and most needy, including alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes. The Christian Revival Society was later renamed The Christian Mission. Slowly The Christian Mission began to grow but the work was difficult and his wife wrote that he would “stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn, and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck.” He held evening in an old warehouse where boys threw stones and fireworks through the window. He continued however, and also opened “Food for the Million Shops,” that is, soup kitchens, apparently shrugging off the constant derision.

The name The Salvation Army developed from an incident in May 1878. Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Scott Railton and said, “We are a volunteer army.” When his son Bramwell Booth heard his father say this he said, “Volunteer, I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” William instructed Railton to cross out the word “volunteer” and substitute the word “salvation.” The Salvation Army was modeled after the military, with its own flag (battle colors) and its own music, often with Christian words to popular and folk tunes sung in the pubs. Booth and the other soldiers in “God’s Army” would wear the Army’s own uniform, “putting on the armour,” for meetings and ministry work. He became the general and his other ministers were given appropriate ranks as officers. Other members became soldiers.

Though the early years were lean ones, with the need of money to help the poor an ever growing issue, Booth and The Salvation Army persevered. In the early 1880s, operations were extended to other countries, notably the United States, France, Switzerland, Sweden and others, including to most of the countries of the British Empire: Australia, Canada, India, Cape Colony, New Zealand, Jamaica, etc.

Often the beginnings in other countries occurred through the “salvationist” activities of soldiers who had emigrated. With some initial success they would contact London to send officers to organize the cause. In Argentina, a non-salvationist wrote to Booth saying that there were thousands of British people there who needed salvation. I find it slightly odd that the writer should emphasize the British immigrants, as needing salvation more than Argentinos; it’s worth a smile in hindsight. The four officers sent in 1890 found that the British were scattered all over the rural areas, mostly in the south in La Pampa and Patagonia, working as sheep farmers. But the missionaries started ministry in English and Spanish, and the work spread throughout the country – initially following the railroad development, since the British in charge of building the railroads were usually sympathetic to the movement.  (As a small aside, this harks back to my post on Brunel yesterday. British engineers were in the forefront of railroad development in South America because of Brunel’s work).

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During his lifetime, Booth established Army work in 58 countries and colonies, traveling extensively and holding salvation meetings. He regularly published a magazine and was the author of a number of books; he also composed several songs. His book In Darkest England and the Way Out not only became a best-seller after its 1890 release, it set the foundation for the Army’s modern social welfare approach.

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He proposed a strategy to apply the Christian Gospel and work ethic to the problems. His book speaks of abolishing vice and poverty by establishing homes for the homeless, farm communities where the urban poor can be trained in agriculture, training centers for prospective emigrants, homes for prostitutes and released prisoners, aid for the poor, and help for alcoholics. He also laid down schemes for lawyers, banks, clinics, industrial schools and even a seaside resort for the poor. He adamantly affirmed that if the state fails to meet its social obligations it was the task of each Christian to step into the breach.

Booth was always an evangelist and never departed from his ministry of conversion. In his introduction he writes:

I have no intention to depart in the smallest degree from the main principles on which I have acted in the past. My only hope for the permanent deliverance of mankind from misery, either in this world or the next, is the regeneration or remaking of the individual by the power of the Holy Ghost through Jesus Christ. But in providing for the relief of temporal misery I reckon that I am only making it easy where it is now difficult, and possible where it is now all but impossible, for men and women to find their way to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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William Booth was 83 years old when he died (or, in Salvationist parlance, was Promoted to Glory) at his home in Hadley Wood, London. At the three day lying in state at Clapton Congress Hall 150,000 people filed past his casket. On 27 August 1912 Booth’s funeral service was held at London’s Olympia where 40,000 people attended, including Queen Mary, who sat almost unrecognized far to the rear of the great hall.

The following day Booth’s funeral procession set out from International Headquarters. As it moved off 10,000 uniformed Salvationists fell in behind. Forty Salvation Army bands played the ‘Dead March’ from Handel’s Saul as the vast procession set off. He was buried with his wife Catherine Booth in the main London burial ground for 19th century non-conformist ministers and tutors, the non-denominational Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington.

The Salvation Army came under a lot of criticism in Booth’s lifetime, and has continued to have a mixed reception for a variety of reasons – mostly concerning its vast wealth and moral stances.  But I will bypass this topic here. You can look it up if you are interested.  I have many friends who are Salvation Army officers and they are all hard working decent people, laboring to do good in the world.  They all play brass instruments, of course, which is mostly how I know them.  My son played trumpet at Salvation Army kettles for years.  So here’s a little tribute to Salvation Army brass (for the musicians in the audience – Salvation Army bands normally use the cornet rather than the trumpet, including sometimes the E? soprano):

I was surprised to discover the relationship between the Salvation Army and doughnuts.  Here’s a video to explain with some good vintage footage:

It’s only 44 seconds long, but if you cannot view it, essentially, “Salvation Army lassies” became legendary in WW I, and again in WW II, for giving free doughnuts and coffee to soldiers.   They chose doughnuts because field kitchens generally did not have ovens to bake cakes or cookies.

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Here is a recipe taken directly from a Salvation Army website: http://salvationarmynorth.org/about-us/history/original-salvation-army-donut-recipe-video/.  You might want to substitute something healthier for the tub of lard, although lard is superior for frying.  If it were me I wouldn’t let them cool either.  Fresh doughnuts straight from the fryer are unbeatable.  It’s easy to halve the recipe if 48 are too many for you.

Salvation Army Lassies’ Donut Recipe

Yield: 4 dozen donuts

Ingredients:

5 C flour
2 C sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ‘saltspoon’ salt
2 eggs
1 ¾ C milk
1 Tub lard

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.

Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative. Salvation Army Donut Girls used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.)

Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.

When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.

Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.

Mar 182014
 

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Today is the birthday (1893) of Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC, English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War. His shockingly realistic war poetry concerning the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon, and stood in stark contrast both to the public perception of war at the time and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke. Among his best-known works – most of which were published posthumously – are “Dulce et Decorum Est,” “Insensibility,” “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” “Futility,” and “Strange Meeting.”

Wilfred Owen was born at Plas Wilmot, a house in Weston Lane, near Oswestry in Shropshire of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. He was the eldest of four children, his siblings being Harold, Colin, and Mary Millard Owen. At that time, his parents, Thomas and Harriet Susan (née Shaw) Owen, lived in a comfortable house owned by his grandfather, Edward Shaw but, after the latter’s death in January 1897, and the house’s sale in March, the family lodged in back streets of Birkenhead while Thomas temporarily worked in the town with the railway company employing him. In April the latter transferred to Shrewsbury, where the family lived with Thomas’ parents in Canon Street.

In 1898, Thomas transferred to Birkenhead again when he became stationmaster at Woodside station   and the family lived with him, at three successive homes in the Tranmere district, before moving back to Shrewsbury in 1907. Wilfred was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School (later known as the Wakeman School).

He discovered his poetic vocation in 1903 or 1904 during a holiday spent in Cheshire. Owen was raised as an Anglican of the evangelical school, and in his youth was a devout believer, in part due to his strong relationship with his mother, which was to last throughout his life. His early influences included the Bible and the “big six” of romantic poetry, particularly John Keats. For Owen’s last two years of formal education he was a pupil-teacher at the Wyle Cop school in Shrewsbury. In 1911, he passed the matriculation exam for the University of London, but not with the first-class honours needed for a scholarship, which in his family’s circumstances was the only way he could have afforded to attend.

In return for free lodging, and some tuition for the entrance exam, Owen worked as lay assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden near Reading. During this time he attended classes at University College, Reading (now the University of Reading), in botany and later, at the urging of the head of the English Department, took free lessons in Old English. His time spent at Dunsden parish led him to disillusionment with the Church, both in its ceremony and its failure to provide aid for those in need.

From 1913, he worked as a private tutor teaching English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages in Bordeaux, France, and later with a family. There he met the older French poet Laurent Tailhade, with whom he later corresponded in French. When war broke out, he did not rush to enlist, and even considered the French army, but eventually returned to England.

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On 21 October 1915, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corps. For the next seven months, he trained at Hare Hall Camp in Essex. On 4 June 1916 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant (on probation) in the Manchester Regiment. Initially, he held his troops in contempt for their loutish behavior, and in a letter to his mother described his company as “expressionless lumps.” However, his life was to be changed dramatically by a number of traumatic experiences. He fell into a shell hole and suffered concussion; he was blown high into the air by a trench mortar, and spent several days lying out on an embankment in Savy Wood amongst (or so he thought) the remains of a fellow officer. Soon afterwards, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia or shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. It was while recuperating at Craiglockhart that he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, an encounter that was to transform Owen’s life.

Whilst at Craiglockhart, he made friends in Edinburgh’s artistic and literary circles, and did some teaching at the Tynecastle High School, in a poor area of the city. In November he was discharged from Craiglockhart, judged fit for light regimental duties. He spent a contented and fruitful winter in Scarborough, and in March 1918 was posted to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon. While in Ripon he composed or revised a number of poems, including “Futility” and “Strange Meeting.” He spent his 25th birthday quietly at Ripon Cathedral, which is dedicated to his namesake, St. Wilfrid of Hexham.

At the very end of August 1918, Owen returned to the front line – perhaps imitating the example of his admired friend Sassoon. On 1 October 1918 Owen led units of the Second Manchesters to storm a number of enemy strong points near the village of Joncourt. However, only one week before the end of the war, whilst attempting to traverse the Sambre canal, he was shot and killed. The news of his death, on 4 November 1918, arrived at his parents’ house in Shrewsbury on Armistice Day. For his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action, he was awarded the Military Cross, an award he had always sought in order to justify himself as a war poet, but the award was not gazetted until 15 February 1919. The citation followed on 30 July 1919:

2nd Lt, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, 5th Bn. Manch. R., T.F., attd. 2nd Bn.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on October 1st/2nd, 1918. On the company commander becoming a casualty, he assumed command and showed fine leadership and resisted a heavy counter-attack. He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantly.

Owen is regarded by some critics as the leading poet of the First World War, known for his war poetry on the horrors of trench and gas warfare. He had been writing poetry for some years before the war, himself dating his poetic beginnings to a stay at Broxton by the Hill, when he was ten years old. The Romantic poets Keats and Shelley influenced much of Owen’s early writing and poetry. His great friend, the poet Siegfried Sassoon, later had a profound effect on Owen’s poetic voice, and Owen’s most famous poems (“Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”) show direct results of Sassoon’s influence. Manuscript copies of the poems survive, annotated in Sassoon’s handwriting. Owen’s poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor. While his use of pararhyme (near rhyme) with heavy reliance on assonance of consonants was innovative, he was not the only poet at the time to use these particular techniques. He was, however, one of the first to experiment with it extensively.

Here is an excerpt from “Strange Meeting” with the pararhymes in bold.

Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

Here is “Dulce et Decorum Est” preceded by the marked up manuscript.

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Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

His poetry itself underwent significant changes in 1917. As a part of his therapy at Craiglockhart, Owen’s doctor, Arthur Brock, encouraged Owen to translate his experiences, specifically the experiences he relived in his dreams, into poetry. Sassoon, who was becoming influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis, aided him here, showing Owen through example what poetry could do. Sassoon’s use of satire influenced Owen, who tried his hand at writing “in Sassoon’s style”. Further, the content of Owen’s verse was undeniably changed by his work with Sassoon. Sassoon’s emphasis on realism and “writing from experience” was contrary to Owen’s hitherto romantic-influenced style, as seen in his earlier sonnets. Owen was to take both Sassoon’s gritty realism and his own romantic notions and create a poetic synthesis that was both potent and sympathetic, as summarised by his famous phrase “the pity of war”. In this way, Owen’s poetry is quite distinctive, and he is, by many, considered a greater poet than Sassoon. Nonetheless, Sassoon contributed to Owen’s popularity by his strong promotion of his poetry, both before and after Owen’s death, and his editing was instrumental in the making of Owen as a poet.

Owen’s poems had the benefit of strong patronage, and it was a combination of Sassoon’s influence, support from Edith Sitwell, and the preparation of a new and fuller edition of the poems in 1931 by Edmund Blunden that ensured his popularity, coupled with a revival of interest in his poetry in the 1960s which plucked him out of a relatively exclusive readership into the public eye. Though he had plans for a volume of verse, for which he had written a “Preface”, he never saw his own work published apart from those poems he included in The Hydra, the magazine he edited at Craiglockhart War Hospital, and “Miners,” which was published in The Nation.

There were many other influences on Owen’s poetry, including his mother. His letters to her provide an insight into Owen’s life at the front, and the development of his philosophy regarding the war. Graphic details of the horror Owen witnessed were never spared. Owen’s experiences with religion also heavily influenced his poetry, notably in poems such as “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, in which the ceremony of a funeral is re-enacted not in a church, but on the battlefield itself, and “At a Calvary near the Ancre”, which comments on the Crucifixion of Christ. Owen’s experiences in war led him further to challenge his religious beliefs, claiming in his poem “Exposure” that “love of God seems dying”.

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In July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was probably the result of Sassoon’s being sent back to England, after being shot in the head in an apparent “friendly fire” incident, and put on sick-leave for the remaining duration of the war. Owen saw it as his duty to add his voice to that of Sassoon, that the horrific realities of the war might continue to be told. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches, threatening to “stab [him] in the leg” if he tried it. Aware of his attitude, Owen did not inform him of his action until he was once again in France.

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Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery. There are memorials to Wilfred Owen at Gailly, Ors, Oswestry, Birkenhead (Central Library) and Shrewsbury.

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On 11 November 1985, Owen was one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. The inscription on the stone is taken from Owen’s “Preface” to his poems: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” There is also a small museum dedicated to Owen and Sassoon at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, now a Napier University building.

The forester’s house in Ors where Owen spent his last night, Maison forestière de l’Ermitage, has been transformed by Turner Prize nominee Simon Patterson into an art installation and permanent memorial to Owen and his poetry, which opened to the public on 1 October 2011.

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Here’s a recipe from Picardy where Owen was killed and now rests in peace. Picardy is especially noted for terroir cuisine (cooking using local ingredients only). Maroilles (also known as Marolles) is a cow’s-milk cheese made in the regions of Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais in northern France. It derives its name from the village of Maroilles in the region in which it is still manufactured. The curd is shaped and salted before being removed from its mold and placed in a ventilated drying area for around ten days during which time a light coating of bacteria develops. The cheese is then brushed and washed and cellared for at least five weeks, though periods of up to four months are not uncommon. During this time it is turned and brushed at regular intervals to remove the natural white mold and to allow its red bacteria to change the rind from yellow to red.

For filet de veau au lard à la crème de maroilles a loin of veal is larded with bacon, baked, and then smothered in a sauce made from Maroilles and Picardy beer. Because this is a terroir dish you going to be hard put to make it at home — unless your home is in Picardy.

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Filet De Veau Au Lard À La Crème De Maroilles

Ingredients:

22 ozs/600 gm veal loin
10 slices Picardy bacon
½ cup/1 dl Picardy beer
7 ozs/200 gm of Maroilles cheese
3 ozs80 gm butter
1 cup/2 dl cream

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 250°F /(120 °C

Bard (wrap) the veal loin with slices of bacon.

Brown the barded loin on all sides in a heavy skillet. Place the loin in a baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.

Melt the maroilles with the beer in the skillet along with the veal and bacon juices. Add the cream plus  salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the bottom of a serving plate with the  maroilles sauce. Place the loin on top cut into thick slices (3 per person).  Serve with egg noodles or new potatoes plus crusty bread.

Nov 292013
 

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Today is the birthday (1898) of Clive Staples Lewis – commonly called C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as “Jack” – novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He was born in Belfast and held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925–1954, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 1954–1963. He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Chronicles of Narnia, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to the Anglican Communion, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England.” His faith had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity during WW II brought him wide acclaim.

At the age of four, shortly after his dog Jacksie was killed by a car, he announced that his name was now Jacksie. At first, he would answer to no other name, but later accepted Jack, the name by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life. When he was seven, his family moved into “Little Lea,” the family home of his childhood, in the Strandtown area of East Belfast.

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As a boy, Lewis had a fascination with anthropomorphic animals, falling in love with Beatrix Potter’s stories and often writing and illustrating his own animal stories. He and his brother Warnie together created the world of Boxen, inhabited and run by animals. Lewis loved to read; and, as his father’s house was filled with books, he felt that finding a book to read was as easy as “walking into a field and finding a new blade of grass.”

As a teenager, he was fascinated by the songs and legends of what he called Northernness, the ancient literature of Scandinavia preserved in the Icelandic sagas. These legends intensified an inner longing he later called “joy.” He also grew to love nature; its beauty reminded him of the stories of the North. His teenage writings moved away from the tales of Boxen, and he began using different art forms (epic poetry and opera) to try to capture his new-found interest in Norse mythology and the natural world. Through boyhood study of Classics he also developed love of Greek literature including works in rhetoric and logic, as well as the familiar legends and mythology. In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship at University College, Oxford to study Classics. Before he was allowed to attend Oxford, however, Lewis was conscripted into the First World War. His experience of the horror of war confirmed his atheism.

On 15 April 1918, Lewis was wounded and two of his colleagues were killed by a British shell falling short of its target. While being trained for the army, Lewis shared a room with another cadet, Edward Courtnay Francis “Paddy” Moore (1898–1918). Maureen Moore, Paddy’s sister, said that the two made a mutual pact that if either died during the war, the survivor would take care of both their families. Paddy was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy had earlier introduced Lewis to his mother, Jane King Moore, and a friendship quickly sprang up between Lewis, who was eighteen when they met, and Jane who was forty-five. The friendship with Moore was particularly important to Lewis while he was recovering from his wounds in hospital, as his father did not visit him.

Lewis lived with and cared for Jane Moore until she was hospitalized in the late 1940s. He routinely introduced her as his “mother,” and referred to her as such in letters. Lewis, whose own mother had died when he was a child and whose father was distant, demanding and eccentric, developed a deeply affectionate friendship with Moore.

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In 1930, Lewis and his brother Warnie moved, with Jane Moore and her daughter Maureen, into “The Kilns,” a house in Headington Quarry on the outskirts of Oxford, now part of the suburb of Risinghurst. They all contributed financially to the purchase of the house, which passed to Maureen, who by then was Dame Maureen Dunbar, when Warnie died in 1973.

Lewis experienced a degree of culture shock on first arriving in England.  In Surprised by Joy he wrote, “No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England. The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons. But what was worst was the English landscape. I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal.”

He slowly re-embraced Christianity, influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien, whom he seems to have met for the first time on 11 May 1926, and by the book The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton. He fought greatly up to the moment of his conversion, noting that he was brought into Christianity like a prodigal, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” He described his last struggle in Surprised by Joy:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

After his conversion to theism in 1929, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931, following a long discussion and late-night walk with his close friends Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. He records making a specific commitment to Christian belief while on his way to the zoo with his brother. He became a member of the Church of England – somewhat to the disappointment of Tolkien, who had hoped that he would join the Catholic Church.

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Lewis was a committed Anglican who upheld a largely orthodox Anglican theology, though in his apologetic writings, he made an effort to avoid embracing any one denomination. In his later writings, he espoused ideas such as purification of venial sins after death in purgatory (The Great Divorce and Letters to Malcolm) and mortal sin (The Screwtape Letters), which are generally considered to be Roman Catholic teachings, although they are also widely held in Anglicanism (particularly in high church Anglo-Catholic circles). Regardless, Lewis considered himself an entirely orthodox Anglican to the end of his life, reflecting that he had initially attended church only to receive communion and had been repelled by the hymns and the poor quality of the sermons.

In Lewis’s later life, he corresponded with and later met Joy Davidman Gresham, a U.S. writer of Jewish background, a former Communist, and a convert from atheism to Christianity. She was separated from her alcoholic and abusive husband, the novelist William L. Gresham, and went to England with her two sons, David and Douglas. Lewis at first regarded her as an agreeable intellectual companion and personal friend, and it was at least overtly on this level that he agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her so that she could continue to live in the U.K. His brother wrote, “For Jack the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun.” However, after complaining of a painful hip, she was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, and the relationship developed to the point that they sought a Christian marriage. Since she was divorced, this was not straightforward in the Church of England at the time, but a friend, the Rev. Peter Bide, performed the ceremony at her bed in the Churchill Hospital on 21 March 1957.

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Joy’s cancer soon went into a brief remission, and the couple lived as a family (together with Warnie) until her eventual relapse and death in 1960. The year she died, the couple took a brief holiday in Greece and the Aegean; Lewis was fond of walking but not of travel, and this marked his only crossing of the English Channel after 1918. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed describes his experience of bereavement in such a raw and personal fashion that Lewis originally released it under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk to keep readers from associating the book with him. Ironically, many friends recommended the book to him as a method for dealing with his own grief. After his death, his authorship was made public by Faber’s, with the permission of the executors.

Lewis continued to raise Gresham’s two sons after her death. While Douglas Gresham is, like Lewis and his mother, a Christian, David Gresham turned to the faith into which his mother had been born and became an Orthodox Jew. His mother’s writings had featured the Jews, particularly one “shohet” (ritual slaughterer), in an unsympathetic manner. David informed Lewis that he was going to become a ritual slaughterer in order to present this type of Jewish religious functionary to the world in a more favorable light.

In early June 1961, Lewis began experiencing medical problems and was diagnosed with inflammation of the kidneys which resulted in blood poisoning. His illness caused him to miss the Michaelmas term at Cambridge, though his health gradually began improving in 1962 and he returned that April. Lewis’s health continued to improve, and according to his friend George Sayer, Lewis was fully himself by early 1963. On 15 July 1963 he fell ill and was admitted to hospital. The next day at 5:00 pm, Lewis suffered a heart attack and lapsed into a coma, unexpectedly awaking the following day at 2:00 pm. After he was discharged from the hospital, Lewis returned to The Kilns, though he was too ill to return to work. As a result, he resigned from his post at Cambridge in August. Lewis’s condition continued to decline, and in mid-November he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. On 22 November 1963, exactly one week before his 65th birthday, Lewis collapsed in his bedroom at 5:30 pm and died a few minutes later. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington, Oxford

I am not a great fan of Lewis’s fiction. I find The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, heavy handed in its thinly disguised Christian symbolism and moralizing, and never could get far in any of the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Nor do I find his overall reasoning within his Christian apologetics compelling. Despite claiming to be ecumenical in his Christian writing, seeking common ground among all denominations, his work is dominated by high church Anglican theology which I find repellant for the most part (I was raised and ordained in the Scots Presbyterian tradition).  His justification for believing in a loving God despite the existence of pain and evil in the world strikes me as hopelessly naïve, and his thoughts on universal morality show a complete ignorance of cultures outside of the West.  Yet I have read all of his Christian apologetic works, some many times, because he has the knack of summing up profound problems in a pithy phrase. No end of times I will be reading his work, and just stop and muse for a long time on one sentence.  Here is a sampling chosen more or less at random:

“I sometimes wonder if all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.”

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

“It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

“Of all the bad men, religious bad men are the worst.”

“We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

It is no surprise to me that C. S. Lewis quotes are among the most popular on social media.

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C. S. Lewis by his own admission was extremely fond of traditional British cooking — ham and eggs being his favorite, but also steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, fried sausages, bread and cheese, roast mutton. So once again I get to extol the virtue of this cuisine, much maligned by the ignorant.  To celebrate C.S. Lewis I give you veal, ham, and egg pie which I always used to make around Christmas.  It uses what is known as “slack pastry,” unusual in that it is made with a mix of boiling water and lard.  The pastry is flaky on the outside, but sturdy enough that pies made of it can stand alone without a container.

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©Veal, Ham, and Egg Pie

Ingredients:

1lb/450 g ground veal
4ozs/110 ground boiled ham
2 tbsps fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp powdered mace
¼ tsp powdered bay leaves
shaved zest of 1 lemon
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Slack pastry

4 ozs/110 g lard, plus extra for greasing the tin
7 fl oz/ 200 ml Water
12 ozs/350 g all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Aspic

2 tsps gelatin
½ pint /300 ml light stock

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350 °F/ 180 °C

Grease a 2 ½ pint/1.4 litre loaf tin well with lard.

Put the veal, ham, parsley, mace, bay leaves, and lemon zest in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Put the lard and water in a saucepan and gently heat until the lard has melted. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and tip quickly into the flour.

First with a wooden spoon, then with your hands as soon as it is cool enough to work, mix the ingredients until you have a soft pliable dough.

Take two-thirds of the dough while it is still warm and roll it flat.  Place it in the greased tin and work it up the sides with your fingers, making sure it is evenly distributed and over laps the rim.

Press in half the meat mixture and place the eggs in a line down the centre. Fill with the remaining meat mixture.

Roll out the remaining pastry for the lid. Cover the pie with the pastry and seal the edges.

Use the pastry trimmings to decorate the top, then make one large hole in the center of the pie.

Bake for 1 ½ hours. If necessary, cover the pastry with foil towards the end of the cooking time to prevent over-browning.

Leave to cool for 1 hour.

Make up an aspic jelly by dissolving the gelatin in boiling stock. Cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a funnel pour the liquid aspic through the hole in the top of the pie. You need to take your time with this step because the pie will appear to be filled, but then the aspic will seep down slowly through the meat filling.

Chill the pie for at least 3 hours or overnight (preferable).

To turn out leave the pie to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour, then immerse the tin in very hot water, making sure not to dampen the pastry top, for several minutes.

Cut into thick slices, and serve on a bed of watercress or lettuce, with hot English mustard(cook gets the end pieces as a bedtime snack).

Yield: 8-10 slices.

Aug 272013
 

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On this date in 1928 the Kellogg–Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris, officially General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy) was signed by France, the United States, and 13 other nations.  It was the brainchild of French foreign minister Aristide Briand, but codified and expanded by United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg. It was a most laudable effort in the aftermath of the First World War (known as “The Great War” at that time), to appeal to nations to resolve differences without resort to war.  I wholeheartedly applaud the effort, and have no difficulty celebrating the day, even though the effort was a complete failure.  I should note that the pact has never been repealed in the U.S. so, in some technical sense, it is still in force.

The guts of the Kellogg–Briand Pact are contained in the first two articles:

ARTICLE I
The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

ARTICLE II
The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.

Kellogg was awarded the 1929 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to provide what he hoped would be a permanent end to war as an “instrument of national policy.” Well, you get an A for effort Frank. (Briand had already shared the Nobel Prize in 1926 for previous peace efforts)

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The map below charts the worldwide signatories to the pact. Dark green represents the original signatories, light green represents subsequent signatories, and light blue represents dependent colonies of nations who signed, and were, therefore, legally bound as well.  I am interested to note that almost all of Latin America is conspicuous in its failure to sign on, mainly because Latin American nations were neutral during the First World War (following the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907). Only Brazil was directly involved and not until 1917.

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French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand’s initial proposal was for a peace pact as a bilateral agreement between the United States and France to outlaw war between them. Particularly hard hit by the First World War, France faced continuing insecurity from Germany and sought alliances to shore up its defenses. Briand published an open letter in April of 1927 containing the proposal. Though the suggestion had the enthusiastic support of some members of the U.S. peace movement, President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg were less eager than Briand to enter into a bilateral arrangement. They worried that the agreement against war could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened (which it was). To avoid this, Kellogg suggested that the two nations take the lead in inviting all nations to join them in outlawing war.  So, although Briand initiated the idea of a peace pact, it was Kellogg who broadened it to its global basis.

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The original signatories were France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The U.S. Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 85–1, though it did so only after making reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement – pretty much a “get out of jail free” card.

In reality the pact had zero impact on the signatories.  Makes one wonder why they bothered.  The following cartoon is perhaps a little obscure nowadays even with the handwritten legend “Innocents Abroad.” The intent is pretty clear, though.  Europe saw the U.S. as being naïvely paternalistic in its efforts in this regard.  Europe plays the dutiful child saying “yes, daddy” and then goes and does what it pleases.  It was naïve to expect such a pact to achieve anything, but I believe it was sincere.

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The first major test of the pact came just a few years later in 1931, when the Mukden Incident led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Though Japan had signed the pact, the combination of the worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China prevented the League of Nations or the United States from taking any action to enforce it. Further threats to the pact also came from fellow signatories Germany, Austria, and Italy. It soon became clear that there was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it; it also never fully defined what constituted “self-defense,” so there were many ways around its terms (including the avoidance of formal declarations of war). In the end, the Kellogg-Briand Pact did nothing to prevent World War II or any of the conflicts that followed. Its legacy remains as a statement of the idealism expressed by advocates for peace in the interwar period. Let us hope for a return to that idealism SOON.

I thought that French fries  would be a good choice for a recipe to celebrate a pact that came out of U.S./France negotiations.  I’m going to go two ways with this.  First I am going to give you my recipe (and notes) for perfect fries. Second, I am going to list a number of ways that French fries are served around the world (whatever they call them — let’s not fight!).

© Tío Juan’s Perfect French Fries

Starting notes:

Type of potato. Russet or Idaho potatoes are the classics in the U.S. They are in the category of mealy potatoes sometimes called floury potatoes.  You need to use the one available where you live.  King Edward used to be the classic in the U.K. Maris Peer and Maris Piper are newer varieties that work well. In other countries use a potato classified as a baking potato. Do not use waxy potatoes.

Peeling.  For a long time I never peeled potatoes at all, no matter what the dish.  I would simply scrub them well on the outside and then cut them, skins on, for whatever I needed them for.  Unpeeled French fries have a tasty, crispy skin side that has a slight earthiness to it.  These go well with rustic dishes.  Peeled French fries are a bit more refined, but also cleaner in taste.

Cutting. Style of cutting depends on personal preferences plus the nature of the dish the fries are to be served with. The general issue has to do with the ratio of crisp outer layer to tender insides.  Here I think it is cook’s choice plus some common sense.  Shoestring fries are ultra-thin, so they are crispy with almost no insides.  They are perhaps best as a snack or garnish.  “Regular” fries, the size you get in fast food joints, are multi-purpose, but best served with other fried foods. Wedges and steak fries, are big and hearty with lots of floury center.  They go well with robustly sauced dishes where you might otherwise use boiled or baked potatoes.

Fat.  What fat you choose depends to a large degree on how often you eat fried foods. I rarely do (maybe three or four times per year) so I have no problem making French fries with the most hideously artery clogging fats there are.  If you are more of a glutton for fried foods, you might want to go with healthier choices. Although it is a relatively modern trend, duck fat is unrivalled, producing crispy delicious fries.  Lard was the usual fat for British chippies when I used to eat in them in the 60’s, and is my fat of choice when I cannot get anything else.  If I cook a goose at Christmas I will use the plenteous fat from the baking dish for deep frying.   Otherwise, use oils that are low in saturated fats and trans-fat. Your best choices in this regard are safflower oil and canola oil.

Draining. This is a big issue for me.  Just about every recipe I ever read calls for draining cooked fries (and other deep fried foods) on paper towels. WRONG! If the food sits on paper towels the paper absorbs the fat but the fries then sit in the fat. Always drain fried food on a wire rack with a pan lined with paper towels underneath. If you like you can pat the fries with paper towels to remove excess, but that it is all.

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs potatoes (your choice)
cooking fat/oil (your choice)

Instructions:

Peel the potatoes or not as you choose. Cut the potatoes to the shape and size of your choice.  Put them in a colander or large sieve and rinse them under cold running water until the water runs clear. Put the potatoes in a bowl and cover them with cold water.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

You can use the fryer of your choice. You MUST have a way to accurately measure the temperature of the fat.

Preheat the fat/oil to 325°F/160°C

Drain the potatoes and dry them with a kitchen towel or paper towels.

Fry the potatoes in batches.  If you cook too many at a time the temperature of the fryer will drop too much.  Fry each batch for around 8 minutes, until the potatoes are limp and begin to turn color, about 6 minutes.  Drain on a wire rack (see notes). Cool to room temperature.

Reheat the oil/fat to 350°F/175°C. Fry the blanched potatoes in batches again until golden. This should not take more than 2 minutes.  Drain on a wire rack again, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Choice of toppings or condiments.

These are generalizations, more to give you the idea than hard and fast rules as to how people in a few different countries season their fries. Dip them in whatever you want, or douse them in anything tasty.

U.S.A. Tomato ketchup reigns supreme, of course, but don’t forget chili cheese fries – a healthy dose of chili (no beans) and grated cheese.

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U.K. Of course British chips are not really French fries at all. The ones I am familiar with from fish and chip shops tend to be fat and rather limp – delicious, though.  The classic flavorings are malt vinegar and salt. If you let them put the salt on for you, you may well have a stroke.  In the Midlands of England it is common to eat chips with mushy peas (which are what the name suggests). It’s also common to get chips with curry sauce at both Chinese and Indian takeaways, although the style of curry is quite different at each.

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Argentina. Tomato ketchup is common, but we also use salsa golf, which is a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise, sometimes with a touch of oregano.  You can also use chimichurri, a blend of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar.

Belgium and Holland. Mayonnaise is usual, but it is a richer, creamier mayonnaise than you get elsewhere.  Belgians also serve meat stews directly over French fries (see post 21 July).  Belgians claim they invented the French fry, which may or may not be true. The historical evidence is not very clear. Whatever the case, Belgians enjoy deep fried potatoes with a variety of meals, including formal ones.

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Romania. In Romania, you can dip French fries in mujdei, a spicy sauce made with minced garlic cloves, salt, oil, vinegar, and a little bit of water. It’s rather liquid.

Canada. In Canada you can get poutine in quick food joints: fries smothered in beef gravy and topped with crumbled cheese curds.

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Philippines. Banana ketchup is a common condiment.  It’s sweeter than tomato ketchup, and a little spicier.  Throughout SE Asia sweeter, spicier sauces are common.

Japan. There are spice mixes in Japan that are used as seasonings for plain rice that are used for fries also.  A blend of nori flakes with the shichimi togarashi (red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed) is common.

With fries there are no rules.  Any sauce works. Mayonnaise can be juiced up a hundred ways: curry powder, fines herbes, garlic . . . Or go with bearnaise sauce, tartar sauce, tzatziki, feta cheese, barbecue sauce, chicken gravy, brown sauce, lemon juice, piccalilli, pickled cucumber, gherkins, pickled onions (a fav of mine), fresh cheese curds of any variety. Mix and match. Try not to be dull in this life.