Jul 012021

Today is Canada Day, once called Dominion Day, celebrating the enactment of the British North America Act in 1867, which confederated Canada, and which was publicly announced with the ringing of the bells at the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto and “bonfires, fireworks and illuminations, excursions, military displays and musical and other entertainments.” On June 20 of the following year, governor general, viscount Monck, issued a royal proclamation asking for Canadians to celebrate the anniversary of Confederation, but the holiday was not established statutorily until May 15, 1879, when it was designated as Dominion Day, alluding to the reference in the British North America Act to the country as a dominion. The holiday was initially not dominant in the national calendar, with no large celebrations being held until 1917, and then none again for a further decade—the gold and diamond anniversaries of Confederation, respectively.

In 1946, Philéas Côté, a Quebec member of the House of Commons, introduced a private member’s bill to rename Dominion Day as Canada Day. The bill was passed quickly by the lower chamber but was stalled by the Senate, which returned it to the Commons with the recommendation that the holiday be renamed The National Holiday of Canada, an amendment that effectively killed the bill.

Beginning in 1958, the Canadian government began to orchestrate Dominion Day celebrations. That year, then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker requested that Secretary of State Ellen Fairclough put together appropriate events, with a budget of $14,000. Parliament was traditionally in session on July 1, but Fairclough persuaded Diefenbaker and the rest of the federal Cabinet to attend. Official celebrations thereafter consisted usually of Trooping the Colour ceremonies on Parliament Hill in the afternoon and evening, followed by a mass band concert and fireworks display. Fairclough, who became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, later expanded the bills to include performing folk and ethnic groups. The day also became more casual and family oriented.

Canada’s centennial in 1967 is often seen as an important milestone in the history of Canadian nationalism and in Canada’s maturing as a distinct, independent country, after which Dominion Day became more popular with average Canadians. Into the late 1960s, nationally televised, multi-cultural concerts held in Ottawa were added and the fête became known as Festival Canada. After 1980, the Canadian government began to promote celebrating Dominion Day beyond the national capital, giving grants and aid to cities across the country to help fund local activities.

Some Canadians were, by the early 1980s, informally referring to the holiday as Canada Day, a practice that caused some controversy. Proponents argued that the name Dominion Day was a holdover from the colonial era, an argument given some impetus by the patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982, and others asserted that an alternative was needed as the term does not translate well into French (jour de domination). Conversely, numerous politicians, journalists, and authors, such as Robertson Davies, decried the change at the time and some continue to maintain that it was illegitimate and an unnecessary break with tradition. Others claimed Dominion was widely misunderstood and conservatively inclined commenters saw the change as part of a much larger attempt by Liberals to “re-brand” or re-define Canadian history. Columnist Andrew Cohen called Canada Day a term of “crushing banality” and criticized it as “a renunciation of the past [and] a misreading of history, laden with political correctness and historical ignorance.”

Canada Day has attracted a negative stigma among First Nations communities and non-Indigenous allies, who feel that it is a celebration of the colonization of Indigenous land. Criticism of Canada Day celebrations were particularly prominent during Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, with allegations that the commemorations downplayed the role of Indigenous peoples in the country’s history, and the hardships they face in the present day. In 2020, the Indigenous rights group Idle No More organized a series of peaceful rallies on Canada Day against the “ongoing genocide within Canada against Indigenous people”, citing hardships such as missing and murdered Indigenous women, birth alerts, substandard drinking water supplies on First Nations reserves, police brutality, and compulsory sterilization.

In May and June 2021, following the discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the site of an Indian residential school in British Columbia, calls for Canada Day festivities to be cancelled or modified out of respect for truth and reconciliation intensified, including discussion on social media using the hashtag “#CancelCanadaDay”. If not already cancelled or modified due to COVID-19 restrictions, Canada Day festivities were cancelled in various communities in British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Northern Saskatchewan, while Idle No More announced its intent to again organize peaceful rallies in multiple major cities. Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett stated that she would wear an orange shirt on Canada Day, and acknowledged the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation that will be commemorated as a statutory holiday for the first time on September 30.

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh stated that “While there’s things that we can be proud of, absolutely, there are things that are really horrible, and that are a part of our legacy. It does us a disservice when we ignore the injustice, we ignore the bad parts of our history and the ongoing legacy and the impact of those horrible things that have happened, and continue to happen.”

Genuine Canadian recipes are as hard to find as Australian ones (if you think in terms of immigrants only). Here’s one that works– Nanaimo bars:

Jun 282021


Today is the feast day of St Vitus, sometimes rendered Guy or Guido, a Christian martyr from Lucania. His surviving hagiography is pure legend and the dates of his actual life are unknown. He has for long been tied to the Sicilian martyrs Modestus and Crescential but in the earliest sources it is clear that these were originally different traditions that later became combined. The figures of Modestus and Crescentia are probably fictitious.

According to his legend, Vitus died during the Diocletianic Persecution in 303. In the Middle Ages, he was counted as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In Germany, his feast was celebrated with dancing before his statue. This dancing became popular and the name “Saint Vitus Dance” was given to the neurological disorder Sydenham’s chorea. (see also https://www.bookofdaystales.com/dancing-mania/ ) When I was a small boy in South Australia I had to fill out a medical history form each year at school, and one of the illnesses listed that I could check was St Vitus Dance. The connexion with dance led to Vitus being considered the patron saint of dancers and of entertainers in general. He is also said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks, and oversleeping. His feast day is celebrated on 15th June where the Julian calendar is used, and on 28th June on the Gregorian calendar.

The veneration of Vitus appeared very early in Rome. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) mentions a shrine dedicated to him. In AD 756, it is said that the relics of St. Vitus were brought to the monastery of St-Denis by Abbot Fulrad. They were later presented to Abbot Warin of Corvey in Germany, who solemnly transferred some of them to this abbey in AD 836. From Corvey the veneration of St Vitus spread throughout Westphalia and in the districts of eastern and northern Germany. His popularity grew in Prague,  when, in 925, king Henry I of Germany presented as a gift the bones of one hand of St. Vitus to Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia. Since then, this relic has been a sacred treasure in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

The veneration of St. Vitus became very popular in Slavic lands, where his name (Sveti Vid) is reminiscent of the old god of light, Svetovid. In Serbia his feast day, known as Vidovdan, is of particular historical importance. The day is part of the Kosovo Myth (a founding legend of the country) — the Battle of Kosovo occurred on that day. It was also the day in 1914 when archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated, leading to the First World War (https://www.bookofdaystales.com/the-great-war/ ). Vitus was the patron saint of the kingdom of Serbia. In Hungary he has been venerated as Szent Vid since the early Middle Ages. In Bulgaria,  is called Vidovden (Видовден) or Vidov Den (Видов ден) and is particularly well known among the Shopi, in the western part of the country. In Croatia, 123 churches are dedicated to St. Vitus.

In the Netherlands, Vitus is the patron saint of Winschoten, as well as of the region of the Gooi, where in each of the three largest towns (Hilversum, Bussum and Naarden), the main Catholic Church is dedicated to St Vitus.

Vitus is represented as a young man with a palm-leaf, in a cauldron, sometimes with a raven and a lion, his iconographic attribute because according to the legend he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar and molten lead, but miraculously escaped unscathed.

I am looking to Serbia today for a recipe, partly because Vitus is popular there, and also in remembrance of the assassination there in 1914 (which I did not peg to a specific recipe on that post).  Sarma is Serbian stuffed cabbage. The interesting aspect of the Serbian style is that the cabbage leaves are pickled first, rather than parboiled.

Jun 262021

Today is the birthday (1824) of William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin OM, GCVO, PC, PRS, FRSE, mathematician, mathematical physicist and engineer born in Belfast, and professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow for 53 years, he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1883, was its President 1890–1895, and in 1892 was the first British scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords.

Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honor. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (absolute zero) was known prior to his work, Kelvin is known for determining its correct value as approximately −273.15 degrees Celsius or −459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. The Joule–Thomson effect is also named in his honor. He also had a career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye and ensured his wealth, fame and honor. For his work on the transatlantic telegraph project he was knighted in 1866 by Queen Victoria. Today is also World Refrigeration Day as a salute to Kelvin’s researches into cold temperatures.

I am not going to spill a whole lot of ink on Thomson accomplishments – actually I am not going to use any real ink at all – because I want to devote most of this post to ice cream making, which was once a passion of mine, courtesy of my late wife.  We had four ice cream makers – one, an old-fashioned, hand cranked bucket machine (that was great), and three that were electrically operated (not nearly as satisfactory).  All are long gone.

By 1847, Thomson had already gained a reputation as a precocious and maverick scientist when he attended the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Oxford where he heard James Prescott Joule making yet another of his, so far, ineffective attempts to discredit the caloric theory of heat (the theory that heat was a fluid that passed from hotter to colder bodies). Joule argued for the mutual convertibility of heat and mechanical work and for their mechanical equivalence. In 1848, Thomson proposed an absolute temperature scale (now called the Kelvin scale) in which a unit of heat descending from a body A at the temperature T° of this scale, to a body B at the temperature (T−1)°, would give out the same mechanical effect [work], whatever the number T. Such a scale would be quite independent of the physical properties of any specific substance. Thomson and Joule  began a fruitful collaboration, mostly via letters, from 1852 to 1856, making a number of discoveries including the Joule–Thomson effect, sometimes called the Kelvin–Joule effect, and the published results did much to bring about general acceptance of Joule’s work and the kinetic theory of heat.

Thomson next, in 1854, became involved in the development of cables laid under the ocean to carry telegraphic signals, and with some experiments that Michael Faraday (needs his own blog post) had conducted on a proposed transatlantic telegraph cable. Faraday had demonstrated how the construction of a cable would limit the rate at which messages could be sent – in modern terms, the bandwidth. Thomson jumped at the problem and published his response that month. He expressed his results in terms of the data rate that could be achieved. Thomson contended that the signaling speed through a given cable was inversely proportional to the square of the length of the cable. Thomson’s results were disputed at a meeting of the British Association in 1856 by Wildman Whitehouse, the electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Whitehouse had possibly misinterpreted the results of his own experiments but was doubtless feeling financial pressure as plans for the cable were already well under way. He believed that Thomson’s calculations implied that the cable must be “abandoned as being practically and commercially impossible.”  Thomson defended his own calculations and ended up spending many years sailing on cable-laying vessels and advising companies worldwide.

In December 1856, he was elected to the board of directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Thomson sailed on board the cable-laying ship HMS Agamemnon in August 1857, with Whitehouse confined to land owing to illness, but the voyage ended after 380 miles (610 km) when the cable parted. Thomson contributed to the effort by publishing in the Engineer the whole theory of the stresses involved in the laying of a submarine cable, and showed that when the line is running out of the ship, at a constant speed, in a uniform depth of water, it sinks in a slant or straight incline from the point where it enters the water to that where it touches the bottom. Thomson developed a complete system for operating a submarine telegraph that was capable of sending a character every 3.5 seconds. He patented the key elements of his system, the mirror galvanometer and the siphon recorder,in 1858. Cable laying was completed 5th August 1858 despite numerous mishaps – including storms and cable breaks – and in the end the cable failed when Whitehouse sent 2000 V through it.

In July 1865, a new cable was authorized and Thomson sailed on the cable-laying expedition of the SS Great Eastern. The voyage was dogged by technical problems, and the cable was lost after 1,200 miles (1,900 km) had been laid, and so the project was abandoned. A further attempt in 1866 laid a new cable in two weeks, and then recovered and completed the 1865 cable. The enterprise was now feted as a triumph by the public and Thomson enjoyed a large share of the adulation.

Thomson took part in the laying of the French Atlantic submarine communications cable of 1869, and was engineer of the Western and Brazilian and Platino-Brazilian cables, assisted by James Alfred Ewing. He was present at the laying of the Pará to Pernambuco section of the Brazilian coast cables in 1873.

Thomson’s wife died on 17th June 1870, and he resolved to make changes in his life. Already addicted to seafaring, in September he purchased a 126-ton schooner, the Lalla Rookh, and used it as a base for entertaining friends and scientific colleagues. His maritime interests continued in 1871 when he was appointed to the board of enquiry into the sinking of HMS Captain. His interest was roused by the fact that new metal-hulled ships experienced compass errors that wooden-hulled ships were not prone to, and so he developed an improved compass that corrected for the errors. He also introduced a method of deep-sea depth sounding, in which a steel piano wire replaces the ordinary hand line. The wire glides so easily to the bottom that “flying soundings” can be taken while the ship is at full speed. In addition he added a pressure gauge to the sinker to register its depth.

For brevity I will pass over Thomson’s contributions to atomic theory, geology, and atmospheric electricity, and turn my attention to ice cream. Ice creams and sorbets were being produced by Persians and Mongols at least 2000 years ago.  The theory of making ice cream is not complicated.  Place the materials you want frozen into a metal container, submerse it in a mix of ice, salt, and water, and stir the mixture (in some fashion) until it freezes. The salt and water reduce the temperature of the ice to below that of the freezing temperature of the ice cream mix, and the constant stirring breaks up ice crystals as they form, so that the resultant product is smooth.  Easy-peasy. The issue is getting the ice in summer.

If you are a rich Persian prince you can pay workers to journey to the mountains, cut huge blocks of ice, wrap them in massive insulating layers of hay or straw, carry them back to your palace and use them for ice cream making, or bury them deep underground for later use.  This was the method used worldwide until the invention of the electric freezer at the beginning of the 20th century.  Once ice was more readily available, ice cream making became increasingly popular.

I will give you a recipe for mango ice cream, but with severe caveats. A lot hinges on ambient temperature and humidity when making the ice cream, and you need to experiment again and again with the proportions of ingredients to suit your tastes.  One of the tricks my wife discovered – based on recipes by Gaston Lenôtre – is that the butterfat content of the ice cream is most easily increased by adding a stick of butter to the custard before freezing it.  Using nothing but heavy cream simply makes the product gummy.  There is also the question of overrun – the amount of air trapped into the ice cream when churning it.  Some is necessary for a smooth texture, but too much makes the ice cream lose flavor and richness.  You have to make batch after batch after batch.  No worries – it’s all good.  Unless you stop me I will go on and on . . . and on about the difference between ice cream and Italian gelato, the wonders of Indian kulfi, the joys of sorbets, and so on. Here is a simple example of mango ice cream that most people with a freezer can enjoy. Replace the mangoes with peaches if you like.

Mango Ice Cream


2 large well-ripened mangoes, peeled and cut in small dice.
1 can (14 fl. oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream


Place the mango chunks in a food processor or blender, and process until they are the consistency of apple sauce (about 1 cup).

Place the mango pulp, condensed milk, and cream in a bowl and whisk on low speed until the mixture starts to thicken.  Then increase the speed to medium and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down on to the surface of the mixture, and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours, or (preferably) overnight.

If you prefer, you can eliminate the second whisking and, instead, place the mixture in the freezer container of an ice-cream churn and process.  The resultant product tends to be rather soft, and does best if placed in a freezer for a few hours to set up fully.

Jun 152021

Today is the birthday (1479) of Lisa del Giocondo an Italian noblewoman and member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany whose portrait was commissioned by her husband from Leonardo da Vinci, and is now known in English as Mona Lisa (in Italian it is called La Gioconda).

On March 5th 1495, 15-year-old Lisa Gherardini married Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, a modestly successful cloth and silk merchant, becoming his third wife. Lisa’s dowry was 170 florins and a farm near her family’s country home, which lies between Castellina and San Donato in Poggio, near two farms later owned by Michelangelo. The modest dowry may be a sign that the Gherardini family was not wealthy at the time and lends reason to think she and her husband loved each other. Neither poor nor among the most well-to-do in Florence, the couple lived a middle-class life. Lisa’s marriage may have increased her social status because her husband’s family may have been richer than her own. Francesco is thought to have benefited because Gherardini is an “old name.” They lived in shared accommodation until 5th March 1503, when Francesco was able to buy a house next door to his family’s old home in the Via della Stufa. Leonardo is thought to have begun painting Lisa’s portrait the same year.

Lisa and Francesco had five children: Piero, Camilla, Andrea, Giocondo, and Marietta, four of them between 1496 and 1507. Lisa lost a baby daughter in 1499. Lisa also raised Bartolomeo, the son of Francesco and his first wife Camilla di Mariotto Rucellai, who died shortly after the birth. In June 1537, in his will – among many provisions – Francesco returned Lisa’s dowry to her, gave her personal clothing and jewelry and provided for her future. Upon entrusting her care to their daughter Ludovica and, should she be incapable, his son Bartolomeo, Francesco wrote, “Given the affection and love of the testator towards Mona Lisa, his beloved wife; in consideration of the fact that Lisa has always acted with a noble spirit and as a faithful wife; wishing that she shall have all she needs…” Touching.  He probably died of plague the following year.

The Mona Lisa fulfilled late 15th and early 16th century requirements for portraying a woman of virtue. Lisa is portrayed as a faithful wife through gesture—her right hand rests over her left. Leonardo also presented Lisa as fashionable and successful, perhaps more well-off than she was. Her dark garments and black veil were Spanish-influenced high fashion; they are not a depiction of mourning for her first daughter, as some scholars have proposed. The painting is large in comparison with similar portraits of the era, although to the modern eye it seems small.  Visitors to the Louvre frequently comment on how small it is in comparison with what they imagined.

Lisa del Giocondo was always suspected to be the sitter in the portrait, but there was always a degree of doubt until 2005 when an expert at the University Library of Heidelberg discovered a margin note in the library’s collection that established with certainty the traditional view that the sitter was Lisa. The note, written by Agostino Vespucci in 1503, states that Leonardo was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

The Mona Lisa now has its own dedicated room in the Louvre which is always packed with people.  Before the room was set aside for the painting it could take hours standing in line to get a glimpse.  Getting to the front of the crowd is hard work, but not nearly as long as lines in the past, and the painting is up high enough that you can see it even from the back of the room.  It has always bemused me that the Mona Lisa is called “the most famous painting in the world” and, in consequence, is always mobbed, while thousands upon thousands of great works of art displayed in the Louvre go virtually unnoticed. What are people expecting when they see “the most famous painting in the world”? I suspect it’s more like “the most recognizable painting in the world” – and almost no one who visits it has the slightest idea why.  It’s popular because it’s popular.

Mona Lisa has been the subject of endless parodies because it is so recognizable.  Marcel Duchamp’s Dada-esque LHOOQ (a crude pun if you know French) is one of the most well known, but there are plenty of others.

I discovered a dish online called fettucine Mona Lisa which you can find also if you care to.  It’s neither Italian nor 15th century, so I passed on it for this post.  Instead, here is a chickpea soup from libro de arte coquinaria by maestro Martino de Como, written some time in the late 15th century. It is called red chickpea soup because the raw chickpeas are red, not the resultant soup.  Thanks to Franco Cattafesta on Facebook for helping me sort out what cioè del fiore means (highly refined flour), as well as a couple of other puzzles.  Otherwise, the clumsy translation is my own.  Parsley root may need a bit of explaining for Anglos.  It is a version of parsley, Petroselinum crispum, with a tuberous root that looks like parsnip, but tastes quite different.  I always buy it whenever I see it in the market. I would be inclined to use a meat broth rather than water to cook the chickpeas, and make sure you have enough — three “bocali” is probably somewhat over three liters, but the measure varied from city to city.  Make sure the soup is not watery, though, when cooked. It should be hearty.

Brodo de ciceri rosci

Per farne octo menestre: togli una librra et meza di ciceri et lavali con acqua calda et poneli in quella pignatta dove gli vorrai cocere et che siano sciutti et mettevi meza oncia di farina, cioè del fiore, et mettevi pocho olio et bono, et un pocho di sale, et circha vinti granelli di pepe rotto, et un pocha di canella pista, et mena molto bene tute queste cose inseme con le mani. Dapoi ponivi tre bocali d’acqua et un pocha di salvia, et rosmarino, et radici di petrosillo, et fagli bollire tanto che siano consumati a la quantitade di octo menestre. Et quando sono quasi cotti mitivi un pocho d’oglio. Et se lo brodo si facesse per ammalati non gli porre né spetie.

Red chickpea soup

To make eight portions: take a pound and a half of chickpeas and wash them in hot water, drain them, then put them in the pot they will be cooked in. Add half an ounce of very fine flour, a little good oil, a little salt and about twenty crushed peppercorns and a little ground cinnamon, then mix all these things very well together with your hands. Then add three measures of water, a little sage, rosemary, and parsley root, and boil until it is reduced to the quantity of eight portions. When they are almost cooked, add a little garlic. If you prepare this soup for invalids, add neither oil nor spices.

May 122021

Today is the birthday (1925) of Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, a legendary baseball catcher, who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He got his nickname when a friend, Jack Maguire, supposedly noticed a resemblance between him and some “yogi,” that is, a person who practiced yoga onscreen. Seems a bit farfetched to me, but that is the story that circulates.  It is also said that he contemplated suing Hanna-Barbera when they came out with the Yogi Bear character in 1958, but dropped the idea after the company claimed the similarity was simply a coincidence. Seems like a stretch to me. It should also be noted that when Berra died in 2015 the original AP obituary copy said that Yogi Bear had died, and AP did not correct the error before a few outlets had printed the mistaken copy.

Berra played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–1963, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Berra was a native of the Hill, an Italian immigrant neighborhood in St. Louis, and signed with the Yankees in 1943 before serving in the United States Navy as a gunner’s mate in the Normandy landings during World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart. He made his major-league debut at age 21 in 1946 and was a mainstay in the Yankees’ lineup during the team’s championship years beginning in 1949 and continuing through 1962. Despite his short stature (5 feet 7 inches [1.70 m]), Berra was a power hitter and strong defensive catcher. Berra played 18 seasons with the Yankees before retiring after the 1963 season. He spent the next year as their manager, then joined the New York Mets in 1965 as coach (and briefly a player again). Berra remained with the Mets for the next decade, serving the last four years as their manager. He returned to the Yankees in 1976, coaching them for eight seasons and managing for two, before coaching the Houston Astros. He was one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. Berra appeared as a player, coach or manager in every one of the 13 World Series that New York baseball teams won from 1947 through 1981. Overall, he played or coached in 21 World Series, 13 on the winning side. Berra caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (leading to the iconic photo below). He also holds the all-time record for shutouts caught, with 173.

The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 in 1972; Bill Dickey had previously worn number 8, and both catchers had that number retired by the Yankees. The club honored him with a plaque in Monument Park in 1988. Berra was named to the MLB All-Century Team in a vote by fans in 1999. For the remainder of his life, he was closely involved with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which he opened on the campus of Montclair State University in 1998.

Berra quit school after the eighth grade, and has always been known for his malapropisms as well as pithy and paradoxical statements, such as “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” At the time he said this, in July 1973, Berra’s Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East. The Mets rallied to clinch the division title in their second-to-last game of the regular season, and eventually reached the World Series. In this context the saying is actually less apt than in an actual game of baseball where the losing side can theoretically make up a deficit in runs, even if it seems impossible, before the game ends.  This is because baseball is measured in outs not by a clock, so that, until the last out is recorded anything can happen.  For example, on June 8, 1989 the Phillies pulled off a memorable comeback win against the Pirates. The Pirates jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the top of the first, prompting announcer Jim Rooker to tell his audience that if the club didn’t win, he would walk back to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Rooker, the Phillies, who were having a terrible season, chipped away, pulled to within 11-10 in the sixth, then scored five in the bottom of the eighth to pull off a 15-11 win. Rooker didn’t actually do his cross-state walk that night, but he did make the trip after the season, raising money for charity.

Berra said on several occasions, “I really didn’t say everything I said” which we can all understand as meaning, “not all statements attributed to me are things I actually said” – and which is certainly true.  But . . . as far as I can tell, the following Yogi-isms were things he actually said:

“If you see the fork in the road, take it” Yogi’s explanation was, “It doesn’t matter whether you go left or right at that point because you will wind up at my house either way.” He was giving directions to Joe Garagiola Sr. to his New Jersey home, and it was accessible by two routes.

“It’s déjà vu all over again.” Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hitting back-to-back home runs in the Yankees’ seasons in the early 1960s.

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

On why he no longer went to Rigazzi’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” This one makes sense to me when paraphrased: “No one that I know goes there . . .”

“Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”

“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” This one almost makes sense to me.  Does that mean Yogi’s logic is rubbing off on me?????

Berra’s parents were from Lombardy which means that it is little surprise that he liked tripe, and claimed that tripe salad was his favorite dish. Well, there’s bit of Yogi mixed in here – as well as my justification for this post as a certified tripe afficionado.  Lombardy is not noted for cold tripe dishes, but it does have some famous ones including trippa alla milanese or busecca, and trippa alla lombarda.  You have to head farther south for tripe salad, the most noted being the Sicilian trippa all’insalata (in standard Italian) or trippa a’nzalata (in Sicilian dialect). This recipe assumes that you are starting with the bleached, parboiled tripe you typically get in US and UK stores.

Trippa a’nzalata


2 lb. tripe

For cooking

1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
½ onion
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 stalk of celery, cut in 3 pieces
1 carrot, cut in big pieces
skin of ½ lemon
springs of fresh parsley

For serving

juice of 2 medium lemons
1 red onion finely sliced
1 celery heart cut into small pieces
2 small baby carrots finely sliced
5 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley


Cut the tripe in strips, about 1 ½ by ½ inch and place in a pot with an abundant amount of lightly salted water with the bay leaf, clove, whole onion, garlic cloves, celery, carrot, few springs of fresh parsley, the lemon skin and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Check to see if it is cooked to your liking.  This is a crucial step. The tripe needs to be al dente and this stage cannot be achieved with even a rough estimate of cooking time.  It all depends on the quality of the tripe, cooking temperature, humidity, and a host of other variables.  Taste, taste, taste is the only option.

Drain the pot using a colander and discard the bay leaves, cloves, lemon skin, onion, garlic, celery, carrot and parsley springs. Let the tripe cook to room temperature.

Blend the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl mix together the cooled tripe, the finely sliced red onion, celery and carrots, and the vinaigrette. Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley and serve with fresh crusty bread.

Yogi said that he drank cold water with the salad.

May 102021

Today is the 8th birthday of this blog – time to reflect on where it’s been and where it’s going.

Two years ago I stopped posting daily, and, curiously enough, the stats have remained fairly stable.  At the outset, back in 2013, daily posting was important for improving the average daily hits, but nowadays whether I post or not has little impact on the number of hits I get.  I passed the 1 million mark last year, but did not feel it was an important enough milestone to celebrate because popularity is not important to me.  I don’t advertise or make money off my posts. I write them to amuse (and inform) myself, and, with any luck, to amuse and inform others.  I get almost no feedback – also fine.  The occasional comment I receive usually has to do with a reader writing to talk about their personal relationship to someone I have highlighted.  My post on Thomas Rolfe, son of Pocahontas, is the most prolific in this regard: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/thomas-rolfe-son-of-pocahontas/  If you pull it up you will see long and detailed comments.

Otherwise, Arthur Rackham https://www.bookofdaystales.com/arthur-rackham/ still occupies the #1 spot for all time hits.  The top 10 does not change much over the years, Cleopatra and Coca-Cola being perennial favs.  Not sure why any of the top 10 merit more hits than others.  Like a good parent, if asked which of my children I like the most I will reply that I love them all.  Well . . . some could be better, I admit, but I would not post about a person or an event if I did not care about them (and I do still tinker with old posts to either correct mistakes, or add a little something extra).  This was one of many reasons why I stopped posting daily: there were a number of days, after 6 years of posting, when I could not find something of interest to write about for that particular day (and others where there were, and are, too many).

Keeping the site running without glitches is a constant challenge.  I have to update plugins and widgets all the time, as well as fix broken links and outdated apps – and also pay for my server and domain name annually – not to mention the occasional headaches associated with the server going down, or else some new technical problem which has to be looked into (requiring more knowledge of IT than is good for me).  All goes to show that the blog is a labor of love. Many thanks to my loyal readers. I intend to post occasionally for the indefinite future, but only sporadically.  I would appreciate it if you would subscribe to the blog (if you have not already) so that you will get notified when I post something new.

When I stopped posting daily, I started a YouTube channel which I post to twice weekly. On Tuesdays I post a video of a recipe that appeals.  Here is my video dealing with Chinese/Cantonese master sauces which had a decent viewing when I put it up:



May 092021

Today is the birthday (1800) of John H. Brown, well known abolitionist activist and martyr. Brown felt that violence was necessary to end slavery, given that years of speeches, sermons, petitions, and moral persuasion had failed. Although he died in the cause, he was proven correct in that it took a civil war to end slavery in the US. Brown was a deeply religious man more than anything else, believing he was raised up by God to strike the death blow to slavery.  He said on many occasions:  “I am an instrument of God.”

Brown first gained national attention when he led anti-slavery volunteers and his own sons during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of the late 1850s, a state-level civil war over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. He was dissatisfied with abolitionist pacifism: “These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!” On May 24th, 1856, Brown and his sons killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, a response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces (May 21), and possibly also to the caning of the Free Kansas supporter, Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner (May 22). Brown then commanded anti-slavery forces at the Battle of Black Jack (June 2) and the Battle of Osawatomie (August 30th , 1856).

In October 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today West Virginia), intending to start a slave liberation movement that would spread south through the mountainous regions of Virginia and North Carolina, and he had prepared a Provisional Constitution for the revised, slavery-free United States he hoped to bring about. He seized the armory, but seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. Brown intended to arm slaves with weapons from the armory, but very few slaves joined his revolt. Within 36 hours, those of Brown’s men who had not fled were killed or captured by local militia and U.S. Marines, the latter led by Robert E. Lee. Brown was hastily tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty of all counts and was hanged on December 2nd, 1859, the first person executed for treason in the history of the United States. Brown said repeatedly that all of his anti-slavery activities, both in Kansas and Harpers Ferry, were in accordance with the Golden Rule. He declared that the most famous sentence in the Declaration of Independence—all men are created equal—”meant the same thing.”

Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid and Brown’s trial (Virginia v. John Brown), both covered extensively by the national press, escalated tensions that led a year later to the South’s long-threatened secession and the United States’ Civil War. Southerners feared that others would soon follow in Brown’s footsteps, encouraging and arming slave rebellions. In the North Brown was a hero and an icon.  From 1859 until Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, he was the most famous North American. Union soldiers marched to the new song “John Brown’s Body”, that portrayed him as a heroic martyr whose “truth is marching on,” which evolved into the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Newly-freed African-Americans walked to the same song, and they lowered their voices speaking of Brown, as if he were a saint. As Brown’s son, John Brown, Jr., told a visitor just before the raid on Harpers Ferry, “as only force and fire-arms kept slavery outta Kansas, so nothing else will overthrow it in the Southern states.” The visitor added that this was a belief that was “daily gaining adherents.” The violence Brown used makes him a controversial figure even today. He is both memorialized as a heroic martyr and visionary, compared sometimes with Moses or Christ, and vilified as a madman and a terrorist.

Brown was born and raised in Connecticut, although he spent most of his life after the age of 16 in various parts of the U.S.  He was a 4th generation descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrim Peter Brown, making him a New Englander with deep roots. In the 19th century, it was common to bake a special cake on elections days, and also for soldiers in militias when they were assembling for muster.  There is a famous election cake from Hartford, Connecticut in the late 19th century (see photo) whose list of ingredients and recipe looks like something out of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management – enough to feed an army. Suitably scaled down it would work for a celebratory dessert.

Apr 262021

Today is Visakh Bochea (វិសាខបូជា), a major Buddhist holy day and a public holiday in Cambodia. The day celebrates three events in the life of the Buddha (Siddhattha Gotama): birth, enlightenment, and death.  These events are commemorated in Buddhist countries, and other nations in Asia, on a variety of days, such as, https://www.bookofdaystales.com/buddhas-birthday/ but in Cambodia, and elsewhere (Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia), they are all collapsed into one day – the full moon of the lunar month of vesākha. The generic name Vesak, from the Sanskrit Vaiśākha, is used to designate the festival worldwide, and it falls on different days in April or May depending on local custom. This year (2021) the vast majority of Asian countries will celebrate Vesak on May 26th, but, for reasons that are not clear to me, Cambodia is the odd one out. May is more usual: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/may-full-moon/

The actual dates of any events in the Buddha’s life are, of course, completely unknown.  Best guess by modern scholars is that he was active in the 5th century BCE, but pinning down the years, let alone the dates, of his birth and death are impossible at this point. Conflating them together with his day of enlightenment is merely a convenience of observance, and many Buddhist cultures separate out the events for individual celebration.

On Vesak Bochea, devout Buddhists and monks assemble in local temples before dawn with candles for the ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples). Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers and incense. They are reminders that all things decay or burn out just as life is subject to decay and destruction. Devotees are also encouraged to partake only of vegetarian food for the day and to avoid alcohol. Here in Phnom Penh, stores owned by the devout do not sell alcohol for several days prior to Vesak.  Also, birds, insects, and animals are released by individuals on this day in a symbolic act of liberation – giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will. While I understand the symbolism, I have always been troubled by the sight of scores of people lining the Mekong river front, and outside pagodas, selling caged wild birds to be set free.  It’s not so much the caged birds themselves, but the paradoxical karma involved in trapping them in order to liberate them.  Doesn’t it just balance out? (“Here little birdie – I am going to trap you so that I can set you free.”)

Celebrating Vesak also involves making a special effort to bring happiness to the unfortunate such as the aged, the handicapped, and the sick. The devout distribute gifts in the form of cash and food, or volunteering in various charitable homes throughout the country. Vesak is a time of joy and happiness expressed in simple pleasures, and not the great blowout feasts common at other festivals, such as New Year. Vegetarian cooking is the norm. Here is a video giving a recipe for Khmer សម្លម្ជូរ គ្រឿង (samlar machu kreung), a sour lemongrass soup.


Mar 072021

Today is the birthday (1792) of John Herschel, the son of Mary Baldwin and astronomer William Herschel https://www.bookofdaystales.com/william-herschel/  and nephew of astronomer Caroline Herschel. He studied briefly at Eton College (down the road from Slough where he was born), and at St John’s College, Cambridge where he graduated as Senior Wrangler (top mathematics undergraduate) in 1813. It was during his time as an undergraduate that he became friends with the mathematicians Charles Babbage and George Peacock. He left Cambridge in 1816 and started working with his father, building a reflecting telescope with a mirror 18 inches (460 mm) in diameter, and with a 20-foot (6.1 m) focal length. Between 1821 and 1823 he re-examined, with James South, the double stars catalogued by his father. He was one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820. For his work with his father, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1826 (which he won again in 1836), and with the Lalande Medal of the French Academy of Sciences in 1825, while in 1821 the Royal Society bestowed upon him the Copley Medal for his mathematical contributions to their Transactions. Herschel was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order in 1831.

Herschel’s A preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy, published early in 1831 as part of Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet cyclopædia, set out methods of scientific investigation with an orderly relationship between observation and theorizing. He described nature as being governed by laws which were difficult to discern or to state mathematically, and the highest aim of natural philosophy was understanding these laws through inductive reasoning, finding a single unifying explanation for a phenomenon. This became an authoritative statement with wide influence on science, particularly at the University of Cambridge where it inspired the student Charles Darwin with “a burning zeal” to contribute to this work.

Herschel published a catalogue of his astronomical observations in 1864, as the General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters, a compilation of his own work and that of his father’s, expanding on the senior Herschel’s Catalogue of Nebulae. A further complementary volume was published posthumously, as the General Catalogue of 10,300 Multiple and Double Stars.

Herschel and his wife traveled to South Africa in 1833 to catalogue the stars, nebulae, and other objects of the southern skies. This was to be a completion as well as extension of the survey of the northern heavens undertaken initially by his father William Herschel. He arrived in Cape Town on 15 January 1834 and set up a private 21 ft (6.4 m) telescope at Feldhausen at Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town. Amongst his other observations during this time was the return of Comet Halley. Herschel collaborated with Thomas Maclear, the Astronomer Royal at the Cape of Good Hope and the members of the two families became close friends. During this time, he also witnessed the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae (December 1837).

In addition to his astronomical work, however, this voyage also gave Herschel an escape from the pressures under which he found himself in London, where he was one of the most sought-after of all scientists. While in southern Africa, he engaged in a broad variety of scientific pursuits free from a sense of strong obligations to a larger scientific community. It was, he later recalled, probably the happiest time in his life.

In an extraordinary departure from astronomy, Herschel combined his talents with those of his wife, Margaret, and between 1834 and 1838 they produced 131 botanical illustrations of fine quality, showing the Cape flora. Herschel used a camera lucida to obtain accurate outlines of the specimens and gave over the artistic details to his wife. Even though their portfolio had been intended as a personal record, and despite the lack of floral dissections in the paintings, their accurate rendition makes them more valuable than many contemporary collections.

Herschel, at the same time, read widely. Intrigued by the ideas of gradual formation of landscapes set out in Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, he wrote to Lyell on 20 February 1836 praising the book as a work that would bring “a complete revolution in [its] subject, by altering entirely the point of view in which it must thenceforward be contemplated” and opening a way for bold speculation on “that mystery of mysteries, the replacement of extinct species by others.” Herschel himself thought catastrophic extinction and renewal “an inadequate conception of the Creator” and by analogy with other intermediate causes, “the origination of fresh species, could it ever come under our cognizance, would be found to be a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process.

Taking a gradualist view of development and referring to evolutionary descent from a proto-language, Herschel commented:

Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist – battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligent interpretation – and when we see what amount of change 2000 years has been able to produce in the languages of Greece & Italy or 1000 in those of Germany France & Spain we naturally begin to ask how long a period must have lapsed since the Chinese, the Hebrew, the Delaware & the Malesass [Malagasy] had a point in common with the German & Italian & each other – Time! Time! Time! – we must not impugn the Scripture Chronology, but we must interpret it in accordance with whatever shall appear on fair enquiry to be the truth for there cannot be two truths. And really there is scope enough: for the lives of the Patriarchs may as reasonably be extended to 5000 or 50000 years apiece as the days of Creation to as many thousand millions of years.

The document was circulated, and Charles Babbage incorporated extracts in his ninth and unofficial Bridgewater Treatise, which postulated laws set up by a divine programmer. When HMS Beagle called at Cape Town, Captain Robert FitzRoy and the budding naturalist Charles Darwin visited Herschel on 3 June 1836. Later on, Darwin would be influenced by Herschel’s writings in developing his theory advanced in The Origin of Species. In the opening lines of that work, Darwin writes that his intent is “to throw some light on the origin of species – that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers,” referring to Herschel. However, Herschel ultimately rejected the theory of natural selection.

Herschel returned to England in 1838, was created a baronet, of Slough in the County of Buckingham, and published Results of Astronomical Observations made at the Cape of Good Hope in 1847. In this publication he proposed the names still used today for the seven then-known satellites of Saturn: Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus. In the same year, Herschel received his second Copley Medal from the Royal Society for this work. A few years later, in 1852, he proposed the names still used today for the four then-known satellites of Uranus: Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon https://www.bookofdaystales.com/titania-and-oberon/ . A stone obelisk, erected in 1842 and now in the grounds of The Grove Primary School, marks the site where his 20-ft reflector once stood.

Herschel made numerous important contributions to photography. He made improvements in photographic processes, particularly in inventing the cyanotype process, which became known as blueprints, and variations, such as the chrysotype. In 1839, he made a photograph on glass, which still exists, and experimented with some color reproduction, noting that rays of different parts of the spectrum tended to impart their own color to a photographic paper. Herschel made experiments using photosensitive emulsions of vegetable juices, called phytotypes, also known as anthotypes, and published his discoveries in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1842. He collaborated in the early 1840s with Henry Collen, portrait painter to Queen Victoria. Herschel originally discovered the platinum process on the basis of the light sensitivity of platinum salts, later developed by William Willis. Herschel coined the term photography in 1839. Herschel was also the first to apply the terms negative and positive to photography. Herschel discovered sodium thiosulfate to be a solvent of silver halides in 1819, and informed Talbot and Daguerre of his discovery that this “hyposulphite of soda” (“hypo”) could be used as a photographic fixer, to “fix” pictures and make them permanent, after experimentally applying it in this way in early 1839.

In 1835, the New York Sun newspaper wrote a series of satiric articles that came to be known as the Great Moon Hoax, with statements falsely attributed to Herschel about his supposed discoveries of animals living on the Moon, including batlike winged humanoids.

Slough, home of William Herschel’s observatory and John’s birthplace, is not, nor ever has been, the epicenter of English cuisine.  But . . . the Horlicks factory used to be a well-known landmark as seen from the railway passing through Slough, although I am given to understand that it is under demolition at this point.  Shame.  Horlicks was my bedtime hot drink through much of my boyhood.  If you can still get it, a cup of Horlicks might make a Slough-themed recipe for today.  Or . . . you might try one of the recipes found on their website:


Mar 062021

Today is Independence Day in Ghana. Independence was achieved through the Ghana Independence Act 1957, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that granted what was then known as the Gold Coast (and allied territories) fully responsible government within the British Commonwealth of Nations under the name Ghana. The Act received the Royal Assent on 7 February 1957 and Ghana came into being on 6 March 1957. At that time, independence within the British Commonwealth could not be attained by a dependent territory like Gold Coast without legislation passed in Westminster. The main provisions of the Act closely follow the Statute of Westminster and the Ceylon Independence Act 1947. The grant of independence to the Gold Coast was achieved by two separate legislative operations, namely, the passing of the Act and the making of the Ghana (Constitution) Order in Council 1957.

A matter that complicated the legislation was that what was to become Ghana was not a single, constitutional unit but rather four distinct areas: The Gold Coast Colony which was a Crown Colony and therefore part of Her Majesty’s dominions; the Ashanti Colony which was likewise a Crown Colony and part of Her Majesty’s dominions; the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast which was a British Protectorate and not part of Her Majesty’s dominions; and British Togoland which was a United Nations trust territory and not part of Her Majesty’s dominions. With respect to the Northern Territories, the legislation terminated the agreements with the local Chiefs on which the protectorate status was based. With respect to British Togoland, a referendum was held to determine the consent of its people to being united with the rest of what would become Ghana. With effect from when the Act entered into force all of what became Ghana became part of Her Majesty’s dominions as a single, unified dominion. The independence legislation began to take shape following the return of the Convention People’s Party to power at the Gold Coast general election of 1954. The party won 79 out of 104 seats. The Gold Coast government expressed its hope of achieving independence within the lifetime of the new assembly.

A dispute within the Gold Coast about the form of Constitution after independence was still unresolved as late as 1956. The same year the United Kingdom government publicly stated that provided it had the support of a “reasonable majority”, the United Kingdom was prepared to legislate for the Gold Coast to have independence within the British Commonwealth. The Secretary of State for the Colonies added that “full membership of the Commonwealth is, of course, a different question and is a matter for consultation between all existing members of the Commonwealth.” This distinction reflected the view that full Commonwealth membership required the consent of all Commonwealth members. Ultimately, the attainment by Ghana of full Commonwealth membership was consented to unanimously by all of the Commonwealth’s members, announced by the United Kingdom prime minister on 21 February 1956. Letters patent constituting the office of the Governor-General of Ghana and royal instructions to the Governor General were issued on 23 February 1956 and became effective on 6 March 1956. An Order in Council provided Ghana with its first constitution.

The 6 March independence date was chosen for its historical significance: On 6 March 1844, a group of chiefs in Ghana had signed a treaty with the then British governor. That treaty, which became known as the Bond, came to symbolize the sovereignty of the local government of indigenous authorities.

The national dish of Ghana is fufu, a paste made of cassava that is used as a staple accompaniment to meat and vegetable dishes throughout West Africa.  This video shows several ways to prepare fufu in a Ghanaian style:

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