Feb 242021
 

Today is the birthday (1836) of Winslow Homer, Yankee maritime and landscape artist.  Homer grew up in then-rural Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an average student, but his artistic ability was evident in his early years – nurtured by his mother who was a watercolorist.  After high school graduation, Homer pursued an apprenticeship with a Boston commercial lithographer, and his career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines such as Ballou’s Pictorial and Harper’s Weekly. His early works, mostly commercial wood engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings.

In 1859, Homer opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, and until 1863 he attended classes at the National Academy of Design, studying briefly with Frédéric Rondel, who taught him the basics of painting. In only about a year of self-training, Homer was producing excellent professional level work. His mother tried to raise family funds to send him to Europe for further study but instead Harper’s sent Homer to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865), where he sketched battle scenes and camp life, the quiet moments as well as the chaotic ones. His initial sketches were of the camp, commanders, and army of the famous Union officer, major general George B. McClellan, at the banks of the Potomac River in October 1861.

Although the drawings did not get much attention at the time, they mark Homer’s expanding skills from illustrator to painter. Like with his urban scenes, Homer also illustrated women during wartime, and showed the effects of the war on the home front. The war work was dangerous and exhausting. Back at his studio, Homer would regain his strength and re-focus his artistic vision. He set to work on a series of war-related paintings based on his sketches, among them Sharpshooter on Picket Duty (1862), Home, Sweet Home (1863), and Prisoners from the Front (1866). He exhibited paintings of these subjects every year at the National Academy of Design from 1863 to 1866. Home, Sweet Home was shown at the National Academy to critical acclaim and quickly sold. Homer was consequently elected an Associate Academician, then a full Academician in 1865. During this time, he also continued to sell his illustrations to periodicals such as Our Young Folks and Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner.

After the war, Homer turned his attention primarily to scenes of childhood and young women, reflecting nostalgia for simpler times, both his own and the nation as a whole. Homer was also interested in postwar subject matter that conveyed the silent tension between two communities seeking to understand their future. His oil painting A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876) shows an encounter between a group of four freed slaves and their former mistress. The formal equivalence between the standing figures suggests the balance that the nation hoped to find in the difficult years of Reconstruction. Homer composed this painting from sketches he had made while traveling through Virginia.

Before exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer finally traveled to Paris in 1867 where he remained for a year. His most praised early painting, Prisoners from the Front, was on exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris at the same time. He did not study formally but he practiced landscape painting while continuing to work for Harper’s, depicting scenes of Parisian life. Homer painted about a dozen small paintings during the stay. Although he arrived in France at a time of new fashions in art, Homer’s main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more of an alignment with the established French Barbizon school and the artist Millet than with newer artists Manet and Courbet. Though his interest in depicting natural light parallels that of the early impressionists, there is no evidence of direct influence as he was already a plein-air painter in the US.

Throughout the 1870s, Homer continued painting mostly rural or idyllic scenes of farm life, children playing, and young adults courting, including Country School (1871) and The Morning Bell (1872). In 1875, Homer quit working as a commercial illustrator and vowed to survive on his paintings and watercolors alone. Despite his excellent critical reputation, his finances continued to remain precarious. His popular 1872 painting Snap-the-Whip was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as was one of his finest and most famous paintings Breezing Up (1876).

Homer started painting with watercolors on a regular basis in 1873 during a summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident. The critics were negative at first, “A child with an ink bottle could not have done worse.” Another critic said that Homer “made a sudden and desperate plunge into water color painting”. But his watercolors proved popular and enduring, and sold more readily, improving his financial condition considerably. They varied from highly detailed (Blackboard – 1877) to broadly impressionistic (Schooner at Sunset – 1880). Some watercolors were made as preparatory sketches for oil paintings (as for Breezing Up) and some as finished works in themselves. Thereafter, he seldom traveled without paper, brushes, and water-based paints.

Homer spent two years (1881–1882) in the English coastal village of Cullercoats in Northumberland. Many of the paintings at Cullercoats took as their subjects working men and women and their daily heroism, imbued with a solidity and sobriety which was new to Homer’s art, presaging the direction of his future work. He wrote, “The women are the working bees. Stout hardy creatures.” His works from this period are almost exclusively watercolors. His palette became constrained and sober; his paintings larger, more ambitious, and more deliberately conceived and executed. His subjects more universal and less nationalistic, more heroic by virtue of his unsentimental rendering.

Back in the U.S. in November 1882, Homer showed his English watercolors in New York. Critics noticed the change in style at once, “He is a very different Homer from the one we knew in days gone by” [his pictures] “touch a far higher plane … They are works of High Art.” Homer’s women were no longer “dolls who flaunt their millinery” but “sturdy, fearless, fit wives and mothers of men” who are fully capable of enduring the forces and vagaries of nature alongside their men.

In 1883, Homer moved to Prouts Neck, Maine (in Scarborough), and lived at his family’s estate in the remodeled carriage house 75 feet from the ocean. During the rest of the mid-1880s, Homer painted his monumental sea scenes. In Undertow (1886), depicting the dramatic rescue of two female bathers by two male lifeguards, Homer’s figures “have the weight and authority of classical figures.” In Eight Bells (1886), two sailors carefully take their bearings on deck, calmly appraising their position and by extension, their relationship with the sea; they are confident in their seamanship but respectful of the forces before them. Other notable paintings among these dramatic struggle-with-nature images are Banks Fisherman, The Gulf Stream, Rum Cay, Mending the Nets, and Searchlight on Harbor Entrance, Santiago de Cuba. Some of these he repeated as etchings.

In the winters of 1884–5, Homer ventured to warmer locations in Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas and did a series of watercolors as part of a commission for Century Magazine. He replaced the turbulent green storm-tossed sea of Prouts Neck with the sparkling blue skies of the Caribbean and the hardy New Englanders with Black natives, further expanding his watercolor technique, subject matter, and palette. During this trip he painted Children Under a Palm Tree for Lady Blake, the Governor’s wife. His tropical stays inspired and refreshed him in much the same way as Paul Gauguin’s trips to Tahiti. Homer frequently visited Key West, Florida between 1888 and 1903. Some of his best-known works, A Norther, Key West, The Gulf Stream, Taking on Wet Provisions, and Palms in the Storm, are said to have been produced there.

In 1893, Homer painted one of his most famous “Darwinian” works, The Fox Hunt, which depicts a flock of starving crows descending on a fox slowed by deep snow. This was Homer’s largest painting, and it was immediately purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, his first painting in a major US museum collection. In Huntsman and Dogs (1891), a lone, impassive hunter, with his yelping dogs at his side, heads home after a hunt with deer skins slung over his right shoulder. Another late work, The Gulf Stream (1899), shows a black sailor adrift in a damaged boat, surrounded by sharks and an impending maelstrom.

By 1900, Homer finally reached financial stability, as his paintings fetched good prices from museums and he began to receive rents from real estate properties. He also became free of the responsibilities of caring for his father, who had died two years earlier. Homer continued producing excellent watercolors, mostly on trips to Canada and the Caribbean. Other late works include sporting scenes such as Right and Left, as well as seascapes absent of human figures, mostly of waves crashing against rocks in varying light. His late seascapes are especially valued for their dramatic and forceful expression of nature’s powers, and for their beauty and intensity.

In his last decade, he at times followed the advice he had given a student artist in 1907: “Leave rocks for your old age—they’re easy.”

Homer died in 1910 at the age of 74 in his Prouts Neck studio and was interred in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His painting, Shooting the Rapids, Saguenay River, remains unfinished.

I mostly think of Homer as associated with Maine, and when I think of Maine I think first of lobsters.  But there is a great deal more to Maine cuisine than lobsters, or even seafood.  Mainers are justifiably proud of their baking skills, and whoopie pies are a staple.  Here’s a video explaining why these pies are now the Maine state pie (over objections by Pennsylvania):

Feb 152021
 

On this date in 399 BCE, the profoundly influential philosopher Socrates was condemned to death by an Athenian jury. Not their proudest moment by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly one that confirms my low opinion of democracy (with which Socrates agreed, btw). The jury at his trial is conjectured to have been around 500 δικάστοί (male-citizen judges/jurors chosen by lot), and their verdict was based on a simple majority vote. They used shells or potsherds to record their votes, which in Greek are known as οστράκα (ostraca), giving us the word “ostracize” because the same method of voting was used to exile citizens. The trial was held to determine whether Socrates was guilty of two charges: ασέβεια  (impiety) against the pantheon of Athens, and corruption of the youth of the city-state. The accusers cited two impious acts by Socrates: “failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges” and “introducing new deities,” and also held that it was an illegal act to train his students to ask political questions. As you may suspect already, the accusers had ulterior motives. Politicians have never been happy with an electorate that knows how to think critically. Primary-source accounts of the trial and execution of Socrates are the Apology of Socrates by Plato and the Apology of Socrates to the Jury by Xenophon of Athens. The accuracy of these accounts has been the subject of debate for over two thousand years, as has been the ways in which they can be interpreted. Nonetheless, some broad strokes are generally agreed upon.

According to the portraits left by some of Socrates’ followers, Socrates seems to have openly espoused certain anti-democratic views, the most prominent perhaps being the view that it is not majority opinion that yields correct policy but rather genuine knowledge and professional competence, which is possessed by only a few. Plato also portrays him as being severely critical of some of the more prominent and well-respected leaders of the Athenian democracy, and even has him claim that the officials selected by the Athenian system of governance cannot credibly be regarded as benefactors. Also, Socrates was known as often praising the laws of the undemocratic regimes of Sparta and Crete. Plato, Socrates’ student, reinforced anti-democratic ideas in The Republic, advocating rule by elite, enlightened philosopher-kings.

At the time of the trial of Socrates, the city-state of Athens had recently endured the trials and tribulations of Spartan hegemony and the thirteen-month régime of the Thirty Tyrants, which had been imposed consequent to the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). At the request of Lysander, a Spartan admiral, the Thirty Tyrants, led by Critias and Theramenes, were to administer Athens and revise the city’s democratic laws, which were inscribed on a wall of the Stoa Basileios. Their actions were to facilitate the transition of the Athenian government from a democracy to an oligarchy in service to Sparta. Moreover, the Thirty Tyrants appointed a council of 500 men to perform the judicial functions that once had belonged to every Athenian citizen. In their brief régime, the Spartan oligarchs killed about 5% of the Athenian population, confiscated a great deal of property, and exiled democrats from the city. The fact that Critias had been a pupil of Socrates was held against him at trial.

Socrates was duly convicted and condemned to death. Both Xenophon and Plato agree that Socrates had an opportunity to escape, following his conviction because his followers were able to bribe the prison guards. There have been several suggestions offered as reasons why he chose to stay:

  1. He believed such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has.
  2. If he fled Athens his teaching would fare no better in another country, as he would continue questioning all he met and undoubtedly incur their displeasure.
  3. Having knowingly agreed to live under the city’s laws, he implicitly subjected himself to the possibility of being accused of crimes by its citizens and judged guilty by its jury. To do otherwise would have caused him to break his “social contract” with the state, and so harm the state, an unprincipled act.
  4. If he escaped at the instigation of his friends, then his friends would become liable in law.
  5. At 70 years old he was willing to die rather than decline into the sicknesses associated with old age.

The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the Crito.

His mode of execution was drinking a potion laced with hemlock. I don’t think it would be suitable to give a recipe for a hemlock drink unless I was interested in decimating my readership, but hemlock is a member of a family that includes carrots, parsnips, fennel, and dill, so we have some alternatives.  Here are a couple of suggestions:

Dilled Carrots or Parsnips

Roasting carrots or parsnips is always a great option. Cut the tops off and either scrub them thoroughly or peel them.  Place them on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil to coat well, and bake in a very hot oven (500°F/260°C) for 15 minutes.  Carefully use tongs to rotate the vegetables, sprinkle with chopped fresh dill, and return to bake for another 15 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle a little fresh dill over the vegetables.

Alternatively, poach the carrots or parsnips (or mix), which can be either whole or sliced, until they are barely al dente. Heat butter in a skillet, drain the vegetables well, and sauté them in the butter with some chopped fresh dill.

 

 

Jan 252021
 

Today is the birthday (1874) of William Somerset Maugham CH, English novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s.

Maugham was the fourth of six sons born in his family. Their father, Robert Ormond Maugham, was a lawyer who handled the legal affairs of the British Embassy in Paris. Since French law declared that all children born on French soil could be conscripted for military service, his father arranged for Maugham to be born at the embassy, diplomatically considered British soil. His grandfather, another Robert, was a prominent lawyer and co-founder of the Law Society of England and Wales. His family assumed Maugham and his brothers would be lawyers. His elder brother, Viscount Maugham, did become a lawyer, enjoying a distinguished legal career and serving as Lord Chancellor from 1938 to 1939.

Maugham’s mother, Edith Mary (née Snell), contracted tuberculosis, a condition for which her physician prescribed childbirth. She had Maugham several years after the last of his three elder brothers was born. By the time Maugham was three, his older brothers were all away at boarding school. Edith’s sixth and final son died on 25 January 1882, one day after his birth. It was Maugham’s eighth birthday. Edith died of tuberculosis six days later on 31 January at the age of 41. The early death of his mother left Maugham traumatized. He kept his mother’s photograph at his bedside for the rest of his life. Two years after Edith’s death, Maugham’s father died in France of cancer.

Maugham was sent back to the UK to be cared for by his paternal uncle, Henry MacDonald Maugham, the Vicar of Whitstable, in Kent. The move was emotionally damaging, as Henry Maugham was cold and emotionally cruel. Maugham attended The King’s School, Canterbury, which was also difficult for him. He was teased for his bad English (French had been his first language) and his short stature. Maugham developed a stammer that stayed with him all his life. It was sporadic, being subject to his moods and circumstances. Miserable both at his uncle’s vicarage and at school, Maugham developed a talent for making wounding remarks to those who displeased him, which ability is sometimes reflected in Maugham’s literary characters.

At age 16, Maugham refused to continue at The King’s School. His uncle allowed him to travel to Germany, where he studied literature, philosophy and German at Heidelberg University. After Maugham’s return to Britain, his uncle found him a position in an accountant’s office. After a month Maugham gave it up and returned to Whitstable. His uncle tried to find Maugham a new profession. Maugham’s father and three older brothers were distinguished lawyers, but Maugham was not interested in this profession. He rejected a career in the Church because of his stutter. His uncle rejected the Civil Service, believing that it was no longer a career for gentlemen after a new law requiring applicants to pass an entrance examination. The local physician suggested the medical profession and Maugham’s uncle agreed.

Maugham had been writing steadily since he was 15, and wanted to be an author, but he did not tell his guardian. For the next five years, he studied medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School in Lambeth. Maugham was living in London, meeting working-class people whom he would never have met otherwise, and seeing them at a time of heightened anxiety and meaning in their lives. In maturity, he recalled the value of his experience as a medical student: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief …”

Maugham kept his own lodgings, took pleasure in furnishing them, filled many notebooks with literary ideas, and continued writing nightly while at the same time studying for his medical degree. In 1897, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, a tale of working-class adultery and its consequences. It drew its details from Maugham’s experiences as a medical student doing midwifery work in Lambeth (which was a slum at the time). Maugham wrote near the opening of the novel: “… it is impossible always to give the exact unexpurgated words of Liza and the other personages of the story; the reader is therefore entreated with his thoughts to piece out the necessary imperfections of the dialogue.” Liza of Lambeth‘s first print run sold out in a matter of weeks. Maugham, who had qualified as a medic, dropped medicine and embarked on his 65-year career as a writer.

The writer’s life allowed Maugham to travel and to live in places such as Spain and Capri for the next decade, but his next ten works never came close to rivaling the success of Liza. This changed in 1907 with the success of his play Lady Frederick. By the next year, he had four plays running simultaneously in London, and Punch published a cartoon of Shakespeare biting his fingernails nervously as he looked at the billboards. Maugham’s supernatural thriller, The Magician (1908), based its principal character on the well-known and somewhat disreputable Aleister Crowley. Crowley took some offence at the treatment of the protagonist, Oliver Haddo. He wrote a critique of the novel, charging Maugham with plagiarism, in a review published in Vanity Fair. Maugham survived the criticism without much damage to his reputation.

By 1914, Maugham was famous, with 10 plays produced and 10 novels published. Too old to enlist when the First World War broke out, he served in France as a member of the British Red Cross’s so-called “Literary Ambulance Drivers”, a group of around 24 well-known writers, including John Dos Passos, E. E. Cummings, and Ernest Hemingway. The experience is a crucial component in the opening chapters of The Razor’s Edge, one of my favorites of his.

Of Human Bondage (1915) initially was criticized in both England and the United States; the New York World described the romantic obsession of the protagonist Philip Carey as “the sentimental servitude of a poor fool”. The influential US novelist and critic Theodore Dreiser rescued the novel, referring to it as a work of genius and comparing it to a Beethoven symphony. His review gave the book a lift, and it has never been out of print since.

Of Human Bondage is considered to have many autobiographical elements. Maugham gave Philip Carey a club foot (rather than his stammer); the vicar of Blackstable appears derived from the vicar of Whitstable; and Carey is a medic. Maugham insisted the book was more invention than fact. The close relationship between fictional and non-fictional became Maugham’s trademark. He wrote in 1938: “Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other.”

Here are some typical quotes:

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.

Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.

Impropriety is the soul of wit.

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

The tragedy of love is indifference.

The important thing was to love rather than to be loved.

The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.

If a man hasn’t what’s necessary to make a woman love him, it’s his fault, not hers.

When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don’t.

This quote used to be more salient than it is nowadays, although the ignorescanti have the stupid habit of going on and on about how bad English food is, and this blog probably won’t change many minds.

If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.

I have given recipes for a “full English” and kedgeree already. Deviled kidneys were a beloved favorite at the Edwardian breakfast sideboard, and are one of my cherished dishes.  Lamb kidneys work best, but ox or pork will also serve.  Lamb kidneys need to be split in half and it is best to remove all the white tubules (although not absolutely necessary). Some cooks also soak the kidneys in milk to reduce the strong flavor, but I don’t.  Ox kidneys need to be cut into bite-sized pieces, and pig kidneys should be quartered.  You can use mushrooms in the dish or not as you please. If you do, I suggest porcini or crimini or the like (I use Asian mushrooms these days). Button mushrooms can serve if you find them to your taste.

Deviled Kidneys

Ingredients

½ lb fresh mushrooms, cut into large pieces (optional)
2 to 4 kidneys (preferably lamb)
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp dry English mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp beef stock
toast slices

Instructions

If you are using the mushrooms, sear them in a hot pan with 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter until nicely browned on their edges. Remove them and set aside.

Place the flour, cayenne, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a heavy brown paper bag. Add the kidneys and shake vigorously to coat thoroughly.

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, then add 3 more tablespoons of butter. Brown the kidneys on all sides in the butter. Return the mushrooms to the pan and add a big splash of Worcestershire sauce and the stock, and shake the pan to combine all the ingredients.

Remove the kidneys and mushrooms and set them on top or beside a slice of toast. Reduce the sauce in the skillet and then pour it over the kidneys.

Serves 1 (if it is me) or 2

Jan 242021
 

On this date in 1848, James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California starting the California Gold Rush (1848–1855). The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of gold into the money supply reinvigorated the US economy, and the sudden population increase allowed California to proceed rapidly to statehood, in the Compromise of 1850. The Gold Rush had severe effects on indigenous Californians and accelerated the Native American population’s decline from disease, starvation, and the California Genocide (massacres by settlers and gold hunters). By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory, to having one of its first two U.S. Senators, John C. Frémont, selected to be the first presidential nominee for the new Republican Party, in 1856.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Whole indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by the gold-seekers, called “forty-niners” (referring to 1849, the peak year for Gold Rush immigration). Outside of California, the first to arrive were from Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America in late 1848. Of the approximately 300,000 people who came to California during the Gold Rush, about half arrived by sea and half came overland on the California Trail and the Gila River trail; forty-niners often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were from the US, the gold rush attracted thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools, and towns were built throughout California. In 1849 a state constitution was written. The new constitution was adopted by referendum vote, and the future state’s interim first governor and legislature were chosen. In September 1850, California became a state.

At the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields and a system of “staking claims” was developed. Prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. Although the mining caused great environmental harm, sophisticated methods of gold recovery were developed and later adopted around the world. New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service. By 1869, railroads were built from California to the eastern United States. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of gold companies to individual miners. Gold worth tens of billions of today’s US dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few, though many who participated in the California Gold Rush earned little more than they had started with.

Recent scholarship confirms that merchants made far more money than miners during the Gold Rush. The wealthiest man in California during the early years of the rush was Samuel Brannan, a tireless self-promoter, shopkeeper and newspaper publisher. Brannan opened the first supply stores in Sacramento, Coloma, and other spots in the goldfields. Just as the rush began he bought up all the prospecting supplies available in San Francisco and re-sold them at a substantial profit. A businessman who went on to great success was Jacob Davis who teamed up with Levi Strauss to produce and sell studded denim overalls in San Francisco in 1853.

Some gold-seekers made a significant amount of money. On average, half the gold-seekers made a modest profit, after taking all expenses into account; economic historians have suggested that White miners were more successful than Black, Indian, or Chinese miners. However, taxes such as the California foreign miners tax passed in 1851, targeted mainly Latino miners and kept them from making as much money as Whites, who did not have any taxes imposed on them. In California most late arrivals made little or wound up losing money. Similarly, many unlucky merchants set up in settlements which disappeared, or which succumbed to one of the calamitous fires that swept the towns that sprang up.

The human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans, dependent on traditional hunting, gathering and agriculture, became the victims of starvation and disease, as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats. The surge in the mining population also resulted in the disappearance of game and food gathering locales as gold camps and other settlements were built amidst them. Later farming spread to supply the settlers’ camps, taking more land away from the Native Americans. In some areas, systematic attacks against Native Americans in or near mining districts occurred. Various conflicts were fought between indigenous people and settlers. Miners often saw Native Americans as impediments to their mining activities. Ed Allen, interpretive lead for Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, reported that there were times when miners would kill up to 50 or more Native Americans in one day. Historian Benjamin Madley recorded the numbers of killings of California Indians between 1846 and 1873 and estimated that during this period at least 9,400 to 16,000 California Indians were killed by non-Indians, mostly occurring in more than 370 massacres.

Flapjacks were a great staple of California mining camps leading to them often being referred to as 49er flapjacks.  They are a cross between English pancakes (crepes) and US breakfast pancakes – somewhat resembling Scandinavian pancakes.

49er Flapjacks

Ingredients

1 tsp dry yeast
2 cups milk
1 ½ tbsp melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ tbsp sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

The night before you wish to make the pancakes, warm the milk in a small saucepan to about body heat.  Remove from the heat and dissolve in the yeast. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the salt, sugar, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the milk mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until fully combined. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 hour, then beat down with a wooden spoon to deflate. Cover with a cloth and let stand overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

In the morning, deflate the mix again and whisk in the beaten eggs and vanilla. At this point it should be a runny batter that can spread easily.

Heat a well-greased, heavy, 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Make one large flapjack at a time by lifting the skillet off the heat while you pour ½ cup of batter, tilt the pan to cover the bottom surface completely. The top surface will bubble a little as the bottom cooks Wait until all the top bubbles burst and the top itself is not moist.  Flip and cook until golden.

Flapjacks can be served as part of a full breakfast or on their own with your choice of accompaniments – syrup, fruit, preserves, etc.

Jan 232021
 

Today is the birthday (1783) of Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his pen name Stendhal, a 19th-century French writer, known for the novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme. He is highly regarded for the acute analysis of his characters’ psychology and considered one of the early and foremost practitioners of realism.

Stendahl was born in Grenoble, Isère, and had an unhappy childhood. His mother died when he was 7, and he found his father, a barrister, unbearable (he actually called him “unimaginative”). In 1799 he left for Paris, ostensibly to prepare for the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique, but in reality to escape from Grenoble and from paternal rule.

The military and theatrical worlds of the First French Empire were a revelation to Stendhal. His secret ambition on arriving in Paris was to become a successful playwright, but some highly placed relatives of his, the Darus, obtained an appointment for him as second lieutenant in the French military forces stationed in Italy. He was named an auditor with the Conseil d’État on 3rd August 1810, and thereafter took part in the French administration and in the Napoleonic wars in Italy. He travelled extensively in Germany and was part of Napoleon’s army in the 1812 invasion of Russia. Stendhal witnessed the burning of Moscow from just outside the city. He was appointed Commissioner of War Supplies and sent to Smolensk to prepare provisions for the returning army. He crossed the Berezina River by finding a usable ford rather than the overwhelmed pontoon bridge, which probably saved his life and those of his companions. He arrived in Paris in 1813, largely unaware of the general fiasco that the retreat had become. Stendhal became known, during the Russian campaign, for keeping his wits about him, and maintaining his clear-headedness. He also maintained his daily routine, shaving each day during the retreat from Moscow.

After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan. He formed a particular attachment to Italy, where he spent much of the remainder of his career, serving as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia. His novel The Charterhouse of Parma, written in 52 days, is set in Italy, which he considered a more sincere and passionate country than Restoration France. An aside in that novel, referring to a character who contemplates suicide after being jilted, speaks about his attitude towards his home country: “To make this course of action clear to my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love.”

Stendhal identified with the nascent liberalism and his time in Italy convinced him that Romanticism was essentially the literary counterpart of liberalism in politics. When Stendhal was appointed to a consular post in Trieste in 1830, Metternich refused his exequatur on account of Stendhal’s liberalism and anti-clericalism.

Stendhal was a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an obsessive womanizer. However, his genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books; Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex. One of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic passion that was based on his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living at Milan. This fusion of, and tension between, clear-headed analysis and romantic feeling is typical of Stendhal’s great novels.

In On Love Stendhal speaks of “birth of love” in which the love object is ‘crystallized’ in the mind, as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy, the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love:

Stendhal’s depiction of “crystallization” in the process of falling in love.

When we are in Bologna, we are entirely indifferent; we are not concerned to admire in any particular way the person with whom we shall perhaps one day be madly in love; even less is our imagination inclined to overrate their worth. In a word, in Bologna “crystallization” has not yet begun. When the journey begins, love departs. One leaves Bologna, climbs the Apennines, and takes the road to Rome. The departure, according to Stendhal, has nothing to do with one’s will; it is an instinctive moment. This transformative process actuates in terms of four steps along a journey:

    Admiration – one marvels at the qualities of the loved one.

    Acknowledgement – one acknowledges the pleasantness of having gained the loved one’s interest.

    Hope – one envisions gaining the love of the loved one.

    Delight – one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the person whose love one hopes to win.

This journey or crystallization process (shown above) was detailed by Stendhal on the back of a playing card while speaking to Madame Gherardi, during his trip to the Salzburg salt mine.

Hippolyte Taine considered the psychological portraits of Stendhal’s characters to be “real, because they are complex, many-sided, particular and original, like living human beings.” Émile Zola concurred with Taine’s assessment of Stendhal’s skills as a “psychologist”, and although emphatic in his praise of Stendhal’s psychological accuracy and rejection of convention, he deplored the various implausibilities of the novels and Stendhal’s clear authorial intervention.

Friedrich Nietzsche refers to Stendhal as “France’s last great psychologist” in Beyond Good and Evil (1886). He also mentions Stendhal in the Twilight of the Idols (1889) during a discussion of Dostoevsky as a psychologist, saying that encountering Dostoevsky was “the most beautiful accident of my life, more so than even my discovery of Stendhal.”

Ford Madox Ford, in The English Novel, asserts that to Diderot and Stendhal “the Novel owes its next great step forward…At that point it became suddenly evident that the Novel as such was capable of being regarded as a means of profoundly serious and many-sided discussion and therefore as a medium of profoundly serious investigation into the human case.”

Erich Auerbach considers modern “serious realism” to have begun with Stendhal and Balzac.[24] In Mimesis, he remarks of a scene in The Red and the Black that “it would be almost incomprehensible without a most accurate and detailed knowledge of the political situation, the social stratification, and the economic circumstances of a perfectly definite historical moment, namely, that in which France found itself just before the July Revolution.”

In Auerbach’s view, in Stendhal’s novels “characters, attitudes, and relationships of the dramatis personæ, then, are very closely connected with contemporary historical circumstances; contemporary political and social conditions are woven into the action in a manner more detailed and more real than had been exhibited in any earlier novel, and indeed in any works of literary art except those expressly purporting to be politico-satirical tracts.”

Simone de Beauvoir uses Stendhal as an example of a feminist author. In The Second Sex de Beauvoir writes “Stendhal never describes his heroines as a function of his heroes: he provides them with their own destinies.” She furthermore points out that it “is remarkable that Stendhal is both so profoundly romantic and so decidedly feminist; feminists are usually rational minds that adopt a universal point of view in all things; but it is not only in the name of freedom in general but also in the name of individual happiness that Stendhal calls for women’s emancipation.” Yet, Beauvoir criticizes Stendhal for, although wanting a woman to be his equal, her only destiny he envisions for her remains a man.

Some quotes:

Love is a well from which we can drink only as much as we have put in, and the stars that shine from it are only our eyes looking in.

One can acquire everything in solitude except character.

Life is very short, and it ought not to be spent crawling at the feet of miserable scoundrels.

Only great minds can afford a simple style.

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.

Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.

Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us.

To describe happiness is to diminish it.

Stendhal suffered miserable physical disabilities in his final years as he continued to produce some of his most famous work. As he noted in his journal, he was taking iodide of potassium and quicksilver to treat his syphilis, resulting in swollen armpits, difficulty swallowing, pains in his shrunken testicles, sleeplessness, giddiness, roaring in the ears, racing pulse and “tremors so bad he could scarcely hold a fork or a pen”. Modern medicine has shown that his health problems were more attributable to his treatment than to his syphilis.

Stendhal’s birthplace, Grenoble, is well known for Sauce Grenobloise, typically used to sauce fish.  It is the delightful mix of lemon and capers but with additions – tons of butter, parsley, chunks of lemon, and croutons. This video is typical.

 

 

Jan 222021
 

Today is the birthday (1561) of Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, Kt PC QC, English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution. Bacon was the first recipient of the Queen’s Counsel designation, which was conferred in 1597 when Elizabeth I of England reserved Bacon as her legal advisor. After the accession of James VI and I in 1603, Bacon was knighted. He was later created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Alban in 1621. Because he had no heirs, both titles became extinct upon his death in 1626, at 65 years. Bacon died of pneumonia, with one account by John Aubrey stating that he had contracted the condition while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat. He is buried at St Michael’s Church, St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Bacon’s development of the scientific method and his analysis of the weakness of using sacred texts, specifically Biblical references, to buttress claims concerning the nature of the world initiated the science versus religion debate/controversy which I have discussed at length here and elsewhere.  The scientific method as elucidated by Bacon has great strengths.  The Scientific Revolution and the subsequent Industrial Revolution made great strides in technology and in our understanding of how the natural world functions.  No argument.  But when it comes to arguing that the scientific method is the only avenue to knowledge, there I disagree. As it happens, the vast majority of scientists also disagree, but their stance has not filtered down into popular consciousness.

Bacon’s seminal work Novum Organum was influential in the 1630s and 1650s among scholars. According to Bacon, learning and knowledge all derive from the basis of inductive reasoning (observing first and then drawing conclusions). Through his belief in experimental encounters, he theorized that all the knowledge that was necessary to fully understand a concept could be attainable through induction. In order to get to the point of an inductive conclusion, one must consider the importance of observing the particulars (specific parts of nature). “Once these particulars have been gathered together, the interpretation of Nature proceeds by sorting them into a formal arrangement so that they may be presented to the understanding.” Experimentation is thus essential to discovering the basics of nature. An experiment tests an hypothesis, resulting in data from which a conclusion may be articulated. Building conclusion upon conclusion expands the understanding of the natural world. Bacon states that when we come to understand parts of nature, we can eventually understand nature better as a whole because of induction. Because of this, Bacon concludes that all learning and knowledge must be drawn from inductive reasoning.

During the Restoration, Bacon was commonly invoked as a guiding spirit of the Royal Society founded under Charles II in 1660. During the 18th-century French Enlightenment, Bacon’s non-metaphysical approach to science became more influential than the dualism of his French contemporary Descartes, and was associated with criticism of the ancien régime. In 1733 Voltaire introduced him to a French audience as the “father” of the scientific method, an understanding which had become widespread by the 1750s. In the 19th century his emphasis on induction was revived and developed by William Whewell, among others. As such, he was called the “Father of Experimental Philosophy”.

One of his biographers, the historian William Hepworth Dixon, states: “Bacon’s influence in the modern world is so great that every man who rides in a train, sends a telegram, follows a steam plough, sits in an easy chair, crosses the channel or the Atlantic, eats a good dinner, enjoys a beautiful garden, or undergoes a painless surgical operation, owes him something.” In 1902 Hugo von Hofmannsthal published a fictional letter, known as “The Lord Chandos Letter,” addressed to Bacon and dated 1603, about a writer who is experiencing a crisis of language.

Although Bacon’s works have been extremely influential, his argument falls short because observation and the scientific method are not useful on their own for every inquiry. Bacon takes the inductive method too far, as seen through one of his aphorisms which says, “Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: Beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.” As humans, we are capable of more than pure observation and can use deduction to form theories. In fact, we must use deduction because Bacon’s pure inductive method is incomplete. Thus, it is not Bacon’s ideas alone that form the scientific method we use today. If that were the case, we would not be able to fully understand the observations we make and deduce new theories. Author Ernst Mayr states, “Inductivism had a great vogue in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but it is now clear that a purely inductive approach is quite sterile.” Mayr points out that an inductive approach on its own just does not work. One could observe an experiment multiple times, but still be unable to make generalizations and correctly understand the results. Bacon’s inductive method is beneficial, but incomplete and leaves gaps. The inductive method can be seen as a tool used alongside other ideas, such as deduction, which now creates a method which is most effective and used today: the modern scientific method.

The obvious choice of recipe for a man named Bacon is to make your own bacon at home.  The process is not especially complex, although it does take time, and the ingredients can sometimes be difficult to procure.  Belly pork is the main ingredient, and supermarkets in the US do not always stock large slabs.  I used to have to make a trip into Chinatown in New York, but now that I live in Asia I am spoiled for choice – belly pork is a big favorite.  Bacon can be made by salt curing or smoking or both.  Salt curing involves making a dry rub of kosher salt plus other ingredients of your choice, rubbing them well into the belly pork, bagging up the product, and leaving the whole to mature refrigerated for around a week.  The pork can subsequently be cooked as is, or smoked.  The following video provides greater detail, and you can find numerous others on YouTube.

 

Jan 192021
 

Today is the birthday (1775) of André-Marie Ampère, a French physicist and mathematician who was one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism, which he referred to as “electrodynamics”. He is also the inventor of numerous applications, such as the solenoid (a term coined by him) and the electrical telegraph. Ampère was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor at the École polytechnique and the Collège de France. The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him. His name is also one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

Ampère was born to Jean-Jacques Ampère, a prosperous businessman, and Jeanne Antoinette Desutières-Sarcey Ampère, during the height of the French Enlightenment. He spent his childhood and adolescence at the family property at Poleymieux-au-Mont-d’Or near Lyon. Jean-Jacques Ampère was an admirer of the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose theories of education (as outlined in his treatise Émile) were the basis of Ampère’s education. Rousseau believed that young boys should avoid formal schooling and pursue instead an “education direct from nature.” Ampère’s father actualized this ideal by allowing his son to educate himself within the walls of his well-stocked library. In addition, Ampère used his access to the latest books to begin teaching himself advanced mathematics at age 12. In later life Ampère claimed that he knew as much about mathematics and science when he was eighteen as he ever knew, but as a polymath, his reading embraced history, travels, poetry, philosophy, and the natural sciences. The French Revolution that began during his youth was influential: Ampère’s father was called into public service by the new revolutionary government, becoming a justice of the peace in a small town near Lyon. When the Jacobin faction seized control of the Revolutionary government in 1792, his father resisted the new political tides, and he was guillotined on 24 November 1793, as part of the Jacobin purges of the period.

in July 1803, Ampère moved to Paris, where he began a tutoring post at the new École Polytechnique in 1804. Despite his lack of formal qualifications, Ampère was appointed a professor of mathematics at the school in 1809. As well as holding positions at this school until 1828, in 1819 and 1820 Ampère offered courses in philosophy and astronomy, respectively, at the University of Paris, and in 1824 he was elected to the prestigious chair in experimental physics at the Collège de France. In 1814 Ampère was invited to join the class of mathematicians in the new Institut Impérial, the umbrella under which the reformed state Academy of Sciences would sit.

In September 1820, Ampère’s friend and eventual eulogist François Arago showed the members of the French Academy of Sciences the surprising discovery of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted that a magnetic needle is deflected by an adjacent electric current. Ampère began developing a mathematical and physical theory to understand the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Furthering Ørsted’s experimental work, Ampère showed that two parallel wires carrying electric currents attract or repel each other, depending on whether the currents flow in the same or opposite directions, respectively – this laid the foundation of electrodynamics. He also applied mathematics in generalizing physical laws from these experimental results. The most important of these was the principle that came to be called Ampère’s law, which states that the mutual action of two lengths of current-carrying wire is proportional to their lengths and to the intensities of their currents. Ampère also applied this same principle to magnetism, showing the harmony between his law and French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb’s law of magnetic action. Ampère’s devotion to, and skill with, experimental techniques anchored his science within the emerging fields of experimental physics.

Ampère also provided a physical understanding of the electromagnetic relationship, theorizing the existence of an “electrodynamic molecule” (the forerunner of the idea of the electron) that served as the component element of both electricity and magnetism. Using this physical explanation of electromagnetic motion, Ampère developed a physical account of electromagnetic phenomena that was both empirically demonstrable and mathematically predictive. In 1827 Ampère published his magnum opus, Mémoire sur la théorie mathématique des phénomènes électrodynamiques uniquement déduite de l’experience (Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience), the work that coined the name of his new science, electrodynamics, and became known ever after as its founding treatise.

In 1827 Ampère was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and in 1828, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.

Ampère was from the general region of Lyon, and “Lyonnaise” refers to cooking traditions and practices centering on the area around Lyon. In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici brought cooks from Florence to her court in Lyon and they prepared dishes combining the agricultural products from the regions of France with their own culinary expertise. Now “Lyonnaise” is a semi-formal appellation. Sauce Lyonnaise, for example, involves a demi-glace, vinegar, and onions.  This video explains the appellation more fully and shows the making of veal cutlets Lyonnaise.

Jan 192021
 

Timkat or Timket (Ge’ez:ጥምቀት) is an Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19th (or 20th in a leap year), corresponding to the 11th  day of Terr in the Ge’ez calendar.

Timkat celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christians in the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan).

Ethiopian Tewahedo priests at a Timkat ceremony in Jan Meda.

During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar (somewhat like the Western altar stone), is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and borne in procession on the head of the priest. The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near a stream or pool early in the morning (around 2 a.m.). Then the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. Donald N. Levine describes a typical celebration of the early 1960s:

By noon on Timqat Day a large crowd has assembled at the ritual site, those who went home for a little sleep having returned, and the holy ark is escorted back to its church in colorful procession and festivities. The clergy, bearing robes and umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs; the elders march solemnly with their weapons, attended by middle-aged men singing a long-drawn, low-pitched haaa hooo; and the children run about with sticks and games. Dressed up in their finest, the women chatter excitedly on their one real day of freedom in the year. The young braves leap up and down in spirited dances, tirelessly repeating rhythmic songs. This celebration is also registered in UNESCO as an intangible heritage. When the holy ark has been safely restored to its dwelling-place, everyone goes home for feasting.

Not exactly an anthropological description but you get the idea.  The feast day has a morning ritual part and then an afternoon celebratory part.  For the feasting here is a recipe for Eritrean silsi (tomato and berbere). It is normally served with injera (recipe here, also with beef tsebhi (aka wat) recipe https://www.bookofdaystales.com/abebe-bikila/ )

Jan 172021
 

Today is the celebration of St Anthony or Anthony the Great, (251 – 356), a Coptic monk from Egypt, distinguished from other saints named Anthony such as Anthony of Padua, by various epithets of his own: Anthony of Egypt, Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of the Desert, Anthony the Anchorite, Anthony the Hermit, and Anthony of Thebes. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later Christian monasticism, he is also known as the Father of All Monks.

The biography (Vita) of Anthony’s life by Athanasius of Alexandria helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism, particularly in Western Europe via its Latin translations. He is often erroneously considered the first Christian monk, but as his biography and other sources make clear, there were many ascetics before him. Anthony was, however, among the first known to go into the wilderness (about 270), which seems to have contributed to his renown, and he was apparently the first ascetic to develop a monastic community. Accounts of Anthony enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature. Anthony is appealed to against infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases. In the past, many such afflictions, including ergotism, erysipelas, and shingles, were referred to as St. Anthony’s fire.

Anthony was born in Coma in Lower Egypt to wealthy landowner parents. When he was about 20 years old, his parents died and left him with the care of his unmarried sister. Shortly thereafter, he decided to follow the gospel exhortation in Matthew 19: 21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.” Anthony gave away some of his family’s lands to his neighbors, sold the remaining property, and donated the funds to the poor. He then left to live an ascetic life.

For the next 15 years, Anthony remained in the area, spending the first years as the disciple of another local hermit. There are various legends that he worked as a swineherd during this period. At the time there were already ascetic hermits (the Therapeutae), and loosely organized cenobitic communities were described by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria in the 1st century as long established in the harsh environment of Lake Mareotis and in other less accessible regions. Philo wrote that “this class of persons may be met with in many places, for both Greece and barbarian countries want to enjoy whatever is perfectly good.” Christian ascetics such as Thecla had likewise retreated to isolated locations at the outskirts of cities. Anthony is notable for having decided to surpass this tradition and headed out into the desert proper. He left for the alkaline Nitrian Desert (later the location of the noted monasteries of Nitria, Kellia, and Scetis) on the edge of the Western Desert about 95 km (59 mi) west of Alexandria. He remained there for 13 years.

Anthony maintained a very strict ascetic diet. He ate mostly bread, salt and water and never meat or wine. He ate at most only once a day and sometimes fasted through two or four days. According to Athanasius, the devil fought Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women, which he overcame by the power of prayer, providing a theme for Christian art. After that, he moved to one of the tombs near his native village. There it was that his Vita records those strange conflicts with demons in the shape of wild beasts, who inflicted blows upon him, and sometimes left him nearly dead.

After 15 years of this life, at the age of 35, Anthony determined to withdraw from human habitation completely and retire in absolute solitude. He went into the desert to a mountain by the Nile called Pispir (now Der-el-Memun), opposite Arsinoë. There he lived strictly enclosed in an old abandoned Roman fort for about 20 years. Food was thrown to him over the wall. He was at times visited by pilgrims, whom he refused to see; but gradually a number of would-be disciples established themselves in caves and in huts around the mountain. Thus a colony of ascetics was formed, who begged Anthony to come forth and be their guide in the spiritual life. Eventually, he yielded to their pleas and, about the year 305, emerged from his retreat. To the surprise of all, he appeared to be not emaciated, but healthy in mind and body.

For five or six years he devoted himself to the instruction and organization of the great body of monks that had grown up around him; but then he once again withdrew into the inner desert that lay between the Nile and the Red Sea, near the shore of which he fixed his abode on a mountain where the monastery that bears his name, Der Mar Antonios is still active. He spent the last 45 years of his life here, in seclusion, not so strict as Pispir, for he freely saw those who came to visit him, and he used to cross the desert to Pispir with considerable frequency. Amid the Diocletian Persecutions, around 311 Anthony went to Alexandria and was conspicuous visiting those who were imprisoned.

Anthony was not the first Christian ascetic or hermit, but he may properly be called the “Father of Monasticism” in Christianity, since he organized his disciples into a community and later, following the spread of Athanasius’ hagiography, was the inspiration for similar communities throughout Egypt and, elsewhere. Macarius the Great was a disciple of Anthony. Visitors traveled great distances to see the celebrated holy man. Anthony is said to have spoken to those of a spiritual disposition, leaving the task of addressing the more worldly visitors to Macarius. Macarius later founded a monastic community in the Scetic desert.

In 338, he left the desert temporarily to visit Alexandria to help refute the teachings of Arius. When Anthony sensed his death approaching, he commanded his disciples to give his staff to Macarius of Egypt, and to give one sheepskin cloak to Athanasius of Alexandria and the other sheepskin cloak to Serapion of Thmuis, his disciple. Anthony was interred, according to his instructions, in a grave next to his cell.

Accounts of Anthony enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature. Anthony is said to have faced a series of supernatural temptations during his pilgrimage to the desert. The first to report on the temptation was his contemporary Athanasius of Alexandria. It is possible these events, like the paintings, are full of rich metaphor or in the case of the animals of the desert, perhaps a vision or dream. Emphasis on these stories, however, did not really begin until the Middle Ages when the psychology of the individual became of greater interest.

Some of the stories included in Anthony’s biography are perpetuated now mostly in paintings, where they give an opportunity for artists to depict their more lurid or bizarre interpretations. Many artists, including Martin Schongauer, Hieronymus Bosch, Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dalí, have depicted these incidents from the life of Anthony; in prose, the tale was retold and embellished by Gustave Flaubert in The Temptation of Saint Anthony.

Each year on January 16th, the eve of the festival of Saint Anthony, the town of San Bartolomé de Pinares, located in the province of Ávila, Castile and León, in Spain, celebrates the traditional Luminarias festival. The festival has purportedly been held for five centuries, and appears to trace back to some kind of

ritual purification to preserve the health of the horses in the village. Bonfires are lit in the central streets, and horses jump through the flames, with the smoke intended to protect the animals from disease.

Anthony’s diet consisted mostly of bread and water, so why not celebrate his day with the classic Egyptian bread, aish beledi?

Jan 092021
 

Today is the saint’s day of Adrian (also spelled Hadrian) of Canterbury (c.637—710). He was a North African scholar in Anglo-Saxon England and the abbot of Saint Peter’s and Saint Paul’s in Canterbury. He was a noted teacher and commentator of the Bible. According to Bede, he was a Berber from North Africa, and abbot of a monastery “not far from Naples” called Monasterium Niridanum (which has never been adequately identified). His identity as a Berber is what encourages me to write this post because the internationalism of this period in Medieval history strikes me as greatly at odds with the nationalism of these latter days.  Apparently, no one in Anglo-Saxon Kent thought twice about having a North African resident abbot, and the pope thought he was a suitable candidate for archbishop of Canterbury.  To be fair, Augustine of Hippo, certainly one of the most influential scholars of his day ( https://www.bookofdaystales.com/st-augustine-of-hippo/ ), is also presumed to have been a Berber – or, at least, that his mother was. But he spent almost all of his ecclesiastical career in North Africa.  Adrian knew the world.

When first offered the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury, by pope Vitalian, Adrian declined. Instead he recommended that it should be given to Andrew, a monk belonging to a neighboring monastery, but he also declined on the plea of advanced years. Then, when the offer was again made to Adrian, he suggested his friend Theodore of Tarsus, who happened to be in Rome at the time. He agreed to undertake the charge, but Vitalian stipulated that Adrian should accompany him to Britain. He gave as his reasons that Adrian, having twice before made a journey into Gaul, knew the roads and the means of transport in the region. As I said, Adrian knew the world.

The two set out from Rome on 27 May 668, and proceeding by sea to Marseilles, crossed the country to Arles, where they remained with John, the archbishop, until they got passports from Ebroin, who ruled that part of Gaul as Mayor of the Palace, for the minor king Clotaire III. Having then made their way together to the north of France, they parted company, and went separately to hole up for the winter, Theodore with Agilbert, bishop of Paris, Adrian first with Emmon, bishop of Sens, and afterwards with Faro, bishop of Meaux. Theodore was sent for in the following spring by king Ecgberht of Kent and was allowed to depart. He reached England at the end of May 669; but Adrian was detained by order of Ebroin, who is said to have suspected him of being an emissary of the Greek emperor sent to stir up troubles against the kingdom of the Franks.

At length, however, Ebroin relented, and Adrian was permitted to proceed to England, where, immediately on his arrival, he was made abbot of the monastery of Saints Peter and Paul (afterwards called Saint Augustine’s) at Canterbury, an appointment which was in conformity with instructions given by the pope to Theodore. Adrian was known to be well versed in the Bible, as well as in Greek and Latin, and an excellent administrator. Under his direction the abbey came to have substantial, far-reaching influence.

Bede describes Adrian (or Hadrian, as he calls him in the Ecclesiastical History), as not only a distinguished theologian, but eminently accomplished in secular learning. He and Theodore, we are told, toured Britain extensively, gathered multitudes of scholars around them wherever they appeared, and employed themselves daily with equal diligence and success in instructing those who flocked to them not only in Christianity (which was a novelty to many),  but in the several branches of science and literature available at the time. Bede particularly mentions the metrical art, astronomy, and arithmetic (which may be considered as representing what we might now call rhetoric and the belles lettres, physical science, and mathematics); and he adds, that as he wrote (in the early part of the 8th century), there still remained some of the pupils of Theodore and Adrian, who spoke Greek and Latin as readily as their native tongues. A record of the teaching of Theodore and Adrian is preserved in the Leiden Glossary.

King Alfred appears to allude to Theodore’s and Adrian’s scholarly outreach in the preface to his translation of Pope Gregory I’s Liber Pastoralis Curae, in the latter part of the ninth century, where he says that it often came into his mind what wise men there were in the country, both laymen and ecclesiastics, in a former age; how the clergy in those happy times were diligent both to teach and to study, and how foreigners then came to England to acquire learning and wisdom; whereas now, in his own day, if any Englishman desired to make himself a scholar, he was obliged to go abroad for instruction.

Adrian is said to have lived for 39 years after he arrived in England, continuing until his death to preside over the monastery at Canterbury. He died in 709 and was buried in the monastery. When he was canonized as a saint, his relics were re-deposited in the new monastery on 9th January 1091, which is now his feast day.

The iconic Berber dish is the tagine – one of the reasons for the post at all.  The name “tagine” refers both to the cooking vessel (which is easily recognized) and the various dishes made in it.  It dates back to around the time of Adrian – just slightly later, but not by much.  Modern Moroccan Arabic طجين ṭažin is derived from Berber ṭajin “shallow earthen pot” from Ancient Greek τάγηνον (tágēnon) “frying-pan, saucepan.”

There are numerous tagine dishes, and you can find numerous recipes online or on YouTube.  This one is an excellent introduction to the method: