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Category Archives: Cuisine of the Past

Vintage Political Incorrectness: Cola

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weird funny marketing ad failsThe fine print reads:  “How soon is too soon?  Not soon enough.  Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during the early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and “fitting in” during those awkward pre-teen and teen years.  So, do yourself a favor.  Do your child a favor.  Start them on a strict regime of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.”

  • Promotes Active Lifestyle!
  • Boosts Personality!
  • Gives Body Essential Sugars!

There are just so many things wrong with this ad; from today’s perspective, each and every claim this ad makes is bogus at best, misleading or damaging at worst. I wonder how they proved with laboratory tests that teens fit in better after drinking sugary drinks?  And how much damage did they do to the nation’s overall health when mothers began putting their pre-teething babies on a strict regime of sugary, carbonated chemical bombs?

We’ve come a long way, baby!

 

Lost in Translation: Lard Vintage Ads

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I’m sure there is a logical explanation why anyone would think this slogan (“eat lard”) worth it the first time, let alone repeating… I just can’t think of one.

Lard Ad 1Lard Ad 2

For other ads lost in translation, click here.

The History of the Candy Cane

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We’ve hung candy canes on our tree this year, and some of them are green; it got me thinking about the history of candy canes, and why red is more traditional. Now I know why…

Candle & Quill

The candy cane is something most of us (at least those in western Europe and the Americas) know and associate with Christmas; but do you know how it got started?

According to folklore and Wikipedia, in Cologne, Germany, 1670, the choir master at the cathedral commissioned a confectioner to make these candies to calm the children during the Christmas pageant service. The white represents the sinless life of Jesus; the original canes were pure white, and a recipe for straight canes with coloured stripes was published in 1844.  The red stripe has come to represent the blood of Jesus shed for us (his purpose in coming in the first place – Hebrews 2:14-18), in keeping with the symbolism of the white.  The crook is to remind us of the shepherds who visited Jesus in the manger.  Only as late as 1882 the candies began to be hung on Christmas trees…

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A Grain of Mustard

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MustardYesterday my husband and I discussed mustard (as one does).  Specifically, he had been on Google Earth and mentioned that he saw rapeseed fields near Dijon; I replied that they were more likely to be mustard fields.  He was under the impression that mustard was a bush, or a tree, and we wondered if there might be varieties of the plant that ranged in size, especially if left to grow wild.  And thus, a bit of research into the mustard plant ensued (naturally).
First, a bit of history on Dijon mustard:  Originating in 1856, the first Dijon mustard was made by substituting green (unripe) grape juice for the more typical vinegar, though today that unripe grape juice is a spade called a spade, white wine.  Surprisingly, 90% of the mustard seed used in local Dijon production comes (mainly) from Canada – so those yellow flowering fields near Dijon could be rapeseed after all!

Dijon Hand-Painted JarDijon, France doesn’t just make the eponymous mustard, but has dozens of speciality mustards; when travelling through a few years ago, we picked up jars of orange mustard, fig mustard, lavender mustard and tomato mustard.  They often come in hand-painted pots, though plain glass jars are common as well.  The word mustard itself comes from Old French mostarde, which comes from Latin mustum, meaning “new wine”.  This may also be related to a Swiss-German term Most, meaning apple juice that’s nearly fermented; it’s often sold in the autumn from farmer’s shops, if they have an apple orchard from which to produce it.

Mustard seeds come in white, brown or black.  White seeds contain fewer volatile oils and so are milder than brown or black.  Years ago I consulted a doctor for remedies I could recommend to singing students who often struggle with sore throat issues; she told me to have them put 1 teaspoon of dark mustard seeds into a hot foot bath and soak the feet for 10-15 minutes; the mustard oils draw out the infection.

Mustard, as a condiment, was likely first made in Rome, appearing in cookbooks as far back as the 4th or 5th centuries.  They probably exported the seeds to France (Gaul), and by the 10th century monks were experimenting with recipes.  Grey-Poupon was established in 1777 between the partners Maurice Grey and Auguste Poupon.

So were those French fields rapeseed or mustard?  Well, actually, both:  Rapeseed is a bright-yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family).  While both rapeseed and mustard are harvested for their oils, they are as similar as mustard is to cabbage; rapeseed oil is the third-largest source of vegetable oil in the world, while mustard seeds are usually prepared as mustard condiment (though mustard oil is also popular in cuisines such as Indian).

Now we know..!

What a Buttload!

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Now, now… if you thought I was going to be rude, you don’t know me very well.  While I am certain that the term “butt” has led to countless jibes and jokes down through the centuries, it is (among other things) in fact an English measuring unit for wine.  A Buttload of wine is a unit for liquids which contains 126 gallons (~276 litres) which is one-half tun (252 gallons), and equivalent to the pipe (the latter also referred to the large container used for storing liquids or foodstuffs; now we rather use the terms cask or vat).  That they needed a term for a unit of wine that massive may seem odd at first; but when you remember that the water they had to drink was the same water that flowed downhill from the landlord’s latrine, the cows in the pasture, and the washer woman upstream, wine, beer and ale (depending on which harvest climate you lived in) was by far the safest thing to drink.  If wine was available in your area, it was stored in barrels and thus was drunk relatively young; also, to counter the effects of drinking it at every meal, wine was often diluted 4 or 5-to-1 with water; that took all of the buzz out of it (and added who knows how many bugs that they were drinking wine to avoid in the first place…).  Now you know.  What a buttload off my mind… I think it’s time for a glass of (undiluted) wine.

A Buttload of Wine

Happy Lammas Day! Happy Birthday, Switzerland!

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The original Thanksgiving day, Lammas has a centuries-old tradition in some English-speaking countries.  “Lammas” comes from the Old English hlafmæsse, meaning “loaf mass”, and was a celebration and a time to give thanks for the harvest.  Everyone would bring a loaf of bread to the church on that day, made from freshly-harvested wheat; it would then be blessed by the minister as a symbol of giving thanks for the entire harvest.  Perhaps this is the Eucharistic overtone admitted by J.R.R. Tolkien* in a private letter concerning the Lembas Bread of the Elves; this bread might have been based on Hardtack texture-wise, but the name itself is a quite clear connection to Lammas. 

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles it is mentioned several times, and there it is referred to as the “feast of the first fruits”. To read more about this celebration, click on the image below.

And before I close, I will also say, “Happy Birthday, Switzerland!”  Today is our Founding Day, the first being in 1291.  Fireworks, here we come!

Breads, Harvest, Lammas Day

*Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-31555-7

Hobson’s Choice

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Thomas Hobson EngravingThomas Hobson (1544-1631) is still famous through the idiom, “Hobson’s Choice”, which means basically “Take it or leave it”.  An innkeeper in Cambridge, England, he would hire out his horses (according to information at the Cambridge Guildhall, he apparently had an extensive stable of 40 horses, which was a sign of immense wealth in those days!).  To avoid the best horses being favoured and thus worn out more quickly, he devised a rotation system that became known as Hobson’s Choice:  The horse closest to the entrance, or none.  The idiom is sometimes used erroneously to mean a choice between two equally good (or bad) situations or solutions; but Hobson’s choice was really a choice between something or nothing.

I first came across the phrase when reading Frederick Hoffman’s “A Sailor of King George“:

I interrogated the next, who was a short, slight, pale-faced man. “And pray,” said I, “what part of the play have you been performing; were you ever at sea?” “No, sir,” said he; “I am a hairdresser, and was pressed a week ago.” “D——n these fellows!” said my captain; “they are all tailors, barbers, or grass-combers. I want seamen.” “Then,” said Captain N., who was the flag-captain, and had just come on board, “I much fear you will be disappointed. These are the only disposable men, and it’s Hobson’s choice—those or none.” “The admiral promised me some good seamen,” returned my skipper, rather quickly. “Then I fear the admiral must find them,” was the answer, “as I have not more than twenty seamen on board besides the petty officers. The last were drafted a few days ago in the Defiance. Will you take any of these men, Captain W.?” “What do you think,” said my captain to me; “shall we take any of them?” “Suppose,” returned I, “we take twenty of them and the tailor; they will all fit in in time.” I then picked out twenty of the best, who were bad enough, as they were the worst set I ever saw grouped. Their appearance and dress were wretched in the extreme. I reached the ship before the hour of dinner with my live cargo. “What, more hard bargains,” said the first lieutenant, “we have too many clodhoppers on board already. The captain told me we were to have seamen.” “Captain N.,” said I, “assured our noble captain that the Defiance had taken all the A.B.’s.*” “D——n the Defiance!” replied he; “I defy Captain N. or anybody else to match those gentlemanly ragamuffins.” The master’s mates were called, and they were given into their charge.

Captain Frederick Hoffman. A Sailor of King George (Kindle Locations 2063-2077).

*A.B.s – Able-bodied seamen

On Hunters and Hunted

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“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.”

African Proverb

native-american-crow-warrior

New Book Release: The Cardinal

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Facebook Announcement with Website

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to announce the release of my latest books:  The Cardinal, Parts One and Two!  The Cardinal is an epic fantasy, spanning from the pre-Viking Age of Scotland and Norway to modern-day Scotland.

The Cardinal

790 A.D.

In the far northern reaches of the Highlands of Scotland a Pictish tribe, with their language of peat, stone and sea, ally together with a strange kingdom of mist, sky and whispers.  As a foe of axe, smoke and leather descend upon them in longships from the north and they are scattered in defeat, will those left behind ever find those wrenched from their arms?  Will those slaves taken by the Vikings ever find their way to freedom and home or not?  Either way life will never be the same again.

Now

More than a thousand years later their lives, deaths and fates are brought to light by an archaeological team who uncovers the find of a lifetime… of a thousand lifetimes.  The more they discover the more perplexing it becomes; their finds challenge our very understanding of what it means to be human, and the assumption that myths are groundless and history is fact.  That we are not alone in the universe is one thing; that we are not alone on this earth is another thing entirely.

 “Legends come about when truth is considered too implausible.”—G.K. Chesterton

For further information, images and characters, please check out the page here.

If you enjoy the novels, please do leave feedback!  Both here and on Amazon would be excellent!  Every feedback is greatly appreciated, and the more the better!

Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

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Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

Here’s an interesting bit of history (and current) trivia for all you aspiring cartographers out there. Maybe your town’s map has a trap street…

The visual squirrel

Q. Why was longitude boiling mad?

A. Because it was 360 degrees.

Cartographers are/were often seen as pretty dour characters. Not so long ago, maps were hand-drawn, and hanging over a a drawing table, the meticulous of drawing contours seems rather nerdy. But, as programmers put easter-eggs in code, cartographers do the same.

Map makers sometimes put phantom streets, parks, ponds and such in their maps, so as to trap others that copy their work. Copyright infringements will be unmasked by these fictional, deliberate trap streets, and this has been going on for hundreds of years.

The term paper street and trap street are often confused, but they can be interpreted as different things: Paper towns/street can be planned constructions that are never created, trap streets are included to trap other cartographers.

Agloe_OriginalOne of the more hilarious examples, are the creation of the town Agloe in New York state. “Agloe”…

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