Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fables and Fairy Tales


Once Upon a Time…

What is it about this phrase that captivates our collective consciousness? We all love a fairy tale. Yes, guys you can admit it. We are all friends here. Is it the happily ever after ending? Surely it isn’t Prince Charming or the kiss that leads to bliss. Is it the thought of living with seven little men in the woods? No, it’s none of these, is it? We can make our own happy ending; we no longer need anyone to do it for us. As for the Big Bad Wolf, we can be the Big, Bad Cougar if we so choose, so why the enduring charm of the fairy tale? At this most magical time of the year, let’s take a moment to try and understand the mystique of the simple fairy tale. Those parables, myths, fables and legends which stay within our culture and bring meaning to us.

Why do these stories bewitch and enchant us? They are the same tales, retold and revised. From Cinderella to Snow White remixed into Beauty and the Beast and Pretty Woman. We watch cartoons, read books and comic books, watch movies, the children’s books evolve into the grown-up versions, and we still watch the movies, read the books and continue to love them. A sad, ugly little girl gets a chance to spend one night away from their usual humdrum existence. Let’s say she gets to stay out late, leaving a shoe behind, because she wants to get home before she gets caught…before the spell is broken.
Exactly what is it that resonates within us to make a story like this timeless? It is because we are that sad, ugly, scared little child. At one point in our lives, we have all been waiting for someone to notice how very special we are, behind those braces on our teeth and thick glasses. Fairy tales are our broken experiences- that is why they are classics. The stories continue to swirl and develop around us as we grow. As we break and mend, the stories do the same. They give us something to believe in, something bigger than ourselves.

Be strong.
Believe.
Find the beauty within.
Love.

Cinderella isn’t the only tale that charms us. The non-fiction story of Anne Boleyn intrigues to this day because Anne, as a young girl who wasn’t considered beautiful, still captured the heart of a king and changed the destiny of a nation and history itself, all for love. Although the story of Anne Boleyn had a tragic ending during her lifetime, the romantic concept remains with us to this day and has made her story with Henry VIII immortal, a love that time cannot erase.

Consider how many different ways stories like The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Romeo and Juliet, Batman, Superman lure us…they all teach us lessons of right and wrong. The stories are rewoven, retold over the years. How do fairy tales stay popular for so long? We fill in the gaps with ourselves, and as our culture changes, we bring our stories with us. Each generation brings its insight, concepts and ideas into the paradigm. Thus has it ever been throughout the human experience. On a cultural level, we adapt as our society reinvents itself. Hence, the continuing popularity.

Sleeping Beauty awakens at the right moment.
Superman fights for truth and goodness.
Romeo and Juliet remind us that there is a love so bright, life itself becomes dim in comparison.

Fairy tales break the key rules of character development. With their quirks and strange nuances, the characters of fairy tales are one dimensional, when reading the traditional versions. The same could be said for many of our most retold stories. We project ourselves into the stories as a method of filling in the missing pieces. It is a process of identification…self-identification that brings the stories to life.

Could this be the attraction? When a character and a story gives us spaces, we fill them with our imaginations? With so much to explore, there’s no end to the possibilities, are there? The end results are personal and compelling.

If the ugly duckling can become a swan and the lonely child can grow up to conquer the world, anything can happen. Does the secret lie in the fact that we all want to believe in the magic of possibilities? We believe deep within ourselves that dreams can come true?


We continue to immerse ourselves in fictional, mystical realms filled with magical people and evocative fantasies, even if the story reflects a contemporary setting. Many yarns continue to enchant, no matter how often we spin them anew.


What story captures your imagination every time it is retold?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

HOW TO HOST A TUDOR-THEMED DINNER PARTY by Alison Weir

Alison Weir. When she became my friend on Facebook, I cried. This lady writes history books which are so well written they read as easily as fiction. When I visit the U.K., I haunt book stores, looking for U.K. First Editions of her books, to correspond with the U.S. First Editions I own. She has graciously accepted my offer to be a part of the Tudor blogs to celebrate the U.S. launch of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall on Masterpiece Theatre (PBS). Without further ado, let’s see what Alison has prepared for us today…

HOW TO HOST A TUDOR-THEMED DINNER PARTY by Alison Weir
Banquet
The Banquet Tapestry courtesy The Tapestry House

My interest in Tudor England stretches back over five decades and more than twenty books, and I know there are many others with a passion for the period. So I thought it would be fun to give some hints and ideas for hosting the perfect Tudor dinner party.
I did just that, some years ago, one Christmas Eve, and my family agreed that it was a fascinating and enjoyable evening. Before starting any preparations, I did some research, and the books that I found most helpful were these: All the King’s Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace by Peter Brears (London, 1999); Food and Feast in Tudor England by Alison Sim (Stroud, 1997); The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking and Eating by Sara Paston-Williams (The National Trust, 1993) and, for the recipes I used, The Tudor Kitchens Cookery Book, Hampton Court Palace by Roz Denny (undated).
The first thing to consider is the setting. We don’t all live at Hampton Court – worse luck – and most of us don’t have a great hall, but many have dining rooms, or dining parlours, as they would have been known, and you can add atmosphere by the setting of the table and using candles for lighting. Spread a white linen or damask cloth on the table. You may like to strew fresh herbs or petals along the table, or in the centre. Place pewter or silver bowls of salt at intervals.
Each place setting should have the following, although you may wish to adapt it to suit the preferences of modern diners: a pewter or silver dinner plate, with a knife and spoon next to it on the right – add a fork if you must, but their use was a luxury in Tudor times (when people speared food with a knife and ate it with the fingers of the other hand, using the spoon for runny dishes) – and a white napkin to the left, folded around two white bread rolls – ‘manchet’, or white, bread, was considered to be the best, and was therefore served to the upper classes. If you bake the rolls yourself, make a cross in the middle. On the right of each dinner plate place a goblet for wine. Wine is served from flagons or ewers placed in the centre of the table, each covered with a cloth.
Food was served in two or three courses, and there were several dishes at each, like a Chinese or Tapas meal today. Each dish would have been served as a ‘mess’ – with portions sufficient for four brought in serving dishes to the table. Sauces were often served in separate dishes. Sweet and savoury courses were served at the same time, but you may – as I did – prefer to keep to a more modern meal structure, with a starter, main course and pudding. Hard cheeses and wine can be served with sweet dishes.
If you have a sideboard or console table, convert it into a Tudor buffet by draping it with silk or damask (scarves or runners will work for this) and arranging on it any silver you have, as well as extra wine cups or glasses – we’ll assume that this is a wealthy Tudor household and that you can afford glass!
Tudor Table (1)
In Tudor times hosts and guests were seated in strict order of rank, but in this more egalitarian age it’s best to seat guests wherever you or they wish.
Napkins were worn, not in the lap, but across the left shoulder or arm.
Food was served with great ceremony, being carried to the table in procession. You might like to record a trumpet fanfare to signal the arrival of each course.  As the food is brought in, you announce, ‘By your leave, masters!’ and everyone stands, sitting down when the dishes are placed on the table.
Grace is then said, in Latin. I used the Christchurch Grace, from Oxford:
Nos, miseri homines et egeni, pro cibis, quos nobis ad corporis subsidium benigne es largitus, tibi, Deus Omnipotens, Pater Cælestis, gratias reverenter agimus; simul obsecrantes, ut iis sobrie, modeste atque grate utamur, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum, Amen.
This translates as:
We unhappy and unworthy people do give Thee most reverent thanks, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for the victuals which Thou hast bestowed on us for the sustenance of the body, at the same time beseeching Thee that we may use them soberly, modestly and gratefully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
If a joint of meat is served, the host carves – it was the mark of a gentleman to know how to do so. Gentlemen guests should help their ladies to the choicest portions of food before serving themselves.
For drinks, serve the kind of wines that were enjoyed – and drunk young – in Tudor England: sweet wines from Anjou (Henry VIII’s favourite) or red and white wines from Bordeaux or the Rhine. Ale and beer can also be served. Water was not drunk at table.
After each course of a Tudor feast a subtlety – a sculpted confection of sugar – was carried in impress the guests, but at a dinner party it is probably better to serve it with the dessert course. Unless you are skilled at sugar sculpture, or know where to get one made, it may be better to go for an elaborate cake.
During the meal, you might like to have a CD of Tudor music playing quietly in the background, as if a consort of musicians was present.
For my Christmas Eve meal, I served dishes that involved a fair amount of preparation. To start there was a whole fresh salmon, a fish that was popular in Tudor times. Having laid it on greased foil on a baking tray, I stuffed it with some butter mixed with ground mace and salt, and spread the rest over the outer skin, sprinkled it with whole cloves and covered it with more foil. I baked the fish until the flesh was pale pink, placed it on a large platter, and garnished it with whole stewed prunes, currants, lemon wedges and dill.
In Tudor kitchens they would have roasted a pig whole, but for the main course I bought a leg of pork from my local butcher – boned shoulder will do as well – and trimmed away any fat or gristle. I then stuffed it with a mixture of breadcrumbs, chopped rosemary, raisins, two egg yolks, 100ml of cream, nutmeg, ground mace and seasoning, and trussed up the joint with string. While it was roasting I mixed more breadcrumbs with 100ml of cream, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, saffron and seasoning. Half an hour before the joint was finished, I removed it from the oven and coated it with this mixture, then returned it until it was done. I left it to stand before carving, to allow it to set, and reserved the strained juices for the sauce.
Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court Palace. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court Palace. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I made up the meat juices to the amount needed with stock and water, then added a large grated apple, cider vinegar, parsley, sage, sugar, salt and pepper. I brought it to be boil, then simmered until the apple was soft and stirred in a lump of butter for richness.
The meat was carved at table and the sauce was served separately. I also offered ‘a dish of peas’ – which the Tudors would have eaten as a dish in itself, not a vegetable on the side – and a dish of carrots. There were – of course – no potatoes, which prompted a protest from my husband! Instead, I served thick slices of brown bread.
I made two sweet dishes: wardens, or pears, in red wine, which were absolutely delicious, and marchpane.
The day before the dinner I peeled the pears, left on the stalks, and boiled the fruit for 15 minutes in heated red wine in which sugar had been dissolved. I then removed the fruit and placed it in preserving jars. I added to the wine some ‘sack’ (sherry), more sugar, honey, cinnamon and ginger, then boiled it, simmered it for 5 minutes, then poured it over the pears, sealing the jars shut. The next day I poured off the wine syrup into a jug, placed the pears – now ruby red – in a serving dish, then poured the syrup over them. I added bayleaves as garnish and served the pears with thick whipped cream.
You can make marchpane – a popular Tudor treat – by following any recipe for shortbread and adding rosewater. Use cutters to make shapes, and glaze with icing and edible gold food colouring. My marchpane disappeared very quickly!
Although the meal had been labour-intensive – and brought home to me how hard people had had to work to prepare food from scratch in the sixteenth century – everyone said it was wonderful, with excellent flavours and aromas. Certainly it gave us a taste of Tudor England!
There was no tea or coffee in Tudor times, so after the meal I suggest you serve guests warmed spiced wine – ‘hippocras’ – and wafers or candied and dried fruits.
What should you wear for your Tudor dinner party? You could go the whole hog and hire a costume – you could even come in character, and suggest that your guests do so, and remain in role for the evening. Or you could just wear a plain velvet evening dress with some Tudor-style jewellery.
If you are planning a Tudor dinner party, I do urge you to get the books I recommended above, as they are packed with recipes and information on table etiquette. Above all, have fun. There will be so many talking points that all the preparation will have been worthwhile.
‘O Lord, which giv’st thy creatures for our food,
Herbs, beasts, birds, fish, and other gifts of thine,
Bless thee thy gifts, that they may do us good,
And we may live, to praise thy name divine.
And when the time is come this life to end:
Vouchsafe our souls to heaven may ascend.’
(An Elizabethan Grace)
~~~
AW
Can can find Alison Weir at these sites:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rule No. 27 No woman ever made history after ordering a Bahama Mama.

Today, I am honored to announce that THE WHISKEY WOMEN have included me among their members. You may be asking, who are THE WHISKEY WOMEN?
Please read this from their website: 


 The Whiskey Women

The Whiskey Women


IT IS TIME TO ENTER INTO THE ERA OF THE WHISKEY WOMEN

An era that breaks free from the paradigm that sets men and whiskey together and sets a new standard for women everywhere.

It is time for us, as women, to come together to connect, share, and discover all things whiskey. It is time to give into our senses, unleash our curious nature, and explore the true Whiskey Woman in each of us. Let us break the stereotypes our way. Let us redefine the norm that has been handed down to us by men. And, most importantly, change the world for women and whiskey.


So, if you are a little daring, incredibly intelligent, cunningly creative, hopelessly witty, or relentlessly progressive, we look for you among our ranks. We need you, the unapologetic badass, to help us revolutionize a culture. A culture in which Whiskey and Women reign supreme. 


We welcome you to the realm of The Whiskey Women.




Rule no. 9 Raise your glass, and your voice, when appropriate

Women have a long history of drinking and played a major role in repealing the 18th Amendment. 



 Rule no. 17 No one ever wrote a great country song about a Long Island Iced Tea

Everyone knows that women and whiskey go back a long way, especially in my home state of Tennessee. 
(No, the woman on the right is not a relative, although the resemblance is uncanny.)


It's the dawn of a new age. Women like to drink and we like to drink whiskey. In the spirit of badassery and adventure, The Whiskey Women have welcomed me with glasses raised high. I greatly look forward to the future hi-jinks to be experienced with my sister kindred spirits as we imbibe eau de vie, the water of life, as it's called.


Rule no. 36 A bigger bottle is just an excuse to invite more friends.

This is a family picture.

Just kidding...
And do not tell Aunt Charlotte about this.

 Look for my upcoming blogs:
 ADVENTURES WITH WHISKEY & BOOKS
as I explore London, whiskey, books and whatever else catches my eye during the upcoming
London Book Fair. I feel certain that a good time will be had by all.

Rule no. 1 Enjoy whiskey.

To learn more about The Whiskey Women, click here.
Remember, if you drink, please drink responsibly.