Food Wednesday…(1 article)

Posted by RB 4 months ago.
Posted in Food

Food Wednesday July 22, 2020

Today is National Hot Dog Day, I’m serious.  You would, of course, be hard pressed to find anything more American than a hot dog.  It is estimated that we ate 170 million of the things and that was just on the 4th of July.  Of course, the case could be made that because of having to continue to shelter largely in place, there was precious little to do on the 4th of July other than eat hot dogs.  That, however, does not detract from the fact that during “Hot Dog Season”, that period beginning on Memorial Day and extending through Labor Day, Americans eat over 800 hot dogs per second.  Someone, somewhere did the math and determined that we eat over 7 billion hot dogs a year in the US of A during Hot Dog Season.  Include the rest of the year, and we down over 16 billion hot dogs.

In a note of encouragement, fully 88% of Americans use mustard as a condiment on hot dogs easily offsetting the fact that in Chicago the locals put cucumbers on hot dogs and in Los Angeles the hot dogs are slathered with mayonnaise.  

Albert Frederick Arthur George, known to friends and family as “Bertie” was born in Norfolk, England in 1895.  Like most of his contemporaries, Bertie served his country during WWI, serving in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, during his service to his country, Bertie’s daddy, George V, was serving as King of the United Kingdom.  And his great-grandmother was Queen Victoria.  And his mother was Queen Mary.

Bertie had an older brother, Prince Edward who became King Edward VIII upon the death of their father on January 20, 1936.  However, that same year, Edward made the decision to marry a really good friend of his by the name of Wallis Simpson who had divorced her first husband and was in the process of divorcing her second husband.  Having been advised by the Prime Minister that marrying a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands would be unbecoming a King, Edward abdicated the throne and to the great good fortune of all the world, Bertie became King George VI on December 11, 1936.  It was also great good fortune that Bertie had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon back in 1923.

The public was initially unsure about the new King.  He spoke with a lisp and dreaded the thought of public speaking.  His lack of public appearances and participation engendered suspicions that he was psychologically not up to the task.  In May and June of 1939, the King and Queen toured Canada and the US becoming the first reigning monarch to visit North America.  President Franklin Roosevelt took them on a tour of the 1939New York World’s Fair, put them up at the White House and at his private estate, Hyde Park where Franklin and Eleanor fed the King and Queen hot dogs.  The King and Queen and President and First Lady became great friends.

In September 1939, the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany.  The Blitz on London began on September 7.  The King and Queen refused to leave Buckingham Palace and were nearly killed.  They rationed food and water like everyone else and the Palace was unheated.

In 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and for the next 4 ½ years, the King and the Prime Minister would spend every Tuesday meeting in private for lunch to discuss war strategy.  The King and Queen visited sites that had been bombed and did everything they could to raise morale.  In June, 1943, the King was in North Africa and in June 1944, he was at Normandy.  By the end of the war, the King and Queen were rock stars.

The Brits virtually alone saved the world until the US finally entered the war on December 8, 1941.  How in the heck?  Could it be that those hot dogs served at Hyde Park culminating in a lifelong friendship between the King and Queen and President and First Lady helped save the world?  Well, today is, after all, National Hot Dog Day, so don’t sell them short.

When we started this today, we said rhetorically that you would be hard pressed to find anything more American than hot dogs.  That does not mean that it’s impossible to find something more American than a hot dog and one really great example will prove that true.

In 1870, Pauline and Henry Fowle Durant chartered a college intended to provide women a unique educational experience, preparing them for what the Durant’s foresaw as enormous social changes on the horizon for women.  The new college was located on 500 acres in the Boston suburb of Wellesley and the first students arrived in September 1875.

Since that time, Wellesley College has become the third best liberal arts college in the US according to U.S. News and World Report and it has produced scores of notable alumnae.  A few examples include Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Legendary journalists CokieRoberts and Diane Sawyer are alums along with noted professor and historian Diane Ravitch.  Marjory Stoneman Douglas was an author, woman’s suffrage advocate, but mostly she is recalled as a staunch conservationist who saved the Everglades from development.  Nora Ephron was a film maker who won three academy awards for screen writing for Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally.  And then there is Katherine Lee Bates.  But if you’re going to talk about Katherine Bates, you’re first going to have to talk about Thomas Jefferson and Zebulon Pike.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was elected the third President of the United States in an election so contentious it would make the upcoming election look like a cake walk.  We probably won’t have time to talk about the election of 1800 today, but we’ll get to it eventually and also spend some time on the election of 1876 which was another dandy indeed.

Upon taking office on March 4, 1801, Jefferson turned his attention to buying up a crucial port on the Mississippi to give the US expanded access to the Gulf of Mexico.  That crucial port was in a little town called New Orleans which at the time was in the possession of the French.  So Jefferson tasked a couple of guys, Secretary of State James Madison along with Robert Livingston, to contact the French Treasury Minister to see if a deal could be made.

As a huge amount of luck would have it, France was still involved in that French Revolution thing, the country had sustained crippling debts helping the Americans during their revolution, debts, by the way, the Americans had forgotten about reimbursing and to make things even worse, a potential new war loomed with Britain.  In short, the French needed lots of money really quickly.

So the new First Consul of the French Republic, a guy the locals knew as Napoleon, contacted the French Treasury Minister and instructed him to sell not only New Orleans but also Louisiana to the Americans.  The Louisiana of 1801 didn’t look much like current day Louisiana.  In 1801, Louisiana included all or parts of what would become Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas as well as Louisiana.

The Louisiana Purchase was finalized in 1803.  The US of A paid France $15 million – for 828,000 square miles of land.  That computes to 530,000,000 acres of land which, in turn, computes to about 2.8 cents per acre.  Just like that, the US of A had almost doubled in size in addition to having that prime port in New Orleans.

There was one huge problem with the acquisition of all that land – no one of European extraction knew what in the heck was out there.  So Jefferson called on Capt. Meriwether Lewis and his good friend William Clark to travel up the Mississippi River until the confluence with the Missouri River and then follow that river northwest to see what’s out there.  Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis, a couple of surveyors, were directed to follow the Red River to see what they could find.  And finally, 24 year old Zebulon Pike was instructed to venture westward until he came upon the Spanish colonial settlements of New Mexico and Texas, then turn north and see what’s out there.

What Zeb Pike ran into as he turned his excursion party northward was a breathtaking range of mountains which would become known as the Rocky Mountains.  Still further north, the party came across what would eventually be determined to be the highest point of the Rockies rising 14,115 feet above sea level.  The view was indescribable although Zeb Pike tried mightily to capture that view in an account he wrote of his expedition in 1810.  That account became so popular that it was published in book form and translated into Dutch, French and German for the European market.  And, of course, that highest point of the Rockies became known as Pikes Peak.

Katherine Bates was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1859.  Her daddy died when she was an infant and she was raised by her mother who made sure her daughter got a proper education.  Katherine became a member of the second class of undergraduates at Wellesley in 1876 and graduated in 1880.  After college, she taught at high schools and then in 1889 she wrote a novel about working class women entitled Rose and Thorn.  She made quite a bit of money off that book.

So with the money from the book, she went off to Oxford for a couple of years, came back to Wellesley in 1891 and became a professor of English literature, a position she would hold for the next 34 years until she retired in 1925 when she was 66 years old.

In the summer of 1893, Bates and some of her cohorts from Wellesley traveled west by train for a summer teaching engagement at The Colorado Summer School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  On the trip west, she saw parts of America she had never seen before and she was stunned at the beauty, especially all those wheat fields in Kansas.

When the group arrived in Colorado Springs, they discovered they were in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  And right there in front of them was Pikes Peak.  The teachers determined that an opportunity like that could not be squandered, so on July 22, 1893 Katherine Bates and her fellow Wellesley teachers hired a prairie wagon to haul them to the summit of Pikes Peak.  The journey took nearly all day and near the top, the wagon had to be left and the group made the final ascent on mules.  As a result, they didn’t have but about 30 minutes to enjoy the view from Pikes Peak, but Katherine Bates made every second count and she took notes of her memory of that view.

That night in her room at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, Bates began to tweak her notes: “For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!  America! America! God shed His grace on thee From sea to shining sea”.

The finished poem “America” first appeared in print on July 4, 1895 and it turned into a huge success.  Sixty composers offered to put the poem to music and Bates tried to sing the words to every composition.  Nothing worked.

Samuel Ward was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1848 and grew up to be the organist in his church in 1880.  In 1882, he wrote a hymn he called “Materna” as an alternative melody for an old hymn “O Mother Dear, Jerusalem”.  Materna was published in 1892.

Katherine Bates eventually came across the hymn Materna and it fit her poem like magic.  Almost.  The original poem was set to the music in 1893.  A revised edition appeared in 1904 and then, in 1911, the final version, the version the 26th Infantry Division sang on November 11, 1918 when they heard the First World War had ended.  So let’s take just a second to recall three of the six verses of that final version of “America.  A Poem for July 4”, now better known as “America the Beautiful”:

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern, impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America!

God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control

Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved

And mercy more than life!

America! America!

May God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness,

And every gain divine!

Katherine Bates never accepted any money from the proceeds of her poem.  Samuel Ward died in 1903 never having heard the poem put to his music.  Zeb Pike died a hero on April 27, 1813 at age 34 during the War of 1812.

When that 825,000 square miles of new land was opened up beginning in 1803, a new breed of men began to venture forth, willing to work hard and over time, they became legendary for toughness and endurance.  They were called cowboys.  History seems to have forgotten that at least 25% of those legendary cowboys were black.  We’ll take a look at three of those legendary black cowboys who were bigger than life.

Bass Reeves was a former slave from Oklahoma.  He honed his expertise with a rifle and pistol fighting in the OklahomaTerritory during the Civil War and in 1875 became a US Marshall overseeing a huge swath of that territory.  He used a Native American partner to capture over 3,000 criminals during his career, typically utilizing disguises to hide his identity.  As such, Reeves became the basis for the Lone Ranger stories, except of course, the Lone Ranger turned into a white guy.

Bill Pickett was arguably the greatest cowboy who ever lived.  He was born in 1870 in Texas, of course, and grew up to be a master ranch hand.  He observed that bulldogs would bite cattle in the lip until the cattle became subdued and sat down.  So Bill Pickett decided to try that.  He slid off his horse onto the neck of cattle and bit them in the lip until they sat on the ground.  Before long, “bulldogging” (eventually without having to bite the cattle in the lip) became a staple of the rodeo.  No one was better than Bill Pickett at bulldogging.  He was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1970.

Bob Lemmons was a slave who moved to West Texas amongst huge herds of wild mustangs.  He learned to mount the lead horse of the herd and stay aboard that lead horse until the horse was broken.  He then simply road the lead horse back to pens and the rest of the herd followed.  He made lots of money that way, bought his own ranch, accumulated huge herds of horses and cattle  until 1949 when he died at 99 years old.

We talked a couple of weeks ago about how critical good parents are to raising good kids.  It’s demonstrably evident, however, that that is not always going to happen.  So in order to compensate for lack of good parents, some really enterprising folks get really creative.

One of those enterprising folks is a lady in Compton, California by the name of Mayisha Akbar.  Back in 1988, she started an equestrian group of black kids who have become a close knit group known as the Compton Cowboys.  Their motto is “Streets raised us.  Horses saved us”.  Those horses and the resulting camaraderie have had a huge positive influence on lots of lives.

The portion of Compton that is home to the Cowboys is Richland Farms.  The pandemic has hit the community hard and, in addition, the city elders, bless their hearts, think that Richland Farms would be much better suited to being developed than remaining an equestrian community.  It costs $20,000/month to keep the current operation running, so if you can free up just a little donation, it would be greatly appreciated.

Today is also National Penuche Fudge Day.  Say what?  It’s true I don’t get out much, but before learning today is National Penuche Fudge Day, I had never heard of penuche fudge.  It turns out that “penuche” derives from the Spanish or maybe Portuguese (or maybe both) word for “raw sugar”.   It turns out that penuche fudge is a fudge-like dessert made by caramelizing brown sugar.  So I looked up a recipe and discovered that penuche fudge is actually what my grandmother used to call “caramel”.  OK, she knew it wasn’t really caramel, but when we were kids, it tasted better than any caramel we had ever had.

So to make you some penuche fudge courtesy of allrecipes.com, round up 1 ½ cups white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup half and half, 1/3 cup milk (or just do like nearly everyone and use 2/3 cup of one or the other), 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ cup pecan halves.

Butter a baking sheet and the sides of a 2 quart saucepan.

In the saucepan, stir together white sugar, brown sugar, cream, milk and butter and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Heat without stirring to between 234° and 240° according to your candy thermometer which is the “softball” stage of candy preparation.

Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm, about 110°.

Stir in the vanilla and beat vigorously until the mixture loses its gloss.  Quickly stir in the pecans and spread on that buttered baking sheet.  Score the fudge into squares while it’s still firm and then cut it into squares when it’s firm.  

Today back in 1587, a contingent of about 115 English settlers arrived at Roanoke Island in what would become North Carolina.  The fate of those settlers would become one of the great mysteries in history and the colony they attempted to establish would become known as “The Lost Colony”.  It’s a great story, but we don’t have time for it this week.  We’ll try to get to it next week along with those Presidential elections of 1800 and 1876.

There were no flyers in the paper today, so that is all I can recall at this time.  See you next week.