Thursday, October 31, 2013

Good People Don't Need Laws?

A Statue at Versailles, I think.
The closest I came to being in law school was in 1975ish, when I was working part time in the McGill Bookstore. It was the beginning of the year when there was a huge rush of clients, a hectic job, but I liked hectic jobs.

 I was in the Theatre Arts Branch of English, a real hippy girl with my peasant skirts and leotards and long long hair and in winter my fifteenth-hand muskrat coat. I was in charge of the cash for the law students and the store supervisor warned me that law students would do anything to trick me into making a mistake.

Apparently, they resented paying so much for books, which were often just collated (is that the word) bunches of papers.. with yellow paper covers, if I recall. Costing about 70 dollars!

 I remember the law students more for what they looked like: All the women were very well dressed, in neatly tailored outfits, lovely mohair sweaters, woolen skirts, with perfectly coiffed and contained hairdos and fine leather pumps.

 Rich girls!  

McGill Law building. In 1913 Dean Walton of the Law School was on the Board of the new Montreal Suffrage Association. It seems he thought women should vote on principle, not because he wanted 'traditional' values restored. "Only imbeciles and criminals do not have the vote," he said.

I went on to get study Communications and work in media. Lately, I've been researching and writing about Montreal women in 1910, Social History. I've also been auditing some online courses, because I took no History Courses in university (for reasons I wrote about in the last post.) History is the history of Politics, so for the first time I am reading Hobbes and Locke and Montesquieu, etc. (All available on Librivox or Gutenberg, so there's the bonus.) (I took classics in CEGEP so I was already familiar with the Odyssey and the Aenaed and such, but not the Politics, per se, not the Republic of Plato or the Ethics of Aristotle.)

You know what? I like LAW, the theory of it... as in What is Justice? That's not such a surprise, as I am a writer (a thinking person) and if you think about the world today, you must think about JUSTICE. Two things came to mind today as I audited a lecture on the Declaration of the Rights of Man with respect to my research into Montreal in the 1910 era. The Berkeley prof was discussing how laws ideally issue out of the social condition, they are not supposed to come before and actually change the social condition.

(Always something to think about in Quebec.)

 I thought about something I read years ago, when I visited the Quebec National Archives (National, sic) and I found a letter written by Julia Grace Parker Drummond, President of the Montreal Council of Women, written about 1910.

The Moral and Reform Society of Canada wanted to make some laws to keep people from living in sin. (In those days 'living in sin' was not about youths and premarital sex, it was about poor people just trying to survive, especially immigrants.)

Parker first got some legal advice (probably from McGill) that claimed the law appears aimed at immigrants and that was unfair. She wrote a letter back to the Moral and Social Reform people, stating her views, saying YOU CAN'T MAKE PEOPLE GOOD BY PASSING LAWS.

(And she wrote that in bold, if I recall.) This is one instance where the Council came down on the right side of history. That wasn't always the case. They wanted procurers of prostitutes whipped, but then so did the British suffragettes.

Around the same time Carrie Derick was gave a lecture on the history of the suffrage movement) and she claimed 'Laws are for bad people. Good people don't need laws." At least that was how she was quoted in the newspaper.


Here are two women who worked side by side in the same women's organization,the Montreal Council of Women. Indeed, they were the two leaders of said Council but they have seem to disagree on this point... if I am right.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mr. Harper's Dilemma... and Historical Memory

Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl. The Nicholsons were English Protestants living in 1910 Quebec. I think a lot of people in modern Canada would like the memory of this community erased.. Let's face it, outside of Quebec most people believe that Quebec is all French and has always been all French, and yet that is so far from the truth.

Very bizarre...

I've been listening to some online lectures about the Philosophy of History (Leo Strauss) and I can't say I understand it all, but I do understand that History - as we know and study it in school - is actually the history of politics - and I intuitively knew that - and that's probably why I didn't go on to take any conventional history courses in university.

Silly of me?  Well...I dunno.

I  had learned from my high school history studies that the history of politics had little to do with me,  as  a woman that is.

My  Canadian History text  Canada Then and Now contained no women characters, so to speak. Not one!

And  I imagine Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor in my 1970's mind) was the only woman in the Ancient History Course.

As for the 2 year British History Course we Protestant Montrealers all took back then,  well, I strongly suspect they left out the suffragettes. I certainly don't remember reading anything about them back then...and everything I've learned about the Suffrage Movement in Canada I've learned lately, writing my books.

In university in the 70's despite my thirst for all knowledge I studied theatre and literature,  probably because stories contained interesting female characters, even if they mostly were daughters of EVE. 

And then I went on to study communications theory for some reason because I wanted to work in the media.

 (From the number of young women graduating with degrees in Media Studies these days, not much has changed in 40 years.)

I know it is fashionable to make fun of Women's Studies courses, to put them down and claim they are full of man-hating lesbians, but why not these courses, considering the reality?

How can a person learn about something fully and deeply if s(he) cannot relate? (The fashion is to write THEY in this context.)

I guess the best solution, back then in the 1970's, was to attend a women's college like Radcliffe or Wellesley. But I wasn't in that social bracket. ( I would have gone on to work in publishing. Getting good work is more about Who You Know, not What you Know. )

 McGill, in the 1970's no longer had a women's college - and, anyway,  I would have avoided that place like Hell.

These days, especially in Britain,  social history is popular and social history can be very  interesting and also be  all about women.

Take The History of Private Life, the series on BBC Four by Amanda Vickery. Fascinating. (Still, in my youth I would not have been interested..Private Life, ICK!)

(I know a capable genealogist who has traced her family tree way back to Revolutionary America (and learned all about the principal players)  but claims she has found no info about the female side of the family. It has been erased - or more to the point, never written down.)

Luckily, I have the 300 Nicholson Family Letters from Richmond, Quebec the 1910 era which I used to write Threshold Girl and other e-books. 

Such letters and diaries are all that's left to tell about female lives in the past - and tax listings from the Middle Ages, apparently.

Which brings me to Prime Minister Harper's Dilemma.

I have chastised his government for promoting the War of 1812 ad nauseam lately (for me in the literal sense)  but I guess it's the only story he can find in our history that suits his purpose: pretending that Natives, French Men, Englishmen and, yes, Women are the founding people of our country. I mean it's IN YOUR FACE in the television advertisements: Laura Secord, de Salleberry, Brock, Tecumseh...Dum de Dum Dum...

(Harper had to take the Famous Five off the twenty dollar bill because of their racism and such.)

So, Harper's government is focusing on the War of 1812  as a Foundation Myth. (It's always been a bit of one.)

In my opinion his government has destroyed or is trying to destroy the Laurier to Trudeau Foundation Myth of Two Nations..with multiculturalism.

He needs something else to hold the country together  and WWI won't work anymore as that war has been too verily deconstructed. (Verily!.. is that a nice old fashioned way to put it?)

 Canada Then and Now does not mention Secord or Lafayette (whoops, I meant de Salleberry)in the chapter on the War of 1812, which the BBC Four Program In Our Time describes as a war of Independence over sailors to fight Napoleon between the British and the Americans.

What is a nation? The words comes from BIRTH of course. Every Canadian should know that ;)

A Nation is almost always an artificial construct that needs phoney or overblown foundation myths to hold it together, but can you just cobble then together..and hope they stick.. in this day and age?

How sad that Laura Secord (Our Lady of the Cow) is the most potent female icon Canadian History can muster?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broken Oceans and Silly Rants

For the past four days my husband and I have eaten only turkey meals.

At Thanksgiving we bought two frozen straight-to-oven birds (for a bargain 1.50 a pound )and we ate one then and the other two weeks later, when my husband, who works an irregular shift, had four days off in a row.

I cooked the rather excellent turkey on the Thursday and it lasted until the Monday. We had plain turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey curry (of course) turkey tetrazini and turkey pate.

All  very good. Good for us and probably good (or at least better)  for the environment as this turkey came with just a one plastic wrap and that hard plastic grabber thing up its bum (probably dangerous for the environment.)

But today, Tuesday,  the freezer was bare: we hadn't bothered to go to the grocery store during this time. I didn't even have an onion on hand.

Now, we usually do our big shopping at Costco, 20 miles east, between here  and Montreal,  but lately my husband has been doing this girly chore himself, as this Costco is situated on his way to work - and doing it that way saves on time and gasoline... and the aggravation of being stuck in traffic jams caused by endless runs of construction.

(They were supposed to open a Costco in our area but that plan has been dashed... the other closest store is 100 miles away in Ottawa!)

The short of it is: I had to go to the local grocery, the IGA. There are two IGA's in my area. One in Hudson, one in Rigaud.

We chose the IGA in Rigaud, because the gasoline is slightly cheaper there and every little bit counts.
I didn't want to buy 'big stuff' at this expensive store, but I did need to make something for lunch and something for my husband's work supper.

I decided on mini pizzas on a baguette for lunch, with a little sausage and for some reason a ham dish for supper.

(We seldom eat these meats but after 5 days of neutral tasting fowl I craved some spice.)
I bought a Capicolla ham, a baquette, two tubes of pre-smooshed herbs -as I had no oil left and wanted to wait to buy the bottle at Costco - and some olives.

When we got to the cash, as per usual,  I was offered a plastic bag (for 5 cents)  which, as per usual, I declined.

"It's on the principle, "I told the young girl in lousy French as I gathered the items in my arms.. "This is the stuff that really hurts the environment - and I waved a tube of coriander at her."

She stared back at me with big blank eyes.

And then I turned to the aged male bagger.

"Plastic bags are sanitary." (Ils sont plus sanitaires.)

He smiled. His eyes were lively. (Besides, like me he can remember a time when grocery stores weren't all about packaging.)

"You don't drag in all your family germs into the store, dog hair and such, with those "green" bags." I said this in English, because the French didn't come to mind.

Funny, at the other IGA in Hudson they've stopped charging for plastic bags.

I don't want to seem a solipsist (is that he word?) but I wonder if my embarrassing weekly rants worked their magic on these people.

Even in mid-rant, I assumed they all thought I was a dotty old lady when I'd point to the stacks of bottled water and say (in English this time) "THAT'S the problem, all your over-packaged products, not these plastic bags. These bags are sanitary. (And then I'd explain into the air) It was a bunch of school kids in San Francisco who got this plastic bag shame-business going and since it doesn't hurt the bottom line of the corporations who own the grocery stores, they all ran with it. All across North America and into England.

And lazy deskilled  plastic garburating middle class consumers (like me) could feel good about themselves as they packed their SUV's with over-packaged produce."

It's true. At the so-called ethnic stores (which have all been bought up by these same  corporations,sadly) they don't dare charge their customers for the plastic bags: and it doesn't matter really. Much of their produce is un-packaged. No self-respecting new immigrant from ANYWHERE else would spend 6.00 on five pre-cut, prepackaged carrots laid out in a styrofoam tray and wrapped in cellophane for your convenience.. or pre-smooshed garlic, for that matter.)

Today, as I left the Rigaud store, I smiled at the old bagger (well, he's probably my age) and said in French, "I am part of the problem, I know. I'm just being lazy."

The saddest thing is: An article in an Australia newspaper last week told the real story. A veteran sailor claims in this article that the seas are dying. This year on his trip around the Pacific he hardly saw any birds at all (which means the fish are gone.) But he did see lots of plastic, right in the middle of the ocean.

The Ocean is broken

Monday, October 28, 2013

Learning Stuff about Seeds

I just got around to downloading a copy of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, from Gutenberg, but not without a tinge of guilt.

I copied the text, put it in a Word document and sent it off to Kindle so I can read it on my Note.

I was supposed to read it decades ago for a university course and didn't get around to it. I didn't even buy it. (If I had bought it I might have read it later on.)

And what do you know? It is beautifully written. (And I keep imagining Peter O'Toole in the role.)

I'm auditing this course on the History of the Middle East.

They've changed all the information since I've been to school.  Apparently Mesopotamia is not the cradle of civilization. The oldest known culture is in Romania... Old Europe.. (Well, it died out but it was around a thousand years earlier.)

Are Roma Gypsies descended from them, I wonder.

Now, I knew that dinosaurs had changed since I went to school. In my day, Brontosaurus was the biggest, but that soon changed.

But I didn't know that they'd changed the reason for the Industrial Revolution. New methods in agriculture are now believed to have created the Industrial Revolution, not INDUSTRY.

Say what?

That's paradigm shifting.

Anyway, the other day I wrote about how I had learned that the biodiversity of what humans are planting in the ground is declining at a faster rate than the bio diversity of plants in the natural world, as in rain forest.

Well, I discovered this story online: about how some libraries in Wisconsin are lending out seeds... heirloom seeds to people.

They were overwhelmed with demand.

Victims Rights and Historical Wrongs

A BBC Historian refers to this as one the most beautiful mosaics ever made, from about 500 in the church at Ravenna, Italy. The woman portrayed is Theadora, wife of Constantine, who brought Christianity to the Roman Empire.

Constantine was either a total tyrant or a really nice guy (:) but he bestowed a lot of power upon his low-born wife. She had been, ahem, an entertainer.

And now the Catholic churches could really get away from the corner store variety and become huge basilicas and such for our present tourist pleasure.

And Jesus, previously portrayed as Apollo-like, boyish, beautiful with cascades of curly hair, could become seriously Zeus-like with a severe beard and Isis/Mary take the place of the feminine in Christian iconography. Mary, my hero!

See you can learn a lot for YouTube BBC Histories. Nobody does it better.

Certainly history isn't done well here in Canada, where history programs on the networks prefer to describe Jesus as an alien from outer space, to get male-viewers, not to inform.

 Where our government puts all its eggs in the 1812 basket (a war between Britain and the US over who owns sailors) and makes us want to pull our own hair out.

I learned something very interesting about the Middle Ages last week from some online lectures and BBC videos. I learned that the focus of law back then, with the many 'barbarian' tribes,  was about victims rights and retribution.

I even had a eureka moment as I walked the dog on our deserted suburban streets with my husband.

"You know," I said. "From what I've just learned, the victim's rights movement seems to be going back to the Middle Ages. In American courts they allow victims or relations of victims to vent to the convicted. But how far do they let them go?  They can say what they feel, OK. Humiliate the person. But can they spit? Kick? Draw and Quarter?"

 As it happens, a  Toronto Sun article yesterday articulated the the same thing, and very well, too.

 The article was referring to the recent throne speech where Harper made a pitch for a bill of victims rights, to please his base.

Conservative Government's Bill of Rights Smacks of Medieval Justice.

From my recent voyage into the realm of ancient law, I learned that one Anglo Saxon thane wrote down a host rules to follow, rules that reveal that not all victims are created equal in the Medieval scheme of things.

If a woman ran away from her husband she could be smothered. If a man ran away from a wife, he paid a fine. (In 1900 in Montreal, we had similar laws. Women were still considered men's property. If a man cheated on his wife, it was Ok but if a woman cheated on her husband it was grounds for divorce.)

On the other hand, in the old days, a woman could go to court for 'breach of promise' - if she felt a man had broken his promise to marry her either by retracting his formal proposal, or denying that he was looking at her sideways at dinner.

Today, if a man leaves a woman at the alter, it's not against the law, and all a woman can do to exact vengeance is trash her former love's good name and sexual prowess in front of their mutual friends, making herself look stupid in the process.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, you see. And that's the point. Victims of crimes are not in control of their emotions.

I also read some John Locke last week (about time).

He's all about individual rights, but even he takes for granted that victims of crimes and their relations are ill placed to be direct players.. vengeance cannot be justice, too many passions in play...Ah, the Enlightenment: one day we Canadians may look back fondly upon it.
Anyway, I've decided to put together a little e-book about the Montreal Suffrage Association, circa 1913-1919. I sure know enough about that association and I have their notes, which are public domain as far as I can see.

Their papers once belonged to the League of the Rights of Women but that suffrage group disbanded in 1949 when Quebec women got the vote..

The Montreal Suffrage Association disbanded in 1919, when Canadian women got the vote.

In the 1930's, the Montreal Suffrage minutes and papers belonged to the former President of the MSA Carrie Derick.

 I found a 1933 Gazette newspaper article where she announces she is giving them to the League of Rights of Women.

The day before, Carrie Derick gave  a speech  on the history of the suffrage movement to Therese Casgrain's group... She went all the way back to Sappho.

That evening, Casgrain introduced Derick and proclaimed her a great lady and said her name would surely go down in history.

Well, not so much.

 It is Casgrain who has become the iconic (official) figure in Quebec and Canada for woman suffrage.

There are reasons for that, most of which I have articulated in this blog.

Were it not for the Internet, and a lonely riverside road in Verdun, Derick would be totally obscure known only to a handful of interested scholars. And so would the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Here's a page from the minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association, a page where someone scratched out a line that says their association is Non-Militant, even if they are subscribing to Mrs. Pankhurst's magazine, Votes for Women. (I'm guessing Derick did the redacting: she preferred to claim that militancy was an irrelevant issue in Canada.)

In another February 1914 entry (pre-war) it is claimed that a Mrs. Casson, former VP of the Equal Suffrage Association is running for a national post and wants the MSA's endorsement. (I missed that interesting bit when I first read  the minutes.)

The MSA Board Members put  off the request to another meeting, so we can't hear what they thought about their rival organization. Too bad.

Now, as I have written on this blog, the Equal Suffrage Association is really really obscure. They left behind no minutes. It is likely they weren't registered as an association.

They weren't the Equal Suffrage Association, anyway. They were the Equal Suffrage League. No wonder the newspapers could never get right the name of these Montreal suffrage organizations, the principal actors could not either!

If you want to know more about Suffrage in Montreal, here's my slide show video on YouTube.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dragon Mirrors and Harvard Lectures

These are pics I took of a Chinese Silkscreen I own that was given to my grandfather by the Montreal Chinese Community in the 1920's.I got a nice effect in the dappled sun coming into my window.

Is it special? I don't know. Probably not. It was a piece of silk my aunt took and put into a frame (an ornate Italianate frame, wood painted gold) and it stayed there for decades until I removed it.

My grandparents got a lot of things from the Chinese Community including a teak table inlaid with mother of pearl that is in California and a mirror held by a dragon in Virginia.

Lots of people gave my grandfather, The Director of City Services, gifts but mostly at Christmas. Apparently he got a roomful of stuff, which my grandmother culled and she gave a lot of stuff away to the poor.

There were enough cigars to keep my grandfather and uncle puffing away for the entire year.

Anway, there's a lecture series online at Harvard about China, and so many lovely online collections. This morning I was looking at the promo for the Victoria and Albert Museum Chinese Art exhibit coming up.

They have a very nice animated masthead.

Here's  a story I wrote about my grandfather. It's about water, bottled water.

Milk and Water

The dragon mirror (detail) in an old family picture. See its wings and paw holding the mirror.

Here, the sun went in and I took more pics showing the subtlety of the piece, muted colours.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My naive view of the world and country

Winnipeg Manitoba: Herbert Nicholson's favorite city in 1910. "The streets are wide and clear."

Since discovering the 300 Nicholson family letters from the 1908-1913 era (as well as the Nicholson 'store' books, the records of the family's expenses from 1882-1921) I've wondered about this 'little' question: Why did the price of wheat stay the same all through the Wheat BOOM?

The amount of wheat produced by Canadian farmers out west grew in leaps and bounds in the 1910 era, but Margaret Nicholson still paid about 5 dollars a bushel for her Red Roses Flour - which she used to make her prize winning breads and cakes. (In comparison, beef was practically free back then, even though it took 6 years to bring a steer to market, compared to the 6 months it takes today.)

Well, I figured out a part of the answer a long time ago: Because they were exporting the wheat to England.

But I was still being quite naive about how the world works.

 I didn't understand the underlying principle of the Markets.Don't interfere with the markets, no matter what.

 Take the Irish Potato famine. 1/3 of the peasant population died, but Ireland was still growing and exporting its grain while this happened.

It's a rule created by Adam Smith and his invisible hand (and all those other utilitarians).

 The markets are kind of a sign of 'God's will.' or the perfection of science, or whatever.

(Besides, if you do, the food producers would rather dump their product  than feed the starving. It's a matter of principle (not of morality). That's not divine law, that's plain human nature... greed and fear.

Of course, I am part of the problem. My dogs eat better than about a billion people on this planet, just because I am able to pay more for the grainst han they are. And they are reduced to eating

I thought of this yesterday. A CBC headline claimed that Canadians might be getting a deal soon on beef because one of the major American importers of Canadian beef has decided to stop buying it from us. There's an issue with costly labeling - a form of protectionism disguised as mere bureaucracy. (Canadian Beef Prices could fall.)

Our Canadian ranchers will have too much beef and will be forced by market pressures to sell it to us at a reduced price. 

The Beef Producers are up in arms. This is terrible for them.

But isn't this a good thing for Canadians? I mean, if you like  beef and haven't given it up for health reasons.

Now, this invisible hand thing also explains why the price of gasoline is so high for us Eastern Canadians, even if our own country is a major world producer.

We citizens are small potatoes in the scheme of things. We don't really matter. (Well, we vote but that little nuisance can always be gotten around with strategically placed editorials in newspapers and such at election time.)

If we dull ordinaries want to benefit, invest in oil companies or send our sons out West to work in the tailing ponds.

(Except the cost of living is so high out there it's hard to get ahead, as if was for Herbert Nicholson, bank clerk, when he went out West in 1910.)

Harper has just signed a free-trade deal with Europe and apparently, the pork and beef quotas are going way up. Canadian ranchers can now send their meat to Europe in large amounts, if we can get around their pesky health laws. Are health laws protectionism disguised as bureaucracy. We don't allow unpasteurized cheese into Canada.

  This Free Trade deal is being hailed as a very good thing, but if the logic from the latest CBC  bad news headline holds, then this is a very bad thing for Canadians who love to eat beef and pork

So beef may get too expensive for many Canadians, and they might have to cut down and give it up entirely. No more carcinogen-laced  BBQ. Well, health care costs might go down.

But that's no good because the Cancer Industry is a big one too.

 Herbert John Nicholson on 1911 Canadian census in Qu'Appelle. He didn't go out west to earn his fortune. He went reluctantly after having burned all his bridges in the East. (See my e-book Threshold Girl.)

 Qu'appelle Sask.

July 10, 1911

Dear Father,

Sorry I have not been able to write you before.

I have tried ever day for the last three weeks but for 15 days I was managing the branch and was short a man all the time.

I had to work Saturday afternoon and Sunday as well as work on Coronation Day and Dominion Day.

The manager only got back from his holidays two or three days before the end of the month. It was the end of our half year and with so many balances and reports to send away, I only finished the last of them Thursday.

I had a visit from William Neilson about two weeks ago. He is taking a fine trip and said he is enjoying himself fine and was sorry you were not with him.

He had his whiskers cut off and when he spoke to me at first I did not know him.

Flynn who worked with you on the NTR called for a few minutes at the office to see me.

He is traveling for some wire fence company from the States.

Do not think you will have any trouble with the cement. It will surely be more pleasant where you are now than it was around la Tuque.

I do not like this place and hope they will not keep me here much longer.

I have just been stealing a look through the Manager's correspondence and in reply to a letter from head office asking if he had found things in order upon his return after spending his holidays, he replied that he had found everything in perfect order.

Now I have not any more news so will have to close. I was at church with the Masons a week ago today.

Will remember what you said about staying where I am.

Do not want you to ever think that you should not advise me what to do. Any time that you want me to do anything or suggest anything just tell me without making any bones about it.

Now you may have some trouble getting any sense of this letter as this is a new typewriter for me and I have to go so slow that before I finish a sentence I have forgotten how I started it.

Hope this will find you well as it leaves me. I am writing Mother today and hope it will find them all very well.

Your son,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pelee wine and P.M. days.

My father lied to me! You CAN keep horses out on your front lawn. At least in St. Clet, Quebec.

My husband and I drove west to Ontario to buy some cheaper Ontario wine and some cheaper Ontario gasoline.

Gas is around 130 a liter in our area and 117 a litre about 50 kilometers away which means you can drive to Alexandria, fill up on gas and pay for your trip.

It's not a pretty drive. You see nothing but farms and the occasional little girl dreamhouse.

Except for the many horses out grazing, there's nothing of interest to see on this drive, which makes its 'free' value  dubious. It's not even pretty farm country. Flat, flat flat. No rolling hills, like in the Townships, although you can see Mount Rigaud in the background.

But this time I perked up, because I've been listening to some lectures about the history of farming and food production and I know a little more about it than I knew yesterday.

In the US perhaps only 2 percent of people farm today, when it used to be 90 percent.

Also, scarier. The biodiversity (variety) of plants being farmed is decreasing at a greater rate than the biodiversity in the natural world, ie the rainforest etc.

(I hope there's a secret society somewhere, perhaps led by Dr. Suzuki, squirreling away these 'vintage' species for the P.M. era. (Post Monsanto.)

Of course, I might be part of the problem again. I drink a lot of wine. I've heard that in the Niagara Region of Canada, those famous peach orchards have been turned into grape farms, ah, vinyards.

More profitable.

And now the peaches we get all year long (from California, Chili)  are almost inedible. (As a child, my father would like to me and say if I ate more than one peach I'd get sick. That's because, given half a chance, I'd eat the entire basketful  in one session.

Peaches back then were seasonal and sublime, trained fresh out of the Niagara Peninsula..

I hardly eat fruit anymore, not the traditional fruit like apples, and oranges. You never know what you are going to get, a horrible mealy thing or a descent juicy thing.

I tend to buy pineapple and mangos now. More likely to be edible.

And just across the river for us, a 30 minute drive in the opposite direction, in Oka, are all kinds of apple orchards. We used to go apple picking with the kids and gorge ourselves on delicious Spartans and Macintoshes.

I bought 1. 5 litres of cheap Pelee Island wine, yesterday. 

This LCBO outlet in Alexandria has a small selection of wine, but  lots of bottles on discount. 

We once visited a tiny outlet in the middle of the woods, 3 hours from Ottawa) and it hardly had any wine, just booze. Rural people still prefer hard liquor, I guess.

Wine in Ontario is still not nearly as cheap as in Maine or California, where it is NOT controlled by a Liquor Board and not taxed. 

Funny, because Quebec created its liquor control board during American Prohibition and it was very controversial and very likely the loose link in the chain of temperance that brought down all temperance measures across North America, first in Canada and the US. See Milk and Water, my e-book.)

This brand of wine, in another aisle,  caught my eye for the Canadian flag. Except it is a French wine. Must be a marketing ploy. The tag line says "20 years in Canada".

An exhibit of Pelee Island wine at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, Canadian pavilion, on display with the typical maple syrup and beaver tails and timber and such.

The wine was advertised as 'low in alcohol' a selling point back then, but not now. The Pelee wine I purchased is the typical 13.5 percent.

Anyway, another reason we know this area. Our vet is here. Years ago, when we inherited my mother's 2 cats, we changed vets. Our suburban vet cost way too much. It cost us a thousand dollars to get the yearly shots for 3 cats and 3 dogs.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part of the Problem

The cover of Threshold Girl, my e-book about a Canadian family in 1910. I took this detail from a photo and blew it up.

It is a picture of my husband's grandmother, Marion Nicholson Blair sipping tea, tea no doubt sweetened with a bit of white sugar.

It's an ironic picture and not only because the Nicholsons in the 1910 period were almost broke, if not totally broke, living off the liquidity of their little brick home in Richmond, Quebec.

It's ironic because the Nicholsons were descendants of Crofters, that would be agricultural peasants of Scotland, thrown off the land in the Hebrides (Isle of Lewis) and forced to come to Canada.

This was happening to a whole lot of peasants in the middle and late 19th century, but the Lewisman were Scottish Presbyterians (who read the Bible) and many knew how to read and write, so their story is well-told.

But while Marion was sipping this tea she wasn't thinking of the peasants dispossessed so she could take part in this genteel activity of tea-drinking (on her front lawn) or the many human beings literally worked to death so she could sweeten it a bit.

There was no longer slavery, per se, in 1910, but the sugar no doubt was farmed under horrible conditions.

Working in sugar fields is apparently the WORST.

Anyway, here's a picture of Julia Parker Drummond, society lady of Montreal and first President of the Montreal Council of Women.

(Whoops, I can't find her picture, but it's on the web. Instead I've inserted a picture of Sarah Maclean Mcleod, Isle of Coll, one of said crofters who came to Canada. She spoke Gaelic and may have been illiterate, but she certainly could not read English.)

Parker's husband was George Drummond the President of Redpath Sugar, a large Canadian company with a mill not far from the school in Little Burgundy where Marion taught a classroom of 50 working class children, some of whom were Black Canadians whose dads worked on the railway as porters.

Apparently, Drummond tested his Montreal factory conditions on his own grandchildren to make sure they were good enough for everybody. But that doesn't take the blood out of the sugar cube, does it?

Drummond was into helping the poor of Montreal. I wonder if she realized she was part of the problem. (Good cop, bad cop type thing.)

In fourteen hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and then turned it red by slaughtering the gentle people of Hispaniola.

Something like that.

Today, sugar is being described as a drug, as  bad for us as cocaine. But it's in everything these days so Diabetes 2 is in the cards from many of us.

Sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco and spices: it was all a drug trade back then. Only a few commodities were traded for and most of these products designed to give Europeans a bit of a  'kick'.

Anyway, writing about the Nicholsons using their family letters, I got interested in genealogy and joined a genealogy writing group. Some people in this group are gifted writers and serious researchers.

This week a member wrote about her ancestor, who came from England to the US, during Charles 1's terrible reign.

The English Revolution!

Charles wanted too much power, his parliament deposed him, he was beheaded, and the merchant class of England (and the MARKET) was given free reign to go out and conquer the world.

It pretty well started here, from what I learned - the modern market-driven way of doing business.

On my English side, I come from 'delvers'  in the North of England.

Rock-diggers. My grandfather went to Malaya to farm rubber in 1900ish. His first job probably was to wield the whip over Tamils at a rubber plantation.

Like all Canadians of my age, I took two years of English History in high school, 8th and 9th grade. All I remember is the bit about the War of the Roses. I recall it had a nice bright picture of men on horses and pretty family crests.

I don't remember anything about this English Revolution that inspired the US Revolution and more.

 Well, better late than never.

History lesson over: Time to end, my coffee's getting cold. (I actually have two cups, one I got and one my husband just bought me. Cheap coffee from Costco.)

Gee, I'm part of the problem too! But that I knew. Out out damn spot!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What is Poverty? The Common Sense and Dollars and Cents

Edith Nicholson and her beau in 1909. He died in the Rossmore Hotel fire in 1910 in Cornwall. Edith claimed she never married because of this, but frankly there were other, more economic considerations.

According to an online university lecture I am auditing, in 1900 33 percent of the US Population was living under the poverty line (800 dollars a year for a family of 5) Today, it's only 15 percent. Great eh?

Except that a short while ago it was 11 percent, and the number of poor US citizens have gone up. And Brazil has less poverty today, 12 percent.

(Well, of course, measuring poverty is problematic, but also a matter of common sense. Everyone knows what poverty is... It is what they hope to get out of, or where they dread being.)

Back in 1900, to be an unmarried women, with children or not, was certainly to be poor.

History 124a Berkeley, on Youtube, America from the late 19th century to the beginning of the Cold War.

I have written a lot about what it means to be middle class on this blog, because it is about the Middle Class Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec.

In many ways, the Nicholsons prove Marx's axiom (I think) that class is 'a state of mind'.

The Nicholsons in the 1910 era were always on the verge of losing all their money. Luckily, the Nicholson women had the skills to allow them to keep up the pretense of being middle class even when cash poor, which was most of the time. They could sew dresses and shirtwaists and skirts and rip and repair and alter dresses and shirtwaists and skirts.

Even in 1917, when the Eaton's catalogue was full of ready made clothing, Mother Margaret was making her busy daughters their underwear and nighties. (Read Not Bonne Over Here.)

And all the Nicholson women were educated because, I imagine, they understood that woman were often doomed to be poor. Oddly, this same education kept them from marrying because they educated themselves over their financial standing. They didn't have dowries.  (Women didn't marry beneath them so they couldn't marry 'uneducated' working class men.)

Flora Nicholson, the youngest daughter, eventually got married at 38 years old to a working class guy, but her family was appalled at first. Edith never got married.

She worked all her life at McGill, in the Registrar's office an as tutor and then Assistant Warden at the Royal Victoria College. She ended her life in 'genteel poverty' often relying her great nieces for any extras. (Two costly throat operations kept her poor.)

Marion, as Biology and Ambition reveals, got married in 1913 to a suitable man, but his parents were totally against the marriage, and this despite the fact the Nicholsons were a most respectable family.

As I have written on this blog, Norman Nicholson kept a store book, complete records for household expenses, from 1882 to 1921.

The Nicholsons spent between 300 and 600 every month over these years. Except during the war years, prices remained pretty stable.

Norman's salary did not, he jumped from job to job and was often out of work. But by 1906 , just as his fortunes were tanking,  his daughters started working and helped out.

His one son Herb proved nothing but a liability.

The cover of Threshold Girl, Marion taking tea in her 'white dress'. So genteel, but the Nicholsons were not nearly as wealthy as their neighbours. The families on either side of them owned automobiles, after all.

In Terry Copp's Anatomy of Poverty, he writes that it took 1,500 to keep a family of 4 afloat, but that was in 1929.

From what I could see in the 1911 census, few Montreal families made more than 600 dollars. A bricklayer might make 700 a year, a butcher about the same, but generally to be working class meant to be poor.

But working class people didn't own property. The Nicholsons owned Tighsolas, a two story Queen Anne Revival Style house in Richmond, built for 2, 700 in 1896, the year Sir Wilfrid Lauier came to power in Canada.

In many ways this house was a brick albatross around the family's neck. They couldn't rent or sell it in 1911, when Norman was away working on the railway and the girls were working in Montreal.

But Norman also borrowed upon its equity when in deep financial trouble.

Read An Ordinary Man to learn all about The Nicholson's financial history.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rhapsody in Red

How do I weave together the words for this blog post, which is sort of a proto-essay?

I'm listening to a Yale lecture on Homeric Literature, where the prof says that women in the books are always at the loom.

Well, I knew that.

The same prof says that a story-teller in Homer's time was a rhapsod, a stitcher of songs.

The Odyssey is a rhapsody. A rhapsody in red as there's a lot of blood shed and also bloodshed.

Yesterday I listened to another lecture about Rousseau. He's the ultimate 'do as I say, not as I do' man.

He wrote Emile, a hugely influential book on education, but he gave away his 7 children at birth to an orphanage, a terrible one where they probably died early.

Anyway, among his many ideas, some good, some bad, some brilliant, some crazy, he wrote this about women.


Almost all little girls learn to read and write with repugnance. But as for holding needle, that they always learn gladly. Sowing (sewing), embroidery, and lace-making come by themselves.


I wish that were true. Then my de-skilled upper middle class, classically-educated mother, who spoke perfect English and French and had studied Greek and Latin, could have sewed me up some nice outfits as a child. 

I was too tall for second hand and we didn't have money for nice clothing for me. Clothes were expensive in the 1960's, as they were sewed in Canada and the US.

 I've written a lot about lace and such on this blog as I have some in my collection once belonging to the Nicholson women, once having been stitched by some of them! They didn't have money to buy clothes but they had money to buy material and the skill to make clothes. 

Clothes were important to these women. They wanted to dress well to fit in with their upper middle class friends.

Fancy work created by the Nicholsons. I like to think of these as dreamcatchers or mandalas.

Historian Amanda Vickery in A History of Private Life claims that women embroidered to show future mates that they were ladies of leisure and also docile beings who would be placid wives.

Sewing, well, that was a different thing. 

In another lecture I just heard, about early industrialization in Europe, it was revealed that originally women worked - but in the home, producing cheese and textiles and such for wider consumption.
Farming wives are the remnants of this way of life.

Industry in the 18th century was centered in the home.

Then later the work was brought out into the factories, where it could be streamlined and workers turned into commodities. Women working in the home got distracted, gossiping with friends and dealing with children.

(The first factories, apparently, were in prisons.)

This increased prosperity created a larger middle class. Middle class women couldn't work under these conditions and retain their dignity, were sent back into the home to become society's consumer class.

(This suited the Protestants as their religion seemed to say women belonged in the home. And besides they often were the richer class (certainly in Quebec) because making money fit into the Protestant ethos nicely. It still does. In Montreal, McConnell, the great water and power industrialist, was part of a "Methodist Mafia."

By the 1900 era we had the cult of the home...

a 1910 cotton weaving machine. Little girls were often hired because their little fingers could better handle the threads and they were cheap to hire.

See Threshold Girl

Monday, October 21, 2013

Calvinists and Free Trade and Burgers

A picture I took on my dog walk yesterday.  A new house in my area with an antique car in front, a car from the 1970's, I think. It's for sale. The car, not the house. Although there are plenty of houses for sale in my area, too.

It's a  big car. A gas guzzler. A toy and an indulgence.

This snapshot looks like a lifestyle advertisement from the the Saturday Evening Post, doesn't it?

All you need is the pretty woman in front with an apron wrapped around her wasp waist holding a tray of cookies and lemonade.

What's today's reality, or emerging reality, in the exburbs, where I live...well,it's across the street from me.

There are always about 7 small cars parked in front. Some in the driveway, some on the street.

A nuclear family doesn't live there; I think it's a sister and brother and her kids and his kids and their boyfriends and girlfriends. I'm not sure who 'officially' lives there.

It's a smallish house, too.

This might be the pattern for the future out here in the exburbs. I'm 60 kilometers outside of Montreal. That used to be a 45 minute drive but with the traffic congestion, it is now double that in rush hour.

The public transportation is not very good. You still need a car to get to any train station, the closest being 20 minutes away or so...

With the cost of gas the way it is, even two salaries won't support living out here.

 Me in front of my father's Chevy belair, 1968 model I think. (This was taken in 1971 after a record March snowfall.)

 You could tell by the tail lights, they changed each year. My father believed he was impervious to advertising, but he spent a great deal of time researching cars and then ended up buying the car that was most heavily advertised. Coincidence?

My husband and I have lived out here for 30 years, the cost of gasoline has quadrupled in that time while my husband's salary has remained essentially the same.

My husband's is not unusual: this was the pattern since the eighties, since the neoliberals took over. (And my husband works in a field that should reflect economic well-being, the media, that relies on advertising and the amount that a business advertises reflects how well it is doing. Hence all those car adverts in the 1960's magazines.)

I was just learning (on Youtube Geography of Economics course) that the American economy was tanking for two years before 2001. Then came 9-11 and all kinds of trouble and then Bush told the US citizens to spend, but they had no money so they just borrowed to buy homes and borrowed on their homes (which raised the GDP and made the government look better) and then came the crash. And then the government bailed out the banks, but not the home owners.

And bankers got even richer and Americans even poorer.

(Well, I knew all that, I just thought the economy was OK up until 9-11. But it was in decline and Bush in danger of not being re-elected, I guess.)

Most everyone is praising Harper's free trade with Europe deal even though little is known about it. Harper is very secretive.

He's an economist, apparently, although I believe he never really held a job outside of politics. (An M.A. in economics will get you a job tossing burgers today, I imagine.)

A Calvinist Economist. Calvinists believe that personal wealth is a sign of God's grace, or something.

Economics is a most soft science, it's a bit like the Bible, you take a lot of it on faith.

Just look at what's happened lately, all the brainy economists working in government, and not one was able to see the latest cataclysm coming, even though it was predictable as all get out if you look at the past history of the stock market.

And they all seem to believe austerity is the way to go, when government stimulus has always been the answer in the past. (Hey, Neoliberals:Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.)

Of course, maybe they are not so insane. Maybe someone is benefiting from all this human misery.

(It wouldn't be the first time in history, after all.)

I guess Harper is  hoping this new Free Trade Deal (this new Promised Land) will improve his chances for re-election and make Canadians forget all the Senate Scandals and his imperious style of governing.

Time will tell.

Free Trade with the US hasn't improved my middle class life.

Still, Europe is pretty socialist, compared to Canada and the US, so maybe we will get back to our true liberal roots a bit, through bartering with them.

Maybe we'll have to improve the quality of our beef and pork, before they'll eat it. I think Denmark would consider much of it "hazardous waste."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

When you get to the fork in the road, discuss it

 Marcus Aurelius:

A week or so ago I was talking to a friend whose son was about to enter college after graduating from one of our best 'prep' schools - one of those schools that used to school the sons of the mighty Montreal industrialists and I asked him "Does you son know what studies he wants to pursue?"

"Anything in business," was his reply.

I wasn't surprised, a few years ago I was talking to a relation who taught at one of those famous UK Prep Schools and asked him the same question about his students.

"All they want to do is make money," he replied.

"They will," I replied. "They already have money."

I think of this because I've been auditing some online Yale courses, to fill in some 'gaps' in my education.

One of these courses is the History of Political Philosophy.

In a lecture on Aristotle's Politics, the prof asks his students, who might find the philosopher's brand of elitism foreign or repugnant, to reflect on their own status as Ivy League undergraduates.

What is Yale, he asks, but an institution designed to educate the elite, whom he describes as the more talented of America's youth, also the most  disciplined and with greater leadership skills.

He doesn't ask if they are there because Daddy and Mommy are rich and they've been groomed from an early age with their fine prep school educations to be 'good students' and savvy test takers with superior study skills. (Like Novak Djokovic for tennis.)

And like tennis players, some of these students do indeed turn out to be extraordinary, although most do not. Most end up journeymen with one or two or three fatal flaws that keep them from the top. (Although by definition only one person can be at the top.)

I haven't learned enough (from five such lectures) to comment on this from a philosophical standpoint.

But, I ask,  weren't wealthy young men groomed as leaders just because they were rich, and already had enough money.

Like Young Winston, who got into Harrow without putting one mark on the entrance exam, and who just wanted fame (and to stick it to his imperious and cold-hearted Dad) but who became a great statesmen due to being in the right place at the right time. The greatest in the UK, even if he hated Gandhi and the Suffragettes.

Winston visited Montreal in 1901 (I think) and spoke before the Montreal elite at Windsor Hall (the same place Emmeline Pankhurst spoke in 1911) and bragged about his Boer War Experiences. Randolph's son certainly has a way with words, said the newspapers. Even back then. He'd studied his Aristotle.

But in the world today, no one ever has 'enough' money. And luckily for politicians, economic downturns that hurt the middle class and destroy the lower class, make money for the elite, so they don't have to be good at their jobs to make money.

If that's all they want. They just have to hold onto their jobs, for a short while.

When you think that almost every former American politician goes into lobbying after leaving the leadership realm, when in the past it was just a fraction of them.

                                                               Casey Stengel

When you see these same Yale graduates (now leaders) filibustering in the Congress - and spouting nonsense soundbites that make Casey Stengal in comparison seem like the real Yale GRAD (or reading Green Eggs and Ham) one imagines that these modern 'leaders'  must make many of  their former profs wince..or maybe not.

 Maybe these polarized politicians, in the US and in Canada, should take some advice from baseball's professor: When you get to the fork in the road, discuss it. Wait. That is Yogi Berra..

It makes you want to read more Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to figure things out.  To figure out what they would have done in the age of Twitter.

PS. As I've written before, in North America, in the 1960's the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal was the highest performing in North America and from what I've since read, North American school boards in those times were the best in the world. Public schools, I mean. Free schools. And now public education in the US and Canada is in the dumper and middle middle class families are sacrificing hugely to put their kids through pricey prep schools...with the hope of getting them into Yale on a full scholarship.

No wonder so many of my graduating class, despite being very middle class, went on to great things, to make great contributions.

Not very elite, mostly lower middle class with access to quality inexpensive higher education.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Canadian Women Voters, then and now.

 The notion of Progress, that History always moves FORWARD, the economic and political, was spurred by the French Revolution and gained traction during the Industrial Revolution.

 Society is always going forward, even if there are set backs like World Wars and the Holocaust.

A letter signed by Carrie Derick to Marie Gerin Lajoie, 1922, regarding the new efforts to get Quebec Women the Vote. Canadian women won the vote in 1918.

Here's a letter from the fonds of Marie Gerin Lajoie.  Ii wonder whether or not these feminist pioneers would be disappointed in their sex. Women getting the vote didn't change much, or did it?

Women of Canada.

You are now citizens!

You have the privilege and opportunity of expressing yourself -indirectly by your own vote.

You have a duty and an obligation to so express yourselves.

If the women voters of Canada should merely fall into line behind the two political parties, their partisan vote would not help the country. Indeed, it would be but an added burden by necessitating an extension of the machinery for voting and increasing the money cost of the same.

On the other hand, while it is not desirable to start a women's party it is understood that there are certain principles which should demand the support of the women of both parties.

This was the brief conclusion of the National Council of Women at their March meeting.

Margaret Nicholson of Threshold Girl voted in 1921 for the first time. She wrote this letter to her daughters.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Istanbul and Art History Class, and Continuing Ed


I have this recurring dream: I am in a school, either elementary, high school or University and I have an exam and I can't find my classroom.Not only that:I haven't studied for the test.

This dream feels like a classic anxiety dream. (There's a part of my psyche that understands "I've already graduated. I'm not a student any more which makes it all the more perplexing. In one dream, I was thinking, "Wait, I CAN'T be twenty years old. MY KIDS are twenty years old.)

This particular dream is archetypal, at least for us moderns (contradiction). Many of my friends have had the same dream.

I recall discussing it with a certain close friend who knew her Freud and Jung and we both wondered if indeed the dream were archetypal, what was the equivalent for, say, a Medieval peasant?

Yesterday, I listened to a Yale lecture on the early Christian Church while taking a splendid  HD tour of the inside of Hagia Sophia. (See the video above. It has ads for travel cruises, but they aren't bothersome.)

Who said there's nothing of value on the Internet?

The video was taken by a man Hoosiertim who has posted many splendid travel videos over the years and who has thousands of followers.  I bet these videos pay for his trips.

As I watched, I recalled my own experience in Art History Class at McGill years and years ago when the teacher, a Yale graduate, explained with a slide how Hagia Sophia represents the epitome of Byzantine archictecture.

I remember many of her lectures; she was one of the best teachers at McGill. And I think I am an oral learner.

Education sure has changed. A graduate student was telling me at Thanksgiving how today's students use these online courses for 'back ups'. (McGill doesn't have any Open University from what I can see.)

Now, I'm taking these Berkeley and Yale courses online because I feel guilty. Back in University I didn't take one history course and here I am, having written a few books about Canada in the Laurier Era, based on family letters.

Well, I thought I didn't take history until I remembered that I took Classics, Herodotus and such. So of course I learned some history way back then, the very basics.

And Art History certainly counts as History and I took a number of those courses.

I didn't take any pure History courses because back then History seemed too male-oriented for me. It didn't appeal.(My high school Canadian History course didn't include one woman.)

And History still is male-oriented, no question. And not only that but women are spoken of so disparagingly by most of the "Great Thinkers" except for John Stuart Mill of course.

The difference is, today's lecturers, even the male ones, even the ones at Yale, point out and even apologize for this point.

(Galileo had a smart female friend, one of them said. Madame Pompadour was an intellectual, too and very influential.)

Social History can be women's history, but introductory survey courses at university in general don't include social history. That is the domain of  BBC Radio Four.

There would be no place for Threshold Girl on the syllabus even at McGill, or even at John Abbott Jr. College in Ste-Anne de Bellevue, which once housed Macdonald Teachers College where Flora Nicholson, of Threshold Girl studied in 1911/12.

I did see one online History Course at Berkeley that had one lecture about the woman movement.

Learning sure has changed!

Last night, while in bed I listened to some audio readings from Librivox of some chapters of the Republic and Augustine's Confessions.

I'm also auditing a survey of important political and social theorists through the ages. All men of course.

Excuse me if I feel, at first listen, that St. Augustine feels like a whiny depressed youth pissed off at his parents. I did learn in a lecture that wild and crazy Santa Monica California is named for his mother.

I promise to take him more seriously today. He did change the course of the Church, after all.

Oh, and I did watch a first class BBC Four documentary on YouTube about the life of a female Medieval Peasant that was interesting. I discovered our diets are similar, although  my only complaint about life, these days, is there's 1000 channels on TV and nothing to watch! The plague isn't a problem, NOT YET anyway.

Unfortunately, Canadian TV doesn't produce 'real' history anymore, just silly mockumentaries about How Jesus was an Ancient Astronaut.

So a producer relative of mine told me a while back and that was pretty well-corroborated by another Canadian producer who told me that my proposal for a Suffragettes in Canada story was very INTERESTING and IMPORTANT but that it had too small an audience to ever be produced in this country.

In Canada, only the war of 1812, a skirmish or series of skirmishes over American autonomy, is deemed important.

Well, as for that recurring dream, I'm going to get to Freud soon enough. (I took a lot of Freud back in my day.)

Maybe he will tell me that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. That the reason I have this dream isn't deep at all...the dream is telling me that although I've been to elementary, high school and university,  I haven't finished my education...not by a long shot, that I still had more to learn.

On some level, I've always known that is the case.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Food Follies and Medieval Jollies

Take Fyges & Raysouns. & waisshe hem in Wyne. and grinde hem smale
with apples & peres clene ypiked. take hem up and cast hem in a pot
wiĆ¾ wyne and sugur.

I had to laugh. I was watching a Youtube about the life of a Medieval Briton peasant woman (BBC 4) and the historian showed what she would make her family in her little straw hut, some grainy porridgy thing in broth with some greens like 'kale' ... and I realized that's what I ate yesterday.

Costco quinoa and grains like sprouted rice and kale.

And I felt great about it, because it is 'good' for me.

This documentary was part of a Medieval series and the next one was about the oldest British Cookbook, the Forme of Cury, (How to Cook) from the court of Richard II (Oh let us sit upon the ground)...

The bit at the top is a recipe from the book, found on archive org.

Now, I learned something new... that the Medieval Church of the time decreed that a person should 'fast' 200 days a year, which meant eat no meat.

Just fish.

Even kings.

Of course, peasants probably seldom ate any meat, rabbit or whatever if they were allowed to poach them from their Lord without being drawn and quartered, themselves - not the rabbit.

The presenter, a personality/cook called Clarissa made a sweet and sour fish which I hope to make soon.

Full of nice things we can get at the grocery. raisins and cloves.

I had to laugh again, because I eat a lot of fish... because... it is GOOD for me.

Well, I think I'll make the goose for Christmas, although my experiments cooking goose for holidays haven't gone that well. So greasy!

I'm sure the pears nowadays are crappier than they were back then... GM foods, ICK!

And where do I get QUINCE?

 Richard II is my favorite Shakespeare play as it is all in verse - and I saw Derek Jacobi do it years and years ago on TV, so it came alive for me.

MacBeth is my second favorite play because I saw Jon Finch do it in the movies... and now I will watch Kenneth Branagh's version on National Theatre Live in a few days!!

Actually, it's on today, but I don't have a car. There's a replay Saturday!