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Showing posts from December, 2017

"God Rest Ye Merry" this Christmas season

Happy holidays everyone! Like many of you, I’ll be spending what's left of 2017 with friends and family, and of course, getting caught up in all the craziness (shopping, baking, wrapping, tree-trimming, entertaining and on and on) that can come with Christmas. I’ll leave you with a lively rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings,” performed by the Bare Naked Ladies with Sarah McLachan.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is one of the oldest English Christmas carols still sung today – it dates at least as far back as the 16th century, and the earliest known publication date of the lyrics is 1760. Regency folks would have certainly sung this song during the Christmas season. “We Three Kings” is of a more modern vintage; it was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., an American clergyman, in 1857 for a Christmas pageant in New York City. Thank you for reading my blog; I appreciate you stopping here for a while as you meander through all the Intern

Friday Follies: The Battle of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815 Illustration by Frederick Coffay Yohn   In today's world of instantaneous  communication, it's hard to remember that there was a time when news traveled much more slowly than it does now.   The War of 1812 is a case in point. The signing of Treaty of Ghent may have ended the war in December of 1814, but it took another month before news of that event reached the United States. So in January, American forces, led by Major General Andrew Jackson, engaged the British down in Louisiana at the Battle of New Orleans. The Battle of New Orleans was actually a series of battles that were fought between December 14, 1814, and January 18, 1815.  But the most famous battle was the one that took place on January 8, when the British tried to push through Jackson’s lines of defense and capture New Orleans. The British were soundly trounced by Jackson and his forces. In fact, this battle was remarkable both f

The Treaty of Ghent : “The Peace of Christmas Eve”

Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, by Aimédée Forestier (1854-1930) Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Christmas Eve can mean many things to people – including warm family gatherings, church services or presents opened under a Christmas tree. But those of us interested in early 19th-century history may want to keep in mind that Christmas Eve, 1814, was the day the Treaty of Ghent was signed, putting an end to second and last time the United States fought the British, in the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent, also known as the Peace of Christmas Eve, was the pact signed in the city of Ghent, Belgium (chosen because Belgium was a neutral country) that officially ended hostilities between the fledgling United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain.  (I say “officially” for a reason. Check this Friday’s post for more info on some unofficial military action that took place after the treaty was signed – the Battle of New Orleans.) Peac

Friday Follies: Celebrating Julia Child and scrumptious Sachertorte

A Sachertorte from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, by David Monniaux , 2005, CC-BY-SA 2.0  Did you miss National Sachertorte Day? It was December 5. If so, don’t worry – you can celebrate it anytime just by eating one of the most delicious and popular cakes in the world. Franz Sacher was an Austrian chef who created his namesake confection almost by accident in 1832 for his employer, Prince Wenzel von Metternic h.  A trainee in the palace kitchen, Sacher had to step up and make a dessert for an important banquet when the regular cook suddenly became ill. I think most of us have enjoyed some version of this treat, but the original recipe is a chocolate sponge cake, layered with apricot jam and covered with dark chocolate icing. If you’re still searching for a Christmas dessert, this could be it (and you can find a recipe here ).  Sacher was only a 16-year-old kitchen apprentice when he created his famous dessert. But he went on to become a master pastry chef, like th

Antonin Carême: Top Chef of the Regency

  "The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings" You might think celebrity chefs are a modern phenomenon, products of reality TV shows like Top Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen or Cake Boss . But the development of today’s publicity-savvy culinary stars can be traced all the way back to the Regency era, to a self-made man who started out as a homeless street urchin and became an international culinary star – Antonin Car ê me. Car ê me’s backstory is as sensational as anything a reality show writer could invent. One of 15 children, Car ê me was christened Marie-Antoine at his birth in 1784, in honor of the doomed Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.  As an adult, he preferred the more classic-sounding “Antonin” to his birth name. And the post-Revolutionary king, Louis VIII, gave him permission to sign his name simply as " Car ê me  of Paris" - making him the first celebrity to use only one name, like Cher and many others today. The French Revolution caused tu

Friday Follies: A Cinderella Story

It’s impossible to think about a prince choosing a lovely but untitled “commoner” to be his bride without reflecting on the story of Cinderella, the fairy-tale with an indelible place in our culture. That means there's an echo of the classic tale in the news of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle. Now, Meghan hasn’t had to endure the torments of an abusive step-mother nor have we seen her dressed in rags, like poor Cinderella. But the fact that royal Harry’s glass slipper fit her, and only her,  makes all but the coldest heart beat a little faster, no matter how cynical a person may be about love and romance. Harry and Meghan's wedding announcement this week also brings to mind the fairy-tale wedding of another American actress to a prince over 60 years ago – Grace Kelly. Like Meghan, Grace had beauty and poise, and her acting career uniquely fitted her for her new role in the public eye.  And Prince Rainier seemed every bit as smitten with Grace as Harry d