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Coventry Scouts groups have a visit from Bear Grylls.jpgThis week in Britain, the notional artist Grayson Perry took issue with the masculinity that adventurer Bear Grylls displays, terming it ‘useless’.

(Photo of Grylls courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Perry is known for his cross-dressing, which you can see in a Spectator article on his sniping against alpha males. Perry is currently doing a show for Channel 4 which explores the ‘problems’ that ‘masculinity and manly men’ cause society.

Perry, 56, has enjoyed cross-dressing from his childhood. Not surprisingly, this fractured the relationship he had with his parents and his step-parents. In 1979, his step-father told him not to return home. He has been estranged from his mother since 1990.

He is best known for his pottery, although he has also created tapestries. Some of his work explores explicit sadomasochism and child abuse. However, he has had a one-man exhibition at the Stedjick Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 which led to him winning the Turner Prize in 2003. Incredibly, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to contemporary art. In 2015, he became chancellor of University of the Arts London.

He is married and has a daughter, born in 1992.

Unlike Perry, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls does not have any honours, although he has been Chief Scout since 2009. He was the youngest ever Briton to become one. He was 35 at the time.

His parents are Conservatives. He attended Eton College and has two university degrees. He has been interested in mountaineering and martial arts since his teenage years. For several years he served in the Territorial Army and as a reservist with the 21 SAS Regiment (Artists Reserve) until 1997.

His expeditions are too numerous to mention but include Everest, the Himalayas and Antarctica. He has starred and presented several television programmes for Channel 4 on extreme life in the outdoors. He also gives motivational talks to various organisations, including schools and churches.

He is married and has three sons.

His Christian faith is deeply important to him.

Perry finds Grylls appalling:

Top of his no-no list? Bear Grylls. Yes, Perry says that the Old Etonian adventurer is a ‘hangover’ who represents a ‘masculinity that is useless’:

‘Try going into an estate agent in Finsbury Park [London] and come out with an affordable flat. I want to see Bear Grylls looking for a decent state school for his child!’

Bear Grylls would have no problem at all in choosing a school for his sons, state or otherwise.

Perry also attacked Grylls’s show The Island:

Perry says it helps foster a masculinity that makes life in modern society more difficult.

Grylls responded in his usual gentlemanly style:

In the wild, quiet courage, humility, persistence and selflessness makes a man and also a woman. That is never outdated.

I agree with the Spectator when they say they’d be interested to see how Grayson Perry would fare in the wild — if only he could bring himself to leave leafy London.

Although I do not watch his shows, I’ll take Grylls’s alpha male masculinity any day, especially when he says:

my faith is a quiet, strong backbone in my life, and the glue to our family.

It’s time he was awarded an honour.

In reading the latest news and opinions on Brexit at PoliticalBetting.com — a fine resource for my fellow Britons, particularly the readers’ comments* — I ran across an interesting comment from a man who works for his family’s firm.

Recently, he was going through some old paperwork and discovered a note one of his cousins had penned in the 1930s:

God has been very good to our family. We have been asked to play a role in which we can serve the public, in a manner that is pleasant, and is not unrewarded in worldly terms.

Interestingly, the cousin started with a statement of thanksgiving, perhaps as a reminder to other family members. Then, he went on to describe their company as playing a pre-ordained role, as if God put them in that business for a particular reason. Judging by the last clause, they were very successful and, no doubt, continue to be so today.

It is a thoughtful, considered way to think of one’s family business.

* Read comments bottom to top.

Today, BBC1 broadcast the Queen’s 90th birthday walkabout from Windsor.

Tens of thousands attended and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town.

Although the majority of well-wishers were British, a number of them, especially women, came from Commonwealth countries and the United States. One British-American group of women met in the crowd at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have kept in touch ever since and made plans to attend this historic event.

Queen Elizabeth looked resplendent in a ‘spring grass green’ coat and matching hat trimmed with fresh white and yellow flowers. She was all smiles as she accepted cards, flowers and gifts from young and old alike. She deftly handed them to her lady in waiting. Groups of schoolchildren and adults sang Happy Birthday as she walked along the route. Prince Philip kept a discreet distance behind his wife and also talked to the crowds.

As one commentator put it, when it comes to meeting the public, the Royal Family say, ‘We’re in the happiness business’. The BBC interviewed a variety of celebrities and authors who have met the Queen. Everyone said that they were in awe of her but felt at home at the same time. They added that she puts you at the centre, however briefly.

Most people lining Windsor’s streets have never known any other British monarch. Sixty-three years and counting is a very long, intergenerational time — the longest any sovereign has ever ruled over our nation.

During that time, the world has seen rapid change and upheaval. One pundit said that the Queen’s presence gives us a sense of stability and continuity. No matter what happens, she is there with us as our head of state.

The mayor of Windsor and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire acted as hosts for the walkabout and tea party at the town’s Guildhall. At the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip met several nonagenarians. The Queen then cut her birthday cake, made by last year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadia. Another Bake Off contestant from the same series, Martha, also baked cakes for the party guests.

After spending time at the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped into a brand new custom Range Rover which has a large open-top roof, allowing both of them to stand and wave to the crowds as they were driven down streets in Windsor town centre. Someone dubbed it the Queenmobile.

This evening, the Queen will celebrate her birthday at Windsor Castle with 60 people, family and friends. Entertainment will be laid on.

A discussion took place as to whether the Queen knew what was being planned. Those in the know said that she probably did. She does not like surprises. She likes an orderly plan for everything.

They also said that while Queen Elizabeth presides as head of state, Prince Philip is the head of the household. He gives the orders for everything, including when to clear plates from the table. Servants watch him for the cue.

Commentators said that Windsor Castle really is the nexus for the Royal Family. Everyone feels comfortable there. They also consider Windsor as their home town. They know a lot of people there and feel an affinity with all the residents.

In closing, RMC (French talk radio) announced the walkabout on their morning news broadcasts. One of the talk show hosts also mentioned the new Royal website. He added that part of the job description for the site’s community manager, who also is in charge of tweets, is to have lunch with the Queen whenever she is in residence. How wonderful!

Queen Elizabeth II March 2015.jpgQueen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday, April 21.

Millions of people, not just in the UK but around the world, will wish her a very happy birthday and many happy returns.

Britons are blessed to have her as their head of state. She is the glue that holds us together.

What has made her so successful and well respected?

On October 31, 2015, Channel 4 broadcast How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting which revealed the ‘secrets’ of the woman who is more popular than ever.

Below is a countdown of the Queen’s ten secrets to No. 1 — the most important. The subheads below come directly from the programme and the text summarises its content.

10/ Stay out of politics

The film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, explores this principle in depth, especially in the depictions of her conversations with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Queen does not say anything about politics outside of her family circle, however, to politicians like Blair, she makes her thoughts known through a look or a brief remark that can cut one down to size in an instant.

By contrast, Prince Charles, whose opinions are well known on a variety of subjects, has little of his mother’s near-universal appeal. Perhaps it is time he took a leaf out of his mother’s notebook.

9/ Say nothing

Unlike Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, the Queen does not give interviews.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

The only exception was in 1992 when the Queen noted in her Christmas Day message to the nation how awful that year had been, but used a Latin expression. She pronounced it an ‘Annus Horribilis‘. A number of Royal scandals broke that year. Windsor Castle also caught fire and was seriously damaged.

8/ Do your duty

The Queen was brought up to do her duty to the nation. She has never wavered from serving her people.

She is the opposite of two of her ancestors. When Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII ascended to the throne in January 1901, he continued his previous playboy lifestyle, even though he was married to Princess Alexandra.

A more shocking example, however, was that of Edward VIII who reigned for 326 days in 1936 before abdicating to lead his own life. After abdication, he took his ladyfriend, American divorcée Wallis Simpson, whom he later married, on a trip to Nazi Germany. Understandably, public opinion was so hostile to him that he spent most of the rest of his life in France. His successor (brother) George VI — Queen Elizabeth’s father — and his mother Queen Mary threatened to cut off his allowance if he returned to the UK uninvited. It is no wonder that Britons over the age of 50 consider him to be one of our worst ever monarchs.

7/ Don’t fluff your lines

The Queen has always delivered her addresses in a clear, professional way.

The Queen Mother no doubt had a role to play in that. Her husband George VI had a stammer which marred his radio addresses to the nation. His speech therapy was the subject of the film The King’s Speech. The film builds up to the King’s wartime broadcast of 1939, which had to be delivered flawlessly to have the necessary gravitas. A nation held its breath. Fortunately, all went well. The Queen’s father occasionally stammered after that, but much less so than previously. The British public considered him all the more human for it.

6/ Protect the brand

The Queen has always been conscious of the Royal Family’s status as a brand.

The Queen Mother instilled that in her from childhood, but it actually originated with George V during the Great War. He and Kaiser Wilhelm were first cousins. The British public were understandably unhappy during a time when anti-German sentiment was rampant. George V changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, after the castle.

In 1917, the King faced another difficulty, this time involving another cousin, Tsar Nicholas. He wanted very much to bring the tsar and his family in Russia to safety in the UK but decided against it. He feared that bringing the Russian royals to Britain would also foment a revolt in Britain, similar to the Russian Revolution.

Unfortunately, not all of the Queen’s children share her desire to protect the brand. Some royals appeared in the television programme It’s a Royal Knockout in 1987. Rather than boost their popularity, it did the opposite. Lesson learned.

Ironically, it is the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who makes the most gaffes, too numerous to mention here. Reading them is painful, but people who have met him and heard them find them rather amusing. Hmm.

5/ Don’t mix with the staff

When it comes to confiding in her staff, the Queen appears to abide by the maxim ‘Trust no one’. Her record is blemish-free.

This has not always been the case with previous monarchs. After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria spent a lot of time with Mr Brown and then Abdul Karim. These associations with palace attendants scandalised the royal household and the courtiers.

More recently, Princess Diana confided in her butler Paul Burrell, which generated much publicity for him after her death and some difficulty for the Royal Family as a result.

4/ Earn your keep

The Queen was brought up to be a hard worker.

She understands that if one is going to live at the taxpayer’s expense, one had better earn one’s keep.

She, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne are the most dedicated of the Royals. Much of the charity work that Princess Anne does goes unnoticed by the media, and that is the way she likes it.

The Queen is careful to work hard and maintain a sober, low-profile private life.

Her responsible approach contrasts with Edward VII’s partying and cavorting more than a century ago. In our time, Prince Andrew rightly came under public criticism for his affair with Koo Stark in the 1980s and, in recent years, for his profligate air travel.

3/ Keep a stiff upper lip

The Queen always controls her emotions.

She was brought up to practise emotional reserve and displayed little physical affection for her children.

Her grandfather George V was also very reserved, even towards his wife, Queen Mary. With regard to his children, the Channel 4 programme said he was ‘cold’.

Does this mean there was no love? Hardly. In fact, many Britons would point to the old dictum ‘Still waters run deep’.

The Queen’s children have taken a different approach to parenting. Prince Charles, in particular, was careful to show his sons much affection in their childhood.

One of the few times one could see a scintilla of deep emotion in the Queen was when the royal yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Television news footage captured the monarch, her lips quivering ever so slightly as she blinked rapidly.

2/ Find true love

The Queen is deeply in love with Prince Philip and always has been.

The feeling is mutual. The couple have been married for nearly 70 years.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) share that same sort of love.

The film The Young Victoria depicted Queen Victoria’s profound love for Prince Albert in the 19th century. Her diaries record that he used to help her dress in the morning and would put her stockings on for her.

1/ Listen to the people

The Queen has only had one crisis during her reign and she mitigated that by listening to the people.

Another thing that helped was not to react instantly but rather wait and see what way the wind is blowing.

This troublesome period was the week following the death of Princess Diana at the end of August 1997. The Queen and the Royal Family were on summer holiday at Balmoral in Scotland at the time. The Queen decided they should leave for London four days later.

Meanwhile, public emotions were at fever pitch. I know. I worked in London at the time and saw a few of my female colleagues rail against the Queen, calling for her death. A lot of women laying flowers at Kensington Palace felt the same way. Television reporters interviewed a number of them for news broadcasts every day. The newspapers were filled with anti-Royal sentiment.

Once in London, the Queen went on a walkabout in front of Kensington Palace to see the queues of people ready to lay flowers in front of the late princess’s residence. The Queen has a scene which actually took place that day, later shown on the news. Queen Elizabeth spoke to a little girl holding a posy. She said something to the girl about the flowers being for Princess Diana. The little girl said, ‘These are for you’, and handed her the bouquet. That moment reversed the Queen’s dismal week because it signalled the turning of the tide away from animosity.

Later that day, the Queen gave a televised address to the nation with regard to Princess Diana’s death. It was her first public statement on the subject. Admittedly, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had been advising the Queen on the hostile mood in London, but she does not say anything she does not mean.

In the address, she displayed no sign of regret but she delivered two messages in a muted fashion: continuing authority — ‘As your Queen’ — and true sentiment — ‘something I say from the heart’.

On the day of the funeral, Queen Elizabeth did something unusual. When Princess Diana’s coffin passed by, she bowed her head as a mark of respect. She might have done that as a nod to public opinion.

The Queen carefully averted what could have easily turned into a crisis. The following week saw a calmer atmosphere in the capital and a gradual return to normality.

Conclusion

How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting concluded that if the next generation of Royals can master Queen Elizabeth’s ten secrets, our monarchy’s future is secure.

Many of us will pray, particularly today, that it is.

The French news site L’Internaute has a fascinating photo collection of Queen Elizabeth showing us how they view her.

Most of the photos were taken last year. Below is my translation of the text, photo by photo. Her life is so instructive that I’ve highlighted significant events and routines:

1/ The incredible Elizabeth II will celebrate her 90th birthday on April 21, 2016. She has seen nine French presidents during her reign and remains very active in spite of her advanced age. The Queen sets the example. Here she is behind the wheel of a Jaguar on July 19, 2015, driving through Windsor Great Park on her way to church. Elizabeth II is the only person in Great Britain who is allowed to drive without a driving licence.

2/ A great traveller with more than 300 state visits to 130 different countries, Elizabeth II has never had a passport, although all British passports bear her name. Although she has reduced her engagements, she still travels regularly. In this photo, taken on June 26, 2015, the Queen was in Berlin for a state visit lasting several days.

3/ The photo was taken on November 2, 2015. At the age of 89, the Queen still rides horses, here around Windsor Castle, along the Thames (Berkshire). The Queen has always been passionate about horseriding and is an excellent horsewoman.

4/ Here during a horse race organised at Windsor in 2013, the Queen follows the progress of her horse First Love under a headscarf that renders her unrecognisable.

5/ Having become the longest reigning British monarch on September 9, 2015, she has been on the throne for 63 years and counting. In this photo taken a few months ago, handbag on her arm, she inspects a battalion of Welsh Guards outside Windsor Castle.

6/ At the Garden Party on June 3, 2014, at Buckingham Palace, the colour-coordinated Queen and her umbrella welcomed a myriad of guests. An event that is routine for her as she receives, on average, 50,000 guests a year at garden parties and dinners.

7/ Linked from the beginning with the world of show business, ‘Lizzie’ [really? must be a French thing?] has always been accustomed to shaking the hands of the most famous people at the time. On December 7, 2009, at the end of the Royal Variety Performance — a charity gala sponsored by the Royal Family since 1912 — she met American singer Lady Gaga, herself an unwavering fan of the monarch.

8/ In spite of her advanced age, Queen Elizabeth continues to give the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster, although the Prime Minister writes the text. Here in London on May 27, 2015, she announces the government’s legislative projects for the upcoming parliamentary year.

9/ Here Her Majesty examines pieces of the set for Game of Thrones, of which she is a huge fan, during her visit to Titanic Studios in Belfast on June 24, 2014 …

10/ Every Sunday after church (and before lunch), Her Majesty drinks gin with her son and grand-daughters. Could this be the secret to her longevity? In this older photo, she toasts the Duke of Edinburgh to usher in the year 2000.

11/ Every year, rain or shine, and despite the effect of the cold on rheumatism, the Royal Family attends the Highland Games …

12/ And she’s still very happy! The Highland Games present opportunities for plenty of Royal laughs.

13/ Her Majesty and her corgis meet members of the New Zealand All Blacks XV rugby team at Buckingham Palace on November 5, 2002 …

14/ On November 22, 2006, the Queen met members of the Mohican tribe at Southwark Cathedral in London. The monarch was there for the funeral benediction of a Mohican chief who died in London in 1736. At that time, no foreigner who died in the city was allowed to be buried there. The chief was buried in an anonymous plot in the cathedral grounds.

15/ Visiting a factory in 2009, Elizabeth II presses a button to start a brand new cardboard box assembly plant. This was nothing new as the Queen was a mechanic during the Second World War and loves anything mechanical, especially automobiles.

16/ … For the opening of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 a double of Queen Elizabeth made a parachute jump at the stadium in Stratford …

17/ Visiting a Canadian factory in Ontario in July 2010, Elizabeth II discovered the latest functionality of the Blackberry. New technology does not faze the Queen; she sent her first tweet in 2014 (after having officially launched in 1997, the Crown website and been the subject of a hologram portrait earlier this century).

There are several more photos, but I’m running out of time!

However, there is enough material here to give us an idea of the very modern, active person that Queen Elizabeth is. What a great example she is to us all!

Queen Elizabeth II March 2015.jpgQueen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday, April 21.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Queen Elizabeth II was born in April, her official birthday is celebrated in June with the Trooping of the Colour.

I read some years ago that the date in June began with Edward VII, who was born in November.  The weather here was too inclement for him for public celebrations in late autumn, so he transferred it to the present time, although it did not appear to be the annual event that it is today.

As such, it is work as usual for the Queen this week in Windsor. Wednesday, April 20 marks the 500th anniversary of the Postal Service. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will visit the Royal Mail delivery office in William Street, Windsor. They will be able to meet postal workers who will explain how the latest technology enables more efficient service. Her Majesty will unveil a plaque marking the visit and The Royal Mail choir made up of frontline staff from Bristol will sing.

Afterwards, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will go to Alexandra Gardens to open the new bandstand. The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire will show them an exhibition about the bandstand and introduce them to local schoolchildren who helped to decorate it. The Queen will unveil a commemorative plaque.

On April 21, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will undertake a walkabout in Windsor. Her Majesty will unveil a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town. The Outdoor Trust designed the Walkway in honour of the Queen as Britain’s longest serving monarch on September 9, 2015.

That evening, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, will light a beacon and see two other beacons lit to begin a period of national birthday celebrations. Several hundred more will be lit around the country and a number of local councils will host beacon-lighting ceremonies open to the public.

The Radio Times reports that a very private birthday celebration will take place at Windsor Castle (16-22 April, p. 12). Actor and singer Julian Ovenden, 39, will be performing. Some might remember him from Downton Abbey; he played ‘the dashing’ (their words) Charles Blake. He is there partly thanks to his father, Canon John Ovenden, who was the Queen’s chaplain for 14 years until his retirement in 2012. As the family home adjoined the church where he took the services, the Ovenden family got to know members of the Royal Family who dropped by at Christmas for mince pies. Ovenden told the Radio Times he was not sure who else, if anyone, would be entertaining the Queen and her guests.

The Telegraph has information on 90th birthday events in May and June. Between May 12 and May 15, a pageant with 1,500 performers and 900 horses will take place in Windsor. The Queen will attend the final performance. All tickets have been allocated, but the event will be televised on ITV that evening.

Celebrations move to London in June. A Service of Thanksgiving will take place on June 10 at St Paul’s Cathedral. The event is private but will be televised. The Duke of Edinburgh turns 95 that day, incidentally.

On June 11, the Trooping of the Colour will take place in Horse Guards Parade, marking the Queen’s official birthday.

The Patron’s Lunch takes place in the Mall on June 12 and is the final major event of the Queen’s birthday celebrations. This street party and picnic lunch celebrates her patronage of over 600 charities. Most people attending will be charity workers.

Below is a retrospective of my posts about our remarkable monarch:

A look at the British Monarchy on the Queen’s official birthday (2011)

On the cusp of Diamond Jubilee Weekend — facts about the Queen and the 1950s (2012)

Prayers of thanksgiving for our gracious Queen on her Diamond Jubilee (2012)

‘Elizabeth the Great’ — Diamond Jubilee sentiments (2012)

Palace intrigue: background to Queen Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne (2013)

The Queen as you’ve never seen her (2015)

On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.

You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.

The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.

Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.

Greece – tsoureki

Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.

Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.

Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.

Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.

Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.

The Netherlands – Easter Men

With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.

She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.

Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.

Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.

This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.

The Philippines – lechon

Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.

May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.

For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.

May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.

Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.

May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.

The dish is also popular in Cuba.

England – roast lamb

Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.

Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.

He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.

The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.

He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.

Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!

Italy – Easter dove bread

Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.

The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.

To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.

The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.

Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.

I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.

Easter feast

Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.

They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.

Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.

I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.

As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.

On Monday, English home cook, author and former food journalist Mary Berry — star of The Great British Bake-Off and her own television shows (BBC) — introduced the British public to the traditions behind Good Friday and Easter foods.

The first of two episodes of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 saw her explore traditions in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland. I highly recommend it. Below is a synopsis of the first programme with additional information from other sources.

Berry, an Anglican, told us that she is a regular churchgoer. She said she goes to Sunday services because ‘it is important to give thanks’. Easter is her favourite religious feast. (Finally, there’s someone who loves Easter as much as I do.)

Easter is the Church’s greatest feast. It has always been celebrated, from the earliest days after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christmas celebrations did not come about until much later.

Hot cross buns

Berry went to St Albans Cathedral to find out more about hot cross buns.

The cathedral’s historian explained that, in England, the precursor of this bun was the Alban bun. In 1361, Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at St Albans Abbey, made highly spiced buns which the monks gave to the poor who appeared at the refectory door on Good Friday. The historian added that Brother Thomas was likely making peace with the locals who resented the Church. Monasteries at that time held an enormous amount of power.

St Albans Cathedral website tells us that their hot cross buns are still made locally — at Redbournbury Mill, which the abbey once owned. Anyone interested can find them the old fashioned way, by going to the Abbot’s Kitchen. They are available throughout Lent to Easter Monday.

The historian gave an Alban bun to Berry, who said it was much spicier than conventional hot cross buns. There is also no pastry or paste cross on the Alban bun, rather one which is formed with a knife before baking.

Although Berry and the historian did not discuss the significance of the bun’s ingredients, the spices symbolise those used to embalm Jesus after His crucifixion. I cannot find anything about the meaning of the dried fruit in them, but years ago, I read that it represents the gentle character of Jesus. I have also read that the fruit pieces suggest the drops of blood He shed for us.

For centuries, people ate hot cross buns only on Good Friday in contemplation of the Crucifixion. These days, sadly, they are available nearly all year round.

During the Reformation, England’s Protestants — and, later, Puritans — condemned the eating of hot cross buns as Catholic superstition. During Elizabethan times, one could only purchase them in London on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials.

Historians point out that fruit breads with a cross existed in ancient Greece. The cross made it easier to divide the bread into four pieces.

A number of superstitions about hot cross buns abound. As for them not going stale, I can assure you that they must be eaten within 12 to 18 hours. They get hard as a rock after that. And, yes, they also go mouldy.

Mary Berry makes hot cross buns for her family during Lent. The BBC has made her recipe available.

Jamaican bun

Berry spent time with Bettina, who is originally from Jamaica and belongs to a Baptist church in Nottingham.

Bettina makes Jamaican buns for the ladies at her church during Lent. They are actually large cakes, served in thin slices, often with Jamaican cheese. The buns are also very dark, because they have stout in them. This recipe looks like the one Bettina uses.

Escoveitch fish

Bettina also made a standard Good Friday dish of escoveitch (ceviche) fish for Berry to try. After marinating in a ceviche manner, Bettina pan fried the fish, basting it regularly. It looked delicious.

She served it with peppers, chocho and chilis. This recipe is like Bettina’s.

Bettina explained that marinating fish in vinegar dates back to the Moors, who introduced it to Spain. The Spanish, in turn, took the technique with them to the New World.

Russian devilled eggs and pascha

Berry met with a Russian Orthodox home cook and a priest, who explained how their Church observes Lent.

Father Peter explained that church members continue to follow the centuries-old vegetarian Lent, which starts two weeks earlier than the Catholic and Protestant one. They do not consume any food at all on Good Friday. Lenten fasting does not end until the Easter Vigil service ends, which is sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Afterwards, everyone — including children — enjoys a feast.

Holy Thursday, which the Orthodox call ‘Clean Thursday’, is a busy, yet contemplative day, Father Peter said. It is the traditional spring cleaning day and it is also when the Easter cake, pascha, is made. Pascha is the word for Easter.

Pascha is a cheesecake with dried fruit. It is put into a pyramid mould with a Russian Orthodox cross on one side and ‘XB’ (‘Christ is risen’) on the other.

Another Russian Easter favourite is the devilled egg. A home cook made this for Berry. It involves peeled hard boiled eggs which are left to steep in beet juice. The programme did not mention this, but the red juice symbolises Christ’s blood. After several hours, the eggs are cut in half, the yolks devilled and piped back into the egg white centres. Caviar is a favourite topping.

Babka

Berry went to meet a Polish family in Cambridgeshire. They explained the importance of getting their Easter food blessed at church on Holy Saturday. I wrote about that in 2010.

In addition to coloured eggs, onto which the children were busy etching designs, olives are also an important Easter food for the Poles, probably because of their egg-like shape. Both symbolise life.

The husband made Berry a babka, the traditional Easter cake, which takes three days to make properly. Most of that time involves the rise of the enriched dough, similar to a brioche. He used a babka mould, similar to a kugelhopf mould, and added a chocolate insert. You could use a bundt cake mould.

Those who do not care for chocolate can add dried fruit instead.

A number of babka recipes exist, however, I have not been able to find the one this man used, which is the traditional one. He used his mother’s and, watching him make it, that’s definitely the original. Beware of ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ babka recipes. If anyone can point to one, please share the recipe or a link by commenting below. Many thanks!

Incidentally, he explained that ‘babka’ is also a complimentary word for a woman and a gracious name for a grandmother.

I’ll watch next week’s show and let you know what else Mary Berry discovers in the world of Easter food traditions.

Following on from yesterday’s post on cuts of beef, today’s looks at cuts of pork.

It occurred to me that one response to these diagrams might well be, ‘So what?’ The dominance of supermarkets and closure of so many butcher shops over the past 30 to 40 years means that we are given a certain number of packaged cuts and that’s it. It’s a no-brainer.

However, the pig is an animal that can be eaten from head to tail. Knowing about the different cuts and their cooking methods will give you more confidence to ask for new cuts if you have a butcher or an ethnic market nearby.

What follows are links to diagrams and cuts for three different countries: Britain, the United States and France.

Britain

It seems to me that the British use more of the pig around the shoulder than the Americans do (see US diagram below).

P J and J Moore Butchers have a good diagram (scroll to the bottom of the page). One of my favourite cuts of meat is the collar, which, when boiled, gives an unctuous ham result. The British would call collar a bacon joint, but it tastes just like the boiled ham my grandmother used to prepare many years ago. The collar stock is worth keeping because it turns into aspic. Absolutely lovely. Any Americans living in Britain would enjoy it. And it’s very inexpensive. It should come with a good rim of fat. Cook it with the fat (to get the aspic) and trim it after cooking.

Recipes4Us.co.uk also has an excellent diagram with good descriptions and recipe ideas. The Ginger Pig has outstanding descriptions of pork cuts and cooking instructions.

Cook’s Info has a very good page with alternative names for parts of the pig that will be useful when visiting the butcher. I say that, because when I last went to buy ham hocks, ours asked me if I wanted the foreleg or the hindleg. ‘Uhhh,’ was my uneducated response! I walked out with two of both, although the hindleg definitely has more meat as you can see in the diagram. I would have taken more hindleg, but the Chinese families had already bought them. Our butcher said, ‘You have to get here early on Thursdays for hocks.’ Duly noted.

Speaking of butchers, if you want a professional perspective on all things pork, Pork for Butchers has what looks like a basic diagram until you click on one of the pork sections and drill down into the various cuts. You’ll then see a complete description of how they cut that piece of meat for the customer.

United States

The National Pork Board, which markets The Other White Meat® brand, has a helpful diagram. Run your cursor over the pictures to see what part of the pig the meat comes from and a brief description of the cut. Click on the picture and you will be transferred to a new page with more information on that cut of meat.

I shall now illustrate the importance of diagrams. My mother used to make the best country-style ribs. The British don’t have that type of cut. A butcher will have to prepare that for you. A couple of years ago, I was desperate for country-style ribs because they are so tender and meaty. I hadn’t seen these diagrams at that point and hadn’t a clue as to where the meat came from. I found a photo of what I wanted on a meat forum and took it into our butcher. He said, ‘These come from the loin, near the shoulder. The usual ribs come from the side.’ The side is the area around the belly.

Country-style ribs are really inexpensive and filling. I would highly recommend them to my British readers who have access to a butcher. If I remember rightly, six thick ribs cost £10 in 2014. I gave them a spicy rub, sliced an onion and put both into a Le Creuset pot with a lid, baking them for an hour at 170° C. I took them out, drained the fat and poured barbecue sauce over them, returning them to the oven — uncovered — for another 30 – 40 minutes at 160° C. Absolutely lovely and melt-in-the-mouth tender.

Clove Garden has an excellent page on every pork cut you can imagine, complete with photos and helpful descriptions. The text for country-style ribs says:

These are made from the rib section at the shoulder end of the whole loin. The spine is removed but leaving the feather bones above and the ribs below. The meaty part above the ribs is cut leaving half with the ribs and half with the feather bones. The two sections sliced crosswise about 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick and packed together. It is a meaty and economical cut for the budget conscious.  

It should be noted that Modern Farmer‘s Pork 101 says differently:

“Basically, it’s from the brisket area of the pig, if pigs had brisket — it’s basically a bone-in brisket,” says [Tom] Mylan [a butcher]. “You get the front part of the spareribs with a lot of meat.” The country-style spareribs contain a combination of dark and light meat.

Interesting. I think I would stick with the shoulder meat.

The Clove Garden page is extremely useful if one wants to step out of one’s comfort zone. It discusses where one can buy these cuts in Southern California.

One useful item for ballotines of pork loin is caul, a lacy, thin, fatty membrane. The British and French often wrap pork loin or rabbit ballotines in caul. The caul not only leaves the meat intact but also adds necessary fat to keep it moist. Clove Garden says:

It is held highly desirable for a number of European recipes as a wrapper that will automatically baste what it is wrapped around. The photo specimen, laid out, not stretched, on a 12 x 18 inch cutting board, weighed 4-3/8 ounces. It was purchased from the freezer cases of a large Asian market in Los Angeles.

I remember the days when pigs’ feet (trotters), either fresh or pickled, were available in virtually every US supermarket. They began disappearing in the 1980s. A good chef can cook them, remove the bone, stuff them with a pork or rabbit farce, braise them and serve with an unctuous sauce. I had them in London 15 years ago — one of my most memorable dinners ever. My American readers might appreciate this British recipe for stuffed trotters, which I’ll have to try. You can substitute other stuffings for the black pudding and chestnut.

Pigs’ trotters are difficult to work with, so I normally just boil them for a delicious aspic-like stock. I highly recommend them. They are also very reasonably priced. Our butcher gave them to me free once.

France

As with beef, the French also have different cuts of pork.

Clove Garden has an excellent page with four illustrations — North America, British, English and French — of pork cuts. This requires a lot of study and one will learn a lot.

Le Porc, which represents French pork producers, makes understanding French cuts easier, because whilst there are no translations, you can see photographs of what the end products look like when you click on a section.

Pork roasts in France look very different to British ones. They are neat, tidy, small and round — without crackling. They have just enough fat on them to keep the meat moist in the oven. This is very disappointing for the average Briton. What fun is a joint of pork without a thick rim of fat for crackling? That’s the best part!

The perfect crackling – recipe

It seems the only place one can get decent crackling is in Britain, and, even then, you won’t get it from most supermarket joints. Industrialised processing methods don’t produce pigs with enough fat.

If you want perfect crackling, you really need to specially order your pork joint from a butcher or buy it from an independent free range producer. Ideally, the rim of fat should be an inch thick. We ask our butcher to order ours from Orchard Farm Pork.

I use the Gary Rhodes method which he explained in his television show for the BBC back in the 1990s.

1/ Carefully cut off the crackling fat from the roasting joint, leaving just a thin rim of fat for the joint.

2/ Put the joint in a roasting pan and put the crackling fat in a separate, smaller roasting pan with sides.

3/ Sprinkle the crackling with a lot of salt on both sides, ensuring that it gets in between the cuts on the skin side. Rub the salt in so that it penetrates the fat whilst cooking.

4/ Put the crackling in five to 10 minutes before the roast, as it will need extra time to render and become crispy.

5/ Have an old teacup on hand when you drain rendered fat off the crackling. You will probably need to do this two or three times. A teacup is better than a bowl because it has a handle. Reserve some of the fat for roast potatoes to accompany your roast. Leave the rest of fat to cool. You can put it in a container later, preferably with a lid, and refrigerate for future use.

6/ Check the crackling when you take the roast out to rest. It might need more time. If so, leave it in the oven with the heat on at roasting temperature.

7/ Remove the crackling before you carve the meat. It will need time to cool. Make sure it is set aside from humid parts of the kitchen.

8/ High-quality crackling generally needs prodding with a knife to split into strips. If that does not work, use sturdy kitchen scissors with curved edges to cut it into pieces.

9/ When serving, place crackling portions away from gravy so that they do not get soggy.

10/ To reheat any leftover crackling, place the strips or pieces uncovered on a piece of aluminium foil or baking tray. Make sure either has sides (fold up foil to create edges) to collect any excess fat. Warm up in an oven heated to 150° C for 10 – 15 minutes. Let cool for five minutes before serving.

2016 marks The Daily Telegraph‘s 150th birthday. Its original name was The Daily Telegraph & Courier.

At the time of its launch in June 29, 1855, the telegraph had just been invented. It was the newest technological development and made a great name for a newspaper of the time.

Christopher Howse examined the paper’s letters to the editor through the centuries: 19th, 20th and 21st. His article is a must-read for history buffs.

When the paper started, London had no sewer system. This was the Telegraph‘s first cause. Thanks to the pressure the paper put on Parliament, Peter Bazalgette began working on designing the capital’s extensive and efficient network, still in place today.

The letters to the editor reflected the gravity of the crisis. Howse explains:

Michael Faraday, the scientist, had taken a steamer from London Bridge to Hungerford Bridge and published his findings: that the whole river was “a real sewer”. In the Telegraph, Mr [Francis] Francis [a celebrity of the day] retorted rather impatiently that “everyone who has been on the Thames, or seen it, or smelt it, has known the state of it for years”.

Subsequent worries of the British public were, surprisingly, similar to those of today — policing, pub hours and public transport (emphases mine):

readers began inundating the paper with questions like: “Where are the police?” (They often ask the same question today.) They demanded that pubs should stay open longer on Sundays, that an elephant called Jumbo should be saved from export to the United States, that street muggers who garrotted pedestrians by night should be dealt with severely, that omnibuses should be made roomier, that sea-bathers should emulate the ancient Greeks in unashamed nudity. All this was while Victoria was consolidating her Empire and WG Grace [cricketer] was benefiting from 100,000 shillings donated as a testimonial by readers.

I was shocked to read that muggers garrotted their victims.

Similarly surprising was the rough reputation Green Park (and St James Park) had — and would continue to have for the next century — until after the Second World War:

A man troubled by prostitutes wrote indignantly on November 17 1855 under the nom-de-plume “A Pedestrian”: “It is my business every evening to cross the Green Park, being the nearest way to Piccadilly from Westminster. I am constantly annoyed by prostitutes who frequent the paths as soon as it becomes dusk.”

Two things are notable in his letter. One is that Victorians were not at all too prim to discuss prostitution in a family newspaper. Second, poor old Mr Pedestrian’s troubles with prostitutes clearly came in for much mockery. “I have complained to the Police till I am tired of doing so, the only answer I get being: ‘Then you should go another way’.”

People often wrote using pseudonyms, especially when voicing concerns over crime:

A year later [1856], burglary in Hampstead was the problem, and a letter appeared on November 6 under the same headline: “Where are the police?” Using the name “A Constant Reader”, in a way that letter-writers are not allowed to do in the present day, the author of the letter averred that “within the last few weeks no less than two or three burglaries have been committed in this hitherto quiet and rural district, and, as usual, no police-constable was within hail at the time”.

A case of daylight assault was described in that year by another reader, from Marylebone, known only as “WA”. A friend had taken a shortcut to Edgware Road in London via Chapel Street (“one of the lowest streets in London,” according to WA).

“When she arrived at about the middle of this street, she was seized hold of by a man in a flannel jacket. She immediately requested him to leave her alone or she should give him into the custody of a policeman. Instead of complying, the man tried, with all his force, to drag her down a court, and she cried out to some persons standing by to assist her. Instead of their doing so they seemed to admire the scene. She appealed for help, protesting that she knew nothing of the man, but without avail. This scuffling must have occupied some time, as her clothes were partly torn from her body. During the struggle she kept crying out for the police, but none was forthcoming.

Wow. The Victorians were no different to us.

Howse takes the reader through letters on another Telegraph campaign — unfortunately unsuccessful — saving Jumbo the elephant from being taken to the United States by Barnum and Bailey. He looks at correspondence from Oscar Wilde, T S Eliot and Kingsley Amis. In the intervening decades, people wrote about swimsuits, working women, public transport and summer heat.

Of course, the majority of the letters would have been about politics, war and the economy.

However, Howse’s article paints a social portrait of Telegraph readers’ concerns, mostly forgotten in history books. It’s a revelation. It serves as proof of Ecclesiastes 1:9:

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

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