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In the Western world, we increasingly hear that we should be consuming less meat.

Interestingly enough, our forebears would have enjoyed the luxury of eating meat at nearly every evening meal. That option was not open for many of them.

Meat — especially red meat — has dietary importance for humans at every stage in their lives.

Children and adolescents

A 2007 study showed that meat is vital for children and adolescents. The following study, summarised below, is from the September 1, 2007 issue of The Journal of the Dieticians Association of Australia and appears at The Free Library.

These are the key points (emphases mine):

* Optimal nutrition during the first years of life is crucial for optimal growth and development and, possibly, the prevention of chronic disease of adulthood.

* Iron-deficiency anaemia in childhood and adolescence is associated with serious adverse outcomes that may not be reversible, making detection and early treatment an imperative.

* Zinc plays a major role in cellular growth.

* Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the eyes and the immune system.

* Vitamin A is necessary for membrane stability, and zinc is essential for mobilisation of the beta-carotene. Vitamin A deficiency contributes to anaemia by immobilising iron in the reticuloendothelial system, reducing haemopoiesis and increasing susceptibility to infections.

* Like iron, iodine appears to be involved in myelin production and, hence, nerve conduction.

* Meat is a core food in the diet for children and adolescents because it provides significant amounts of these micronutrients.

Meat is essential in ensuring that nerve and motor development evolve for overall health, particularly for the myelin sheath, which a number of us will remember studying in our high school biology classes:

Development of functional activity may be associated with myelination. Many nerve fibres are covered with a whitish, fatty, segmented sheath called the myelin sheath. Myelin protects and electrically insulates fibres from one another and increases the speed of transmission of the nerve impulses. Myelinated fibres conduct nerve impulses rapidly, whereas unmyelinated fibres tend to conduct quite slowly. This acceleration of nerve conduction is essential for the function of the body and survival. In humans, the myelin sheath begins to appear around the fourth month of foetal development and first appears in the spinal cord before spreading to the higher centres of the brain. It is assumed that this myelination precedes functional activity. This paper considers micronutrient deficiency in the context of myelination and other developmental features to highlight the need for micronutrients which can be delivered in the diet through red meat.

Note: red meat.

Meat provides the following essential building blocks to good developmental health.

Iron

A young brain needs iron:

Iron is essential for brain development. Brain iron is stored preferentially in the extra pyramidal tracts and is laid down in the first 12 months of life. Once the blood-brain barrier closes, very little iron can be deposited in the brain and, hence, an adequate dietary intake of iron is essential during this critical period … Several studies have now shown that iron-deficient anaemic 6- to 24-month-old infants can score lower on tests of mental development compared with non-iron-deficient controls (13,19,20) and are at risk for poorer cognitive, motor, social-emotional and neurophysiological development at least in the short term. Furthermore, at least one study has shown that these deficits appear to be permanent. (19) These infants appeared to have reproducible deficits in body balance and coordination and in language skills, which could be interpreted as implying problems with nerve conduction and hence myelination

Required iron levels vary with the onset of adolescence. Boys need less. Girls need more:

With the slowing of growth, at the end of puberty, iron requirements decline. Although girls develop less extra muscle tissue than boys, menarche increases the need for iron, and this increased need continues throughout reproductive life. (37) The adolescent girl is therefore at risk for developing ID due to the combined effects of continuing growth, menstrual iron losses and a low intake of dietary iron.

Zinc

Zinc deficiencies can affect mental and physical health:

Zinc is also an essential nutrient for human health. Zinc plays a major role in cellular growth, where it is crucial in the enzyme systems necessary for the production of RNA and DNA. In the brain, zinc binds with proteins and is involved with both structure and function. Severe zinc deficiency in animals has been associated with significant malformations such as anencephaly and microcephaly, and with functional deficits such as short-term memory deficits and behavioural problems. (23) In humans, cerebella dysfunction, behavioural and emotional disturbances have all been described. (23) In spite of the proven benefits of adequate zinc nutrition, approximately 2 billion people still remain at risk of zinc deficiency. (6) When zinc is provided as a supplement to children in lower-income countries, it reduces the frequency and severity of diarrhoea, pneumonia, and possibly malaria. Moreover, studies have shown that children who receive zinc supplements have lower death rates. (6)

Vitamin A

Many children in the developing world lack adequate Vitamin A. Vitamin A needs zinc:

Vitamin A is necessary for membrane stability, and zinc is essential for mobilisation of the beta-carotene. Vitamin A deficiency contributes to anaemia by immobilising iron in the reticuloendothelial system, reducing haemopoiesis and increasing susceptibility to infections. Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the eyes as well as the immune system.

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with impaired humoral and cellular immune function, keratinisation of the respiratory epithelium and decreased mucus secretion, which weaken barriers to infection.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency is a worldwide problem:

Iodine deficiency is estimated to have lowered the intellectual capacity of almost all of the nations reviewed by as much as 10-15%. (6) In developed nations there has been a recent and disturbing increase in iodine deficiency, with as many as 25% of children and women of child-bearing age being deficient. (6) This increase has coincided with the declining dietary intake of iodized salt and also the elimination of iodophor-based cleaning compounds in commercial dairies. (25) Impaired physical and mental development is common. (26) Foetal iodine deficiency in the first and early second trimester of pregnancy results in retardation and deaf mutism, whereas in the early postnatal period, the main abnormalities are growth stunting and somatic abnormalities. (27) The hearing loss can be variable, depending on the age of onset, and can also be associated with dysarthria and other disorders of speechThe critical stage of foetal development for iodine appears to be around the 14th week of foetal lifeLike iron, iodine appears to be involved in myelin production and, hence, nerve conduction. This appears to be supported in animal model research where rats fed upon an iodine-deficient diet were found to have alterations in myelin basic protein immunoreactivity and hence function. (29) 

The paper’s summary makes salient points about meat and the types of necessary meat protein:

Meat plays a central role in the diet, providing a significant contribution to the intakes of 10 key nutrients: energy, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron and zinc. In young children, an over-dependence on milk may put young children at increased risk of poor iron status, owing to its displacement of iron-rich or iron-enhancing foods from the diet. This risk becomes nonsignificant when moderate to high amounts of iron-rich or iron-enhancing foods (e.g. meat and fruit, respectively) are also consumed. A study performed on infants in the UK has shown that the addition of meat powder to a weaning food has a marked enhancing effect on the absorption of iron, (38) which reinforces the fact that lean red meat is not only an appropriate weaning food but should be considered an essential food during the critical stages of brain development. Dietary diversification involves promotion of a diet with a wider variety of naturally iron-containing foods, especially red meat, poultry and fish. These foods have a high content of highly bioavailable haem iron, and thus are most appropriate for infants and children on weaning. Despite their widespread availability, foods from this group are not always used or may be diluted before use (e.g. meat is rich in iron but meat broth is not). Given the information above, however, it is reasonable to argue that meat is a core food in the diet for children and adolescents because it provides significant amounts of essential micronutrients.

Adult depression — and some physical ailments — linked to L-carnitine deficiency

We in the West seem to be undergoing a depression epidemic.

I know many people offine who are taking anti-depressants. We had fewer of these issues 40 years ago.

A Stanford Medicine study published on July 30, 2018 links depression to a lack of L-carnitine, an amino acid that the body produces naturally. Natalie Rasgon’s study showed that patients responded positively within days to acetyl-L-carnitine supplements to ease their depression. By contrast, anti-depressants can take a few weeks to be effective.

She says that, although L-carnitine supplements are available at health food shops, more research needs to be done to find out exactly what L-cartinine supplements will help.

WebMD explains that low L-carnitine levels can be genetic or related to medicines. Ultimately:

The body can convert L-carnitine to other amino acids called acetyl-L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine. But, no one knows whether the benefits of carnitines are interchangeable. Until more is known, don’t substitute one form of carnitine for another.

WebMD also lists physical ailments that can arise from low L-cartinine levels:

L-carnitine is used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including heart-related chest pain, congestive heart failure (CHF), heart complications of a disease called diphtheria, heart attack, leg pain caused by circulation problems (intermittent claudication), and high cholesterol.

Some people use L-carnitine for muscle disorders associated with certain AIDS medications, difficulty fathering a child (male infertility), a brain development disorder called Rett syndrome, anorexia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, overactive thyroid, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leg ulcers, Lyme disease, and to improve athletic performance and endurance.

However, eating meat might be the simplest way to help increase natural L-cartinine levels.

According to a 2004 abstract from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ‘Species and muscle differences in L-carnitine levels in skeletal muscles based on a new simple assay’, red meat — especially deer, horse and goat — has the highest levels of this essential amino acid:

We have adapted the enzymatic method [Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 176 (3) (1991) 1617] for the safe and rapid assay of L-carnitine (L-CA) in skeletal muscle using a microplate reader. The concentration of L-CA in fresh semitendinosus muscle from broiler chicken, pig, beef cattle, deer, horse and goat muscle were 0.69, 1.09, 1.86-3.57, 4.57, 4.95 and 11.36 μmol/g wet weight, respectively. The animals which had higher concentration of L-CA, also had the highest amounts of myoglobin as an index to the redness of the muscle. Furthermore, we investigated this relationship between white muscle, M. pectoralis profundus, and red muscle, M. soleus, in laying hens. The L-CA and myoglobin concentration in red muscle were significantly higher than those in white muscle (p<0.01). These findings suggest that L-CA concentration in muscle is related to oxygen metabolism and to myofiber types.

Conclusion

It’s time to stop obsessing over eating meat, especially red meat, which has been a no-no for decades.

Red meat helps to ensure good health — at any stage of life.

Enjoy it.

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It is exasperating to watch American cooking shows or read cooking magazines with their constant mentions of store-bought meat or seafood stock.

There is no reason why we cannot prepare our own at home. It is a responsible, simple and economical use of the meat and seafood that we purchase.

In our household, we use stock all the time, not only for sauces and gravies but also for cooking vegetables and potatoes. Stock adds much more flavour than water and, if you make it yourself, it’s free.

What follows are stock tips!

Basics

Professional chefs say, ‘Stock boiled is stock spoiled’. That said, I have not noticed any difference in taste if I’ve inadvertently left the stock pot boiling.

To further reduce the liquid and intensify the flavour, keep simmering for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Leave the finished stock to cool and absorb more flavour overnight. If your kitchen is very warm, decant everything into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate.

The next day, strain the stock into a large mixing jug and use a funnel to decant into a clean soda/mixer/spirits bottle. Put the cap on and refrigerate.

To freeze stock, use small plastic containers with lids.

Stock made without aromatics — e.g. herbs, vermouth — will stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least two, if not three, weeks.

Stock with aromatics — and fish/seafood — will last a few days in the fridge but should be frozen if you have no plans to use it immediately. They go mouldy remarkably quickly.

I used to add port or Noilly Prat to meat and seafood stock, respectively, but I don’t bother anymore. I didn’t think they added much flavour to the stock and were put to better use once in making a sauce.

Fish and seafood

Chefs advise against using bones from oily fish (i.e. salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring) for stock. As for seafood, any lobster, crab, prawn or crayfish shells can be used. They can also be combined for enhanced flavour.

Fish

Bones from bass, bream and other white fish make good stock which can be used for fish sauces or stews.

As the bones do not supply a robust flavour, use a smaller saucepan. Put the bones and heads, if you have them, into the pan, add water to cover and let cook over medium-low heat just until they come up to the boil. This takes about 45 minutes. Turn down the heat, season with salt and pepper and allow the stock to simmer for another 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how concentrated you want the flavour to be.

Let rest overnight or refrigerate before straining the next day.

Seafood

Generally, one can adopt Guy Fieri‘s ‘Everybody in the pool!’ here, with a few exceptions outlined below.

Seafood shells can also be combined with fish bones for extra flavour.

Crab and lobster: Both have feathery looking ‘dead man’s fingers’ — lungs — which are toxic. Remove and discard them before adding the rest of the shells to the stock pot.

Lobster: Depending on where you live, tomalley (from the Caribbean ‘tumali’) — the green stuff (liver, pancreas) in the head — may be dangerous or a delicacy. The US and Canada have warned people not to eat it because it is toxic and can cause paralysis. As we have no such restrictions in the UK, I add it to my sauces rather than the stock pot. In short, if you live in North America, throw it out with the dead man’s fingers. Those living elsewhere can use their own discretion. Tomalley, when untainted, has a marvellous, highly concentrated lobster flavour. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Prawns: The heads have the most flavour, so be sure to add them along with the shells. However, the larger the prawn, the larger the waste canal. The really huge ones sometimes have waste slipping into the head. You can remove this with a kitchen towel and put the head in the pot. On that subject, once you remove the shell, carefully slide a knife lengthwise down the centre of the back of the prawn and prise out the waste canal. Discard immediately.

Skim any froth when cooking. Leaving it in may cause flatulence.

The higher the density of shells, the greater the flavour. Follow the instructions under Basics above for length of cooking, resting and decanting.

Meat

Sunday roasts are a staple in our house. They also mean we can have roast dinner the first half of the week, requiring simple reheating and fewer pots and pans. If more people roasted meat, they’d find cooking less of a chore. In most cases, it really is only a matter of putting a joint of meat into a roasting tin and sticking it in the oven unattended for 90 minutes at 180° C (350° F).

Roasted bones

Before carving the meat, have a large pot set aside so that you can put any bones into it straightaway. That way, you free up room on the tray as you carve.

This applies to poultry (including the carcass), beef, veal and pork.

Follow the instructions under Basics above for length of cooking, resting and decanting.

Raw bones

Escoffier advised that one should always sear raw bones with a bit of fat in a frying pan before making stock with them.

Not only does the caramelisation add flavour but one also avoids the semi-solid lumps of meat and blood by-products that spoil stock’s appearance.

Making stock with raw bones takes 30 – 45 minutes longer because they need to be thoroughly cooked. After cooking, follow the instructions under Basics above for length of cooking, resting and decanting.

Why use raw bones? If you are stuffing chicken legs, breasts or pork chops — or curing your own bacon from pork belly — you can put the bones to good use rather than throwing them in the bin.

Ham

Taking a tip from my grandmother, I always boil rather than roast a ham. The cooking water can be decanted for stock and makes a great base for soup.

Ham stock is also excellent for cooking black eyed peas.

Mixed stock

Purists often like to keep stock isolated by meat type, however, a professional chef on television recently used a combination of poultry and pork stock from the same container.

Because I sometimes have more stock than will fit in one bottle, I have another bottle on hand for the excess. My most flavoursome stock was a mix of chicken, pork and duck. I used it to make a soup which required very little extra seasoning.

So, yes, you can combine various meat stocks!

Aspic-like stock

For gelatinous stocks, use cooking liquid from boiled bacon (ham) collar, pig trotters (your butcher can supply these) and poultry wings. Once chilled, the liquid becomes jelly-like.

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I hope these suggestions pique more interest in the versatility of homemade stock. You’ll be delighted at the flavour they add!

The other night we saw the first in a three-part series on BBC4, Britain’s Oldest Businesses.

The first in the programme profiled R J Balson and Son from Bridport, Dorset. Richard Balson is the current proprietor. He works together with his brother-in-law Rudi Boulay. The programme revealed that Richard Balson understood the business to date from 1535. However, a subsequent discovery, shown in the programme, dates back to 1515.

A year away from half a millenium of meat sales

The Balson website includes old family photographs of the shop and their first ‘modern’ 20th century delivery vehicle. It’s a short but fascinating read and, if the show is rerun (let’s hope it airs on PBS), it’s worthwhile recording for later viewing at home.

We learned that the first two documents dating the business referred to those Balson men being granted a stall at Bridport’s shambles, where butchery was done live in the main thoroughfare. More about shambles later in the post.

We also learned that market days — the only time butchery was allowed — were Wednesday and Saturday. Therefore, if you wished to make a living by selling meat, you often had to have another job.

One of Balson’s more recent ancestors from the 19th century ran a pub. He was able to sell  more meat through the pub. (These days, outsiders go in to pubs to sell meat of unknown provenance, possibly stolen, at very low prices. Caveat emptor — buyer beware.) However, this proves that selling meat in the pub is an old tradition. It would be interesting to find out how many butchers ran pubs before they were allowed to open a shop throughout the week.

Another detail viewers learned was that the abundance of carcasses on display was generally photographed in the run-up to Christmas as a retail incentive.

Currently, a Balson relative living in the US sells meat from the family firm online. He still has the old date of 1535 in the banner heading.

The Telegraph has a good article — albeit with a misspelling of Thomas More’s name — about the Balson family business:

Although he’s interested in his business’s claim to fame, Richard Balson has never had the time to think about starting a history project. A butcher’s life is busy from cradle to grave. He grew up above the shop and remembers his father warning him from an early age that the Balson butchers never earned enough for a retirement …

Next year he will own a business that has been in the same family for half a millennium. Still, it’s not all good news: “Nothing exciting happened that year [1515], except the birth of Anne of Cleves,” he says despondently.

More disturbing information is in store for Balson, whom we follow in the first part of the series. He becomes increasingly hooked as the story unravels: the shop has, quite miraculously it seems, survived a rather bloody history. One of the Balson butchers lived with a married woman and “had his head blown off” by her 10-year-old son [an accident]; another was sent to a Victorian asylum for electric shock treatment before cutting his own throat [in a wash house, the precursor to a launderette]. What makes these stories close to the bone, as it were, is that they all lived and worked in the same space – as indeed did Balson with his own father.

The Shambles — first butchery sites

‘The Shambles’ was the name for mediaeval and subsequent butchers’ stalls until the 18th or 19th century, depending on the town or city.

A few places by that name still exist today in England — York has The Shambles and Little Shambles thoroughfares. Manchester has Shambles Square.

As the documentary on the Balsons showed us, shambles were set up in the main shopping — high — street in a central location. They were often roofed structures but might have been held up only by columns in some cases to allow freer passage of livestock to slaughter.

Farmers brought in their beasts to be slaughtered and butchered on market days. In principle, the documentary told us, the animals could be cut to order. Any meat not sold on that day could be salted — similar to corned beef — or sent to the local lepers, which was undoubtedly seen as an act of Christian charity; otherwise they might have starved.

However, the shambles represented a hygiene problem over the centuries. Whilst the blood and faecal waste from the animals could flow off into the recesses of the street, in time, cholera and other diseases were rife in these districts. Yet, it would not be until the 18th century when the ‘Godless’ Enlightenment (as many 21st century American fundamentalists perceive it as a whole) would enable town planning and some degree of cleanliness. At that point, Bath being one example, the shambles were removed from the public square and placed indoors with separate slaughter or butchery facilities at the rear of the shops. Some animals were killed offsite and brought into town. In the late 19th century, butchers were among the first to be able to purchase and benefit from refrigerated cold stores to keep meat fresh throughout the week. From that point on, many meat shops were open five or six days a week.

Shambles — etymology and current meaning

The American Heritage Dictionary traces the word ‘shambles’ as follows (emphases in bold mine below):

A place or situation referred to as a shambles is usually a mess, but it is no longer always the bloody mess it once was. The history of the word begins innocently enough with the Latin word scamnum, “a stool or bench serving as a seat, step, or support for the feet, for example.” The diminutive scamillum, “low stool,” was borrowed by speakers of Old English as sceamol, “stool, bench, table.” Old English sceamol became Middle English shamel, which developed the specific sense in the singular and plural of “a place where meat is butchered and sold.” The Middle English compound shamelhouse meant “slaughterhouse,” a sense that the plural shambles developed (first recorded in 1548) along with the figurative sense “a place or scene of bloodshed” (first recorded in 1593). Our current, more generalized meaning, “a scene or condition of disorder,” is first recorded in 1926.

A webpage on the history of York adds that ‘shamel’ also referred to:

Flesshammel, which means to do with flesh – it was the street of the butchers. In 1872 the number of butchers was recorded as 26. This figure dwindled over the years until the last butcher standing was Dewhurst at number 27 the Shambles.

Unfortunately, the nationwide Dewhurst chain disappeared in 1995. I remember seeing them in many towns and London boroughs when I first moved to England. However, the Vestey Group which, although British, branched out into large-scale South American food ventures instead of investing in the UK. They:

developed the country-wide Dewhurst the Butchers chain of butchers shops, which was eventually disbanded in 1995 in the face of increasing competition from the supermarket chains. Dewhurst were the first to introduce the innovation of glass windows on butcher’s shops – previously meat had been exposed to the elements and pollution.

Picture of the Shambles York England

Since 2011, a few Dewhurst shops have made their way back onto the high street thanks to another company stepping into the breach.

I was in York’s Shambles on a visit 20 years ago. I remember we all laughed at the street sign which read:

The Shambles

We didn’t know what it meant, even though we were all steeped to an extent in English history.

However, as the York website explains:

It is said that in certain points you can reach out of the top window and shake hands with a person doing the same daft thing in the house opposite! But if you had walked the length of this street, say, 300 years ago, it would have been a very different experience! Livestock would have been kept behind the shops and slaughtered on site.

Later, when York had the cattle market it meant that cattle no longer lived behind the shops, but the slaughterhouses remained and the cattle were driven in on foot from the market. The middle of street would have been an open gutter and the waste from the butchers was washed out of the shops and into the street. Number 31 has a sloping floor for this reason.

Gardy-loo!

There was also another hazard — human waste from the bedpans and chamberpots. Younger readers should realise there were no toilets at the time. Sorry, but this has to be said. We don’t know how fortunate we are to be living in our times.

In Edinburgh at the same time, there was a common saying among the locals living in similarly crowded conditions, where disease was also rife. Housekeepers and housewifes would empty the chamberpots and bedpans, quickly calling out, ‘Gardy-loo!’ I have heard several historical explanations of this, but the most likely seems to be a corruption of the French, ‘Gardez l’eau!’ or ‘Mind — pay attention to — the water’, not unlike the ancient fencing expression, ‘En garde!’

York’s website says much the same thing:

domestic waste would have been thrown down from the windows above to either drain into open ditches, or stagnate in the road. Manure was collected at night, but no great effort was made to take it very far away. The terribly unhygienic conditions led to several outbreaks of cholera, and yet it was not until the 20th century that changes were made.

It was not until the 20th century that ‘changes were made’ because Bazalgette’s modern sewage and sanitation system of its many u-bends was perfected in the 19th century in London. It made a near-immediate change for the better in the hygiene of London’s residents and was no doubt sent across the country as the way forward.

Never laugh when people talk about the benefits of modern toilet, drainage and water sanitation systems. You would not be reading this if they were not in place.

York: St Margaret Clitherow, butcher’s wife — and priest holes

Whilst in York, strolling along The Shambles, I don’t know if I knew there was a slaugherhouse (abbatoir) behind Nos. 37 and 38.

However, I did see the overhang of upper storeys of the centuries-old buildings:

There remain examples of late medieval buildings in the Shambles, which represents a good example of how houses – topped by overhanging “solars” through which it was hoped that sunlight might be brought through the windows into burgesses’ living quarters – were sometimes within arms’ reach of each other.

Margaret Clitherow.pngTo the dismay of my Anglican companions, I — a fellow Anglican — did visit St Margaret Clitherow’s shrine at Nos. 35 and 36:

Margaret Middleton married John Clitherow, a widowed butcher who had his business at number 35. After her marriage Margaret converted to Catholicism. These were turbulent times for religion, with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the continued religious warring throughout the reigns of his children. Margaret gave shelter to travelling Priests, and conducted Mass for local Catholics in her home. Warned and imprisoned for her continual refusal to conform to the protestant way of life, she continued with her activities.

The inspectors would count the windows outside the houses and compare them to the count inside, to see if an area had been concealed to hide a priest. On the evidence of a frightened child they arrested Margaret and charged her with providing cover for the Priests and with practicing Catholicism. She was offered a trial, but she insisted she had no crime to answer to, and so was sentenced to death. To be crushed to death in the prison under Ouse bridge.

Rather than be naked, she made herself a shift of white linen. She lay with a large stone placed in the small of her back and a door was laid upon her body. Stones were piled upon the door until she was dead. She was canonized on October 25th 1970, and her right hand can still be seen in the Bar Convent museum.

I didn’t know about the Bar Convent museum, but visiting her former home was moving. I could feel a chill, which normally hasn’t happened to me in other such places, e.g. the Roman Catacombs. Perhaps this was because the martyrdom was more recent. I cannot say.

My Anglican friends must have felt something, too, because two stepped away quickly and the other suggested a quick exit. I stayed on to read what was written about her and was increasingly moved by her life.

By the way, there were such things as ‘priest holes’. Some were hidden by a heavy stone concealing door with a false appearance on one side. The priest, with some physical effort, could move the stone door, carefully find the staircase to a lower storey — i.e. cellar — and remain there indefinitely as long as someone brought him food, drink and candles. The stone door made the cellar soundproof and rendered the clergyman invisible for all intents and purposes.

Elizabeth I, the reigning Queen, was outraged that Margaret Clitherow had been sentenced to death. St Margaret Clitherow’s Wikipedia entry says:

She was born as Margaret Middleton,[3] the daughter of a wax-chandler, after Henry VIII of England had split the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. She married John Clitherow, a butcher, in 1571 (at the age of 15) and bore him three children. She converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of 18, in 1574. Her husband John was supportive (he having a brother who was Roman Catholic clergy), though he remained Protestant.[4] She then became a friend of the persecuted Roman Catholic population in the north of England. Her son, Henry, went to Reims to train as a Roman Catholic priestA house in the Shambles once thought to have been her home, now called the Shrine of the Saint Margaret Clitherow, is open to the public (it is served by the nearby Church of St Wilfrid’s and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough); her actual house (10 and 11, the Shambles) is further down the street.

she was executed by being crushed to death – the standard punishment for refusal to plead – on Good Friday 1586. The two sergeants who should have killed her hired four desperate beggars to kill her. She was stripped and had a handkerchief tied across her face then laid out upon a sharp rock the size of a man’s fist, the door from her own house was put on top of her and slowly loaded with an immense weight of rocks and stones (the small sharp rock would break her back when the heavy rocks were laid on top of her). Her death occurred within fifteen minutes but her body was left for six hours before the weight was removed. After her death her hand was removed, and this relic is now housed in the chapel of the Bar Convent, York. Following her execution, Elizabeth I wrote to the citizens of York expressing her horror at the treatment of a fellow woman. Because of her sex, she argued, Clitherow should not have been executed.

From this, I gathered that St Margaret Clitherow would have been a patron saint of butchers. However, she is the patron saint of businesswomen, converts, martyrs and the Catholic Women’s League.

Patron saints of butchers include: St Adrian of Nicomedia, St George, St Peter (the Apostle) and  St Anthony the Abbot as well as St Luke, the Gospel writer.

Burgesses

There are some mysteriously and absolutely foul revisions of the word ‘burgess’ in the Urban Dictionary. Some are simply unkind and others are scatalogical. None of them has a link to history and the original meaning of the word. Therefore, I have not supplied a link to them.

Wikipedia has an international definition, encompassing Europe and the Middle East:

Burgess is a word in English that originally meant a freeman of a borough (England) or burgh (Scotland). It later came to mean an elected or unelected official of a municipality, or the representative of a borough in the English House of Commons.

It was derived in Middle English and Middle Scots from the Old French word burgeis, simply meaning “an inhabitant of a town” (cf. burgeis or burges respectively). The Old French word burgeis is derived from bourg, meaning a market town or medieval village, itself derived from Late Latin burgus, meaning “fortress[1] or “wall”. In effect, the reference was to the north-west European medieval and renaissance merchant class which tended to set up their storefronts along the outside of the city wall, where traffic through the gates was an advantage and safety in event of an attack was easily accessible. The right to seek shelter within a burg was known as the right of burgess.[2]

The term was close in meaning to the Germanic term burgher, a formally defined class in medieval German cities, (Middle Dutch burgher, Dutch burger and German Bürger). It is also linguistically close to the French term Bourgeois, which evolved from burgeis. An analogous term in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu is برج ‘burj’ or ‘borj’, which in itself variously means a high wall, a building, or a tower.

The term is also related to burglar, though this developed in the opposite direction in terms of social respectability.

From my reading of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Young Stalin, the Russians also had a similar word, burgis.

The burgess’s status was underneath that of the alderman’s — alder, elder — who was his superior. However, the burgess was the precursor to the merchant class. As Wikipedia cites, the verses of the ancient song Greensleeves point out:

Thy purse and eke thy gay guilt knives, thy pincase gallant to the eye: No better wore the Burgesse wives, and yet thou wouldst not love me.

About.com gives a simpler definition:

A burgess was a landowner or householder in a town or borough. Burgesses paid their share of any communal dues and expenses and therefore shared in town privileges.

The term derives from the word borough (and its alternate pronunciations), as does burgher. Burghers and burgesses were different, however, in that burgesses had special privileges that derived from their support of the community.

Today, we still have boroughs (e.g. London and New York City) as well as aldermen (e.g. Chicago).

The Medieval English Urban History glossary defines burgesses as:

town residents contributory towards the customary payments due the king from boroughs, later in the Middle Ages its varied application does not suggest a precise, universally agreed, technical definition. Broadly, however, it referred to residents of a borough, usually those residents who were members of the borough community in terms of sharing in communal responsibilities and rights; hence we often find the term “comburgess” used, to emphasise that an individual was a fellow member of the enfranchised community (although the term also came to be used, on occasion, to refer to burgesses of higher status). At Lynn the poorest townsmen were clearly described as non-burgesses, “burgesses” evidently being equated with those residents who had become freemen; this appears also the case in Ipswich. Yet in Colchester the same class of poorer residents was described as being burgesses. Outsiders (“strangers” or “foreigners”) were sometimes allowed to acquire some of the same – notably commercial – privileges by entering the franchise under the special status of “foreign burgess”. Towards the end of the Middle Ages “burgess” was more likely to be used to distinguish one group of privileged townsmen from a less privileged group.

There was a fine line between ‘advantages of burgesses’ — a burgess was a freeman — and a ‘monopoly’ on trading. Burgesses became wealthy because they could share in the proceeds of market trade, as this example from old Norwich (Norfolk) municipal laws says, in modern English:

It was a fundamental right of freemen to be able to claim a share in any mercantile bargain made by one of their fellows, if they were present when the bargain was made. Only in special cases could they claim a share if not present. The use of multiple representatives undermined this equal shares principle, and favoured the urban upper class, which supplied most bailiffs – perhaps explaining the final clause of this chapter, suggesting that the bailiffs might be reluctant to investigate such abuses in absence of a specific complaint, and producing a statement of the source of political authority in towns.

Perhaps this is the source of European class conflict, which might well have started centuries ago. Let it further be emphasised that local lords or kings actually owned the land granted to the care of burgesses to rent — tenements (somewhat different to the early 20th century meaning) — on their behalf.

On a lighter note …

The city of Manchester’s website has a photographic history of their Shambles Square. If you scroll down one-quarter or one-third down the page, you will see Ye Olde Fyshing Tackle Shoppe.

The next photo shows that a Will Chambers owns it (look for the postcard reproduced with Jason Kennedy’s permission).

The following postcard or photo shows the same building at a slightly different angle. Could the writing on the card be from Will Chambers? It is certainly signed Will. It says — in as much as I can make out:

Dear Froggy cum [‘with’ — Latin] sausage cum roast beef, how the dickens are you, have your muscles grown any, are you quite well, anything fresh, if so let me know, you owe me a letter, you [are] usually so punctual, what do you think of your new nephew, both [mother and son] are doing well.

We’ve been ordering free-range turkey — the bronze breed (black feathered bird) — for at least ten years.

The first time we roasted it, it cooked quite quickly. An 11-pound (5 kilo) bird took only 1 hour 45 minutes — a pleasant surprise.

So, it was with some confusion that I read the cooking instructions with the free-range turkey — another bronze — which we ordered this year for Thanksgiving. The instructions from the farm suggested 2 hours 45 minutes. I ignored that and, once again, it was done in 1 hour 45 minutes.

Bottom line — your free-range turkey might well take less time to roast than you think — possibly 45 minutes to an hour less. It will certainly take less time than an intensively-raised bird. As free-range birds are considerably more expensive than the usual supermarket or name-brand variety, it’s worth planning ahead to get everything ready a bit earlier; nothing would be more heartbreaking for a host to serve dry turkey. Free-range is so moist and juicy when properly roasted. It also has much more texture than the ordinary variety.

Preparation tip

Realising that turkey is a North American and British favourite, readers of other nationalities might be less sure about it.

What follows is my method of preparing the bird for roasting which will guarantee an unforgettable roast and make a few converts.

This method does involve putting your hand between the turkey skin and the meat. If you’re queasy about this, just mix the first five ingredients below and massage it over the surface of the turkey:

60 g (3 tbsp) soft butter

1 – 2 tbsp herbs (no stems): thyme, sage, parsley, winter savoury (or your choice)

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp salt

1 tsp poultry seasoning or Old Bay

5 or 6 bay leaves or sage leaves

—————————-

1/ Mix first five ingredients together in a small bowl.

2/ Working from the neck end (i.e. not the cavity where you place stuffing) carefully insert your hand between the skin and the flesh, gently nudging the skin loose to make a small pocket for the butter and bay or sage leaves. Try to get as far as the middle of the breast and into the top part of the drumstick without tearing the skin. This is not always easy with free-range birds which have firmer skin.

3/ After you have made your pockets, put 1/2 the butter in the legs — evenly divided between the two.

4/ Put the other half of the butter equally divided between the breast skin and flesh.

5/ Place the bay or sage leaves where you put the butter, again inserting your hand under the skin to reach the drumsticks and breast. If you can, make a pleasing, symmetrical arrangement.

6/ You should not need to baste or butter the outside of the bird whilst it is roasting — a plus.

7/ When the turkey is roasted, you will be able to see the leaves through the evenly bronzed skin, which makes for an agreeable design whilst adding a gently herbed flavour to the meat.

This might not be a new idea anymore for turkey or chicken, where it works equally well (especially with chopped onions and garlic), but I’ve been doing it since the 1980s having either read about the technique in a magazine or seen it on television. (I’ve long forgotten.) Over the past ten years, I have seen more chefs doing it on telly.

I hope that your roast turkey is all you hope it will be and that your guests will be equally pleased.

grilled-meat-scienceblogscomWho is the enigmatic Lame Cherry?  No one knows for sure, although I have a few guesses.  This eccentric American blogger quotes Scripture one minute and gets quite earthy about political goings-on the next.  One thing is certain: Lame Cherry likes down-home, healthful food.

Have a taste of his recent post, ‘Grill for the health of it’:

The happiest and most content people I know in life not fretting about things are Bible owners, gun owners, meat eaters over charcoal fires and gardeners in that combination.News Flash: Life kills you as everybody checks out and as Orson Welles once related that his doctor told him unless he stopped eating meat, drinking wine, eating cream and smoking cigars he would die.

The reason for this blog is the current warning that charcoaling meat can kill you.

Welles was telling this story with his typical sparkling eyes 20 years later, still smoking, drinking and eating beef.

Lame Cherry continues:

If you have a small store sometime, just note the meats sometime which are on display. You can remember marbling or fat content enough. I did this over a period of time once and noted the same meats were still in the case for weeks at a time and not spoiling…

Before those deluded veg heads start chanting how healthy they are, the same preservatives are fumigated into most veggies and fruits. So if your produce is not decomposing in days like it should, then, sweetness, you are being poisoned by a different breed of toxins.

God didn’t set aside an 8th day to stuff anti caking agents into salt or sugar, no more than he injected nitrites into pork, chicken and beef.  God gave you salt, so use it and enjoy it.

He goes on to tell you how to build your own grill, which could be useful in our upcoming days of austerity, then:

Follow up with homemade ice cream of your own flavour and the Lord has never eaten any better.

Grill and grill often as it delights the soul in accomplishment and even if you burn the things they still taste good.

Well, I just made mint chocolate chip ice cream and am looking forward to a long, hot summer in the UK!  (‘Would a Mr Al Gore please report to the white courtesy phone.’)

So, with the weather warming up, let’s get grilling!

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