Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beating the Bounds

Photo courtesy: Sylvia Kent
The expression, "Beating the Bounds," rolls off our tongues so easily, yet how many of us know the origin? Following is an excerpt from Sylvia Kent’s fabulous book, Folklore of Essex. ISBN 0-7524-3677 5. The book also contains interesting facts on Boy Bishops, witches, maiden's garlands, dragons and warriors...and many, many more fascinating stories.
Beating the bounds at Rogationtide, a customs believed to date back to Saxon times, is enjoying a revival in many villages across the country. Covering the three days preceding Ascension Day, Rogationtide usually galls about forty days after Easter. In the days when people illiterate and maps were rate among the ordinary folk, parish boundaries were usually marked by steams, trees, hedges or large stones and Rogationtide was the time for children to learn where the markers were – with the help of a little beating. Traditionally, parishioners set off to walk round the boundaries in large groups of ‘gangs’ led by the parish priest, who carried the cross. The walkers stripped wands of willow from the trees, garlanded them with milkwort – still known as gang or rogation flowers – and used them to beat the boundary markers. The children in the gang were lightly beaten too, and were also ducked in the boundary ponds or streams – thus ensuring that their patch was imprinted on their memories.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Pomegranate - An Ancient Fruit

The pomegranate originated in Persia, present day Iran. This delicious and ancient fruit is mentioned in the Book of Exodus, and has been used for medical and culinary purposes for thousands of years. Chefs have used the arils in salads, curry sauces, and many other appetizing dishes. Juice from the pomegranate has been used as a refreshing drink in India and Iran for centuries.
Sometimes, dried pomegranate arils can be found in specialty food markets. They may contain the seed and residual aril water, maintaining a natural sweet and tart flavor. Dried arils can be used in several culinary applications, such as trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. During the months of September and February we are graced with the actual fruit. The fresh variety can be a little difficult to eat, sticky and quite messy. Following are a few hints on how to make the process easier.
Score the pomegranate with a sharp knife, and break it open exposing the arils. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water, because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A New Book from Barbara Wright

Four years in the making...and Barbara Wright has done it again! The event on February 8th at the Tattered Book Cover on Colfax Avenue in Denver was so well attended (more than 75 people) there were not enough chairs, and late comers had to stand. Barbara was her usual upbeat and happy self answering questions from the audience for over half an hour. When the questions finished, a long line formed around the room for signed copies of her book. It was a fun, interesting and informative evening.

Following is a summary of Crow, and a short bio on Barbara Wright.
CROW - published by Random House.  ISBN 978-0-375-86928-0

Growing up in the port city of Wilmington, N.C. in 1898, a 12-year old boy named Moses and his family are devastated by a racial riot and coup d'├ętat.

Part of a thriving African-American community, Moses lives with his father, a city alderman and journalist, his mother, a maid, and his grandmother, a former slave.

A white supremacist campaign for state government offices and an editorial by the editor of the black newspaper stir up the community to a boiling point, and Moses finds himself in the middle of escalating events that forever change life as he knows it.  Based on historical facts, CROW deals with an event long left out of history books, but essential to understanding the history of race relations in America.

Short bio

Barbara Wright grew up in North Carolina and has lived in France, Korea and El Salvador.  Her other novels include EASY MONEY (Algonquin) and PLAIN LANGUAGE (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), which won a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.  She lives in Denver with her husband and plays tennis and jazz piano. You can visit her online at www.barbarawrightbooks.com.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Age of Piracy

Photo taken on Maui at a Pirate Re-enactment

From Treasure Island to the Pirates of the Caribbean the silver screen has portrayed pirates as handsome, swash buckling, devil-may-care characters, but in reality they were cruel, blood thirsty criminals. For instance, Bartholomew Roberts, known to be particularly fierce, was armed to the teeth whenever he boarded a ship. Not only did he carry a pistol in each hand, but also had two pistols dangling from a black silk sash over his shoulder. Once on board, Bartholomew demanded all sea faring men to join his crew, or die. In particular, he wanted skilled labor such shipwrights, cooks, sail makers, and coopers. While on their travels, the pirates captured parrots and monkeys, and kept them in cages until they reached harbor. They used the animals as bribes, or to curry favor from officials in port.
Although the practice of piracy was primarily restricted to men, there have been a few women pirates:  Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Grace O’Malley, Mrs. Cheng, and a few others. O’Malley came from a seafaring family in Ireland, and was said to be, “famous for her stoutness of courage and person, and for sundry exploits done by her at sea.”
Mrs. Cheng, once a prostitute, married and sailed with her husband for six years until he died in 1807. After his death, she took command of the Red Flag Fleet which comprised almost 50,000, and continued terrorizing the South China Seas. It was not long before she took a younger man, Chang Pao as her lover. Eventually, she married him, and bore him a son. In 1810, at the request of Chinese officials, Portuguese and English warships combined forces, and made life very difficult for Mrs. Cheng and Pao. Finally, seeing all was lost, she negotiated amnesty for herself and her husband. Pao died at the age of thirty-six, but Mrs. Cheng lived in comfort to the ripe old age of sixty-nine.