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OK, I’ll admit it. I’m putting off the decorating. We’re re-painting our flat, an activity that I initiated, but I get really bored with sanding, priming and painting the trim. But I have been researching Pat Sullivan’s Felix the Cat. He was the first animated character to draw cinema audiences (of adults) and was hugely popular in the 20′s, in fact more popular than the live silent movie stars and world leaders of the same era.
Here’s Felix in Fairyland, a feature length cartoon from 1923.
There were also several popular songs written about him. Paul Whiteman was the leader of dance bands in the 1920′s and produced recordings that were immensely successful, including Felix! Felix! Felix the Cat!
Felix, Felix, Felix the Cat,
Welcome, welcome, home to our flat.
You fascinate me with your funny meow;
I’ll feed you catnip and sweet milk from the cow.
Felix, Felix, in our backyard,
You can hang up your hat.
Make your pillow underneath a pussywillow,
Felix, Felix the Cat!
Recorded by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, 1928 with Bix Biederbecke on trumpet.
OK, back to my decorating. As an incentive, I’ll be thinking of some more Felix the Cat stuff to blog about!
Eggnog is one of a few nostalgic, must have holiday treats from my childhood. As a kid, I remember getting cartons of eggnog from the supermarket at Thanksgiving and Christmas and loving it. And when I got older, spiking it with rum or brandy.
Since I can’t buy eggnog in the UK, I made some for our 2nd annual Dessert Party a couple of weeks ago. The homemade version is so much better than store bought and well worth the effort.
- 6 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- Additional grated nutmeg for garnish
Combine eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3- or 4-quart pan, whisking until well-combined. Continue whisking while pouring milk in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Turn on burner to lowest possible heat setting. Place pan on burner and stir mixture continuously until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160° F and the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be patient. This should take about 45 to 60 minutes.
Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove any accidental small cooked bits of egg. Add vanilla extract and nutmeg, stirring to combine. Pour into a glass pitcher, decanter, or container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate this egg custard mixture to chill at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before finishing.
Just before serving, stir in the whipped cream and sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg.
Eggnog may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk. The “nog” part of its name may stem from the word “noggin”, a Middle English term used to describe a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol.
The ingredients for the drink were expensive in England, so there it was popular mainly among the aristocracy. Those who could get milk and eggs to make eggnog mixed it with brandy or Madeira or even sherry. The drink crossed the Atlantic to the English colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute.
The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America. When the supply of rum to the newly-founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute. Traditionally, eggnog was usually served warm and laced with spirits. Since the 1960s, eggnog has often been served cold and without spirits, both of which are significant departures from its historical origins.
I also remembered a drink called Tom and Jerry, a traditional Christmastime cocktail in the United States and did a bit of research. In the 1820′s Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called “Life in London; or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis“. This book was enormously popular to young men who aspired to a dashing life and detailed drinking, gambling, rioting, cock-fighting and other branches of debauchery, either practised or contemplated by the friends.
To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called “Tom and Jerry”. It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity).
Life in London was wonderfully illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank.
To make a Tom and Jerry cocktail, I simply warmed up a cup of eggnog and added a ½ jigger each of rum and brandy. Egan’s book gave us not only the expression ‘Tom and Jerryism’ for the loutish behaviour the friends liked to engage in, but also provided William Hanna and Joseph Barbera with the names for their more famous cat-and-mouse pair.
So, I’ll leave you now with inspiration for a new holiday tipple and ‘The Night Before Christmas’ . . . . .
. . . . . . and a reminder not to imbibe too much eggnog!
For our Thanksgiving dinner I made a pecan pie and Dana’s Dog-gone Pumpkin Pie. My pecan pie totally upstaged the pumpkin,
so I brought it back home and made a pecan crunch topping for it.
Pecan Crunch Pumpkin Pie
- One pumpkin pie, cooked and cooled
- 1 cup pecan halves, chopped
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 4 tbsp melted butter
Preheat the grill or broiler. Mix the pecans, sugar and butter in a small bowl. Spoon the topping evenly over the pie. Brown the topping about 5-7 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes or until golden and the sugar dissolves. Be careful not to let it burn!
Cool on a wire rack and serve with lots of Chantilly cream.
I took it into work and it was very much appreciated by my British colleagues. I answered many of their questions about the historical, culinary and cultural aspects of American Thanksgiving.
Being an expat in the UK for the past 12 years, I often feel like a cultural ambassador. I am very conscious of the stereotype of the rude, loud, ego-centric American and try to counter that image whenever I can. Several years ago, when I was in furniture school in Scotland, I was at a Thanksgiving potluck dinner with several North American students, from the US and Canada. One of the Canadians talked about Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October. One of the Yanks said, “Canadian Thanksgiving?? What do you guys have to be thankful for?” A stunned silence fell and I quickly said, “That they’re not American”. I mean, really.
Whereas the American Thanksgiving tradition talks about remembering Pilgrims and settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest. The geographical location of Canada is further north as compared to the United States therefore the harvest season falls earlier in Canada.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Thursday in November. While not the first Thanksgiving of any sort on the continent, the traditional origin of modern Thanksgiving in the United States is generally regarded to have originated from the celebration that occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in Massachusetts, in 1621. While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts cultivate the land and fish, saving them from starvation. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this however, did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s’.
When we were in London, we watched ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ along with a bonus special feature: ‘The Mayflower Voyagers’. This bonus feature is an episode from ‘This is America, Charlie Brown’. It is actually a very good recount of the first hard winter endured by the pilgrims on Plymouth Plantation. My cousins liked it and I learned about the origins of my favourite holiday too!
Whatever country we are in, a Thanksgiving feast is an opportunity to come together and share food, good company and to give thanks to whatever it is we are grateful for.
The first in an occasional series of Saturday morning cartoons -
Jumping (1984) is a hand-drawn, 4,000+ cel animation by 手塚 治虫, Tezuka Osamu (November 3, 1928 – February 9, 1989). It won the Grand Prize at the 1984 Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films.
Tezuka Osamu is best known as the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. He is often credited as the “Godfather of Anime”, and is considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, who served as a major inspiration during his formative years. The distinctive “large eyes” style of Japanese animation was invented by Tezuka, drawing inspirations on cartoons of his childhood such as Betty Boop and Walt Disney’s Bambi and Mickey Mouse.
When Tezuka was a child, he was tormented by his classmates because of his skinny build, small stature and wavy hair, a genetic trait which appears in 3% of the Japanese population. His nickname was gashagasha-atama (gashagasha is slang for messy, atama means head). His mother often comforted him by telling him to look to the blue skies, giving him confidence.
Tezuka grew up in Kobe and his mother often took him to the Takarazuka Theatre in the city of Takarazuka. The Takarazuka Revue that performed at the theatre is made up in its entirety of women, and so male characters are also played by women. The Takarazuka Revue specializes in romantic musicals aimed at a female audience, thus having a large impact on the later works of Tezuka, including his costuming designs. He was inspired by Takarazuka stage techniques for highlighting the eyes on stage to draw his female characters’ eyes sparkling and large.
He started to draw comics around his second year of elementary school. Around his fifth year he found a bug named “Osamushi”. It so resembled his name that he adopted osamushi as his pen name. After surviving World War II, he created his first piece of work (at age 17), Diary of Ma-chan and then Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island), which began the golden age of manga, a craze comparable to American comic books at the time.
When he was younger, Tezuka became ill and was treated and cured by a doctor which spurred him on to study medicine at Osaka University. However, he began his career as a manga artist while a university student, drawing his first professional work while at school. At a crossing point, he asked his mother whether he should look into doing manga full time or whether he should become a doctor. This was an especially serious question since, at the time, being a manga author was not a particularly rewarding job.
The answer his mother gave was: “You should work doing the thing you like most of all”. Tezuka decided to devote himself to manga creation on a full-time basis. He graduated from Osaka University and obtained his medical degree. Tezuka never practiced medicine, but he would later use his medical and scientific knowledge to enrich his sci-fi manga.
Info source – Wikipedia
I practice a policy of gastronomic laissez-faire and say “Live and let live, but if you hunger for a critter, try to get one that has been raised and killed humanely”. If possible get it from the source and don’t waste any part of it. Thank it’s soul for giving itself so that I may eat, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.
I was once very irritated by a smug, holier-than-thou vegetarian who said, “I don’t eat anything that has a face” and I know of certain carnivores (who shall remain nameless) who won’t eat an animal which has a name, eg Bossy the Cow or Chicken Little. Well, even my vegetables have names and faces. Enter Sam and Petunia, our Jack-o’-Lanterns. They both have both names and faces and are both going to be eaten.
Sam & Petunia
Sourced from Michael Howard’s deli, just across the street from us; all of their meat and vegetables can be traced to the farm it came from.
Sam and Petunia had a happy, free range life in their pumpkin patch . . . . .
and fulfilled their duty as Jack-o’-Lanterns, sitting at the top of our stairs and welcoming our dinner party guests.
I started with the offal and made toasted pumpkin seeds for hors d’oeuvre at our Samhain Feast on Saturday.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Soy sauce and chili powder, or freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to about 350° F/180°C. Toss the seeds with olive oil and salt. Sprinkle with either soy sauce and chili powder or toss with Parmesan cheese. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast for about a half hour, tossing about every 1o minutes.
Tonight I made pureed pumpkin which I’ll freeze and use for soup. pumpkin cheesecake and our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Sorry Linus!
I have a variation on the “Bambi complex,” “Bambi factor,” or “Bambi syndrome” which are three terms used interchangeably for sentimental, sympathetic attitudes toward wildlife, especially deer. They are usually used derogatorily and reflect a backlash against humane, anti-hunting, and preservationist values, and the excessive sentimentality that Bambi has often come to symbolize. Although I have no problems eating venison, I couldn’t eat any of the delicious civet of rabbit that Steve cooked for our equinox feast. So mine is the Bugs Bunny syndrome. Elmer obviously has it too.
Originally released on July 27, 1940, A Wild Hare is noteworthy as the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon, as well as for settling on the classic voice and appearance of the hunter, Elmer Fudd. The opening lines of both characters—”Be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits” for Elmer, and “Eh, what’s up Doc?” for the rabbit—would become catchphrases throughout their subsequent films.
For our feast last weekend, I cooked a chicken dish from the Caucasus, a geopolitical region between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The region was once a crossroads of trade between Asia and Europe. These cultural influences,along with the unique geography of the land have created an enviable culinary tradition. The post-Soviet state of Georgia has a cuisine that is rich with fruits, pomegranates, spices, nuts, rice and meat (but not rabbit). According to Georgian legend, God took a supper break while creating the world. He became so involved with his meal that he inadvertently tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus, spilling his food onto the land below. The land blessed by Heaven’s table scraps was Georgia.
The recipe I chose is chicken baked with an earthy pomegranate and walnut sauce – perfect for autumn, with a side of steamed runner beans and chard AND rice pilaf made with golden raisins. Not only is this dish rich and savoury, but it is very beautiful, scattered with ruby pomegranate seeds. Shouldn’t our food be a feast for the eyes as well?
“Every Georgian dish is a poem.”
Chicken with Pomegranate Sauce
- 4 boneless whole chicken breasts, or a chicken cut into 8 pieces
- 3 pomegranates
- ¾ cup shelled walnuts, ground or broken into small pieces
- 1 small onion or 2 shallots, minced
- Salt and fresh black pepper
- Flour for dredging
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Cut each breast in half lengthwise. Cut 2 of the pomegranates in half and press out the juice with a reamer. Break the third pomegranate open and extract the seeds, working over a bowl to catch the juices. You should have approximately 2/3 cup pomegranate juice and 2/3 – 1 cup seeds.
Season the chicken with salt and fresh black pepper. Dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the butter in a frying pan and lightly brown the chicken on both sides over high heat. Transfer to a baking dish. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onions or shallots for 3 minutes, or until soft, adding the walnuts halfway through. At this point you may need to add more butter to the pan.
Deglaze the pan with lemon juice. Add the pomegranate juice, stock, cinnamon, coriander, sugar and a little salt and pepper. Simmer for a minute and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, sugar and perhaps a squeeze of lemon. The sauce should be balanced between sweet and sour. Raise the heat and reduce the sauce to coating consistency, in which it is slightly thick and clings to a clean spoon.
Cover the chicken with the sauce and bake for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining pomegranate seeds and serve at once.