coraa: (inspiration)
Last Wednesday, we got up at a leisurely hour and drove on to the petroglyphs at Sego Canyon, near Thompson Springs.

First, though, we drove through Thompson Springs. Thompson Springs is sort of a ghost town: it still has some current residents (distinguishable by their houses, which have intact windows and have not fallen down), but their residences are sprinkled in amidst dilapidated and falling-down houses from a variety of periods. I believe the history is that the town was originally a coal mining town, and had a series of revivals and then collapses: the coal mining ended, but the local highway remained; then the local highway was replaced by I-70 some miles away, but the Amtrak station remained; then the Amtrak station closed, and the town faded almost entirely—except for a handful of residents who continue to hang on, and a gas station nearer I-70. There was an old brick motel, with doors standing dark and open; the weathered railroad station, its white-painted paneling going gray from the bottom up; the old schoolhouse leaning over but not, quite, toppling. The house with sunbleached cattle pelvises hanging from the chainlink fence appeared to be inhabited still, though.

From there we drove on a bit to the petroglyphs. For which I have pictures!

Petroglyphs--image heavy )

From there, it was an easy drive the rest of the way to Vail. As we drove higher and higher, the brush gave way to pine and aspen. The aspen was in mid-turn: many of the trees already bare, some still green, and some a truly gorgeous deep gold. The landscape around the hotel was—as with last year—really gorgeous. Actually, here, have some pictures!

The view from our balcony )

Wednesday evening we had the Sirens Supper, the supper for the Sirens staff and anyone who wants to come a day early and attend. We discussed the books that had changed our lives, which lead into great conversations on such diverse topics as Cimmorene, archaeology, the influence of books you read at a very young age, and things that happen in real life that you'd never believe in fiction. It was a lovely way to start the conference.

The next day there was nothing really going on until evening, so I spent the day reading and writing (always a good thing). Then there was the official start of the conference: the dessert reception and the first Guest of Honor keynote, in which Holly Black talked about growing up in a creepy old Victorian house with a mother who, e.g., warned her not to astral project lest something else get inside her body while she was 'gone;' living in Jersey and how that inspired her to begin her Modern Faerie Tale series; urban legends and how they come about; and a hilarious retelling the fairy tale "The White Cat," on which her newest series is based.

The next day was the start of programming, but I'll save that for tomorrow.
coraa: (history - very few dates)
So, recapping!

Last Sunday (wow, it's already been over a week), I got on a plane and flew to LA, where [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija picked me up at the airport and we got fantastic chicken with garlic sauce from Zankou. (Seriously, super delicious. I really wish I could figure out how they made that garlic sauce!) I also introduced her to the cracktastic addictive joy that is The Sims 3. The next day we picked up [livejournal.com profile] sartorias and headed for Colorado!

The first day, we headed northeast across Southern California and through Nevada. (I didn't take many landscape pictures, more's the pity, so I'm going to take advantage of other peoples' flickr shots to illustrate.) On the way toward Las Vegas I admired the weirdness that is the Joshua tree, and the general stark bareness of the landscape. We passed through Las Vegas and continued northeast, clipping the corner of Arizona and finally stopping in St. George, Utah. (On the way we drove through a truly impressive thunderstorm. And by 'through' I mean 'straight through;' the lightning was striking on all sides, long jagged branches of light, and clouds so dark that the intermittent flashes could blind, strong winds and thunder enough to make the car shudder, rain that didn't so much fall as slash downward. It was truly impressive.)

The next day we hit the road again, and spent most of the day (well, all day, really) crossing Utah. We saw sage-green plants growing in dirt red as rust, and steep striated hillsides, incredible patterns of light and shadow, fingers of stone and hilltop cliffs that looked like fortress walls.

We stopped at Cove Fort, which was a waystation for those traveling the Mormon Corridor in the mid to late 1800s. It was built as a defensive fort because it was established during the Black Hawk War, but no shots were ever fired at the fort (save one accident in which a little boy shot his brother in the knee) and things sound like they were pretty peaceful. The fort was a stop for a couple of stagecoach lines (including rooms to let), a Pony Express stop, and a telegraph station. It was run by one man and his family.

We stopped and took the tour, given by a nice LDS guide who was very sweet and not pushy and, as Rachel put it, had the ability to make pretty much anything into a parable involving Jesus. (I didn't notice, because he was actually a lot less heavy-handed about it than the people I grew up with, but there you go.) The fort was really interesting from a historical point of view: fully restored, and with many of the original furnishings. (I was particularly interested because material culture is one of my verymost favorite elements of history.) I did get pictures there, so, under the cut!

Cove Fort--image-heavy )

Then we drove a bit farther and decided to call it a night early, so we'd be fresh and awake and have good daylight for the petroglyphs the next morning. We stopped in Green River, at a hotel with an absolutely lovely river view.

Just one more picture )

Aside from the beautiful landscape and the chance to stop and see some really interesting historical things, the trip was a great joy because of the company. We talked about all kinds of things, from sense of place in fantasy literature to sexual orientation among pioneer women, from the difference between a critique and a review to the way historical fiction sets up a dialogue between modern mores and historical ones.

The next day: petroglyphs, and arrival in Vail!
coraa: (history)
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel þu singes cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!
coraa: (history)
One thing I hadn't mentioned, simply because I kept forgetting it was coming up so soon: I'm attending the Medieval Association of the Pacific 2010 conference this weekend. Then next week I'm going back to horse camp! Hooray!

Really, even though they're totally separate events with totally different people, they feel like part of the same thing: a break from work and normal life to spend a lot of time focusing on something I love. And doing it with other people who love the same things.

So anyway, the conference schedule is here. I'm really interested in "Philosophy and Spirituality" and "Irish, Welsh and Norse Literature," and I'm really really interested in "Perceptions of Powerful Women" and "Naming, Knowing and Remembering Monsters," but those last two are unfortunately at the same time so I'll have to pick.

I'll be taking notes. Would anyone be interested if I were to post the notes on the sessions I sit in on?
coraa: (history)
Dear world,

Medieval cooks didn't use spices because they were covering up the taste of rancid or rotten meat. There is a very simple reason for this: eating bad meat will make you very very sick, and quite possibly kill you (especially if you live in a time when you can't get electrolyte drinks or IV fluid replacement). Covering it up with cinnamon and pepper will not fix that. Medieval people did not eat rotten meat, because, while they didn't have our modern germ theory, they were capable of noticing that people who ate meat that smelled bad got very sick and often died.

It is true that a lot of meat in the middle ages was not eaten right away, but then, a lot of modern meat is not eaten right away -- what do you think aged steak is? And yes, accordingly, some of the meat eaten at the time probably had a somewhat different taste and texture than our refrigerated meats. (Also, not surprisingly, they very often dealt with the no-refrigeration problem by preserving meats, by salting or drying or sugaring or pickling or submerging in fat. But they preserved them before they went bad, because that's the point of preserving.) And yes, absolutely, people in the middle ages liked their food heavily spiced, and also sweeter than most modern people do. But they liked it that way because that was what they liked; it was a luxury, and also just a preference. I like the way pickles taste, but that doesn't mean I eat them because I had to do something with a bagful of rotten cucumbers.

But they didn't eat rotten meat, because eating rotten meat isn't something people do -- our digestive tracks can't handle it. It's almost impossible to hide the smell or taste of rotten meat (being as it's one of the things our bodies are designed to teach us not to eat), and even if you could, you'd get out of that habit pretty quickly after the first round of people got sick and died.

(Also, since spices were extraordinarily expensive, and therefore province of the wealthy, it just doesn't make sense. You save nothing by refusing to throw out a piece of meat and instead putting on spices that cost many times the cost of the meat; it would be financially wiser to just throw out the meat and slaughter another animal.)

Medieval people didn't think like modern people, but they weren't stupid. They just liked spiced food, when they could afford it.

Yours in the puncturing of historical just-so-stories,

Cora

the irritated history geek who just watched Top Chef
coraa: (history)
My post yesterday was just my own small, six-year-old view of the Berlin Wall. Today I link you to The Big Picture's photograph retrospective.

The most impressive pictures, to me, are the set that you click on for a comparison -- the same shot, 1989 and 1999.

But many of the shots are lovely for their own sake, even if you aren't as taken with the history as I am.

EDIT: Original link didn't work; has now been fixed.
coraa: (greenwild)
So I was six years old, twenty years ago, and I was living on an army base in Germany. Or rather I should say West Germany.

I remember sitting at home watching cartoons with my brother when my dad came home and told us to switch to the German stations. (Our TV had a... thingy, setting, that could be switched to watch the Armed Forces Network, in English, or any of the German broadcast stations.) There was footage of people walking through checkpoints, lots of excitement, lots of happiness and a fair bit of chaos, as I remember. I couldn't understand the broadcasters were saying, but my dad said something to the effect that the wall was open, or coming down, and people were able to travel back and forth. It was a long time ago, and I was little, I don't remember exactly what he said, but I clearly remember both my mom and my dad sitting in front of the TV, watching. (My parents had both been in the Army, had both been stationed in Berlin before I was born -- that was where they fell in love, in fact.) And I clearly remember my dad telling me to remember this, that it was enormous.

I remember him flicking through channels, trying to find more information (he could understand German very well) -- flick flick flick -- and every station had the same feeds. It had taken over the airwaves. Well, of course it had.

I remember -- and I think this must have been days or even weeks later, but as I said, I was little, and things blur together -- another time when we were watching on the German networks, seeing people knocking a hole in a graffiti-ed wall, and then a woman with curly dark hair coming through the gap, and the people around her helping her. I remember that quite clearly.

A few months later, we traveled to East Germany and to Berlin. (There's a funny story about that. My dad brought a sledgehammer to knock off a chunk of the wall, and put it in his tote bag. While we were visiting Berlin, we were in a museum, and midway through one of the guides noticed that one of the people on the tour had an umbrella. She sent him back to the beginning to drop it off at coat check, so that he wouldn't damage anything. My mom and dad say they realized at the same time that they were walking through a museum with a sledgehammer in their bag, because they'd forgotten to rearrange the bags. Fortunately, no one checked the bags, and as my parents do not have a habit of knocking arms off statues, all was well.) I have a piece of the wall somewhere at home.

I was too little to understand the politics or the import, really, but I remember my father's face, and I remember thinking, This must be huge.
coraa: (history)
I was going through old files on my computer, and I found my thesis. Back when I was writing it, I posted this excerpt (from Charlemagne's "De Villis," in the capitularia). I still love it so much, so I'm posting it again:


It is our wish that they shall have in their gardens all kinds of plants: lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, kidney-bean, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick-pea, squill, gladiolus, tarragon, anise, colocynth, chicory, ammi, sesili, lettuces, spider's foot, rocket salad, garden cress, burdock, penny-royal, hemlock, parsley, celery, lovage, juniper, dill, sweet fennel, endive, dittany, white mustard, summer savory, beets, hazelwort, marshmallows, mallows, carrots, parsnip, orach, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbages, onion, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, cibols, garlic, madder, teazels, broad beans, peas, coriander, chervil, capers, clary. And the gardener shall have house-leeks growing on his house. As for trees, it is our wish that they shall have various kinds of apple, pear, plum, sorb, medlar, chestnut and peach; quince, hazel, almond, mulberry, laurel, pine, fig, nut and cherry trees of various kinds. The names of apples are: gozmaringa, geroldinga, crevedella, spirauca; there are sweet ones, bitter ones, those that keep well, those that are to be eaten straightaway, and early ones. Of pears they are to have three or four kinds, those that keep well, sweet ones, cooking pears and the late-ripening ones.


I could just roll around for hours in this kind of detail about everyday life and material culture. Hours and hours.

(Also, wouldn't that be a genuinely awesome garden?)
coraa: (history)
If I was going to have a proper blog (like, a focused-on-a-single-subject blog, rather than my LJ, which contains pretty much whatever has caught my attention at the moment), it'd be on the history of food and particularly of historical cooking and cookbooks. My collection of medieval cookbooks is now up to nearly 20 (either in Middle English or translated; I could have more if I extended it to include cookbooks I can't read, but that's not very useful), and that's not even counting the tremendous wealthy of 18th and 19th-century cookbooks still extant. And I love to take a medieval recipe, parse it, and mess around with it in the kitchen until I've made a good dish out of it.

I'd love to cook an authentic medieval feast for friends, but a) I know a lot of vegetarians, and most existing medieval recipes (by dint of only the nobility keeping cookbooks) are meat-heavy, and b) even recipes from as recently as the 1920s and 30s often taste a bit odd to the modern palate, and so it's pretty much restricted to people who will try just about anything. I could probably get around the first (there are enough Lent recipes to put a fair number of vegetarian dishes on the table, though vegan would be harder), but the second would be tricky.

(I am in the process of handwashing [livejournal.com profile] jmpava's grandparents' fancy china. Dinner service for ten, or tea for a dozen. I seriously need to have a dinner party, or at least afternoon tea.)
coraa: (owl)
One of my favorite things about medieval recipes is the way that the linguistic shifts make some of the phrasings pretty amusing to modern ears. For instance, in the Forme of Cury, a 14th-century English cookbook, the instructions for cutting a piece of meat into largeish pieces are "smite it to gobbettes."
coraa: (owl)
I am delighted beyond measure that there is a Beowulf meme )
coraa: (Default)
I just had to type this into my thesis, so I thought I'd inflict it on everyone here, too. It's from the Capitulare de Villis vel Curtis Imperialibus, probably written by Charlemagne (although possibly written by Louis the Pious) at some point toward the end of the eighth century. It's a beautiful little look into daily life details of the eighth-century Regnum Francorum.
It is our wish that they shall have in their gardens all kinds of plants: lily, roses, fenugreek, costmary, sage, rue, southernwood, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, kidney-bean, cumin, rosemary, caraway, chick-pea, squill, gladiolus, tarragon, anise, colocynth, chicory, ammi, sesili, lettuces, spider's foot, rocket salad, garden cress, burdock, penny-royal, hemlock, parsley, celery, lovage, juniper, dill, sweet fennel, endive, dittany, white mustard, summer savory, beets, hazelwort, marshmallows, mallows, carrots, parsnip, orach, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbages, onion, chives, leeks, radishes, shallots, cibols, garlic, madder, teazels, broad beans, peas, coriander, chervil, capers, clary. And the gardener shall have house-leeks growing on his house. As for trees, it is our wish that they shall have various kinds of apple, pear, plum, sorb, medlar, chestnut and peach; quince, hazel, almond, mulberry, laurel, pine, fig, nut and cherry trees of various kinds. The names of apples are: gozmaringa, geroldinga, crevedella, spirauca; there are sweet ones, bitter ones, those that keep well, those that are to be eaten straightaway, and early ones. Of pears they are to have three or four kinds, those that keep well, sweet ones, cooking pears and the late-ripening ones.
(from In The Reign of Charlemagne: Documents on Carolingian Government and Administration, ed. H.R. Loyn & John Percival. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975. pp 73)
The De Villis is full of things like this -- the kinds of craftsmen a manor ought to have, how many cows and pigs and sheep and chickens and geese, what kinds of barrels and bottles ought to be used. I hope that it will be good for research someday, but for now, it's just fascinting.

Thesis

Mar. 27th, 2005 02:29 pm
coraa: (Default)
Last week I had a definite 'ohshitohshitohshit' moment, because, as I surfaced from the last major wave of research for the thesis, it began to dawn on me that my theory was at best unsupportable, and probably wrong.

But I had to turn in something, so I figured I'd write what I could and then throw it and myself on the mercy my advisor and critiquers, more or less, and hope someone could help me figure out how to salvage it.

But -- miraculous! -- today as I wrote the bulk of it, a new theory began to emerge, slowly, from the murk. I'm knocking every bit of spare wood nearby, as well as miscellaneous bits of vinyl and aluminum, to keep from jinxing it, but I believe I have something that will work. Now it's just a matter of typing it up, and praying that it's not a bubble-idea that will pop suddenly if I poke it too much.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and to everyone, have a beautiful day.

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coraa: (Default)
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