Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Cook for Thanksgiving: Vintage Ads Tell Us!

My mother did make pumpkin pie with canned pumpkin and Pet milk. She also made
a stellar apple pie, which I believe my sister is going to make for us on Thursday!

McCormick has been packaging and advertising spices since 1889.
Our family dinners long ago used most of these spices. Also now!
Most of us really don't much like pumpkin pie these days.
From 1902: another brand of seasoning. I found many ads for Thanksgiving
menu items on the web and in my old magazines. Most of the ads (except
this very old one) make me think of the Thanksgiving dinners of the
past and how our tastes have changed without giving up the classics.
This ad from 1924 illustrates how long American cooks have been making sweet
potato casserole topped with marshmallows. (Actually it started quite a bit earlier!)
My aunts used to make this for Thanksgiving, but we've moved on to a more
savory sweet potato recipe with garlic, cilantro, and no added sugar.
Another random ad from the internet.
Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce is an old-time
classic. Some time ago, I started making several cranberry
recipes from scratch instead of just slicing it up.
This ad could appear right now and no one would think anything of it.
Unless you are actually supposed to recognize the name Margaret Rudkin (google doesn't).
From our local food corporation, Chelsea Milling Company, comes the
corn muffin mix used in the Thanksgiving favorite corn casserole.
Jiffy Mixes aren't advertised much, so I didn't actually find an ad for this.
This ad really looks unappetizing -- and pathetic. Not so vintage, either.
I feel sorry for anyone who eats like this! We always make our own gravy.
I don't remember this classic green bean casserole as a family tradition,
but it sure does get a lot of attention in food histories and recipe collections.
Campbell's introduced it in 1955. It seems to have swept the Nation.
This ad really makes me sad, reminding me of how normal smoking once was.
My father smoked Camels for most of his life: until it was too late.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Starvation in the life of a slave

"Want of food was my chief trouble ... . I have often been so pinched with hunger as to dispute with old 'Nep,' the dog, for the crumbs which fell from the kitchen table. Many times have I followed, with eager step, the waiting-girl when she shook the table-cloth, to get the crumbs and small bones flung out for the dogs and cats. It was a great thing to have the privilege of dipping a piece of bread into the water in which meat had been boiled, and the skin taken from the rusty bacon was a positive luxury." (p. 13) 
So wrote Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) about his first experience as a slave child of around 8 years old. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass was the last of three autobiographical works by this remarkable thinker and leader in the times leading up to the Civil War.

Douglass was separated from his mother as an infant, and recalls
that the last time she came to see him she tried to see that he
would receive a better portion of food.
As I read, Douglass's description of his life as a child and young man in slavery in Maryland in the early part of the 19th century seemed somewhat as familiar material. I think this is because anyone who has subsequently about slavery must have this amazing account in mind. He offers not only a description of the horrifying treatment he received at the hands of his owners (and in particular at the hands of a man whose specialty was breaking the will of young slaves by being their temporary master).  He also offers an account of his own mental process of grappling with exactly what it meant to him, even as a small child, to be owned

The determination to read (which was illegal) and Douglass's use of reading to gain insight about his position are very fascinating. Later, when he was an effective orator in the cause of abolition, his first-hand descriptions of his experience in slavery and all its evils were an important influence on public opinion of slavery, which wasn't always as negative as we might now expect. He also documented the terrible racism that was prevalent in both South and North, and how it affected him.

Descriptions of how he chose to take the extreme risk of fleeing to the North, and to freedom, are enlightening, no matter how much one has already read about slavery. In 1838, his efforts were successful; his feelings are thus described:
"During ten or fifteen years I had, as it were, been dragging a heavy chain which no strength of mine could break. I was not only a slave, but a slave for life. I might become a husband, a father, an aged man, but through all, from the cradle to the grave, I had felt myself doomed. All efforts I had previously made to secure my freedom, had not only failed, but had seemed only to rivet my fetters the more firmly and to render my escape more difficult. Baffled, entangled and discouraged, I had at times asked myself the question, May not my condition after all be God's work and ordered for a wise purpose, and if so, was not submission my duty? A contest had in fact been going on in my mind for a long time, between the clear consciousness of right and the plausible make-shifts of theology and superstition. The one held me an abject slave--a prisoner for life, punished for some transgression in which I had no lot or part; the other counseled me to manly endeavor to secure my freedom. This contest was now ended; my chains were broken, and the victory brought me unspeakable joy." (p. 162). 
The use of hunger as one of the many ways of humiliating and subjugating human beings was something I had not contemplated, though I guess there's not much that could actually shock me about slavery. Douglass is insistent on the way that slavery corrupted both masters and slaves: "Everybody in the South seemed to want the privilege of whipping somebody else." (p. 21).

There's too much in the book for me to write a full review, and though it's new to me, it's obviously not at all a new book. So I'm going to offer one long passage that illustrates how Douglass worked on his audience: in contrast to the near-starvation he experienced, he gives this view of the life of the master:
"THE close-fisted stinginess that fed the poor slave on coarse corn-meal and tainted meat, that clothed him in crashy tow-linen and hurried him on to toil through the field in all weathers, with wind and rain beating through his tattered garments, and that scarcely gave even the young slave-mother time to nurse her infant in the fence-corner, wholly vanished on approaching the sacred precincts of the "Great House" itself. ... The table of this house groaned under the blood-bought luxuries gathered with pains-taking care at home and abroad. Fields, forests, rivers, and seas were made tributary. Immense wealth and its lavish expenditures filled the Great House with all that could please the eye or tempt the taste. Fish, flesh, and fowl were here in profusion. Chickens of all breeds; ducks of all kinds, wild and tame, the common and the huge Muscovite; Guinea fowls, turkeys, geese and pea-fowls; all were fat and fattening for the destined vortex. Here the graceful swan, the mongrel, the black-necked wild goose, partridges, quails, pheasants, pigeons and choice waterfowl, with all their strange varieties, were caught in this huge net. Beef, veal, mutton, and venison, of the most select kinds and quality, rolled in bounteous profusion to this grand consumer. The teeming riches of the Chesapeake Bay, its rock perch, drums, crocus, trout, oysters, crabs, and terrapin were drawn hither to adorn the glittering table. The dairy, too, the finest then on the eastern shore of Maryland, supplied by cattle of the best English stock, imported for the express purpose, poured its rich donations of fragrant cheese, golden butter, and delicious cream to heighten the attractions of the gorgeous, unending round of feasting. Nor were the fruits of the earth overlooked. The fertile garden, many acres in size, constituting a separate establishment distinct from the common farm, with its scientific gardener direct from Scotland, a Mr. McDermott, and four men under his direction, was not behind, either in the abundance or in the delicacy of its contributions. The tender asparagus, the crispy celery, and the delicate cauliflower, egg plants, beets, lettuce, parsnips, peas, and French beans, early and late; radishes, cantelopes, melons of all kinds; and the fruits of all climes and of every description, from the hardy apples of the north to the lemon and orange of the south, culminated at this point. Here were gathered figs, raisins, almonds, and grapes from Spain, wines and brandies from France, teas of various flavor from China, and rich, aromatic coffee from Java, all conspiring to swell the tide of high life, where pride and indolence lounged in magnificence and satiety." (pp. 34-35). 

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is one of the books on the list by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the article: "Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War" (in the Atlantic dated November 1, 2017). Of the passage above, Coates says: "The chapter depicting the bounty of food on which the enslavers feasted while the enslaved nearly starved is just devastating."

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Night Supper: Meatloaf

Meatloaf is something I rarely make, but tonight I decided to do it. I also made green beans with mushrooms.
I was thinking of meatballs, but I decided to find and follow a real meatloaf recipe!
I chose the recipe in the Dooky Chase Cookbook by Leah Chase.
I substituted red bell pepper for green pepper, and keffir for Pet milk.
Otherwise I made the recipe pretty much as it appears on the page above.
It's hard to take a photo of a meatloaf in a baking dish! But it was quite tasty.
Leah Chase's restaurant in New Orleans is famous for its cooking, as well as for having
been a gathering place for Civil Rights activists over the years. I've written about her,
about the cookbook, and about the restaurant before. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

“Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!”

The 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau was released for sale just after midnight last night.
For dinner tonight, we enjoyed drinking our bottle of the new vintage from Beaujolais, which we bought this morning at Whole Foods.  "Each year since 1951," I read in the Wine Spectator, "the third Thursday of November marks the release of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau, a light-bodied red made from the just-completed harvest in the Beaujolais region, just south of Burgundy. It is both a celebration and a first taste for consumers of the newest vintage." And it's an important driver of the success of the Beaujolais regional wines: around 1/3 of their production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau (according to this article).

"In the past," I read in The Wine Enthusiast, "the wine couldn’t leave Beaujolais until release time, and lorries and cars would race dangerously across Europe to deliver the wine to thirsty consumers in time for breakfast. Now, the wine is distributed ahead of time—you just can’t buy it until the magic hour." In fact, the first Beaujolais Nouveau used to be air-shipped to the US, so only a few bottles would be available shortly after the magic moment. For a while, it was a huge deal -- though the enthusiasm isn't as great now, as the supply is ensured by allowing delivery before the release date, rather than holding it at the wineries. It's always been a nice wine to have for Thanksgiving: the fresh new taste is actually quite nice with turkey. At right: a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau that we enjoyed in 2009.

This year, the vintners of the region have a lot to celebrate, as late frost, hail in July, and drought conditions resulted in difficult growing conditions and a low-yield harvest. The wine, however, seems to have turned out quite nice.

In the more distant past, many wine-making regions celebrated the first taste of new wine each year, but it was more informal and much more local. Somehow, the first tasting of the year's wines from Beaujolais became more of a ritual, and the newly bottled wine would show up in restaurants and wine bars in Paris, and when it became such a thing in France, the custom migrated to the US. In November of the year we spent in France, we were impressed when signs appeared in all the wine shops in our neighborhood reading: “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!”

To go with our wine we had some simple spaghetti with a few mushrooms,
garlic, shallots, tomato sauce, cheese, and a splash of the wine.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Less Stupid?

Out of the House of Bondage by historian Thavolia Glymph (published 2008) is a book rich in information and generous with details that are often overlooked. The principal focus of the book is the relationship of white women and black women in the Old South, both before and after the Civil War, especially the relationship of slave owners with enslaved women.

First-person accounts from individuals who experienced slavery are the main source of Glymph's narrative. She cites testimony from white slave owners, often letters; and finds an amazing amount of material from formerly enslaved blacks, mostly women, mostly from an oral history project done in the 20th century. The use of primary sources is incredibly effective. Glymph writes:
"Birthed in proslavery ideology and elaborated in prescriptive literature, southern white women's educational models, memoirs, and diaries of the Old South, the iconic image of the southern lady became a fixture of post-Reconstruction white supremacist campaigns. Generations of white southerners born after slavery, but trained in the tattered ideology of class and racial superiority that they inherited, took up the cause and reconstituted it on new ground. The white home was reinvented as a highly gendered and racialized sanctuary. There, white women would continue to be 'ladies' and managers of domestic spaces, both white and black. This message was conveyed in film, commercial product advertisements, federal programs, popular fiction, white women's social club agendas, and every sort of domestic efficiency and home alliance organization, whether targeted to black or white women." (pp. 19-20). 
In exploring this topic, Glymph included very revealing discussions of several topics. Above all, the brutality of white slave owners towards their chattel is documented in detail. The rationalization for white women to be so brutal while simultaneously they were supposedly so delicate etc. is a key point. The deep contradiction and social pressure for the white women to view black women as inferior and incompetent, while punishing them violently for every transgression, is well-documented here -- for example:
"Mistresses crossed and re-crossed the South's formally designated gender boundaries. They regularly contravened notions of white female gentility that undergird ideologies of race and class and southern domesticity, slipping in and out of the costume of the soft, gentle “southern lady.” In doing so, they acted on their power (as when Malvina's mistress slapped her) and their powerlessness (the smiling and simpering before men) at one and the same time. And their slaves were (intolerable) witnesses to the moral nakedness in between." (p. 46)
Domestic life on a plantation was very different from modern family life in many ways, both in terms of human relationships and in the quantity and difficulty of work that had to be done. When former owners found themselves forced to deal with their one-time slaves as potential employees with the freedom to say NO, they had to negotiate many things, which was an interesting power story. Forcing enslaved women to perform household tasks was very different from hiring women to do them after slavery ended, and the economic and social negotiations involved in this change are presented in a fascinating way. Glymph leaves the reader no room to be surprised that enslaved men and women couldn't wait to walk away from the plantations where they had suffered, no matter what risks they took in leaving, and no matter what their former masters had expected them to do.

Details of the changes in domestic work flow and responsibility as slavery ended were very revealing. Laundry, for example, required the making of both starch and soap from basic ingredients, the hauling of water and fuel, and many difficult tasks, such as starching and ironing delicate clothing -- when white women had to hire a worker to do these tasks, they became much more aware of the tasks and how long they took.

Cooking was also physically demanding, and white women had new views of it when they had to do it themselves:
"Kitchens moved inside, 'the ladies, not liking to bring dishes across the yard, as slave women had done when kitchens were detached from the main house.' And there was a dramatic increase in the number of white households with stoves: 'Not only stoves but sewing machines and other household utensils are much more common than before the war. The whites, having to do their own work, are clamorous for conveniences in which they would not indulge their slaves.'" (p. 195)
Subservience and power are two very key points in Glymph's book. "Impertinence" was an accusation of white women against black women, often used to justify terrible punishments such as subjecting enslaved women to beatings, blinding, and even death. Fear was an important weapon of white men against their wives and of white women against their slaves.
"Slave women simply failed to see their mistresses's needs as their own needs and sought within the confines of slavery to live their own lives. To get them to be slaves, Lizzie Bain Partin wrote from experience, 'requires force.'" (p. 64)
Another very interesting occurrence, retold in various accounts of the end of the war was when the white women were terrorized by Yankee soldiers, and their former slaves gave them advice on how to deal with the type of treatment they were mostly accustomed to dishing out.
"Much is made (and celebrated) in scholarly and popular writings of Confederate women's defiance of Union soldiers, to which is attributed the sparing of many homes from destruction. Perhaps many more were saved by the lessons the enslaved gave mistresses on the politics of language, posture, and subordination, a complex politics that has often been viewed simplistically as slaves’ 'loyalty.' 
"The scene on the Kirkland plantation in South Carolina upon the arrival of Union soldiers cautions against such simplifications. Even Mary Chesnut, who recorded it, seemed oblivious to its ironies. This is the advice the slave Monroe gave his mistress: 'Monroe, their negro manservant, told her to stand up and keep her children in her arms. She stood against the wall, with her baby in her arms and the other two as closely pressed against her knees as they could get.' Meanwhile, 'Mammy Selina and Lizzie stood grimly on each side of their young Missis and her children. For four mortal hours the soldiers surged through this room. ... And they taunted Mary with being glad of the protection of her poor, ill-used slaves.' 
"Monroe ... was not unaware of the profound changes the war had ushered in as underscored by the scene taking place before him. He further counseled Mary Kirkland: 'Don't answer ‘em back, Miss Mary. Let them say what they want to. Don't answer them back. Don't give them a chance to say you are impident to ‘em.' It was sage advice grounded in the realities of the enslaved. From an unaccustomed place, 'Miss Mary' gained new insight into the ways and defects of hegemony." (p. 130).

Out of the House of Bondage is a powerful book indeed! I heard of it from columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates, in "Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War" (in the Atlantic dated November 1, 2017). He described: "A slim volume that dispenses with the notion that there was a such thing as 'good,' 'domestic,' or 'matronly' slavery."

Coates' reading list was put together in response to recent remarks by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who famously (and pig-headedly, say I) asserted that "the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War." Coates placed Kelly's claims in "a long tradition of endorsing stupidity in hopes of making Americans stupid about their own history. Stupid enjoys an unfortunate place in the highest ranks of American government these days. And while one cannot immediately affect this fact, one can choose to not hear stupid things and quietly nod along."

I hadn't read any of the books on the list -- though I had definitely been appalled by Kelly's construction of a false history to continue, after a century and a half, the persistent effort to revise the history of slavery and the Civil War. So I read Glymph's book, and I learned a lot.

I agree with Coates's description of the book's central point about the "stupid idea that white mistresses were somehow less violent and less exploitative than their male peers." I also found that, as Coates puts it: "stupid ideas about ladyhood and the soft feminine hand meant nothing when measured against the fact of a slave society. Slavery was the monster that made monsters of its masters. Compromising with it was morally bankrupt—and stupid."

Thavolia Glymph from
website of Duke University
where she is a Professor.
And as Glymph says: "I have tried in this book to insist on the importance of attending to relations of power between women, and contests over that power. Once 'home' is understood as a political space, those contests, once silent and unseen in the historiography become visible and public. Black women were determined to take control of their whole lives." (p. 235) Glymph leaves no room for revisions of the horror story of slavery!

Another current article about revising history is "Trump sounds ignorant of history. But racist ideas often masquerade as ignorance." by Ibram X. Kendi (Washington Post, November 13, 2017). Kendi asks the question: "What if the real 'national crisis' is not Trump’s ignorance, but rather our own ignorance of how racist ideas propagate themselves in American society?" By reading, maybe I can keep from being ignorant on both counts. I hope so. I don't know if I will manage to read one of the other books on Coates's list, but I'll probably try. Current events demand it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

"Flavor" by Bob Holmes

"We are the only species that seasons its food,
deliberately altering it with the highly flavored
plant parts we call herbs and spices." (p. 4)
"The notion that you can somehow “taste the soil” in a wine is completely false. Grape vines take up only water and simple nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and calcium from the soil. They make all their more complex biomolecules— including the flavor volatiles— in-house. To put it more bluntly, none of the volatile molecules that determine a wine’s flavor come directly from the soil. ... Instead, a vineyard’s soil affects flavor indirectly, by altering how the vine grows and, especially, how quickly the grapes ripen." -- Bob Holmes. Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense (p. 216- 217). 
Flavor and how it's perceived: two fascinating concepts. Recently, neuroscientists and other researchers have been making remarkable progress in understanding our sensory perception of the volatile molecules in food and drink -- the elements that make flavors vary. Tomatoes, ripe strawberries, fake strawberry flavor, wine grapes, bitter vegetables, seared steaks, artificial chicken stock, and other foods are the subjects of Canadian journalist Bob Holmes' reporting.

As illustrated in the quote above, Holmes explores some of the myths about what we taste and how these tastes get into our food. I choose his discussion of wine -- only a small part of his book -- to illustrate how many revealing details he presents. His explanation of the actual role that soil quality plays in creating wine-grape flavor is something I've been hoping to learn for a long time. The same clone of a particular type of grapes does indeed yield wines of varied flavors -- the vines experience different degrees of stress which affect their sugar content and their flavor elements (mainly volatile chemicals).

The way the grapes are handled during and after the harvest is another surprising source of variation. Here's another quote that shows how this works:
"If you pluck a grape off the vine and chew it, you won’t notice much passion fruit flavor, because the thiol molecules haven’t formed yet— only their odorless precursors are present. The thiols themselves form during fermentation, as the yeast attack the precursors and split off thiol molecules. Rough handling of the grapes causes them to accumulate more of the precursors, so machine-harvested grapes yield wines with about ten times as much thiol as handpicked ones. This, incidentally, may be part of the reason that New Zealand sauvignon blanc, which is generally mechanically harvested, tends to have a much more pronounced passion fruit flavor than French sauvignon blanc, which is usually hand harvested. Even trucking the grapes from vineyard to winery leads to more thiols in the finished wine." (pp. 217-218). 
And finally, he writes about fermentation: "different yeasts can yield very different wines from the same juice. Winemakers are very aware of this, and put a great deal of thought into their choice of yeast." (p. 218).

Through most of the book, Holmes explains how human sensory apparatus enables people's widely varying response to foods. He shows not only the role of our taste buds and our olfactory system, but also other perceptions of food like how we hear it crunch and how it appears on a plate, and how the stinging and burning of chilies is perceived with our heat-and-touch sensors. He reports on a variety of studies that highlight the role of the context where we eat in how we respond to tastes -- even ambient lighting and noise.

The role of genes that control perception of volatile chemicals (the natural or artificial substances that account for varied flavors) seems to be a critical part of how human variation occurs. Genetics of taste is a study that's in its early stages and in some ways offers more confusion than clarity about how individual responses differ, according to Holmes' account of current research. "Clearly," writes Holmes, "the link among genes, taste perceptions, and actual food choices is not a simple one." (p. 41).

The difficulty neuroscientists encounter in analyzing the genetic component of taste arises for at least two reasons. One is that each person's experience with foods, especially in childhood, creates individual reactions to the various chemicals, so two individuals, despite having the same genes, can react differently anyway. Even so-called super-tasters don't all have the same response to the tastes they perceive. Further, the working of the taste buds and olfactory receptors differ for various taste elements in foods. For example, receptors for the so-called fifth taste, umami, are different from those for salt or bitter taste: "Our umami receptors max out at low intensity, so we’re physically unable to experience very umami in the same way we can taste very salty or very bitter simply by piling on the salt or brewing a cup of extra-strong espresso." (p. 25).

Holmes interviewed a very wide variety of experts including neuroscientists, agronomists, flavor scientists in commercial labs, and wine growers, among others. I have read several other books on the general topic of how humans perceive flavor and taste, including several books that were written by his interview subjects, or books that interviewed the same sources. As a result, I found some of the chapters a bit boring as I had read the same material before, often in much the same form. But on the whole it's a really great book, and its updates on the current state of science and technology of food, challenges to chefs who want to apply this science, and overall understanding of flavor and taste are wonderful!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

What they didn't eat!

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression offers a very depressing account of starvation, deprivation, and in many cases the worst of government maltreatment of people who mostly didn't cause their own difficulties. Authors Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe did a good job of researching, organizing, and presenting a great amount of historic material. I enjoyed their use of specific stories of people, small towns, rural areas, big cities, and different parts of the country to illustrate the big picture of devastating years of hardship in a once-prosperous country.

Ziegelman and Coe clearly explain the horrors of Hoover and the Republican response to the crises of the late 1920s and the Democrats' post-1932 improved but often inadequate solutions. Many government projects that I had only heard of now are clearer to me -- the CCC, the WPA, farm aid, food stamps, and others.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's actions and attitudes turned out to be very interesting; I was unaware of many of the details of just what they did in trying to help Americans, and how White House meals became politicized. Recently, in Laura Shapiro's book What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, I read another version of Eleanor's food practices. Ziegelman and Coe's account is an interesting variation on that story. (My review here: Laura Shapiro Strikes Again!)

The role of home economists and nutrition theorists throughout the era is very revealing. The book begins by discussing government food policy during World War I when the US was extremely effective in designing programs to feed the troops sent to Europe, and also effective in encouraging the people at home to make use of the alternative foods that were left after much was sent overseas. The early chapters also describe the huge and wonderful typical meals served to farmhands -- to contrast them with the rural starvation that followed economic collapse at the end of the 1920s.

Government advice on how people could eat when they had virtually no money is a scary topic. Official recommendations on how to survive on a starvation diet seemed incredibly unfeeling: the provision of jobs or food or money would have been so much more humane! Nutritionists and others who wrote the recommendations weren't necessarily at fault because they didn't make the policies, only tried to deal with them. It's no fun to learn about starvation, even about people who died of starvation, and about politicizing the topic, but this book finds a useful and readable way to handle the material.

Temptation is strong to compare government policy during the Depression to current efforts to undo the social safety net that's been developed since then. The view that people are lazy and want to live off the government has persisted without end from then to now as a justification for being blind to suffering and being cruel to the unfortunate. I think the harsh attitudes of elected officials towards needy people both now and then is horrifying, but I'll leave it at that.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The End of the Expedition: A Morning in Ushuaia

Early morning: the end of the voyage through Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island. From the window of our cabin,
we could see the lights of Ushuaia, Argentina, from which we were to fly to Buenos Aires and then home.
Ushuaia, with around 75,000 population, has a cargo and cruise ship port, a military base (from which some of
the action was staged during the war over the Falkland Islands), and some electronic assembly plants.
Ushuaia is farther south than any other city in the world -- the tip of South America is considerably south of Africa,
Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere else outside Antarctica.
From my last moments on the best viewpoint on the National Geographic Explorer. 
In the harbor, we got close-up looks at some of the pelagic birds that
had been flying around the ship as we traveled. This is the
southern giant petrel. For Len's complete bird photos, link HERE.
"Todos somos Fuentealba" -- political wall art which intrigued me on our brief tour of the small downtown (which is
mainly souvenir shops where I didn't go). A friend explained that Carlos Fuentealba (1966-2007) was a socialist/labor activist in Argentina. During a protest, he was shot in the back by a policeman.
At the Ushuaia Maritime Museum, we enjoyed seeing models of some of the most famous ships that explored and
developed the European presence in the area. This is Magellan's ship Trinidad, first European ship to explore here
in October and November of 1520.
In the US we have painted cows, pigs, etc.
Here evidently they did the same trick with penguins.
Tom Rohde, who was on the tour with us from Santiago, Chile, to Ushuaia, wrote this limerick to celebrate our departure:
It's the end of the world, so they say
And soon we're all going away
So as we say goodbye, a
Last look at Ushuaia
And a hope that we'll come back some day.

Tom also says my blog is "probably the most complete documentation of a cruise in the area since Darwin and Fitzroy" -- though I doubt that, I appreciate the sentiment and hope that I haven't overdone it. This is, however, the end!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Staten Island and the Lighthouse at the End of the World

Cruising on the Zodiac, we visited several beautiful locations in the very remote Staten Island, the furthest point in Patagonia.
This depicts morning at Staten Island, which is to the east of Cape Horn and is where the Atlantic meets the Pacific.
The island is very rugged and inhabited only by a few Argentine navy men. We had picked up some Argentine
park rangers, who are happy to have a way to visit this Argentine National Park -- they aren't funded for their own ships.
The rockhopper penguin colony, which I've depicted in prior posts, was the first place we visited. It was a long
walk from the huge beach at the end of a large bay.
Zodiac landing near the penguin colony. This photo was taken during the rough walk up the hill & over the rise to the penguins.
Map of the ship's route around Staten Island. 
Staten Island was discovered and explored by a number of well-known voyagers, and it's in very dangerous waters. We had a number of hours of rough seas, but were able to make several landings when the weather cleared up. Normally the landings are to the north, but the wind was northerly so we visited more of the southern part of the island. The landing at the penguin colony was in an area that the Explorer had never gone before.

On our an afternoon Zodiac cruise at Staten Island, we explored a deep fjord.
We were a bit surprised at the sign marking the National Park.  
We enjoyed watching the cormorants that nest on the steep walls of the fjord.

They nested on many of the small shelves on the rocks. It's easy to know where to look for them: guano!

We walked across the narrowest neck of Staten Island on a stunningly beautiful afternoon, and reached this bay.
On each side of the island was one lone king penguin!
On the last of the three days at Staten Island -- also the final day before the end of the expedition -- we visited
the "Lighthouse at the End of the World." It was built in 1884, but placed unfortunately so that it was more likely
to cause ships to be wrecked than to prevent it. Decommissioned, it fell into ruins, but was replicated around 20 years ago.
Hiking up to it was a big deal! But we made it.
Waves were breaking with enormous force as we came into the bay behind the lighthouse. We saw a replica of the
lighthouse in the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia, Argentina the next day.
Lovers of this work by Verne have also built a replica
of the Staten Island lighthouse at La Rochelle, France.
I believe they were responsible for the reconstruction
we visited on Staten Island.
This pirate adventure novel by Jules Verne made the lighthouse at Staten Island famous. Verne changed many details -- such as the actual appearance of the lighthouse, which is a low building on a high point. The novel describes instead a tall building on a low point. A structure such as Verne envisioned would have no chance of surviving the incredible winds that pummel this remote island!

I read the book, which sets the lighthouse construction in 1859, much earlier than in reality, and which describes the struggle between the lighthouse keepers and a crew of evil pirates. They had been hiding in caves on the island and luring passing ships to wreck there. They had been stealing the ships' cargo, murdering the crews, and were looking for a ship that they could load up and sail off to the South Seas. It's not the type of thing I usually read but I had fun picturing the events in the landscapes that we just visited.

The Staten Island lighthouse in 1894 (photo from Wikipedia).
Above all, seeing the lighthouse and reading Verne's Lighthouse at the End of the World made me realize what the situation there was prior to the completion of the Panama Canal. Hundreds of ships had to make it either through the Strait of Magellan and associated channels, or had to make it around the extraordinarily dangerous Cape Horn. Something like 9 or 10 ships per year were wrecked, with large numbers of lives lost, as is commemorated on the monuments at Cape Horn.