You are browsing the archive for History.

Literary Traveler’s Food Issue – December 2013

January 8, 2014 in Book Review, Christmas Literary Traveler, Cocktails Inspired by Literature, Cooking, Food, History, Holidays, Literary Food, New York Travel, Recipes

The holidays are behind us, and most of us are finally recuperated from the binge-eating extravaganza that can often be a more exhaustive sporting event than the Winter Olympics. Now, safely in the New Year, leftovers are passing their expiration dates, and as such, significantly lowering the chances of us dipping into them for a midnight snack. While we try to stick to resolutions of gym memberships and clean eating, we fall asleep at night dreaming of the pumpkin pies and cheesecakes of holidays past.

So, fittingly, as you up the incline on the treadmill and race into 2014, enjoy a tasty snack that you may have missed amid the hubbub of the holidays — our Food Issue! After all, reading about food doesn’t break any resolutions, right?

ARTICLE:

Southern Comfort: A Poet’s Biography of Antarctic Cuisine by Jessica Monk

Jess caught up with Antarctic poet and accidental food writer Jason Anthony at the Boston Book Festival and chatted with him about his latest work Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine. Now stateside, he shares historical anecdotes about the palatable oddities of Antarctic cuisine, how to spice up the culinary monotony at the bottom of the globe, and reflects on some pretty beautiful spaces with some equally beautiful words from his writing.

The greenhouse at McMurdo, where fresh vegetables are grown like living gemstones, is described in Hoosh as a verdant Eden where couples go to talk and kiss. Fresh vegetables are so prized down south that they have a nickname – “freshies” – that sounds like slang for an illegal drug. Whatever culinary rarities that can be begged, borrowed, or stolen are sought through swaps, trades and underground railroads of supply. Read more.

BOOKS:

In the Kitchen with Literary Traveler: 7 Cookbooks Inspired by Literature by Amanda Festa

Amanda explores the connection between food and literature with a list of cookbooks inspired by the culinary styling of literary favorites. From Southern fare inspired by True Blood (minus the human heart souffle, for which we are grateful) to Renaissance delicacies from the days of Shakespeare, there is something for every taste (literary and otherwise!). Highlights include luncheon with the eponymous girl detective, a dinner party with the original Austenian bad boy, and a Game of Thrones cookbook with the seal of approval from George R.R. Martin himself.

I’m not going to mince words here (although I am better at mincing words than I am at mincing anything edible), cookbooks have taken on a life of their own in recent years. No longer are they simply catalogs of recipes, organized rationally by time of day or dietary preference. Instead, they are literature in their own right, peppered with anecdotes, introductions, and sometimes characters. Read more.

TRAVEL:

A Rare Vintage: A Taste of Long Island Wine Country in 2013 by Jessica Monk

Planning a wine tour but want to avoid the heavily populated vineyards of Napa and the like? Or perhaps you want a wine experience a bit closer to home. If that home is the East Coast, we have just the thing. Go off the beaten vineyard path with a trip to the North Fork of Long Island, where farm-to-table restaurants and award-winning wineries make it the perfect place for a long vino-soaked weekend. We were so intrigued by the offerings of this local destination that we had to experience it for ourselves, and you should too!

Every vineyard seems to be guided by a different ethos. From chatting to locals and reading up on the growing reputation of these wines, we got the impression that now is the time to visit — when the stories of struggle and success are fresh in the memories of growers who staked out their territory in this pioneer region just decades ago. Read more.

FROM THE BLOG:

Have a Very Beery Christmas: Portland’s Annual Holiday Ale Fest by Antoinette Weil

Antoinette headed out in Portland, Oregon to see what all the fuss around their annual Holiday Ale Festival was about — turns out the hype is well deserved. She enjoyed some frosty beverages under heated tents in an even frostier Portland and spoke with the event organizer Preston Weezer about the outdoor venue, the massive attendance, and of course, the beer.

The ambient lighting and wafting aromas of roasted nuts blended with the sounds of laughter and cheers from bundled up strangers-turned-familiar faces to create a cozy and warm feeling for which December winds were no match. Read more.

 TOURS:

Italy’s First National Cookbook: From Farm to Table in Romagna

We are huge fans of Scolastica’s literary tours of Italy. From Dante’s Inferno to Boccaccio’s Decameron, the tours provide a perfect way to experience Italy through the classics. Jessica recently spoke with Scolastica founder, Kyle Hall, about his love of literature, his mission for Scolastica to be more than the average group travel experience, and his latest endeavor — a cookbook tour! Pellegrino Artusi’s 19th century work Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, to be exact Read Jess’ interview with Kyle and check out Scolastica Tours for more on all of their travel offerings.

To offer a deeper and more vivid introduction to Italian life, Kyle began to develop tours based around foundational Italian texts… Kyle is particularly excited to talk about the cookbook tour as it’s an idea that was born spontaneously just 2 months ago out of a trip to the Romagna region to investigate extending the Dante tour there. Read more.

*

Let us know what you thought of our Food Issue in the comments below, or tweet us using #LiteraryFood

 

One in a Million — Words to Celebrate the 4th of July

July 4, 2013 in History, Holidays, Holidays Literary Traveler, Staff Post

Like any big festival, 4th of July is about first losing yourself, then finding yourself in the crowd. It’s an experience that can sometimes result in moments of meaningful transcendence when individuality expresses itself as part of greater humanity. But it can also explode in protest, when the individual recognizes their own self-worth and takes a stand for their rights. It can take the form of individuals in dire situations, who maintain a hope for the future where it would be easy to give up.  And yet they persevere.

We all have memories, gorgeous conceptions of this day.  From what it means on a larger scale as Americans to the modern-day traditions associated with the holiday. For every person filled with childlike wonder at the spectacle of fireworks there is an adult weary of the sparkle and clamor of the celebration’s chief export. And since this is America, where everyone gets to choose how to spend their time, a solo barbecue to an indie rock soundtrack is as good a way of celebrating as any. America invites all perspectives, so this 4th of July we crowdsourced some words from literature and song that soar above the soundbites and express something greater than themselves – and ourselves.

Jessica Monk, Contributing Editor

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. - Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and author was asked to give a speech in Rochester, New York for the 4th of July celebrations, 1852 — eleven years before the abolition of slavery. He used it as an opportunity to mastermind a righteous attack on the hypocrisy of a nation who held the liberty of human beings to be a self-evident truth, and yet had allowed the fugitive slave law of 1850 to be passed by Congress. Douglass’ speech is delivered with the pure rage of a man who had lived his truth and found no alternative but to fight for his own liberty. He showed America that just as there was no way back for an escaped slave who had declared his independence, so America too, after shaking off its own oppressor had no alternative but to live according to the principles that had freed the nation.

This urgency of progress is what Douglass gave back to America, 76 years after the founding of the nation. He told America in no uncertain terms that the world was changing due to technology and communications, that it was no longer a closed, oppressive prison. And that America would have to keep up with this new open world by reexamining their commitment to freedom. Freedom, for an escaped slave, was not an easy word to cast around. 150 years after the emancipation of slaves, Douglass’ words inspire Americans to keep close to the pulse of freedom as a living thing, rather than just a graceful ideal.


Antoinette Weil, Marketing Coordinator

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. -Dwight Eisenhower

On the Fourth of July you can find me poolside, Bar-B-Qing, watching fireworks and drinking a few cold ones with my closest friends and family. Relaxing with my favorite people is how I like to spend my holiday. But in thinking about the meaning of Independence Day, what it’s all about is freedom and liberty. In looking for words to celebrate this American holiday I could find none truer than Eisenhower’s words. For each of us has a role to play in making this nation work. Each of us has an individual responsibility to take part in the system to ensure that it stays strong. A mass of people working for each other and for themselves. I know it may not seem very literary to quote a former president. But for me this is freedom, these words are liberty, and this is Independence Day.

 

 

Caitlin O’ Hara, Editorial Intern

Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed— I, too, am America.

- Langston Hughes, “I, Too, Sing America” 

In 1945, roughly 20 years before the Civil Rights movement would come to a head in America, Langston Hughes was a major part of creating the feeling that would define African American nationalism. Hughes doesn’t denounce America, he relays a powerful, positive certainty that change awaits. Almost 70 years later, the last words of his poem “I, Too, Sing America” resonate in an America embroiled in the gay marriage debate. I am proud to live in a state that has seen the light for almost 10 years, and have faith that our country will slowly but surely follow, bit by bit. It is because of the hopeful certainty of Americans like Hughes that the fight for rights becomes a peaceful, beautiful reality.

 

Amanda Festa, Managing Editor

Today’s the fourth of July
Another June has gone by.
And when they light up our town I just think,
What a waste of gunpowder and sky. – Aimee Mann, “4th of July”

Since I am patriotic, but also a fan of angsty female rock vocalists, I am drawn to rock goddess Aimee Mann’s 1993 song “4th of July.” The song is classic 90s — mellow, brooding, and in my head she is wearing flannel when singing it — but it also sums up my secret shame surrounding the Fourth.

I love celebrating America’s birthday and all that Independence Day stands for. I feel incredibly fortunate for my life and my freedoms. I am always available to partake in BBQ or beach day, and I really enjoy wearing clothing fashioned out of the American flag — but when it comes to the 4th of July there is one tradition that I don’t quite understand. I don’t like fireworks. There, I said it. This is covered in that free speech thing we are celebrating, right? I was born and raised in Boston, I did the Boston Pops Esplanade hoopla as a child, and I think it had the opposite effect on me than it did on most. I think the large, slow-moving droves of people craning their necks and pushing and shoving their way closer (It’s in the sky, people, you don’t have to move forward, just look up) have sufficiently outweighed the aesthetic. Yes, I’ve seen the finale. It’s just a lot of them at once. I understand they are a big deal to a lot of people (absolutely everyone except me), and I will feign excitement if my 3-year-old nephew looks my way during the display — I am not a 4th of July Scrooge, I swear. But, Independence Day is about more than just fireworks — and at 237 years old, we have a lot to celebrate. I’ll be over here, with my American flag jean shorts and Sam Adams Summer Ale. Cheers, America!

 

Jamie Worcester, Editorial Intern

They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach. – Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver

Growing up, the evening of July 4th was always spent on my grandfather’s boat anchored out on the Long Island Sound. Good food and anticipation always awaited me on those evenings spent with the family. Being on a boat, we avoided the traffic of cars and beach chairs, of wild revelers and antsy children, and had the best seats for this community spectacle. We were rocked by the ocean and deafened by the sounds of fireworks launching. What I remember most is waiting for the grand finale. Nothing trumps a grand finale.

 

Tatsiana Litvinskaya, Editorial Intern

I’m proud to be an American – Lee Greenwood

I had often heard the phrase “Proud to be an American” and didn’t know that it was from a famous song back in the 80s sung by Lee Greenwood. I celebrated my first 4th of July in 2009, just a month after I came to the U.S. I had culture shock, experiencing how different this country is from my home country. On the 4th of July, friends and I went to the Charles River, a favorite place for Bostonians to watch fireworks. Thousands of people were gathered there with tents, chairs, sport mats, ready to spend time and have fun.

When the time came, people stood up, put their hands on their hearts and started to sing. I don’t know exactly what they sang — I couldn’t make out the words in such a mix of many voices, and my English wasn’t good, but my friends and I tried to join in with the crowd anyway. At that moment I experienced an unbelievable few seconds of happiness, luck, and blessing that I came to this country. I felt myself to be an American, and I could sincerely relate to the words of Lee Greenwood, I was indeed “proud to be American.” Happy Independence Day, America!


Alice Pinero, Editorial Intern

I came to this country without a penny. I went to medical school. I’m a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst. That’s America. That’s America. – Holocaust survivor Henri Parens, from America’s Table.

Like so many others during WWII, Henri Parens and his family fell victim to Nazi rule. When he was twelve, his mother put his name on a clandestine list of children to be transported from France to America. He recounts memories of his final goodbyes to his family and his arrival by ship to New York City after successfully slipping free of Hitler’s grasp. Henri landed in America alongside many other young escapees, knowing no one, with no money, and no idea where to go. His success story is one that truly accentuates the infinite possibilities provided by America. It was a safe haven and new beginning for Henri and remains to this day synonymous with “the home of the free” and “the land of opportunity.” As we begin to celebrate the Fourth of July, it is essential to acknowledge and appreciate these boundless liberties with which our country has blessed us. May the Statue of Liberty remain forever, as it did for Henri many years ago, the threshold to safety and hope in times of hardship and adversity.

 

From all of us at Literary Traveler — Happy 4th of July!! 

 

 

The Siberian Mammoth: An Unexpected Guide to Cuba’s Revolutionary Past

January 14, 2013 in Cuba, Film, History, Movies, Political History, Politics

The title of the documentary about the making of I Am Cuba doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue: I am Cuba, The Siberian Mammoth seems to bear an especially obscure relationship with the country. For the puzzled traveler or movie fan, it’s enough to be aware that this Italian film explores a culture clash between the Soviet film-makers who went to the country to make a propaganda film on behalf of Castro’s new regime and the Cubans who were their audience.

The 2005 documentary The Siberian Mammoth opened up the processes behind the making of the mysteriously beautiful propaganda film I am Cuba, after it had been rediscovered by directors such as Francis Ford Coppola. In a time before Cuban tourism had become an option for the offbeat traveler, I am Cuba was a brochure of a political rather than commercial kind. In the 90s, it was easier for hip audiences to enjoy it for its unreal beauty rather than its uncomfortable revolutionary propaganda. The film was directed by a well-known Soviet film-director who ended up alienating Soviets and Cubans both. Kalaznov had worked for Soviet authorities who were impossible to please for long. Before making I am Cuba, he had been banned for several years by the authorities from film-making due to “negativism.” Given these competing demands it’s difficult to know what audience this film was really aimed at. It was described by the film critic J. Hoberman as a “Bolshevik hallucination”. For the contemporary viewer, its beautiful imagery is confusing. Each shot wistfully points to some greater ideal, so that the pace is both slow and hard to follow, like melting ice—first static, then rapidly slipping into the sublimated, altered reality of the triumphant people’s revolution. The inevitable revolutionary sacrifice portrays Cubans as suffering idealists drawn towards action in a dreamlike state. This is a film that shows a Cuba of great natural beauty, but just like an advertisement, it has no real use for the reality of the place and its inhabitants. What’s stranger still is how the actors conform to its artificial purpose. The explanation behind this is that they were untrained Cuban actors selected by the Soviet Directors.

Cuba is a place that has been draped in romantic mystery for many reasons; often literary and cultural, but mostly political. Now that the country is open to tourists, it would be an interesting piece of homework for a traveler to watch this film along with its documentary counterpart as preparation for a visit. At this point the writer has a confession to make: I have seen I Am Cuba, but I have not seen The Siberian Mammoth. Nor have I seen Cuba. If I’m ever lucky enough to visit, I’d like to sharpen my memories of that beautifully shot propaganda film with this documentary about the culture clash between the foreign film-makers and their subjects.

Fauxscar Nominee: Les Misérables

January 7, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, European Writers, Fauxscars, Film, French Authors, History, Literary Movies, Literature, Movies, Political History

Strictly speaking, Les Misérables is not a Literary Adaption; it’s based on the musical, not the Victor Hugo novel. The story has traveled far since it was first published in France. It’s always been a big, hulking phenomenon, and it’s always had its critics. What demolishes the criticism, however, is its emotional forcefulness. And the funny thing about the criticism of each successive adaption, is that it tends to focus on the new version’s faithfulness to the original, despite the fact that the novel was criticized at the time for being sentimental – unfaithful to reality itself. Flaubert deemed it “infantile” and Baudelaire privately called it “tasteless and inept.” But in the preface, Hugo outlined a social purpose for his book that was greater than literary accomplishment:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

In 1862 when Les Misérables was published, the American civil war was being fought over the emancipation of slaves. The noble hero of the book, Jean Valjean, is an ex-convict whose unnatural strength reveals his identity as a former galley slave. He is on the run for most of the film, trying to build a better life as a factory owner, and then stepping up to the role of adopted papa of the orphaned child Cosette. The film of Les Misérables, though based on the musical (it uses all the songs from the 1985 musical bar two) goes where the stage production cannot in portraying the misery of the poor peasants – and in this it rejoins the book. I’ve rarely seen a ‘costume’ production, where the cast is made to look as filthy and downtrodden as this. Most of the characters’ teeth are blackened – though I did notice that Hathaway’s angelic Fantine flashes a cleaner set than some of the lesser cast members. Also Helena Bonham Carter is allowed to get away with her usual steampunk, hallucinatory version of historical costume. This role finds her once again as a flouncy, amoral proprietress of a low dive establishment, even making sausages out of suspect bits of meat, just as she did in Sweeny Todd.

Aside from the comic filthiness of Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, there’s no getting around the sentimentality of the movie and its antecendents, the musical, the book, and numerous film adaptions. But because it’s a musical, a version of willing suspension of disbelief sets in. Call it, “willing suspension of cynical running commentary” (we’ll wait ‘til the movie’s out on Netflix to relax our standards on that). But it’s more than that. The movie packs real emotional weight, especially through the performances of the leads. No one could fail to be moved by Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While they’re delivering their soliloquys, the shots are trained on the characters’ faces – often from above, as if to capture the desperation and abandonment which makes them invoke a higher power. By the time Hathaway’s Fantine bows out of the film, she is a broken woman, shorn of her locks and her dignity; the camera does not flinch from describing the dirt and tears on her face.

Hugh Jackman is also a great, sympathetic lead as Jean Valjean, and Samantha Barks is a sad, forlorn Eponine.  Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried are fairly wooden, but as the fairy prince and princess characters, they don’t have much to do besides adorn the happy ending.

Overall ‘Les Miz’ works because of its great cast rather than originality – but really, who was looking for that? It manages to stay true to the form of the musical - and to the intentions of the book: to portray the victims of poverty. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of those soliloquys bag a few Oscars for the leads.

Happy Halloween From Literary Traveler!

October 31, 2012 in American Authors, American History, Bookstores, Classic Literature, Dark New England, Edgar Allen Poe, Famous Museums, Halloween, History, Holidays Literary Traveler, Horror, Horror Writers, Massachusetts Travel, New England Travel, Psychology, Short Stories, Stephen King, Vampires in Literature

Literary Traveler has been very excited about Halloween…and it’s finally here! To celebrate, we’d like to show off all the work we did in advance of the spookiest day of the year. All Treats.

Halloween Reflections - “Halloween is a time when the veil between the dead and the living was at its thinnest.”

Mercy Brown: American Vampire - “Like the vampire, tuberculosis visited ordinary communities seemingly at random – preying upon family members, slowly robbing them of their life and turning them into fevered ghostly individuals with a persistent bloody cough.”

The House of the Seven Gables - “If Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables house was once haunted by the uneasy ghosts of family (his ancestors were involved in the Salem witch trials), the resident ghost today seems to have the philanthropic and busy spirit of Miss Emmerton.”

The Hawthorne Hotel - “Despite general manager Judi Lederhaus’ assertions, hundreds of tourists stream into the stately lodgings ready to embark on a supernatural safari.”

The Psychology of Salem - “The most dangerous element of the teenage mind is the inability to grasp the concept of linear thinking. Some teenagers cannot see beyond immediate gratification.  This makes decision making tricky.”

Master of Creep: Edgar Allen Poe - “Poe created complete universes in which the reader starts to believe the narrator.”

The Salem Witch Trials - “In 1692, fear spread through Salem, Massachusetts like contagion, infecting the minds of the mainstream, and claiming the lives of those among the periphery.”

Literary Traveler Goes to Salem - “I mosey by a zombie playing the saxophone for a couple of onlookers and I am officially sold on the city of Salem.”

Independence Day, Then and Now: How to Party like it’s 1776

July 3, 2012 in American History, History, Independence Day, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Travel, New Orleans, Philadelphia Travel

On the eve of the first Independence Day, John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

The following day, July 4th 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and, while it did not become a federal holiday until 1941, the 4th of July has been celebrated consistently for over two hundred years with “pomp and parade” that would do our second president proud.  Looking to partake in the festivities?  If you are not afraid of enthusiastic crowds and a little holiday traffic, there are quite a few large scale celebrations happening “from sea to shining sea.”

In 1776, the earliest celebrations took the form of public readings of the Declaration of Independence.  The first took place on July 8th 1776 in Philadelphia and copies of the document were also sent on horseback to the remaining states, where public readings occurred in each as they were received.  Many cities, including Philadelphia, will present reenactments of these public readings in homage.  If you are in the Philadelphia area on July 8th, commemorate the anniversary and lend an ear alongside park rangers in period costumes who will be handing out free copies of the illustrious document.

History buffs will especially enjoy celebrating Independence Day in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, where America’s forefathers originally put their John Hancock to the document, birthing the nation and the idiom.  Philadelphia is also where the spirited celebration of the 4th of July began to resemble the festivities we know today.  In 1777,  the one year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was marked with the first organized and extensively planned celebrations of the day, which included the first authorized fireworks display, setting the stage for future generations.  236 years later, fireworks will once again illuminate the sky during Philadelphia’s annual Wawa Welcome America Festival, which also includes concerts and a parade, as well as many other family friendly activities.

Also a popular choice for 4th of July revelry and, not-so-coincidentally, another hotbed of Revolutionary history, is Boston. The first town to designate the 4th of July a holiday in 1783, it remains one of the premier destinations for Independence Day celebration, so well known in fact that the website for the festivities is July4th.org.  The annual fireworks display over the Charles River features a performance from the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra.  Coinciding with the 4th of July events is OpSail, which will bring the Tall Ships back to Boston in celebration of the USS Constitution, which is berthed in Charlestown.  Take a tour of the vessels and watch as the USS Constitution makes its annual turnaround from the Charlestown Navy Yard through Boston Harbor. While a much loved Boston institution, this is done for more than show.  In order for the ship to maintain active in the US Navy, law requires the ship to travel one nautical mile per year.  This annual tradition maintains Old Ironsides’ title as the oldest active warship in the Navy.

Those on the west coast, fear not, celebrations will be happening across the country.  If you are in the vicinity, head to San Diego for a pyrotechnic display proclaimed “the greatest fireworks show in the west.”  With five barge locations, the 12th annual “Big Bay Boom” will be bigger than ever. With 500,000 revelers in attendance last year, that is saying something.

Looking to celebrate down south? New Orleans has always known how to throw a party, and with 2012 commemorating the bicentennial of Louisiana’s statehood, the celebration will be doubly enthusiastic.  NOLA’s festive “Go 4th on the River” celebration will feature a fireworks display from dueling barges over the Mississippi River.  For the whole experience, watch from a riverboat such as the Creole Queen, which offers evening cruises that boast prime viewing locations for the fireworks show.

So next week, before you light the BBQ and crane your neck upwards at a beautiful pyrotechnic display, crack open a Sam Adams lager and toast to its namesake and the rest of our founding fathers.  Happy 236th Birthday America!