A brief history of: The Yorkshire Pudding

Despite having its origins in Yorkshire, the history of the Yorkshire Pudding, a staple part of any British persons diet, is shrouded in mystery to most.

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The first ever recorded recipe appears in a book, ‘The Whole Duty of a Woman’ in 1737 and it was recorded as A Dripping Pudding – the dripping coming from spit-roast meat.

The next recorded recipe took the pudding from local delicacy to become a nation-wide phenomenon following the publication of ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ by Hannah Glasse in 1747. As one of the most prolific food writers of the time, the popularity of the book allowed the recipe to reach every corner of the British Isles. It was in this incarnation that the ‘Dripping Pudding’ which had been consumed in Yorkshire for centuries was renamed and became more recognisable as what we know and love today (although it was still rather flat).

Going on, the Yorkshire Pudding survived both World Wars and the rationing of the 40’s and 50’s. However, as more woman worked, cooking in the home started to fall. The rise of ‘fast’ foods and ready meals has seen the invention of the first commercially produced Yorkshire puddings with the launch of the Yorkshire based Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995.

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Who doesn’t love a good ‘Toad in the hole’?!

In 2007, Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh, campaigned for Yorkshire puddings to be given the same protected status as French champagne, Cornish Pasties or Greek feta cheese, “The people of Yorkshire are rightly and fiercely proud of the Yorkshire pudding,” she said “it is something which has been cherished and perfected for centuries in Yorkshire.” Despite this, the term ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ was seen as too generic, however businesses in the area continue to hold the pudding in high regard.

Then in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry got involved when it declared that “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.”

Just why this simple combination of flour, eggs, milk and salt became such an symbolic culinary icon is a mystery. The Yorkshire Pudding is up there with the Cornish Pasty, English Breakfast, even Fish and Chips! It is because of its popularity that I have no qualms in saying that there are very few more prestigious foods in the whole British Isles.

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Post Script: All images are courtesy of Google. My two attempts to actually make Yorkshire Puddings were rather flat and wholly unremarkable

An alert to the threats to Europe

I found this ‘letter’ and thought it tied in quite well with my previous post regarding Syria – its credited with coming from he famous comedian John Cleese, however a little bit of reasearch has dug up the fact it looks like its actually not by him at all!

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

— John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person A final thought -“ Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.”

A Victory for Democracy?

Now, I don’t claim to be anything more than a passive watcher of the news; I catch it for an hour in the morning, maybe the headlines at 6pm and then I watch the news at 10. However, I can’t help but feel that the events in Syria, and in the British Parliament, need a mentioning.

For those that do not know, I will give a brief outline of the Civil War in Syria (and it will be brief, I hardly know a barrel of information on the topic!). It began in March 2011 as a chain of peaceful protests, followed by a crackdown by the Syrian Army. In July 2011, army defectors declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army and began forming fighting units. According to the United Nations, up to 100,000 people have been killed and in order to escape the violence, over 1.7 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. As of this moment, the civil war has become so out of control that a chemical attack was made on civilians in the city of Damascus. It is currently unknown as to who exactly caused the chemical attack, and while it is heavily suggested to have been the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has neither been confirmed nor denied by the UN Weapons experts who have examined the evidence.

The chemical attack is the cause of the main flux in condemnation for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, particularly from the Western World.

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have both been particularly strong in their words when describing the chemical weapons attacks and it is for this reason that the House of Commons, one of the Two Houses of Parliament, was summoned by Cameron (while not in session) to vote as to Britain’s willingness to take military action against Syria.

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Far from budding friends most of the time, both Obama and Cameron appear to have found a unity over Syria and the outrage of the use of chemical weapons

The Government put forward this Bill with the express intent of having Military action being ratified, however The Labour Party also made an amendment to the Governments Bill. Call me cynical if you will, but I feel they are mainly doing so in an effort to appear as if they have learned from the mistakes of their recent past in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Despite this, what they called for were reasonable measures; military action would be validated when:
– The UN Security Council voted in support of it
– There was undeniable proof that the chemical attack was of Government origin
– The force was to be used only to stop the use of chemical weapons and promote humanitarian support
– The UN Weapons Inspectors could guarantee that it the chemical attack was designed to attack civilians

The Labour Amendment was voted on shortly before the Government’s and defeated by 220 voted to 332. As such, it meant that Parliament was either accepting military action on the facts as we known them to be know (as the Government wants) or declining to accept any use of military force at all.

As it happened, the House of Commons voted to defeat the Governments Motion, 285 votes to 272.

Now, mentioning Labour, there is something I don’t understand; The House of Commons had two votes tonight: one in which Labour put forward their amendment to the Governments ‘militant’ Bill regarding Syria and another in which the Government put forward its Bill for military action to be taken in Syria. Both failed, yet the second fails by a much closer margin.

Despite this, Labour are calling for a General Election and/or the resignation of David Cameron? As much as this is a rather stinging blow to Mr Cameron and his pro-action agenda, its hardly been a staple part of his manifesto. Its a simple fact of office that (probably more often than not) politicians may want one thing, but not be able to achieve it.

The defeat of the Goverment’s motion prompted a, I think, rather nice quote from the PM:

“I believe in respecting the Will of this House of Commons.”

“It is very clear to me the British parliament, reflecting the view of the British people, does not want see military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.”

I think that I would agree that the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 did haunt this debate, and those who were making the same debate in 2003 when they agreed to the War on Terror; whether or not it was a wise choice, or a fair choice. I don’t know.
Will it stop others from getting involved? Unlikely, as Obama has already made it clear that he is fully prepared to make this a singular American Operation (unlike Bush’s ‘Coalition’). However the effects of the vote on Congress are yet to be seen.

Do I personally think that we should have voted yes to military action in Syria? No. I think it is about time that we realised that just because we may have some degree of power by the size of our Armed Forces it does not mean we have an automatic position as the Worlds Police Force. Not only this, but I think we have to recognise that its simply not possible to solve problems like this with full out military force; it hasn’t worked for use in the last decade, and it wont work here. Saying that however, I do feel that we as human beings have a moral obligation to try and ensure that such heinous crimes as the use of chemical weapons on civilians (or anyone for that matter) are never permitted nor allowed to occur.

To this end, I have no idea what to do about Syria. Its a right old mess.

So. There we have the ramblings on of someone with very few of the real facts and only our (if we are honest) pretty shoddy media to source.

Yes Prime Minister: The 2013 Revival

“All the important decisions that affect us [Scotland] are taken in London! Have you any idea what that feels like?”

“Of course I have, all the important decisions that affect us are taken in Brussels!”

 
Yes Prime Minister is a Political Satire from Great Britain, focusing on the role of the Prime Minister, his close advisers and the way in which they combat the problems they have to face in running the country.

 

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The new ‘Team’ left to right: Clare Sutton (Zoe Telford), Sir Humphrey Appleby (Henry Goodman), PM Jim Hacker (David Haig) and Bernard Wooley (Chris Larkin).

The original run of Yes Prime Minister ran from 1986 to 1988 and consisted of two series focusing on the situations that PM Jim Hacker (excellently portrayed by Paul Eddington) and Civil Servant Sir Humphrey Appleby (played superbly by Nigel Hawthorne) found themselves in. It followed on from the popular ‘Yes Minister’ and was just as successful, not to mention extremely accurate. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time, announced it was her favourite show.

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The Original ‘Team’ left to right: Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne), PM Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) and Bernard Wooley (Derek Fowlds).

The 2013 revival takes the show into the modern day, with modern day problems. The Jim Hacker of today faces economic crisis, possible salvation from Kumranistan, European concerns, coalition factions and threats of Scottish rebellion.
David Haig takes on the role of Jim Hacker, newly elected PM in a coalition Government. Henry Goodman takes on the role of Sir Humphrey Appleby. Chris Larkin plays Bernard Wooley, the Prime Ministers Private Secretary. Clare Sutton, Special Political Advisor to the PM, (a role which has been increased from its position in the original) is portrayed by Zoe Telford. It also features Robbie Coltrane!*

The relationship between Hacker and Appleby in the original was fantastically created, so it was clearly going to be extremely difficult for Haig and Goodman to replicate this; however I think they successfully pulled it off. The acting of Eddington and Hawthorne made the characters so unique and loved in the original, I think that Haig and Goodman struggled (rightfully) to fill those positions, however it was boosted considerably by the relationship between the two which managed to ensure the situations still remained clever and funny. One thing that I did find disappointing however is that I don’t think Chris Larkin’s portrayal of Bernard holds a candle to the brilliance of Derek Fowlds. He doesn’t seem to hold the position in the same way which Fowlds had managed to.

The story which the revival is centred on is also very well chosen for the modern day and is littered with particularly humorous situations. The show starts with the PM’s need to fix the economic crisis, ensure his Coalition doesn’t split, keep Scotland in the Union, see through the bureaucracy of the Civil Service and placate a sex-pest Kumranistan foreign secretary. Jim Hacker takes to office about as naturally as he did in the original, and it makes for fantastic viewing.

To conclude, if you are a fan of comedy, political satire, or of just laughing, then this show is for you. However, don’t exclude the original for fear that it’s too old, or not relevant. As good as the 2013 revival is, the original was truly hilarious. Overall? 8/10. A must for anyone who loves to see the British Government at its best….. And worst.

“Do you not feel that yes and no are too narrow in their application?”

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*Although only for one episode

The Iron Lady is dead: Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

So. Margaret Thatcher is dead. Yup, I’m afraid today is going to be political people.

Many love her. Many hate her. I don’t think it’s typical newspaper exaggeration to say that she is the most divisive politician in the modern age. To quote two well-known UK politicians; “She changed the political landscape not just in our country, but the rest of the world”

Baroness Thatcher was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have ever held the office (she was also the first female leader of similar standing in the developed world). She went to war with the Trade Unions, Miners and Argentina and most definitely got her way in all of them. She developed our relationship with the United States and was a key player in the thawing of the Cold War, so much so, a Soviet labelled her the ‘Iron Lady’. Her economic policy led to major recession, and the methods she used to fix the economy (which they did) were incredibly unpopular. She arguably ripped the industry out of the North, and destroyed the mining industry. She also took on the Trade Unions which, I think its fair to say, were too powerful, and were holding the country to ransom. She responded to the Falklands situation and defended the people against oppression.

She was a person who restored belief in Britain. The defeatism which had become installed in Britain post-WW2 was successfully expelled, and Britain grew into one of the strongest countries in the world economically.

Now, I wasn’t actually born until after Thatcher left office, so the only knowledge I have of her policies is based off the accounts of others and my own research. However, I like to think that I have covered at least a basic understanding of her time in Office and the woman that was Margaret Thatcher. I think she had a lot to answer for, but she was a straight talker. You don’t become the ‘Iron Lady’ without deserving the title.

“The lady is not for turning” And it’s a testament to her strength that she never did.

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Post Script:
For those that are seeing the news that people are actively celebrating the death of Thatcher, its something I can’t comprehend. It is more than reasonable to condemn someone for their policies or opinions – politicians pretty much load the gun for us – but to celebrate a death?
Smacks of distaste if you ask me. I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to actually celebrate a death. Don’t mourn them, criticise them sure, but don’t celebrate it.
It’s not a matter of showing respect. It’s a matter of being human.

Post-Post Script
Sorry for the nearly two months of inactivity! Back to normal, semi-weekly updates from now on!