Thursday, August 20, 2009

History Musings

The one thing that is always disappointing when you actually study history is that all those glorified heroic figures are never as cool as you want them to be.

I absolutely love the Robin Hood myths. I watched the Errol Flynn version at a very impressionable age and the Disney Robin Hood was probably my favorite Disney movie. So while I was reading Alison Weir's biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine it was a huge blow to learn about the true character of Richard Coeur de Lion. According to the Robin Hood myths that I've encountered, Richard is supposedly a great and honorable king who champions the cause of the Saxon peasantry and fights courageously in the Holy Land. Once he returns to England, he saves the nation from the clutches of the evil Prince John who has attempted to usurp the throne.

For one thing, it is completely unlikely that Robin Hood would have lived during Richard I's reign; most sources place him in the 13th or 14th century, at least 100 years after Richard was king. But to make things even worse, Richard was a horrible king! He had a reputation of excessive cruelty, to the point that the character of Malik-Ric (evil Richard) was used for centuries by mothers in the Middle East to make their children behave; while on crusade, Richard had nearly 3,000 Turkish men, women and children beheaded because Saladin wouldn't surrender to him. His sexual appetite was so voracious that he abducted and raped the wives and daughters of his vassals and fathered numerous bastards. The man didn't even speak a word of English! (While the monarchs of England were still Normans, they usually had lived in the country long enough to speak some of their subjects' language. They'd be just beginning with Middle English I think.) Raised in Aquitaine with his mother, he understood only the culture and lange d'oc of Southern France. Richard I spent less than a year out of his 10 year reign actually in England; the rest of the time he spent in France or crusading in the Holy Land (the expense of which sucked the country dry). King John's early reign actually proved that he was a better king than Richard and was morally neither better or worse than his brother. (From what I've read, King John became much worse later in his reign - which is why his barons forced him to sign the Magne Carta - but the book ended with Eleanor's death, not with John's).

Robin Hood was probably just a bandit who stole for his own gain too. Phaugh. I'll take Errol Flynn any day.

Book Review - Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really like Alison Weir's biographies. She writes in a very accessible tone so that her books are neither too stuffy nor too dumbed down to read. Weir's biography follows Eleanor of Aquitaine's life from her childhood in Aquitaine through her marriages to Louis VII of France and Henry II of England, her reigns as queen in both countries and on through her old age as she championed the causes of her remaining children. This book portrays a fascinating picture of the politics of Medieval Europe in the 12th and very beginning of the 13th century. As it is a biography of the queen of France and England, it focuses mainly on those two countries, but also deals with the Middle East as both Louis VII and Richard I go on crusade (the 2nd and 3rd respectively).

The only real problem that I have with this books is that it focuses so much on the people and events that surround Eleanor of Aquitaine rather than Eleanor herself. I understand that this is due simply to a lack of primary sources that deal with Eleanor, but I feel after reading this that I know much more about her husbands and sons than I do about her. Despite this, the book was an enjoyable read as this was a very interesting period of European history.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Food Update!

I've cooked a whole bunch of stuff lately, so here are some pictures!

I was really surprised that this cobbler turned out to be so delicious. Well, it's a Cook's Illustrated recipe, so I shouldn't be too surprised, but I so love Mom mountain pie style cobbler that I was a little wary of the biscuity topping. The biscuits tasted really good though - they were moist and just barely sweet...really tasty with the peaches.

I can't take full credit for this pie. It was totally Eddy's mom Vickie's idea to bake it, she made the crust and I just assembled it. It's a banoffee pie, which is toffee topped with bananas and then covered with whipped cream. The banoffee pie is pretty much the most ridiculous pie I've ever seen, but it was definitely good. I'm not a huge toffee/caramel fan, so I though the toffee layer was a little overpowering, but it went really well with the bananas and whipped cream.

This was a big fussy pistachio cake that I was honestly disappointed with overall. It has layers of marzipan, apricot jam and chocolate ganache between the layers of cake and all those flavors way overpowered the pistachio. I absolutely loved the way the plain cake tasted, but the dominating flavor of the put together cake was just dull chocolate. I think the cake would be really good maybe baked in a bundt with a lemony glaze. The marzipan was a pain too - mostly because I bought chocolate covered marzipan by mistake, but the rolling out and cutting process was just way to fussy for my taste.

I also made Pasta Carbonara, Chicken Marsala, Lemon Cream Scones and Zucchini Bread, but I don't have pictures of any of those.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Music Friday - Psychedelic Edition

For Eddy this time

I want to tell you a story
'Bout a little man if I can.
A gnome named Grimble Gromble.
And little gnomes stay in their homes,
Eating, sleeping, drinking their wine...

KT and Eddy's New Hobby

That's me climbing through a tiny hole in Bend's Boyd Cave

After nearly a week, Eddy and I finally went caving! We were originally going to go down to the Lava Beds National Monument in California to go through the lava caves there, but it was way too hot down there to go camping. There are tons of lava caves around Bend though, so we're going to spend the next couple of days going through them.

We went to Boyd Cave yesterday and it was so much fun! It was a little tricky getting through - we had to crawl on our stomachs a few times and there were two places were we had to wriggle through very small holes - but there wasn't anything too hard. We're definitely going to have to do this more often. Eddy and I are going to try to find some caves in Washington when we get back, and anyone who wants to come with us is welcome to!