Norman-French Cuisine, the Soft Culinary Invasion of A.D.1066

Norman-French Cuisine Invades England (Somewhat) in A.D. 1066

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Nevertheless He [i.e., the Creator-God] left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.  (Acts 14:17)

The year A.D. 1066 is best remembered by William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of Britain—an event that changed world history forever.(1),(2),(3)

Viking-reenactors.approaching-battle

As this author’s previous history research has reported, the fate of America’s George Washington actually hung in the balances during the Battle of Hastings (!), on the 14th of October, A.D.1066.(1),(3)

However, did that invasive immigration of Normans also change the dietary habits of Britain’s inhabitants?

Archaeologists from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield have combined the latest scientific methods to offer new insights into life during the Norman Conquest of England.  … But little has been known about how it affected everyday people’s lives. … There is evidence the Norman invasion led to more controlled and standardised mass agricultural practices. Pork became a more popular choice and dairy products were used less. But on the whole, a diet dominated by vegetables, cereals beef and mutton remained largely unchanged.(4)

In other words, according to recently reported archeological research, the conclusion is that the Norman conquest of England only changed popular cuisine habits “somewhat”, but “not so much”.(4),(5),(6)

Dr. Elizabeth Craig-Atkins of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “Examining archaeological evidence of the diet and health of ordinary people who lived during this time gives us a detailed picture of their everyday experiences and lifestyles. Despite the huge political and economic changes that were happening [in 1066], our analysis suggests the Conquest may have only had a limited impact on most people’s diet and health.  “There is certainly evidence that people experienced periods where food was scarce. But following this, an intensification in farming meant people generally had a more steady food supply and consistent diet. Aside from pork becoming a more popular food choice, eating habits and cooking methods remained unchanged to a large extent.”(4)

Before the Norman invasion, in A.D.1066, the island of Britain’s demographics displayed the mix of original Celtic peoples and later-arriving Saxons, plus a sprinkling of settlers from two centuries of intermittent immigrations by Norse Vikings.

Bayeux-Tapestry-Wm-coronated-England.Xmas-AD1066

However, when Duke William’s force came from Rouen, they brought with them their Norman-French language, plus some Norman-French dietary preferences. French cuisine often features poultry, plus the Viking heritage of Normandy always included fish, such as cod, salmon, and herring.(2),(5),(6)

Viking-ship-with-Lutefisk.pic

Eventually, bones reveal who was eating what.(4),(5),(6),(7)

Researchers used a technique called stable isotope analysis on bones to compare 36 humans found in various locations around Oxford, including Oxford Castle, who had lived between the 10th and 13th centuries. Signals from food we consume are archived as chemical tracers in our bones, allowing scientists to investigate the quality and variety of a person’s diet long after they have died. … Levels of protein and carbohydrate consumption were similar in the group and evidence of bone conditions related to poor diet—such as rickets and scurvy—were rare.(4)

The study of diet enables exploration of the impact of political change on everyday life through its illumination of the provisioning, marketing, selection and preparation of foodstuffs. … Previous analyses of diet in England during the 11th-century Norman Conquest have focused on changes in food culture brought about by French cultural influences. These include increased consumption of domesticated pigs and wild species, as well as changes in cooking practices, such as a greater frequency of roasting and new methods of slow cooking…. These changes can be set against developments in food culture, which characterise the early centuries of the late medieval period, such as the increasing consumption of fish….(5)

Repton-Viking-bones.unearthed-heapUnlike swine raised far from coastlines or navigable rivers, swine raised by Vikings—and by Norman French—were often fed fish scraps.(7)

Isotope analysis was also used on 60 animals found at the same sites, to ascertain how they were raised. Studies of pig bones found their diets became more consistent and richer in animal protein after the Conquest, suggesting pig farming was intensified under Norman rule. They were likely living in the town and being fed scraps instead of natural vegetable fodder.(4)

These dietary differences complicate research for archeologists who rely upon Carbon-14 dating methods. Traditional radiocarbon dating usually assumes a terrestrial food-based diet—ingesting photosynthesis-fixed 14C via eating grains, root vegetables, fruits, and nuts, plus various meats and dairy products derived from grain-fed or grass-fed herbivores.(7),(8)

Viking-codfish-drying.rack

However, fish-dominated diets—supplemented by pork from swine raised on fish scraps—accumulate less Carbon-14 in human bones, so dietary adjustments are needed when estimating date-of-death timeframes for the bones of those who habitually ate fish and other foods traceable to a marine food-chain.(7),(8)

Meanwhile, whatever good food is eaten—whether it’s from a terrestrial food-chain (like chicken), or from the sea (like fish)—should be eaten with thanksgiving, because good food is its own proof of God’s caring providence.(9)

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

photo

References

  1. “But what if there had been no George Washington to ‘father’ America? … If the battle [of Hastings] had gone the other way and William the Conqueror had died, then he would not have been alive to have [fathered] a son named Henry (England’s Henry I), who was born two years after the Battle of Hastings. Since George Washington is a [F21] direct descendant of Henry I, Washington wouldn’t have been born roughly 700 years later…”  Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence of God. Acts & Facts. 41(12):8-10, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/christmas-vikings-providence-god .
  2. Haywood, J. 1995. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Viking World. London, UK: Penguin Books, pages 14-15, 80-81, 137.  Normandy’s William the Conqueror was an F5 descendant of the famous Norwegian-born Viking Hrolf (the Ganger) Ragnvaldsson, who established Rouen, Normandy.
  3. Andrusko, S. M., et al. 1983. Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress. Library Trends. 32(1):51-65, especially page 53. See also Ashley, M. 1998. The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens: The Complete Biographical Encyclopedia of Kings and Queens of BritainNew York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 439, 497-504, 521, esp. 499. ICR’s adjunct faculty, British historian Dr. William R. Cooper, provided helpful scholarship with this biogenetic data analysis.
  4. Cardiff University staff writer. 2020. Norman Conquest of 1066 Did Little to Change People’s Eating Habits. Posted by PhysOrg (July 6, 2020) at https://phys.org/news/2020-07-norman-conquest-people-habits.html .
  5. Craig-Atkins, E. B. Jarvis, L. Cramp, et al. 2020. The Dietary Impact of the Norman Conquest: A Multiproxy Archaeological Investigation of Oxford, UK. PLoS One. 15(7): e0235005 (July 6, 2020), posted at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0235005 .
  6. Some of the biochemical findings were unexpected. It seems that the Anglo-Norman clergy, who mandated cultist dietary restrictions for the common folk, did not practice what they themselves preached. “It might be expected, for example, that Christ Church’s monastic community observed religious proscriptions against meat [1 Timothy 4:1-5], and so consumed more fish (and poultry) than individuals interred in the other cemeteries. However, this appears not to have been the case, as Christ Church has the lowest mean δ15N and δ13C values compared to the other sites. The three individuals from Oxford Castle may have had a higher social status, and therefore a diet richer in meat and fish, but in this case, as the mean δ15N value is highest, but the δ13C value is lowest, marine dietary input must have been negligible in this small sample of individuals.”  (Quoting Craig-Atkins, E. B. Jarvis, L. Cramp, et al., cited in the previous footnote).   On Europe’s dietary restrictions during the Dark Ages, see Kurlanksy, M. 1997. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. New York, NY: Walker & Company, pages 24 & 35.
  7. Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Viking Bones Contradict Carbon-14 Assumptions. Acts & Facts. 47(5):21, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/viking-bones-contradict-c14-assumptions .   For a short podcast on this topic, review James J. S. Johnson’s “Why One-Size-Fits-All Radiocarbon Dating Doesn’t Work”, ICR Creation Science Update Podcast (August 24, 2018), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/one-size-fits-all-radiocarbon-dating-doesnt-work .
  8. Jarman, C. L., M. Biddle, T. Higham, et al. 2018. The Viking Great Army in England: New Dates from the Repton Charnel. Antiquity. 92(361):183-199. See also Arneborg, J., J. Heinemeier, N. Lynnerup, et al. 1999. Change of Diet of the Greenland Vikings Determined from Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis and 14C Dating of their Bones. Radiocarbon. 41(2):157-168.   Arneborg and her team recognize how diet must be accounted for when using Carbon-14 dating methods: “If the bone collagen is of terrestrial origin, the measured (conventional) 14C age is converted into a true calendar age by using the global tree-ring calibration curve. However, this simple procedure is not applicable when the bone collagen is derived in part from marine carbon which, due to the marine reservoir effect, appears several hundred 14C years older than the corresponding terrestrial carbon. This seriously constrains the dating of bones of people who have had access to food protein from the sea.”
  9. Acts 14:17. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Our Daily Bread: How Food Proves God’s Providence. Acts & Facts. 40(4):8-9, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/our-daily-bread-how-food-proves-gods/ .

 

Have You Thanked a Fish-Farmer Lately?

Have You Thanked a Fish-Farmer Lately?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scottish-salmon.fishfarm-netpens

Animals who benefit our lives should be appreciated, as well as the hard-working humans who employ those animals in ways that bless us.  But, of course, our primary appreciation and gratitude should go to God Himself, Maker of animals and ourselves.

Recently I published an article about Scottish aquaculture — and what heroes the aquaculture folks are, nowadays, as first-line-of-defense workers for critical times. (See “Fish-Farming Feeds Scots, But It’s Not Getting Easier”, ICR News (posted April 21st, AD2020) at  https://www.icr.org/article/fish-farming-feeds-scots-but-not-getting-easier  — where I posed the question:

When was the last time you thanked a fish farmer for tending to coast water net-pens, braving unpleasant weather and workplace hazards, to ‘farm’ aquatic ‘livestock’ such as salmon, trout, or shellfish for your dinner?”

Just like livestock husbandry, the aquaculture industry appreciates high-risk capital investment, labor-intensive maintenance costs, and (potential) profitability of its “farm” animals – see Proverbs 14:4.   Yet, as the old saying goes:  “If your input exceeds your output, your upkeep is your downfall.”  So, whenever operated as a profitable operation, offshore aquaculture often yields large-scale harvests and handsome profits, all over the world.

Another example, from a few years ago, of such high-risk enterprise harks from Indonesia.

Indonesia-seabass.fishfarm-netpens

According to The Fish Site ( www.thefishsite.com , Indonesia decided to undertake a major offshore fish-farming operation, to expand its seabass production.  Of course, Indonesia need not “reinvent the wheel”, so the Norwegian fish-farming netpen model is being used for this investment capital-intensive operation.  Specifically, The Fish Site report says:

“The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is to build three offshore aquaculture facilities in 2017 in a hope to produce an additional 1,500 tons of seabass annually. The ministry’s director general for aquaculture, Slamet Soebjakto, said the facilities would be built in Sabang, Aceh; Karimun Jawa, Central Java; and the southern coast of Java between Cilacap and Pangandaran, with a total investment of Rp 141 billion (US$10.5 million), reports the JAKARTA POST. ‘The figure will cover everything, including the automatic feeder machines, fish nets and the cost of establishing floating bases and docks,’ Slamet said. The construction of the offshore facilities, the model of which has been adopted from Norwegian models [which have been developed mostly in Norwegian salmon “farming”], is expected to be completed in eight months, Slamet added. The facilities will be jointly operated by state-owned fishery firm Perikanan Indonesia and local fisherfolk associations.”

[Quoting The Fish Site, January 3, 2017, posted at http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/28623/indonesia-to-expand-seabass-production-with-offshore-facilities/ .]

Previously this Indonesian fish-farming enterprise (using Norwegian netpen technology) was reported, in “Indonesia Intends to Build Offshore 3 Sea Bass Aquaculture Facilities”, posted at https://rockdoveblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/indonesia-intends-to-build-offshore-3-sea-bass-aquaculture-facilites / .

Fish-farming, like landlubber farming, is no easy business.  Let’s be thankful for those who work long and hard, and incur risks we don’t think about, just so we can have godo food to eat.

And, above all, thank God for good food that He providentially provides to us, to both the just and the unjust of this world (Acts 14:17).

JJSJ-with-Dungeness-Crab

When in Scotland, Eat Well!

When In Scotland, Eat Well!

Nevertheless He [i.e., God] left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.  (Acts 14:17)

full-Scottish-breakfast.TripAdvisor

Good food is a proof of God’s providential care and power, as Acts 14:17 indicates.  [See my analysis, of this truth, in “Our Daily Bread:  How Food Proves God’s Providence”, ACTS & FACTS, 40(4):8-9 (April 2011), posted at  https://www.icr.org/article/our-daily-bread-how-food-proves-gods/ .]

So, here is my Scottish-memories limerick, to help me recall some wonderful food that I ate while in Scotland, including many “full Scottish breakfast” buffets (with hot black teas), plus gourmet later-in-the-day treasures like Norway Lobster (a/k/a “Langoustine”, Nephrops norvegicus  —  a marine crustacean resembling a mini-lobster, i.e., a crawfish that tastes somewhat like a prawn-sized shrimp), haggis (which looks like a large egg roll — and tastes like Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple), venison, Isle of Mull mussels, scones (with clotted cream),  sea scallops (e.g., “Queenies”), salmon, haddock (as part of “fish and chips”), haggis-&-cracked-black-pepper potato chips, Irn-Bru ice cream, and more!

Isle-of-Mull-scallops

Recalling Scottish Cuisine, in the Highlands & Hebrides

Scallops, haggis, fish and chips

Are well welcomed by my lips;

Norway lobster, steak of deer,

Scones and tea  give me cheer;

Scallops, haggis, fish and chips!

[writ by JJSJ while leaving Scotland, 21st July AD2019]

Norway-Lobster.DailyScandinavian

Being Thankful About the Basics, including the Little Things

Being Thankful About the Basics, including the Little Things

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.  (Luke 10:20)

John14.2-pic

Being secure for eternity, thanks to having the Lord Jesus Christ as my Redeemer, is wonderful (John 3:14-16; Luke 10:20).  Yet I would have no eternity, either good or bad, if God had never created me (to be me) in the first place.

In other words, the most basic gratitude, that we should have, is being thankful that God chose to make us as the unique humans we are (Psalm 102:18).

PaloDuroCanyon-Mastodon-with-JJSJ

JJSJ birdwatching / hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas Panhandle, during spring of AD2018 (photo-shopped Mastodon inserted by my cousin Don Barber)

So here is a limerick about appreciating being a creature (whom God chose to make), plus being grateful for some of the simplest things in life, such as good food (Acts 14:17).

THANK YOU, GOD, FOR BLESSING LITTLE ME

(AND FOR LITTLER BLESSINGS TOO)

O God, thanks for making little me;

Thanks, too, for littler blessings I can see:

Little gifts, like cherries red,

Liverwurst, dark rye bread —

Thanks mostly, You chose to make me!

Cherries-wild


 

ON SEEING A PICNIC TABLE-PERCHING ROADRUNNER, FOLLOWED BY EATING BROILED ARCTIC CHAR

ON  SEEING  A  PICNIC  TABLE-PERCHING  ROADRUNNER,  FOLLOWED  BY  EATING  BROILED  ARCTIC  CHAR

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

roadrunner-on-table

To see God’s doings, we’re able,

Like a roadrunner perched on a table,

Or, to eat fish from afar,

Like Icelandic char —

God is good – truly, that is no fable!

arcticchar-on-plate

COMMENTARY: Acts 14:17 reminds us that food itself is a proof of God’s kind providence.  [See “Our Daily Bread:  How Food Proves God’s Providence”, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/our-daily-bread-how-food-proves-gods/ ].  Likewise, the beauty of a wild bird – even a neighborhood roadrunner – illustrates God’s creative genius and bioengineering handiwork.  The beauty of such lively birds also exhibits the variety of winged wildlife that God has given unto mankind, to enjoy observing (Genesis 2:19).


Photo credit (roadrunner on table): Stan’s WINGING IT (Backyard Blast)

Photo credit (arctic char):  Acme Markets / AcmeMarkets.com

INDONESIA INTENDS TO BUILD, OFFSHORE, 3 SEA BASS AQUACULTURE FACILITIES

Indonesia-aquaculture.offshore-netpens.png

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

INDONESIA INTENDS TO BUILD, OFFSHORE, 3 SEA BASS AQUACULTURE FACILITIES  

Indonesia produces much oil and gas,

Yet it now plans to fish-farm sea bass;

Raising sea bass galore,

Using net-pens offshore,

Soon tons of the fish should amass!

COMMENTARY: Just like livestock husbandry, the aquaculture industry appreciates high-risk capital investment, labor-intensive maintenance costs, and (potential) profitability of its “farm” animals – see Proverbs 14:4.   Yet, as the old saying goes:  “If your input exceeds your output, your upkeep is your downfall.”  So, whenever operated as a profitable operation, offshore aquaculture often yields large-scale harvests and handsome profits, all over the world.

A recent example of such high-risk enterprise harks from Indonesia.  According to The Fish Site ( www.thefishsite.com , Indonesia has decided to undertake a major offshore fish-farming operation, to expand its seabass production.  Of course, Indonesia need not “reinvent the wheel”, so the Norwegian fish-farming netpen model is being used for this investment capital-intensive operation.  Specifically, The Fish Site report says:

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is to build three offshore aquaculture facilities in 2017 in a hope to produce an additional 1,500 tons of seabass annually. The ministry’s director general for aquaculture, Slamet Soebjakto, said the facilities would be built in Sabang, Aceh; Karimun Jawa, Central Java; and the southern coast of Java between Cilacap and Pangandaran, with a total investment of Rp 141 billion (US$10.5 million), reports the JAKARTA POST. ‘The figure will cover everything, including the automatic feeder machines, fish nets and the cost of establishing floating bases and docks,’ Slamet said. The construction of the offshore facilities, the model of which has been adopted from Norwegian models [which have been developed mostly in Norwegian salmon “farming”], is expected to be completed in eight months, Slamet added. The facilities will be jointly operated by state-owned fishery firm Perikanan Indonesia and local fisherfolk associations.”

[Quoting The Fish Site, January 3, 2017, posted at http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/28623/indonesia-to-expand-seabass-production-with-offshore-facilities/ .]

 

Who Supplied the Food for the First Thanksgiving?

Who Supplied the Food for the First Thanksgiving?

James J. S. Johnson

1st-thanksgiving-accurate-painting

And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without [outside], and that ye may have lack of nothing. (1st Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (Ephesians 4:28)

Recently my happy-hearted 5-year-old grandson was taught a little Thanksgiving song, in kindergarten. It was a catchy tune, yet some lyrics contained a PC (i.e., politically corrupt) “gotcha”. The little ditty went something like this:

The Indians brought the food; the Pilgrims set up the table…

Of course, I chose not to admonish my enthusiastic grandson that the little chorus was historically twisted – revisionist “history” in song – giving the impression that the Pilgrims were just invasive “takers”, as if the Indian natives alone provided all the food eaten during the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. But it bugged me (and it continues to bug me) that trusting kindergartners are misled into believing that it was (only) the Indian natives who provided food for that feast – with the (supposedly) generosity-challenged Pilgrim Christians providing only the banquet table!

But what is the real history of how that feast happened? Who supplied the food that was eaten, then? Was the food supply one-sided, or did both Indians and Pilgrims bring food to the “groaning-board” tables? As shown below, it was a shared meal, supplied by both Pilgrims and Indians. In fact, sharing took place in other ways, as well, such as in agriculture techniques. Indians taught Pilgrims to plant corn with fish offal; the Pilgrims taught Indians to increase their crop yields by using planting furrows. (“Win-win” mutual aid was frequent, then.)

1st-thanksgiving-pic-mikewhite

The First Thanksgiving   (Mike White)

One of the original Pilgrims, William Bradford, kept a careful chronicle of the important events at Plymouth, and he reported the context of the Pilgrim’s harvest-time during the fall of AD1621:

[During the autumn of AD1621 the Plymouth Pilgrims, with the help of Indian friends, such as Squanto and Hobbamock] found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.

All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).

And besides waterfowl there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

[Quoting William Bradford, Of Plimouth Plantation 1620-1647 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989; edited by Samuel Eliot Morison), page 90.]  Other sources provide information about the many crops that were grown, and fruits that were gathered, by the Pilgrims.   [See, e.g., Barbara Rainey, THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO REMEMBER (Crossway, 2002), pages 43-44 (“In just a day enough wild turkeys, eels, grouse, lobster, partridge, and [other] shellfish were gathered to guarantee a great feast … When it was time to eat, the menu was impressive: venison, goose, lobster, eel, oysters, clam chowder, parsnips, turnips, cucumbers, onions, carrots, cabbage, beets, radishes, and dried fruit that included gooseberries, strawberries, cherries, and plums  — [some of which] fruit was cooked inside dough to make a [fruit] pie”).]  Of course, THANKSGIVING meant thanking God for all of the physical and spiritual blessings He had given, so “before they began to eat, their spiritual leader offered a prayer to God who had so clearly and miraculously led them to this place.”  {Quoting Barbara Rainey, THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO REMEMBER, page 44.]

1st-thanksgiving-meal-pic

Yet it was another Pilgrim, Edward Winslow, who reported (within a letter dated December 11th of AD1621) on the specific activities at the Pilgrim’s historic Thanksgiving feast that season:

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling (i.e., hunting wild birds, such as turkeys, quail, etc.), so that we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms [i.e., used their firearms for target practice], many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their [i.e., the Wampanoag tribe’s] greatest king, Massasoit with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captain [Miles Standish] and others.

[Quoting Edward Winslow, in Mourt’s Relation, pages 60 et seq., as quoted by Samuel Eliot Morison in Footnote 8 on page 90 of Governor Bradford’s trusty chronicle, Of Plimouth Plantation 1620-1647 (noted above). For more about the Pilgrims’ original Thanksgiving in Plymouth, see “Strangers and Pilgrims (and the American Turkey)”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2014/11/25/strangers-and-pilgrims/ .]

Sharing is a Christian virtue – and it was the Christian Pilgrims who reached out to their Indian neighbors, and invited them to share in the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims knew well that the best life is not a life of selfishness. Rather, the opposite is true: it is more blessed to give than to receive. In fact, that life principle was given by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, to the apostle Paul.

Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:34-35)

Of course, it’s silly to forget – when celebrating Thanksgiving – the role of God Himself! In fact, God is the ultimate source of all of our food, regardless of which human creatures are involved (as agents) in preparing and/or delivering good food to eat.

Nevertheless He left not himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:17)

There you have the answer:  it was God, more than anyone else, Who supplied the food for the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth!  So, as we appreciate and enjoy the Thanksgiving season, let us keep our priorities in mind – thanking God (for Who He is and for how He has blessed us) and sharing our blessing with others.  ><>  JJSJ

thanksgivingblessing-logo

Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs)

 Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs)

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CNHG

sleddogs-alaska-iditarod

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:10

Imagine a celebration of Siberian husky sled dogs, harnessed together as a racing team, guided by their human driver (called a “musher”), zooming across frigid snow trails in rural Alaska:  this is what happens in a commemorative festival/event called the IDITAROD TRAIL RACE.  (See the YouTube video footage below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI3bliK7R94

The Iditarod is an outdoors reenactment-like celebration of dogsled mushing, to remember the heroic relay race – through day and night, blizzard winds, snow, and ice – to save human lives, during a life-or-death crisis in January-February AD1925, when a highly contagious diphtheria plague struck like a serial killer, menacing the almost-unreachable population of Nome, Alaska.

The crisis was a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, a town on the Bering Sea coast of Alaska, during the winter of 1925. The diphtheria antitoxin in Anchorage needed to be delivered to Nome immediately because townspeople were dying of the disease, but the community was unreachable by air, boat, train, or motor vehicle.

A group of 20 mushers (dogsled drivers) and about 150 sled dogs rushed marathon-style in relay teams across blizzard-blown trails—and even over a dangerous shortcut across a frozen part of a Pacific Ocean inlet called Norton Sound—spanning the 674 miles in five and a half days to deliver the precious vials of life-saving serum to a waiting physician in Nome. For dogsledding, this was the most heroic achievement in history [674 miles in 127½ hours!], with speed and distance records set (and still unbroken) and helpless hundreds of quarantined Nome residents saved from the lethal diphtheria epidemic.

One surviving Nome resident was eight-year-old Sigrid Seppala, the only daughter of a Norwegian immigrant, Leonhard Seppala, a well-known musher. His nonstop leg of the cross-country relay covered the worst stretch of terrain, plus the frozen Norton Sound sea-ice that broke up only hours after his dog team traversed it with the serum! Guiding lead dog Togo, Seppala confronted gale-force winds and subfreezing temperatures (30OF with a windchill of -85OF) day and night, covering 91 miles—more than twice the distance of any of the other mushers.

Sigrid and many others sick in Nome were saved by the antitoxin serum. Fulfilling the dominion mandate surely includes such safeguarding of human lives, many of whom later were fruitful and multiplied, advancing human progress toward filling the earth to God’s glory. God’s dominion mandate was advanced as humans literally “harnessed” the service of well-trained animals.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Siberian Huskies and the Dominion Mandate”, Acts & Facts, 42(6):18-19 (June 2013), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/siberian-huskies-dominion-mandate   —  citing Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury, THE CRUELEST MILES: THE HEROIC STORY OF DOGS AND MEN IN A RACE AGAINST AN EPIDEMIC (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005), pages 46-245,  and  the interview of Jirdes Winther Baxter, in ALASKA: BIG AMERICA (The History Channel documentary, 2000).]

iditarod-trail-map-usgovt

Thanks to God – and to His servants, both human and canine – for providing the diphtheria plague’s remedy!  Many are alive today — thanks to God and His servants — who are direct descendants of Nome residents who survived the diphtheria epidemic, due to the heroism of the diphtheria serum relay race during January-February of AD1925.

No one has since equaled the dog-mushing distance/speed record set by those heroes, in AD1925. But we can remember their valor, including that of the sled-dogs (some of whom died of exhaustion), every time we see (or think of) another Iditarod dogsled race being run in Alaska.

sleddogs-winterlakelodge-alaska

Sled dogs in snow, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)

And one lodge resort (Winterlake Lodge), located at the Iditarod’s Finger Lake checkpoint (Mile 198), has provided us with another way to celebrate that historic (and providential) event – a special protein-and-vitamins-rich recipe – demonstrating Mexican cuisine with an Alaskan accent – by Kirsten Dixon, as published in ALASKA MAGAZINE, 81(1):22 (February 2015).

ALASKA MUSHER’S MEAL

This hearty recipe comes from chef Kirsten Dixon of the Winterlake Lodge at the Finger Lake checkpoint of the Iditarod race. Dixon says, “We make our own adobo sauce and homemade tortillas and serve this dish with freshly diced salsa. For a decidedly Alaskan twist, we add smoked salmon.”

¼ pound Mexican soft-style chorizo, casings removed
2 packages (4 ounces) Mexican dried chiles [a/k/a “chilies”, below, or “chilis” or “chili peppers”]
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground [black] pepper
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
8 4-inch flour tortillas
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup cooked and heated pinto beans
1 cup fresh simple salsa
½ pound Alaska hot-smoked (kippered) salmon, skinned and flaked
1 small bunch cilantro
½ cup shredded Manchego cheese
1 small bunch green onion, green part minced
1 lime quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 [degrees] F.

Line a 13-by-18-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Crumble the chorizo into a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Cook thoroughly for about five minutes. Drain any grease from the pan. Set the pan aside.

Split the chilies in half, removing any stem and seeds. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat and toast the chilies two or three at a time, turning them while they are heating. They’ll change color slightly in the process.

Soak the chilies in enough water to cover until they’re soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the chilies and pat them dry.

Put a half-cup of water into a blender with the soaked chilies along with the garlic, vinegar, one teaspoon salt, the sugar, and ground cumin. Blend until smooth, adding in a bit more water if necessary to purée. Add the chili mixture into the cooked chorizo.

Heat the tortillas in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Place them onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tortillas with the Cheddar cheese. Place the baking sheet into the oven just [enough] to melt the cheese. Remove the pan from the oven and place each tortilla onto a warmed plate.

In a small nonstick sauté pan, melt one teaspoon of butter over medium-high heat until it is frothy. Crack one egg into the skillet and fry until the egg is set, about one minute. Slide the egg onto one fo the tortillas. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Add some of the chorizo-chili sauce onto each tortilla. Spoon on some of the beans, some salsa, some flaked hot-smoked salmon, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Sprinkle each dish with some Manchego cheese and a little green onion. Season with salt and [black] pepper. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

Makes 4 servings.

[Quoting Kirsten Dixon, as published in ALASKA MAGAZINE, 81(1):22 (February 2015).]

alaska-sleddogs-sleeping-winterlakelodge

Sled dogs sleeping, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)

After eating a feast-dish like that, accented with Alaska salmon, one is reminded that good food is itself a proof positive of God’s kind and caring providence.

Food provides strong evidence of God’s wisdom and power as our Creator, as well as His goodness in providing for fallen mankind’s physical needs. In fact, the Bible teaches that the providentially programmed production of all food, anywhere and everywhere on earth, is itself a continuing proof that God is a caring Creator. The apostle Paul taught this:

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, Who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein, Who in times past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:15-17, emphasis added)

Think about God’s providence and how it is displayed on earth.

God has demonstrated His immeasurable glory by His many acts of providential care for His creatures, especially humans and animals. Yet some of what God provides is so commonplace that it is routinely ignored, although that ignorance cannot negate the overwhelming proof of God’s providence. . . . .

Likewise, God’s provision of an amazing diversity of foods—around the world, in every age, in every culture, to every people group—is proof positive that God is Creator. Food is absolutely necessary to prolong our physical life.

Why? As a result of Adam’s sin, death entered the human race (Romans 5:12). God’s warning to Adam indicated a double-death penalty: “To die thou shalt die” (Genesis 2:17, which includes an infinitive-imperfect “double verb” in the Hebrew text).

Sin immediately triggered a relational break between Creator and creature, because God is holy. That relational break was a spiritual death, a separation from God that Paul called being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Also, sin triggered an ongoing process of dying physically—what some scientists call “chemistry eventually wins out over biology”—so our human bodies die. Before birth, even from the time of conception, our physical bodies are dying, yet the metabolic profit we gain from eating food postpones and prolongs that dying process. (If you doubt food’s necessity, try abstaining from eating for two months!

In some humans, physical life is prolonged by food for more than a century.

But, in time, the condition of mortality takes its toll and we all anticipate death, even if we eat every day. Food only postpones the inevitable. But while it does, it is a life-sustaining fuel, an amazing and precious gift from our Creator, as well as a testimony to the amazingly complex and efficient world He designed . . . . .

No random “chance” could provide a satisfactory explanation for the results of God’s providential care,  — and the proof is everywhere, for those with eyes to see, even in every bite we eat. No wonder we are obligated to give thanks to God for our food.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Our Daily Bread:  How Food Proves God’s Providence”, Acts & Facts, 40(4):8-9 (April 2011),  posted at http://www.icr.org/article/our-daily-bread-how-food-proves-gods   —  quoting Acts 14:17.]

So, next time you hear — or read — about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, remember what it commemorates — the amazing and historic life-saving heroism of the “Great Race of Mercy”  — accomplished by the diphtheria serum relay racers, a providentially blessed team of brave humans and resilient sled-dogs, who dared and braved the worst of winter weather, during January-February of AD1925, to defeat a serial-killer plague named Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

diphtheria-vaccination-poster-britain

PHOTOGRAPHS & OTHER IMAGE CREDITS:

Iditarod Sled Dogs:   http://helpsleddogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/4412510551_94c80e1f51_b.jpg

Iditarod National Historic Trail (U.S. government map / public domain)

Sled dogs in snow, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)
Fair Use photo credit: http://d3r6t1k4mqz5i.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_0086.jpg?f9f931

Sled dogs sleeping, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)
Fair Use photo credit: http://www.tordrillonorth.com/images/lodge-05.jpg

Diphtheria vaccination poster   (Great Britain: public domain), available at Wikipedia


 

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES, INCLUDING EATING WILD BERRIES

cherries-wild

Childhood years, rural neighborhood,
Happy years, very blessed and good;
Picking blackberries,
Collecting cherries,
Glad I lived those years while I could!

COMMENTARY:  See Acts 14:17, as well as Romans 8:28.  By God’s grace I was given a wonderful childhood, living in rural neighborhoods of Maryland — with 5 of those elementary school years lived in a part of Montgomery County that bordered Frederick County — then very much rural farmland, with more wooded forests that a boy could ever exhaust, recreationally.   Blackberries and wild strawberries could be easily found (and eaten), and one forest hosted what was once (generations earlier) a cherry orchard, so the supply of wild cherries (in season) was inexhaustible.  Walking through (and playing in) the beauty-filled forests there, within a mile or two of my home (especially during the summer, when there was no school) was a continuing privilege of joy and happiness — a privilege that constantly reminded me of what a wonderful Creator our God is, and near the end of elementary school I confirmed my belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior (Luke 10:20; 2nd Timothy 3:15).  It was such a joy then — and now — to have the life that God has given me (including the eternal life I have I Christ my Savior), so I am now one example of Psalm 102:18’s fulfillment.

LUTEFISK FOR CHRISTMAS: COD AT ITS BEST!

lutefisk-supper-road-sign-photo-by-jjsj

Lutefisk  Supper  Road-sign       (Cranfills  Gap,  Texas)

When it’s time, in Norway, for Jule
One dish “stands” alone, the crown jewel;
‘Tis cod, soaked in lye
Washed, boiled — don’t be shy!
Lutefisk! (How it makes my mouth drool!)

COMMENTARY:  Lutefisk is one of the more exotic illustrations of Acts 14:17. Regarding the Scandinavian (and Scandinavian-American) tradition of eating lutefisk at Christmastime, see “Bluebirds of Happiness, Plus Enjoying a Lutefisk Banquet”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/12/11/bluebirds-of-happiness-plus-enjoying-a-lutefisk-banquet/ .  Also, for an illustration of how lutefisk is appreciated in the northern parts of America (especially by Lutherans), see “For the Love of Lutefisk!” — posted at https://bibleworldadventures.com/2016/09/22/for-the-love-of-lutefisk/ .