Tag Archives: d-day

9 Sep 2015

“Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II”

“In the fall of 1941, mysterious letters appeared in the mailboxes of a select group of young women attending the Seven Sisters colleges. Chosen for their aptitude in such subjects as math, English, history, foreign languages and astronomy, the women were invited to meet one-on-one with senior professors. At Wellesley, the students were asked unusual questions: Did they like doing crossword puzzles, and did they have imminent wedding plans? Those women who gave the right answers — yes, and no — were asked to sign confidentiality agreements and join a hush-hush government project.”

This is the opening to a review of “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II.” Looking forward to reading this book, about codebreakers working in conjunction with those at Bletchley Park in England — helping to destroy the Nazis. From Rosie the Riveter to the women flying the planes to Europe to the codebreakers and many, many more — American women were doing their part to rid the world of Nazis and fascism.

9 Sep 2015

Extreme Preparation: Pre-Expedition Reconnaissance

Extreme Preparation: Pre-Expedition Reconnaissance
January 9, 2015

Before every Essential History Expedition trip, one or both of us conducts an extensive visit to the sites where we will guide guests on the expedition. The purpose of the extreme reconnaissance is to ensure the entire experience will highly complete and enjoyable for all guests. Some trip aspects we examine on the recon include lodging, transportation, dining, museums and, of course, the historic and cultural sites that are the basis of the expeditions. Before leaving for the recon, we have already created a tentative expedition itinerary and compiled a list of potential lodgings, restaurants, etc., to visit and research further while on location.

For instance, in preparation for our expeditions in July 2015 (Normandy/D-Day, Battle of the Bulge and Waterloo), Sheryl and I conducted several recons. We had led two Normandy expeditions in May and June of 2014, and are very confident in our itinerary. But, we have decided to change the lodging location from the eastern beaches area to a more central spot. So, in September 2014, we returned to the Norman coast and visited a number of chateaus, boutique hotels and old farm houses. Many were wonderful and would suit our needs. In the end, we selected an incredibly charming 700 year-old farm that has been transformed into luxurious lodgings, between Bayeux and the coast right in the middle of the D-Day experience.

The Manoir de Mathan http://www.normandie-hotel.org/hotel-normandy.html is a 17th century chateau associated with the nearby larger 13th century Ferme de la Ranconniere farmhouse http://www.ranconniere.fr/?lang=en where we will enjoy four-course sumptuous meals.

On that same recon, we made our initial visit to Waterloo and the Ardennes in Belgium. I had been to both some years ago and am very knowledgeable regarding the battles and campaigns. However, we needed to find lodging and the rest. For five days, we checked out numerous castles, chateaux, hotels and restaurants. We also drove the Bulge battlefield and I walked the fields of Waterloo and Quatre Bras. We selected an amazing lodge (http://www.ardennes-resorts.com/lodges/les-contes-de-salme/introduction/) in the central forested town of Vielsalm for our base in the Bulge expedition. Situated on a lake in the mountains, it promises to be a spectacular setting in the summer.

ba0ec5_04c4adf5a0f343eb88fb30ce58ace81c

With side trips to Avignon in the south of France, Paris and Prague, Sheryl and I ceased our first recon with work still to do. We still needed lodgings in Brussels and I needed to walk Agincourt, Ligny (pre-Waterloo battle) and the northern shoulder of the Bulge.
In December, I returned to Germany, arriving at Ramstein, picked up a rental car and headed out into the cold Northern winter. I had intended to start east to west; however, it was raining pretty heavily that first day so I decided to spend most of it driving the longest distance. This trip took me through the Saar region of Germany and the Siegfried Line border that then became the Maginot Line facing it in France. I was then driving through the Lorraine region and past countless battlefields from over the centuries. It was an historian’s dream drive! Some of these fields we will visit on future EHE expeditions. These include several for the centennial commemorations of the First World War. In 2016 we will do a combined Verdun-Somme expedition, for instance, to mark two of the biggest and most important battles of 1916. Then, in 2017 and 18 we will visit many of the iconic American battles, such as Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, St Quentin, Argonne Forest, St Mihiel and Second Marne. Many of these towns and woods I passed as I sped west in the rain. It made me think of the horrible conditions for those soldiers in the trenches throughout those long winters. I also drove by a number of sites associated with my studies of the French Revolution and other periods of European history – Varennes (to which Louis XVI and his family had fled; when captured and returned to Paris, the end was near), Reims (in which cathedral the Kings of France were always crowned), Crecy from the Hundred Years War and many, many others. You cannot drive through Europe without being made aware of its dense layers of history around every corner and bend in the road.

At nightfall I made it to the tiny hamlet of Azincourt in the Pas de Calais. I could not walk the fields that evening, so I continued to the coast and checked into a hotel in the old walled city of Montreuil. This absolutely charming village was the British Expeditionary Headquarters during the second half of the First World War. I explored it and we will consider it as a base for some of our WWI trips. In the morning, in a light drizzle, I returned to Azincourt, examined its museum and then walked the battlefield of Henry V’s great victory. Next summer we will spend a little time here, on our way between the D-Day and Battle of the Bulge expeditions. 2015 will be the 600th anniversary of the battle and so it is appropriate we stop and visit. The Easy Company, 101st Airborne of World War Two fame participated in both battles we will see and it is fitting that Shakespeare’s Henry V gave the famed St Crispin’s Day speech at Agincourt, in which he calls his men his “band of brothers” and provided an appellation that thousands of soldiers have used ever since.
__________________________________
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
___________________________________
My feet sank into the soaked clay soil and I well-imagined the difficulty the heavily armored French knights had in their attack against the English. It proved yet again the great utility of walking a field in the conditions that existed at the time. Afterwards, I continued east towards Brussels, driving past Arras (of First World War memory) and Douai where one of the most important translations of the Catholic Bible into English occurred in the late 1500s. Then, it was into Belgium and the battlefield at Ligny. Throughout the day the rain had increased in degree while the temperatures dropped in the same. It was a cold, wet slog through the various villages where Napoleon had confronted Marshal Gebhard Blucher’s Prussian army. I did get a good feel for the scale and scope of the battle, though, before I headed in to downtown Brussels.

In the morning, a Saturday, the dawn was crisp but mostly sunny and clear. I drove back out to Ligny and had the opportunity to really walk the various points of the battlefield in daylight and with vistas wide and far. All of my reading and prep truly aided me now as I traced the important movements and counter-movements of the two opposing forces. A return of a steady drizzle in the early afternoon did not hinder the recon at all. Returning to Brussels, I made my way down to the historic center of the city and visited several fantastic hotels that we may stay in during our time conducting the Waterloo at 200 expedition. After a phone call with Sheryl to confirm my findings, I wandered the beautiful old quarter and found a Christmas season wonderland, including a festive crowd at the famed Manneken Pis fountain. At the end of the eve, I found myself in a sports pub watching the Army-Navy football game with a number of other Americans and plenty of Europeans intrigued (or was that quizzical?) with US collegiate football. The next day was beautiful for my drive out a little over an hour and a half to the east and into the Ardennes forest and mountains. Once past the ancient fortress city of Liege, I turned south and entered the rugged woods. As I climbed, the sky darkened and the hills became clad in snow. I was coming in on the northern shoulder of the Bulge, as Sheryl and I had explored the southern shoulder and Bastogne in our September visit. I exited the autoroute near Malmedy and made my way into the village; I had not been in over 23 years and was happily pleased to find it such a spectacular town! A Christmas market festival was in full swing in the beautiful town square as I parked the car and checked into my apartment overlooking the same scene. I had a few hours before nightfall, so I drove out to the southeast and visited many of the sites associated with the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge – Losheim, Bullingen, Krinkelt-Rocherath, Elsenborn Ridge, Bucholz Station, Bagneuz, etc. My favorite spot was finding Lt. Lyle Bouck’s platoon’s position above Lanzerath. As I stood near their foxholes in the two foot snow and darkening eve, I imagined what that group of 20 young Americans felt at the end of their long day’s battle. Back in Malmedy, I explored all the sites and memorials around the cathedral and square and then joined in the town’s winter festivities! On Monday I continued my recon of the north shoulder and followed Kampfgruppe Peiper’s route through Stavelot, Trois Ponts, La Gleize, Cheneux and Neucy (where US engineers blew the bridge, effectively halting the German advance).

The date was 15 December, and I decided to end my recon by driving down to Bastogne, the most famous of all the towns in the Bulge fight. I arrived to find it festooned in welcome of veterans and visitors, as the battle had commenced 70 years ago on the next day, the 16th. I had lunch on the main square, walked the exhibits and spoke with a veteran of the 7th Armored Division. It was a fitting conclusion to a very good reconnaissance trip.

ba0ec5_be59acddb38b49f58e4715cc0ff69f49

The weather on this recon had been poor, which gave me a great glimpse into the state of the fields and troops during their respective battles, but the knowledge gained had been worth it. I felt our initial itineraries had been quite good, I had made adjustments based on timing and road conditions (for instance, finding that a low bridge would never allow the bus to travel one of the routes I wanted; so I adjusted the route) and I feel they are eminently solid now. The reconnaissance is just one of many portions of pre-expedition preparation but is an absolutely critical one. We continue to prepare up to the day we depart on a trip. In fact, we will also leave a week or so before an expedition – to conduct one final route recon and confirmation that nothing has changed, as well as confirming all the myriad details of arranging things before the first guests arrive. Then, we draw the curtain up and commence the show!

We hope to see you at a performance someday soon.

9 Sep 2015

Mississippi 50 Years On – A Journey Through The Soul of the South

In February 2014, Brian and I took a journey through the South to discover the emergence of the Civil Rights era 50 years ago in the United States. Following is an article we wrote regarding that memorable trip.

Mississippi 50 Years On – A Journey Through The Soul of the South
Nineteen sixty-four was a watershed year in the American civil rights movement. Fifty years on we decided to take a journey through the soul of the South, to see and experience the region where much of that bloody freedom fight took place. Our week-long trip would take us from cosmopolitan New Orleans, through the great length of Mississippi, to Memphis, considered by some “the most southern city on earth.” We had recently seen Bryan Cranston’s masterful performance as LBJ in that fateful year, in Broadway’s “All the Way,” and knew the high-stakes involved with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts hanging in the balance. And, simultaneously, a tortured Mississippi burned. We were intrigued to see how the South, and the nation, faced its past.

We landed at New Orleans’ appropriately named Louis Armstrong International Airport on a bright, sunny mid-February afternoon. Appropriately, because, more than anything else, the Big Easy oozes music in all varieties but none is more dynamically expressive of the city than Jazz, and Satchmo Armstrong is its human embodiment. Our 48 hours in Nawluns (as the locals drawl) saw us explore museums and music – some old friends, some new acquaintances.

At Preservation Hall, on Saint Peter’s in the French Quarter, we attended the third and final extended set of the evening. The venue, as the name suggests, seeks to preserve original New Orleans jazz amidst the genre’s constant metamorphosis. The small audience, about 50 attend each set, were treated to a rip-roaring, authentic jazz session with artists ranging from their 20s to 70s. The Preservation Hall Stars did not disappoint and received raucous applause from the nearly all-white audience. Even though the venue is small, the small uptick in price for the front row seats was well worth it. The following evening, we made our way east of the Quarter into Faubourg Marigny, to hear the Royal Roses led by Aurora Nealand in The Maison on Frenchmen Street. This quintet played an excellent jazz infused with modern sensibility and compared well with the band at Preservation Hall; different styles equally enjoyable. The supremely talented elfin leader of the band, Ms. Nealand, on sax and clarinet and vocals, showed the range of women in jazz along with Mari Watanabe’s piano of the previous night, when the latter riffed off an excellent Scott Joplin ragtime piece. In sum, we were treated to both the preservation and continuation of jazz. While moving forward, New Orleans remains true to her roots. One can hear all kinds of music, much of it quite bad on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. However, the reason many of us come to New Orleans is for its jazz, and the current epicenter is Frenchmen Street between Washington Square and the Esplanade. We left impressed.

On our second day, enjoying a superb New South lunch at Tivoli & Lee at Lee Circle, we observed approximately 15 African-American girls in school uniform eating their lunch under the shadows of General Robert E. Lee on a high column. We were struck by the incongruity of the laughing teenagers and, considering the history he represents, the old Virginian looking down upon them. After our meal, we headed towards Stephen Ambrose’s masterpiece, the National World War Two Museum. En route, we made a slight detour to the nearby Confederate Memorial Hall. Billing itself as the oldest museum in the City, it appears nothing has transpired since its collection and story were embalmed together in the 1890s. It is truly an ossified relic, in which we felt entombed. Its failure to place the conflict in any kind of context is sad, (for example, chattel slavery is barely mentioned as a cause of war or in any other meaningful way), yet not too worrisome as it appears no one visits anymore. Wearily reprehensible is what I thought of itd since its desiccated collection and story were embalmed together in the 1890s. It is truly an ossified relic. One feels entombed inside. Its failure to place the conflict in any kind of context is sad, yet not too worrisome as it appears no one visits anymore. Wearily reprehensible is epithetically justified.

Directly across the street is the monumental National World War II Museum. Inspired by the vision of historian Stephen Ambrose, the last I visited in 2003, this was the recently opened and superb National D-Day Museum. It has since quadrupled in size and yet its scope and scale remain true to the high quality of the original foundation. The breadth of exhibits and collections are truly awe-inspiring in their three-dimensional and hands-on experience brings the Greatest Generation as close as ever.

The National World War Two Museum, in contrast, is one of the finest military institutions in the country. Its interpretations do not shy from any controversy, including, in the vein that we were following on this trip, the abysmal treatment of Japanese-Americans and African-Americans during the war. Ambrose, a long-time professor at the University of New Orleans and one of the foremost American historians of the war, ensured the museum’s location would pay tribute to the critical role played by the Higgins’ Boats, the ubiquitous landing craft of WWII, and brain-child of New Orleans’s own Andrew Jackson Higgins.

Along the Mississippi Riverfront, we were struck by the contrasting statues of Winston Churchill and Bernardo de Galves. Churchill, the Anglo-American, is well-known to all. And his statue, with his hand raised in his famed “V for Victory” sign, is eminently placed nearby to the highly-trafficked Harrod’s Casino. Not far away, but in the shadows, is the oxidized and rusting “tribute” to de Galves, who, arguably, is much more important to the success of this experiment we call America than Churchill. De Galves’ absolutely critical role in our victory in the American Revolution is all but lost to current generations of Americans. Galveston, Texas, and St Bernard Parish, Louisiana, bear his name but few know his deeds.

All too quickly our time in the Crescent City was at an end. We said our farewells with plans to visit again soon. Renting a car on Canal Street and heading north out of New Orleans, we passed the hulking, shiny Mercedes Benz New Orleans Superdome. This edifice, scene of both the depths of Katrina deprivation and Saints’ NFL success, brought to mind an earlier football controversy. One that illustrates the tense nature of the racial construct in the South of 1964. Following that Freedom Riders’ summer, the American Football League awarded its All-Star Game to New Orleans, to be played in Tulane Stadium. However, the hotel laws of the day forbade whites and blacks staying in the same accommodation. This did not sit well with the players of the ‘60s, who threatened boycott. The owners demurred and wisely moved the contest to the more hospitable city of Houston.

Taking I-10 northwest out of the city, we then caught I-55 and drove along the west side of massive Lake Pontchartrain. For many miles, we drove on an elevated highway just above the swampy bayou. Crossing the Mississippi state line at sunset, we soon turned off on US 98 and headed west toward our destination of the evening, Natchez on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. The two-lane highway merged into US 84 at the town of Bude. For the next 20 miles, we drove through the beautifully rugged Homochitto National Forest. In contrast to what we expected of the geography in southwest Mississippi, the road was unexpectedly undulating. Soon, however, we broke free from the forest and, in the gloaming, entered the environs of Natchez, one of the most historic small towns in America.

After a quick dinner on the riverfront Jim Bowie restaurant, where our young server had difficulty understanding us (because of our lack of a Southern drawl?), we settled in at the Natchez Grand Hotel. In the morning, Brian walked up Franklin into the historic downtown and procured coffee and chai at the Natchez Coffee Company. He was delighted by Sharon Brown’s coffee emporium, as fine as any in the country. Well-caffeinated for the day, we walked the river bluffs for which Natchez is famed and read the numerous plaques describing the history of the town. One honored the city’s own Richard Wright, famed author of “Black Boy” and “Native Son.” Another paid tribute to the victims of the 1940 “Rhythm Club Fire” in which 209 African-American citizens died in the flames of the segregated dance club. This tragedy ranks among the worst fires in US history.

Boasting more than 500 pre-Civil War structures, Natchez remains a quintessentially Southern town that captures the zeitgeist of the antebellum days. For the four decades leading up to the Civil War, more wealth was concentrated in Natchez than any other southern town in the US. Make no doubt, this wealth was built on the backs of the African-American slaves who toiled by the tens of thousands on the plantations lining both sides of the Mississippi. For, remarkably, this small town became the largest slave trading emporium in inland America, second only to that of Alexandria, Virginia. The United States’ withdrawal from the international slave trade in 1808 led to the vast increase in the internal slave market and Natchez became its epicenter. Many of those 500 antebellum structures are directly tied to that empire built on slavery, so we decided to visit a Greek-styled mansion, Stanton Hall, queen jewel of the monied Natchez society.

Built in 1857 for cotton magnate Fredrick Stanton, the home epitomizes the immense wealth accumulated by these great plantation owners; no expense was spared in any attribute of the building. Stanton, and its sister plantation house, Longwood, are now owned and operated by the Pilgrimage Garden Club, which prides itself on maintaining the traditions of the Old South. Our docent for the tour, and the two of us were the tour, was a sweetly mild 70ish Southern belle. With great detail and reverence, she described the setting of each large room, from the original furniture, to the providence of every piece of art or chair, to the individually-themed motif of the chandeliers. Her unfeigned admiration of the Stanton family brought a certain warmth and charm to the description of the family’s daily lives. And, we were informed, Stanton Hall was the setting for the home of Patrick Swayze’s character, a Confederate officer in the 1984 mini-series “North and South.” At the end of our 45 minutes with her, however, we felt a trifle unsatisfied and pressed her on the lives of the others who called Stanton home. Sheryl asked about those who worked in the mansion, the slaves. The docent registered a pained expression, then gave a halting reply and a waving dismissal regarding the “servants” who toiled daily in the home attending to the needs of the family. Not satisfied with the blatantly equivocal answer, yet not wishing to press this gentle woman any further, we thanked her for the tour and departed. On our way out, traversing the carriage tea and luncheon house, we were jarringly struck by the hundred-plus large photographs of the Garden Club’s pride and joy—the kings and queens of the annual Spring Pilgrimage. These young men and women, in their late teens or early 20s, were attired in full Southern regalia, antebellum hoop skirt dresses and butternut uniforms of officers of the Army of the Confederate States of America. In their duties of dance and court they are attended by 200 other similarly, period-dressed young persons. Every face up to and including the year 2013 that graced these walls … was white.

At this point, Brian was in need of a stiff drink, so we headed to the famed King’s Tavern at 611 Jefferson Street. The oldest building standing from Natchez territory days, King’s Tavern has served travelers since 1789. Today’s owner is the renowned chef, Regina Charboneau. It is known now for its wood-fired flatbreads and craft cocktails. The ambience is warm and inviting with a delightful mix of the 18th and 20th centuries. Our hunger sated and, more importantly, our thirst slaked, we were ready to embark on the next phase of our journey. King’s Tavern was perfectly situated for this, as it was both start and end of the trail for tens of thousands of travelers on one of America’s most important byways –the Natchez Trace.

Before leaving, we reflected on what we were missing in our visit. In some contrast to the denizens of Stanton Hall, both past and present, Natchez was hosting its 25th annual Literary and Cinema Celebration beginning that very night. Admirably, the celebration was focusing on voices of the Civil Rights movement with a program agenda titled “60 Years and Counting.” As tempting as it was to stay and participate, we had our own conference to attend the next day.

We headed northeast on John Quitman Parkway and, on the town’s verge, we passed a marker at a crowded road junction. The prosaically named “Forks of the Road” solemnized the location of the heartbreaking slave market capital of the vast American interior. The human results of that slave trade bear out in today’s local demographics – Adams County, of which Natchez is the seat, is 53 percent African-American. Jefferson, the next county north has, at 86 percent, the highest concentration of African-Americans of any county in the entire country; it is also one of the poorest. Ironically, at this very point, we turned onto the inaptly named Liberty Road and within a mile had reached the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Parkway is a little known jewel in the National Park system. Covering 445 miles and traversing three states, it tells a vivid tale of the early American southwest. Today, it is a beautiful two-lane byway through forest and field from Natchez to Nashville. But in the early 1800s it was a narrow foot-trod trail that held a mirror to the face of America. One, and first, it was the path back to the Ohio country for those intrepid pilots and river men that braved the trek down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, bringing the produce of a muscular young American midwest to the clamoring entrepot of New Orleans. These men would drop their cargo at Natchez (where it would be met by steamships coming upriver from Louisiana), would sell their raft or boat for the value of its lumber and then hike their way back to Nashville and points north. Two, with the opening of the internal slave trade in 1808, the Trace became the primary route to redistribute slaves from the east to the south and southwest. Much of the exhilaration of boatmen heading north, and heartbreak and agony of the slaves heading south, is now lost amidst the beauty and serenity of the Parkway. Still, markers and roadside parks assist today’s traveler in understanding this vital piece of the quintessential American journey.

Our first stop, 10.3 miles up the Trace, was Emerald Mound. A couple of miles due west of the Parkway, the Mound is a vast ceremonial monolith built and occupied between the 12th and 18th centuries by the Mound Civilization of Native Americans. Second in size only to Monks Mound (near Cahokia, Illinois, and the central site of this Mound Civilization), Emerald Mound is 35 feet high and covers 8 acres. Standing alone at the top of the Mound, in the solemnity of the barren late-winter surroundings, we contemplated the peoples who once lived in this place and the fate of their descendants, who were removed in the 1830s Indian deportation to Oklahoma that was The Trail of Tears.

Five miles up the Parkway, we pulled off into a National Park visitor center (one of four on the entire Trace). Mount Locust began in 1784 as a backwoods American farm in Spanish Territory. Soon, the increasing number of river boatmen walking the Trace northward from Natchez and New Orleans induced the owners, the Ferguson and Chamberlains, to open an inn. At roughly 15 miles from King’s Tavern in Natchez, the inn at Mount Locust made a good stopping point for travelers on their first day of their odyssey homeward. Later, when the boat traffic was altered irrevocably by the advent of Fulton’s steam, the Chamberlain’s cleared more land and planted cotton, turning the wayside inn into a true Mississippi plantation that thrived until the Civil War ended the plantation-slavery system. Again, as at Emerald Mound, we were the only visitors. A real-life National Park Service Ranger, however, was on hand to discuss any and all aspects of the two-plus centuries of history. Dennis Flake, originally from Pennsylvania, was delighted to see us and asked from which direction we were travelling. When we replied Natchez, he asked if we visited one of the plantation homes and to our affirmative, he queried, “did they call them ‘slaves’ or ‘servants’?” The three of us shared in the dark humor of the continued self-deception by the Natchez Garden Society. Flake was a font of information and a delight to speak with before we began our own investigation of the property. The restored home showcased its 1820 appearance as a farmhouse-inn, which primarily housed its guests on the surrounding lawn. Behind the house, to the west, in the woods, lies the slave cemetery. At its height, the Mount Locust Plantation worked 51 black slaves. The nondescript plot holds the remains of 43 of the hundreds who were enslaved here. A single homely headstone is all that marks the place. Continuing our trail walk, we came to the wrought-metal fenced cemetery of the Chamberlain family. In contrast to that of their slaves, this peaceful spot was well-marked with monuments. It even included a miniature Confederate battle flag, blowing proudly in the afternoon breeze.

On our next brief stop, we examined a picturesque portion of the original trail as it was carved into a ravine. The original Trace parallels and crosses the modern highway at several points along the trail. Further up, we pulled off to read signage for the Battle of Raymond on the southern outskirts of Jackson. This bloody battle was part of the May to July 1863 Vicksburg campaign in which Union General Ulysses S. Grant drove a dagger through the heart of the Confederacy by opening the Mississippi River to Union control.

Continuing through Jackson, we reflected that the mayor of this quintessentially southern capital was, for the first time, a black man. And not just any black man. Chokwe Lumumba was a former black power radical whose 2013 election proved a surprise on several fronts. First, he overcame the innate racism and power of the established political regime. And, second, through his ideas and policies once in office, he truly unified the city; for example, under his leadership a 1 cent sales tax was passed to fix the nearly billion needed in a crumbling infrastructure. From maverick outsider to the pinnacle of city leadership, Lumumba was a refreshing force of change. Five days after we passed through Jackson, we were surprised to read of his untimely death at 66. People from all walks of life and all colors came together for his funeral, intent on continuing his work. We continued the beautiful drive alongside Ross Barnett Reservoir. More on Barnett later; suffice to say, he would not have been a Lumumba fan. We passed the town of Canton, scene of the 1996 film of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill,” in which a black Mississippian played by Samuel L. Jackson kills the white men who raped his daughter after they had been found innocent at trial.

At mile marker 135, we ended our wonderful journey along the Trace and turned east along Mississippi Highway 16 heading into the heart of Mississippi’s dark past. The drive was littered with worn out towns and tired farms and homes. The detritis of this civilization lay strewn about the wayside. Suddenly, apparition-like, a massive Creek Indian hotel-casino complex appeared and stood in stark incongruity with its surroundings before being left behind in another stand of southern pine. Not far beyond it, we entered our destination – Philadelphia, Mississippi.

We reflected on the events that occurred here 50 years ago. On June 21, 1964, three young civil rights workers, two whites of New York, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, and one black of Mississippi, James Chaney, were arrested on a pretense of speeding, and held in the ramshackle cinderblock county jail until the Klan could gather. At which point, the young men were released by the sheriff, and then trailed, stopped and murdered by a combination of Klan and police officers a few miles down the road to Meridian. Tortured, shot and mutilated, their bodies were buried in the embankment of a bridge under construction. Their disappearance sparked national outrage and a massive FBI manhunt that led to an outbreak of Klan activity and white racist brutality.

The appearance of large numbers of federal troops led to the violent Mississippi burning summer. President Lyndon Johnson, the first southern president in over a century, directed the search efforts in the face of massive southern resistance. At the same time, he vigorously pursued the passage and implementation of his landmark Civil Rights Act. In order to secure that passage, Johnson delayed the key proviso of the Voting Rights Act (it would pass the following year), the registration of disenfranchised blacks for which the three young men had been working during that Freedom Summer.

To our eyes, Philadelphia remains a sullen, troubled town that has refused to embrace its racist, murderous past. For instance, the country recognizes this galvanizing event yet the town is seemingly devoid of markers that allow visitors to place this town and its events in the context of the time. Finally locating the old county jail a block off the town square, we read the single plaque erected in 2012, seemingly grudgingly. The marker makes no mention of the murder and national impact of those events of June 21. In fact, it seems to place blame on the young men themselves and then focuses unnecessarily on the trivial history of the actual jail building. Leaving, we followed the path most likely taken by three frightened young men when they were finally released in the dark hours of the night. We were shocked, however, to find no marker along the Meridian roadside telling the story of these three slain civil rights activists. We learned that the state had authorized a memorial plaque several years earlier but it has not yet been erected. There is an appropriate descriptive marker, placed in 1989, on the site of the Mount Zion Church, the intimidation burning of which had fatefully brought the young men to investigate. Andrew Goodman had written a letter to his parents soon after arriving that summer – “I have arrived safely in Meridian, Miss. This is a wonderful town, and the weather is fine.”

In all, to us, Philadelphia seems intractable in its resistance to understand its place in American history. It could be a light of freedom. It is not. Heading north out of Philadelphia as evening fell, thunderheads crashed around us and a driving, torrential cleansing rain washed over us.

Our destination for the evening was Oxford, the home of Ole Miss. Our purpose in visiting this quaint university town was to attend a two-day conference on French Revolutionary and Napoleonic history. In between sessions, we explored the past and present of this iconic town. A presence almost as large (larger than?) the university itself is that of Oxford’s most famous son, William Faulkner. Though he passed more than 50 years ago, his aura is ubiquitous. The Nobel Prize-winning laureate examined southern culture, including race, in a unique voice unmatched since. The town celebrates its man of letters at its famous Corner Books, a world renowned literary emporium of southern literature, everything Faulkner and much more. It sits on the prominent corner of the charming Lafayette County courthouse square, alongside numerous excellent restaurants and music venues.

Ole Miss, a beautiful wooded campus on the hills just west of downtown, was one of the last flagship universities to be integrated. Our walk through the famed Grove, the physical and emotional center of campus, brought us to the Lyceum. This 1842 building, the oldest on campus, was the Administration Building in 1962, and lay at the very heart of one of the most sanguinary and iconic incidents of the civil rights era. On Sunday, September 30, under armed guard of US Marshals and personally escorted by the deputy attorney general of the United States, James Meredith attempted to enroll at the university. This decorated United States Air Force veteran was met with the snarling ferocity of a racist white mob egged on by the actions of Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. The previous day Barnett had promised 40,000 football fans in the nearby stadium that he would never allow Ole Miss to integrate. On Sunday night, hundreds rioted on campus in an orgy of hatred-fueled racial violence, resulting in the deaths of one local man and a French journalist in town to cover the event. These scenes played out across American televisions and newspapers, causing President Kennedy to send in federal troops to quell the violence and ensure Meredith was properly enrolled.

An unassuming civil rights pioneer, Meredith led a March Against Fear from Tennessee into the northern counties of Mississippi in June 1966. Within days of beginning his walk to end Mississippi racism, he was shot and badly wounded by a Klansman who did not agree. Fifty years after these events, a wonderful statue of James Meredith graces the path he trod in 1962 in front of the Lyceum. Meredith himself, still alive today, is not pleased with the statue—thinking it brings too much attention to a single man who was simply doing what was right. But for the rest of us, the message of that purposefully striding young black man breaking down doors and barriers is starkly powerful. So much so, that on the very days of our visit in February 2014, the news cameras were once again focused on James Meredith.

Three white University of Mississippi students had placed a noose around the neck of the Meredith statue just days before, along with draping an old Georgia state flag (complete with Confederate battle flag in it) across his face. All the progress made by Ole Miss in atonement for its racist past, and there has been much, takes a step back through these actions. The sudden and unwelcome spotlight on this past, seen through the prism of this present incident, brought forth both admirable condemnation from all official parties and, yet, still set off another round of racial incriminations within the university community. About 150 white and black students gathered at the statue to condemn the intolerance while a female black student had the N-word hurled at her by the occupants of a passing car as she walked to campus the same day. It just does not go away. And how can we expect it to? When one of the main campus roads is named Confederate Drive?

This media blitz played out against the backdrop of the Circle, the tree shaded park in the center of campus, which is flanked by two statues. The aforementioned freedom fighter James Meredith on one end and, some 200 yards away, a young unnamed Confederate soldier ennobled on a high pedestal at the university entrance. The soldier represents “the University Greys,” the unit of Ole Miss students who served the cause of the Confederacy and the cause of the Old South from 1861 to 1865. His stone mouth is silent; yet his very presence speaks volumes on a public campus with thousands of African American students and shouts hypocrisy in a state nearly 40 percent African American.

That brilliantly-executed statue of James Meredith is striding towards a doorway in an arch. Four single words mark each side of the arch: Opportunity, Knowledge, Perseverance, and Courage. That is exactly what is wanted, what is needed, what is required. Today.

After these two truly edifying days and nights in Oxford, both in the conference lecture halls as well as on the campus and in town, we bade our farewells and headed northwest to Memphis. After a short hour’s drive, we arrived in the river town on Saturday afternoon. We checked into our downtown hotel and promptly grabbed a trolley car to head down Main Street. Our first stop was the historic and beautiful Peabody Hotel, to experience one of Memphis’ most charming traditions – the afternoon march of the Peabody Ducks. Ever since a drunken hunting expedition 80 years ago resulted in five fowl being left in the interior hotel fountain, ducks have maintained a privileged existence in this, the ‘Queen of Southern Hotels.’ They live in penthouse splendor at night but spend their days in the gorgeous lobby, beginning with the 8am morning march from elevator to fountain to the return journey to their suite at 5pm. A man in formal red-coated livery, with his duck-call in hand, oversees the procession, and a hundred guests and visitors gather to observe each march. Twenty minutes of entertaining talk by the ‘Duck Master,’ enough time to imbibe a wonderfully mixed cocktail, preceded our 30 second afternoon march.

Now it was time to head to the entertainment and food mecca known as Beale Street. We wanted to sample the two lodestars of Memphis’ heritage: Delta Blues and barbecue. And we found both in abundance. Practitioners of the Blues call many places home – prominent among them being St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago – but Memphis is home to the quintessential mother of the genre, the Delta Blues. In contrast to that vibrant life-affirming jazz we enjoyed in New Orleans, the Blues, derived from spirituals and work songs of back-breaking plantation labor, speak to an earthier and more raw black experience.

Having sated ourselves on fabulously tender ribs and chicken at the Blues City Café (where the motto is “Put some South in your Mouth!”), we headed into the nearby Rum Boogie Café, easily one of the best blues clubs around. The Rum Boogie has two venues in its rambling space. We moved back-and-forth between them, listening to two distinct and wonderful bands and their take on the Delta. Brandon Santini and his band filled the intimate space with great energy, and Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars absolutely blew us away in the main room. After a night of great blues, we fell into a restful sleep anticipating a day of reckoning with history on the morrow.

After a wonderful brunch at the old Majestic Grille on Main Street, we drove to south Memphis to visit Graceland. One doesn’t just visit Elvis Aaron Presley’s home, by the way. One ‘experiences’ it as an over-the-top tour of a slightly (to us, at least) underwhelming estate. The home and property are large but not quite the manor we had expected. Instead, the tour’s strength is the memorabilia and collections housed within. It is well-laid out and presented in a folksy manner on individual audio tape; you walk through at your own pace. A large group paraded through with us on a warm February afternoon. Departing from kitschy, yet still quaint and moving in its way, Graceland, we returned to the east downtown district to visit another iconic music site.

Sun Records was founded in 1953 by a young DJ named Sam Philips. Sam epitomizes the ‘man with a plan’ version of America. He had been working with and recording blues musicians and others when he noticed a new sound emerging from the Delta. He soon captured it, along with a stable of young stars, when, in rapid succession, he signed Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. The birth of rock-and-roll has no greater proponent than Philips’ Sun Records. The stars that recorded in that tiny studio (in which you may put your lips against the very recording microphone they used), and the hits they made, created a musical tsunami that has moved and morphed for 60 years yet shows no signs of letting up. Our tour guide was a vivacious young woman and she mesmerized the group going through with us (many international – we heard accents from at least three other nations). Afterwards, we both agreed that the little Sun Records shop is one of the finest small museums we have ever been in. What is unmistakable in a visit to Graceland and Sun is a sense that those white rock pioneers reaped the inheritance of the African-American musicians who preceded them in the Delta. The collective debt is vast and, thankfully, is acknowledged fully at Sam Philips’ studio.

Now it was time for us to make our way south down Main, south from the noise of Beale, south from the business of the city, south through the old warehouse district, south to the part of downtown Memphis that in other, smaller towns and cities is known as ‘the other side of the tracks.’ We rounded a corner and there it was – the Lorraine Motel. This place had been exerting a pull on us ever since we began this journey. Every place we visited, everything we saw and did on this trip, had a backbeat in it, a gentle thrumming of this simple, unassuming motel for black Americans. The events of the evening of April 4, 1968, forever changed the Lorraine. The question is, did they change America? Today, the National Civil Rights Museum attempts to provide context for that question. This truly phenomenal institution is on the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Part is based in the Lorraine Motel and the rest is incorporated in the apartment boardinghouse where James Earl Ray pulled the trigger. From Ray’s bathroom window one can trace the eerie red-bricked path of the bullet to the motel room balcony where MLK lay shot in that picture forever frozen in memory. As truly good museums do, the National Civil Rights Museum is outstanding in presenting its conflicting, soul-rendering, heart-breaking story in ways that challenge without providing clear and easy answers. The night before he was killed, Dr. King spoke with local civil rights leaders and a large number of Memphis blacks. He foresaw his approaching death and told the crowd he did not think he would make it to the end of the journey with them. He ended his speech, one of the very best in our history, with these words:

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

This week-long journey through Mississippi, bookended by New Orleans and Memphis, informs us that we have not arrived at the Promised Land yet. It has been 52 years since young Meredith faced thousands of hate-filled faces in Oxford, 46 years since the martyrdom of the Reverend Dr. King. In this summer of 2014 it has been 50 years, half of a century, since three young men were dragged from their car, beaten, tortured, shot and their bodies dumped and buried in a roadway culvert. It all seems so long ago. So very long ago, and far away. And, yet, we felt the sting of those years as we traveled today – it is palpable. From the description of slaves as ‘servants’ to the historical marker situation in Philadelphia to the noose on Meredith’s statue to the final imagery of a “Welcome to Memphis” poster in the international airport as we departed – the words superimposed on two large photos, one of an iconic trolley car and the other of a declaiming Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Just last year the city council changed the name of its large riverside green space to Mississippi River Park from Jefferson Davis or Confederate Park. Rather, what is so jarring is the juxtaposition of all of this alongside the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and the James Meredith statue on Ole Miss. So much has improved in the relations between Americans. That is undoubtedly so. And yet. We are not there. Not yet.

As America commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer, we are in France, leading a group to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Young Americans, white and black, came then to liberate a continent from oppression. Markers are everywhere to salute their achievement. Right now, as I write this in Caen, capital of Normandy, I am looking out the café window at the street sign leading over one of the city’s beautiful Orne River bridges. It says, simply, Rue Rosa Parks “Mere de movement des droits civiques” 1913-2005.

Postscript: On Tuesday, June 24th many African-American Mississippians crossed party lines to vote in the Republican primary run-off between incumbent US Senator Thad Cochran and his Tea Party challenger. These voters may have proven pivotal in Cochran’s narrow victory. Many now feel they have found a voice that had long been silenced.

9 Sep 2015

Greetings History Travel Enthusiasts!

Greetings History Travel Enthusiasts!
August 21, 2014

Greetings, fellow History Travel enthusiasts! Welcome to our website and, more importantly, welcome to the adventure that is Essential History Expeditions!

This blog-site will incorporate many different themes over time and we hope you come back to it for ideas, inspiration and smiles. Some of the ideas we are thinking about include historical events of the week, travel to and visiting historic sites, among many others. In this premiere blog, I thought I might share a little about myself. As the expert historian and guide for Essential History Expeditions, I think it fair you know my background.

I am a 52 year old, retired US Army officer. I served on active duty for 28 years as an Airborne Ranger Infantryman, in units in both the US and Europe. I conducted real-world deployments with my infantry battalions in Central America and the Middle East. I also spent 14 of those 28 years teaching at the university level.

I taught for the US Military Academy at West Point, the University of Maryland’s University Campus and the University of Kansas. In my 11 years at West Point, I served as an Assistant Professor of History for five and then for six as the first Academy Professor and Director of the interdisciplinary Defense & Strategic Studies program.

From 2009-10, I served as the Command Historian for the main warfighting headquarters, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In my years in the Army, I did some of my most important teaching on historic battlefields in America, Europe and the Middle East. I took groups of officers, college students and civilians on more than 120 tours (what we in the military call ‘staff rides’) of more than 40 battlefields from seven wars. In-depth lectures, participant role-playing, discussion and reflection led to greater comprehension and retention of material. Today, my wife and I still take civilian tour groups to battlefields and other historical sites.

My education background is focused on the liberal arts and I received a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master’s and a PhD in History from Florida State University. In the latter I was a member of the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution and my research and writing focus is on the British navy and politics in the period of the American Revolution through the Napoleonic wars. I have published numerous articles and chapters, and was the general editor of a very well-received book on the Iraq War entitled Turning Victory Into Success: Military Operations After the Campaign.

I have been privileged with the good fortune to appear in a number of television documentaries over the years, for channels such as A&E, History, Discovery and PBS. I appeared as an expert historian in shows on Napoleon, the American Revolution and Civil War, West Point, World Wars One and Two and military history in general.
In my personal life, I live with my beautiful wife and partner in Boulder, Colorado, where we are very active in many outdoor sports and activities. I have a number of writing projects – turning my dissertation into a book, writing other non-fiction and fiction works and doing travel writing (we had three articles published earlier this year on our South Africa trip).

Well, friends, there you have it. That’s me. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or comments. As in all of life – this is a team sport.

Best wishes, Brian

9 Sep 2015

From Chef Rick …

I felt the best way for me to convey the food prepared and served for everyone in France was to type out with notes. I don’t feel that simply providing ingredients and amounts is very personal. I learned a lot from this trip and the recipes weren’t ideal in some cases. For many of you your kitchen and environment is different so if you attempt to cook these then don’t expect success on the first batch. Practice practice practice.

Please please please feel free to contact me should any questions or problems arise. I may not get back right away but I will respond with an answer, my best guess or some research. This also goes for any general cooking questions. I really enjoy helping people cook and learn about food.

Also, due to the sheer volume of food I was making I had to improvise and just wing it. About half the desserts I made were made up on the spot. Hell, I had to get rid of those eggs…

‘ve received a few questions about the fruit medley and how I was able to keep things crisp, retention of color and not bleed to other fruits. Well, first I would cut everything the prior night (usually until 2 in the morning) and place in bowls with plastic wrap in the fridge. Second, cut the fruits that bleed last so your cutting board isn’t stained and keep them separate from the main bowl and mix in just prior to service. i.e. Strawberries, cherries, etc. Third, I chose fruit that wouldn’t discolor for the majority of fruit and stuff that will oxidize, like apples, you keep in acidulated water. This can be done a few ways and lemon juice (or any citrus) is usually the most convenient. Ascorbic acid may be purchased in powder form which won’t impart the lemony flavor. I prefer this when holding such things as artichoke hearts for other dishes which discolor very quick. Bananas, kiwis and other easy prepared fruit. cut just prior to service.

Remember the whipped cream I prepared that was similar to chocolate mousse? Never made that before until that moment. So here you go.

Chocolate whipped cream

Heavy cream hand whipped in frozen bowl with frozen whisk. Adding coco powder early in the mixing process will speed up the aeration and make it less work. Same can be done with powdered sugar. Whisk almost to firm peak, taste and add sugar to taste. Here’s where you start to have fun with whipped cream because you can choose to add such things as vanilla and other extracts, fruit syrups, brown sugar powder (food processor) or even go the savory route and make lobster whipped cream for garlic mashed potatoes. Haven’t tried this yet but it sounds damn fine to me.

Ok, to the recipes…the yields are bigger because I needed a starting point for 30 ppl, FYI. I abbreviate and ALL butter is UNSALTED. Not some, not “in this case”, not anytime, never, no how, no way. Never have I cooked with “I can’t believe it’s not butter”, well I can.

Moules a la Normandie – yields 8

8 oz hvy cream. – Bring to simmer and reduce by half.
1 apple and 1 onion cut to same size dice (small). – in separate pot big enough to steam mussels sweat the apple and onion until translucent, no caramelizing, in butter.
6 oz hard cider and 1/2 # mussels. – add this to the apples and onions and cover. Cook for about 45 seconds and add a shot of calvados or brandy and the reduced cream. You can add fresh minced parsley for color if you’d like. Season with a pinch of s & p and enjoy. Have some baguettes around to mop up that sauce you guys loved so much. Pair it with the remaining hard cider, brandy with a cube or a nice buttery sur lie Chablis white wine.

I like having ground white pepper for this and prefer it with most cream dishes. Has a different flavor than black so compare the two and you’ll find yourself using less white pepper to achieve the level of peppery flavor. Some people don’t like the flavor white pepper has but I believe they just used it on something they shouldn’t have.

Sole Normandie – yld 16

1# mushrooms of choice (keeping 2-3 per person for later) chopped, 3-4 shallots minced. – sauté in butter until tender, deglaze with some white wine and reduce in half.
(Now at this point your going to add what’s called a velouté. It’s going to be a fish stock which is reduced and normally thickened with a roux but I reduced and thickened with a corn starch slurry. Keep some stock for poaching the fish later.)

1/2 oz fresh thyme stems added with 1 qt velouté. Simmer the above.
4 eggs, 8 oz hvy crm. – beat together and temper into the sauce above. Taste and season with s&p to your preferred taste (abbrv :TT – to taste)
Strain sauce through fine mesh or semi fine or don’t strain at all. Just take the thyme stems out. Keep sauce warm for service.
Sauté the remaining shrooms in butter until golden brown.
Shallow poach 4# sole with retained fish stock. This can be done either in casserole dish in the oven or stovetop. Either way uncovered but with a buttered cut-to-size piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Sole cooks quick but rarely will you dry it out with this method. Serve with a lemon wedge and sautéed shrooms and sauce. Also pairs well with the Chablis.

Endives au lait d’amandes douces – yld 16

8 endives – in 350 oven,trim a little from pointed end, take off any brown leaves and place endives tightly arranged in oiled oven dish, cover with water, 4 t sugar and 2 oz lemon juice and some salt and place something to weight them down and bake for 30-40 min until tender, poke with pairing knife. Raise temp to 400 for 5 min. Drain and pat dry.

10 oz slivered almonds, 40 oz hvy crm – bring to a simmer for 6-8 min. Place in blender and purée. CAUTION- hot liquid in a sealed blender will blow the top off! Start slowly with a small gap to release steam pressure and increase speed. Strain through fine mess and press with spoon to get all liquid. Taste and season TT.
Heat butter in pan and sauté endives to golden brown. 6-8 min. Arrange in gratin dish and cover with almond cream. Bake at 400 for 15 min or until cream has thickened. Serve.

Quiche Lorraine – yld 2 x 10″ pies

4 pieces of bacon, diced and cooked. (I usually retain the grease and strain it for cooking) about the same amount of Swiss or cheese of choice. I made the crust from scratch and almost any recipe out there will work just fine. For gluten free, if you recall my comment, if one throws enough butter at anything gluten free it’ll taste fine. I’ve found that following the common procedure of pre-baking pie shells is a horrible idea for gf crusts of any kind. They get so dry that baking everything at once seems to work just fine. To make the custard filling combine 6 eggs and (feel free to add any separated eggs keeping in mind that if you add more egg the filling may rise more as it cooks so you might add more cream or milk to counteract) 1qt milk and 8 floz (fluid ounces) cream. Season with s&p and nutmeg. Now here’s a good part to interject my opinion on seasoning something you won’t taste like raw eggs. You can always add salt. You can never take it away unless you increase everything else. Don’t care what those tricks are out there. None have ever worked for me other than increasing the volume. So season with salt for raw foods to what you feel will be correct. Sorry, but this takes practice and repetition. Pour over the bacon and cheese. Bake at 350 until set, the internal temp should be 160 per safety standards. Takes about an hour for this recipe

For those who have never made quiche you can throw pretty much anything you want into this except the kitchen sink. You’ll want to keep the sink in case of complete cooking disaster. I like cheese so I usually toss some on top before cooking which sinks a little bit and when it becomes golden and yummy looking it’s about finished.

1 1/2 c ap or gf flour
1/4 t salt
3/4 stick (6 T) chilled butter cut into 1/2″ pieces. More for gf.
2 T + 3/4 t chilled veg shortening cut into 1/2″ pieces. You don’t have to use this but it sure helps. You may add some extra butter if you don’t.
4 T cold water maybe some more for the gf crust.

Whisk dry ingredients together in bowl and then incorporate butter and shortening by hand until crumbly like corn meal…ish. Cold butter is important. Add the water until everything clumps together like play dough. It’s basically the same thing. Flatten out on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment. Cover with another piece or wrap completely and chill for at least an hour. Remove and roll out to pie dish size plus extra so it can come up the edges. Work quickly because soft warm dough is such a pain to work with. Also dusting your countertop with extra flower helps. If using parchment paper then just roll it out between the sheets…hehee, roll it out between the sheets. Chill crust again. Here’s where that whole prebaking issue comes with gf. I recall I baked for a moment to make it set but it was for only about 5 min at 400. If you are prebaking floured then you’ll want to line crust in the pan with foil and fill with raw, uncooked beans to weigh it down. Bake for about 14 min until sides are set, remove beans and foil, pierce bottom with fork and bake for additional 15-18 min.

Salad – ylds who cares…I’m not going to explain to you how to make a salad. There are plenty out there to choose from. However I got comments on my vinaigrette and the rules go like this.

French vinny (broken vinny and must be shaken prior to using)
3 parts oil/fats
1 part solids i.e.-garlic, oregano, basil, s&p, shallots, ginger, you get the point.
Emulsified vinny (particles of solids are suspended in the oil and should not break)
9 parts oil
3 parts acid (vinegar of some sort, I used balsamic all the time but also favor red wine and if you’re looking for some fun champagne vinegar is a good one for fruitier salads)
1 part solids. Dijon, garlic, shallots, s&p, etc.

Toss everything but a majority of oil, hang onto that into a blender or food processor, then as the ingredients are mixing pour the remaining oil in but don’t just dump it. Slowly ribbon in the oil allowing the solids to suspend within the oil. You might hear your blender change noise to a lower hum which is normal and a good indication the emulsification is working.

Here’s a quick recipe.
4-6 garlic cloves unpeeled roasted in the oven or toaster oven or pan roasted.
4 floz balsamic
1/2 floz Dijon
12 floz evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
S&P-TT
Taste after blended. Add salt and pepper. Taste again, add more if needed.

You may enjoy the vinny right away however I’m a fan of cold sauce development which means I like it better after cooling for about 2 hours. For quick chilling I’ve heard of placing into a glass container then wrapping the jar or whatever with a wet paper towel or hand cloth. Rumor has it that it will chill the contents in less than an hour, like 15 minutes. Or maybe it’s the freezer, dunno.

Tarte chocolate pear yld 1 pie

I know everyone loved this and I felt it came out a horrible sloppy mess. So I will provide my best insight on how to make this just slightly better now that I have hind sight.

Pie crust, not going over this again. See the quiche notes. This one just used a lot more sugar than salt.
1 can (4-5 ripe) pears in light syrup. Drained and sliced into 1/8″ slices.
Melt 12 oz sweetened dark chocolate however you want to, microwave, Bain Marie, sun melted,
2 eggs, 3/4 hvy cream beaten in a bowl. I usually add a touch of vanilla extract for extra flavors.

Scrape the chocolate into the pie crust. Here’s where I believe i could have improved this, toss the chocolate filled crust into the freezer for a moment and let it set up. Remove and arrange the pears nicely in some sort of overlapping pattern. Pour the cream over the pears. Bake for 25 min at 400 until it starts to brown. Remove and sprinkle sugar over the top and back into the over for caramelization if you want. You can nix this last part. Just watch carefully in the oven if you do. It’ll burn quick. Total disaster.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a little taste of my humor and insight regarding the first 2 days of food. More emails to come because as you can see this is lengthy and descriptive. I will keep working on these as time permits. Next up are the cassoulet and beef bourguinon with some other stuff thrown in there.

Bye for now.

Sincerely,
Rick Gallup

Eat well, drink well, be wel

9 Sep 2015

“Won Over by the Battlefield” — A Travelogue

“Won Over By The Battlefield” — A Travelogue

In last week’s New York Times, there was a very nice article in the Travel section that we think will speak to our Expedition guests. Especially, to those of you who have youngsters who would like to come along. I have led hundreds of battlefield visits over the years and many have been with young people. They bring a whole different set of eyes and [refreshing] perspective to the event.

See the link below for the article with the author’s photos:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/travel/won-over-by-the-battlefield.html?_r=0