The Green Dragon on Pub Signs

If you see an English pub name that consists of an animal and a color, it usually has something to do with heraldry. If it’s not a modern name that somebody pulled out of his butt, then the original namegiver was usually expressing his loyalty to his local lord, or to a hero he supported, or to the king. It was often a sign of what kind of customers he wanted to attract.

“The Green Dragon” has long been a popular pub name in the UK. A few years back, one newspaper counted 41 Green Dragons. Tolkien also gave the name to the inn in Bywater where Sam often resorted, which made it a popular name around the world. And of course, Americans should know that Boston’s Green Dragon was one of the cradles of the American Revolution, the favorite tavern of people like Paul Revere.

Now, mind you, there was a Masonic lodge that met in an upstairs room in the Green Dragon. So I recently read a paranoid author not just complain about the role of Freemasonry among the Founding Fathers (which was justified), but claim that the Green Dragon was a sign that the pub was dedicated to Satan.

Arrrrrgh.

As I have pointed out before, there are a lot of English, Scottish, and Irish heraldic associations with dragons. Arthur Pendragon and the Red Dragon of Wales were symbols of the good guys, associated textually with Mordecai’s dream vision of himself in one version of the Greek Book of Esther, as a good guy dragon/snake fighting the evil dragon/snake of Haman. Dragons were a symbol of heroic and fierce fighters, as well as the Roman imperial cavalry. They were also borne in arms by those whose ancestors had legendarily slain dragons, or in places where dragons had legendarily dwelt.

The usual explanation for the Green Dragon name was that pub owners were showing support for the Earl of Pembroke and his family, the Herberts. The green dragon was not his arms, but it was his livery badge (along with a bloody arm usually being eaten by the dragon – sadly I have found no pictures of this!). Pembroke had supported Henry VIII and his son Edward. After a lot of stuff happened, he had supported Queen Mary’s right to rule over the pretensions of Lady Jane Grey. He supported Elizabeth too. Pembroke held extensive lands both in Wales and in England.

But there were other heraldic green dragons. The Maules of Scotland have a green dragon, emitting flames before and behind. (From the tip of the dragon’s curly tail, not in a farting way.) The Ely/O’Neylan O’Carrolls bear a green dragon spitting flame in a more conventional manner. More relevant to Tolkien, the Tames of Oxfordshire bear a green dragon, which is part of the joke behind his fun little story, Farmer Giles of Ham.

Some have suggested that later Green Dragons may have been subtly expressing support for King Charles II’s Catholic queen, Catherine of Braganza. She bore her family’s badge, the Green Wyvern. After the restrictions of Cromwell’s time, a lot of pub signs honored Charles II; so honor to his queen would not have been surprising.

In Boston, the tavern was founded in 1657 and had an elaborate copper sign shaped like a dragon. Of course within a few days it had oxidized green, so it was obviously a Green Dragon.

Not particularly Satanic, guys. (And it’s an awful idea for any Tolkien fan to swallow.)

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Pea Butter and Medieval Lent

In the 1995 book The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, Terence Scully apparently talks a lot about how European medievals coped with Lent. Back then, we Latin Catholics had the same tough fasting regulations as Eastern Catholics do. In other words, it was forty days without milk, butter, lard, or eggs, as well as without meat.

It is well known that medieval cooks used almond milk as a dairy substitute.

What Scully points out is that there was also a butter substitute, and it wasn’t olive oil. (Olive oil was used more like shortening, at least by Northern European cooks who usually stuck to butter.)

The butter substitute was “pea-paste,” also known as “pea butter.” It was so common that medieval cookbooks don’t even bother to tell you how to make it. You already knew. And even peasants could afford pea butter. Food historians were a bit mystified.

Cut to modern times. Apparently the techie foodies have rediscovered pea butter. (Of course they do it with a centrifuge running for hours, but the medieval peasant version wouldn’t have been quite so pure and perfection-happy. It was probably more like pea guacamole.)

How do you make it?

First, take peas, preferably nice sweet green spring peas. (Fresh or frozen, or possibly dried and reconstituted if you’re medieval and the spring peas haven’t sprouted yet. The foodies say it actually works better with frozen peas.)

Mash and beat the heck out of the peas, or stick them in your blender. (Or your centrifuge, in which case you should add water.)

Strain out the pea solids, like the skins, and the pea juices that are too sloppy. (Or watch them magically separate in your centrifuge.)

Everything else is pea butter.You can eat it on bread, or even cook with it to a limited extent. (Obviously it will burn a lot faster than real butter.)

(And if you don’t feel like straining out the skins, I guess you don’t have to; it will be tasty pease-camole. But it might be a lot more spreadable if you get out the cheesecloth. Medieval cooks loved straining things, I’m telling you.)

So… if you are an Eastern Catholic who wants to get in touch with your European side, or if you are a Latin/Roman Rite Catholic with kids or a blender that need occupation, you can make pea butter for Lent. Or just for spring yumminess.

If you don’t like green butter or you’d rather not get out the blender/minions, here’s a modern recipe for a peanut butter substitute, a “roasted pea butter” made with yellow peas. It seems pretty simple. The agave would definitely make it sticky like peanut butter. (But then, so would sugar.)

Not to be confused with butter peas, which I think are a New World vegetable.

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Important Vitamin B12 Advisory!

In general, you can’t hurt yourself by taking Vitamin B12.

In specific, however, you should remember that B12 is used as a treatment for anemia, and that a lack of B12 can cause anemia. Pernicious anemia is caused by your gut not being able to process food-borne B12, which is why folks with pernicious anemia get B12 shots instead of taking it orally.

B12 helps your body make blood.

So as the Mayo Clinic points out, if you take a lot of B12 and your body increases your blood volume by making more blood (a good thing), you can actually end up with too much blood. And that would cause a sort of high blood pressure, which is signalled by redness in the face, etc. (And if you already have high blood pressure, THAT WOULD BE BAD.)

Now, obviously you don’t want to tempt your doctor to bring out the leeches or the bloodletting equipment! (Although I guess you’re okay if you live in a paranormal romance and have a vampire around the house.)

Therefore… if you have really high amounts of micrograms listed on the side of your Vitamin B12 bottle (like 5000 mcg), do not pop them like candy. If your face looks weirdly red, ease off. And if you already have high blood pressure or heart problems, talk to your doctor about safe amounts of vitamins, as customized for you.

Other safety notes from the Mayo Clinic.

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Alas, I Have Been Hideously Busy

But I really am blogging. Really.

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Blogging Hiatus Should Be Over

Yes, I am alive. I have just been busy at work, as well as busy helping my brother Kevin work on his sequel novel (which is more a matter of keeping him company while we both write, therefore staying accountable). Also, I hate having to heat the computer room just so I can use the big computer instead of a tablet. (And tablets stink at making links.)

So yes, I’ve been letting this blog go, and writing really long comments on other people’s blogs instead. I apologize. It’s a bad habit, which this blog was invented to break.

And then there’s Trump. I never really knew what to think of him during the campaign, and I voted for him more as a matter of party loyalty than personal pleasure. But to be honest, the more that SJWs went nuts against the man, the more entertaining it became. By Election Day, I was starting to warm to the whole idea of a President Trump, although I was pretty sure the Democrats would manage to steal the election somehow.

Heh. I was never so glad to be wrong. Is there anyone in the world who would actually want to work with Hillary as their boss? Is she not the stuff of office nightmares?

By Inauguration Day, I was solidly in favor of Trump. If he had been chosen to be CEO of a company where I was employed, I would have been feeling good about it. I’m still not sure how he’ll fare as our US president, but he’s doing a good job so far. The bizarre overreaction of the Left just makes it all sweeter. I am sorry for those people on the left whom I know personally, because they can’t seem to stay sane about the poor man. But then, they did the same hissy fits about Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, Mitt Romney, Condeleeza Rice, Sarah Palin, and the fence-straddling McCain, so it’s hard to care.

Not much else to say, but I’m sure I’ll have more later. The weather has gotten a lot better.

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A Guide to the Laws of England Affecting Roman Catholics

A Guide to the Laws of England Affecting Roman Catholics, by Thomas Chisholme Anstey.

This 1842 compendium of the English laws affecting Roman Catholics, past and present, is extremely enlightening. It doesn’t include the laws that were also against other sorts of religious dissenters, but only the specifically anti-Catholic ones. It also includes the text of a loyalty oath that was required of Catholics wishing to be covered by the various “Relief Acts” and Catholic emancipation laws. Yup, you didn’t even get your basic civil rights without doing some groveling.

One thing that shows up is that a lot of laws which Irish people tend to think about as being against “the Irish” are really against all Catholics. For example, the infamous rule that a Catholic could not own a horse worth more than five pounds.

I’m pretty sure that we all know about all the death penalties and imprisonments for horrible things like “being a priest” or “saying Mass,” and about all the crushing fines and terrible imprisonments visited upon recusant Catholic laypeople, both men and women. But here are some laws you might not have heard about:

Catholics could not possess any arms or even gunpowder, but they had to pay people to maintain arms at their own expense, for royal use. Nice, huh?

Recusant Catholics could not go to court, and could not go within ten miles of London unless they were natives there. At one point they could not even go five miles from home without losing everything they owned and then being kicked out of England.

Under Elizabeth I, any Catholic leaving England to go to school was to be deprived of the ability to hold real estate, and all contracts made with him were voided. Sending a person out of England to school meant a 100 pound fine. Going overseas was forbidden to any woman or minor under 21, except by special government permission from the queen and her ministers. Later, even sending money overseas to a seminary or Catholic charity made you a person unable to hold offices or real estate; you lost everything you owned except your heir’s right to inherit your lands after your death.

In general, under various laws, Catholics could own real estate but could not do anything with it. Their Protestant kindred were given the legal right to “enjoy” their houses and land and to keep any profits that arose. This lasted until Catholic emancipation in 1829, under George IV.

Under William III, any Catholic keeping school or found teaching kids was to be sentenced to perpetual imprisonment.

Under Queen Anne, it was decided that if a Protestant child of a Catholic or Jewish family ever complained of “want of fitting maintenance,” they were to be given money, lest the kids reconcile with their parents and their religion. The age of the children did not matter as long as the parents were still alive, and most of the applicants seem to have been adults. At least one was a middle-aged adult.

Anglican canon law also called for the punishment of all recusants and dissenters. There were Anglican churchwardens, constables, high constables, questmen, and questmen’s assistants, all of whom could arrest you for being Catholic, basically. They would be paid 40 shillings for everybody they listed as not attending the Anglican parish church at least once a month.

All marriages had to be celebrated in Anglican parish churches by Anglican priests. Even if you were Jewish or Catholic, or a Protestant of another group. The idea of being able to register your marriage by going to a strictly secular registrar, and then celebrate it in your own religious group, was new to England in 1829. In general, the building had to be registered, or a registrar had to be present, or there had to be a special license. But this was progress.

There’s also an interesting discussion of how the Anglican seal of confession was considerably weakened by Anglican canon law in comparison to Catholic canon law. Anglican clergy were allowed to reveal confessions of anything that went against the realm or anything that was dangerous to the clergyman’s life; but any talking about secret confession contents was considered an irregularity and nothing more. (Which doesn’t mean that individual Anglican priests didn’t act differently; but you can see how corrupted the canon law was made by its government status.)

There’s also a lot of discussion of how charitable bequests to Catholic causes were frequently voided by the decisions of judges, even after 1829 made those bequests totally legal in the UK. A lot of times, this was explicitly done to benefit Protestant heirs, or the money taken over by the government.

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Offal Nice

Today there were numerous news stories about a “new organ” being discovered in the human body. It’s actually the re-classification of the mesentery as an organ, whereas it used to be seen as just a membrane holding the small intestine in place.

You don’t hear a lot about the mesentery, but French chefs like to cook it. They like to cook a lot of things that come out of the guts of animals. So let’s discuss what the cooking terms translate into!

Tripe = stomach or stomach lining. French andouillette sausage is stuffed with tripe and mesentery meat. Some kinds of menudo are all about tripe, although usually it’s just leftovers of whatever the household has been eating. But a lot of taquerias will do you tripe tacos or tripe soup, just like they’ll do beef tongue and the like. There are different kinds of cow tripe that each get cooked differently; Wikipedia will fill you in.

Friaise/fraise = mesentery. “Fraise” means “ruff” as well as “strawberry,” so the French make this word do a lot of duty.

Pluck = originally “mesentery.” It grew to include the heart, liver and lungs of an animal, eventually including the guts (braided for cooking convenience) and other offal. Sometimes used as a synonym for offal and other “variety meats.”

Chitterlings aka Chitlins = dish made from pig intestines.

Liver and lights = liver and lungs. A common food for dogs, in the old days.

Melt = spleen.

Kidneys = kidneys. Also “reins” and “rognons.”

Sweetbreads consist of three different things:

  • Belly sweetbread = pancreas
  • Breast sweetbread = the thymus glands
  • Throat sweetbread = the thyroid gland

(So kids, all of you with thyroid problems or diabetes are basically having sweetbread troubles.)

Elder = cow udder. Sometimes sold as part of “tripe.”

Animelles = French term for animal testicles. (There are ruder terms for human ones.) Also called “rognons blancs” and “rognons externelles.”

Lamb’s fry = lamb testicles.

There are a lot of other animal parts that are used in the traditional cuisine of many countries, but this gives you a good start.

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