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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Worshiping From Afar

 At some level don't we all want to be worshiped, adored even?  One may be loathe to admit it but all of us, even those  with the least amount of narcissistic tendencies have a trace amount of the want.  Have you met anyone that has felt the honest to God experience of massive adoration?  I'm not talking the mere idolatry of film stars or musicians for these pale in comparison.  I'm talking the real thing, of being venerated by an entire people, of ones effigy being put on a pedestal, worshiped as a savior, as a redeemer, as a God.

The Cargo Cults of the South Pacific have always fascinated us.  For many, the years during and after World War II brought times of massive change.  For those in Melanesia, Micronesia, and New Guinea war time brought the arrivals of new God's, of their talismans, and of their fetishes.  The tides of war brought a slew of materiel to many an island outposts shores.  As this cargo of clothing, tires, shipping containers, food, and manufactured goods appeared as if from nowhere, locals became certain that this was manna from heaven.  Their deities and ancestors creating the goods by spiritual means, as a way of helping the native people.

As the war came to a close these sacred items stopped washing up on the scattered islands.  These items became fetishized further still.  A bond between the old Gods and the trappings of Western mechanization (aeroplanes, boats, airports, landing strips, radios, etc..) was created and soon mock airstrips, palm frond airplanes, coconut radios, and rifles made of bamboo popped up.  Ceremonies sprang up revolving around an islands men marching in formation with their stick guns while saying prayers to their "aeroplanes".  These imitations of western culture became ritualized and performed over and over as hopes of attracting more cargo.  Certain Americans such as John Frum where worshiped as Gods and may have come from an actual visit by someone as mundane as "John from America".  To this day the John Frum movement exists and it is believed that John Frum will return on February 15th to save the islands and in turn make everyone prosperous with Western goods.  Mock parades with mock weapons are staged on mock landing strips to signal his return.

Perhaps the cargo cult closest to our heart is the Prince Philip Movement on Tanna, in Vanuatu.  The Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being, the pale skinned son of a mountain spirit and the brother of John Frum.  According to island lore the son traveled far away were he married a powerful lady and was to one day return.  The cult was formed in the 1960's and was given credence by the royal visit of 1974.  Prince Philip's aids made sure a signed photograph was sent to the villagers who in turn sent him a traditional pig killing club called a nai-nai.  The prince then sent a photograph posing with the weapon which further entrenched the relationship.  Funny, given Prince Philip's gaffes with foreigners and his general perceived aloofness.  Still, there are worse men to worship than Prince Philip.

                                     New Imperial Black goods just over the horizon.  Say a Prayer

  We can only dream that one day a shipment of our shirts pops overboard and washes up on some idyllic shore only to be venerated by the locals in all of our gingham and striped splendor.  For all we know our man E.M.M. is already the ruler of some volcano puffing, palm fringed paradise, resplendent in our shirts as if they were the robes of the Gods.  Perhaps we should instead be worshiping him from afar.....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A slow roast for a cold night

There's the soft thump of snow outside which offers no sign of abating. Lovely large flakes that spiral down joining the rest on the lawn, the shrubbery, and the trees. The grey afternoon feels cloistered and hushed as the street lights come on, capturing the swirls in their glow.

This time of winter calls for comfort, for a sighing and popping fire and of thick Nordic blankets on the settee. Earlier in the afternoon, as the sky turned woolen, thoughts turned to food and of something slow and warming.

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb
A leg of lamb, about 5 lbs
For the Imperial rub:
Garlic- 2 cloves
Sea salt- a nice tablespoon
A dash of paprika
Cumin- a full tablespoon
Fresh thyme leaves- 2 generous table spoons
Olive oil- 2 full tablespoons
Butter- a thick slice
Set your oven to 325. Make the rub. Peel the garlic cloves, then lightly crush them with the salt, using a pestle and mortar or a spoon (if you must). Mix in the paprika, cumin, and thyme. Gradually add the olive oil so you end up with a nice thick paste. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and stir into the paste.
Chuck the leg into a deep cast iron casserole or roasting pan and rub it all over with the paste. I use my hands but the back of a spoon will do nicely. Put it in the oven and leave for 35 minutes. Then put in 1 cup of water and baste the lamb with the liquid. Continue roasting for 3 hours, basting the meat every hour with the juices collected in the pan.
Remove the pan from the oven and pour off the top layer of oil, leaving the cloudy, herb infused sediment in place. Cover the pan with a lid and set aside for 10 mi uses or so.
Carve the lamb, serving with our chickpea mash, spooning the pan juices over both as you go.

Chickpea Mash:
Chickpeas- two 14 oz cans
1 small yellow onion
Olive oil- 4 tablespoons
Hot paprika
Drain the chickpeas and put them in a pan of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to barely a simmer. You want to warm the chickpeas, not cook them further. Peel and finely slice the onion, then let it soften with the olive oil in a pan over moderate heat. The oil seems overdone but no worries. Let the onion color and then add a bit of paprika. Drain the chickpeas and mash with a potato master or, if fancy, in a food processor.

Enough for 6 and lovely with a nice deep red.

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