November 3

Amber pages

John Montague, fourth Earl of Sandwich, who gave his name to smoked salmon and cream cheese on granary, to pastrami on rye, and to those horrible things with processed cheese and curled-up edges that they used to serve on British Rail, born today in 
1718; and another name to be added to the Hansom, Bloomer, Macintosh etc list of people who gave their names to.... 

   ... except that Sandwich also gave his name to the Sandwich Islands, and though he gave his name to the sandwich, he didn't actually invent it. That distinction belongs to Hillel the Elder in the first century BC, the founding Rabbi of Talmudic Judaism, who moved from Babylon to Jerusalem in order to teach his version of the faith to interested locals. A Hillel Sandwich, as it is now called, is eaten at Pesach (Passover), and it comprises - unless like me you have a nut allergy - a mixture made by chopping nuts, apples and spices and then moistening them mit a kleine droppele of kosher wine, all of which is then eaten between two wafers of matzah. This is not, however, what Hillel ate: he took meat from the Temple sacrifice, and some of the bitter herbs, and put them between the matzah wafers. Korech is the technical name. 

Stephen Fuller Austin, the man who gave his name to the capital of 
Texas, born today in 1793. Some people get whole towns (Alexandria, Washington, Melbourne), and even countries (Bolivia, Rhodesia, Israel) named after them, and some like me get named after the tiny village of their ancestry, while huge numbers of towns, especially in America and Canada, are named nostalgically after the towns the people came from - very weird, being in London Ontario, or Paris Texas, or Palermo Buenos Aires, or finding yourself in Ithaca and it isn't Homer's Greece but up-state New York...

é Malraux, French novelist, born today in 1901, in Paris France, which it might surprise you to know is not named after the anti-hero of Homer's novel, but is really Par-Ys - "like Ys" - the envious Franks looking west at the glorious Breton city of Ys, the most beautiful city ever built, until one day King Gradlon's daughter Dahut stole the keys that kept the dam secure that kept the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from pouring on, and when she unlocked it the legend of the sunken city of Atlant-Ys was born. Honestly. It's all in my book "The Land Beside The Sea".

I should have given advance warning of this too... Ethelred the Unready led the English in a massacre of the Danes, today in 1002. Not sure why I am including him, except that his sobriquet is irresistible. And perhaps a vague idea for another book, a book from which to learn some of the more painful lessons of history. The Book of Unreadiness. Golda Meir and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 will definitely get a chapter, Kara Mustafa for certain (see
May 21), and Chamberlain the Unready too - see July 22...

No comments:

Post a Comment