Sunday, March 31, 2013

Words of Odin

As a child I discovered the Norse Sagas and the Eddas.  They started me on the path, I still love them. The wisdom below, a suggestion from the Allfather.... 

Praise day at even, a wife when dead,
a weapon when tried, a maid when married,
ice when 'tis crossed, and ale when 'tis drunk.

(from the Eddas)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Birds in North Mississippi early Spring

Current set of birds observed in or near my wee feeder in the last week or so.... House finch, Golden finch, Cardinal, mourning dove (actually, under the feeder), Chickadee, Tit Mouse, Junco, Wild Turkey. White Throated Sparrows (my favs), Robins, Mocking birds, Blue Jays, come for water only at the feed station.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Irish Coffee, the Real Story

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There is a common and widely held myth that Irish Coffee, that most wonderful of restoratives, was first created in the bar in Shannon Airport. It is true this luscious, Gaelic concoction, was served there at a very early date. But… it wasn’t the first place to serve this wonderful drink, it actually originated in County Donegal at Jackson’s Hotel, in Ballybofey.

There was a seaman named Joe Jackson, a Derry man, who served in the Merchant Navy during World War II. It was his misfortune to be on a ship that was torpedoed in the north Atlantic. When he was rescued he was suffering from exposure and was revived with a high proof drink made from coffee and rum, which was a Navy practice of the day. The rest of Joe Jackson’s service was in the eastern Mediterranean and there he was exposed to drinks containing cream, sugar, and spirits.

With the war over Joe returned home to Ireland and married a woman in the catering business in Ballybofey. Joe purchased a hotel in Ballybofey and calling upon his experiences during the war, began to experiment with new drinks. One of the specialties of the house was an ‘Irish Coffee’ which was made of strong black coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey, and then a layer of cream on top. This was circa late 1940s.

In the early 1950s a Scottish motoring magazine published an account of Joe Jackson’s Irish Coffee. The drink was replicated, according to lore, on 10 November 1952, in the bar of Shannon airport, but this was several years after Jackson’s Hotel served the drink. Perhaps it was a public relations coup or perhaps Donegal was in those days too distant and away, for whatever reason, the Shannon airport origin for Irish Coffee began to take root.

The real story is Irish Coffee is the creation of Mr Joe Jackson and was first served at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey, County Donegal, where they still serve it today, exactly as it was created by Joe Jackson in the late 1940s.

Barry R McCain (c) 2008

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Bonnie Blue Flag

(this re-posted from an earlier article I wrote, posted today in honour of the fall of the Alamo; the Republic of Texas chose the Bonnie Blue flag as a symbol of their liberty and it is still part of the Texas state flag, and will be in the future, I hope, new Republic of Texas flag) 

It may be news to some outside of Dixie, but there is a flag that has long been associated with people of Ulster ancestry in the New World. This flag is of course the lone star flag, which dates to 11 September, 1810. After the American Revolutionary War, Spain regained control of the territory of West Florida, which is located today in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida.

American and British settlers flooded into this area and most of these families were of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, with the majority being of Ulster ancestry. These people are described as Anglo-Celts by some historians, but usually they are just called Scots-Irish. They resented rule from Spain, I suspect knowing these people as I do, and being one of them myself, they resent heavy handed rule from anyone or thing and a rebellion was short in coming.

the Bonnie Blue Flag

On 11 September, 1810 a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for Baton Rouge (Red Stick) to join republican militia to launch an attack on the Spanish fort there. The Scots-Irish forces overcame the Spanish garrison in Baton Rouge and unfurled the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Alas, politics being what they are, the Republic was only to exist for 90 days before the growing United States gobbled it up.
The flag was a single white star on a blue field. The flag unfurled in 1810 was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. The flag is called by two names commonly, the Bonnie Blue Flag and the Lone Star Flag. It saw use in the 1820s and 1830s as the Anglo-Celts pushed into Texas and beyond. The state of Texas incorporates the Lone Star into its state flag of course.

On January 9, 1861 the convention of the People of Mississippi adopted an Ordinance of Secession. With this announcement the Bonnie Blue flag was raised over the capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi. Harry Macarthy was so inspired that he wrote a song entitled "The Bonnie Blue Flag" which became the second most popular patriotic song of the Ole Confederacy.

The Lone Star/Bonnie Blue flag has been in constant use from 1810. You will frequently see it today on license plates on cars and trucks and families fly the flag across the US South and beyond. The Bonnie Blue flag today is as popular as ever and still conveys the same spirit as the original lone star flag and it is part of our Anglo-Celtic.

Barry R McCain

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. Bulk Dark Flake Scented

the dark scented flake
Gawith and Hoggarth's scented dark flake is comprised of Malawi dark fired leaf, which is slightly smoky, but much more subtle and totally different flavour profile than Latakia; the other tobacco is Indian dark air cured leaf. This is a strong to very strong smoke, spicy to my palate, a hint of smoke. Flavoured with Tonquin Bean, it is a very traditional British Isles type flake. If you like a pint of ale and tweed jackets you will like this tobacco. It is Highly Recommended, but only if one enjoys strong tobacco. It has a kick.

Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake Bulk

1792 tin
SG 1792 is a dark fired leaf, Virginia and Kentucky tobaccos. A northwest England type tobacco, very strong, rich dark colour, with what I call 'Christmas' flavours abundant, i.e. nuts, good spices, whiskey, and the tonquin bean which graces many Lakelands. It is very strong and has a perfect room note which would shift a feminist into the other room without difficulty. Again, very strong, do not smoke this unless you have facial hair. It is my favourite smoke. Highly Recommended.

the flake

Indian Pale Ale Review

This a an India Pale Ale (IPA) review of six brews I enjoyed just the other day.  This review is in the category of just a regular beer drinking type, but I will say, I am a nth degree expert as I have been drinking beer weekly since 1968 and have considerable experience.  Not only that, I have travelled much, enjoying the beers of what used to be Great Britain and Ireland. 

Pale ales have been around a long time.  The basics; the term pale ale originally denoted an ale that had been brewed from pale malt. The pale ales of the early 18th century were lightly hopped and quite different from later pale ales. By the mid-18th century, pale ale was mostly manufactured with coke-fired malt, which produced less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer.  Paler than the more red, or amber, coloured beers common to that era.

Like all good things, there is controversy over the creation and reason for the India Pale Ale.  I shall not go into that, but the facts remain that India Pale Ale developed in England around 1840 and India Pale Ale became a popular product in England.  Those are the salient points.  I was introduced to this lovely beer in 1978, in Taunton, Somerset, in the West Country.

It is my favourite type of beer, hands down.  Now I do have a beef with many American craft beer companies that produce IPA.  Many make it too damn sweet.  I do not enjoy sweet beers, I like a Dry type of beer. American IPAs to my tastes are often sweeter and heavier than UK IPAs.  With that as the starting point I had six IPAs recently: Diamond Bear Presidental IPA, Shiner Wild Hare IPA, Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA, Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA, and Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA.

The beers and how I rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 and my observations:
1. DB Presidential IPA; a good IPA, nice hops, a tad on the sweet side; 5 on the McCain scale.

2. Shiner Wild Hare IPA; excellent, could use a bit more hops, but a lovely dry tastes, it was my favourite of the group; 10 on the McCain scale.

3. Widmer Brothers Drifter IPA; above average, nice balance of hops to malt flavours, 7 on the McCain scale.

4.  Lazy Magnolia rye Timber Beast IPA; this one quite unique, strong with 9.0% alcohol, nice flavours, nice amount of hops, a little too sweet for my tastes, still, it is such a unique beer and the high gravity is interesting, a 9 on the McCain scale. 

5. Sierra Nevada Torpedo extra IPA; very good, the extra hops in this its best feature, again, a tad on the sweet side for me, if it were more dry it would be perfect, a 7 on the McCain scale.

6.  Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA; this one a little like Timber Beast, very unique, made from dark rye malt with a lot of hops.  It had almost a licorice like flavour, the dark rye and high hops I suppose, I really liked it, again just a tad to sweet for me, but very good, a 9 on the McCain scale.

I drank all in the course of one evening so the comparisons were done with the memory of each on my tongue and in my mind. If I were getting a six pack, I would go with the Shiner IPA, if I wanted something special, heavier alcohol, etc., I would go with the intriguing Timber Beast or Tommyknocker Black IPA.  At my local here in Oxford, I normally get the Sierra Nevada on tap, as it is always available and I enjoy the hop level there.

Well, hope this guide to IPAs will be of some service to any and all making an upcoming purchase. I posted the John Wayne beer advertisement above, because it uses 'extra dry' as a selling point of the beer.  The appreciation for dry beers seems to have fallen from favour of late. Not with me however, I still love dry beers.