Sunday, February 21, 2010


"I could never tell where inspiration begins and impulse leaves off. I supposed the answer is in the outcome. If your hunch proves a good one, you were inspired; if it proves bad, you are guilty of yielding to thoughtless impulse." - beryl markham
Beryl Markham was an adventurer in every sense of the word. British-born she grew up in Kenya with her father, playing and hunting with the natives. On her family's farm, she learned all about horse breeding and training, and became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya. By age 24 one of her horses had already won the most prestigious racing prizes in Kenya. And when the world could no longer ground her, she took to the skies with flying lessons. A few months after receiving her pilot's license, she became the first woman in Kenya to get her commercial pilot's license. She was well known for her career as a bush pilot delivering supplies, passengers and mail to remote regions of Africa, as well as for locating big game by air for safaris. She was also a record-breaking aviatrix in the pioneer days of aviation. In 1936 she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo, and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop. Markham chronicled her many adventures in her memoir, West with the Night, published in 1942. Throughout her long life she continued to be a non-conformist and trailblazer in both her professional and personal lives.

"There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo." - West with the Night
"Famous Airmen & Air women" - Carreras Ltd. - Series of 50 - (1936)
Cigarette Cards
What makes some people adventurers and explorers who constantly test their boundaries to live the impossible, while others cling to the safety of home and all that is familiar? Is it simple curiosity, a reckless thrill seeking, a need for fame and recognition, or is it something bigger like destiny? Maybe it's simply compulsion, a blind need to seek out the unknown. To live it, learn it, and immerse yourself in its underbelly until you don't know where you end and it begins. I do know that in order to succeed you need adaptability, the ability to modify your beliefs to changing circumstances, and the willingness to embrace the possibility of something even when it conflicts with all that you've been taught before. You also need stamina, self-belief, and doggedness for those times when you want to give up, or turn tail and run the other direction. And without hunger for the unknown there would be no reason to take that next step, to find out what's behind that closed door, or what's beyond the next border or continent. Despite what some believe I don't think it's always fearlessness. You can be afraid, yet still force your foot forward, to run blindly in the dark, to jump, fly and fling yourself into the abyss of the unknown. No, it's something else. But whether that quality is learned or innate, there's no disputing that when you see, feel, or experience something for the first time, the miracle of that moment lives within you forever.

This next dessert recipe "To make a Tarte that is courage to a man or woman" was a favorite in Shakespearean times and was found in a 1587 cookbook. In this case the "courage" refers more to sexual prowess than valor or bravery, but since Beryl Markham was known for unconventional lifestyle, including three marriages and countless affairs, I think the tart applies to the topic. Several of the ingredients, including sweet potatoes, wine, dates, and sparrow brain were considered aphrodisiacs in the 16th century. The sparrow brains were omitted for this updated version of Courage Tart by Francine Segan from her book Shakespeare's Kitchen.

The original recipe went like this:
"Take two Quinces and two or three Burre rootes, and a potaton, and pare your Potaton and scrape your rootes and put them into a quart of wine, and let them boyle till they be tender, and put in an ounce of Dates, and when they be boyled tender, draw them through a Strainer, Wine and all, and then putte in the yolkes of eight Egges, and the brains of three or foure cocke Sparrowes, and Straine them into the other and a little Rose water, and seeth them all with Sugar, Synamon and Ginger, and Cloves and Mace, and put in a little Sweete butter, and set it upon a chafingdishe of coles, betweene two platter, and so let it boyle till it be something bigge." - from "A good huswifes handmaide for the kitchin Containing manie principall pointes of cookerie..."; 1594

Courage Tart
1 large sweet potato, peel and diced
2 cups white dessert wine (such as muscat)
2 quince or apples, peeled, cored, and diced
3 dates, chopped
1/2 Renaissance Doug (*see recipe below)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
pinch of clove
1/8 tsp ground mace
2 tbsp butter
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp rosewater
2 large egg whites
  1. Place the sweet potato and wine in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the quince and dates and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the quince is tender. (If the mixture becomes too dry add 1 or 2 tbsp of wine.) Purée until smooth.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F. Roll out the Renaissance Dough to 1/8 inch thick on a floured work surface. Press the dough into a pie pan and trim off any excess.
  3. Place the sweet potato mixture in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, mace and butter and stir until well combined.
  4. Beat the egg yolk and rosewater in a small bowl, add to the filling, and mix well.
  5. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold into the filling.
  6. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 1 hour, or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.
Renaissance Dough
2 cups of loosely packed pastry flour
1/2 cup ice-cold water
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
  1. Mix the flour the ice-cold water, the salt, and the egg together on a cold surface until crumbly.
  2. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and place one-quarter of the butter cubes on the dough. (Keep the remaining butter refrigerated until ready for use.) Roll the butter into the dough, fold the dough over and top with another quarter of the butter cubes and roll it again.
  3. Repeat the process 2 more times until all the butter is incorporated.
  4. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

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