Margherita and Other Food Icons.


Food is just as entitled to a proper history as castles, wars, kings, queens, art, literature and the bubonic plague. But the book world is now so saturated by celebrity chefs trying to show the working man how to rub garlic on a ciabatta or break lime leaves over a piece of raw fish that we’ve lost sight of the really interesting stories behind the recipes we all know and love. And, whilst I don’t ride around London on a scooter with my mates or swear at incompetent sous chefs for a living, nor do I know one end of a pork loin from its elbow, I do love history and I do love food. And the history behind our favourite dishes is fascinating, surprising and overlooked – from the Buddha’s obsession with porridge to the dying playwright Moliere dosing himself with Parmesan rather than medicine (it didn’t work) and so I wanted to find out more.

But rather than just retelling the tales of how civilizations developed cooking techniques millennia ago, I wanted to know the stories about the people behind the food we eat every day. For example, who was Marguerita, and why was the world’s most famous pizza named after her? And while everybody loves crêpes Suzette but do they know that Suzette was the mistress of an earlier hard-living Prince of Wales and how the dish was named after her? And what about the notorious Earl of Sandwich and how he came up with our favourite snack to avoid losing at cards? We’ve all enjoyed Peach Melba at some point, or spread some butter on a piece of Melba Toast, so wouldn’t it be a great idea to tell the story of the megalomaniac singer, Dame Nellie Melba, for whom these dishes were created.

And once I’d started my research, the discoveries started flooding in. Why do we call our favourite Greek lamb dish after a bunch of thieving nomads (Kleftiko)? Who were the Tartar warriors and why do we name raw steak after them? Or what about all those cakes and buns, Eccles, Bakewell, Lamington, Battenberg, Garibaldi and the Anzacs. There are the salads in the shape of Caesar and Cobb and the fish and soups have plenty of history of their own. And don’t forget the sauces such as Béarnaise, Mayonnaise, the one from the House of Parliament and that one from the Thousand Islands? There are all in here, and many more. Pavlova, for example. We may all know about the Russian ballerina and do we know about the century old argument between the Australians and New Zealanders over who invented it. Well, that particular question is answered here.

So, dear reader, a cook book this is not. But while the chefs of the world will learn little about recipes here, they might enjoy the stories of how their everyday tools of the trade, salt and pepper, once transformed the world and how some of the other great events in history put whatever it is you are having for dinner tonight upon your plates.

There wasn’t room for every dish I wanted to cover in this edition – but you never know there might always be a second sitting…

Margherita and other Food Icons – Who inspired our favourite foods

Albert Jack books available for download here

Last Man in London – Synopsis

© Albert Jack 2014


Historically, most Empires created by man have risen and fallen during a period of around 500 years. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, the Moors and the Ottomans all, in their turn, reigned supreme until apathy, arrogance and, frankly, laziness led to their downfall. However, Mankind would never become extinct as new societies inevitably replace existing social structures sooner or later. By 2012 AD the great and so called, and 450 year old, democratic Western Empire, which began with the Age of Discovery during the 15th century, was tired, corrupt and had run out of ways of oppressing, cheating and taxing the societies it was supposed to represent, democratically.

The inhabitants of the western world, both weary and frightened of war with the East, were turning against their elected leaders having finally realised the Great Lie, the vote. If voting changed anything then they wouldn’t be allowed to do it. Instead, every four or five years they ‘elected’ a new autocracy, closely linked to their predecessor and who governed with impunity. In fact, democracy had started to fail as soon as elected representatives began taking away from those who were willing to work and giving to those who were not. The well-intentioned Welfare State had triggered the beginning of the end of hundreds of years of democracy, within two short generations of its inception.

In 1956, at the end of the second great World War, a collective of the wealthiest and powerful business leaders throughout the West met in secret for the first time in a French hotel and slowly they drew their plans. Their vision for the future abolished both countries and religion; there would be no more elections and no future wars. Instead, each new state would be run as an industry, by an appointed board of the finest business minds of their respective generations. The Eiderberg Group, as they were informally known, with the support of The Circle, a highly secretive group of foreign policy advisers who specialised in international security, would form a central board of governors, the United States of America and the European Union would be broken up, decentralised and eventually wiped from history. The old democratic west would effectively become incorporated.

The lessons of the fall of the Roman Empire, arguably history’s finest civilisation that finally succumbed to the barbaric Germanic Vandals, who themselves had been ruled by Rome for centuries, were not lost on the Eiderberg Group. If mighty Rome could crumble and fall in the 6th century, to an enemy within, then so could all western societies in the 21st century be crippled and ruined by a dangerous hostility that had been festering for generations inside their own schools, streets, towns, cities and places of worship. For years elected governments they had actually encouraged other foreign cultures to live among their own people. The larger they became in number, the deeper their resentment grew and the more committed they became to destroying what they regarded as the foreign Empire that governed them. Just as the Vandals had successfully turned on Rome 15 centuries earlier and destroyed it.

By 2014 the opportunity for revolution had become apparent, not in the traditional fashion of the lower orders rebelling against their wealthy or religious masters, but by the wealthy and powerful business leaders, the bankers, the media and technical tycoons of all nationalities. The Eiderberg Group would form an unstoppable western conglomerate. Russian steel barons and American internet tycoons would sit together on the board of the new Western Corporation, trading with willing partners from the east (India & China) and forming plans to destroy their competitors and those who still held religious belief, that would be banned. Those ideals were removed from world history, forever.

Because in 2001 the religious conflicts, that began with the Crusades a thousand years earlier, become a terrifying modern reality with the Islamic attack on New York, the financial capital of America and the Eiderbergers immediately saw their opportunity. And so after engineering the financial meltdown of western economies, charging their scientists to harness free & safe nuclear power for everybody (The Large Hadron Collider) and to separate hydrogen from water, the limitless source of energy they needed to remove the demand for eastern oil, the Eiderbergers were ready for the new society, their society. By 2016 the eastern oil driven economies had collapsed. Once wealthy areas became barren and uninhabited as the demand for oil and other fossil fuels dramatically ended and the new corporation was no longer reliant on Eastern resources. Their armies withdrew and simply left the tribal religious wars of the Middle East to escalate and watched as the warring factions destroyed each other at will. The company need not be involved anymore. The East would be de-populating themselves.

Meanwhile the media barons were winning the hearts and minds of the western people and by 2018 their opinion polls convinced the Eiderbergers there was no longer a desire for elected governments – widespread corruption had discredited the leaders of most countries. A prosperous, well run and safe society with free and unlimited energy, was enough to persuade the population that countries would be better run by experienced businessmen than career politicians with little, or no experience. ‘Would you want Apple, Microsoft or the Virgin Group, be run by local MP’s?’ was the question asked of the people every day and the resounding answer soon became obvious. ‘If votes changed anything you wouldn’t be allowed to do it’ ran the editorials.

Ousted and humiliated the elected western leaders were replaced with a central board and dozens of satellite sub divisions. The new main board was appointed during the first year of Incorporation and by AI02 (After Incorporation year 2) costs had been slashed, profitability boomed, those responsible for law and order were handsomely rewarded for avoiding conflict. The main board then sat down to discuss the first point of their new agenda, the problem of over-population. Those not contributing to the new company would need to be removed and the Human Resource Department were tasked with the job of reducing costs to the company, humanely. They called it their Redundancy Initiative.

There must be no bodies, no blood and no rebellions. Instead a radical and long term policy of mixing powerful sterilizing drugs to the water supply of the welfare generation, the unemployable, would remove them from the gene pool within one generation. This policy was soon extended to prisoners and any other citizen not contributing to the company. Following that a long term plan to reduce the population of enemies of the Main Board in the Middle East began. Water supplies, food and aid packages were all laced with sterilization drugs and war was being encouraged among opposing religious factions. In some peaceful areas war was actually started by secret agents of the Western Corporation posing as Muslims. Genetic weapons were developed that would mutate the genes of an entire race.

By the year of AI43 history had been re-written, the war with the east was a distant memory to only those old enough to remember the Incorporation of the Western Empire. The sterilisation programme had been rolled out by Special Forces to all enemies or competitors of the company. Within two generations they had run out of jihadists and the world was once again a peaceful place. The main board intended to keep it that way. England, France, Germany and America had never existed as countries and were now simply prospering divisions of the Corporation, run by its directors.

The Western Board of Albion (Great Britain) was now a thriving and profitable division. As was the Western Board of Gaul, (France) WB Prussia and WB Germany. The Island to the west of Albion (United Ireland) was now the most powerful military base the world had ever seen, acting as insurance against invasion by the remaining dynasties of the east, Japan, China & India. Stationed there was every citizen of the west who were not contributing to the profits of the regional boards (the welfare state) and for them, there was no escape other than authorised employment somewhere within the corporation.

Last Man in London is a bleak, although not necessarily dystopian novel set in the year AD 2061, now known as AI43 which reflects upon the fall of the Western Empire in 2018, (following the 20 year war on Terror) mirroring the fall of the Roman Empire around 456AD. For some, however, it turns out to be utopian – it is the perfect society achieved, as it turns out, by the extreme and efficient ruthlessness of the new corporation. The story begins in the year AI43 as a Plasma Thrust Train arrives at the Department of Literature carrying the latest intake of university graduates to begin work at the company department they had been educated to contribute to for their entire careers. Jobs for life were now a reality once again. During the induction they are reminded that world history had been written by fiction writers such as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain who invented countries called America, France and England for their stories. Politicians, from the old and now discredited system of democracy had endorsed such fiction, in their own interests, and had created societies who believed they were free to vote and chose. In AI43 this old system was regarded as juvenile by the citizens of the corporation.

Now the Western Corporation (WestCor) was correcting that history and the graduates were to spend their careers rewriting every book ever published that had been approved by the Board for preservation. And in the process they believed they would be correcting every piece of fiction that had led to the Great Three-Hundred-Year Oppression which ended in 2018, the year that WestCor had been established. Once approved, and the name of every western country had been replaced by its new divisional title, the books would be distributed to the electronic tablet of every person, free of charge. Physical books were a thing of the distant past and the modern versions could be changed, updated and delivered to every citizen in seconds. And they were regularly changed. Some people noticed they were reading a story and by the time they reached the final chapter, a new and very different ending had been approved. There would always be dissent and resistance but for the majority a cheap, efficient smaller society with no fear of war and free, renewable energy seemed to be a far better system than the old and corrupt, capitalist democracy of the past they had learned about in schools. A content society doesn’t rebel; why would it?

Apart from that, little had changed. Some people still owned restaurants, others ate in them. There was still a need for tradesmen and they had been trained by a particular ‘department’ from a very young age. Everybody, in the now much smaller society contributed to the business in one way or another. Every person had free access to wireless power for their homes and businesses. The new Trans-Atlantic Tunnels with their free hydrogen powered pulse plasma transporters that ran between Bristol and New York, Washington and Bordeaux, Brazil to Cape Town and Durban to Perth were delivering people safely at 5000mph. It was now common to travel from London to New York in under an hour. People living in Brazil regarded it as normal to travel to Cape Town for lunch. Sub Orbital flight would deliver travelers from London to Sydney in under 3 hours. People of the Western State of Australia would often travel to Europe just for the weekend.

The central character, George Willoughby, is an inquisitive history corrector in the Ameuropean State of Albion, an Island in the North Sea, and vital communications link between the United States of Ameurope Macroland and the Combined States of Western Euroland, who discovers an old computer data base in his great grandfather’s vault (buried with him in AI04) and manages to convert the power source (conventional electricity was turned off for the masses in AI10) and discovers real history stored in old newspaper applications and electronic books that had been preserved. As he begins to realise everything he had been taught about world history had been a lie he embarks upon a journey to find evidence of England, the land of his fathers. His own grandfather, Edgar, now lives in a comfortable apartment overlooking what was once London Town, now simply known as the Western State of Albion HQ, and through the old man, visit by visit, George learns of how the Main Board (never identified) engineered the revolution and turned all the old countries of the West into a thriving business.

As George Willoughby’s investigation continues he learns of the fall of the Roman Empire and how that once civilised and cultured people had allowed their society succumb to the barbarians and how the people of their once great Empire went back to living in huts and caves again for a thousand years. Exactly the same was about to happen to the modern Western Empire during the 21st century who were under threat from committed eastern armies until the Eiderberg Group stepped in and ruthlessly avoided making the same mistakes the great Roman Emperors had all those years earlier.

George’s own relationships reveal how marriage was now a voluntary but binding one year contract which could be renewed each year if both parties agreed. Couples applying for a family were expected to sign a 25 year contract and would be given the fertility drug that reversed the effects of sterilisation that was, by then, compulsory at birth, giving the Main Board complete control over the levels of population which they could raise or lower with each passing generation as their constantly reviewed one hundred year business plan was updated, ensuring the survival of the old Western Empire without the  religious control the Romans had exercised from the Vatican a thousand years earlier. No couple could apply for a 25 year license if they had not previously had at least five single year contracts, with one or more partners, that had not been reneged. No marriage contract was compulsory but they were exclusive and heavy penalties imposed upon any citizen who broke a contract. Any man or woman convicted of a crime would never have their sterilisation reversed, removing their genetic line from the gene pool permanently.

Edgar explains to George that, despite earlier warning signs (9/11 and the war in Afghanistan) the Eiderberg group had failed to predict the week of the fifth column in 2017. This was the week hundreds of thousands of Muslims, whose families had settled in the west for several generations and who had integrated into their respective societies, rose up in unison and attacked their western neighbours, simultaneously throughout America and Europe. Governments panicked, collapsed and the Eiderberg Group seized their chance to take power, restore calm and re-organise entire societies, reducing population, easing out religion and ruthlessly expelling trouble makers of all nationalities, firstly to Ireland (the entire country became a prison and law abiding residents were re-located to a new State of their choice) and there they were forcibly sterilized so that within a single generation the bad gene was removed from society Once achieved Ireland would be converted into a military base called the Western State of Defence.

WestCor, like any good business, was run with 50 and 100 year business plans and not the 4-5 year ineffective short term policies of previously elected governments. George’s growing fascination with what he learned from his grandfather reveals how ruthless and efficient the Eiderberg Group had been with their business model and how successfully it had worked. There had been peace with the East for two generations and the Main Board maintained that peace by outlawing religion which was now only a part of history being slowly re-written until future generations will simply never have heard of it.  The third part of Last Man in London begins as George discovers who the mysterious members of the Main Board are and is staggered to find that they were all from what was once known as the Bible Belt in middle America and who regularly celebrated the birth of Christ in December, a festival George had once corrected in a Charles Dickens novel called A Christmas Carol, now known as A Winter’s Tale. They were militant Christians.

George also discovers the bible, the old and banned book of religion; which clearly indicates that with the Second Coming of Christ, as the Eiderberg Group passionately believed, only 144,000 followers would have their ‘souls saved.’ He ponders this and tries to balance this number with the two billion Christians known to have had faith at the time all religions had been banned after incorporation. Why did the Eiderbergers do this? Were there 144,000 of them? Was their ruthless treatment of the Muslim east driven by religion after all, as soon as they didn’t need their oil anymore? And were they saving the limited number of places in heaven for themselves alone, by banning it for ordinary people? Did they see themselves as the chosen few with the rest heading straight for Hell? George asks Edgar, ‘was this whole revolution, incorporation, de-population and the new society all done in the name of something called God?’

Edgar then confides to George that he has suspected the whole incorporation had been religiously influenced after all, just as the fall of the Roman Empire had been. It never fell at all; instead it morphed into the Roman Catholic Church and ruled from the Vatican through the fear of God rather than the fear of the sword or soldier. It was cheaper, for one thing. The Eiderbergers had simply updated the Roman Catholic model by realising that fear of anything was what caused uprising and insurgence. With nothing to fear and rebel against then society could live peacefully and with no knowledge of their private God. Only the chosen elite would be able to reserve their places in Heaven. Themselves alone.

But George doesn’t care about that. Edgar patiently explains there is no such thing as God and those who believed in such a ridiculous notion were clearly mad, and dangerous. The Eiderbergers were both. Let them believe in the Second Coming, who cares? Instead George wants to know more about London, the home town for generations of his family, but is unable to find a single, reliable reference. Again, turning to Edgar the old man explains the rich history of what was once the finest capital city in the world. George wants its history preserved and urges the old man to write a book called ‘Remembering London’. Edgar flatly refuses. ‘But you are the only man who remembers it, what happened to it, what happened to all of the old countries,’ pleads George.  ‘I’m leaving things be,’ the old man insists, ‘you know how dangerous religious people are. And besides I’ve told you everything I know. You’re now the last man in London, not me.’

Albert Jack 2014

Last Man in London (And the New World Order) is available here:  USA  UK

Chapter One here

Albert Jack books available for download here

The Marquis of Granby

The Marquis of Granby is the traditional title of the eldest son of the Duke of Rutland, so there have been many Marquises of Granby, but the ubiquitous pub of that name is called after just one, another fondly remembered, flawed British hero.

Dismissed by George II as a drunkard and bully, John Manners, Marquis of Granby, only came into his own during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), in which he was appointed Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards, later promoted to lieutenant-general. All the major European powers of the time were involved in the fighting, 1.5 million soldiers dying in a conflict later described by Winston Churchill as the ‘real first world war’. The marquis may have liked a drink (or three) but he wasn’t lacking in courage (or even Courage, although the brewery wasn’t established until later in the century). On 31 July 1760 he led the cavalry on a daring charge against the French at the Battle of Warburg, capturing nearly two thousand enemy soldiers and many much needed guns. Granby had been bald since his early twenties but in a time where most people wore wigs, he saw no need to. During the charge he lost his hat but he kept charging at the enemy, giving rise, it is believed, to the expression ‘going at it bald headed’.

Yet despite being such an inspiring soldier that one of his opponents even commissioned a portrait of him after the war, the marquis lacked administrative skills and was often criticized by his fellow officers for the leniency he showed his men. This was seen as weakness at the time, conducive to a lack of discipline among the rank and file, which some thought made him unfit for command. The public loved him, however, and his popularity is reflected in a contemporary painting by Edward Penny, The Marquis of Granby Relieving a Sick Soldier, showing the general’s compassion for his fellow man rather than portraying him, more conventionally, as the conquering hero. Prints of the picture were displayed proudly in many Georgian homes.

After the war was over, Granby turned his attention to politics, at which he proved somewhat less successful. His hot temper and hard drinking were less suited to diplomacy and led to a series of disastrous mistakes. But he always remained available to any man who had served under his command during the war. It has been reported that on many occasions he helped members of his old regiment establish themselves as innkeepers, most of whom would honour their former general by displaying his name above their doors.

More pub culture in My Favourite Pub – Thirty Great Pub Name Histories

Albert Jack books available for download here


The Bucket of Blood (Phillack, Cornwall)

When drawing a pint could mean something more sinister …

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the number of smugglers in Britain was thought to be around 150,000. As many as 300 ships were fully employed bringing contraband goods into the coves and on to the beaches of southern England. Cornwall was the most popular choice due to its vast number of small inlets and hidden coves. It was also estimated that as much as 25 per cent of the entire import and export trade of the England, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, consisted of smuggled goods and duties to the king were rarely being collected. At one point the authorities in London believed the entire adult population of Cornwall was involved in smuggling, either as a consumer or an illegal importer.

The smugglers and their families were a violent and desperate bunch (seventeenth-century Cornwall must have been like living in Mafia-run Sicily), renowned for their bloodthirsty antics. Many would stop at nothing to make the maximum amount of profit, wrecking any ship that wasn’t part of their network. There’s an old Cornish expression, ‘jibber the kibber’, which refers to the tactic of fixing a lantern round the neck of a horse led along the shore at night to make it appear like a ship’s light. The ships bearing towards it ran aground, their cargoes were plundered and any surviving crew murdered by the locals.

The government was extremely keen to claw back control of England’s very profitable trade and its revenue officers were under strong pressure to produce results. Officers drawn from local families would turn a blind eye to smuggling activities, but those who came from London were less tolerant of the covert behaviour of locals, and this led to conflict and violence on a regular basis.

Revenue officers were generally regarded as insensitive to the poverty of the Cornish, interested only in collecting income for themselves and their paymasters in London. In consequence, it was common for officers to be shunned at best or, at worst, go missing. No one therefore was too surprised when the landlord of the New Inn in the village of Phillack, located on a small cove close to St Ives on the northern coast of Cornwall, went to draw his morning water from the well only to find the head of an unpopular revenue man floating in a bucketful of blood. Whether this is true or not – although given what we know about smuggling, pirates and the Cornish, it very likely is – it is certainly why, in 1980, the New Inn was renamed the Bucket of Blood, possibly my favourite pub name of all.

Extract from My Favourite Pub – Thirty Great Pub Name Histories

Albert Jack books available for download here