May 20, 2015

The Niña, the Pinta and Columbus' Strange Legacy

Tall Ship Nina and Pinta

Last weekend i was invited out to see the Niña and the Pinta, recreations of two of Christopher Columbus' ships for a friend's birthday. They were docked close by in Wilmington, Delaware. Lately the country has been anti-Columbus because of the horrible atrocities he and his men committed against Native Americans and from that perspective I agree he is not a man to be celebrated in modern times for his so called "accomplishments." However, the ships are interesting to see and add a new dimension to the history of some of the earliest European voyages to the Americas.      

Tall Ship Nina and Pinta

From a nautical perspective, the ships are curious. They are smaller than most of us imagine. Many of us wouldn't dare to try to cross an ocean in one. The ships are called "caravels" and the original ships were only 65 feet long. They bobbed in the ocean and were covered in pine tar, making the ships solid black in color. Around 27 men lived on the deck without significant shelter for the duration of the trip, storms and all. No protection from the elements. The hold was filled with supplies and livestock and smelled so putrid that many refused to go down there for any reason.  Columbus' first voyage was 7 months and he spent a total of 12 years on caravels like these during his 4 voyages.    

Tall Ship Nina and Pinta Wilmington Delaware

It is weird to think of Christopher Columbus as an important part of promoting peace between different groups of people but that is really where Columbus' legacy lies. Columbus Day was first celebrated in 1792 but it did not become a national holiday until 1934 as a result of lobbying.

Why did people think Columbus Day was important? In the 1880s up until WWI, Italians starting emigrating to the United States in sizable numbers where they were faced with hatred and discrimination which included violence. In 1891, 11 Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans were lynched by a mob  in the largest lynching in U.S. history. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison promoted celebration of Columbus Day to celebrate the 400 year anniversary of Columbus' first voyage but instead of focusing on Columbus himself, focused on how far America changed and  prospered. Italian-Americans looked to these celebrations of a famous Italian as a way to become accepted into mainstream society although not all Italians want to be associated with the Celebrations today. Perhaps we should celebrate Melting Pot/ Salad Bowl Day instead?

Like many ships, the Niña and the Pinta are always looking for people who want to join the crew and experience ship life. Visit their website for more information about the ships.  If you want a chance to see them, they will be traveling up the east coast all this year so check to see when they will dock near you.

Likewise if you ever want to see a beautiful tall ship or even volunteer on one, Gazela (the most beautiful ship in the world) at Penn's Landing is always willing to train new recruits.  I may be biased. :)

May 10, 2015

Kao Pad Goong (Thai Fried Rice) | Historical Food Fortnightly

It was 45 years ago that my dad finished high school. He was the oldest of 6 children. It was America in the 70s. A time of free love, feminism, experimentation and lots of orange. But my dad didn't get to see it. He graduated and was promptly rewarded with hearing he won the lottery and was being shipped off to Vietnam.  He wasn't a soldier, he was a kid.  

Last month marks 40 years since the end of the Vietnam war and I had been meaning to write a post on this and took advantage of the Historical Food Fortnightly opportunity to do so. 
My dad was shifted around but ended up stationed in Thailand. He bought kao pad from the street vendors there. They served it wrapped up in crinkly old magazines or newspapers for a meal on the go. My dad learned to make it while there and as a kid, this was a staple of my diet. I didn't have a clue that this wasn't a normal American dish or where my dad had learned to make it: It was just one of the 5 meals my dad knew how to make and we ate it often.

Always affectionately called "cowpot" in my family growing up, Kao Pad is Thai fried rice. When I was little, I remember asking my dad why it was called "cow pot" if it was made with pork and he said that he had no idea. It turns out my dad prefered "Kao Pad Moo" which is fried rice with pork but he could also get Kao Pad Goong (with shrimp) or Kao Pad Gai (with chicken.)

The war was tough on everyone but especially on the men stationed worlds away from their families. My dad was only overseas a few months before hearing the shocking and ironic news that his father had been killed back home in a grizzly hit and run for which they never found the perpetrator. To make the transition easier for American GIs, vendors created "Kao Pad Amerikan" or American Fried Rice which was intended to appeal to the American palate. This type of  fried rice was seasoned with ketchup instead of soy sauce and meats included bacon, fried chicken, and hotdogs. It is strangely popular in Thailand today.  

Kao Pad Goong 


- 3 Cups Jasmine Rice, cooked and cooled
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1/2 of a Tomato, diced
- 15-20 pieces of precooked shrimp, defrosted 
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 of an Onion, diced 
- 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce ( Light Soy Sauce if you can find it)
- 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

- 1 Cucumber, peeled and sliced
- Scallions, white and light green parts


Prepare all vegetables ahead of time. Marinade the shrimp in soy sauce for 1/2 hour. You can remove the tails or not. The rice is best when cooked the night before and refrigerated, but fresh rice can work as long as you let it cool before your fry it.

Pour vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok on medium to high heat. Add garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and fry for 30 seconds, push shrimp to the side of the pan. Add 1/2 the rice and pan fry in the juices for about a minute. Push the rice to the side of the pan and add your eggs. Mix the eggs until scrambled and fully cooked. Add the rest of the rice, the fish sauce and the soy sauce and mix thoroughly. (I add the marinade juice as well.) Add the tomato, onion, and  scallions. Pan fry until the vegetables are cooked but not soft. Remove from heat and serve with sliced cucumbers, scallion pieces lime wedges and hot pepper oil. 

The nice thing about this recipe is you can pretty much add whatever meats and veggies you prefer. Hope you enjoy! P.S. I typically don't like when sites play their own music as I typically am listening to my own but felt this post needed a little ambiance. I'll take it off in a few days. :)

May 8, 2015

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party

Hi everyone! Long time no post. I've been busy as I know most of you have been. Sometimes I wonder if my life is too history focused. In some ways this is a "lifestyle" blog dedicated to the weird world of living historians and reenactors. 

Sometimes I find myself clueless when others mention current events, other times I have no concept of the current month and year. Maybe the saying is true: "Historian: I'd find you more interesting if you were dead?"

The kids at work participating in Bells Across the Land to commemorate the symbolic end of the Civil War.

Our herd.

I told my friend I needed some adventure. So we climbed a big rock.

The frogs are out and noisy.

Had a weird day of pouring rain one minute and sun the next. Went to visit some friends.

Went on my first archaeological dig. It was pretty basic and close to home but one of the things on my bucket list. I really had a lot of fun and we found tons and tons of stuff which is typically uncommon at this sort of a thing.I hoping to do more in the future.

WWII guys holding Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't have to tell you that reenactors can act like school children, do I? Yes, that would be grown men writing kick me signs on each others backs. This was at the posing for a new painting by Jeff Trexler, the "it guy" for Civil War paintings. 

New babies born at work. The mom gave birth during a tour with school students who were very interested in the process.

I've been horribly sick ever since a kid sneezed on my at work. I couldn't stand being in the house doing nothing one day longer so I ended up at another WWII event. It was held at Graeme Park, a place I had not been to before but I heard a lot about from my former boss who did a lot of archaeology there. It was nice to be out but I still was completely sick and probably should not have gone.

In another attempt to leave the house while sick I went for a short walk but it looked like rain.

I hate to keep sharing lamb pictures but they're just so cute.

I hope everyone is enjoying the heat after that cold winter. 

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