Memorial Day (Observed)

Despite all the chaos and craziness around us, despite the denigration of the past and of those who died in combat (or of combat related injuries), a lot of Americans choose to honor our military dead on this day. I associate Memorial Day with Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional,” although in some ways, his point is more applicable to July 4. Kipling’s three part “Song of the Dead,” including the memorable “Price of Admiralty” also fits. Although never a soldier himself, I think he understood more about the cost of war than many people. Even before he lost his son in WWI.

God of our fathers, known of old,
   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

From: “Song of the Dead:” http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/849/

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there’s never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed’s unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ paid in full!

There’s never a flood goes shoreward now
But lifts a keel we manned;
There’s never an ebb goes seaward now
But drops our dead on the sand —
But slinks our dead on the sands forlore,
From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ paid it in!

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the ~Golden Hind~,
Or the wreck that struck last tide —
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ bought it fair!

Size vs. Cost – The inversion Point

To make a long story short, I had to purchase a small item to make an inherited piece of jewelry truly wearable. As those of you who have been around things like jewelry, airplanes, certain other vehicles, and various pieces of occasionally touchy equipment are aware, there’s a point where the price to size ratio inverts. The smaller it is, the more it costs. I actually had someone joke once that we should call it the Marx Point, because labor added more value than did the raw materials. (Note that we were talking about restoring furniture, including trying to match chipped veneer and inlay. Tiny pieces of wood, lots and lots of very careful work.)

This isn’t necessarily because the small thing secures a larger thing, which keeps everything held together. The prime example of one of those is the nut that is found on the top of a helicopter rotor, colloquially known as the “Jesus nut” (Spanish pronunciation of Jesus.) Or that one last lugnut on the tire. You know, the one on that car.

No, I’m thinking of small items that are complex, or delicate, or that require a great deal of precise assembly or carving or machining to make. The amount of effort put into making the piece exceeds the cost of the stuff. In my case, buying the thing was optional, but I want to be able to wear the larger item. I’m as fond of jewelry-box queens as I am of hangar queens and gun-safe queens. If I can’t wear it, no matter how pretty or discounted it is, I don’t need it. Since this item has some family history behind it, having the new bit added (it will be removable without damaging the original thing, don’t worry) makes sense.

Restoring old airplanes and old furniture is similar. If you can’t find the part, you have to make the part. This may require a lot of machining, special permission from the FAA (or changing the category of the plane if you are willing to accept certain limitations on use), and expertise. I got to watch an expert create a carbeurator air box for a radial engine after the original, ah, suffered prolonged contact with the ground while the engine and attached airplane were in forward motion.* The 1941 version of the box had been cast, something that could not be done now without investing more than the cost of the airplane. So the new one was welded and bolted. Welding sheet aluminum is an art. Making the air flow control “flapper” was even more of an art. The box assembly is, oh, six inches by six inches? It’s been a few decades since I last saw it. The materials didn’t cost that much. Love and labor? A great deal.

Likewise making inlay or veneer for furniture. Back in the day, people paid for inlaid pieces in order to show their taste and disposable income. The market has shrunk since the late 1700s, to put it mildly, but some craftsmen still make and repair that type of furnishing. There’s a lot of planning, precision, handwork and attention to detail required, obsessive attention to detail in some cases. The cost of the section of inlay far exceeds the dollar cost of the materials. But ah, the results!

*Someone (I was on on board the aircraft) decided to be helpful. They moved a switch without telling the pilot-in-command or being asked to move the switch. Very expensive noises followed. Don’t be that person.

Old Patterns of the Mind

I was chatting with someone at the range (after we’d both finished and were outside the “eyes and ears* or else” area) about shooting when tired and achy, and why we needed to do it. That wandered around and around to talking about Eastern and Central Europe and the past six years or so, personal safety, and how different countries have responded to the “migrant crisis” as it is delicately phrased. The other party was aware of some of the mess and how Eastern Europe has been, let us say, firm about certain things.

Which led my mind to thinking about old borders and administrations and patterns that return. Until I read Andrew Wheatcroft’s book about the events of 1682-1700, I had never thought about how the constant threat from the Ottomans, be it real or perceived, shaped Habsburg thinking and their responses to things. I also had taken for granted that the Holy Roman Empire of the Germany Nation (HRE 2.0) had been outmoded, useless, and had kept Germany from accomplishing anything until after 1871. If you shift your view point from Berlin to Vienna, things change a little, and readers know I incline toward the Vienna-centric approach to the HRE 2.0. It just makes sense, especially when you start asking questions like, “If it was so useless, why didn’t it disappear earlier, like the 1500s, or especially after 1648?”

But it is the Habsburg/Polish/Hungarian approach to “dangers from the East” that I’ve been chewing on recently. You can argue that it is more about “have the EU benefits without accepting the responsibilities and policies,” and “they’re behind the times and insular and that’s a very bad thing compared to Germany, Belgium, and France.” I’m more curious as to “why has everyone reverted so quickly?” I suspect there are a couple of reasons, some of which don’t apply to all the various countries equally.

The oldest is that danger came from the east. Mongols, Russians, Ottomans, Russians, Ottomans . . . They posed greater threats over the long sweep of time than did the German-speaking peoples to the west. Even at their worst, the German-speaking invaders were recognizably Western in terms of religion and cultural influences. They also didn’t enslave people like the Ottomans did. Keep in mind, we’re talking the 1200s on. The Twentieth Century . . . Is a bit of an anomaly thanks to totalitarianism, but the Soviet Union lived down to the expectations of those who recalled what Imperial Russia had done in the 1800s-1917. So Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech and Slovak lands, Croatia, all had a common long cultural assumption that trouble came from the east and south, and that if they didn’t work together at least on occasion, trouble tended to win. That’s not how the political leaders would phrase it, of course, and until 2016 or so it wasn’t a major concern, although everyone kept a weather eye on Russia just out of habit.

The living memory is, of course, Russia in the form of the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain. Russia wants a friendly buffer zone between them and . . . everyone else. Teutonic knights, then Poland (early 1600s), then Sweden, then Napoleon, then Imperial and Nazi Germany, then NATO. How Russia deals with its neighbors is not always taken as “friendly,” especially after 1918. People remember what Soviet domination was like before 1989, and they don’t like some of the EU policies that seem to echo the USSR. It doesn’t help that certain EU politicians (like those elsewhere) slide into “do it my way or else” language. The “or else” of the USSR was rather too well known. The “or else” of Brussels and Berlin? Not quite as memorable thus far.

The point being, there’s nothing like an outside irritation to get people to drop differences and work together, especially if those people have a common history of “us vs them.” No, the Hungarians don’t love Austrians, and Croats and Slovaks are not racing to join a Greater Hungary. Poland is Poland, and has a long memory, although they seem to consider the Habsburg occupation the lesser of three evils. So when lots and lots of people move into Europe (or are moved into Europe), and those people do not seem interested in adopting Western culture and priorities, old ties snap into place. The old patterns reemerge, not identical, not exact, but . . . The border strip between the HRE 2.0 and Russia and the Ottomans seems to be reverting a bit to “us against the barbarians.”

I see some of it in the US, although not as clearly because we are such a hodge-podge, and because we do not share the blood-and-soil ties to place and culture that Europeans have. We’re based on ideas, and like-minded people seem to be coalescing, intensifying their attitudes and connections, and drawing cultural lines. “These ideas are Us. Those ideas are Not Us. They may just be mistaken, or they may be wrong, or even evil, but they are Not Us. Change your ideas and you’re welcome to join Us.”

History never repeats (although some students do repeat history [or English, or Biology 101, or . . . ]). But patterns seem to remain, because people are people, and patterns are comfortable and familiar. As a historian and writer, the patterns are fascinating, even if I’d prefer not to live in Interesting Times.

*Eye and ear protection is required past a certain point. It’s easier to stop short, get organized, put on safety glasses and ear protection et cetera, then proceed. And safer, because I guarantee you that if you wait to get close to the firing line, the person in the next space over will be shooting something large and loud. The Range Safety Officer on duty will also get loud, even if he or she is not large.

At Last! The End is Nigh

Of the academic year, that is.

The Dean is making the rounds to determine that all the grades are in. Properly. On time.

“Yes, this includes you, Sr. Mary Conjugation.”

The faculty are willing, at least after 0830 local time.

“Yes Sister Scholastica, as soon as the rest of the coffee gets through our systems!”

Father Martial and the Dean have their hands full keeping everyone on track . . .

“No, you must stay in the classrooms until the bell sounds, even if you are done with your exam!”

Occasionally the faculty also need a gentle reminder.

“You, too, need to clean out your desks and snack drawers. And the workroom refridgerator. Even St. Jude couldn’t assist with what was found last May.”

And of course IT has to remind everyone:

“Back up over here, then do this and this, don’t forget to check this fourth drop-down menu, chase your tail, then conclude, then log out, and then make sure all the peripherals are shut down, and THEN power everything down for the summer. See? Easy.”

The last student departs, the last grades are entered, closets cleaned, ‘fridge emptied. . . and the Exodus is reenacted:

We’re free! We’re Free! (At least until August).

Pushes and Pulls

Why do groups of people relocate, especially in pre-modern times? There’s always a reason for groups to move. Individuals might wander on a whim, be it wanderlust, the desire to escape relatives, or just to see if the grass really is greener “over there.” But when cultures and tribes up sticks and head out, there’s always a push and a pull. One of the things I’m starting to tease apart when I look at the big-picture history of Europe and Southwest Asia is the pushes and pulls behind population shifts. “The Huns were moving, so these other people moved.” OK, why did the Huns move? For a long time we didn’t know, because the written records didn’t include interviews with various historical characters or groups. However, in the past forty years or so, environmental history has provided a few new reasons for pushes, at least.

Keep in mind, weather and landscape are not deterministic. That is, very, very rarely can you point to one climatic event or geological thing and say, “This is why the Seljuk Turks left Central Asia” or “this is why the Anasazi left the area to become [various tribal groups].” Sometimes you have to pull together bits and pieces from archaeology, geology, palynology and tree ring and stalagmite studies, epigraphy, business records, government reports (if they exist), and look for patterns, then try to sort out what caused the pattern. And sometimes you bring a new approach to old data and say, “Hey, you know, I wonder if the reason for [thing] could be related to [other thing waaaaay the heck over here]?” You know, like the rash of very large range fires in the late 1800s in the Texas Panhandle being related to a combination of wetter weather and far fewer grazers keeping the lawn clipped. So there’s a lot more grass, in more places, so if it dries out and a spark gets tossed by something, well, you get Interstate Grass Fires of Unusual Size.

So, pushes and pulls. In the late AD 900s – early 1000s CE, while western Europe was basking in the Medieval Warm Period and starting to build giant cathedrals, hold enormous trade fairs, and enjoy the good weather, Egypt, eastern North Africa, and as far east as Afghanistan started with drought, then a series of cold years that led to famine, disease, civil unrest, attacks by nomadic peoples (Bedouin) on cities, and eventually the Seljuk Turks moving out of the Steppes into Southwest Asia. Their behavior triggered the Southern Crusades. This pattern also put pressure on the Byzantine Empire and explains the renewed push by the Arabs and Persians against the Byzantine borders, further weakening them.

The push for the Seljuks was the terrible cold weather that caused the grass to die, and their animals as well, forcing them to relocate. The pull was a political vacuum in Mesopotamia and warmer weather with better forage conditions. The Byzantines were not in a good position to chase anyone out of the region at that point, neither were the Fatimids of Egypt, so the Seljuks stayed, and eventually helped pull the Ottomans out of the Pontic Steppe, and we all know what happened then.*

Back up five hundred years or so, and we see something similar in Northern Europe. Why were the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Franks, and Vandals all moving west? Dry weather in the Eurasian Steppes was pushing them, possibly an outbreak of plague as well, and the resources and relative disorganization of the Roman Empire (both halves) provided a pull. Once the Western Empire could no longer defend against eastern pressure, the Germanic and Slavic people flowed in, driven now by cold and dry or cold and wet episodes farther east. After whatever happened in the early 500s (possibly huuuuuge volcanic eruption where the Sunda Strait now sits), the weather turned very bad in Europe, forcing further population shifts (the push) into milder or at least not-as-bad areas (the pull). Plague and hunger dropped the population in some areas, opening space for migration (Britain, possibly). Come the 800s, things are improving in the West, and too many young men in Scandinavia need a job, so they start trading and Viking. Drought in the eastern steppe pushes the Magyars, who push others, who appear in the western historical records as “barbarian nomads.” Charlemagne got to deal with them, and with the Saxons, and a few early Vikings.

North America shows something similar but in the 1300s. The Little Ice Age caused major drought in the American Southwest and affected weather in the central part of the continent as well. At the same time, the people of the Cahokia cultural complex found themselves having problems, partly because of deforestation. They shifted away from the large-centrally-managed culture and back to smaller, scattered groups, eventually moving south and east. This pushed other peoples, who pushed more people, and so on.

China in the 1600s – Bad weather, bad management, disease outbreaks, civil unrest from all of the above. Nomads moving because of the cold and harsher weather push on the borders, until someone invites a group in to solve the local problem and then leave. They didn’t leave. They became the Qing Dynasty.

Pushes and pulls. They are a lot more complicated than what I’ve sketched above, because I’m just thinking about some of the easy to spot episodes, the biiiiig ones that historians can point to and say, “See, this is what I’m talking about.” One of my very long-term projects is looking at the pushes and pulls in Central and Southeastern Europe, and comparing those patterns and responses to borderlands elsewhere. There are some similarities — we’re talking about humans, after all — and echoes, but also differences.

*”Prinz Eugen and Jan Sobieski, if you can hear this announcement please pick up the white courtesy phone for a message, Prinz Eugen and King Jan Sobieski . . . ”

Fuchur, Falcor, The Luck Dragon and a Neverending Story

I didn’t see the film in the theater. I first saw it as a rented VHS movie, and I loved it. Yes, it has plot holes and the animatronics and effects have not aged well (1984) in places, but as a story about imagination, determination, and the need for creativity and love, it’s fantastic. When the world says that only reality matters, well, the world might be wrong.

The great white luck dragon with ruby eyes was one of the best characters in the film, in my opinion then. He was different from the sci-fi dragons (Anne McCaffrey) I’d read, or the nasty, mean traditional dragons of the European fairy tales. He was more like the Asian dragons of mist and cloud.

Fulcur is the character’s name in the original German novel (Die Unendlische Geschichte) that became The Neverending Story. The novel, in German or English, is different from the first movie. As far as I’m concerned there were no second or third films made. Apparently a lot of people feel the same way. The novel continues past the end of the film.

For those who are not familiar with the plot, I won’t spoil it other than to say that the story centers on the danger of The Nothing, an evil force destroying the world of Fantasia. The Nothing says there is no fantasy, no hope, no light or creativity, only chaos and darkness and hard reality. The Nothing threatens the world of Fantasia — and potentially our world as well — with extinction. Sound familiar? The minor bad of the Black Wolf was one of the scarier bad-creatures in a film that I’d seen to date, in part because he was a psychological manipulator as well as just being large and ferocious.

The white luck dragon, Falcor, plays a major role in the story. He’s wise, dignified, and always encouraging. It says a lot that when I glanced on Etsy, there were hundreds of people selling Falcor things – stuffed animals, knitting patterns, decals, statues, paintings, birthday cards, you name it. I think he speaks to something a lot of people want to hear, or need to hear. That the Nothing can be defeated if you believe and dream hard enough.

And of course the theme song [does contain spoilers]:

Manners: Current Day and Fictional

I was reading a book entitled Why Manners Matter, which concerns the need for some sort of self-restraint and code of behavior in society. I had trouble getting into the book at first, until I caught on that the author is Australian, and so “manners” had a different cultural connotation than in the Southern US culture that I grew up with. “Manners” in Australia carries the sense of class difference and pretensions of rank and station, something that is anathema in Australian popular self-perception. Being polite and decent, on the other hand, is OK.

The book’s author tries hard to avoid religious and philosophical arguments, and instead focuses on practical “because it keeps people from going nuts trying to figure out everything and makes people happier and less stressed” sorts of benefits. She also notes that the military requires manners and self-discipline, something she sees as good. I’m inclined to agree with her on many points, although I’d point out that all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity until they prove otherwise just because they are human and made in the image of G-d. Once they prove otherwise, then especially treated in a way that you maintain your self-respect and dignity. Sometimes the kindest, best thing to do to a rabid dog, once it is proven rabid, is to put it out of its and society’s misery. That can apply to social situations – tossing someone out of a gathering, for example, or ending a relationship, on the mildest end of the spectrum.

Which got me thinking a bit about self-identity. How we see ourselves, how we see our place in culture and society, which bits of culture we accept and which we try hard to stay away from. Readers know that I tend to avoid the easy, casual style of modern day popular media culture, and incline more towards formality and “good manners.” Not quite Victorian or Edwardian levels of politeness — I don’t wear gloves indoors, I drink soda-pop from a can, I’m bad at small talk — but certainly more restrained behavior than most younger people, and than a lot of people my age. Part of it is my being an introvert who gets twitchy around groups of emotional people, part of it is that I prefer having a mental script to fall back on in new situations.

Restraint and distance also help prevent a lot of problems from starting. It’s easier to start “hard” and then relax than it is to back up if you start all hang-loose and casual. In the fraught world of men, women, and “harassment means he looked at me for a half-second too long,” manners and formality are safety.

Self-control is part of good manners. I learned as a teen that letting my emotions show guaranteed trouble. That’s what the bullies wanted. I also realized that I might do something really, really antisocial if I lost my grip on my temper. The two are probably related, but the dark streak may predate my teens. I’m not going to dig in that part of my mind to find out. The point is, if you are in control of your mouth and temper, you are a lot less likely to get in trouble or cause trouble. Good manners are part of that self control. “A gentleman does not . . . A lady never raises her voice in anger.” OK, sometimes increasing the vocal volume is needed just to cut through the roar and get attention, but projection is not yelling. Emoting all over the place is rarely called for, at least in my personal world. Other cultures are different. There’s also a balance between making other people aware of your discontent with the situation and repressing things so much that it causes you problems.

Which led my wandering mind to a comment a reader made about how Arthur’s manners around Lelia changed. In the first two books, he’s more “relaxed” and “casual.” Over time, he becomes more formal, as does she. The clan tends toward formality, partly because of the need to keep intraclan violence to an acceptable level. Formality is Arthur’s default within the clan. As Lelia became more of a dependent, then peer, then family member, Arthur treated her more and more the way he would treat a relative in the clan. Part of Lelia’s persona as glamor [glamour?] goth is formality, likewise André, so she slid into the role relatively easily. It’s armor in a sense, for Lelia, her boss, and her husband. Especially when André is having trouble, formality gives all of them space to sort through what is bothering them and how to deal with it. Both men are predators, both are territorial, and both respect each other, and love Lelia in their different ways. Formality is appropriate. And as in other situations, Lelia and André look to the senior person for cues as to when manners are relaxed.

“An armed society is a polite society,” as Robert Heinlein phrased it. When people are armed and situations can shift quickly from irritating to lethal, civility and manners lubricate things and keep the friction to a minimum. Low friction doesn’t cause combustion.

Bison – 1 Alma – Running

I tend to take warnings about large animals seriously. After all, at the very least they have the advantage of speed and momentum, often augmented by hooves and horns or antlers. So when I was reading a guide book about visiting a geology/nature/wildlife park in south-central Kansas, the bit about “if free-roaming bison approach, do not linger but return to your vehicle” gave me a moment’s pause. Bison can sprint at up to 50 miles an hour. I can’t. Maybe hiking was contraindicated.

Anyway, off I went to visit the area. One of my goals was teh Big Basin Prairie Reserve, which was reportedly “off the beaten path” and had nice geology as well as some hiking. And bison. The basin itself is a large sinkhole, eroded into a depression that collects water, with St. Jacob’s Well in the deepest part of the basin (a sinkhole-in-a-sinkhole). The terrain is a nice change from the miles and miles of miles that seem to fill most of Kansas, and the weather was late-spring temperate, so in the 60s with a little breeze. A good day to stretch one’s legs and walk around, looking at native grasses and so on.

I parked at the top of a hill. I had the place to myself, with only a contrail high overhead to show that other people existed. That and the occasional sign as I drove into the preserve. The grasses had started to green up as the days grew longer and the spring rains became summer rains. I got out of my car, stretched, looked around, and started to walk.

And stopped. A dozen or so bison stood below me on the slope. They saw me, and started coming my way. I retreated and considered walking the other direction. The large, dark brown, shaggy, large, curious, large mammals came closer. And closer. It was the photo of a lifetime, if I’d had a camera. Or less sense.

I got back into my car and waited. The buffalo loitered, completely uninterested in allowing me to go hiking through their living room. After ten minutes I got the hint and left for less lively environs.

Did I mention that North American bison are really large when they get close to you? Not “you need to brush your teeth more often” close, but much closer than I was happy with. I think they were related to the yearling buffalo that got ahead of me on the road west from Black Mesa, CO, and refused to get out of the way. We ambled along at two miles an hour for what seemed like miles before we reached a cattle guard and he gave up and got out of the way. The rear end of a yearling buffalo is not scenic, if you’ve ever wondered.

http://naturalkansas.org/bigbasin.htm

The area looked like this, minus the trees. I hadn’t gotten that far into the basin. Used under Creative Commons Fair Use. From http://www.waymarkings.com

Country Captain – Chicken Curry

The original recipe comes from The Gasparilla Cookbook, published by the Tampa Junior League in the 1960s. How chicken curry got to Tampa in the 1950s I have no idea, although sea ports are probably the home of a lot of “fusion cuisine.” The original recipe calls for one bone-in fryer. I use two boneless breasts or four thighs. This version is less “saucy” than is traditional, because I needed to use a huge onion and two bell peppers. A medium onion and one pepper are probably suitable for most people.

One pound of raw chicken*- no bones

olive oil for sauteeing

One medium onion

one bell pepper (or two)

one dollop of garlic or to taste (1 T or so, less if you don’t like garlic)

one can crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes (15 oz or so can)

spices

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.** Bring the heat under the oil up to medium-high and saute the chicken. Reduce the heat once the outside of the chicken turns white, cover, and ignore. While ignoring the chicken, chop the onion. Add the onion and garlic to the Dutch oven, stir in with the chicken, and cover. Chop the bell pepper and open the can of tomatoes. Turn up the heat on the Dutch oven, add bell pepper and tomatoes, including juice from the can. Run a little water into the can to get all the tomato out, and to add some liquid to the meat. Stir and bring to a boil. Add your spices.

[I tend to use prepackaged spice blends, like Garam Masala, Maharaja Curry Powder, and others from my local dealer. You can find sweeter blends, hotter ones, classics, and the Old Fashioned “generic yellow curry powder” that I remember from growing up. If you have not tried a particular blend before, add a little, sample after a few minutes, and then add more. Thai blends tend to be hotter than most Indian/Pakistani blends, but not always. Season to taste is the rule.]

Turn the heat down to a low simmer and ignore for half an hour or so, although you might want to stir from time to time, and check the moisture level. I prefer a drier curry, others like more sauce. While the dish cooks, make your rice or other starch (for sopping the juice). Also get ready your chutney (Major Gray’s or Mrs. Ball’s are the house favorites), slivered almonds or other nuts, raisins, and other trimmings.

Serve the Country Captain over rice or with bread on the side, with the chutney and trimmings for people to pick from. It serves about six people, and can easily be scaled up. It tastes very good as left-overs, because the flavors have had time to mellow and blend.

*I have used pork, once, just because I was feeling curious. It was OK, but the texture didn’t seem right.

** If the chicken is still a little frozen, use a knife. If it is fully thawed, scissors are a lot easier than a knife, and probably a little safer since they are less prone to slip on uneven pieces of slippery meat. But that’s just me. Wash the scissors very carefully before and after cutting up chicken, to be sure to get all the bits out of the hinge.