On this day in 1215, King John of England put his ‘Great Seal’
on the Magna Carta (‘The Great Charter’) at Runnymede. The charter required the King to respect the
liberties of the barons and, crucially, stated that everybody, even the king, is subject to the law. The Magna Carta was the result of political crisis, as the feudal barons
had rebelled against the king - even capturing London - and forced him to accept the charter to ensure their privileges and curtail royal power. However, the charter’s declaration of equality before the law and right to a fair trial makes it a vital piece of the history of British democracy. It was certainly limited, as its famous provisions securing legal rights of ‘free men’ would only have applied to an elite few. The Magna Carta also failed to cease hostilities between King John and the barons, as John’s reluctance to implement the charter led to civil war between the groups. The charter was largely rewritten by various monarchs through the years, though some of the original clauses remain law today, making it a key part of Britain’s uncodified constitution. Despite its limitations, the Magna Carta remains a crucial piece of British history, marking a defence against tyrannical power and assurance of individual liberties.
Anglo-Saxon times, the Winchester
was established in England (Winchester was the capital at the time).
It was based on the Winchester
which was 64lb (29kg) of wheat. It was better to use wheat than
flour, because the density varies less. The Winchester measure was
the volume that a Winchester bushel took up. It was then subdivided
= 4 pecks
= 2 gallons
= 4 quarts
= 4 pints
there were 128 pints in a bushel. A pint is 473ml, and a bushel is
is a old saying, “A pint’s a pound the world around”. A pint of
is actually half a pound (as there are 128 pints in a bushel, and a
bushel of wheat is 64 pounds). But a pint of water
weighs a pound (i.e. twice as much as wheat). Hence the saying.
Winchester gallon was also called the corn
And it wasn’t the only type of volumetric measurement! There was
also the wine
(about 3.79 litres) and the ale
(about 4.63 litres). The difference between them may have been
because ale was drunk in larger volumes than wine.
lack of standardization was a problem, both for customers and for the
state, because it mucked around with the duty charged on goods. In
1215, the Magna Carta tried to fix it: “Let there be one measure of
wine throughout our whole realm; and one measure of ale; and one
measure of corn.” It didn’t work. From 1066 to the end of the
1600’s, there were over twelve
different gallon measurements, some for liquids and some for solids.
The wine gallon was also called the Queen Anne gallon (from the 1700′s).
the 1790’s, after the French Revolution, the French began to
establish the metric system. The metre was meant to be one
ten-millionth of the Earth’s meridian (an imaginary line between the
North & South Poles), but it’s actually a bit smaller, because of
French were now measuring everything in tens. (There was even an
attempt at a ten-day week, the décade).
The new measures were laid out in a law of the 18th
Germinal. They would use litres, grams and metres, and throw out the
old chaotic measurements. This was to show how rational and
scientific France now was.
1790, George Washington asked Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State)
to work out a plan for reforming weights and measures. They already
had decimal coinage. But Congress couldn’t agree on either of
Jefferson’s reform proposals, and for the next several decades they
couldn’t decide on a solution.
1824, the British Parliament voted to use a single imperial gallon,
for both dry and liquid measurements. This was defined as “the
volume occupied by ten pounds of water at specified temperature and
pressure”, which ended up as 277.42 cubic inches, or 4.55 litres.
This was close to the old ale gallon (and bigger than the corn gallon). The other measurements (peck,
etc) were shuffled to fit. Now the saying was:
pint’s a pound the world round
in Britain where
pint of water’s a pound and a quarter.
imperial gallon was in place for the whole British Empire.
1836, America finally reformed their measurements (somewhat). But
they weren’t going to follow Britain. Instead, they used the old
corn gallon for dry goods, and the old wine gallon for liquids.
of the two different systems, Britain and America have had problems
with understanding each other’s cookbooks. In 1969, Britain
officially adopted the metric system, and this just made things
harder. Nowadays, only America, Liberia and Myanmar still use the
of size, as well as of volume, were non-standardized for a very long
time. Since the middle ages, recipe-writers would write things like
“finger-breadths of water”, “butter the size of a pea”. Of
course, medieval cooks had no rulers, digital scales or measuring
jugs. So they had to rely on comparisons that other people would
also left out things that they assumed the reader would already know.
Hannah Wolley wrote The
Queen-Like Closet, or Rich Cabinet
in 1672. In it, she gives a recipe to make “pancakes so crisp as
you may set them upright.” The recipe goes:
a dozen or a score of them in a Frying-pan, no bigger than a Sawcer,
then boil them in Lard, and they will look as yellow as Gold, and eat
is barely a recipe at all. It gives no details on how long to cook
them, how much lard to use, or how hot they should be cooked at. It
wasn’t intended for a beginner cook, but rather for someone who
already knew how – more of a memory aid.
Frontispiece of The Queen-Like Closet.
further, in the time of Ancient Rome, the situation was the same.
It’s very difficult to reconstruct old recipes because of this. A
recipe by Apicius for “another mashed vegetable” goes:
the lettuce leaves with onion in sode water, squeeze, chop very fine;
in the mortar crush pepper, lovage, celery seed, dry mint, onion; add
stock, oil and wine.
have often been based on the body, because so long as one person is
doing the measuring, the ratio works out just fine. The Sumerians
used the width of the pinky and of the hand; and the distance between
the pinky-tip and thumb-tip on an stretched hand. The basic Greek
measurement was the daktylos
(width of a finger), and 24 of them made a cubit.
The Romans used the daktylosbut
called it a digit.
finger was a common kitchen measurement. Martino de Rossi (1400’s
Italian culinary expert) said, “take four fingers of marzipan”.
Pellegrino Artusi (late 1800’s cookbook writer) began one of his
recipes with, “Take long, slender, finger-length zucchini”.
were also used. Many Irish cooks still use handfuls of flour to make
away from the body – the walnut was a very common measurement, from
France, Italy and England to Russia and Afghanistan. It’s been used
at least since the Middle Ages. This is because walnuts tend to be
about the same size, and they were seen often enough to remember how
big they were. There are some small varieties, such as the French
(about hazelnut size). But the common walnut is what the comparison
is for. It is usually 2.5-3.5 in diameter.
was imported from Persia to Ancient Greece, and reached China by 400
AD. It was an important crop in medieval France, but didn’t reach
Britain until the 1400’s.
was often measured walnut-size. In 1823, Mary Eaton used a piece of
butter “the size of a walnut” to stew spinach. In 1861, Mrs.
Beeton said to use a walnut-sized butter for grilling rumpsteaks.
were many other objects used for measurements. Peas were common, and
so was the nutmeg (about a modern teaspoon). In the 1600’s, bullets
and tennis balls were used. Various coins were a reference too, which is how you
have the silver-dollar pancakes in America.
Molokhovets (b.1831) was a Russian cook. She wrote the famous A
Gift to Young Housewives,
which had over 20 editions and sold over 295,000 copies. She cut
ginger the size of a thimble, and dough the size of a wild apple.
Butter was, again, walnut-sized.
modern kitchen term “dice” come from when cooks like Robert May
(1558-c.1664) cut beef marrow into “great dice” and “small
clock began to be used in the kitchen by the 1700’s. But before
that, recipes usually gave cooking times in prayers.
example, a medieval French recipe for preserved walnuts says to boil
them for the time it takes to say a Miserere
(which is about 2min). The shortest measurement of time was the Ave
(about 20sec). Everyone knew how long these prayers took, because
they chanted them together in church, at the same speed.
usual way to test the heat of an oven was by simply sticking your
hand in it. You’d tell from the level of pain how hot it was, and if
the oven was ready for baking loaves, which needed the fiercest heat.
paper test was used often by confectioners in the 1800’s. The
purpose of this test was to follow the decreasing levels of heat as
the oven cooled down. Cakes and pastries, because of their high
butter & sugar content, could catch fire if they were put in at a
piece of white kitchen paper was put on the oven floor, and the door
was shut. If it caught fire, it was too hot. 10min later, another
piece of paper was put in, and if it charred, it was still too hot.
10min more, and if the paper turned dark brown (without catching
fire), then it was “dark brown paper heat”, suitable for glazing
small pastries, which needed a high heat.
there was “light brown paper heat”, a few degrees lower, for
vol-au-vents, hot pie crusts, timbales, etc. “Dark yellow heat”
was a moderate temperature, for larger pastries. And finally there
was “light yellow paper heat”, a gentle temperature, for
meringues, manqués and génoises.
flour test was similar. A handful of flour was thrown onto the oven
floor, and you waited for 40sec. If the flour slowly browned, then
it was the right temperature for bread.
earliest thermometers were invented in the 1500’s, mostly for
measuring air temperature. The Fahrenheit scale was invented in
1724, and the Celsius scale in 1742. But even in the late 1800’s,
measuring heat in the kitchen was done with the old methods.
Thermometers (mid-1600′s) that go up to 50°. Black dots mark each degree, and white dotsmark each 10°.
the turn of the century, cooks began realizing the usefulness of
thermometers. A new American oven called the “new White House”
had an oven thermometer included, “in order to keep…strictly up
to the minute.”
1915, the first gas oven with a fully-integrated thermometer appeared
on the market. By the 1920’s, electric stoves with electromechanical
thermostats were being produced. However, it was easier to just buy
a separate thermometer and get it fitted to the oven, if you didn’t
want to go out and buy a new one.
The worst global terrorism campaign under way right now is Obama’s global assassination campaign. The drone campaign. Notice that there’s a debate in the United States when he decides to murder Americans like al-Awlaki; is that legitimate or not?
What about the other people? The people that are being murdered are suspects.
Go back 800 years again to Magna Carta. We’re going to commemorate its 800th anniversary next year, probably morn its disappearance. The core concept developed in Magna Carta was what we call presumption of innocence. And what it stated is that a free man cannot be subjected to state punishment without due process, without trial by a jury of peers. Now, free man was a very limited concept in the 13th century. Of course it excluded women, it excluded people who weren’t free, and so on. It gradually expanded over the centuries. So it’s embedded in the constitution, also with limits, the 14th Amendment, other limits. But now it’s being contracted. The drone campaign eliminates presumption of innocence.
The way it works is, Obama and his advisers get together Tuesday morning and decide who they are going to kill that day. The concept ‘guilty’ means Obama decided to murder you. That’s a regression that goes back 800 years. That’s pretty serious.
And what’s more serious is it’s not discussed. The only thing that’s discussed is the killing of Americans. Are Americans a difference species? Who says you can kill other suspects? There is some talk about collateral damage; what about the people who are just standing around and get killed Well yeah, that’s bad, but what about the people you’re aiming at? They are suspects.
You haven’t shown proof of anything about them. Just somebody the government wants to kill.