Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Richard III and a Leisurely Walk in York

Gourmet Living News

Editor’s Note:   This is a reprint of a Blog Post about  Richard III and our visit to York published a year ago on a sister site, GourMay.net, which documents one of our trips to Great Britain.  Slightly irreverent,  this blog post is pitched more to our family than readers of Gourmet Living.  Nevertheless, it has some useful suggestions for those travelling to the UK, particularly London.


Richard III is considered to be one of the most reviled Kings in British history.  His infamy derives from one of Shakespeare’s finest plays, Richard III, which alleges that Richard was responsible for the murder of the Two Princes in the Tower of London.

I will spare you the disturbing details of the Wars of Roses – often referred to as the “Cousins War” – but the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 paved the way for an even more disturbing reign of Henry VIII.

Fresh from riveting performances of Henry VI (parts 1 and 2) and Richard III from the BBC, I wanted to learn more about the Wars of the Roses:

It is clear that Shakespeare’s plays about the Kings during the Wars of the Roses were crafted to cater to the legitimacy of Elizabeth I’s reign. To use President Obama’s expression, Shakespeare wanted to “Be on the right side of history.” Clearly this was a wise decision, since many great plays would have remained unwritten if Shakespeare had lost his head by being politically incorrect.

If you have no idea about the Royal family politics of that period, it is useful to walk around with a book like “A Companion and Guide to The Wars of the Roses” under your arm. People – even in York – will think that you know more than you actually do.  Worked for me!

Probably the most famous lines for Richard III in Shakespeare’s play are “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” as the unhorsed Richard faces death at Bosworth.   A London guide suggested that Richard’s slain body was carried naked over the back of a horse and beaten with sticks by angry bystanders.  I am wondering if the phrase “Don’t beat a dead horse,” arises from this vivid image.

With irony that Shakespeare would have most certainly have appreciated, Richard III’s body was recently discovered in a Leicester parking lot.  After conclusive DNA analysis, the city of York demanded that Richard’s bones be returned for a proper burial in York Minster (rather than Westminster).  Nevertheless, the Mayor of Leicester refused stating that the remains will be returned “over my dead body.”

Clearly, “good bones” do matter when it come to tourism.

Beverley Minster and Pipe & Glass

We started our journey to Yorkshire in Beverley. We arrived one hour late to Beverley Minster to hear their acclaimed choir sing hymns.  Fortunately for us, the service was two hours long.

Beverley Minster

Beverly Minster is a stunning cathedral and was used as a substitute for Westminster in the filming of Victoria.  I was quite amused when one of the London Walks guides said that “Victoria was even shorter than Tom Cruise” – a compelling argument that there is still a role for short people in this world.

After our visit, we dashed up to Pipe and Glass Inn, an award-winning “gastro” pub nearby.  I will spare the reader the details of our gluttony, but I had a delightful piece of pork.  Found below is a small appetizer consisting of a Scotch Egg and salmon tartare:

On a beautiful spring day, we wound our way up the road to nearby York

The Walls of York

Getting into and out of the city of York in an automobile is a bit of a hassle.  Get to your destination and park.  Most everything worth seeing is within walking distance.

American Vagrants on York Walls Overlooking Minster

Taking advantage of the wonderful weather – the last we were to see for a few days – we decided to check out the acclaimed Walls of York.  They are still in remarkable condition, but we decided to forego visiting Micklegate where the heads and bodies of nobles who did not manage to get to the top of the political food chain were often displayed to deter others from trying.

York Minster

Sheila and Alison explored York Minster on their own.  I realize that this is one of the most beautiful churches in England, but I had found a superb antiquarian book store nearby.  I managed to pickup a delightful book called “Making Haste from Babylon:  The Mayflower Pilgrims.”  The book had been heavily discounted suggesting that few were interested in the Pilgrims, Puritans or the Mayflower.

The book is quite interesting, particularly for those who want to understand why Puritans from a relatively small area in southern Yorkshire decided to travel to the New World during the reign of James I.

York Castle Museum

The York Castle Museum is considered to be a must see destination, but I was a bit offended discovering that the “Roaring 60s” are now considered ancient history.  Nevertheless, the prison, World War I Museum and life-size replica of a Victorian Village (see below) were quite interesting:

I was surprised to learn that some of the great English chocolate fortunes originated in York as Puritans tried to reduce the level of drunkenness by substituting chocolates for ale.   It didn’t work quite the way they expected as most pubs now serve a pint of Yorkshire’s finest with a small box of chocolates.

The Shambles

The Shambles is – in my opinion – a bit overhyped.  It is a short and narrow street featuring many cute shops.  The fish mongers and vegetable and meat stalls that used to crowd this street have given way to far more fashionable stores selling cosmetics and handbags.

In any event we had a delightful tea at Betty’s Tea Room in York, best known for their lemon curd tarts.

In York, we stayed at a small but conveniently located hotel now called Parigi, formerly St. Denys Hotel.


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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Diet Fads Trumped by the Mediterranean Diet

Gourmet Living News

The AARP Bulletin for May 2018 has a very interesting article called “Health Fixes: What Really Works (and what not to waste a nickel on) to help you live longer and better.”

Olive oil on Caprese salad

In the article, ARRP dissects most of the diet fads and concludes that the Mediterranean diet is probably the best “Fix” for those with a weight or health problem.  The reports concludes the following:

It’s proven:  A permanent diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, with an occasional glass of red wine, is the healthy way to lose weight and keep it off.  Even better:  A new study found that older adults who follow this diet (sic the Mediterranean diet) had higher mental function.

Readers of Gourmet Living should not be surprised by these revelations, but what is surprising are the critiques leveled at many of the current health and diet fads in the AARP article.  Found below are just a few:

The Paleo Diet

“From a short-term perspective, research has shown good results from the paleo diet.  The catch?  Excluding dairy, grains and beans means people may not get enough calcium, vitamin D and fiber, all important for older adults.”

Cleanses and Detox Diets

“Will you lose weight?  Sure.  But it would temporary and highly risky.  Remember:  Between your liver, kidneys and other organs, your body is already well-designed to detoxify itself.”

Omega-3 Supplements

“Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those called EPA and DHA, are essential for normal brain function.  But dietary supplements aren’t a quick fix:  It takes two and half years to build up an adequate supply of omega-3s in your brain cells.”

Ketogenic Diet

“Keto diets – with most calories from fats and some from protein – force your body to draw fuel from stored fat, rather than from blood sugar derived from carbs.  Any diet that limits bread or sugar will help you lose weight.  But a 2017 analysis concluded that maintaining weight loss ‘is a major problem’ . . . ”

Weight Loss Supplements and Teas

“The National Institutes of Health says the science behind claims for supplements is ‘inconclusive and unconvincing.’  This includes herbal teas that promote weight loss but accomplish it through diuretic water loss, not fat loss.”

There are more “Fads and Fixes” in this short but convincing AARP article on Health Fads.  Needless to say, those who follow the rather simple and straightforward guidelines of the Mediterranean diet will already realize its benefits.


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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Were You Invited to Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s Wedding?

Gourmet Living News

It you haven’t received one of the 600 “Royal” invitations, you probably were not invited to Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s wedding. I too failed to receive an invitation, but Lord Cheseline of Maiden Lot Farm invited us to celebrate the wedding at his palatial estate along the banks of the Chester River in Maryland.

A complete English breakfast will be served at Maiden Lot Farm as we watch the events unfold at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Ladies in attendance will wear their best frocks and we all stand to sing “God Save the Queen.” I don’t know about you, but I often tear-up at Royal Weddings.

As the Blog post from our sister website Gourmay.net suggests, I have been covering Royal weddings for quite some time and have become quite an authority on the English breakfast. Read on . . .


For those who follow the Royal Family seriously, April 29th is a special day:  The Wedding of Prince William and Catherine (“Kate”) Middleton.    I don’t know about you, but I will be up at 4 a.m. (New York time) watching the ceremonies live.  I haven’t been this excited since Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married in 1981.    Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Camilla in 2005 didn’t pack the same punch.  Unfortunately, seeing a ceremony of old people getting married for a second  time seems a bit ludicrous even for a Royal Family, much less THE Royal Family.

Whenever I think of England, I get hungry.  It’s not because I haven’t had a good meal in the UK; –  the Standard Indian restaurant in Westbourne Grove (London) is one of my favorites – it’s that thinking of London triggers Pavlovian hunger pains after watching Breakfast at Wimbledon with Sheila for so many years.

There is nothing like sitting down in front of the Boob Tube with a cup of tea and listening to the late Budd Collins ruminate about tennis and chuckle quietly at John McEnroe’s misogynistic comments about women’s tennis.   With the exception of BBC2’s brilliant coverage of  English Sheepdog Herding, the Wimbledon Men’s Final is simply the finest sporting event on TV.

While strawberries and cream and the occasional Pimm’s cup are suitable for Wimbledon, a proper English breakfast is required to fully indulge oneself in the pomp and circumstance of a Royal Wedding.  (Note:  For those Gourmay readers who wear a calorie-counting watch, nutritionists and vegans, I suggest that you read no further as the following meal has not been officially rated by the PC police.  It contains scenes of gratuitous fat, offal meat selections and enough grease to oil the hand of most any politician in DC.  Reader discretion is advised.

The Proper English Breakfast for Royal Occasions

A proper English breakfast consists of two fried eggs, a couple of bangers (sausage), black pudding (blood sausage), roasted tomatoes, baked beans (preferably warmed in the can and not drained), sauteed mushrooms and toasted bread covered in suet.    Personally, I prefer to lead off with kippers and perhaps a scone or two covered in double clotted cream from Devonshire (yummy!).    No less than an authority as The Sunday Times suggests that a “proper” English Breakfast  may have as many as 3,000 calories and argues quite persuasively that unless you can work those calories off by noon, the English Breakfast will kill you.   Discretion and the sensibilities of our readers prevents me from rendering a picture of the traditional English breakfast on Gourmay.     Nevertheless, for those who wish to indulge themselves I provide this link to a proper English breakfast.

At my age, I can no longer stomach a large breakfast and, as such, the English Breakfast is a tradition that will be missed as I watch the Royal Wedding with my muesli and skim milk.  Nevertheless, in the great tradition of Upstairs Downstairs we will rise with fellow Englishmen and women around the globe and cross our heart as we sing God Save the Queen.   Pure theater.  Even Lady Gaga can’t match the spectacle.


Enjoy the festivities.

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