Truth or Fiction?

Fray Bentos.png

Fray Bentos is one of the most important port cities in Uruguay.  The name is a Spanish version of “Friar Benedict” a local mendicant who lived in the area.  In the 19th Century Uruguay was the Beef Capital of the world.  Beef exporting made Uruguay a boom economy.  Fray Bentos was perfectly positioned to capitalise on its position as a harbour on the Rio Negro, and the good times rolled.

In the mid 19th Century  a German Chemist named Justus von Liebig perfected a process for extracting flavour from meat.  He invented the OXO cube.  His company opened a plant in Fray Bentos to make the meat extract product.  Over the years they expanded into tinned corned beef under the Fray Bentos brand.

When the British Army included Fray Bentos tinned meats in their ration packs in the Boer Wars and subsequently in WW1 the brand became a household name.  The company flourished during WW2.  After that war they moved upmarket and released the round tinned oven ready puff pastry pies in the photo above.  As a child I remember cooking one of these in a clay oven on a boyscout camp in County Wicklow.

In the 1960s the brand was damaged by an outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen which was traced back to the Rio Negro.  The company was cooling their tinned meats in river water contaminated by excrement.  Since then the brand has gone largely downhill.  It is associated with working class diets, red meat and saturated fats.  The products have traded between food companies ever since.

Then Game of Thrones arrived on the scene.  G.R.R. Martin is a fan of history and I suspect he has delved into ancient greek history and myths.  There are many myths in the Greek Pantheon of parents eating children, but my favourite comes from Herodotus.  It is related as true history.

King Astyages of the Medes had a dream about his daughter, Mandané, where a flood of water flowed from her that drowned his capital. He feared her child, Cyrus, would overthrow him. So he sent his general Harpagus to slay the child.

Harpagus gave the baby to a shepherd, Mitradates, replacing the child with the stillborn corpse taken from the shepherds wife, which he showed to the King.

Astyagus found out many years later that Cyrus was alive. The King invited Harpagus to a banquet. At the conclusion of the feast Harpagus was asked if he had enjoyed his meal. Astyagus then asked that Harpagus be shown the head and feet of the beast he had eaten, a tradition of the country for truly excellent food. When the basket was brought Harpagus saw that he had eaten his own son.

Fast forward to Game of Thrones and Arya Stark’s revenge on Walder Frey for his actions at the red wedding.  It was one thing for Frey to kill his enemies, but a far worse crime to breach the laws of hospitality by killing them under his roof as they ate his food.

FreyPie

Pie of Frey must be a breach of the Fray Bentos brandname.  The pie of the TV series itself is very similar to that served to the hapless Harpagus.  Inside the pie crust Walder Frey finds the digits of his missing sons.  You may need to use the pause button on the TV to capture the moment.

Truly there is nothing new under the sun!

Game of Thrones: Why Book Fans Love Wyman Manderly - IGN

Happy Birthday Thomas Hardy

Yesterday I posted about the hanging of Breaker Morant, one of the first men in history to be convicted of a “War Crime”.  That was in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

Today, on Thomas Hardy’s birthday I am staying in South Africa with this poem.  Written shortly after the commencement of the Second Boer War, to which Hardy was opposed, it is an anti-war poem.  Hardy thought the Boers should be left to their own devices and were entitled to defend their independence from a grasping British Empire.

Hardy selects a Drummer for his subject.  It is worth noting that the drummers were only young boys, innocent mascots of the regiment.  A boy from Wessex, Hardy’s own home, a local lad.

Hardy is well known for using colloquial words to give local colour to his writings.  In this case he adopts many Boer words to describe the fate of a village lad in a foreign land, tossed into an open unmarked grave beneath unfamiliar stars.  Young Hodge died a pointless death.

This poem presages the full flowering of the war poets in the Great War.

 

Drummer Hodge; by Thomas Hardy

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
uncoffined — just as found:
his landmark is a kopje-crest
that breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew —
fresh from his Wessex home —
the meaning of the broad karoo,
the bush, the dusty loam,
and why uprose to nightly view
strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
will Hodge for ever be;
his homely northern breast and brain
grow to some southern tree,
and strange-eyed constellations reign
his stars eternally.

Rule 303

Today a poem from Breaker Morant, the Australian Bush poet who was hanged by the British Army in South Africa during the Boer War.  Today is the birthday of Edward Woodward who played the part of Breaker in the eponymous film.

I also include a clip from the film.  It is the scene from the trial where Woodward, playing Morant, explains the legal clause under which he executed Boers; Rule 303.  This refers to the Lee Enfield 303 British Army standard issue rifle.

The 303 caliber was the British Standard rifle cartridge introduced into service as a black power round in 1888 in time for the first Boer War of 1899.  Originally ammunition for the short lived Lee-Metford Rifle and retained for the Lee Enfield.  It was converted for smokeless powder and remained in service through the Second Boer War, the First and Second World Wars and up to the Korean War in the 1950’s when it was replaced by the standard NATO round.

Westward Ho! ; by Harry Harbord Morant

There’s a damper in the ashes, tea and sugar in the bags,
There’s whips of feed and shelter on the sandridge for the nags,
There’s gidya wood about us and water close at hand,
And just one bottle left yet of the good Glenlivet brand.

There are chops upon the embers, which same are close-up done,
From as fine a four-tooth wether as there is on Crossbred’s run;
‘Twas a proverb on the Darling, the truth of which I hold:
“That mutton’s aye the sweetest which was never bought nor sold.”

Out of fifty thousand wethers surely Crossbred shouldn’t miss
A sheep or so to travellers-faith, ’tis dainty mutton, this –
Let’s drink a nip to Crossbred; ah, you drain it with a grin,
Then shove along the billy, mate, and, squatted, let’s wade in.

The night’s a trifle chilly, and the stars are very bright,
A heavy dew is falling, but the fly is rigged aright;
You may rest your bones till morning, then if you chance to wake,
Give me a call about the time that daylight starts to break.

We may not camp to-morrow, for we’ve many a mile to go,
Ere we turn our horses’ heads round to make tracks for down below.
There’s many a water-course to cross, and many a black-soil plain,
And many a mile of mulga ridge ere we get back again.

That time five moons shall wax and wane we’ll finish up the work,
Have the bullocks o’er the border and truck ’em down from Bourke,
And when they’re sold at Homebush, and the agents settle up,
Sing hey! a spell in Sydney town and Melbourne for the “Cup”.