July 28, 2010

Potter, Potatoes and Peru!

This is a great day for the letter “P”!
On this day in 1586, it is said, Thomas Harriot introduced potatoes to England and Ireland.

On this day in 1824, Peru declared its independence from Spain, courtesy in part to the efforts of General Jose de San Martin.

And on this day in 1866, artist, author and naturalist Beatrix Potter was born in England.

First, potatoes.

Thomas Harriot sailed on an expedition of discovery on behalf of his employer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Some say that on his return in July, 1586, Harriot showed off some potatoes and potato plants from the New World. The first potato plants in England were apparently promptly planted in Raleigh's garden.

(Notice that I am stressing the fact that some say that Harriot introduced potatoes to the British Isles. There are others who say Sir Francis Drake already did the honors, in 1580.)

Whether or not the Harriot story represents Brits' first taste of the tubers, it is certain that potatoes, so important in Irish and Russian cooking, in Belgian/French fried foods, and in many other cuisines around the world, was entirely unknown in the Old World until at least the mid-1500s. As a matter of fact, potatoes probably originated in the country we are honoring today: Peru.

Celebrate by cooking and eating potatoes!

Second, Peru.

As I already mentioned in an earlier post, Peru used to be one of the lands of the Inca Indians, who were conquered by Spaniards in the mid-1500s. It was those same Spaniards who grabbed good stuff, like gold and potatoes, to take home to Europe (Harriot, however, was English). The Spanish eventually made Peru into a colony―a colony that, with its Incan gold, paid for much of the Spanish empire all over the world. In the early 1800s, other Spanish colonies in South America began to rebel, but the leaders of Peru weren't sure whether to break away or remain loyal to the Spanish monarchy. It took the military campaigns of Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar to liberate Peru from Spanish rule.

Peruvians take two days to celebrate their independence! Tomorrow will be another “Patriotic Festival” (Fiesta Patria). You can share the celebration by making a red-and-white Peruvian flag and cooking up some Peruvian foods, including these desserts.
Third, Potter.

Born in England on this day in 1866, Beatrix Potter grew up to be one of the most important children's authors of the early nineteenth century.

Potter lived at a time when women were not encouraged to learn or practice science, but she still attempted to follow her interest in fungi and lichens. (She was one of the first people
to correctly suggest that lichens were fungi and algae working together.) Her uncle tried to introduce her as a student to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected because of her sex. One of her papers was presented to the Linnean Society by her uncle, because as a woman she wasn't allowed to attendsociety meetings. The Royal Society refused to publish her scientific papers. Rejection, rejection, rejection—nevertheless, Potter's beautiful drawings and paintings of lichens and fungi, plus some insightful papers, did result in grudging respect. After she died, at least one of the scientific societies issued an apology for the way she was treated.

Potter found a more popular reception with her anthropomorphic animal books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. (Anthropomorphic means making animals behave like humans, usually including having them wear clothes and talking.) The drawing and painting ability thatcontributed to Potter's scientific work made her woodland animal illustrations immensely popular to this day.Enjoy Potter's work.
  • Read one of Beatrix Potter's many stories. If you don't have them in book form, here is a website to explore and enjoy.
  • Here is a picture of Peter Rabbit for you to color.
  • Here is a recipe for Biscuit Bonnets and Berry Baskets.
  • Here is a word search puzzle from Potter's Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.
  • The Renee Zellweger/Ewan McGregor movie “Miss Potter” (Rated PG) is popular with some families. I have to admit, I don't think I've ever seen it. (Warning: apparently it's sad.)
  • Here is a Peter Rabbit online jigsaw puzzle—in 6 pieces, or 48, or many other cuts and levels of difficulty.
  • Beatrix Potter illustrated her books with water color paintings. Why don't you try your hand at painting animals with water colors?

No comments:

Post a Comment