The 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month signifies the end of World War I. Across the British Commonwealth, November 11th is known as Remembrance Day, a time to remember and give thanks to all those men and women who were killed during the two World Wars and other conflicts. This also gives us the opportunity to give thanks to those veterans for their service to our country.
Downton Abbey’s 2nd Season was dedicated to the Great War and the sacrifices made by both upper and lower classes. How can we forget the famous scene pictured here which commemorated the end of the war?
The poppy has long been associated with war. The seeds can lie dormant in the soil for years, and grow once the ground has been disturbed, like those fields ravaged by war. Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McRae was so struck by the sight of the bright poppies growing on a desolate field in northern France during WWI that he penned the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. In response, American Moina Michale wrote “We Shall Keep the Faith“, pledging to wear a poppy to remember the dead; the tradition for the poppy began.
World War I battlefields are located along the Belgian coast, through the southern Belgian province of West Flanders and regions of northern and eastern France. Some areas are frequently visited by pilgrims and tourists, such as the Somme and Verdun battlefields in France, many by those visiting the graves of those relatives who are buried there.
While many foods hold honour in days of rationing, thoughts of France led to popular French comfort foods to commemorate the day, in particular, Boeuf/Beef Bourguignon. This dish is essentially an upstairs version of a simple beef stew, named for Burgundy after the type of wine which was used in the dish. While battles did not take place in Burgundy during the war, the harvest was put in jeopardy as all the able-bodied men left the vineyards to fight for their country.
Frugal cooks have always looked for ways to tenderize cheaper cuts of meat; using alcohol and low heat is a great technique. It was Auguste Escoffier, the influential french chef of the Edwardian era, who brought the humble beef stew to fine dining rooms. Escoffier’s approach to the dish was to marinate the beef in red wine prior to cooking in more red wine.
In America, it was Julia Child taught us how to make his famous dish, further popularized in the movie Julie and Julia. I love this clip where aspiring blogger Julie talks about her connection to this recipe. I keep saying, food is about love and being inspired to share that love and comfort with others through food… so cook and remember.
Tools of the Trade
As Mrs. Patmore says, “a poor workman blames his tools”. If you want to invest the time in learning to cook you should fortify yourself with proper cooking tools.
I do love the hunt in my local cooking stores, but you can order items directly from Cooking.com (see links on the side) which I have used for years, or now through Amazon, so you have more time to watch Downton.
Every Downton Cook needs a good dutch oven. They last a lifetime, and if even if you can’t find a sale on a quality LeCrueset oven it is worth the investment. I will be inheriting my Mom’s collection of the traditional orange, but I do have my own a couple of pieces in the more modern blue.