National Pepper Pot Day
Today is National Pepper Pot Day! On 29 December 1777, so the story goes, George Washington had spent 10 days at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, camped with his army and assorted women and children. The winter had been unremittingly bleak: up to a third of his forces were bootless – some had left bloody footprints in the snow as they marched into camp – and all were hungry. Local farmers were spurning the unreliable revolutionary currency and selling their crops to the British.
"Unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place," he wrote, "this Army must inevitably ... Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can."
This desolate scene was supposedly improved when the commander's baker general, Christopher Ludwick or Ludwig, improvised a stew using tripe, vegetable scraps and whatever meagre spices he had to hand. His brief was to "warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit," in Washington's words. Legend maintains that this brew revived the beleaguered army, sustaining it through its darkest months, and helped lead to its eventual victory.
The story, though stirring, is almost certainly untrue. Pepper pot is a Caribbean dish, and it may well be that slaves and freedmen brought a taste for spicy broth to Philadelphia. But Caribbean cuisine makes little use of tripe. The French and (ironically) the English are more partial to the cratered stomach lining of the cow, with its elastic texture and distinctive – not to say unpleasant – taste and smell, this last resembling ripe manure. (Readers who have yet to try the delicacy may now be suspecting it was yet another hardship to befall the Continental army.)
Nonetheless, pepper pot became as emblematic a Philly dish as cheesesteak, scrapple, hoagies and water ice. By 1811 the popular artist John Lewis Krimmel was exhibiting Pepper Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, in which a barefoot African American woman ladles out evidently popular stew.
Andy Warhol used Campbell's canned version in a famous 1962 painting, sold five years ago for almost $12m. The Philadelphia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America even began using the pepper pot as the symbol for its annual awards in 1968.
But true, tripey pepper pot has dwindled in popularity, and is now merely a curio in a few Philadelphia restaurants. The famous City Tavern sells a West Indian version on its lunch menu which reportedly does neglects tripe altogether. But whether or not pepper pot was served at Valley Forge, the dish does retain something of the frugality and hardship that the war entailed.
To celebrate this historic dish, try making your own pepper pot soup today! It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly December day.
Tick Tock Day
And so another year is almost done and dusted; it’s 29 December – after today there will be only 2 more days to go before 2014 arrives. That time of year when you start seriously contemplating everything you thought you were going to do and achieve this year. And of course with this comes the regrets of all the opportunities missed, all the targets not achieved…
Well, today is Tick Tock Day – especially created to give you one last chance to pick some of those goals that have not been realised; to see if you cannot cram one or two more achievements into the year before everything starts over again with a new set of resolutions.
Today is a day to review your dreams and goals and start making them into a reality! The end of December is a popular time for looking back on the year’s accomplishments — a helpful process when it comes to shaping your resolutions for the coming year. So now is the time to make your list, check it twice (no, wait — that’s Christmas), and see which boxes you haven't been able to check off for 2014. Use the remaining days of the year to complete your goal or come up with a fool-proof plan to get it done in 2015!
Think about it this way – after today you have 2 more days to your disposal. That’s 48 hours. Or 2880 minutes. Or if you prefer, 172 800 seconds. That’s hundreds of thousands of seconds! Imagine how much you can achieve in that time!
But you better hurry – time is ticking… Tick tock, tick tock…