Cake made in 2001. My technique has improved.

When I was a kid I was at a friend’s house one afternoon when friend’s toddler brother went racing through the room and down the hall with friend’s mother running after him, yelling “Did you make? Did you make?” I looked at my friend. “Toilet training. She wanted to know if he had a BM.”

“Ah,” I said. My friend and I returned to whatever game we’d been playing.

But this morning as I thought out what to do with the day, I remembered my friend’s mother: “Did you make? Did you make?” That’s the question: were you productive today? What did you produce? The family I grew up in was not so concerned with bowel habits, but I did grow up believing firmly that You Are What You Produce.

I’m working on two books and a short story, and not one of them is being obliging. Which is to say, I don’t feel comfortable that I know where any of them are going, and that lack of focus is making it hard for me to engage. Writing, when I”m into it, should have at least an edge of fun–if not fun right now, then the promise of fun down the line. There should be anticipation: “Ooh, if I set this up now, later I can do THIS. And That! And THIS!” Right now I’m lacking that sense of anticipation.

Thus I find myself making other things, in order to live up to my You Are What You Produce programming. There are things that I need, or want, to do: I’m working on learning Italian, which isn’t something with a finished object to be held aloft for admiration, but is still an accomplishment of sorts. There are also the approximately 1,624 chores that need doing: cleaning out the closets, organizing the filing cabinets, putting things away so that they’re, um, away. But those are chores, there’s no output at the end of it (rather the opposite: at the end there should be less rather than more).

But cakes and frosting flowers and bread and beaded necklaces? I do them because I like the process, and improving the process (I just found a photo of a cake I decorated when my kid was in kindergarten, 23 years ago; I’ve gotten better) and because at the end of the day I’ve made something. Because I’m not getting that I was Productive rush from my writing, I have to get it from somewhere else. From the manipulation of stuff to make stuff.

Still, on my To Do list every day is time putting words on the page. Just because I’m not feeling it right now doesn’t mean that I won’t feel it ever. This is not my first time around the Maker’s block. In my experience some word or scene or idea will make my brain go *PLINK* and I’ll be in the zone again. So I keep writing, even when I’m writing in circles. And I make cake and bracelets to take the pressure off the words.

It’s a weird system, but it works. 


Richard III

Another of the unpublished pieces. I found second homes for many of them, eventually, so only a handful remain unseen.

Certain moments of history are forged into our brains.

The memory of Richard III has been given to us by Shakespeare:  the warped king. It has been left to us by Millais in his pitiful painting of the Princes in the Tower:  the murderous uncle. These judgements have been contested strongly by Richard’s supporters, who see him as a good man. However he is judged and however he is remembered, he was a human being. And all human beings have happy moments in their lives.

One moment of joy we do have for Richard, saved despite the loss of records over time, despite the fact that the Tudors hated him, saved despite the fact that in the fifteenth century less was written down that we would write today. We have a menu.

We know what was served to Richard the day he was crowned king.

So let us surreptitiously reach back to a moment when Richard was new to his throne, his nephews were very alive, and all was well with the world. Even Richard’s worst enemies were given roles of dignity and worth.

The banquet was formal and glorious: the food did not stand alone. There was panoply and display and glory. The King’s Champion would have paid a dramatic visit, for instance. The doors of Westminster flung wide open to admit him and his small procession. The Champion was a-horseback and beautifully armed. He threw down his gauntlet to announce his challenge. The food would have been spiced with moments such as this.

The menu itself was sumptuous. Three courses for Richard, two for his nobles dining elsewhere and one course for everyone else. There were too many people to fit into the Great Hall, and the celebrations spilled over into its surrounds. It took a lot of food to serve 1200 people. In fact, it took 30 bulls 12 fatted pigs, 6 boars, 140 sheep, 400 lampreys, 350 pikes, 100 trout and so on. The cooks dealt with 2200 chickens (of various types), 1,000 geese, and 800 rabbits. The luxury food was less excessive, with only forty eight peacocks.

The first course was full of fowl, from pheasant and cygnet to crane and capon. There was some meat (beef and mutton, for instance) and a little fish. Any of these might have had sauces for dipping, and these sauces could have been anything from sharp orange to a condiment made from sweet currants. For those who liked gentler foods, there was a custard (although we do not know if it was sweet or savoury) and a thick soup. Crunchy battered fritters provided a sharp contrast in texture.

The second course also featured roast meat. Roast meat is still for many people the food of celebration, and the number and generosity of the meats at Richard’s banquet shows that it was a very special occasion indeed. Not all the meats in the second course were roasts, however. A delectable cold savoury jelly done up with a “device”(maybe a boar or a crown?) trapped the eye in its quivery midst. A peacock was cooked, and then its feathers were refitted and it was presented as if it were alive. Venison pieces were served stuffed, and fish was baked whole. The third course was similar, but with a few sweet dishes added to the mix. You can imagine the king nibbling at baked quinces or cinnamon custard, eating more of his favourite dishes, and called up his best friends and good servants to taste something delectable from his plate.

When all the flavours became overwhelming and mingled in the mouth, there were always bread and wafers and sweet nibbles.

With each course, a subtlety was served forth. Not just one, but a special one for the king and his companions and another for the nobles. Subtleties were grand displays – sometimes they were to eat, and sometimes they were simply to admire. Sometimes they were a prank, and sometimes they were deadly serious. The menu from Richard’s coronation banquet doesn’t tell us what the subtleties were, so our dreams are left to roam the possibilities. There might have been a castle, or a pastry boar, or a religious scenes spun of fine sugar. Each one of these would have been brought in with some display and served with great panache.

What did the nobles eat for their two courses? Deep pies and elegant pastries, full to the brim with meats in fabulous sauces. Gilded meats, with egg yolk giving a thin, fragrant crust to a roast chicken and turning it to pure gold. The meats were not all the same as those for the King, but they were varied, and the meat dishes were created to tantalise the palate. The cooks served rabbits served, and pike and veal and capons and geese and beef and mutton. Servers brought forth glorious swans and porpoises – certainly not everyday fare.

This food was fragrant and exotic with the spices of the world. English saffron gave dishes a subtle scent and a beautiful golden colour. A darker brown was given by saunders (a type of sandalwood) and alkanet brought out the reds and browns of the rich dishes. Several types of pepper were used, from the hot pepper we use today to the more complex flavours of grains of paradise and long pepper.

Almond would have subtly fragranced many dishes, with almond milk used in sauces and custards and sweets. Almond was not the only ingredient to make dishes rich and tasty – cheese and cream and butter and milk were all used in vast amounts in the kitchen. So were onions and fresh herbs. Each of these flavourings and colours would have been chosen carefully to make the most of the dish, to make it good to look on, to turn it into something both fragrant and delicious. This was, after all, a banquet for a king.

Delicate baskets were bought to serve food in, and strawberries, dates, oranges, figs, pomegranates, lemons and other fruit sat in the kitchen in enormous piles until they were demolished to feed the guests. Honey sweetened dishes, as did green ginger syrup and sugar. Gold leaf was bought to delicately decorate and rosewater to scent. There was so much rosewater bought in for the cooks to use that it would have been inevitable that a maid would spill some by accident. From that moment on an aura of roses would have permeated the kitchen.

Confectionery was made specially, and specialists created wafers for the notables to nibble along with their spiced wine when all the food was finished.

It was a very merry coronation – a great amount of happiness and and even greater amount of drink. There was some spiced wine for after the meal, but here were also nine tuns of table wine. And this is only the wine used for drinking – there was more wine in the food! A very merry occasion indeed, and a sumptuous start to a reign.

Books for Writing

I am at the beginning of writing a book. I’ve done this before, like, multiple times. The beginnings of books are fun. I start out with something–sometimes an opening line, sometimes an opening scene or chapter or (in at least one case) ten chapters, and I keep adding things in and following loose characters down dark alleys and exploring…

Then I realize that if it’s actually a book it will have to go somewhere, and the process of narrowing and aiming and refining begins. And at that point things often grind to a halt. This has happened before; it should be a familiar process. But every time, every. damned. time, I go through something like this, and every damned time I’m flummoxed.

Generally I have some idea of where I’m going. When I’ve described the process before I say that it’s a little like driving over countryside. I have a topographic map at my side, and there are perhaps some places I know I need to hit–his hill, that river, that quaint village over there. And I have an idea–sometimes quite a clear one–of what the destination is. In Point of Honour, for example, I knew that I was pointed toward a scene at the end at which my heroine and the heretofore unsuspected villain of the piece have a showdown. But when I was writing The Stone War I just knew that somehow my hero had to find a way to bring peace to an embattled New York. So… like that. I don’t have specifics, just a direction. Until the specifics reveal themselves.

But at some point that non-specific approach can make me grind to a halt. When I hit a “where is this going anyway” roadblock I have a number of tricks I use to get things moving again. They don’t always work; sometimes it just takes time, and then one day I wake up and start noodling and the block dissolves. Sometimes if I write a scene closer to the end of the book it helps me figure out that destination point (even if I don’t use that scene in the final book). Sometimes I retype the book up to the point where I ground to a halt (there are books where the first 5-10 chapters were retyped several times, to the detriment of my wrists). And sometimes I make a list of books to read that I feel, in some inchoate way, do something I want to be able to do with the book. What that something is is not anything very clear cut. For example, here’s a list I made this morning of books I need to re-read, in no particular order:

  • The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
  • The War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull
  • I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
  • The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • The Once and Future King, by TH White
  • The People, by Zenna Henderson

Others may occur…as I’m thinking about this, inspirations can spark other inspirations.

Does this give you an idea of what I’m writing about? If I can get this book to behave and decide where it’s going, it will be unlike anything else I’ve written (at least I think so–you don’t always know what your subconscious is throwing into the mix).

If you need me I’ll be in a corner with a pile of books, looking for inscrutable inspiration. And clarity. Ah, clarity.

Imagining History

One of the other ‘joys’ of 2005 was that many publications disappeared. Not as many as in the 1980s, where five stories of mine failed to publish after acceptance because the magazines collapsed, in two cases just before my stories were entering the world (they are all now readable in an anthology, Mountains of the Mind). I thought you might like to see a couple of non-fiction pieces that were accepted and then remained unseen. This week’s is:

Imagining history

History is a cultural artefact. It is easier to collect packaging labels or children’s toys or works of art and to display them as cultural artefacts than to think of history this way. Besides, we tend to think of books and articles about history as something intellectual and thoughtful and different, not as products of a time and place, and definitely not a part of our everyday lives. If you dissect the themes of every single work of history produced in a single decade, you could put them on show as the product of that decade. A decade in our lives. A product of our society. This display would help show how we think and how we feel, where we are coming from and where we think we are going to. Cultural artefacts. Our past. Our imagination. Ourselves on show.

The trouble is doing that distilling. It is hard to distil the common ideas in histories without being sucking into belief in them and worshipping at their shrine. How often have you read something by your favourite historian without quoting an idea or a fact at your next dinner party?

The trouble with cultural artefacts is they not only show who we are when we analyse them, they dictate who we are when we accept them. In other words, when you read a history, you start thinking the way it tells you to, unless you are careful. Some of this is the convincing argument put forward by the author, but some of this is the form of the written history itself. It is a sad fact that our forms of scholarly expression simplify how we imagine history: they help dictate how we think.

We need that scholarly description and analysis of the past. Never deny that. History is terribly, terribly important. The way history is written is hard to change, and indeed, may not need to be changed. Some of it comes from the need for written history to communicate clearly and to teach. Some of it is the need of historians to make a coherent argument and state a case. The writing of history has forms that are understandable and can be analysed and put on show, in our theoretical history display case.

What needs to be added to the writing of history is something within our own minds when we read. We need to think about what else is in the work under question besides facts and interpretations about the past, what is not covered by the driving argument and the scholarly analysis. Every single one of is who enjoys reading history should take a long and serious moment to think about history as a form of literature, about history as a cultural artefact. As a form of literature and as a cultural artefact, books of history embody lots of lovely complexities and that simplicity and elegance can ignore the reality of the cultural content being presented. The world of people’s cultural consciousness is not tidy, or logical. And it is not comfortable to think that what you read might dictate how you think.

How do you stop being dictated to? The terrible confusion of semiotics was trying to stop this happening. Semiotics was about unpacking rhetoric from reality, trying to sort out meanings and intended meanings and finding out what messages people took on board when they read. Deconstruction is a fine ideal. Alas, language got in the way of semiotic aims. Word after words after word was defined and interpreted until it became an impenetrable maze of meanings, only accessible by the experts

So if you want to read a history book and find out what you think about it without being trapped by the thoughts of others, what do you do?

There is a very old-fashioned technique, one that some teachers still teach to lucky students. First you read the history book. Then you start thinking about it. You look for its component parts. You unpack them and analyse them and think about them. Then you read the book or article again, with all this information in mind. It is not just a matter of the author using good sources and sensible interpretations, it is a question of what assumptions the author brings to his or her history. Do they use emotional language? Do they build up an argument so slowly and gently that you miss the stages and are convinced without knowing how you were convinced?

Reading history intelligently is like being a jury and instructing judge in one. It is a messy business.

Some patterns are quite clear and there are a bunch of books out there that can point to them. A classic book about how historians think about history is by EH Carr and there is a new study of how history had changed since his writing. These two together make a good manual for thinking about how historians think about the past. The best tool for thinking, though, is the human brain. Historians are human and have their enthusiasms and their failings. Look for those enthusiasms in their work. Look for their failings. Find out how they argue and why they argue.

When you read a history, you are not just deciphering the past. You are using the past as a way of imagining the present and enriching your life. When you see a busker on the street, you don’t ask an expert whether or not you are capable of judging how good the busker is. When you read a book of history you should be able to think for yourself. It is harder than laughing at a joke or cringing at an off-key chord, but it is also more rewarding.

If you accept the history presented by other people you will have a nice tidy world, with nice tidy opinions. This is the easy way out. The tough way out is exciting, challenging and puts you on the intellectual spot. It also brings history back into all our lives, and enriches all of us. History is not just or the academy, after all, since it is the past of all of us.

The End of Bruno and the Beginning of Something Wonderful

Twenty odd years ago, when we moved to San Francisco from New York, we bought a house. That flat statement doesn’t reflect the year of living in a rented flat, looking for a house that 1) met our inscrutable criteria for size, price, amenities (this above all: a garage!), proximity to public transport, and some degree of walkability. We were unbelievably fortunate that we sold our NYC apartment for enough to give us a competitive down payment, even in SF (which was then in a wave of utter insanity, real estate-wise). Still, what we wound up with was not one of the gorgeous Victorians with which San Francisco is blessed, but a modest two-bedroom house with a semi-finished attic which would do as a third bedroom, a garage, and a rather feral back yard. Over the years we have made improvements (a workable kitchen which is still my delight; new furnace, new water heater, new bathroom). And this week we started on a massive project: new back yard.

As I believe I have made clear in past posts, I am horticulturally impaired. I mean well. I have on occasion kept a plant (or, in college, several plants) alive for periods of time. I admire the gardens of other people. But I have no gardening imagination, and my attention span for nurturing the difficult or delicate is, um, nil. So whatever we did, it was going to be done by contractors, and it was not going to involve me out there with a trowel and a kneeling pad, carefully consigning plants into the earth.

After a considerable amount of shuffling around and talking to different people we settled on a landscape designer and began with a plan. The first thing was to rip everything out, down to the studs. There were several reasons for this. Most of the plants were not healthy, blackberry was invading from the back neighbor’s yard (coming up through the concrete patio and over the fence), the laundry-shed structure was ugly and rickety, and mostly what thrived was pigweed (aka amaranth). The concrete itself was in crappy condition. 

So: a complete redo, soup to nuts. Which started with taking the whole yard down to about a foot below its current level, the better to discourage invasive blackberry and other monsters: there will be a layer of plastic, then gravel, then a lot of sand, then pavers or plants.

After the initial estimate came out at… enough to buy a whole house in another less spendy part of the country… we scaled back our intentions. Above you see the initial plan for the pavers. The blank area to the right represents our house; the green circle is the one tree we’re keeping, right next to the back door. The triangular gray area will be the new patio, and the brown triangle is a pergola (shaded structure).

I have to say, both Danny and I found it hard to really wrap our heads around this as a “here’s what you’ll wind up with” model until we went out back (stepping carefully around the debris) and paced things out. Then we gave the designer some feedback, he made adjustments, and proceeded to send back an image with a rough planting plan thrown in. This time (maybe because there’s some color) I felt more comfortable. There’s a secondary seating area (in the lower left corner) and a “path” among the plantings.

What kind of plantings will there be? Not sure yet. We did specify one lemon tree to replace Bruno (the old, super-productive monster lemon tree that gave us lemons the size of my head, mostly pith and dry fruit). And we asked for native plants, things that don’t require a lot of maintenance. I wouldn’t be sad if there was some rosemary, which grows wild here. We’ll find out.

Right now we’re in demolition-land: the guys have spent the last week breaking up the better part of 1600 square feet of concrete. The laundry shed is gone, the decrepit washer and dryer, ditto. The unhealthy plants are a thing of the past. It’s a blank canvas.

I kind of enjoyed the homey sound of jackhammers, which to me call my childhood in New York City, where the noise was always a harbinger of something changing.

A life-changing moment with Cordwainer Smith

2005 was a low point for me: I had lost all my confidence. I was pretty certain that I was a failure in all things intellectual and that I couldn’t write, but I was still very determined to keep going. I stayed with what I loved, even when I was pushed to the side, time after time. People with a single course as an undergraduate ere given work ahead of my PhD in a field, and it hurt.

Everything I wrote that year and into 2006 has underlying rumbles of my lac of confidence. It took me a few more years to discover that the problem had never been with my intellect. Sometimes it was because I am chronically ill (and one is not supposed to be intellectually competent and ill, both), sometimes because I’m not male (such an Australian bias) and, most often, because I’m Jewish. Nice people don’t say antisemitic things… they simply leave Jews out of things, or choose someone ahead of them.

How did my self-image begin to change? When I was at a Melbourne science fiction convention, I was asked to join a panel on Cordwainer Smith. Not by the convention planners, but by the panel itself. I said something and Bruce Gillespie asked me to write it up. This is what I wrote for Bruce:

Cordwainer Smith: reflections on some of his themes

  1. Canberra and Norstrilia

Canberra in the 1960s was a mere kernel of the Canberra of 2005. It was small and green, mostly buildings and public parkland, surrounded by the enormous brown of rural Australia. This was the Canberra that Corndwainer Smith knew. Not the small internationalist city of today, with its sprawl of suburbs and its café culture, but an overgrown country town that just happened to be the seat of government for a whole country. You can see a sense of this Canberra in Smith’s work, the idea that Norstrilian government is more a set of social compacts than a formal hierarchy, the idea that family and inheritance counts (the earliest settlers in the area still farmed sheep on what are today mere suburbs, Kambah for instance was farmed by the Beattie family) and the ideal that the country is vast and brown and far diminishes the civilisation it nurtures.

There are other reflections of Australian life of the time in Smith’s work. Immigration, for instance.

While policies were much more open than it had been, the inheritance of the White Australia policy was still very apparent in the people of this country. Much of Australia was still white, still Anglo, and still very conservative. In many places, of which Canberra was one, walking down the street one could very easily assume that the only non-Anglos were diplomats, that Australia didn’t let any strangers cross the border unless they had proven their credentials.

This was not the reality. Cordwainer Smith came to Australia at the crucial moment when White Australia was being broken down – indigenous Australians were finally given voting rights, migrants came from places other than the United Kingdom. The effects of this change were not yet apparent, however, outside Melbourne and Sydney and places such as the Queensland canefields. The reality of Canberra in the 1960s was that the hydroelectric scheme and more open immigration policies were bringing more and more people from other parts of Europe into the region – but walking down a Canberra street, the feeling was still very much of the dominant ancestry being British.

The Australia Smith saw was very much the cultural blueprint for Norstilia, with its responsibility towards remembering the British Empire and preserving certain cultural values.

At that time, Australia had a very restrictive economic policy. This included a barrage of tariffs and customs restrictions that have since been phased out. It was openly admitted that these restrictions were to develop the local economy and to protect important elements of it – the Melbourne clothes industry was of particular importance, for instance.

The effect of these import restrictions on everyday life was very marked; Australia was wealthy, but not quite first world. We took a long time to adopt innovations from outside, and luxury goods were particularly highly taxed. At the same time, because food and accommodation were much cheaper than in many other countries and Australian workers worked shorter days, even the poorest person was said to be richer than wealthy people elsewhere, in terms of lifestyle.

Add this to an important religious factor: the default religion people wrote on their census data as Church of England, and the Queen was both head of the Church and head of State. The political crises of the 1970s which disputed and lessened the impact of the royal family had not yet happened, and the most important Prime Minister of the 1960s, Sir Robert Menzies, was a keen royalist. A keen royalist and rather autocratic leader – the exact mix that Cordwainer Smith struggles to describe from a slightly bemused outsider viewpoint in his depiction of Norstrilia.

To the surprised outsider, we could easily have looked like a country that practiced old-fashioned Church of England values. Very High Church – abstemious and full of self-restraint.

Internally, Australia was not really self-restrained. The slow adoption of new technologies such as television were largely because of the distance of Australia from the rest of the world combined with the tariff system. Smith was interpreting this from a High Church view, however, and would be astonished by the current Australia, where abstemiousness and low technology levels are rather absent.

What Smith saw was an Australia ruled by an innocent nobility with power that was mostly inexpressed. This is the source of the apparent abstemiousness as he described it. It showed more in Canberra than elsewhere. There were only two major industries in Canberra at that time: the public service (all national) and the university. Canberra fully understood the outside world, but its lifestyle in no way reflected it. There were secure incomes and workplaces, safe jobs, but not much in the way of luxury. Canberra was a hard place to get to, for a capital city, with only a local airport and only one train station, and it had an extraordinarily suburban lifestyle. It also had (and still has) like Norstrilia an unexpectedly large awareness of the outside world and a sophisticated understanding of how the trade barriers operated.

It is very hard not to see the Canberra of the time in Norstrilia: a place with a sophisticated understanding of the external world, cut off from it and surrounded by bleak but rich countryside dominated by some of the best sheep territory n the world. It is ironic that, well after Paul Linebarger died, Goulburn built its Giant Merino – an enormous grey tribute to the traditional source of wealth in the Canberra region.

  1. The importance of Abba-dingo

Abba-dingo is particularly important in understanding Cordwainer Smith’s constructed universe. It appears in his short story “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”. Abba-dingo was a carnival head that took coins or tokens and gave prophecies.

Writers looking for the origins of Smith’s odd names suggest that Abba- comes from the words ‘Abba’ for father from Hebrew or Aramaic, and the Australian native dog, ‘dingo’. While this appeals to me because it calls forth an Australian phrase ‘Old Man Dingo’, I have to admit, that I have large problems with this etymology. I suspect that Abba-dingo comes from a word much closer to home for Paul Linebarger and gives strong indications as to how his religious views shape decision in his universe: it comes from the Book of Daniel.

In the Book of Daniel the king of Babylon visits Jerusalem. He finds several royal Jewish children both beautiful and wise, and he proposes to teach these children the lore of the Chaldeans. He had the children renamed. Azariah was renamed Abednego. Naturally Daniel was the hero of this tale, which is all about true prophecy, but Abednego is linked to the true prophecy and survives his stint in a furnace.

Cordwainer Smith makes the link between Abba-dingo and Abednego quite obvious, as Abednego by using the notion of the fiery furnace and in ‘Alpha ralpha Boulevard” the making the imprint of the prophecy by fire. To make sure we don’t miss the point, in the King James Bible Abednego is always spelled Abed-nego and Smith divides Abba-dingo in the same way.

Abba-dingo then, is a closet reference to the Old Strong Religion. The head is an indication that the universe is planned, even when it looks like a game from a penny arcade. It refers back to the innocents and the holy being able to be given and to live the truth, even when they have no understanding of what is happening.

Cordwainer Smith has devised a predetermined universe based very much on a very High Church reading of the Bible. More than that, he writes a belief in the Select (chosen almost before their birth and with predestined accomplishments) eg D’Joan.

Much of his belief is not modern Church of England at all – it is, to me, very nineteenth century and fundamentalist. This is reflected in the nature of most of his short stories. They are Bunyanesque in feel. He emphasises this feel by the style he uses for the stories where the religion is an important component. He works with carefully built-up introductions and focuses on the inner meaning of lives rather than the individuality and personality of the people involved. This implies that these people are more important for the role they play than as game pieces to catch a reader’s eye.

The track of history and the meaning it all leads to is more important than the tale itself. Each story is, in fact, part of the monumental progress of humankind and animalkinds towards a future that Cordwainer Smith only hints at. Just like Moses, we don’t see Smith’s Holy Land except fro a distance – the voyage to it is more important.

What is important about the Bunyanesque progression is not the end of it. The aim is not to provide a guide to holy living or to a perfect future. Cordwainer Smith is not CS Lewis – his fiction does not preach.

What it provides is a mythical background to his novels. If you read all his short fiction then your read Norstrilia, you have the perfect structure for the assumptions that are made in the novel. He provides a legendary past and important indications of the future. This makes him look extraordinarily innovative, as his stories often use an allegorical or fairytale format rather than one more typical of the SF conventions of his time. Understanding those allegorical and fairytale formats and that legendary past and mythic background are important to understanding how to read the universe he created.

For instance, those indications give us important clues to certain characters (eg C’mell) and enable us to read far more into their behaviour and attribute more to their personalities than would otherwise be possible. Without the background, C’mell looks simply obedient and maybe a bit boring, regardless of her physical beauty, and her reward is the reward of dull virtue. When the reader understands that the Norstrilia section is only a small segment of her life, her reactions take on a much greater complexity.

The skill he brings to his more conventional writing highlights that these departures from convention are quite intentional. Cordwainer Smith was not writing a single novel: he was writing an allegorical universe with a complex history, and he was peopling it with real people (of various species) whose personalities and who capacity to determine their own lives were heavily affected by the allegorical nature of his universe.

Abba-dingo points to this. Cordwainer Smith uses the Abadnego joke to both indicate the religious allegory and to mock at it. Abba-dingo is, after all, only a fairground toy – how do we know that it is God speaking through a fairground mechanical or whether the author is using it as a cheap plot device.

This is the brilliance of Cordwainer Smith. He refers to his Old Strong Religion. He uses his Old Strong Religion. He shapes the whole story of D’Joan and the quest of Chaser O’Neill around a particularly archaic version of Protestant belief. All the traditional allegory and the Biblical and religious knowledge that was commonplace in his youth appears in his writing, from the land of Mizraim (Misr) to the need to forego the quest in order to achieve the true goal.

Yet all the while he uses these patterns, he mocks them. He makes it clear that his is an invented universe. He has his heroes play with space and time like gods, while indicating that they can’t possibly be gods. He creates his Vomact family in such a way that the ambivalence between good and evil is perennially pointed out: we don’t know until we are read a given story whether the Vomact will be hero or villain.

In showing the hand of the creator so very, very clearly, Cordwainer Smith casts doubt on his own allegories. He leaves it to the reader to think it through.

Kidstock and Mr. Romantic

Black and White photo of four screens and 500,000 people on the Great Lawn
Photo: Daniel Hulshizer/Associated Press

When you have small children you do things with them. At least we did. This is how, 29 years ago, we (including two kindergarteners) wound up in Central Park in New York City, on a June afternoon, waiting for the premiere of the Disney animated film Pocahontas.

The event was much heralded, and a month or so before the event there was a lottery for tickets. I never win lotteries, but somehow we won this one. We received four tickets, and invited S, one of my daughter’s besties. Came the day, we packed up food and drink and blankets and umbrellas (drizzle threatened for a brief while) and jackets and… all the myriad things you wind up carrying around when you have children. And about 2pm, along with 100,000 of our fellow parents-and-kids, we hied ourselves to Central Park to stake a claim to a bit of ground to call our own among the sea of parents and small children on the Great Lawn. “My God,” my husband said as we were orienting ourselves (four screens! concession stands! phalanxes of port-a-potties! youthful humanity as far as the treeline!) “It’s Kidstock!” 

The movie could not start until dark, but this whole thing was being produced (massively, lavishly) by Disney, and if there is one thing that Disney excels at, it is moving people while keeping them just entertained enough that they don’t riot. Especially children. Once we had found ourselves a small holding, one of us (probably my husband) took the girls to reconnoiter. There were various entertainments offered on each of the four stages: singers and appearances by Disney Channel stars and so forth. But mostly our girls chattered and played on our small patch of turf. People we knew passed by on their way to find their own patch of turf. And then the family of A, a boy in the girls’ kindergarten class, came by. We scootched over so they could establish a beachhead adjacent to ours: one of the best tactics of parenting is strength in numbers. It’s much easier to sit on a lawn among 100,000 people if there are four adults watching 3 kids, and you can take turns paying attention.

The day stretched on. Food was consumed. Strolls around to stretch legs and alleviate boredom were taken. A Pocahontas doll was scored for each of the girls. The question “but when will it start” was asked many times. As hard as it is to believe now, this was before smart phones, so instead of a sea of tiny heads bent over screens it was a sea of seething childhood, wiggling and giggling and wishing the sun would set already. And we (Danny and I) began to notice a fascinating bit of kid behavior going on between the three five-year-olds. First, a note about my daughter Jules. She was a dreamy, highly imaginative kid into make-believe and stories. One of the things she did not go in for was the crushes that some kindergarteners indulged in. Her friend S, on the other hand, was the kind of small girl who watched the relationships around her, hawklike, and knew who in the class “liked” whom. S was a pretty girl and used, frankly, to being treated that way; she was always watching the people around her, angling for position. Then there was A, or as his mother referred to him, Mr. Romantic, a sunny, affectionate kid. And Jules was… clueless.

At last the movie starts. The music swells. We settle in to watch. But I kept getting distracted by the little drama that is playing out on our blanket. See, A sort of snuggles up to Jules–whether he meant it romantically or just felt comfortable with her, I don’t know. S, seeing this, sidles over to A’s other side, presenting herself to be snuggled. A does not oblige. S is clearly frustrated by his lack of interest. Meanwhile, Jules is sitting there, eyes on the screen, riveted to the story. Through the 80 minutes of the movie A is watches the movie and occasionally looks at Jules. S watches the movie but is distracted by A’s apparent preference for Jules over herself, and gets antsy and fidgety. Jules is oblivious.

The worst part of the whole experience was, of course, getting packed up and home. The 100,000 people who had arrived over the course of the afternoon now all wanted to be gone and home at the same time. A and his parents said good night and vanished in their own direction. Danny and I packed up our belongings, put jackets on the girls and joined the clog of people heading toward the exits and the West Side. I don’t remember whether we delivered S to her parents or they picked her up from us. I do recall an initial frostiness emanating from S, which I think baffled Jules–suddenly her friend was mad at her, but why? Eventually S was worn down by Jules’s cheery rhapsodies about the movie (“what was your favorite part?”) and her frostiness dissipated. They stayed friends for several years, until time and changes in schools did what the attentions of Mr. Romantic, on a starry New York City night, could not.

Plantagenet food

You may have noticed that, last week, food entered the conversation about a book. When I tell everyone with much sobriety that I’m an ethnohistorian, my friends laugh. Ethnohistory includes food, as they know very well indeed. I don’t merely feed friends historical artefacts, I once had a food history blog. It’s simple cause and effect. No-one wanted to hear about the narratives that are my intellectual heartland, but everyone wanted to try the food mentioned in them.

I do both. I read and analyse and I cook and analyse and it’s an enormous amount of fun. Your post this week, then, is a piece I wrote for Bibliobuffet, a US online literary magazine, during my 3 year stay with them. I still miss the editors – they were wonderful to work with. I raise a theoretical glass of the best Ancient Greek diluted wine in their honour.

What I’m actually drinking tonight is vinegar water from 19th century children’s books. It should be raspberry vinegar, to be fair, but I wasn’t trying to replicate North American children’s books. I am trying to work out the difference between Polish and Australian vinegar. In books for adults, vinegar water is often touted as handy for some forms of indigestion and it is, which is a useful side effect of this particular historical food exploration.

Interpreting Foodways

Plantagenet England has one of the great cuisines. We don’t know a great deal about the food eaten everyday by ordinary people, and we have far more information for the fifteenth century than for the twelfth, but the best food on the table during that period and the most outstanding menu is some of the best food anywhere.

All but one of my favourite medieval dishes come from English manuscripts. These manuscripts are often regarded as French, because the language and the food style was French but there are differences between English and French food, to my mind. The English seem to have been cleverer with spices and to be far more aware of the look of the food: contrasting colours and clever presentation play a part in making the food delightful. Pomesmoille is apples and almond and can be made as a custard or as fresh and even crunchy. Crespez are deep-fried pancakes cookable almost instantly.

I begin my food history classes with this explanation, illustrated with recipes. I then spend session after session looking into the nature of the food: how it was cooked, where ingredients came from, what the manuscripts were like, how to interpret recipes and, most importantly, that my grand statements about the glory of the cuisine can be contradicted with accuracy and can still be precisely correct.

Despite the great interest so many of us have in this period of English history, it was before the time of printed cookbooks. We don’t have representative recipes, only occasional recipes. We don’t know what cooks made every day, only the food that a few people thought deserved writing down. The further back in time we go during the time of the Plantagenets, the less information we have and the more we rely on small amounts of data to interpret large aspects of food culture. We know a great deal, and at the same time, we don’t know nearly enough to make firm and definite conclusions.

Food history requires the mind of Sherlock Holmes alongside a vast raft of technical skills. And with all that, we have huge gaps in our knowledge. This doesn’t mean we don’t have knowledge. We have a great deal. We can argue for this position or that using the known cookbooks, using evidence from literature and from archival records, using the amazing amount of food-related archaeological material that has survived. The problem is bringing it together.

Ten years ago I thought I knew, and I told everyone who cared to listen what a glorious cuisine it was. I still suspect it might be, but… I want more evidence.

What happened was that I read Bridget Ann Henisch’s The Medieval Cook. Henish is one of the outstanding scholars in the field. She knows her stuff. And yet, in her book, she took material from this year or from that, evidence from this quarter and the other. Sometimes one part of her evidence was compatible with another and sometimes I stopped and wondered how on earth she could create an overview using just a few pieces of evidence that were centuries apart. None of her other writing does this, but The Medieval Cook is a popular overview and it’s very tempting to bring everything together and to show that we have an understanding of the period. That’s what books about the Middle Ages are for, to communicate an understanding. Audiences generally ask for firm and definite conclusions as part of this understanding.

I wrote the chapter on food in The Middle Ages Unlocked. I had much less material to draw on than Henisch, for The Middle Ages Unlocked covers a lot less time. I wrote very cautiously. “I don’t know this,” I found myself saying about this and about that, and did more research and discovered that no-one really knew this. At one stage I wrote a list of subjects that I thought I knew but had to doubt because, when I looked for the evidence, what I found was yet another general conclusion drawn from The Forme of Cury (possibly the most-used medieval cookbook for people wanting to reconstruct English food) or assumptions about home gardens in Sussex drawn from what was grown in Paris.

I took my list into class and I asked students, “How much do you know about the food we eat, here, in Canberra, in the twenty-first century?” The answers were enlightening. They helped me understand how I and so many other people can say “We know this cuisine” about Plantagenet cooking when, really, we only know some things about it.

Some students used their home cooking as the absolute arbiter of normal food for Canberra. Others used Women’s Weekly cookbooks. Occasionally, a student would collect data from other students and say “This composite, that’s how we need to see Canberra’s food.” These data-oriented students were the ones who paid attention to my original discussion about the method of studying food history: it’s data based. And our database is insufficient.

Most scholars realise this most of the time and try to talk about what we can know, and to limit claims. Henisch is one of the good scholars and this is how she normally works. The shape and content of The Medieval Cook, however, is the shape and story of the Middle Ages for a more popular audience. It’s a different type of story about the Middle Ages. Far easier to read. Far more entertaining. Far easier to find problems with.

We have a set of archetypal views of the Middle Ages. Popular books will often take one or another of them, because they’re far easier to write about than a more sophisticated (read ‘crazy-complicated’) analysis. Those archetypal views, in food terms, are like the Canberra students who think that every Canberra family eats like their own, or that Women’s Weekly cookbooks represent Canberra cooking. There is truth in them, for some people eat like that student’s family and a lot of people learn cooking from the Women’s Weekly cookbooks. There’s knowledge in this approach. Sometimes there’s very good knowledge in this approach. Understanding is harder.

What I’ve done is to keep all my favourite recipes. I’ll make pomesmoille whenever my favourite apples are in season, and I’ll give all my students my favourite joke about crespez being medieval junk food but… I teach all about those data sources and how to interpret them and send students to them whenever I can. I encourage them to find more data sources (archaeological reports and archival material have so much material in them!) and to help build up a more realistic picture of complex foodways over a long period of time. Students who want easy answers hate me for this. There are fewer soundbites. It’s much more exciting, however, for it’s something that anyone can do: build up a personal and sophisticated understanding of foodways. Learn to see the Middle Ages as continually surprising, continually exciting.

The Magic Pudding

In my past and present, I write mostly serious short pieces on speculative fiction for Aurealis, one of my favourite magazines. In 2016 I wrote one slightly-less-serious-than-usual article. This year I have an article that mentions Norman Lindsay in another edition of Aurealis, but it is about one of his most hated rivals.

Early Australian Fantasy: The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

The writing world is full of solid literary criticism. Sometimes, it’s important to see literature from a different perspective.

We bring ourselves to our reading. We bring our dreams about stories and we bring the other stories we’ve read and we bring our expectations. Readers aren’t neutral, so I thought I’d explore how this non-neutral reader sees a particular work. The work in question is Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding. It’s so very Australian, with its larrikin humour and its reliance on British culture and its very Australian animals. It’s one of the great works of Australian fantasy. It’s been written about by so many scholars and studied in all its nuances. Just not the way I will look at it here.

Today I’ll examine The Magic Pudding from three angles. The first is nostalgic. I used to actively look for pudding recipes when I was a child, almost entirely due to this book. Recipes sum up nostalgia in this case more effectively than an analysis of my feelings. The second angle is that the structure of the book is very much derivative of Gilbert and Sullivan. The third is how I read it as a fantasy novel.

Let us look at Gilbert and Sullivan first.

The Magic Pudding would work well with music. The characters sing so very much and we’re given many of their verses. We’re not given the whole of any of the very long songs, which is probably just as well given that the long songs would add another three hundred pages to the story, but the whole novel is riddled with rhyme and song.

The songs fit into the tale in the same way they do in light opera in general. They reflect the characters and they denote a pause in the action and they change the direction of the story and they… do virtually anything. Not all of what they do makes sense logically or in narrative terms, which is why I see The Magic Pudding as a comic operetta, in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. The world of Bunyip Bluegum is a nonsensical world, where right and wrong and logic do not have standard values, and it’s rather like the world of The Mikado in how one thing leads to another by verbal trick.

The logic uses Australian culture, of course, to underpin its deviance from rational narrative. Two of the heroes are murderers and thieves, for they killed the cook who invented Albert the Puddin’ (we know this because Albert says so) and yet they feel noble and hard-done by when the puddin’ thieves try to steal from them. And the capacity to sing a song and eat a good meal count for more than prior social standing. The world is not an Alternate Earth—it’s the world of a stage. The world of an Australian stage.

So why do I also read this book as a fantasy narrative? Lindsay borrows from the late nineteenth century fantasy writers as much as he borrows from light operetta. It’s the combination of the two that give the book its uniqueness.

The Magic Pudding has some of the critical elements of a fantasy narrative, despite seldom being listed as such. My inner fantasy fan has always read it as a fantasy novel (with rhyme, illustrated), since I was old enough to read. It was on the family bookshelves from then until now, for I have just inherited the family copy. I’m working from the 1958 re-issue of the 1908 original, for those who really need to know these things. (I should have said this right up front, but one thing that re-reading The Magic Pudding does, every time, is lead to a disordered mind.)

When I started this essay, I was going to say that The Magic Pudding is a quest fantasy, but now I’m not sure if it’s that or sword and sorcery, with Albert the Puddin’ taking the role of the sapient and rather unlikeable artefact. Not only is my mind disordered, but it’s also indecisive. Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy elements in the book instead of coming to a firm decision about the book’s inner identity.

There are five critical elements: the hero’s journey, the artefact of power, the stereotyping of minor players, fabulous backstory, a happy ending.

The Hero’s Journey

Bunyip Bluegum starts off as an oppressed near-adult. The source of his oppression is his uncle’s whiskers:

Whiskers alone are bad enough

Attached to faces course and rough,

But how much greater their offence is

When stuck on Uncles’ countenances.

His uncle, being of unkind disposition, refuses to denude himself of them, despite the lack of room for the whiskers in the family home. At first, Bunyip Bluegum eats his soup outside (for drinking whiskers in his soup is intolerable) but finally he is forced to leave home. He takes up a walking stick (for he lacks any possessions and so can’t be a swaggie or other traveller) and becomes a gentleman of leisure. This is not only his first step into adventure, but it demonstrates that he will grow in status as he travels. Like so many young men of good family, the Outback and a walking stick lead to a new and better existence. And so he does. Each slice of the story shows that Bluegum is the centre of the adventures and is the one who, with increasing wit and decreasing morality, helps his friends rescue the pudding and escape from danger.

Precious artefact

Albert the Puddin’ is magic and coveted. His first manifestation was ’in a phantom pot/A big plum-duff an’ a rumpsteak hot‘ on an iceberg. Men and penguins will kill to obtain him and will commit trickery and deceit. While his special property is the unlimited capacity to feed people pudding and while that pudding can be any type (though is most likely to be rump steak, steak and kidney or plum duff) in terms of the fantasy quest it’s his personality that counts.

A sapient quest object has to be either wise or very difficult and Albert is as difficult as a badly brought up eight year old with a talent for rude barbs. When I was eight, I have to admit, I was very relieved to read the episode where he was turned upside down and sat upon, for there is some magic that is better silenced. Still, there is no denying that Albert is a precious object without equal. He belongs in a quest novel. Characters spend their lives defending him, chasing him, questing for him, and eating him.

Stereotyped Minor Characters

The Magic Pudding is a picaresque adventure and one of the most important elements in picaresque adventures is the secondary cast. It has to include scurrilous rogues (in this case, the puddin’ thieves), women who form an attractive background (and even, in the case of The Magic Pudding are rescued from drowning and given a fictional love for a penguin as part of said penguin’s song—I was going to quote from it here, but the best bit is a spoiler and, if we’re talking fantasy, we have to avoid spoilers) but have no personality or role of their own. Minor characters also include, of course, any number of random people and bandicoots for when a character needs direction or assistance. The only thing I’m unsure about in this is whether there are enough bandicoots in classic picaresque fantasy, but that’s another subject and needs to be left for another day.


Heroes don’t have much backstory (just uncles with whiskers). Most of them emerge from voids with little experience or personality. They grow into both experience and personality through their adventures and with the help of their sidekicks. These personality-filled support characters have backstory in spades. This backstory serves to set up events, give stories to pass the time, and makes characters more personable when they lack the intrinsic interest of the Hero.

The fact that Sam Sawnoff and Bill Barnacle are prone to singing their background stories merely emphasises the colour they bring to the story. We hear about their adventures on the ice (the prettified version) and romance (the prettified version) and pretty much everything about them that Lindsay can fit into verse.

It’s important to note here that Lindsay came of the same literary generation as AB Patterson and Henry Lawson and knew them both, though he didn’t really know Patterson that well and couldn’t get past Lawson’s deafness. The rhymes are part of the vernacular of the day. This is the backstory of The Magic Pudding, however, and not of her characters, so I won’t explore it further here.

Happy ending

Where a young boy is forced to leave home due to the dreadful torment of his uncle’s whiskers, the best possible happy ending is for him to make his own home. In this case it is a home with a special pudding paddock on a branch just high enough to enable a certain Puddin’ to pull faces at pickle onions.

Like all great fantasy novels, The Magic Pudding anticipated the needs of fans in some very interesting ways. Fans can filk the songs, or cosplay the characters, for instance. Given I belong to foodie fandom, I, of course, want to find out what Albert the Puddin’ tastes like.

Assuming that making a sentient pudding is not wise, since it inevitably leads to the death of the creator, all the different flavours of Albert reflect standard recipes of the time. My source is the first cookbook printed in Australia (to the best of our knowledge) and there are three reasons for taking the recipe from it. First, I’m not breaching any copyright. Second, it’s the exact right age to reflect Norman Lindsay’s mother’s generation and the pudding she would have cooked (although there is a greater likelihood of her owning a copy of Mrs Beeton than this volume), which means it’s very likely to be the flavours Lindsay knew, and third, the book is suspect (at least some of it was plagiarised from earlier cookbooks) which exactly fits the scurrilous humour of The Magic Pudding. Just because a piece of writing is in our past, doesn’t make it respectable. Just because The Magic Pudding is witty and wonderful, doesn’t make it respectable, either. So, from Edward Abbott’s infamous cookbook English and Australian cookery book: cookery for the many, as well as for the upper ten thousand (the Pudding section, of course) here is a taste of Albert.

Beef-steak Pudding.—Take two pounds of rump-steak, and cut into seasonable pieces; and cut into shreds two or three onions. Paste the pudding-basin with good crust, not too rich nor too poor. Put the meat into the basin, with some pepper and salt, and a dozen oysters, with a little thickening, composed of mushroom ketchup, flour and water, and mustard. Simmer for an hour and a half, and serve in the basin; or turn it out, if the gravy in the pudding can he retained.

Connoisseurs prefer a beef-steak pudding to a beef-steak pie; and mutton, veal and ham, kidney, sausage, fowl, fish, and game puddings may be served in a similar way. 

Raised in a Barn: Marmalade

Square jar filled with orange marmalade
Photo: WikiMedia Commons

I swear I’ve told this story before, but can find no evidence of it anywhere. So.

When I was in my 20s, the daughter of an old family friend asked me if she could get married at my parents’ house. She asked me before she asked my parents 1) because it was a virtual certainty that my father, who loved parties, would say yes, and 2) she wanted to make sure that this would not put my nose out of joint, me being the Household Daughter and at that point unmarried and sans prospects. I appreciated her thoughtfulness, but said of course she could. The Barn was a terrific place for parties, and a wedding seemed like an all-around good use of the place. 

The wedding was catered, and it was my father’s first time having Others–not family or guests under supervision–take over the kitchen (my mother had pretty much ceded the kitchen to my father at this point). So there was a wedding, with many people bustling about in the kitchen, and there was much rejoicing. At the end of the rejoicing bride, groom, and guests decamped, the caterers cleaned up, and the Barn was much as usual.

It was at that point–about 6pm–that I discovered a 30-gallon plastic trash bag, half filled with sliced mixed citrus fruit, tucked under the kitchen island. There had been a plan for sangria, apparently, which got forgotten in the scrum. My father, peering into the depths of the plastic bag, lamented the waste of all that fruit. “There must be something we could do with it.”

I should have known better, but offhandedly said that we could make marmalade with some of it (it was an awful lot of fruit). “Great!” my father said. Thus I found myself, at 6:30 on a Saturday evening, driving in to town to pick up 10 pounds of sugar.

Once returned, I did a quick sugar-to-fruit calculation, and we filled our largest Dutch oven to the brim with fruit and sugar and water. It was probably 7:30 when we turned the heat on under the pot. Then we waited. And waited. My father, not the most patient of humans when dealing with a process with which he was unfamiliar, began to get antsy. And tired. And grumpy. Around 9pm, when we were still waiting for the pot to boil, he announced that he was going to bed. And he did, leaving me with a vast pot of stubbornly un-boiling citrus and sugar. By the time the stuff began to boil it was midnight; by the time the fruit had softened and the juice begun to thicken toward jamminess it was 1am.  

At which point I realized I had not thought about containers, let alone about sterilizing jars and tops. I began, frantically and not too quietly, to search for every spare jar and container in the house. A note about the kitchen at the Barn: my parents’ rooms were above it, and one side of the kitchen was open to the hallway. Noise in the kitchen inevitably would be heard upstairs. So while I was rattling around finding containers and filling the next largest pot with water in which to sterilize them, my father shuffled out to the landing and demanded to know what the Hell was going on downstairs.

“I’m finding jars to put the marmalade in,” I said, between clenched teeth. (I was, at this point nursing a fine sense of abandonment.)

“Well, don’t make so much goddamned noise!” Dad shuffled back to his bed. I put more jars into the pot to sterilize. 

Eventually, all the jars were filled with marmalade, sealed with a lid or paraffin, and, because I was by then truly irritated at having been left do all the actual work, I washed all the pots and gear, and put everything away. The finished ranks of mis-matched jars–about two dozen of them, if I recall correctly–I arranged on the kitchen counter, and made my way upstairs at about 4am.

My father, creature of habit, woke at 6am. Out of my slumber I woke enough to hear him shuffling downstairs to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I could tell the moment when he saw the jars of marmalade because I heard him mutter “Jesus Christ.”

We did not discuss the process subsequently. We gave the largest pot of marmalade to the bride and groom, as a souvenir. The rest went to good homes–many good homes. Years later when I told this story within my father’s hearing he got the most peculiar, abashed grin, as one who realizes he was not the hero of this particular saga. By then he had become a quite proficient maker of jalapeño jelly and other canned goods. To my knowledge he never again attempted marmalade, even as sous chef.