A Guide to Historical Fencing

I tell people I am a fencer.  This to them summons the image of those guys in the white suits poking at each other with what looks like car antennae.  So in order to combat this I thought I would provide a brief history of the sword as well as explaining exactly what it is I do. Continue reading

Pudding in the Rain

It is a dark and stormy night.  A night for chocolate.  There’s really only one thing that will do it right now.  Something that is guaranteed to knock out any kind of craving you may have.  The trick with chocolate is to know what your getting into.  Chocolate is a lot like coffee.  It’s a bean, it gets roasted and most people like to add a bunch of sugar and milk to it.  It’s an acquired taste, but with good coffee you are best off drinking it black.  Just so with good chocolate.  If it’s good quality and prepared well, pure chocolate is a transcendental experience.  If you can get the good stuff, use it.  If not, then use what you can get.  It will probably end up being the “Starbucks” of chocolate; mediocre quality and the beans will be slightly burned, but so long as you’re adding it to a recipe it wont matter too much.  Most grocery stores have a selection of “Baker’s Chocolate,” which gets the job done, so let’s take a look see. Continue reading

An Introduction to Stoicism

I was first introduced to stoicism back in college.  My medieval history professor made reference to a teacher of Marcus Aurelius who was tortured.  During this torture he was placed on the Roman equivalent of the Rack when he calmly announced to his torturers that his arm was about to break.  This almost super-heroic ability to ignore pain intrigued me.  As with many things from history, though, it seemed as though this was a kind of magic that was as unknowable as it was unattainable. Continue reading

A Ciabatta Challenge

I enjoy a challenge almost as much as I enjoy bread.  To this end I decided to try myself with a bread based challenge.  Ciabatta is Italy’s answer to the French baguette and both are among my favourite breads.  I have spend a lot of time trying for the worlds best baguette, and although I may never achieve the perfection I seek, I am satisfied that it is at least very good.  Ciabatta, however, I have never tried.  In fact I don’t even have a recipe on hand.  I don’t know if I’ve even properly seen a recipe, so it could be said I have no clue as to how to make it.  Bread is complex enough that simply trying a new recipe for the first tome could be considered a challenge, but I feel like taking it a step further.  I’m going to try to recreate ciabatta from scratch, without consulting any recipes, based on my own bread knowledge alone. Continue reading

Lo, There Do I See The Line of My People.

One of my all time favourite sword movies is The 13th Warrior.  Not my all time favourite, of course, but it’s up there.  As something of an armchair historian, I almost feel as though I should criticize this movie based on its lack of attention to historical detail, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.  True, weapons and armour in The 13th Warrior spans almost five centuries on either side of when this story supposedly takes place, featuring both a roman gladiator style helmet and a breastplate from around the 16th century.  Imagine a modern drama in which it goes completely unexplained why the main character’s brother wears a doublet and has a ray gun and you’ll get a sense of why this is silly. Thankfully, though, there are no horns on the viking helmets, which would have destroyed this movie for me. Continue reading

A Thanksgiving Twist

It was Thanksgiving last weekend here in the Great White North.  Tradition normally dictates turkey, but personally I prefer to roast duck for the holidays.  So that was the plan and while shopping for dinner I came across a sale on prickly pears.  As I was peckish I grabbed one for a snack.  Cutting into it I was immediately struck by the gorgeous colour.  It’s been a while since I’ve had prickly pear and had all but forgotten what it’s like. Continue reading

Good Fighters With Bad Technique

I have had the privilege of knowing and training with some truly awesome fighters.  Fighters that work hard and show the results.  Every now and then, though, I come across an odd breed of fencer.  These folk win many of their fights with what can only be described as trickery.  These sneaky tricks often make use of bad technique.  Now it’s important to mention that I have no wish to disparage these fighters and I will shortly explain what I mean by “bad technique.”  It’s also important to note that were I called upon to train someone for a life or death duel, I would teach them to fight exactly as I described.  I have a repertoire of deadly tricks that tend to work exactly once and if you needed to defend your life in a one time duel, I would drill you with one of these techniques.  It’s my feeling, however, that reliance on tricks severely hampers the development of true skill. Continue reading

Greeting Fall: A Five Minute Dessert

Fall is here.  As much as I may wish to deny it, there’s no way I can.  So let’s ring in the fall with dessert.  I’m a fan of single serving desserts and this one per person apple crumble takes all of five minutes to put together.  Take an apple and core it.  Cut the very top on the apple off and use the corer to cut a piece out of the top to plug the bottom.  Next mix some brown sugar, butter, oats and a bit of cinnamon together in a bowl.  Stuff the cored apple with your filling and pack it on the top to create a crust.  Wrap the bottom of the apple in foil with the shiny side (and this is important) facing either in or out.  Bake at 400° for about half an hour or until the apple is soft.  Cheers.

The Zen of Baking Or The Art of Bread

Many cooks don’t like baking.  I am inclined to go so far as to say most don’t.  When questioned most of the cooks and chefs who can’t stand to bake quote a lack of patience.  Baking does indeed require patience.  Personally I find it to be a form of meditation.  Nothing more so than bread.  All bread takes time and the best bread tends to take the most time.  My personal favourite is a French recipe that takes several days.  Appropriately we begin with the starter. Continue reading