Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Tuesday, December 5, 2017, and I can break my fast of yesterday. I think there are a few brownies left over, which will go perfectly with a glass of cold milk. Then coffee. It’s National Comfort Food Day; mine is a concoction my mom made called “hamburger stew”, which was basically soupy hamburger in catsup sauce (with some other stuff), with lumps of boiled potato. The recipe has been lost since my mom died, and I haven’t had it since then.

It has become winter: it was 60°F (16 °C) yesterday in Chicago and right now it’s 35°F (2°C) with strong winds that did some damage here last night.  I’m leaving for India just in time, but it will still be cold when I return.  As I’m preparing to leave, posting will be light for a while, tapering to very, very light after December 15.

Stephen Barnard’s feral tabby has been trapped without too much fracas except for meowing (see yesterday’s post on National Kitten Day). It goes to the vet in a few hours. Stay tuned.

It’s another slow news day in history. On December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus became the first European to visit Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic); it was the closest he got to “America,” usually construed as “what is now the U.S.”  On this day in 1932, Albert Einstein was granted his visa to America, and in March, 1933, aware of what the Nazis were doing, he went to the German consulate in Belgium and surrendered his German passport, renouncing citizenship. He moved to the U.S. permanently in October of that year.  On this day in 1952, the Great Smog descended on London: a combination of fog and serious air pollution. It lasted four days, but killed 12,000 people (and injured 100,000) over the next months. This led to the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1956, and I had no idea this disaster happened. Are any readers old enough to remember this?

Here’s one glimpse of the Great Smog. More pictures and story here.

Finally, on December 5, 1964, Lloyd J. Old uncovered a linkage between the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and mouse leukemia—first suggesting the importance of the MHC in the immune response.

Notables born on December 5 include Martin Van Buren (1782). Christina Rossetti (1830), George Armstrong Custer (1839), Arnold Sommerfeld (1868), Walt Disney and Werner Heisenberg (both 1901), Strom Thurmond (1902), Sonny Boy Williamson II (1912), Joan Didion (1934, still with us), and Calvin Trillin (1935, likewise). Those whose metabolism stopped on this day include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791), Alexandre Dumas (1870, Père), Claude Monet (1926), Dave Brubeck (2012) and Nelson Mandela (2013).

Here’s a swell Monet tee shirt:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s dialogue is enigmatic. So, as usual, I inquired of Malgorzata (Andrzej writes the dialogues):

It’s a very difficult question. Andrzej (mischievous as he is) suggested that I write the answer: “Wait and see”. Well, it’s just the continuation of the dialogue. So I will try to find something else:
When the answer is not known people often say: “It remains to be seen” (this is a saying in Polish as well). Hili, who likes to show how clever she is, repeats this saying without any context. Cyrus, who is a very down to earth creature, wants to know what exactly is it he is suppose to see in the future. Because Hili has no idea, she takes the literal meaning of the saying and says to Cyrus that he’ll just have to wait for it.
Oooookay. . . .
Hili: It remains to be seen.
Cyrus: What remains to be seen?
Hili: We will see.
In Polish:
Hili: Czas pokaże.
Cyrus: Co czas pokaże?
Hili: Zobaczymy.

And some tweets found by Matthew Cobb:

A highlight: echidna hatching!

And a lovely cat painting found by Grania:


  1. BobTerrace
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Your mother’s hamburger stew recipe is similar to many peoples’ Sloppy Joe’s recipe except for the potatoes.

  2. Christopher
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The recipe reminds me of my family’s comfort meal, Hobo Stew (a name which would get be in trouble with the leftists for insulting disadvantaged train riders, no doubt). It’s just a layer of thin-sliced potatoes seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika, followed by sliced onions, sliced carrots, peas, hamburger (I’m a vegetarian now so I use Boca Crumbles) and topped with an undiluted can of tomato soup, with maybe 1/4 of water to swish out the bits left in the can for added moisture. Chuck it in the oven for 30 minutes or so, grab some crusty bread and you’ve got a meal. I admit that I added the seasonings to the potatoes, nobody else in the family does, and it’s great with your choice of hot sauce and I have no idea why it has that name, as it sounds impossible to cook up in a hobo jungle unless they have access to Corningware and an oven.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      The common thread in all these stews is they’re cooked in one pot or pan with ‘found’ or leftover ingredients. No fancy steps such as browning the meat.

      I think in the USA Hobo Stew is closely related to Mulligan [or Irish] Stew – the only difference I can see is the latter tends to do without a can of soup/tomatoes.

      Over here in the UK it was Irish Stew on Mondays for my Irish family & all the Irish families I knew of. The idea was to use up the leftovers from the Sunday dinner blowout in an era without the fridge [I looked it up & only 13% of households had fridges in 1959 when I was 4 years old].

      Up in Liverpool [the capital of Ireland as it was known] – a similar meal is called scouse shortened from lobscouse which probably came to The ‘Pool via Scandinavia – it started out as a fish dish thickened with ship’s biscuit, but these days I only see it made with neck of lamb or scrag end of beef. It’s served with beetroot or red cabbage [I love pickled red cabbage with this dish].

      Then there’s Lancashire Hotpot just a few miles East of Liverpool, but that’s for posh people & doesn’t count – so I’ll stop now… 🙂

      • Graham
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Hence a Liverpudlian being a Scouser. And if you couldn’t afford to put any meat into the pot it was blind scouse.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

          That’s right! No meat, but often flavoured with soup bones free from the butcher [if you were in his good books].

          • Christopher
            Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

            Even the smallest bit will make the gravy stink, as I’ve heard it said in the Ozarks.

      • Christopher
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        That’s great! Thanks for the history lesson!

      • cnocspeireag
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        A form of Lancashire hotpot uses cutlets and is for posh people, but my wife’s recipe is basically scouse with a suet crust.
        The weather is cold, wet and windy here.I’m just about to take the dogs for their walk, come back, light the woodburner and enjoy a pint of proper Guinness while the hotpot finishes cooking. Yes, it will be eaten with pickled red cabbage.

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          If truth be told, a lot of us have similar recipes for using up the Sunday joint. It’s just that some of us in the effete South cook it up with aubergine, apricots and ras el hanout, and call it “Monday tagine”.

          And there are better things to do with red cabbage than pickle it!

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I remember the London smogs well. The pea soupers. I would have been 12 in 1952 and smogs were nothing new, they came and went every year. It was great fun to go out with friends and explore this mysterious hidden world. What little traffic there was would creep at walking pace and get lost in the process, road junctions and traffic lights being near invisible. Buses would be led by passengers on foot. Everything ground to a halt basically. It was like the end of the world to imaginative and adventurous children. I half wish I could go back.

    • Mike
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink


    • MKray
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      I remember learning about the London pea-souper in school in New Zealand.. I must have been 11.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        On the 6 o’clock news last night in NZ in the sports section we were told that the cricket international in Mumbai had to be stopped because of the toxic smog. The Sri Lankan players were vomiting etc because of it, and wearing masks while playing.

        You might have to pack some masks for your trip Jerry!

    • Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      There are of course long term health implications from childhood exposure…
      I agree though -there is nothing like an autumnal fog. We just do not get them in central London any more. when I was a child in Norfolk, I remember wonderful days when the fog restricted visibility to about 20-40 feet… we went wandering into the field behind our house & were totally lost! 🙂

  4. Graham
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “Are any readers old enough to remember this?” I was twelve at the time. ‘Pea soupers’ seemed to be part of the natural order of things. Every house had its coal fire, smoking was seen as a mark of adulthood, trains were pulled by steam locos. Looking back it was a filthy old world. No wonder my mother was paranoid about the need to wash behind the ears and not to have a dirty neck and shirt collar.

  5. Debbie Coplan
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    As a former cat trapper, so glad to hear Stephen Bernard caught the kitty and he/she will be fixed and seen by a vet.
    I’m also happy the cat has a place to live with great accommodations. Food and a warm place to be.

  6. busterggi
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Did I spot an egg-tooth briefly in the echidna video? Confirm?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      The video has audio – I suppose you have it turned off. The woman speaking in the video say it’s got a “tooth in the upper jaw for tearing open the egg shell.”

      • busterggi
        Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Thanks, yes my sound is off.

  7. Robert Ladley
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I remember the London smog. In 1952 I was six years old and the smog made everything mysterious and even more so in the dark. I remember my father having great difficulty driving the car and he would hang out of the window trying to follow the kerb for direction, this did not stop him from smoking however which he did continuously and must have made the whole business quite dangerous I would think. I must have smoked forty cigarettes a day when in his company!
    Fortunately neither the smog nor his smoking seem to have left any lasting problems.

  8. Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to hear that you won’t be able to enjoy your favorite comfort food. What you describe sounds a little like Shepherd’s Pie but that puts the potatoes on top rather than mixed in.

    Here’s an idea. Since there are likely many dishes that have similar ingredients to your favorite dish, why not explore some of them? If you do so, please report to us. I certainly like these kinds of dishes and would likely also try some. Perhaps readers will report back with their favorite recipes along with their cat, and other wildlife, photos. Just a thought.

  9. nicky
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    That echidna hatching was wonderful, sorry there was not more.
    That cat painting nearly caught me out, I thought it was an actual 17th century painting until I read the caption. What a great painter this Frank Moss Bennet must have been.

  10. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m not quite old enough to remember the Great Smog; but it took a bit of time for the Clean Air Act to kick in, and I do recall some fairly serious fogs from the late 50s and early 60s, including one extraordinary day in 61 or 62 (if the latter, a couple of months before the Great Freeze) when the sky turned dark green before a dense freezing fog descended on to South London.

  11. Posted December 6, 2017 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    That last painting with the cat sitting on a chessboard in front of a window was quite unrealistic. What self-respecting cat would leave all those chess pieces upright.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 2:06 am | Permalink

      I supposed the chess pieces must have been glued in position & just for show 🙂

  12. friendlypig
    Posted December 6, 2017 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I didn’t live in London but it was just as bad in the provinces – just not the capital!!

    In Huddersfield where I lived, as in Halifax, Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, anywhere where there was heavy industry with the outpouring of huge quantities of smoke and muck not to mention the coke ovens, row upon row of terrace houses all with coal fires, inefficient ICEs both petrol and diesel there was plenty to go round. You had to wear a scarf over your mouth and nose, but that only stopped the solid particles, not the gases. And as someone mentioned you got a mucky neck!

    One interesting photo from the DM article was the policeman at the bottom of the article with his Foster Guardian – a rectangular torch with hand grips at the rear – came in handy as an unofficial knuckleduster at times after I joined in the 1060’s. It also came with a length of pink tape so that you could lower it into cellars etc., quite handy piece of kit.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      Were you one of Harold Godwinson’s useless coppers? Was it your Foster Guardian that didn’t turn the tide at the 1066 home game against the invading Norman scum?

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