31 May 2014

300+ years of Plantagenet England with Sharon Kay Penman

The Plantagenets were the longest reigning dynasty in English history, beginning with Henry II in 1154 and ending with Richard III in 1485. Just about anyone who has a passing familiarity with English history and culture is familiar with several of their names i.e. Richard the Lionheart, King John (although most people are more familiar with him as "Evil Prince John"), Edward I "Longshanks" (thank you Braveheart), and the often maligned "Crookback Dick" a.k.a. Richard III (a victim of Tudor propaganda, 'cause history is written by the victors, right?). And oh so many more in between.

Ok, so they weren't all called Plantagenets by their contemporaries... the first three Plantagenet kings were called the Angevins (as in from the house of Anjou -they were the Dukes of Anjou, Normandy and Aquitaine in France, and they were really more French than English), and towards the end it was a dispute (the "War of the Roses" or "Cousins' War") between the rival Plantagenet houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose), but they were all (Henri II, Richard I, John I, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III) direct descendants of Geoffroi le Bel, Duc d'Anjou, who -according to legend- used to wear a broom flower on his hat thus earning the soubriquet Plantagenet (from the Latin Planta genista). Oh, and according to legend his family was either descended from Lucifer or from a river goddess Mélusine (or both!), which was supposed to explain their nasty explosive tempers... :p

Sharon Kay Penman first delved into the lives of this epically dysfunctional family with the last of its kings, Richard III, in her first novel The Sunne in Splendour way back in 1982 (yes I'm just discovering her now, well last summer technically, better late than never!). As the story goes, the only copy of her original manuscript was stolen from her car and she had to start all over again! 

18 May 2014

Happy Birthday Nutella!!!

Apparently the fabulously delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread turns 50 today(?)! Although, as a result of all those years spent in Belgium, my current favourite spreadable guilty pleasure is Côte d'Or's Noir de Noir chocolate (dark chocolate! yummy), for years it was most definitely the chocolate-hazelnut delight that is Nutella! :o)

There's an interesting article on the origins of Nutella on the BBC website. I remember that I had no idea it was made by the Ferrero company (that's what I get for not reading labels), and that my sister and I figured it out by doing a tasting test of our own to compare Nutella with the chocolate inside the Ferrero Rochers and deciding it was the same so the same company must have made them. Just one of the many wacky things we "experimented" with growing up. :p