House On Fire: Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September (1929), J.G. Farrell’s Troubles (1970) and The Irish War For Independence

Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September and J.G. Farrell’s Troubles share very similar structures and even end on virtually identical notes.  They are both set against the Irish War for Independence.   In both novels, Ireland’s Protestant Ascendancy carries on largely oblivious to their pending irrelevance.   Both novels conclude with the burning of the buildings […]

Hate Crime: The Spanish Inquisition

An auto da fe was the public ceremony at which those condemned by the Spanish Inquisition were sentenced.  Auto da fe means “act of faith.”  The faith doing the acting was Roman Catholicism.  Those on the receiving end of the action in the early decades of the Inquisition were mainly New Christians, specifically Jews who […]

Spanish Treats: Panellets and Marcona Almonds

Panellets are a treat from Catalonia, the section of Spain that includes Barcelona and abuts the Pyrenees.  They are made from marzipan–almond and sugar–and traditionally coated in pine nuts, almonds, or coconut.  They are associated with All Saints’ Day, a holiday celebrated on November 1 when Spaniards commemorate the dead.   They are made in […]

Dig Into Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is a classic, but it only became an Irish staple in the 1840’s.  It is a quick bread.  It uses baking soda instead of yeast.  Sour milk (buttermilk) activates the baking soda.  Housewives traditionally cut crosses on the top of the loaves.  The addition of raisins and citrus zest is not traditional, […]

Game Of Thrones, The Irish Rebellion of 1798, and Thomas Flanagan’s The Year Of The French (1979)

Season 7 of Game of Thrones opens with a revealing spat between siblings Sansa Stark and Jon Snow. Sansa  has unwittingly drunk from Cersei’s flask of ruthlessness and realpolitik. She argues for confiscating the estates of disloyal Stark bannermen.  Jon opposes dispossession and accepts oaths of fealty from the heirs of treacherous Stark allies. In […]

Eight Things To Know About The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War erupted on July 19, 1936 when the Spanish military attempted to overthrow the Second Republic.  The Church, landowners, and large industrialists bristled at the reforms undertaken by the Second Republic.  The army, meanwhile, humiliated by the loss of Cuba, a setback in Spanish Morocco, and the continued British presence at the […]