Circling the Sun

THE BOOK:

23995231Beryl Markham was a woman who chose her own path in life, often acting outside of the social norms of the time, leaving her frequently alone and friendless, and bringing truth to the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history.” She was the first female licensed horse trainer in Africa, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, an adventurer and author. Her path frequently crossed that of Karen von Blixen, who was 17 years her senior. Beryl played a very small role in Blixen’s memoir Out of Africa. Her story, however, is one that very much needed to be told, if only as a reminder of what American women today take for granted relative to their antecedents around the turn of the twentieth century. This book is rich in its description of the landscape of Africa, and conveys the love that those who have lived there, have for the land and its people.

THE BEAUTY:

McLain mentions many animals in her descriptions of landscape, some of which I had heard, but was unclear on what they looked like. Here are a skink, vervet, hyrax and foam-nest tree frog.

african-fire-skink-6c361ca2 This is a fire skink, a reptile that lives in tropical forests in Western Africa. They love to burrow and hide and are relatively shy and reclusive, but can become tame in captivity, although not in this house!

vervet-monkey-face-web620This lovely creature is a vervet monkey, groups of which have been studied in an attempt to understand certain genetic and social behaviors of humans.They have been noted for having human-like characteristics, like  hypertension, anxiety, and social and dependent alcohol use. When I saw that sweet face, I had to include it here.

266f5065fa42bbf82fe010ba4b28b2d4 Next comes a hyrax,  a small, thickset, herbivorous mammal. Hyraxes are sometimes described as being the closest living relative to the elephant, because their incisors are tusk-like, but this is currently a matter for debate. From this angle he looks harmless, but head on, his continuously growing incisors look menacing.

shutterstock_64062523-ecoprintThe last animal is a foam-nest tree frog.  It lives in subtropical or tropical dry forests and dry savanna. In the dry habitats the seasonal rains prompt the females to come together with sometimes multiple males. They will mate and at the same time create a large frothy nest by thrashing their hind legs. This overhangs a pool of water that the tadpoles can drop into.

THE FOOD:

I usually choose a food that relates to a significant event in the story, which was difficult in this case. For example, the day Beryl received her trainer’s license was a very celebratory occasion so Lord Delamere had his cook prepare thick gazelle chops over an open fire. Hm. The local butcher was fresh out of gazelle chops, so on to another momentous occasion. On Boxing Day at Berkeley’s brother Galbraith’s estate there was roast suckling pig, which was doable by using some form of pork, but without more description, I had no recipe. So the occasion I chose was Beryl and Markham’s honeymoon in Europe, including some time in Paris where they had escargot. One of the first things my now husband ever made for me when we started dating, was “Escargot a la Me.” I had never had it before, believing that I wouldn’t like it, but I had to sample it in order to save face. To my great surprise, it was delicious, and is still a favorite all these years later. The purchase of a set of French porcelain escargot dishes not only improved the presentation, but makes clean up really easy. (He renamed the recipe as a warning to those with whom we share it.)

Heavy Duty Garlic Escargot

2 dozen snails, rinsed                                              2 sticks salted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced                                            ½ C panko
2 medium shallots, minced                                    toasted French bread slices for dipping
4 T vermouth                                                               lemon wedges for serving
4 T chopped parsley

Melt butter in a frying pan on medium low heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until translucent. Add wine and parsley, increase the heat to medium and add the snails. When hot, place snails in escargot dishes and cover with the butter mixture. Sprinkle panko on top and broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and slices of a baguette for sopping up the butter mixture.

img_3198 This escargot dish is by Revol. It made serving much nicer.

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