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Open wide and say “Aaaarrrrr!!!” September 19, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Today, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and we pirate-mad lubbers here at Poor Richard’s Almanac would like to celebrate.

You can get in on the celebration by searching for some of our previous posts in the search bar at upper right, including “The best pirate movies,” “Ben Picks Ten: Pirates,” “Pirate myths: true and false,” “A piratical post,” “The ones who got away,” “Time to talk like a pirate,” “Food fit for a pirate” (with recipes), “Food fit for a Creole pirate” (ditto), “Giving pirates a bad name,” and “Blackbeard in the news.”

There’s a whole week of piratical mayhem going on in Philadelphia and other cities up the Atlantic Seaboard, which launched with a pirate battle yesterday aboard the tall ship Gazela. Read all about it at www.philly.com, “Mock-pirate skirmish on the Delaware amid Seaport Festival.” The descriptions are priceless.

You can also check out two of the best pirate-themed websites, the Official Site for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (http://www.talklikeapirate.com/), run by those illustrious pirates, Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket, authors of the classic books Pirattitude and The Pirate Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer, and No Quarter Given (http://www.noquartergiven.net/), home of the No Quarter Given pirate magazine and a book, The Book of Pirates: Plundering, Pillaging, and Other Pursuits

But if you’d rather walk the talk than read about it, here are a few suggestions for ways to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day:

* Begin every conversation and phone call by shouting “AAAARRRR!!!” (or “YAAARRR!!!”) Hopefully, at least one call will be from a telemarketer.

* Watch some piratical movie classics like “Captain Blood,” “The Black Swan,” “The Buccaneer,” or “Swashbuckler,” or indulge in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie fest.

* Quench your thirst while watching movies with some piratical rum-based beverages from Silence Dogood’s post “Food fit for a pirate.” Or just drink some English Harbour Antigua Rum or Gosling Black Label straight up. Shiver me timbers!

* Fly the Jolly Roger over your home and/or car. Give the neighbors something to talk about.

* Walk around all day attired as your favorite pirate. Remember that an eyepatch and/or huge hoop earring always adds panache. Ditto a parrot, real or faux. A prominently displayed pistol and cutlass should probably be enough to cut off any derisive comments from killjoys who don’t understand that wearing a costume and getting into character is fun. Especially if the pistol is loaded.

* Lard your conversation with piratical phrases such as “Yo ho, me hearties!” “A pirate’s life for me!” “Dead men tell no tales!” “X marks the spot!” “Send that lubber to Davy Jones’s locker!” “You savvy?” “Bring out the swag!” “Take no prisoners!” and the like. Bonus points if you teach your parrot any of these phrases.

So say it loud and say it proud: “Aaaarrrrr!!!! Yaaaaarrrr!!! A pirate’s life for me!!!”


Pirates on tap. April 29, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Aaaarrrr!!! We pirate-mad bloggers here at Poor Richard’s Almanac are gearing up for our second annual Pirate Week in mid-May, when the three of us write a week of themed posts on all things piratical. (You can find the ones we wrote for our first Pirate Week by searching for “pirate week posts” on our search bar at top right.)

Normally, we’d have waited ’til then to start spouting pirate lingo and showing off our pirattitude, you savvy? But we just couldn’t resist sharing a few tidbits our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders found on msn.com earlier today.

Richard, our official blog historian, thought he was going to read an article on Revolutionary history when he clicked on MSN’s link “Where did George Washington drink?” and was directed to an article, “Better with Age,” spotlighting seven historic American bars and taverns. Little did he know that there were a few pirates hiding behind the bars.

Turns out, two of the seven historic bars were owned by pirates. One of these, the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, claims to be America’s oldest tavern (founded 1673). We quote: “For the next hundred years the large tavern also served as the meeting place for the Rhode Island colony’s general assembly, criminal court and city council, despite being run for 28 of those years by a former pirate named William Mayes Jr.”

Har!!! But even the oldest tavern pales by comparison to the ultimate tavern, Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Yes, we are indeed speaking of the famous pirate Jean Lafitte, who apparently set up his “blacksmith shop” with his brother Pierre as a cover for their nefarious activities on the high seas. 

The shop, built sometime between 1772 and 1791, lays claim to the title of  “the oldest continually operating bar in the U.S.,” which makes one wonder if the so-called “blacksmiths” were actually forging pints of rum instead of horseshoes.

Whatever the case, they certainly had the Luck of the Pirates: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop survived two 18th-century fires that ravaged the rest of the French Quarter, which was rebuilt after the Spanish fashion, leaving Lafitte’s as one of the few genuine examples of French architecture in New Orleans.

If, like us, you entertain piratical leanings, and you happen to find yourself in Newport or New Orleans and feeling a bit thirsty, be sure to drop into the White Horse or Lafitte’s. Order a rum, raise your glass, and shout “Yaaarrr, lads, a pirate’s life for me!” We’re sure at least a few famous ghosts will be joining you.

Time to talk like a pirate. September 19, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders have a thing about pirates. In 2008, we presented an entire “Pirate Week” here on Poor Richard’s Almanac, and posts like “The best pirate movies,” “Food fit for a pirate,” “Food fit for a Creole pirate,” “Ben Picks Ten: Pirates,” “Pirate myths: true and false,” “A piratical post,” and “The ones who got away” attracted thousands of visitors. (Check them out via our search bar and enjoy!)

We were planning to have another Pirate Week in 2009, but were derailed by the Somali pirates’ rude intrusion on our swashbuckling fantasies. (See our post “Giving pirates a bad name” for more on that.) Fortunately, the bad news about real-life pirates has died down, so we can cheerfully announce that today, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Aaaarrrr!!!! Good times, you savvy?!

Talk Like a Pirate Day began when three piratical characters, Cap’n Slappy (aka Mark Summers), Ol’ Chumbucket (aka John Baur), and Mad Sally (aka Tori Baur), decided the world needed more cheer in the form of pirate goings-on and general swearing, fighting, wenching, and drinking way back in 1995. Now it’s turned into an event celebrated around the globe, with folks from all over donning pirate garb, grabbing their parrots (live or simulated), and roaring “Aaaarrrr, matey!” and many another piratical comment while (we suspect) downing a goodly quantity of rum and other suitable grog.

Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket, and Mad Sally host the official Talk Like a Pirate website, where you can find a lexicon of piratical phrases (in case you need to brush up), T-shirts, and even books, including their latest, Pirattitude: So You Wanna Be a Pirate? Here’s How! And, of course, there’s much more. Check it out for yourself at http://www.talklikeapirate.com/.

You can bet we’ll be celebrating, putting on Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” enjoying some rum-based drinks and Caribbean food (thanks to Silence), and watching some favorite pirate movies like “Captain Blood” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” We invite you to join us, mateys. So git yer gear (parrot optional), stir yer stumps, and repeat after us: “Aaaaarrrr!!! Yaaarrrrr!!! A pirate’s life for me!”

Giving pirates a bad name. April 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, we love pirates and all things piratical. Every year, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood head down to the North Carolina coast, home of that most famous of all pirates, Blackbeard. We fly the skull and crossbones in our backyard, and our little red VW Golf, the Red Rogue, not only sports a pirate fish on the back but a sticker that simply says “AAAARRRGGGHHH.” Last May, we collaborated with our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders to create an entire week of piratical posts, two of which, “The best pirate movies” and “Food fit for a pirate,” continue to be among our most-viewed posts and are both climbing towards 2,000 views.

WordPress hosts our blog, and one of its many wonderful features is that it shows us our top ten posts and how many hits they’ve each gotten. The two pirate-themed posts continued their upward climb on the list until, last week, a funny thing happened: They disappeared. They’re still on the blog, people are still reading them, but they vanished from our most-viewed list, replaced by two other posts with fewer hits. What the bleep?!

Our friend Ben had to wonder if political correctness was at work, given the real-time atrocities being committed by the Somali pirates. Certainly, their behavior has been putting a damper on us. We had planned to have “Pirate Week II” on the blog this May, but were agonizing about whether that would be appallingly insensitive. We even wondered what impact the whole international incident would have on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. So I was delighted to see an article addressing this in the Wall Street Journal. I quote:

“Mark Summers [cofounder of the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day] has a beef with the pirates who are seizing cargo ships and taking hostages off the coast of Somalia: They’re ruining his bad name. For years, Mr. Summers has been donning frock coats and plumed hats… His alter ego symbolizes a spirit of freedom, he says: the romance of the open sea, self-reliance, defiance and loads of jolly good fun with a barrel (or two) of rum. At least, it did until real pirates had to come along and wreck it all.”

Our friend Ben’s feeling exactly. I commend the article to your attention (www.WSJ.com); it’s actually hysterical, especially the comments from the director of public relations for the Pittsburgh Pirates. And who knew there was a flourishing subculture of pirate reenactors with their own newsletter, No Quarter Given? Not our friend Ben. But I guess it was inevitable.

The fact that the Somali pirates are teenagers makes our friend Ben wonder how old the pirates were back in the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1660-1730). Perhaps we’ll make that the subject of a future Pirate Week post. Until then, we can only say “Aaaaarrrrrrr!!!”

Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!! September 19, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Shiver me timbers, our friend Ben almost forgot that today, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! So haul out the rum (in the form of a Hurricane, or one of Silence Dogood’s infamous piratical drinks from her earlier post “Food fit for a pirate”) and any or all of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, and settle yer stumps for some rip-roaring fun!

Here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, we love pirates. We celebrated Pirate Week here back in May, with a whole week’s worth of pirate-themed posts. If you missed them, check out Silence’s “Food fit for a pirate,” with some really unusual recipes; “A piratical post,” where you can test your knowledge of all things piratical with a pirate-related quiz from Richard Saunders; “Ben Picks Ten: Pirates,” the best of the best (or should that be worst?) in all categories; “The ones who got away,” swashbuckling tales of the lucky pirates who lived to tell about their infamous deeds; “Pirate myths: true and false” (get ready for some surprises!); and, of course, “The best pirate movies.” Yo ho!

But, me hearties, before you head off to do some swashbuckling of your own, let’s talk about a real treasure. You don’t need a map to find it, just a good liquor store. Silence and our friend Ben have a favorite rum for mixing, Gosling Black Label, the Black Pearl of rums. (Sorry, Captain Morgan!) But it never occurred to us that you could drink rum straight, like a good cognac or, say, Drambouie, until we came upon English Harbour Antigua Rum (“Aged 5 Years”) on a trip to the North Carolina coast, home of Blackbeard, this spring. This is good sippin’ rum, mates. If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle, pour a little in a glass and see what we mean. It would almost be worth being marooned on a deserted island if they left you a bottle of this!

Now grab your cutlass, eyepatch, and hoop earring (peg leg and parrot optional). Fly the Jolly Roger over your car or home, causing consternation throughout the neighborhood. Then get out there and start talking like a pirate, you savvy?! Here are few pirate-approved phrases to try out on friends, family, and others you wish to impress:

* Send that lubber to Davey Jones’s locker!

* Dead men tell no tales!

* Gaaarrrrrr!!!

* Walk the plank!

* Keep your wits about you!

* ‘X’ marks the spot!

* There be treasure in them thar hills!

* Ahoy matey!

* Aye aye Cap’n!


*Swab the deck!

* Where’s the loot?

And last but not least, for all us parrot owners:

* Polly want a cracker?

Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!!! Yaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!!!!

The best pirate movies. May 24, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Concluding our pirate week theme here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, I’d like to share some of my all-time favorite pirate movies with you all. I love pirate movies—they’re fun, they’re swashbuckling, they’re lighthearted, and they’re predictable: the pirate of the title is always a bad boy with a heart of gold; the authorities are always villains; the pirate always wins; the pirate always gets the girl; and there are always a lot of unforgettable characters, colorful costumes and settings, and adventures. The ultimate mindless, entertaining, feel-good movies, the Jimmy Buffett of the movie genre. What more could anyone ask as summer kicks off?! So let’s look at a few that you simply have to see. And if I’ve left out any of your faves, please let me know: I want to see them, too!

Swashbuckler. This ’70s pirate romp stars four of my faves, Robert Shaw, James Earl Jones, Geoffrey Holder, and Beau Bridges, along with Genevieve Bujold as the love interest. It’s a bridge between the Errol Flynn/Tyrone Power pirate classics and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Robert Shaw is irresistible as “Red Ned” Lynch, and his cohorts give knockout performances as they battle the corrupt governer of Jamaica. My favorite pirate movie.

The Buccaneers. I should mention that Robert Shaw first played a dashing pirate, Captain Dan Tempest, on a TV series, “The Buccaneers.” Well worth the price of admission, especially if you get it as part of a super-cheap DVD collection called “The Swashbucklers.”

The Buccaneer. Let’s not confuse Robert Shaw’s pirate series with another great and often-overlooked film starring Yul Brynner as Jean Lafitte. Lafitte teams up with Andrew Jackson (played by Charlton Heston) to save New Orleans from the British in this 1958 classic. Lafitte nobly acts in the interests of the youthful America during the Battle of New Orleans in the war of 1812, even though it seems that a British victory is inevitable. Claire Bloom plays Lafitte’s love interest, and for you trivia buffs, Lorne Green of Bonanza fame has a role as well. Brynner is great as the dashing pirate Lafitte, and the haunting bagpipes of the British army, sounding through a thick fog, make one of the most unforgettable moments in my entire film experience.

Captain Blood. This 1935 classic defined the pirate-movie genre. Based on the Rafael Sabatini novel, it presents the incredibly handsome pirate captain—played by the feature-by-feature-perfect Errol Flynn in his first starring film role—and his reluctant love interest, played by the lovely Olivia DeHavilland, also in her first starring role. The marvellous Basil Rathbone is Flynn’s nemesis, Captain Levasseur, and the setting, as for many later pirate films, including “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is Port Royal, Jamaica. All the elements are there—the noble pirate (in this case, an honorable doctor wrongly imprisoned and sold into slavery), the evil authorities, a lot of swashbuckling and swordfighting, and the good-hearted pirate ultimately triumphing, Robin Hood-like, over the black-hearted officials in power.   

The Black Swan. Tyrone Power is the dashing pirate, Captain Jamie Waring, and Maureen O’Hara his fiesty love interest in this 1942 classic. Supported by a splendid cast including George Sanders as the villainous Leach, Anthony Quinn as his brutish sidekick, and Laird Cregar as—of all people!—Captain Morgan, now Governor of Jamaica, this one has it all: swashbuckling, humor, romance, treachery, and triumph. It’s not quite “Captain Blood,” but “The Black Swan” is an entertaining pirate romp nonetheless.   

Live and Let Die. Okay, this is a James Bond movie, not a pirate movie per se. But I’m including it here because I love the Caribbean island setting, and if Geoffrey Holder’s performance as Baron Samadi isn’t as good as any pirate’s, I don’t know what is. “Live and Let Die,” “The Man with the Golden Gun,” “Goldfinger,” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” are my four favorite Bond movies. This one is a riotous romp with Roger Moore in his first Bond turn, injecting humor into a too-serious-for-words role, and Jane Seymour in her first film role. Another ’70s classic!  

An Awfully Big Adventure. Despite the title, this one isn’t really a pirate movie, either. (The title is taken from a quote from the inventor of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, Sir James Barrie.) But who could pass up an opportunity to see both Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant—two of my all-time faves—portray Captain Hook in the same film?!! Filmed before “Four Weddings and a Funeral” made Hugh Grant a leading man and fossilized him as a stammering, blinking, endearing love interest, in “An Awfully Big Adventure” he plays a corrupt, drunken, gay theater director, and his acting is nothing less than amazing. (Huh, you mean Hugh Grant can actually act, not just blink?! Why yes, Virginia, there really is a wonderful actor in there somewhere. Sadly not to appear again until he sends up Simon Cowell in “American Starz.”) Rickman is superb as always. To see these two play against type—Rickman as the romantic lead, Grant as the villain—would be delicious enough. But the real highlight is to watch their (very deliberately contrasted) performances as Hook. Marvelous!!! Alan Cox in a supporting role is every bit as good as he was playing the whining prep-school Watson in another all-time favorite, “Young Sherlock Holmes.” But be warned: Unlike every other movie in this list, this is not a feel-good film. Let the full Barrie quote, “To die will be an awfully big adventure,” serve as your warning.    

Pirates of the Caribbean series. Johnny Depp creates an unforgettable role in these films as Captain Jack Sparrow. His performance alone earns them star status in the pirate-film pantheon, but he also has a great backup crew in the form of the always great Geoffrey Rush as the rival Captain Barbossa, Bill Nighy as the awesome Davy Jones, and Naomi Harris as the wonderful voodoo priestess, Tia Dalma. The ludicrous pirate duo, Pintel and Ragetti, add the requisite dim-witted humor, aided by Captain Barbossa’s rather ominous monkey, Jack. The sometimes-cowardly Royal Governor of Jamaica, Governor Swann, is sympathetic, as is the rival suitor for the love interest’s hand, Captain James Norrington. And the villains, Lord Cutler Beckett, head of the East India Trading Company, and his assistant Mercer, are sufficiently loathesome. The real weakness of this series is the lovers, played by Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann. In the typical pirate movie, the dashing pirate captain is also the lover. With Johnny Depp stealing the films’ fire as Jack Sparrow, it leaves Orlando Bloom, with his classic Errol Flynn looks, with nothing to do. And though Keira does her best to be a spitfire, her anorexic appearance is distracting. I appreciate her acting, but when watching her, always find myself wondering if there isn’t some way to persuade her to eat.  

           ‘Til next time,



Pirate myths: true and false May 23, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, back on board (so to speak) to continue our pirate week theme. (If you’ve missed any of the previous posts on this theme, check out “A piratical post” to test your knowledge about pirates; “Ben Picks Ten: Pirates” for some fun facts; “The ones who got away” for some thrilling true stories; and “Food fit for a pirate” for some piratical recipes.) Today, I’d like to talk about some of the most common myths about pirates. As you’ll see, some of them are true, and then again, some of the most famous are false.

Let’s start with the ones that are false:

Walking the plank. Despite its popularity in novels and movies, there is only one historical case of someone being made to walk the plank. It seems like an easy way of disposing of mutineers and prisoners, but marooning (or simple murder) was the more usual route.

Buried treasure. As our friend Ben noted the other day, the only recorded instance of buried treasure was Captain Kidd’s burying his treasure on, of all places, Long Island! (New Yorkers take note: This treasure has not been found.) Again, the concept of buried treasure seized the imaginations of novelists and filmmakers, but in real life, most pirates were busy spending their spoils rather than thinking of ways to hide them.

Treasure maps. If you don’t have any buried treasure, you don’t need a treasure map. With much of the ocean and the continents and islands uncharted in pirate times, maps were considered treasures in and of themselves. Many a pirate captain treasured his precious maps, counting on them to lead him and his crew safely home after a marauding venture. But as for leading to treasure, pirates counted on rumors of treasure-laden ships picked up on shore, on chance encounters with merchant ships, and on well-known coastal towns that were ripe for raiding for their plunder, not on treasure maps.

Moving on to the ones that are true:

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. As Silence Dogood pointed out in her piratical recipe post, rum was considered essential for a pirate’s welfare. Not only was it consumed daily aboard ship, if a pirate was marooned on a deserted island for some infraction, he was left with a pint of rum (and a cutlass or pistol).  

The Jolly Roger. It’s true that pirates flew the skull and crossbones or some variant. The first to do so was believed to have been Long Ben, aka Henry Avery, whose flag showed a fashionable skull wearing a bandanna and a hoop earring. Successful pirate captains typically created their own flags based on the Jolly Roger theme, so ships would recognize them and be suitably terrified when they saw, for example, Blackbeard’s or Black Bart’s (aka the Great Pirate Roberts’) flags on the horizon. Why was it called the Jolly Roger, anyway? Why, because of that cheerful grin the skull is sporting! It is not true, however, that all pirate flags were black: Red flags were also extremely popular.

Hooks, pegs, and patches. Pirating was not an easy life, and the combination of frequent attacks by blade, gunfire, and cannon coupled with extremely primitive doctoring meant that many pirates lost limbs (and eyes). Eye patches not only covered empty eye sockets, they added ferociousness to a pirate’s already savage demeanor. Hooks and peg legs were convenient ways to replace missing limbs. Even one of America’s Founding Fathers, Gouverneur Morris, was fitted with a peg leg when he lost a leg as a result of a carriage accident. If Morris, who could afford anything, was given no better than this, it’s no wonder pirates stumped around on their wooden pegs. 

Bandannas and hoop earrings. Yes, it’s true that pirates wore both of these. Bandannas not only kept long, stringy hair out of your face (remember those sea winds!) and sweat off your brow—they could be lifesaving in a hostile encounter, when being able to see during the chaos could easily mean the difference between life and death. Hoop earrings, usually of silver or gold, served the same purpose (believe it or not!): In pirate times, piercing your ears with precious metals was thought to improve your eyesight.

Food fit for a pirate. May 22, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. To continue our pirate week theme here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, I’d like to present a few recipes for spicy dishes and tropical drinks that would make any pirate say “Yaaaarrrrrrrr!!!!”

Now, you may not have a high opinion of pirate cuisine. Perhaps images of barrels of salted herring, maggot-infested flour, and the inevitable bottle of rum come to mind. (The rum was not a myth, by the way. Pirates thought rum so essential that it was written into the pirate code of honor that, even if a pirate was being marooned on a deserted island for disobedience or some other infraction, he was to be given a pint of rum to take with him.) But this was the food of the seas.

Let’s not forget the “Caribbean” part of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” When in port, pirates enjoyed the delicious, spicy cuisine of Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the other Caribbean islands. Then there was that other pirate hangout, the Barbary Coast of North Africa, where pirates could sample the diverse cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Yum!!! That’s a lot of good eating.

So let’s take a look at some foods (and drinks) they might have been sampling. You can whip these up for your next pirate-theme party, or anytime you’d like to add a little spice to your meals!


This Trinidadian pureed soup is traditionally made with taro (callaloo) leaves. We suggest spinach or Swiss chard if you don’t happen to have taro on hand.

3 pounds spinach or Swiss chard

1/2 pound okra, sliced

1 pound eggplant, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons canola or olive oil

3 green (unripe) bananas, peeled and chopped

2 large onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 fresh hot pepper, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 quart vegetable stock

1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)

salt and pepper to taste

Wash, drain, and coarsely chop the spinach or chard. Place in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven with the okra, eggplant, and vegetable stock. Cover and cook until the veggies are very tender; set aside. In a heavy Dutch oven or casserole, heat the oil and add the bananas, onions, hot pepper, and garlic. Sutee until the onions and bananas are tender. Add all other ingredients except the reserved pot of veggies and stock and cook for a few minutes more. Puree in a blender or food processor. (Be very careful when pureeing hot food!) Add the pureed mix to the cooked veggies and stock and puree with a whisk or return to the blender or food processor until you have a thick, smooth puree. Serve as is or over plain or spicy rice. Serves 6.

Spicy Rice

Add a little Caribbean flair to a normally bland side dish.

2 cups long-grain rice

juice 1 large lime

1 hot red or green pepper, seeded and chopped fine, or a splash of red or green hot pepper sauce (as Tabasco or Pickapeppa)

3 cups water or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup peanut oil

Wash the rice thoroughly. Drain, cover with cold water, and allow to stand for 2 or 3 minutes. Drain. Pour 3 cups of water or veggie stock into a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Add the lime juice, pepper or hot sauce, and salt, bring to a boil, and pour in the rice. Stir, bring back to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Stir the peanut oil into the rice, cover, and cook at the lowest possible heat until the rice is tender, adding more water or veggie stock sparingly if needed. Serves 6.

Corn and Coconut Coo-Coo

You’ll go coo-coo for this tropical side dish, which originated in Barbados but has variations throughout the islands. (“Coo-coo” simply means a cooked side dish, but there’s no reason to reveal this when you serve the dish up. Just tell everyone what it’s called and see who’s brave enough to try it!)

12 small young okra pods

2 cups fresh sweet corn, grated off the cobs (you can substitute canned creamed corn in a pinch) 

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked, and sliced (optional)

2 large yellow tomatoes, sliced (optional)

2 pimientos, sliced (optional)

Lettuce for garnish (optional) 

2 cups veggie stock or water

4 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Candy or WallaWalla type), diced

2 cups white corn meal

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Sautee diced onion in butter until onion clarifies; set aside. Wash the okra, cut off the stem ends and discard them, and slice the pods into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Bring the veggie stock or water and salt to a boil; add the okra and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and corn meal, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to blend the cornmeal in smoothly, and continue to cook and stir for about five minutes. Add the grated corn or creamed corn, onions, and butter, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, smooth, and creamy. Serve with sweet potato slices, tomato slices, pimientos, and lettuce, if desired, or chill, slice, and fry in butter, and serve with any or all of these traditional accompaniments. Serves 6. 

Coconut Chili Relish

Moving on to Africa, try this easy, delicious relish on pitas or other flatbreads, over cantaloupe or mango, or with rice, lentils, or as an accompaniment to a main dish.

2 ounces fresh coconut, grated, or dried unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped seeded fresh red hot pepper

Grate the coconut and place it in a bowl. If you’re using shredded dried coconut, add just enough water to moisten it. Add the lemon juice, salt, water, and hot pepper. Stir well to blend and serve.

Let’s not forget those drinks. These all feature that fabled pirate staple, rum:

The Calico Jack

Colorful and passionate like the pirate captain himself.

1/2 ounce dark rum

1/2 ounce light rum

1/2 ounce 151 proof rum

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce orange liqueur

1 ounce orange juice

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon grenadine

1 tablespoon dry red wine

Mix all together. Serve over ice with slices of orange and lime. Serves 1.

The Black Pearl

Gosling’s Black Seal black rum makes this concoction a real gem.

1 1/2 ounces Gosling’s Black Seal black rum

1 teaspoon Triple Sec

1 tablespoon grenadine

1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

1 dash bitters

Mix ingredients and serve over ice with a maraschino cherry and a slice of lime. Serves 1.

Stede Bonnet’s Planter’s Punch

The planter-turned-pirate would have enjoyed this on his breaks between raids.

1 1/2 ounces dark rum

3/4 ounce lime juice

3 ounces orange juice

1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice

Serve over ice with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice. Serves 1.     

The ones who got away. May 21, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s pirate week here at Poor Richard’s Almanac! We hope you’ve been enjoying our pirate-themed posts so far. (See “A piratical post” for a pirate quiz and “Ben Picks Ten: Pirates” for some fun pirate facts.) Today, our friend Ben would like to share the stories of some very lucky pirates—the ones who lived to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. For most pirates, life tended to be ugly, brutish, and short. The end came quickly, in a hail of bullets, a blur of blades, a blast of cannon fire, or at the end of the hangman’s rope. Even the most famous pirates—Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Black Bart, the Great Pirate Roberts—came to gruesome ends. Few pirates lived to reach a ripe old age.

We’ve already talked about two who turned a life of piracy into a public triumph. Sir Francis Drake’s privateering ventures (privateering was nothing more than state-sanctioned piracy) earned him a knighthood and Vice Admiralship. And the notorious Captain Morgan ended his days as Admiral Sir Henry Morgan, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. 

But Drake and Morgan weren’t the only pirates whose luck held. Today, our friend Ben would like to introduce you to two of our favorites. Their real-life exploits are more exciting than anything you’ll find in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” we promise. May I present Anne Bonney and Long Ben?

Anne Bonney (or Bonny) was already married when she met and fell in love with Calico Jack Rackham, a dashing pirate captain. Divorce at that time was out of the question, but not to let a little trifle stand in their way, the smitten couple stole away to Calico Jack’s ship, the Treasure, and sailed off.

In defiance of the laws of the sea, even among pirates, which said that women could never be allowed on board ship (unless, of course, they were part of the plunder, in which case they were basically cargo being taken to the nearest pirate-friendly port), Anne and Calico Jack lived together aboard the Treasure. You may recall that there was another woman aboard the Treasure: Mary Read. But while Anne lived openly as a woman, Mary disguised herself as a man and earned a reputation as a fierce and cunning pirate.

Anne and Calico Jack enjoyed many adventures on the high seas before the Treasure was finally captured off Jamaica in 1720. While Jack and his crew faced the hangman’s noose, Anne and Mary were spared because they both claimed to be pregnant, and it was against the law to kill the innocent (the unborn babes). Instead, they were thrown into prison. Needless to say, this was no picnic: Dark, dank, and vermin-infested, the prison cells of the day were places where people were literally left to rot. Mary Read soon succumbed to jail fever, a common consequence of imprisonment. But Anne Bonney didn’t share her dismal fate. Instead, she disappeared. Vanished. Escaped without a trace.

Nothing is known of Anne’s fate after her disappearance. But given her daring, unconventional, intrepid nature, our friend Ben is willing to bet that, whether she returned to England to become an innkeeper, an actress, or the wife of an aristocrat, or traveled on to America to find her fortune in the young British Colonies, she made a success of her new life.

The second of our lucky pirates, fortuitously named Long Ben, had a piratical career distinguished both by its brevity and by the magnitude of its success. Long Ben’s career began innocuously enough when he, then known as Henry Avery, hired out as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. He took a position aboard the ship Charles, but boredom and lack of pay caused him to become disenchanted with the status quo, and he absconded with the ship and crew, changed its name to the Fancy, and embarked on a life of crime.

Long Ben cut his pirate teeth by successfully attacking and plundering five ships in rapid succession, as well as looting along the African coast. Then he went on to the real prize: the ships of the Mughal Empire, laden with treasure and bound on pilgrimage to Mecca. Joined by other pirate captains and their ships, Long Ben led the pirate fleet in the attack, capturing treasure-laden ships with an estimated 50-60,000 pounds of gold and silver, as well as arms and other goods.

Then Long Ben did a very astute thing: He took his share of the treasure and retired. As our friend Ben has long maintained, the secret of happiness is knowing when you have just enough. Long Ben gave away the Fancy, left his crew, and disappeared. In one short year, he’d become one of the most successful pirates in history. (He also made pirate history by becoming the first pirate to fly the skull and crossbones, though the skull on his flag was wearing a bandanna and hoop earring.) As in Anne Bonney’s case, no one knows what really became of Long Ben, but a legend at the time maintained that this “king of pirates” had gone to a tropical island, where he lived happily ever after. Our friend Ben just loves a happy ending, don’t you?

So that’s our story. And if you have a story of another pirate who lived to tell the tale, we’d love for you to share it with us! In the meantime, stay tuned. Tomorrow, Silence Dogood will share some piratical recipes that will have you saying “Yaaaarrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!” You savvy?       


Ben Picks Ten: Pirates May 20, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It’s pirate week here at Poor Richard’s Almanac! Picking up where Richard Saunders left off with his pirate quiz (see “A piratical post” to test your pirate savvy), our friend Ben would like to present my One-Ben Awards in ten (plus two) pirate-related categories. So without more ado:

1. Most ferocious-looking pirate. The One-Ben Award in this category goes hands-down to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Huge and burly, Blackbeard would have been intimidating in any situation. He was also armed literally to the teeth, bristling with cutlasses, pistols, daggers, and an assortment of other weapons. But his famous beard was his crowning glory. Long and thick, it was divided into octopus-like sections which were each tied with a red ribbon. In battle, Blackbeard must have looked to his terrified enemies like a fiend from hell, since he would put cannon fuses in his beard and set them on fire before charging, weapons ablaze, smoke and flames surrounding his head like an infernal halo.  

2. Best pirate treasure. Others may have had greater treasures, but our friend Ben is giving the One-Ben Award in this category to Captain Kidd, who is the only pirate actually known to have buried a treasure. It strikes our friend Ben as hysterical, given subsequent history, but where Captain Kidd buried his fabled treasure was not on some deserted island but instead was on Long Island! Though historically factual, Captain Kidd’s buried trasure has never been found. But it fueled an unquenchable legend for buried treasure and treasure maps when three of the most successful writers of their day, Washington Irving (Wolfert Webber), Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), and Edgar Allan Poe (The Gold Bug) used the legend of Captain Kidd’s treasure as inspiration for their works. These days, it’s sunken treasure rather than buried treasure that fires the imagination of contemporary treasure-hunters, as legendary ship after ship has finally been found with their cargoes of gold coin and other riches.

3. Luckiest pirate. The One-Ben Award in this category goes to Sir Francis Drake. The famous privateer and his ship, the Golden Hind, enjoyed the patronage and protection of Queen Elizabeth I, so rather than being pursued by the British Navy like other pirates, he could plunder with impunity—as long as he focused his efforts on the Spanish and gave a cut to the Crown. He was so successful that the Spanish, who called him “El Draque” (“The Dragon”), put a reward on his head that would now be worth 8 million dollars. Despite the enormous prize, no one ever collected, and Drake was knighted by the Queen and made Vice Admiral of the British Navy in recognition of his services to the Crown.  

4. Happiest pirate. Our friend Ben thinks Captain “Calico Jack” Rackham is best qualified for this award. While other pirates literally had a wife in every port—Blackbeard is said to have had between 12 and 14 simultaneously—women were generally forbidden on board pirate ships, so it was a long time between conjugal visits. Calico Jack, however, kept his mistress, Anne Bonney (or Bonny), at his side, on board and off. He even allowed another woman, Mary Read, to become a member of his pirate crew, provided she remained in disguise as a man.   

5. Best pirate flag. Blackbeard wins again. Though our friend Ben admires the flag of Calico Jack, with its paired cutlasses crossed beneath a skull—very clean, very much to the point, so to speak—for sheer terror, Blackbeard’s flag is unbeatable. It shows a horned skeleton with an hourglass in one hand, to show that time was running out for his unfortunate victims, and a spear in the other. The spear is aimed at a heart from which red drops of blood are falling. The eerie flag (black, of course) with its creepy horned skeleton would strike terror into anyone’s heart. Nothing “jolly” about it! 

6. Worst pirate enemy. The British Navy wins this one. Pirates may have wreaked terror on merchant ships and Spanish galleons, but if they ended up in a fight with a British Man o’War, it was likely to be their last. Many a pirate was finally brought down in an encounter with the Navy, including the greatest of them all, Black Bart, the Great Pirate Roberts. But we’ll get back to him in a minute.

7. Best time to be a pirate. Definitely during the Golden Age of Piracy, which lasted just a few decades, from the 1680s to the 1720s. It was during these glory days that Anglo-American pirates had their heyday, ransacking ships in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and along the Barbary Coast. Many pirates had been trained by the Royal Navy, but after Queen Anne’s War (the War of the Spanish Succession), they found themselves out of a job and took to the high seas. There was plenty of plunder to be had, and the pirates made the most of it. However, their behavior made them understandably unpopular with the British and American authorities, who eventually hunted most of the ringleaders down, bringing about the end of an era—but not the end of the pirate legend. 

8. Least likely pirate. Stede Bonnet was a Virginia gentleman who also owned extensive properties in Barbados. But the life of the landed gentry lacked excitement for Bonnet, so he took to the sea as a pirate. Unlike “real” pirates, who were generally seasoned sailors and typically acquired their ships as spoils, Bonnet bought his ship, and rather than luring sailors to sign with him on the promise of future treasure, he paid their salaries upfront. Despite his lack of piratical experience and his gentlemanly behavior, Stede Bonnet proved to be a success as a pirate, even partnering for a time with the fearsome Blackbeard. Perhaps the fact that his trademark was burning the ships he captured had something to do with his success.

9. Best-dressed pirate. The One-Ben Award in this category goes to Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts, aka the Great Pirate Roberts. Black Bart was a dandy by anybody’s standards, the bad boy rock star of his age. Tricked out in furs and velvet, with a crimson vest, a red feather in his hat, and numerous jewels, including a huge diamond cross (originally intended for the king of Portugal) on a massive gold chain, Roberts’ appearance was as extravagant as any Elizabethan lord’s. He also loved the refinements of life, including music and dancing, and preferred a good cup of tea to the rum that most pirates drank as their due.

10. Most successful pirate. The Great Pirate Roberts also wins this award hands-down. In his career, Black Bart captured more than 470 ships. He was more feared than any other pirate—ships refused to even put up a token fight against him, fleeing if they were able at the very appearance of his sails. His vast treasure—which disappeared mysteriously after his death—dwarfed that of any other pirate. Though today, pirates like Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Jean Lafitte, and Captain Morgan are better known, nobody else even comes close. 

And the bonuses:

11. Most unlikely pirate fact. The expression “honor among thieves” may have originated with pirates, because, in fact, they had elaborate codes of honor. Both Sir Henry Morgan (Captain Morgan) and Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts drew up a Pirate Code of Honour for their men. Black Bart’s 11 rules included these: “Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment,” “None shall game for money either with dice or cards,” “The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night,” “No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them,” “None shall strike another on board the ship,” and “The musicians shall have rest on the Sabbath Day.” The rules were clearly intended to preserve order and prevent infighting, and any violations were punishable by slit ears and noses, marooning, or death. (Roberts did allow the pirates to settle disputes by dueling, but only on land.) Shares of the spoils were also spelled out in the Pirate Code, both for officers and for “private gentlemen of fortune.”

12. Most successful posthumous pirate: Admiral Sir Henry Morgan, aka Captain Morgan, was a piratical success story even while he lived. He amassed a huge fortune through piracy and privateering, and was subsequently knighted by King Charles II for his depradations against the Spanish New World colonies and made an admiral, to boot. On his retirement from the High Seas, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, and enjoyed a dissolute retirement until his death from natural causes. Quite a difference from the usual pirate fate! But his greatest success came several centuries later, when Captain Morgan rum was launched in 1944. Today, Captain Morgan is the third largest-selling spirit in America and the seventh worldwide. The money that’s raking in would make the avaricious old pirate drool. The legend lives on!