How to Identify Stanhope Jewelry

A Stanhope ring with close-up. Photo from Pinterest.
A Stanhope ring with close-up. Photo from Pinterest.

Several months ago, I lucked out and found a large stash of Stanhope novelty pieces at a garage sale. The collection I had to choose from was mostly religious icons, like tiny paintings of saints, the Lord’s Prayer, and other iconography hidden in keychains and cross pendants. The naughty Stanhopes, however are highly collectible — Victorian cheesecake nudes — so I snatched them all up.

A Stanhope is a tiny peep hole, called a lens, containing a micro photograph and inserted into a novelty souvenir. The photo inside these trinkets is the size of a pinhead and has to be held up to a light and close to ones eye to view the image. The lens technology was invented by Charles, 3rd earl of Stanhope in the late 18th century, and micro-photography was perfected by J.B. Dancer in England around 1840.

A Stanhope ring.
A Stanhope ring.

In the Victorian era especially, these novelties were extremely popular. Although the pieces I have are naughty but benign today — microphotographs of Victorian ladies in various states of undress — these would have been quite scandalous back in the day.

You can identify Stanhope jewelry primarily by the small lens located somewhere on the piece, usually on a pendant, fob, keychain, or ring. Oftentimes Stanhopes will look like little lenses, like a telescope, a pair of binoculars, or another eye piece. If this is a religious piece, the lens will typically be in the center of the cross. The lens is usually about 3mm in diameter and will go all the way through the piece, and is curved like a dome on one side. You must hold it right up to your eye and look through the dome in the direction of light to discern the image inside.

NOTE: If you have and love a piece of Stanhope, you must be very careful not to expose the piece to moisture in any form. Water, lotion, steam, or any other moisture will dissolve the tiny picture on the lens, negating much of the value of the piece. I learned this one the hard way.

On Cabbage Steaks, Rage Cooking, and Roasting Vegetables

There is this recipe floating around social media that makes me want to rage-quit the internet every time I read it, for “Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage Steaks.” Why does it make me want to light a kitchen on fire? It’s over-complicated and shows a basic misunderstanding of how to use ingredients for a desired culinary end. It’s a now-classic issue that crops up frequently on Pinterest-heavy lifestyle sites, sites that are more in tune with what a recipe or hobby says about the author — and the desires of the reader — than they are about conveying clear instruction on a topic of expertise .

[The original cabbage “steak” is credited to Martha Stewart, but at the link one can see Martha is impatient with silly flavor profiles and unnecessary steps. Martha calls hers “wedges” because Martha knows a real steak when she sees one. Martha is a queen walking among unwashed pinners. Let them eat cabbage steak!]

In the recipe in question, the instructions tell you to cut a head of cabbage into one inch thick “steaks,” then “rub both sides of cabbage with smashed garlic.” Later, you get out your basting brush and literally paint the cabbage with oil. Veggies, especially the humble cabbage, weren’t meant to be this fussy.

First, if you’re rubbing anything with garlic, make it toast. Toast is rough and porous and perfect for absorbing the garlic oil, which is what garlic rubs are about. Cabbage is neither rough nor porous, so you’ve just smashed and rubbed a slice of cabbage for no reason.  SOMETIMES a fancy restaurant will rub a steak with garlic, but that’s mostly because it’s a reason to mark up your bill $5.

Second, all roasted root and cruciferous vegetables are delicious with very few exceptions. The basics are to toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast on a pan at 400 or so for thirty minutes or so. It’s so easy. If you want to toss them with garlic or another aromatic, you should do that. Be creative. I like to add finely diced garlic or herbs, or vinegar or lemon juice, or a dried herb mixture like Herbes de Provence. If you want to do something fancy with your garlic, smash it into a paste with the flat side of your knife and mix it with the olive oil or smear it directly onto the food.

Why this recipe works: Roasted veggies are awesome. Also, roasting a veggie that has been cooked with a flat side down, as in, after it’s been sliced into a STEAK or WEDGE, helps the sugars in the veggie caramelize better. All of them. Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, string beans, carrots, asparagus, radishes, squashes, tomatoes, mushrooms, all of them.

Why it doesn’t: It’s needlessly complicated with the garlic rubs and basting brushes and the flavor profile is weird.

If I got to rewrite this cabbage steak recipe, here’s what I would advise: Cut the steaks, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt, and cracked pepper. If I wanted to get fancy, I’d put curry powder on it too. Put them flat in a pan and roast at about 400 until they were done. Turn once, maybe, halfway through. THE END.

RECIPES:

If you’ve never had roasted radishes, you should. It mellows out the peppery flavor of the radish and the greens are delightfully bitter.

Roasted curried cauliflower is wildly easy, healthy, and tasty. If your kids hate veggies like mine, do like I do: serve it with ketchup and call them fries.

Thanksgiving Menu

Since my family will be scattered over the holiday, I’m cooking this weekend.

  • Roasted bone-in turkey breast, maybe with Herbes de Provence. Part of me wants to scrap this and just make honey lamb.
  • Sauteed Brussels sprouts w/ bacon — I can’t emphasize how good these are, halved and sauteed in bacon fat and caramelized with a shot of vinegar.
  • Creole cornbread and sausage stuffing.
  • Baked cheese grits — I don’t have a recipe for this one yet. The traditional one for my family is out of one of those ancient church cookbooks I love, but it’s similar to this, but with additional savory ingredients.
  • I wanted to make hasselback potatoes, but the kids overrode my opinion. Mashed potatoes it is. Boo.
  • Roasted, herbed honey carrots.
  • Deviled eggs.
  • All the pie.

I love a cooking holiday.

Chicken Dum Pukht

This chicken curry recipe is one of the better things I’ve found online, maybe ever. It’s spicy without being too hot, it makes the house smell delicious, and it provides an excellent lesson in making your own curry paste. I’ve also skipped the meat and made a good vegan version with hardier veggies (eggplant and okra were the stars), braising for less time.

Cilantro stems!

Creole Holiday Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

I stole this picture from the internet. It looks something like this.
I stole this picture from the internet.

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time, a dish present on every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter table set at my mom’s house. The original recipe lives in a non-descript church cookbook from somewhere in the Middle South in the 1970s, and it’s in danger of being destroyed with time and use. Another iteration lives in an email from 2008, which is terribly inconvenient. I decided to record it here for posterity, with some of my own notes added.

This savory cornbread stuffing hits all the taste centers in your primitive lizard brain, with fats and carbs and meats galore. Sorry/not sorry about the sticks of butter.

For the cornbread, make any recipe you’d like as long as it’s a full unsweetened round. I make mine in a cast-iron skillet. And if you don’t feel like making your own Creole seasoning, get you a tin of Tony Chachere’s.

Continue reading Creole Holiday Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

Mr. Mathers Goes To Washington

Slate is charmed that rap, the whole genre apparently, will be judged in the Supreme Court this December. The case, one in which a man who had been left by his wife proceeded to post increasingly darker fantasies about killing his wife on Facebook, until she received a protective order which he then violated by posting additional dumb, intimidating things online in the form of rap lyrics. Because of his use of lyrics, the case is turning into a referendum on whether the Court recognizes that rap is a legitimate art form. Since rap is often wrongly considered “confessional” by default and Elonis never actually dismembered or serial killed anyone (only graphically threatened to do so repeatedly, enough to concern the FBI, whom he then threatened), the concern is that the stodgy and old justices won’t understand the importance of self-proclaimed, amateur, Facebook rap lords to intimidate everyone in their friend circle with exponentially increasing expressions of instability.

The sticking point is that his threats were both “rap” (talent aside) and posted on social media, thereby an expression of his identity, arguably art, even, and for these reasons subject to free speech laws.

Is rap an art form? Fuck yes. Is it always confessional? Nope. Does Rap (capital-R) need Supreme Court recognition to have arrived? Nope. Personally this delight smacks of white nerds enjoying the transgression and irreverence of “low art” in the highest court of law in the nation, but that’s me and it’s snarky and adds more heat than fire. In all the excitement of dropping the f-word in an amicus brief, there seems to be forgotten that at its crux is a guy who was threatening to dismember and mutilate his ex to all of their friends and family, shoot up elementary schools, and threaten and harass his coworkers and FBI agents until he was fired and jailed. Scary dude, and he’s not even a real artist.

The thing is, as a country we’ve written it into our founding documents that we intend to tolerate and defend idiot speech, and will in fact wage literal and figurative wars over your right to embarrass yourself in public within reason. However, the addition of social media to our culture makes threatening speech that much easier to capture and prosecute, with the added complication of interstate laws that escalate sentencing. And indeed, our right to emotionally terrorize others online hangs in the balance. But the effect of putting the language of domestic violence above reproach unless we can verify what’s in the heart of the speaker is chilling for all the targets who don’t get thrills from their emotional abuse.

Plum and Apple Torte

I made this torte on Wednesday night, and it looked and felt wrong until right before I pulled it out of the oven. It didn’t seem like there was enough batter, the batter was too thick like cookie dough, there seemed to be too much fruit to batter ratio, the spring form pan was too large. Then I pulled it out of the oven and the batter had puffed up into a perfect little cake, swallowing the plums (and apples I’d used for filler), lightly (or heavily) dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It’s a rustic little dessert, heavy with fruit but not too sweet. It couldn’t be any simpler, and it’s delicious — DELICIOUS — on Day Two.

If it lasts that long.