Alfred Nobel and His Prizes The Smorgasbord - Sweden's Culinary Gift to the World Boycotts, Silhouettes and Bloomers As Featured On EzineArticles.com
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a man of great contrasts. A Swede born in Stockholm in 1833, he spent most of his life abroad. The inventor of dynamite and other explosives, he was even called a 'merchant of death', but aimed to promote world peace. A skilled chemist, he wrote poetry in both Swedish and English, and prose in other languages too. The son of a man who twice went bankrupt, he became one of the wealthiest people in the Western world.
His great wealth did not bring him happiness, however. He never married, suffered from loneliness and was in delicate health from childhood. Only in the last three years of his life did he have a home of his own in Sweden, where he had bought the Bofors (pr. ‘Boo-fosh’) armaments factory. He nevertheless died in the Italian resort town of San Remo on December 10 1896. And December 10 is the day on which the Nobel Prizes are ceremonially awarded each year, the Peace Prize in Oslo, the others at the Concert Hall in Stockholm.
His will was written in Swedish without legal guidance, which led to much delay in its implementation as it was disputed. It stipulated that the greater part of his estate should be invested and the income distributed annually in the form of prizes to those conferring the greatest benefit on mankind during the preceding year within the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and what he called ‘brotherhood among nations’, but which we know as the Peace Prize.
Swedish institutions were to award the first four prizes: the Royal Academy of Sciences (physics and chemistry), Royal Caroline Institute (physiology or medicine) and the Swedish Academy (literature). The Peace Prize was to be awarded by a committee of the Norwegian Storting, or Parliament, as Norway was joined to Sweden in a union under the Swedish crown during Nobel's lifetime. A sixth award, the Economics Prize, was added in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden in his memory.
There is no doubt that Nobel had a great interest in each of the fields he mentioned. The Peace Prize is the one that is most intriguing. Nobel believed that when the great power of explosives was understood, nobody would use them for military purposes. He knew from personal experience what devastation they could cause. In 1864 the factory where he had been studying nitroglycerine was blown up killing everyone in it, including his 21-year-old brother Emil. Nevertheless, he maintained his factories could well put an end to wars sooner than all the peace congresses that were held.
He was also influenced by his friendship with the Austrian Baroness von Sutter, a pioneer in the peace movement. She was herself awarded the Peace Prize in 1905. But as with the Literature Prize, some of the laureates selected in Oslo, such as Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973, and Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in 1978, have been highly controversial, while others generally considered to deserve the award, such as Mahatma Gandhi, have been unacknowledged. And when the first Literature Prize was awarded to Sully Proudhomme in 1901, Sweden's foremost author August Strindberg, who never received the prize, and more than forty other prominent Swedes wrote a letter of apology to Tolstoy.
The stipulation about conferring the greatest benefit on mankind in the preceding year has been more closely observed for the Peace Prize than for the others, with juries tending to look back at what candidates have achieved during their careers as a whole and not only in the very recent past.
The Smorgasbord – Sweden's Culinary Gift to the World
To start with it was just something to occupy early-comers until all the dinner guests had arrived. It grew to become an hors d’oeuvre table, before eventually becoming a full-blown lunch or dinner, and achieved renown abroad where, however, it can take on forms peculiar to the purist. So if you want to try a real Swedish smörgåsbord, there are certain things you should know.
History Its origins go back some five hundred years. In the beginning it was a brännvin(aquavit) table, although there was some food apart from the alcohol. After becoming a popular hors d'oeuvre among the middle classes, new dishes were added in the nineteenth century. In the early railway age it was common for station restaurants to provide it, until trains had their own restaurant cars.
It remained an hors d'oeuvre, however, until much later, although during the 1912 summer Olympic Games in Stockholm there were restaurants offering it as a stand-alone meal and there were 'smorgasbord' (now without the Swedish letters ö and å) restaurants in New York in the 1920s. But it did not become internationally known on a wider scale until the 1932 World Expo, also in New York, when the restaurant in the Swedish pavilion had a well-laden, rotating “Merry-Go-Round” table.
Its status as a starter to the main meal finally disappeared for good in the early 1960s, since when, with the addition of still more dishes, it has been complete in itself.
How to eat it Swedes are often amused at the sight of foreign visitors piling a great mixture of dishes onto their plate, something the experienced would never do. The standard practice is to follow the recommendations made by a leading Swedish chef and restaurateur more than fifty years ago. You should go to the table five times, each time taking a new plate and fresh cutlery. The first visit is for the various kinds of pickled North Sea herring, perhaps also its smaller cousin the Baltic herring, plus a boiled potato and a slice of crisp bread and cheese, consumed with a glass of aquavit. Visit number two is for other fish dishes, particularly salmon, boiled and/or cured and boiled eel. Number three is for cold cuts of meat and salads, number four for hot dishes, which will almost certainly include Jansons Temptation ( anchovies cooked in cream) and meatballs, and finally there are the desserts, which were the latest addition to the table.
What does it mean? Literally, smörgåsbord means 'butter goose table', which may seem a strange name to give it, especially as it has never contained goose cooked in butter or anything else. But it derives from the time when people churned their own butter. During the process small blobs somewhat resembling the shape of a goose, would rise to the surface. Such a blob was thought ideal to spread on a slice of bread and the result is still called a smörgås, although it normally has some other topping or toppings in addition to butter, ie it is an open sandwich. And in its earlier days the smörgåsbord had that kind of character.
Boycotts, Silhouettes and Bloomers What has an estate manager in Ireland and an American who refused to brand his calves, in common with a French infantry inspector under Louis XIV, an ardent follower of Napoleon, a 19th century English social reformer and an inept First Lord of the Admiralty?
Answer: their names have all become common words in the English language.
Charles Cunningham Boycott was a retired captain in the British army and became an agent for the Earl of Erne’s estates in County Mayo. Following one of Ireland’s disastrous harvests, the Land League, formed to combat unfair rural rents and evictions, called for a twenty-five per cent rent reduction. That was in 1880. The League, which advocated non-violent action, urged everyone to refuse to have anything to do with those who turned down the demand. And Boycott was the first to be targeted.
Samuel A. Maverick was a US pioneer whose insistence on going his own way and refusal to brand his cattle put his surname into everyday speech.
Jean Martinet became known by drilling Louis XIV’s infantry into such an efficient force that his name has been associated with strict discipline ever since. And later, but still in France, Nicholas Chauvin’s blind patriotism and fanatical admiration of Napoleon gave us “chauvinist” and “chauvinism”.
Then there was Samuel Plimsoll, who came from Bristol in England and was a Member of Parliament from 1868 to 1880. He was instrumental in getting legislation passed that provided for compulsory inspection of ships and for a line to be painted on their hulls to show they were not overloaded.
Finally, John Montagu was such a disaster at the Admiralty that he was blamed for the shortcomings of the British navy at the time of the American Revolution. Montagu? No, we don't talk about ‘montagus’, but he was also Earl of Sandwich and an inveterate gambler. So much so that he had food put between two slices of bread so that he could eat it without having to leave the gaming table. The Sandwich Islands were named after him as well.
Of course, these people are by no means alone in having their names enter the language. Among the many others are Etienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister given to making paper cut-outs, John Batterson Stetson, an American hat maker, and Henry Shrapnel, a British army officer who filled shells with musket balls to make them more lethal. William Lynch lived in Virginia, but there’s no need to mention what he got up to. The Earl of Cardigan, another military man, led the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War but lent his name to a much more peaceful garment. And while on that subject, mention must be made of Wellington’s boots and Charles Macintosh, a chemist who invented waterproof fabrics, while Amelia Bloomer, was a nineteenth century American campaigner for women’s rights — and more comfortable clothing.
A full list would be very long indeed. But all those people lived in the past. What about the present? Which of our contemporaries are likely to be part of the language many years from now? It’s an excellent field for speculation. Any suggestions?