Oh Dear, Just What Is An InterContinuum Photographic Chroniclelizer?

WP-CameraMany Readers have been asking  just what is the “InterContinuum Photographic Chroniclelizer” that I mentioned in my last discussion and why did I neglect to include any interesting bits of information on it? My sincerest apologies! In order to avoid any perturbation as a direct result of unresolved curiosity, I suggest that you refer to the brief explanation of the instrument on pages 61 and 62 in A Visitor’s Guide to Time Travel.  I have also included an image of my own Chroniclelizer to study.

In the unfortunate event that you have left your copy of this invaluable book on a train (along with your umbrella) or somehow otherwise have annoyingly misplaced it, I will repeat the description contained in its pages below.

InterContinuum Photographic Chroniclelizer

“Highly recommended equipment for all temporalnauts, this state-of-the-art camera
provides the means to bring back to the present both the mundane as well as
extraordinary moments in time.

Images captured with this device remain trapped outside of the time-continuum
and inside the patented AntiChronology Protection Chamber.

There, they remain independent and safely captured
within the Event-Duration film.

Through its exclusive Green Screen Technology, the Chroniclelizer
offers the time traveler unsurpassed ease in adjusting the voyage
predictability factors while on the road too!”

I trust that this helps put an end to any befuddlement. And now I must return to my work in the library and transcribe into a notebook the recipes that will recreate those wonderful gougères that I saw during my trip to the summer of 1816. But more on that later…

Since You Asked…

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In response to recent queries about how all of this staggeringly incredible time travel is possible, I reached for my copy of the book entitled A Visitor’s Guide to Time Travel and found a sensible explanation of it all in the chapter called “Time Travel and Parallel Universes Explained for Curious Individuals”.

According to this most definitive book, we live in an infinite assortment of wiggly-squigiggly multiverses that exist all at once. “Parallel” doesn’t even come into the equation and is merely a myth that arose from those who can only think along the same lines.

The multiverses are mostly made of Infinity and stretch outwards, inwards, forwards and backwards. To further muddle matters, everything exists all at once everywhere and every-when. Once set in motion, every fragment of reality never ceases to exist, they just are and they even look forward to your visits!

Time travel between multiverses isn’t liner but more like doing the hokey pokey. It requires one to put the right foot in, then take the left foot out (that is the particularly tricky part that requires a lot of practice) and then you shake it all about. You turn yourself around and, well…that’s what it’s all about.

Oh, and you have to be holding an InterContinuum Photographic Chroniclelizer that has first been switched on (otherwise you are simply performing some light calisthenics). With such, you don’t really travel to but rather snuggly blend into the alternate world of your choosing.

You must repeat the whole thing over again when you want to go home. I strongly urge the time traveler to find a private area to perform what is required to return to one’s own actuality in order to avoid the perplexed gazes from people or small animals nearby.

All of those brilliant minds trying to reconcile the mathematical inconsistencies that currently exist between quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity could definitively sort everything out with a just couple of dance lessons.

And now back to a more monumentally important subject…cheese.

Hmmm…Why Not?

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Oh… just why not! I decided to set aside my library search for a quick trip back to New York City, December 31, 1906! Very foggy, but no matter. My spirits were raised as high as the glass of my Manhattan. Things got pretty noisy at midnight and the din of horns, cowbells and fireworks kept up for nearly ten minutes!

Such a grand and boisterous time was had by all, I am tempted to go back again tonight to join in the fun once more…

Wishing you a New Year filled with Wonder!

 

Memories of Gruyere

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Although it was still storming back in 1816 outside of Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati, I returned to my own timeline and into a warm library with a soft, first snowfall taking place outdoors. The pungent smell of Gruyere from Byron’s buffet table was still fresh in my memory.

Those savory little pastries served to his guests that blustery night appeared to be Gougères – delicious, small, hollow pastry puffs made of a rich egg, butter and cheese dough. Byron’s chef had wisely chosen to use Gruyere cheese in his creation.

Seated at my library desk, I began my search for a period recipe for them and reached for the book L’Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle by Chef Marie-Antoine Carême. This book is undeniably a triumphant culinary work of encyclopedic proportions.

Careme was a legend in his own time and took his celebrity chef status very seriously – cooking for Kings, a Czar and at least one Emperor. As a test to his creativity, he once prepared a years worth of menus using only seasonal ingredients with no repetitions. His cookbook was a fine first choice but a little over the top. I instead decided to explore an earlier work.

I turned to The Art of French Cookery written by Antoine Beauvilliers – a classic of French gastronomic literature written in 1814. Beauvilliers was both a chef and trendsetter, who very cleverly launched the splendid idea of a “restaurant”. His establishment, La Grande Taverne de Londres, opened in late 18th century Paris and was considered very cool; for up until then, nobody had come up with the notion of customers being able to visit a chic dining room and order from a menu what one wanted to eat. Sheer profitable brilliance!

Antoine Beauvilliers was a charismatic kind of guy who really enjoyed his own cooking. He was a savvy dresser and partial to wearing a sword. Charming and also armed with a memory like that of an elephant, Beauvilliers was known for never forgetting a guest who had visited his restaurant. Superb branding actually and his dashing choice of weaponry probably contributed to minimizing guest complaints. Not that he would get any, his food was considered delicious. Jean Brillat-Savarin, the founding father of gastronomy, regarded him as the finest of the early restaurateurs.

I made a note to myself to go back and visit this trendsetting restaurant in Paris one day – I admit to a weakness for elegant eating establishments with full wine cellars.

But now back to my search for a particular recipe, I had chosen my cookbook well. I found exactly what I was looking for on page 221…

Of Cheese Toast and Ghosts


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There is a well recognized adage – never deny an Englishman his Cheese Toast. Ever. It seems that Lord Byron was no exception to this rule. Somewhere in the massive quantity of luggage that he had hauled with him to Lake Geneva, he managed to find a small space to wedge this beautiful toasting fork that now lay in front of the fire. I wasn’t surprised. Lord Byron was an unapologetic over-packer. Overloaded with a vast quantity of must-have paraphernalia, his carriage chronically broke down as it made its way across Europe on the way to Lake Geneva. Apparently, you can take Lord Byron out of England, but couldn’t take England out of Byron – he needed his Cheese Toast.

And now this long-handled fork rested upon a trivet in front of the low flames and was quietly toasting a small, skewered piece of bread a delectable golden brown. It seemed a cozy choice for the poets to eat while listening to ghost stories.

A wedge of cheese (Raclette, I believe) sat nearby, softening to an optimal consistency. The melted side of the cheese closest to the fire would be scraped off and spread over the toast. Perfection in its simplicity. A decanter of Sack, or Sherry, rested close at hand as an excellent partner for the cheese. Alas, this charming treat had been completely forgotten when the group made their way upstairs to their beds.

It was hard to pass up such a delicious morsel, but I was curious to see what was in the room next door. I turned my back to the fire and made my way to the hall.

Fantasmagoriana

WP-Book3As I turned to leave the room on my way to Lord Byron’s study, my eyes drifted across the crowded library floor. So this unruly scene before me was the notorious origin of Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein – extraordinary, messy, but remarkable never-the-less.

Lying on the carpet near the fire was the book Fantasmagoriana. Known to the British as The Tales of the Dead, Lord Byron had been reading from it earlier to entertain his guests. This was a classic book of Gothic horror stories and undoubtedly one of the terrifying sources of Mary’s dreams occurring upstairs at this very moment.

The small but potent book lay there with its binding broken, no doubt trampled on in haste by Byron himself as he dashed to help his friend Percy Shelley. Mr. Shelley had bolted from the room in a terrified state after hallucinating that Mary’s chest had metamorphosed into two eyes staring at him.

I picked up the book and read the epigraph, “Falsis terrorizes implet” – Horace.  A rough translation from the Latin would be “he fills his (head) with imagined terrors”. That Roman could not have written a more prescient description of this evening’s events.

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The fire crackled. My eyes shifted, what was that resting on the hearth…?

Meanwhile Back at the Buffet…

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It was still a dark and stormy night.

With my foodie instincts on high alert, I reached the sideboard at last! What had this small group of five English free-thinking writers eaten tonight? The candles were burning low, but I was able to see what I had traveled there for.

Interesting…, it appeared that the Napoleonic wars and the cold weather caused by the eruption of Mt. Tambora had little effect on with what Lord Byron entertained his guests, with one exception. I had hoped to find Fraise du Bois, but alas, no alpine woodland strawberries to be seen.

The fierce weather outside could not distract me from a glorious cheesy smell wafting up from a plate of rather innocent looking little puff pastries. Their aroma was braver than their appearance – mummmm, no mistaking the pungent, savory smell of Gruyere cheese. The cook wisely used plenty of it in baking them. They appeared to be Petits Choux Ramecains, a particularly delicious edible in the early 19th century.

Also sharing the table were plates of Sweetmeat and Jam tartlets, sliced ham, dried apricots, candied ginger and Gateaux Madeleines. Unfortunately, several plates were emptied of what they had once held, sigh.

So despite war, cold temperatures and stormy weather, Byron was still able to be a generous host. The rather simple cold buffet offerings looked to be inspired by a French chef cooking for an English nobleman plagued with a prodigious amount of debt. Not surprising, Geneva was only recently liberated from French control and Lord Byron was an enthusiastic Napoleon groupie. His private horse carriage was custom-made to duplicate one of Napoleon’s.

I noticed an abundance of sweets and only one choice of meat offered – unusual for a typical late-night meal during this overtly carnivorous period. It may be that the chef was mindful of the guest’s proclivities – Percy Shelley had a weakness for sweets and was also a vocal vegetarian. The choice still appeared limited though, perhaps due to Byron’s avoidance of eating with his guests? He remained exceedingly fixated on the degree of rotundity of his waist.

Had Byron eaten earlier? I think I will take a peek in his private writing room next door for any indication.

Laudanum Summons the Dreams

 

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It was a perilous trip to the sideboard across Byron’s library; stepping over piles of books, I successfully managed to keep my skirts out of harm’s way from the numerous lit candles in silver holders scattered about the floor. I made a mental note to myself that it would be healthier to wear trousers on successive voyages.

On my way, I happened to notice an unpretentious bottle resting on a small wooden table. Its cork unsuccessfully thrust into the bottleneck, it stood next to a diminutive wine glass that appeared half-full with a golden brown liquor.

The label read Laudanum. Hmmm, the tincture of opium – a potent drink of choice and particularly effective in inducing a soporific retreat for poets seeking visions, inspiration and a really good night’s sleep.

I picked up the tiny glass. In one quick whiff, I smelled brandy and just a trace of cinnamon. Laudanum is notoriously bitter and was often drunk diffused into a flavored liquor to help hide its wretched taste. Treacherous stuff this laudanum, it was considered the “cure all elixir” for a vast array of ailments ranging from flatulence to teething problems in infants. Percy Bysshe Shelley was known to depend on Laudanum’s languid effects and many believed that Lord Byron’s wild mood swings ensued from his use of the drug. I wondered if Mary’s horrifying dreams were summoned by the laudanum as well.

As thought-provoking this small bottle was, I turned around and continued across the room to my original objective, a table laden with midnight mouthfuls for Lord Byron’s guests. I followed my nose and my nose did not disappoint me…

A Bohemian Scene Greeted Me…

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My timing was perfect, although it was nearly dawn, I arrived just after Lord Byron and his guests had retired for the night.

Fortunately for me the candles were still lit, it seemed that the servants were unaware that everyone upstairs had finally drifted off to their beds. Those downstairs would be waking up soon enough for breakfast, no need to rush through their own dreams I suppose.

A bohemian scene greeted me in the library of the Villa Diodati. Silk pillows lay strewn about on a Persian rug in front of the fire. Claret and sack decanters sat haphazardly about and small, half-filled wine glasses teetered on vast piles of books.  A fitting scene for a group of young romantic poets determined to write something terrifying yet witty.

A cat sauntered by me.  As I absent-mindedly reached down to stroke its head, I was startled by a large bird that flew through the hallway across the open doorway. Apparently Lord Byron’s menagerie had settled in comfortably alongside him at the villa.

So, despite the exceedingly dramatic and monstrously electrifying dreams manifesting themselves in Mary’s head upstairs at that very moment, I decided to wander over and peruse the sideboard.