Since You Asked…

WP-TT-Book

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.

Memories of Gruyere

WP-Careme-Desk

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…

Laudanum Summons the Dreams

 

Web-Ready-Byron-Laudanum

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…

WP-Byron-Couch-Framed

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.

An Unbidden Vision and the Birth Of a Monster

WP-final-Frankenstein-Book

Mary Shelley went to bed that evening having accepted the challenge to write a ghost story.  Describing her sleeplessness during that stormy night at Lord Byron’s villa she wrote, “…my imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie.  I saw, with shut eyes but acute mental vision.”

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts knelling beside the thing that he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion…his success would terrify the artist.”

The Doctor “…would rush away from his odious handiwork, horror-stricken.  He would hope that, left to itself, the spark of life which he had communicated would fade, that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter. He hoped that he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of that hideous thing.”

Dr. Frankenstein sleeps “…but he is awakened, he opens his eyes, and behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening the curtains and looking at him with yellow, watery but speculative eyes.”

Mary Shelley’s ghost story had begun and the tale of Frankenstein was born.   Now that her story has been told, I am ready to travel back to that blustery evening at the Villa Diodati.

It will be a dangerous night to travel to, but the food should be worth it.

The Specter That Haunts a Midnight Pillow

WP-Final-Mary-WindowIn a surreal atmosphere ripe for imagination, Lord Byron challenged his guests to each write a ghost story.

It was well past the witching hour when Mary Shelley finally placed her head upon her pillow for a night’s rest.

Storms rippled across the lake and lightning strikes illuminated her windows momentarily before plunging them back into pitchy darkness.

She could not sleep and fell into a restless state of “waking dreams”.  Sweet slumber eluded her and she was drawn instead into a vision of a hideous phantasm…

Of Ghosts and a Metamorphosis

WP-Byron-5

Lord Byron and his guests spent the stormy evening in the Villa Diodati’s library immersed in conversation and the talk was of metaphysics and experiments in the reanimation of dead things using the newly discovered force of electricity.

Invoking darker horrors, they read stories of ghosts and tales of the dead from a book entitled Fantasmagoriana.

Minds were fertile with imagined terrors and as Lord Byron read aloud a haunting passage from Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelly suddenly leapt up and ran shrieking from the room.

In the smokey candlelight, Percy had hallucinated that Mary’s chest had metamorphosed into a pair of eyes coldly staring at him.