United States Presidential Inauguration 2021

Wednesday, January 20

Lincoln came to the presidency at a treacherous time, too. His inauguration can give us hope.

Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

“I bring to the work an honest heart,” Abraham Lincoln said in Harrisburg, Pa., on the day before his all-night train ride into Washington in February 1861.

Few doubted that it was true — Lincoln’s honesty was already his best-known quality as he completed a grueling 1,900-mile journey from Springfield, Ill., to his first inauguration. But would that be enough to withstand the intrigues of a capital known for making quick work of honest types?

Washington had been unusually angry in the weeks preceding Inauguration Day. Seven states had already left the Union; a mob had tried to attack the Capitol on the day Congress met to tabulate the electoral college vote. Fights broke out in the galleries during speeches, where spectators jeered, “Abe Lincoln will never come here!”

There was far more to the visceral opposition to Lincoln than just his views on slavery. He had won with less than 40 percent of the vote, and entrenched interests feared the loss of easy access to Washington’s gilded corridors. Although they were not as gilded as they might have been — one reason it was taking so long to renovate the Capitol was that the guards hired to protect it from looting were stripping its treasures for themselves, down to the paint.

It seemed as though everyone was on the take. Certainly, the proslavery interests had owned Washington for as long as anyone could remember, capturing an overwhelming preponderance of the nation’s House speakers, committee chairs, sergeants-at-arms and Supreme Court justices. Lobbyists flourished in this climate, buying and selling access from local watering holes.

As Lincoln drew closer, his enemies doubled down. While the presidency of James Buchanan was winding down, the treasury secretary tried to distract attention by calling Lincoln “an enemy of the human race.” Since his inauguration, Buchanan and his cronies had tried to elevate property rights above human rights, but Lincoln irritated them by reminding Americans of the Declaration of Independence and its promises.

For that reason, Lincoln had insisted on visiting Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on his way to Washington. There, he delivered an impassioned speech about the document before taking a series of secret trains in the middle of the night, simply to make it past another steeplechase of would-be assassins.

Earlier on the trip, an explosive device was removed from Lincoln’s train only minutes before he boarded the car in Cincinnati; as he departed Philadelphia for D.C., suspicious strangers lurked on the platform. According to a report filed by Allan Pinkerton, hired to protect Lincoln, as many as 1,000 people were involved in the alleged plot to take his life. (Pinkerton’s code name for his lanky charge: Nuts.)

The inaugural parade was delayed by the outgoing president, who was signing pardons and bills that would protect friends in a powerful industry (guano extraction). Buchanan then arrived in his carriage to pick up the president-elect. Given a choice between a closed top and an open one, Lincoln chose the latter, so all could see him. The inaugural came off without a hitch, including Lincoln’s plea that Americans remain “friends, not enemies.” The final sentence included a plea often repeated since — that we listen to our better angels.

Such openness offered a powerful new reason to believe in politics in 1861. Even Americans who disagreed with Lincoln’s policies found his old-fashioned work ethic refreshing. Not only did he maintain the integrity of the United States, but also he did so while issuing annual messages, practicing fiscal transparency, investing in infrastructure and education, welcoming immigrants, and planning for the long-term future.

Of course, 2021 is not 1861. But we remain the same country that Lincoln inherited, because we have consistently returned to the same enlarged vision of ourselves that he did so much to uphold. If Americans were perfect, we would not need angels to populate our speeches. But by listening to those voices, we have shown a genius for self-correction, which is nearly as important as getting it right in the first place.

Opinion by Ted Widmer

Source: Opinion | Lincoln came to the presidency at a treacherous time, too. His inauguration can give us hope. – The Washington Post

What Is Soda Bread, and Do the Irish Actually Eat It?

By Ellen Morrissey  for Martha Stewart©

If you were born and raised in Ireland, soda bread is likely what you grew up eating at nearly every meal. It’s served first thing in the morning as part of a full Irish breakfast, with tea in the afternoon, and alongside beef or lamb stew or any number of other Irish specialties at dinner. Traditional soda bread has just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Brown bread, made from stone-ground whole-wheat flour, is the most common loaf found on Irish tables. White soda bread is made with all-purpose white flour.a plate of food with a slice of cake on a table: Johnny Miller© Provided by Martha Stewart Living Johnny Miller

According to Darina Allen, the grande dame of Irish cooking and author of multiple books on the subject, “From earliest times, breadmaking was an integral part of daily life in almost every home…even in the poorest country cabin, fresh soda bread would have been mixed on a wooden baking board and baked on the griddle, or…over the ember of the turf fire.” Those loaves featured Irish wheat and buttermilk—either the by-product of butter making, or in the days before refrigeration, sour milk that needed to be used up. The lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the alkali baking soda to create carbon dioxide, which in turn causes the bread to rise. Baking soda was introduced to Ireland (where it’s known as bread soda) in the 1830s. Since then, it’s been a staple in Irish home (and restaurant) kitchens. Incidentally, historians trace the development of baking soda to Native Americans, who first used pearl ash as a way to leaven bread.

One this side of the Atlantic, what we call “Irish soda bread” is more rich and sweet, usually studded with raisins and caraway seeds. These cakey, scone-like loaves often include eggs and butter for tenderness and more flavor. It’s nearly impossible to find an accurate date when it became known as the definitive soda bread in the United States. Nevertheless, it’s been on the menu in Irish restaurants and bars on St. Patrick’s Day and sold in bakeries throughout Irish-American strongholds all year long for as long as anyone can remember. Though its overall shape and structure derive from those early Irish loaves, it bears more of a resemblance to a cake known as Spotted Dog (or Spotted Dick, not to be mistaken for the British steamed pudding of the same name). To further confuse matters, Spotted Dog is known as Railway Cake when it’s baked in a loaf pan. Good luck keeping all those names straight!

Whatever it’s called, soda bread is among the easiest, most forgiving home-baked goods, and it’s one of the quickest breads to go from mixing bowl to table. Since there’s no yeast involved, it’s nearly impossible to mess it up. In fact, the less you handle the dough, the better. As Allen explains, when it came to traditional soda bread, “it was a compliment of the highest order to be described as having ‘a light hand.'” If you’re new to bread making, you might want to start with soda bread. Martha’s take on the authentic Irish loaf—with a combination of graham and all-purpose flours filling in for the Irish whole grain, and butter added for richness—and this rye version are both heavenly served with smoked trout, strong cheeses like Cashel blue, warm bowls of hearty soup, or simply slathered with salted Irish butter. From there, you can try one of the sweeter, cakier versions.

The last step in making any loaf of soda bread is to cut a cross in the top of the dome of dough. According to Irish legend, this is to “let the devil out,” but the technique actually serves a practical purpose. The deep slash allows the dough to cook evenly from crust to inner crumb, creating the inimitable texture that American culinary icon James Beard described as “velvety.”

As for the name, the easiest way to clear up the confusion may be to simply refer to the raisin- and caraway-studded version as Irish American Soda Bread, as it’s called in the Joy of Cooking. In that most American of American cookbooks, the bread is aptly described as “richer, sweeter and more cake-like than authentic Irish soda bread, which we are assured never made the acquaintance of a raisin or caraway seed either.” Perhaps adding the “American” qualifier between “Irish” and “soda” makes saying it too much of a mouthful.

The one caveat about making soda bread from scratch is that it is best eaten on the day that it’s baked. It doesn’t keep nearly as well as yeast-risen breads. As long as you have enough good-quality butter, some nice fruit jam, and some Irish smoked salmon, however, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Source: What Is Soda Bread, and Do the Irish Actually Eat It? (msn.com)