Stonehenge has proved to be a mystery for so long now that when I heard about experts finally unveiling some of that mysterious cover, I was not so sure that it was true. Still, what researchers have revealed to the world makes some sense.

According to some British researchers, they might have found a reason people transported those gigantic stones from Wales to Salisbury Plain – a good 250 miles. They think that the people of that time might have believed the stones to have possessed miraculous healing powers. Apparently, other archeologists who were not involved in the research think that the findings are very possible.

Stonehenge has “multiple meanings and multiple uses” that may have changed over the centuries, said archaeologist Mary Ann Owoc of Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., who was not involved in the new research. “To limit it to one is an error.”

The idea that the stones are not just building materials but have efficacy “is tremendously appealing as an idea,” said archaeologist Julian Thomas of Manchester University, who also was not involved in the research. “The idea that they were brought there because they have some kind of power seems to me entirely plausible. But whether it is just about healing is another question.”

I do not know much about archeology and am definitely not an authority on this matter but the idea that Stonehenge served like a Lourdes in the ancient times sounds realistic. I also think that it is a fitting explanation for a structure that has been so shrouded in mystery for as long as anyone can remember.

Michaelmas is coming up very soon – do you know how to prepare that special Michaelmas goose? If not, here is a tried and tested recipe courtesy of Star Chefs.

MICHAELMAS GOOSE WITH TRADITIONAL POTATO AND APPLE STUFFING
Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cooking School – County Cork, Ireland
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 8-10 Servings

Goose
• 1 goose, 10 pounds approximately
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
• Giblets-neck, heart and gizzard
• 1 small onion
• 1 carrot
• Bouquet garni consisting of 1 sprig thyme, 3 or 4 parsley stalks, a small piece of celery, 6 or 7 peppercorns
• Cold water to cover

Stuffing
• 2 pounds potatoes
• 4 Tablespoons butter
• 1 pound onions, chopped
• 1 pound cooking apples, peeled and chopped
• 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
• 1 Tablespoon chopped lemon balm
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

Gravy
• 2-1/2 cups goose stock made from the giblets roux
Method:

For the Stuffing:
Boil the potatoes ‘in their jackets’ in boiling salted water until cooked. Peel and mash.
Melt the butter and sweat the onions in a covered saucepan on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes. Add the apples and cook until they break down into a fluff, then stir in the mashed potatoes and herbs. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.

For the Goose:
Remove the wishbone for ease of carving. Put the wishbone into a saucepan with the giblets, onion, carrot, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours. (Add the wing tips to the stock if desired.)

Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper and fill with the cold stuffing. Sprinkle some sea salt over the breast and rub it into the goose skin. Roast for 2 to 2 ½ hours in a preheated moderate oven, 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the roasting pan from the oven three or four times during the cooking and pour off the excess fat. (Store this fat in your refrigerator-it keeps for months and is wonderful for roasting or sautéeing potatoes.) To test whether the goose is cooked, prick the thigh at the thickest part. The juices which run out should be clear; if they are pink the goose needs a little longer. When cooked, remove the goose to a large serving dish and put it into a low oven while you make the gravy.

For the gravy:
Pour or spoon off the remainder of the fat and save. Add about 2 cups of the strained giblet stock to the roasting pan and bring to a boil. Using a small whisk, scrape the pan well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavor.
Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil for a few minutes to concentrate the flavor; if too strong add a little water or stock. Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.
Carve the goose. Serve with apple sauce (see recipe below) and the gravy.

Apple Sauce
Yield: 4 Servings
• 1 pound cooking apples
• 1 Tablespoon water
• Approximately 1/4 cup sugar (depending on tartness of apples)
Method:
Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut the pieces into two an put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with sugar and water. Cover and put over a low heat. As soon as the apples have broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

I have not tried it yet but though it looks hard I think it’s just long but it shouldn’t be that hard. We will see.

Festivals and feast days are always important. More than having lots of food and getting together with family and friends, feast days usually have a deeper meaning, a reason for being special. Michaelmas Day is one feast day that takes root in religious tradition.

Currently celebrated on the 29th of September, Michaelmas Day is also known as the day of St. Michael and All Angels. It is actually also observed by the Roman Catholic Church. In Britain, it is observed by the Church of England. The Book of Days provides more in depth information regarding this day:

In England, it is one of the four quarterly terms, or quarter-days, on which rents are paid, and in that and other divisions of the United Kingdom, as well as perhaps in other countries, it is the day on which burgal magistracies and councils are re-elected. The only other remarkable thing connected with the day is a widely prevalent custom of marking it with a goose at dinner.

In the old times, however, Michaelmas Day was celebrated on another date. This is what is recorded in Wikipedia:

Old Michaelmas Day falls on October 11 (October 10 according to some sources). According to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date. This is because, so folklore goes, Satan was banished from Heaven on this day, fell into a blackberry bush and cursed the brambles as he fell into them. According to Morrell (1977), this old legend is well-known in all parts of the United Kingdom, even been known as far north as the Orkney Islands.

Today, it is still widely celebrated and the goose is still the centerpiece of the feast.

What do you get when you put together the effects of hard economic times and attacks on the drinking culture of the British? An unprecedented decline of the British pub, that is what you get. It used to be that the essence of British culture was associated with the pub. Today, however, this seems to be changing – fast.

The Star recently had a write up on what is happening to pubs all over Britain. Statistics show that about 1,800 pubs close every year. Considering the total number of pubs in the country, some may think that it is not much. But with the way trends are going, it just might spell doomsday for this icon in the British culture.

The article expounds:

The crisis is real for many thousands of vintage establishments, said writer and aficionado Jane Jephcote, co-author of London Heritage Pubs.

“I hope otherwise, but I fear it is dire for a part of our culture that has its roots in the Middle Ages,” said Jephcote.

It may be that we have taken pubs for granted. But the challenge of making ends meet is severe for many. It matters because of the depth of history there – as the ultimate place for the British to be sociable together. That is what the pub is and was always meant to be.”

At the forefront of the fight against pub closures is the U.K.’s irrepressible Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an organization founded in the 1970s to save the British tradition of small, regional ales against the onslaught of fizzy, pasteurized and mass-produced national and international beers.

Want real ale? Fight for the British pub.

One can expect to taste all sorts of cuisines in London. Being a melting pot of all cultures from the four corners of the world, this is but understandable. I bet that you have not gone to ALL the restaurants in this city. One restaurant that I would like to try – if not only for the food but for the service – it is Hélène Darroze At The Connaught.

Obviously, I have not had the pleasure of dining here but let’s take the word of critic Matthew Norman. In his feature article at The Guardian he says:

And so it is, this cooking in which Darroze infuses imagination, flair and absolute mastery of classical French technique with those self-consciously eclectic touches (Sichuan peppercorn icecream, for instance, with a poached apricot pudding) that remain so stubbornly in vogue. And yet, and yet…

The relentlessness of the faux-generous little treats (sumptuous beyond belief as the petits fours were, note the price of the cup of coffee with which they came) combines with the hyper-attentive service to make this a slightly unnerving experience. There’s an assonance in the chasm between the elaboration of the food and the clubbiness of the decor, and the decadence feels misplaced in these challenging economic times.

His verdict seems to be ambivalent. On the one hand, the service is absolutely perfect – especially for those who like attention lavished on themselves. On the other hand, the food is “sumptuous” beyond belief. My take? I would definitely give it a try, would you?

These past weeks have been a bit crazy because of what has happened – and what is happening on Wall Street. Although they are across the ocean, it does not mean that people in the UK are totally impervious to the goings on over there. The economic crisis certainly has affected people in this country as well.

This means a lot of things. In terms of lifestyle, there are a lot of things that are being cut off from the budget of the average person. Think about your home – though it may look shabby and in need of a little sprucing up, you may be putting off makeover activities due to monetary constraints. Yet what if I were to tell you that there is a way brighten up your home with the help of some great deals in various British stores?

The Telegraph recently had a feature article on furnishing homes without dipping too much into your finances. The main recommendation? Veer away from the expensive and exclusive stores and go visit your supermarkets’ home ranges! Though this may not have been your first choice many years ago, it is actually a good idea.

Sainsbury’s has very stylish collections for affordable prices:
Sainsbury’s style-conscious designs include velvet cushions, in warm berry colours, at £5.99 each; chenille throws at £14.99; shaggy chenille cushions, £8.99; metal table lamps with red or black shades, £14.99; and tall metallic vases for £4.99. Black candle-holders with matching candles are just £3.99. An eye-catching mango wood sculpture costs £9.99 – the same price as a four-pack of champagne flutes.

Tesco is not going to be left behind:
Tesco has drawn inspiration from the fashion catwalks this autumn with dramatic purple vases, £4 to £10 each; tall glass vases in green, brown or amethyst, £8 each; and ceramic vases and bowls with a retro-looking orange/green glaze (above right) for £6 to £8. Its sophisticated lighting range includes an all-white table lamp for £45 and a table lamp with a circular smoky-glass base, £50.

With these items – and more – you can revamp your home’s interiors for low prices. Shop around and see what you can find!

Although England may not be considered by some people as the fashion capital of the world, it does have a say in the world of fashion. In fact, one of the most happening events was held the other day in Downing Street. In what was touted to be “one of the most stylish events since Tony Blair’s Cool Britannia in 1997,” the London Fashion Week Reception hosted designers and models paraded their wares. The Telegraph has this report:

Bizarrely-dressed designers and models mingled with international fashion press and buyers, industry movers and shakers, MPs and government officials.

Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, which organizes LFW, outlined plans for the celebration of London Fashion Week’s 25th anniversary throughout 2009 and announced the launch of the UK’s largest-ever fashion fund to support emerging talent. His speech underscored the twice-yearly LFW’s importance in supporting both the £4 billion textile and clothing industry and the £40 billion retail industry.

Young British designers, Giles Deacon, Gareth Pugh and Henry Holland, joined a roll call of established designers including Matthew Williamson, Luella Bartley, Nicole Farhi, Betty Jackson, John Rocha and the milliners Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy.

Others present at the Downing Street reception included the models Naomi Campbell and rising star, Jourdan Dunn; the stylist, Katie Grand; Jefferson Hack, founder of Dazed and Confused magazine; the shoe tycooness, Tamara Mellon; Mrs Joan Burstein, founder of the London boutique, Browns of South Molton Street; Wendy Dagworthy, head of fashion and textiles at the Royal College of Art and Dr Frances Corner, head of College at London College of Fashion.

Indeed, this event highlighted the talents of British designers and models. The next time that you hear something downgrading the British fashion world, tell them to think again.

If you ever find yourself in Florida and you are craving good old British food, then the place to go would be Piper’s British Corner. Established by Peter Bonnar, who traces his roots to the UK, this British grocery, as locals call it, caters to British tastes. St. Petersburg Times reports:

On Wednesday, Bonnar re-opened his popular establishment — Piper’s British Corner at 5421 Main St. — in a cozy strip-mall storefront featuring the flags of Scotland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Wales waving in front.

Bonnar had originally opened in 2005 in another storefront a few blocks away, but decided two months ago to move because he needed more space.

And some heartier food and drink.

Brit style.

Now patrons at the multipurpose cafe, tea room, and beer and wine bar can order from a full British/American menu that includes Bonner’s homemade fish and chips (from haddock and cod), shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Does that sound good or what? You can choose to eat at the establishment and enjoy the ambiance which highlights the British culture like anything. Otherwise, if you want to purchase food stuff such as tea to bring home, you can do so as well.

Though Piper’s is best known for its British fare, you can also feast on more traditional American food. Then again, you can always find that stuff in other places. If I were you, I would stick to the British food and enjoy something quite different.

Who said that the British cultural influence has declined over the years? If you hear someone talking about this, then you should stand up and prove them wrong! I came across an article written by an American detailing how the British are actually playing a significant role in “educating” them about life. Sean P. Means writes in the Salt Lake Tribune:

- The most powerful Brit on TV, Simon Cowell, is the nastiest judge on Fox’s “American Idol” – and, not coincidentally, the only one anyone listens to.
– Cowell picked Piers Morgan to fill a similar role – the snobby Brit judge whose opinions are booed by the audience – on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
– On ABC’s “Supernanny,” no-nonsense British nanny Jo Frost arrives in a London taxicab and gets right to work telling harried parents what they are doing wrong.
– Duplicating his success on the BBC, chef Gordon Ramsay takes apart struggling American restaurants and puts them back together on “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.” (The format is being stolen for Bravo’s new hair-cutting reality show, “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover,” though host Tabatha Coffey isn’t British – she’s Australian.)

Indeed, you could see a lot of British figures making it big in American telly – and not only American, mind you. The shows mentioned above – and more, actually – are being aired all over the world. Thanks to cable TV, people from all the continents are being exposed to the British version of things.

So, the next time you hear someone say something about the British influence declining, mention these things. ;)