HC’s

The Best of the Hoinanese Chicken Club Stories

by Lachlan Hurse

Peter Seeger

17 May 2007

Two weeks ago (May 3rd) the American folk singer Peter Seeger turned 88. And this year there is a campaign to have him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, with an online petition.

For decades, Seeger has created or popularized many of the peace and justice movement’s greatest anthems “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,’ ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’ ‘We Shall Overcome’ and others. He was also responsible for popularising the Cuban song ‘Guantanamera’ in the United States. The song is based on a José Martí poem about a girl from Guantanamo. In the early 1960s Pete Seeger heard Hector Angulo singing the Cuban folk song using Marti’s words based on a traditional melody adapted by bandleader Joseito Fernandez. This was the time of the Cuban missile crisis and the peace activist Seeger decided to adapt it in honor of Marti. He combined Marti’s original Spanish with spoken English and made it into a song for the peace movement.

Born in 1919, Pete Seeger’s role as a leading folksinger and movement activist dates back to 1940, when he and Woody Guthrie helped form the Almanac Singers. During the witch-hunt McCarthy era of the late ’40s and ’50s, Seeger was repeatedly targeted for blacklisting and red-baiting. His performances were cancelled; he was indicted for contempt of Congress. Undaunted, during those years he wrote and co-wrote such songs as ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ Together with Lee Hayes, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, he formed the renowned singing group The Weavers in 1950.

On August 18, 1955, Pete was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) where he refused to name personal and political associations stating it would violate his First Amendment rights…

“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

Seeger’s refusal to testify led to a March 26, 1957 indictment for contempt of Congress; for some years, he had to keep the federal government apprised of where he was going any time he left the Southern District of New York. He was convicted in a jury trial in March 1961, and sentenced to a year in jail, but in May 1962 an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and overturned his conviction.

Pete knit the world together with songs from China, the Soviet Union, Israel, Cuba, South Africa and republican Spain. We learned about the history of this country from his singing of songs from the, revolutionary war, the Farmer-Labor party, anti-slavery movements, IWW, and CIO organizing days.

He hosted television shows in the 1960s, and helped established the environmental organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, which he founded in 1966. This organization has worked since then to highlight pollution in the Hudson River and worked to clean it. Pete helps to organise ‘The Great Hudson River Revival’ (aka Clearwater Festival), an annual two-day music festival held on the banks of the Hudson at Croton Point Park.

On March 16, 2007, Pete Seeger performed with his siblings Mike and Peggy and other Seeger family members at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where he had been employed as a folk song archivist 67 years earlier.

After the concert they went down to a Chinese restaurant that had become a landmark in Washington, since it was established in the late 1940s. It was the place that Pete had discussed his testimony to the HUAC in 1955, with his friends and colleagues, over a plate of Hoinanese Chicken. Pete’s brother Mike said – Pete spiced up the HUAC, I think it was the sauce in that chicken dish’.

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The Haymarket Martyrs

10 May 2007

As we celebrate the Day of the Workers this weekend, I am reminded of a story I heard which irrefutably links the famous Hoinanese Chicken dish with the origins of May Day.One of the first eight hour day marches in Australia, at Wyalong (from Wikipedia)

At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first-ever modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day.

In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.

Lucy Parsons was well known not only for her labour activism, but her great culinary skill. Often at the Parson’s family home labour activists would gather to discuss their campaign for the eight hour day and discussed strategies over a meal prepared by Lucy. One of her favourite dishes was one that had come from the Chinese workers on the Californian goldfields, a simple steamed chicken dish, garnished with available spices including a ginger sauce. Her own diary of the time recorded such a meal on May 2, on the eve of yet another demonstration in support of the eight hour day.

On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass scabs at the McCormick plant in Chicago. The police arrived, opened fire, and killed four people, wounding many more.

At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at the Haymarket Square. The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies spoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Desplaines Street. According to many witnesses Spies said he was not there to incite anyone. Meanwhile a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Some time later the police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon. A bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. The police immediately opened fire. While several of their number besides Degan appear to have been injured by the bomb, most of the casualties seem to have been caused by bullets. About sixty officers were wounded in the riot, as well as an unknown number of civilians. In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed in the riot. There is no accurate count of the latter, as those injured were afraid to seek medical attention for injuries, fearing punishment for their part in the riot

Eight people connected directly or indirectly with the rally and its anarchist organisers were charged with Degan’s murder: August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden and Oscar Neebe. After an exhaustive trial where all eight were found guilty and seven sentenced to death, appeals saw two of the men having their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Of the remaining five, one (Lingg) suicided on the eve of his execution while the next day, November 11, 1887, Spies, Parsons, Fischer, and Engel were hanged together before a public audience.

Taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods, they sang the Marseillaise, the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons who attempted to see them for the last time were arrested and searched for bombs. None were found. August Spies was widely quoted as having shouted out, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” Witnesses reported that the condemned did not die when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the audience visibly shaken.

The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association (Second International), meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.

The trial is often referred to by scholars as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in United States history. Most working people believed that [private detective] Pinkerton agents provoked the incident. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld signed pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab after having concluded all eight defendants were innocent. The governor stated that the real reason for the bombing was the city of Chicago’s failure to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for shooting workers. The pardons ended his political career.

The police commander who ordered the dispersal was later convicted of corruption. The bomb thrower was never identified, although some anarchists privately indicated they had later learned his identity but kept quiet to avoid further prosecutions

Lachlan Hurse

Authors note: Some historians might quibble about the Hoinanese Chicken reference

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Jane Austen

15 December 2005

When Lizzie Bennett was invited to dine with Lady Catherine De Bourgh at Rosings, where she found herself seated between Charlotte and Miss De Bourgh and politely listening to Mr Collins commending every dish, she was taken particularly by one dish which presented itself as an oriental novelty, carefully prepared by Lady Catherine’s chef, on instruction from a distant relation of Mr Darcy who had recently returned from an expedition to the Far East.

While Jane Austen doesn’t go into detail, a researcher from the University of London who spent some time in the Jane Austen Archives in Hampshire has suggested that it was in fact, Hoinanese Chicken.

To elaborate on our Jane Austen discussion last week and consider other important world events, the HC club will dine in circumstances befitting the elegance and refinement of this exotic dish, (at the Jackpot for those unacquainted).

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Climate Change

12 January 2006

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute have found that consumption of Hoinanese Chicken has markedly reduced greenhouse emissions, in a report published today in the International Journal of Climate Studies.
In a groundbreaking study conducted at a number of Chinese restaurants in 30 countries, scientists measured greenhouse emissions from the cooking facilities and found that steaming the chicken, rather than frying saves up to 25% of greenhouse emissions per customer. There was also a very slight reduction from residual biochemical activity in the ginger sauce, which adsorbs carbon dioxide and methane up to 20 days post-harvest.

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Bird Flu

2 February 2006

Researchers today announced the development of an effective vaccine against the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus.

Dr Suryaprakash Sambhara, of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and colleagues in Atlanta, Georgia, said it can be made much more quickly than conventional vaccines and enough doses could be produced to protect people at risk.

Their work is likely to ensure that we will enjoy Hoinanese Chicken for many years to come!

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*There’s more*

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The Mexican Olympics

5 October 2006

The announcement yesterday of the death of Australia’s Olympic sprinter Peter Norman, closes another chapter in the history of Hoinanese Chicken.

Norman won a silver medal in the mens 200 metres at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and stood on the podium with Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they delivered their “black power” salute against racial discrimination.

Smith himself has described Norman as a humanitarian and a brother, paying tribute to Norman’s decision to wear a pin supporting their cause.

“It was a very courageous stance which he took… his belief in the principle – not necessarily where it was done or how it was done – but that the principle that it was done.

In an interview with the ABC’s Lindy Kerin, John Carlos also paid tribute to the great athlete.

JOHN CARLOS: His role was to show everyone that it’s not a black thing, it’s a human thing. It’s not about colour, it’s not about, you know, wealth or lack of wealth, it’s about having an understanding and love for humanity. You know, it’s two black guys, but it was three human beings up there, total.

LINDY KERIN: And how do you think he’ll be remembered?

JOHN CARLOS: Well, I think he’ll be remembered as a genuine man, a great athlete, and in my camp, a great friend, a great brother.

LINDY KERIN: The last time the three athletes were together was last year, at a ceremony to unveil a statue to commemorate the sporting moment.

JOHN CARLOS: We didn’t get to see each other as much as we would’ve liked, you know, but last year when he came over to the unveiling thing, we had a great time together. We hit the town, and had a few drinks, and hung out in Chinatown. The funny thing is, it’s a little thing really, but we both really enjoyed this chicken dish, they call it Hoinanese Chicken. And we’d make a joke about it, ’cause the first time we had it was in the Athletes Village in Mexico City, just after the medal ceremony. And ever since, whenever we get together, we head out for a Chinese restaurant.

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North Korea

19 October 2006

The introduction of sanctions by the United Nations on North Korea has had a little known consequence on the diet of several million people living on the Korean peninsula.

A defiant North Korea has declared United Nations sanctions imposed after its nuclear test are tantamount to a “declaration of war” and says it is ready for battle.

In its first Government reaction since the UN Security Council imposed the measures, North Korea has warned it will strike with “merciless blows” against any countries that impinge on its sovereignty.

Pyongyang has dismissed the council’s unanimous decision as “immoral behaviour”.

“The DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] wants peace but is not afraid of war,” the Foreign Ministry said.

North Korea’s official KCNA agency has quoted an unidentified spokesman saying: “We will watch US movements and take corresponding action”.

The spokesperson added that “Tomorrow we will be distributing war rations to all citizens. Part of the kit will include ingredients for the highly nutritious dish known as Hoinanese Chicken. It is deemed appropriate as the origins of the dish have been traced to a 10th century traditional ceremony that was practiced approximately 200 km north of Pyongyang.”

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Sir Michael Somare

26 October 2006

This week we find, surprisingly, that Hoinanese Chicken is an integral part of Pacific culture.

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has continued his strident attack on Australia over travel bans imposed on him after the Julian Moti affair.

Sir Michael used the Pacific Forum to launch a blistering attack on Australia’s “arrogance”, and as it wound up he said he found the continual disregard for his country’s leadership and public service particularly galling.

“We are intelligent people – we are not just people you pluck from the jungle,” Sir Michael said.

“Now that is the kind of impression sometimes we get from your press in Australia, especially.”

In the attack, Sir Michael described Mr Downer as a colonialist.

While he will recall PNG’s High Commissioner to brief him on the justification for Australia’s ban on ministerial contact and the travel restrictions imposed on him, Sir Michael says he will not be retaliating.

“Pacific people, we don’t operate the way some countries do. We usually sort out this sort of problem over a dish of Hoinanese Chicken”

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