Monday, October 2, 2006

A Fifth Anniversary

b. 19 June 1932
d. 2 October 2001

Today it has been five years since my father, Dr. H. Guy Bensusan, passed away.

On Stanford Solutions' KnowMap website, I came across this bio for Dad:

H. Guy Bensusan

H. Guy Bensusan, more commonly known as Guy Bensusan and affectionately addressed as Dr. Guy, was before his recent death a Professor of Humanities, the Senior Faculty Associate for Interactive Instruction Television, and Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at NAUNet (Northern Arizona University Internet), Interactive Instructional Television (IITV) and Interactive Learning Online (ILO).

He was the author of several works such as the following: Collaborative Online Learning Algorithm, Twelve Pillars of Learning, The Anatomy of Learning, Learning Models and Considerations, and The Spiral Escalator.

He was at the Office at the Flagstaff campus from 1963 - 2001, started at Kingman Campus in 2001, and also taught from the following: Holbrook-Showlow Campus (1997), Coolidge Campus (1998), Yuma Campus (1999) and Thatcher campus (2000).

Bensusan was born in England to the son of an Australian-born, Brazilian-raised mining engineer and a woman who was a world traveler, Hollywood writer and a Fellow in the Royal Geographic Society. Bensusan grew up in Brazil, finished high school in Los Angeles, spent summers in Mexico, became an American citizen and earned his way through University of California at Los Angeles graduate school in History by teaching swimming to Hollywood kids. He was hired in 1963 by the Arizona State College, which became Northern Arizona University four years later.

Bensusan valued his family history from Spain and Portugal with Jewish and Islamic roots and covering the Crusades, Atlantic exploration and colonialism. The Bensusans were expelled from Spain in 1492 when Queen Isabella deported Jews, Moors and Gypsies. With their indomitable spirit, they dispersed globally in trade, manufacturing, literature, arts and mining.

"Knowing where you come from sheds insight on one's objectivity" was a fundamental belief of Guy Bensusan and thus it was no wonder that he felt deep connections to Spain, Latin America, Western Africa, Western Europe and the United States.

He also knew where he was headed. As he said recently of the new interactive online and distance education: "The accumulation and interaction, helpfulness and openness of the learners is the most rewarding that I have ever experienced. And I KNOW we are not done with the learning and growing and revolution in our systems.... So stay tuned as we move ahead."

Following the sudden interruption in his journey as we interacted with people who knew Dr. Guy, we have the sense that he is still with us urging us on in our endeavours in fostering lifelong and lively learning through distance education.

(Reposted by permission of Stanford Solutions)

In honour of my late father, may God give rest to his soul, I repost a selection from his Lectures in Verse.


It was once long ago in that high Aztec land
that the Great Montezuma lost out to a band
of Spanish adventurers led by Cortez,
with phenomenal consequence, history says.

I was thinking of that down at Ye Taco Bell,
awaiting good flavors, enjoying the smell,
and wondering, "Is history a door left ajar,
revealing how things came to be as they are ?

It had not been like that in my school long ago:
I'd learned facts and exams asked for yes or for no.
Then later, in college I had much more fun,
since with essays creative loquaciousness won,
and I found fascination of a yet unknown kind
in defining, refining and wining combined.

What a challenge to master those tables and weights,
plus the formulas, characteristics and dates.
And there I succeeded, though I never did learn
how they might be remotely of *real* concern.

My values then were to compete for high grades,
which won money, pleased parents and drew accolades.
They'd praised and encouraged, though they'd not help me see
the life's work that would follow my college degree.

I covered my taco with more sauce and cheese,
aware I was blaming those others with ease.
But the truth was that I had been too immature
to derive, correlate, aquiesce and endure !
Had I gone right to work I'd have learned too, but brother,
what you gain on the one deal you lose on the other !

I went back to the counter and ordered some more,
and wiped off my beard as I stared at the floor,
reflecting on how I might deal with the need
to teach about LIVING from past deed and creed.

But the service was FAST and the cook really kind;
the aroma seduced noble thoughts from my mind,
and she smiled as she handed me, with sour cream,
my green chile, beef-onion, Burro Supreme.

I waited a bit, since the thing had to cool
and, not really wanting to sit there and drool,
I busied myself with a game in my head
matching names and locations with some big names now dead.
Columbus was obvious, fifteen-o-six.
De Soto, exploring, conveyed 'cross the Styx,

While Cortez and his followers would have been seen
as they climbed up from Veracruz, fifteen-nineteen,
fighting Tlaxcalans with sword, gun and horse,
then descending to Tenochtitlan in due course.

With that vision my whole body started to quake:
I relived the encounter at Texcoco Lake,
perceptions I'd never envisioned before
caused me to shake and spill food on the floor.

But some deep breathing helped get my carelessness curbed,
while a quick glance around showed I had not disturbed.
So I sat in a booth to get out of the way,
to eat and allow inspiration to play,
and right there I invented the work you here see
joining cultural history with gastronomy.

Friends, in thesis and purpose this work has to be
consumed and digested most reverently.
To explain how we got here is History's beat:
We people make history, and we are what we eat !

So imagine Cortez, Bernal Diaz and flock,
it's after Cholula, they're in culture shock,
each wanting his woman, to help his wounds heal,
some rest, relaxation and a good, home-cooked meal.

Montezuma was great, a magnificent host
with splendiferous feasts; first with pulque to toast
the health of his guests after which they did dine
on corn, beans, tomatoes and squash-on-the-vine,
pineapples, peanuts, papayas, cashews,
chiles and chocolate, avocados, honeydews.

Still, the Spaniards' dilemma was naturally keen
on confronting this unknown exotic cuisine.
It was tastes from their homeland which caused them to pine,
the cheese, ham and olives, wheat bread and grape wine.
Though they tactfully smiled through hot lips, eating all.
Montezuma lacked cause for revenge in that hall !

The Spaniards now shipped in their beef, citrus, rice,
artichokes, lard, peaches, peas --- for a price.
The cross-fraternization began in great haste
with both Aztec and Spaniard acquiring a taste
for the foods that each other so lovingly raised,
while new combinations appeared and were praised;
with tamales and tacos of chicken and pork,
re-fried beans, wheat tortillas to use as a fork.

That's the end of the first half of part number one,
though another component had already begun
with the purchase of slaves who would raise sugar cane
on the hot, humid lowlands and coasts of New Spain.

When assigned to the kitchen many Africans found
that they soon were renowned as the best cooks around,
inventing, combining, devising new meals
both nutritious and with colorful visual appeals.

Foodstuffs abounded from African soil:
yams, millet, okra, bananas, palm oil,
Guinea corn, cow peas, sorghum and greens,
providing new tastes in the cooking tureens.
Three races now worked at inventing the chow
with more combinations than our rhyme will allow.

We recall Indian foods had been roasted and broiled,
some eaten raw, others dried, honeyed, boiled.
Thus, huevos rancheros could not achieve fame
'til lard-loving Spaniards with frying pans came.

The distinctions by regions became highly holy,
with Bajio Green Rice and Jalisco Pozole,
Oaxaca tamales, Shrimp Mazatlan,
plus the Mole from Puebla and Crab Yucatan.

When we come to the bar in the New Hemisphere
we encounter libations which still persevere.
There'd be NO multicultural booze paradigm
without margarita's tequila and lime,
or pineapples laced with dark rum and fruit juices,
coconut bombshells, or Kahlua Cream Mousses !

Part two: Independence. Old Spain got kicked out,
while retaining significant cultural clout.
(And please pardon the obvious break in the flow,
but Taco Bell closed, and they asked me to go.
So I'm now down the street at the new Pizza Hut
which serves beer and is darker and noisier, but
is germane and quite relevant as will be seen
as we think about eating in century nineteen.)

With Hidalgo, the Padre, came the Liberty Cry !
With September sixteenth as their Fourth of July !
Immigration from Europe now grew very fast
both to add to and share in the National repast.
(And excuse me, "A pitcher of dark, if you please,
plus a large pepperoni and peppers with cheese.")

By this time, though, the foods of colonial days.
which profoundly were based on old Indian ways,
had entrenched themselves deeply for three hundred years
and were too firmly fastened to feel any fears.

Heinrich and Friedrich brought Teutonic eats,
the wurst, sauerkraut und Bavarian sweets;
they descended ashore each with lager-filled stein
where they met Rio Grande and longed for the Rhine.

As they cherished their kitchens with eyes all agleam,
they prepared enchiladas with chives, sour cream;
Chihuahua Frijoles, Salchichas with cheese,
a Caldo de Ajo to cure cough and wheeze,
while the Chile con Carne with Texas-style Beans
brought sweat to the forehead and gas to the jeans.

Tomatoes and peppers, beforehand unseen,
were essential to Italy's later cuisine,
which repaid with macaroni and pastafazoo,
giving girth to the Mexican Prodigal Stew.
Italians immigrating to Old Monterrey
refashioned their noodles, decided to stay;
Rhinelanders followed to brew malt and hops
and now with fideos and cerveza, they're tops.

(I digress, and I also must go for some air,
plus dessert, which will be a large chocolate eclair.)

Intervention, Maximilian, with an army of French.
While they lose and retreat, they will deeply entrench
by gracefully kindling that gourmet demand
for camembert, champignon, and chateaubriand.
We acknowledge the new chefs, Rene and Francois,
who spread Restoration with pate de foie,
Boeuf Bourguignon, Bordelaise, Grand Marnier
(though Benito rejected the Courvoisier).

Then they tempted Porfirio by letting him cook.
He thrived as he went through Escoffier's book,
creating the classic souffle mexicana,
but also concocting a Roast Suckling Iguana.

By the end of the century it looked to all eyes
as if Mexico's cooking might warrant a prize.
Still, in spite of the fact that Filete Mignon
and Cafe con Leche had really caught on,
divergence and discord were emerging with heat
between food of the masses and of the elite.

The cause of the fight was the big yearly bake-off
where Old Diaz consistently won and would take off
with all of the prizes. Other entries were wasted,
and those from the provinces weren't even tasted.

One loser, Madero, who lived out of town,
requested a recount and then got put down.
Zapata joined Villa with Peasant Surprise,
mixing corn, beans and horsemeat with multiple dyes.

The explosion let loose an un-tameable beast,
which cooked up new fares for the moveable feast:
Railroader's Pot-Luck, Zacatecas Ragu,
Constitutional Punch and Pershing's Big Stew.

Millions were changed by the manifold dinners;
it would take many years to decide on the winners.
Yet after the ruckus a breakfast was planned,
where opposing contenders agreed to disband
so the very next cook-off could be given a menu
which would formulate Mexico's cookery venue.

Jose Vasconcelos's Cosmic Race rules
said today's foods were gathered from earlier pools,
while tomorrow the new and improved super-chow
would have to derive from the best meals of now !

Some chefs applauded; some others threw flowers;
while a few longed for the meals that took so many hours;
and some wished no changes though a fifth group did look
as a newfangled process they called "pressure-cook."
The remainder demanded a national decree
which would ban foods not native originally !

At the same time, of course, every incoming ship
brought it borscht and paella and bagels each trip,
then goulashes, cous-cous and squab Cantonese,
Sukiyaki, some curry, and some bits of Swiss Cheese.

Then the buses and autos, the trains and airplanes,
incessantly, whether in sunshine or rains,
carried hamburgers, catsup, dill pickles and buns,
malts, peanut butter and chips by the tons.

How the magnitude numbed. Scores of nations had poured
their cuisines into Mexico's huge smorgasbord.
Though it seemed that the foods earning greatest attention
came from the corn, bean and chile dimension.
And that thought made me suddenly tired and beat ---
so I went home to fix myself something to eat !

The milk, honey, ice and scotch went in the blender
with a packet of Fifty-Fruits-Instant-Bartender;
plus from freezer some Foo Yung-Kebab-Ravioli,
micro-zapped for two minutes to simmer it slowly.

While dining, my viewpoint inverted with ease:
her national foods could be sold overseas !
Thus a strange, grandiose market-vision unfurled
called FIESTA: with Mexico's Meals for the World !!!
Each treat would contain an authentic repast
attested as wholesome, nutritious and FAST !

Its E-Z STAK CARTON would surely inspire
with a big-bosomed beauty in regional attire
explaining some history and FIESTA's new club,
three-language voucher plus lottery stub.

Every box would be expertly flash-frozen-dried;
multi-cultural instructions included inside.
For safety they provided a Halozone pill,
plus a pre-paid prescription for fresh Lomotil.

Monthly they'd feature an appropriate crock,
with a matching, hand-embroidered and colorfast frock,
which furnished the pantry and wardrobe together
with usable items, whatever the weather.

FIESTA's whole program deserved a gold seal
with their reference guide called **The Mexican Meal**,
plus the learning device with cassettes, called EL CHANGO,
which helped you pronounce, "Papatzul, Huachinango,"
while the game on TV offered prizes to winners
consisting of multi-course Mexican dinners.

"That's amazing," I said, as my vision departed,
and I refilled by goblet to get it restarted.
But this time the picture was darker indeed,
since FIESTA was rampant with fraud, schemes and greed.

The fancy frocks faded and plastic crocks cracked,
while misprogrammed computers mislabeled, mispacked
*chicharrones* for Israel, *rosbif* for Bombay,
*margaritas* for Cairo, and forgetting L.A.
The price wars, embezzlements, strikes on the docks,
TV frauds and cancer-scares hurting the stocks,
embarrassing scandals, allegations in courts
when the lottery was won by Consumer Reports.

As my fantasy faded I became more aware
it only had shown me MY hopes, MY despair.
The menu, once simple, was now quite confused.
And what is going to happen ? I sat there and mused.

Will our meals merge together and acquire the same look ?

Accidentally ? On purpose ? And who will be the cook ?

Will each region's cuisine, despite outside invasion,
resist those strong forces, preserve its equation ?

Or will new foods be found in that vast outer space ?
Imagine Wells Fargo in the credit-card race !!!!

I got ready for bed when the dishes were done.
Do you think that Cortez ever had to wash one ?
Heinrich had servants, and so did Rene;
with FIESTA you threw the containers away.

I considered inventing, while shedding my shirt,
a utensil and plate one might eat for dessert.
But my Gwendolyn said I had not picked a winner,
'cause she preferred eating
dessert before dinner.

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