The Pipe and Pen
By Harry Cox
Much of what Miles is today is the legacy of Harry Cox - "The man at the helm" for many years who truly exemplified all that is good about Bermuda. Harry was always vigorous in the pursuit of his many passions, some of which included history, politics, diving, photography, writing, archeology and of course... excellent food and drink shared among friends and family.
Over a period of several years, Harry wrote a series of articles called The Pipe and Pen for publication in the Miles' newsletter. Collectively these writings provide a fascinating insight into life in Bermuda and Harry’s single minded focus on making Miles the foremost purveyor of gourmet food and drink from all over the world. These articles are reproduced here to be enjoyed by everyone however we ask that copyright be respected.
Thoughts around Easter in Bermuda
"Wind from the East blows three days at least". Like an incantation these homespun words linked Bermuda to the White House in Washington.
It's amazing to think what we owe to the East. An English missionary was on his way home when his ship had to put into Bermuda. They say that's how the Easter Lily got to Bermuda. One small thing that's just about forgotten now is the Americans first saw an impressive display of these magnificent flowers when a giant display was created in the newly built Radio City Music Hall foyer. They had been exported ever since they first arrived here in 1856 - but that great exhibit really planted them in the minds of those who cherish beautiful symbols of purity.
What else was brought here?
Maybe the lychees. Certainly the "Floppers".
Certainly our kites. And the most beautiful is still kept for good Friday. And don't forget all that tea that Earl Grey brought from China. Maybe he himself wasn't one of Miles customers, quite a few of his relatives were!
The moon gates come from the East, and are a symbol in the garden of Good Fortune, fulfilled wish and Great Happiness.
So it won't surprise you to hear that when we first opened Miles in a backyard at Waterloo, we were going to make the doors out of moon gates. The architect didn't think that was too practical an idea. But after the place was built he understood how right it would have been after all.
That was after he started shopping at Miles.
Faith. Teaching. Or just deep-rooted superstition? And old sea salt knows: You never, never go to sea on good Friday.
Talking about Easter and the sea...when you find a sand dollar you will also find the five white doves of peace. It may be why some call it the Holy Ghost shell."
Harry C. D. Cox
Mentionables .....and Memorabilia
"I was talking to an old friend of mine down in Devonshire the other night. We were talking about early days. Miss Maureen Pearman's mother was Alice Margaret Pearman. They are a very proud old Devonshire family. Here are a few of the things Maureen mentioned to me:
"My mother's dad about every three months left to go down to Argentina to get cattle for Bermuda with old Captain Frith. One time the cattle got away and stamped when they got off the ship in Hamilton. They went up Queen St. and up Reid St. The Lodge was coming down Reid Street....all the oxen came around the corner with their long horns and broke up that set up! Sometimes those trips took three months each way, depending on the weather."
Then we were talking about what the old folks used to do for medicine in the family - "Ginger Root is good for gas and pain in the stomach."
"Papaws were plentiful twenty years ago - they were good for blood pressure, you know."
"Cats Cradles - we used to call them Ruberk - that makes the skin close when you cut yourself."
"Periwinkles, white or pink. White is good for blood pressure and for diabetes."
"Aloe. Aloe is good for cuts and burns and almost anything to do with the skin. It's good for colds too. It tastes terrible - you boil it and it gets thick. Break it down with water, put a little lemon juice with it - sugar to taste."
Most of these things that the older generations believed in and used were founded in sound medical principles. Mrs. Charles I. Burland of Balhoun wrote a lot of them down and published them in pamphlet form many years ago. It was fun talking to Maureen Pearman. She's a proud gentle lady. She knew how Miles used to get its fresh meat - and she knows that the best way to stay healthy is to use common sense and always buy good food.
Miles has known those secrets for a very long time too.
My mother told me that where Rosemary grows - woman rules.
For quite a few historical reasons, I must say there is a lot of truth to that too."
Harry C. D. Cox
Ash Wednesday & St. David's Day
"One wouldn't expect to find the best interests of Bermuda's oldest and most exciting grocery business saying to much about a time like Lent. But we have so many good things that no matter how much fasting you might do, it will still be a pleasure to shop at Miles. When you stop fasting you deserve a real treat. A real reward. And that, of course, is the secret of why so many people go to Miles every day. Miles makes shopping the greatest reward.
However, if you are thinking of giving something up, here are some intriguing facts about some of the very obvious things that people consider giving up from time to time:
Tobacco: One of the founders of the Virginia Tobacco Company (which eventually put Bermuda out of the cigarette business) came to Bermuda first with the Sea Venture. He became pretty famous because he married Pocahontas. The English King at that time, King James I, didn't like the idea of smoking at all. What he had to say about the smoking habit would have rattled the slats of Madison Avenue even today. He wrote that (the custome is lothsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and the blacke stinking fume therof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless."
By the way, I still miss my pipe, King James or no King James.
Wine: One of the more reverent and learned divines who played an active role in opening up the New World, sailed in several of the earliest galleons. Pere Labat in his writing observed the savage Caribs, much feared, rarely ate Englishmen for they generally treated them kindly. The Spaniards were tough and sinewy. They preferred the French who were esteemed to be usually tender. Doubtless the result of their inclination to the drinking of good wines. Never underestimate or under value a good wine nor its beneficent effect. Spirits: To deal with this is to behold and consider one of the cornerstones of the very foundation of this island's economy. Apart from Bibbey, Bermuda has never produced anything to deserve the title "wine of the country".
In 1739, Captain Edward Vernon became Vice Admiral of the West Indies Squadron. From his habit of wearing a grogram boat-cloak he was given the name of 'Old Grog'. In 1740, in order to reduce drunkenness among his crews, he ordered that the rum issued to the sailors should be diluted with water, and the mixture is still known as grog.
In 1703, a chance to inflict a severe defeat upon the French at Martinique was lost, and the missed opportunity was blamed on rum and the hospitality of Barbados. The Senior Naval Commander, Codrington, was furious because Hovenden Walker took his ships to Barbados where, Codrington reported - "the planters think the best way to make their strangers welcome is to murder them with drinking; the tenth part of that strong liquor which will scarce warme the blood of our West Indians, who have bodies like Egyptian mummies, must certainly dispatch a newcomer to the other world".
The therapeutic values of fine rum ought never to be overlooked. It ages well in oaken barrels, which of course, explains the term "tapping the Admiral" as well as providing a clue as to how Admiral Sir George Somers got back to England.
One of the first Bermudians to have a drink with his king in London enjoyed the most obscure drink ever associated with Bermuda. Like old times in Bermuda, he and His Majesty enjoyed Calibogus together."
Harry C. D. Cox
"On May 29th, 1940 the name of a French coastal town was entered indelibly in military history. 340,000 men of the British Expeditionary force were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. The only victory in that first year of war. Bermuda was remotely connected when Ajax, Exeter and Achilles chased the German battleship Graf Spee in Montevideo.
In these early days of WWII other extraordinary things happened in Bermuda. The largest submarine in the world tied up at the flag pole on Front Street. Built in 1929, she was an underwater cruiser, 2880 tons displacement, armed with two 8" guns, 10 torpedo tubes and a scouting aircraft in a special hangar. She was 361' long. She was sunk in 1942, but not before she had become one of the most intriguing mysteries of Bermuda's war experience. She was called SURCOUF and a few school children were taken on board for tours of this amazing vessel.
One winter morning two French trawlers appeared in Hamilton's harbour. They had fled occupied France. Their holds were loaded with lobster, probably the first many Bermudians had ever seen. For some months, they were tied up at the Stalls, and in due course Mr. Chesley White supervised the dispersal of the lobsters in our reefs at carefully selected sectors. Eventually the trawlers left, probably bound for Martinique, but one or two of their crew remained in Bermuda.
It's not exactly something you would expect to find in a grocery store, but there's some very real romance in Miles, if you care to look for it.
One very famous French ship of war was wrecked in the Chub Heads on December 3rd, 1838. She was a double banked frigate of the line with 60 guns. Her name is L'HERMINIE. She was discovered by a French diving instructor called Jean Archie and an English schoolmaster named Rob Weedon.
After a hurricane in the 1960's a gentleman from Miles came across a bottle seal whilst diving on L"HERMINIE. The seal read "Adolphe Puget, Huile d'Olive, Marseille." Within the week a letter was written with no address save the words of the seal. They were asked if they were still in business, and if so, would they please send 50 cases to Miles Market.
If there is a better olive oil sold in Bermuda, we don't know about it, and that is how it is that Puget's Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been in Miles Market for the past 25 years or so.
By the way, on one dive, fortunately Charlie Reed, a wonderful Frammingham New Englander, was the companion of the Miles diver. Suddenly right before their eyes was a tiny lobster with claws. We both saw it! Well, wouldn't you expect to find a descendant of those first lobsters to have felt at home on a French wreck? Of course."
Harry C. D. Cox