They say that the surest road to fame for any commander is to have an item of food or clothing named after him. So if you’re wearing your wellington boots and a cardigan while eating a sandwich, how about rounding your snack off with a Garibaldi, known to all in the UK as ‘squashed fly biscuits”.
Please note: this is a British blog so biscuits = cookies. What you might well call a biscuit I would call a scone.
These biscuits were made in direct response to a visit to the UK from the great revolutionary leader Guiseppe Garibaldi in 1854.
As with so much in political history Garibaldi’s life is incredibly complicated. He was born in France from Italian parents and qualified as a sea captain. While in Russia he met an Italian political activist who so inspired him that he signed up to support the Risorgimento – the idea that Italy should be united again, as it once was under the Romans, instead of being separate city states more or less influenced by other European powers. He supported a popular insurrection in the Piedmont that ended so badly that he was sentenced to death – in absentia because he had fled, firstly to North Africa and then to Brazil.
Not one to step back from any available fight he joined in the delightfully named Ragamuffin War aided by a marvellous woman called Anita, later Mrs Garibaldi, who taught him how too be a gaucho and fought at his side, and a legion of exiled Italians. They also fought in the Uruguyan Civil War where Garibaldi commanded the fleet, sailing under a black flag to signify their mourning for the oppression of Italy. He and his men all wore red shirts liberated from a textile factory in Montevideo.
With a new liberal Pope in Rome Garibaldi and 60 of his red shirts returned to Italy in 1848 and fought with personal success on several losing sides in the 1st War for Italian Independence. Eventually he and 250 supporters were driven to San Marino where Anita, who was carrying their 5th child, died. Garibaldi and his supporters withdrew to Tangiers and Garibaldi took ship for America, hoping to raise funds but ending up working in a candle factory. But you can’t keep a good man down and he went back to Italy by working as a sea captain via central America, Australia, China, Manila, Peru and Newcastle in the UK, where he was greeted enthusiastically by the working men of the city, maybe hoping that he’d help them shrug off the yokes of their oppressors. He didn’t but THERE was where they invented the famous biscuit!
I could spend another hour of so writing about Garibaldi’s campaigns but we’re supposed to keep these posts short, so I’ll just end by saying that he lived long enough to see Italy at least partially unified, served in their parliament and founded a democratic society espousing universal suffrage, abolition of ecclesiastical property and the emancipation of women. He died in 1882 at the age of 75 having fathered 8 children, written at least 2 novels and two sets of memoirs.