Jonathan Harker's Journal - The Castle - May 5th

The grey of the morning has passed, and the sun is high over the distant horizon, which seems jagged, whether with trees or hills I know not, for it is so far off that big things and little are mixed. I am not sleepy, and, as I am not to be called till I awake, naturally I write till sleep comes. There are many odd things to put down, and, lest who reads them may fancy that I dined too well before I left Bistritz, let me put down my dinner exactly. I dined on what they called “robber steak”—bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper, and strung on sticks and roasted over the fire, in the simple style of the London cat’s meat! The wine was Golden Mediasch, which produces a queer sting on the tongue, which is, however, not disagreeable. I had only a couple of glasses of this, and nothing else....

It seems the hotel staff were spreading stories because Harker has a crowd of people watching him leave.  Most of them making signs against the evil eye at him and whispering about monsters.  After admiring the beautiful scenery on the way to Dracula's home.  When reaching the Borgo Pass, the carriage driver attempts to speed up thereby "missing" Dracula's waiting carriage.  At first the driver is relieved that his plan worked but as soon as he told Harker that he will continue to Bukovina, Dracula's carriage appears.  Harker doesn't see the driver of the carriage clearly but what he does see is disturbing.  The driver seems to have sharp teeth and rather red lips.  He smiles alot which discomforts Harker.

Dracula's carriage seems to be chased by Wolves.  But the driver is undisturbed and even seems to have power over the animals.  At the castle, Harker finally meets Dracula.  Harker describes a perfectly normal looking older man.  But the longer Harker spends in Dracula's presence the more he notices odd things.  His handshake is cold like touching someone dead.  Dracula won't eat.  He won't smoke.  He has hair on his palms.  His lips are red and his teeth extremely sharp.  When he comes close to Harker, he notices a stench that almost makes him sick.  The wolves start howling again to Dracula's delight.

“Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make!” Seeing, I suppose, some expression in my face strange to him, he added:—

“Ah, sir, you dwellers in the city cannot enter into the feelings of the hunter.”

What I love about this introduction was how low key it is, so commonplace.  Stoker feels no need to amp up the strangeness or the fear.  Harker notices hair all over Dracula's hands but spends no amount of time pondering this oddity.  Nor does he dwell on the foul smell of his host.  Yet he is completely nonplussed.  But I suppose he is one of the first horror protagonists who are totally oblivious to danger, walking right into it.  While the reading audience wave their hands and scream warnings.

Extra Fun:

Hair on the palms is a symptom of Hypertrichosis.  The condition is mostly congenital but can develop later in life.  An old superstition states that hair on the palms is a sign of insanity.  And of course it is the genesis of the werewolf myths which were an attempt to explain the condition since ancient people were not aware of genetic defects.  It is interesting that Stoker mixed in werewolf themes into a story about a vampire.  I wonder if he thought of his monster as encompassing both myths but not definitively either.

Robber's Steak is a dish known as Frigărui.  It is really a Romanian version of Shish Kebobs.  Here is one version of the recipe from a Romanian website.

Barbecue beef
Cooking Time: 15 min
Ready in: 15 minutes

750 g beef
300 ml beer without gluten
2 sweet peppers of different colors
4 tomatoes
1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil

Everyone loves skewers. Try this recipe and special beef barbecue!

1. Cut the meat and peppers into small cubes and rosioarele cut in two.

2. In a bowl, pour beer, oil, lemon juice and zest, thyme, salt and pepper.

3. In this sauce, put the meat, peppers and tomatoes, mix well by hand and let it cool for an hour.Meanwhile, grill heats up well.

4. Then, the meat is placed on the spit and place on the grill sprinkling, occasionally skewers with marinade.

Most of the recipes I found on the net leave out the bacon,  but it can be added to the skewers.

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