EMILY: So do you get your lunch at school or do you bring it with you? Because Rosa made a fabulous leg of lamb yesterday. I bet it’d make a wonderful sandwich.
RICHARD: Take her up on that. It is good. And demand a slice of strudel.

Strudel is a dish made from layers of thin pastry with a filling, usually (but not always) sweet. It became popular in the 18th century throughout the Hapsburg Empire, so is a dish originating in Austria, but also common throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Strudel pastry was heavily influenced by the filo pastry used in Turkish cuisine, such as baklava. It is very fine and elastic, and is supposed to be rolled so thin that you can read a newspaper through it.

The best known strudel is apple strudel, and the second best known is a strudel filled with a sweet soft cheese filling. However, almost any kind of fruit can be used, and so can jam, nuts, vegetables such as spinach, and meat fillings.

That Rosa makes both blintzes and strudel suggests she may be from somewhere in Eastern Europe, perhaps Hungary or the former Czechoslovakia. There is a chance that Rosa is meant to be an East European Jew, perhaps (for example) a Czech who was rescued as a child and sent to Allied countries during World War II. If so, she would be quite mature-aged, and probably older than Richard and Emily.

Martha Washington

RORY: So, what do you think? [of the Independence Inn]
EMILY: Well, I think it’s very nice.
RORY: Mom’s office is right back there. Oh, and you have to see the dining room. They got the chandeliers from one of Martha Washington’s houses.

Martha Washington, born Martha Dandridge (1731-1802) was the wife of President George Washington, and First Lady of the United States (although the title was not coined until after her death, she is considered to be the first First Lady). The couple married in 1759.

Martha married the politician Daniel Custis in 1750, and after his death in 1757 she inherited his considerable estate, becoming a very wealthy widow while still a relatively young woman. Her houses included The White House, a plantation house in Virginia which was the main family home, and a house in Williamsburg, Virginia, which was later named Six Chimneys. Besides these, she was also left in possession of five plantations.

The White House burned down during the American Civil War, and Six Chimneys fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down. Of the five plantation houses, I can discover nothing, but it seems most likely that the chandeliers either came from one of these, or just possibly, from Six Chimneys; if so, the chandeliers may have been removed around the late 18th century or very early 19th century.

“Go build us another statue”

MICHEL: Be quiet.
RUNE: Go build us another statue.

Rune is referring to the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Englightening the World), which was a gift from the French people to the people of the United States. It shows the Roman goddess Libertas (Liberty) holding a torch above her head, and in her hand holding a tablet inscribed with the date of the US Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776.

Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the statue is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, and was dedicated on 1886. It has become an important symbol of American freedom.

“Let them eat cake”

PARIS: God, this is so weird. I can’t stop smiling.
RORY: Good, then it’s a good time to talk about our over-taxed peasants.
PARIS: Oh, let them eat cake.

Paris is referring to Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, and the last queen of France before the French Revolution.

“Let them eat cake” is a phrase popularly ascribed to Marie Antoinette upon being told the peasants were starving and had no bread to eat. The phrase supposedly demonstrates either an indifference to their plight, or a complete lack of understanding of it. It doesn’t fit with what we know of Marie Antoinette, who was quite concerned with the poor, and donated generously to charitable causes.

She almost certainly did not say it. It comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782), where he mentions a “great princess” who once said it. Not only does he not name the princess, but that part of his autobiography covers the years when Marie Antoinette would have been a little girl in Austria. He may have invented the anecdote entirely.

Spanish Inquisition

PARIS: Those [cards in her jacket pocket] are notes for tonight.
RORY: Notes?
PARIS: Yeah. Just some reference points really – you know, subjects to bring up in case the conversation lags.
RORY: Well, can I suggest that you leave this one about the Spanish Inquisition out?

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, was established in 1478 by Ferdinand II and Isabella I.

Intended to establish Catholic orthodoxy through Spain and its territories, its main purpose was to identify heretics among those who converted to Catholicism from Judaism and Islam and to test their sincerity. As Jews and Muslims were forced to either convert to Christianity or leave the country, it was little wonder their conversions might not have always been genuine.

Around 3000 to 5000 people were executed under the Spanish Inquisition, and it wasn’t officially abolished until 1834, although its influence had declined steadily for centuries.

The Tower

LORELAI: Are you sure you can’t come? [to a family dinner with Trix]
RORY: Yeah, I’m sure. If I’m not prepared tomorrow, Paris is gonna have me sent to the Tower.

Rory means the Tower of London, more correctly Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. It’s a historic castle on the River Thames in the City of London, and was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lodnon.

Although the Tower of London’s original primary purpose was to be a palace and royal residence, it has been used as a prison from 1100 to 1952. Its peak period as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when “being sent to the Tower” meant you were going to prison. Queen Elizabeth I spent time there before she was queen.

Quarter Sessions Court

PARIS: We are talking about Government class, not the movies. God, why can’t I get one person to care about this as much as I do?!
LOUISE: Okay, fine. I’ll be the head of the Quarter Sessions court, but I’m still wearing the dress.

The Quarter Sessions courts were local courts held in each county – named such because they were held four times a year. Their reputation was very poor, and the chairmen did not not need legal qualifications. Even in imaginary situations, Louise doesn’t seem to aim very high.