Search Results for "robert burns"

The Best Laid Schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang Aft Agley

Robert Burns could/should have added “women” to his line from the 1785 poem To a Mouse…”the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men an’ women gang aft agley” And surely anyone who cooks – or just lives – would agree with his remark. Our schemes and plans and work often go awry. Andy wrote about things that go awry on an earlier blog – and he’s back on the topic again today in Andy’s Corner. But this time he’s blaming Fortuna.

You could follow Burns’ message up with another oldie but goodie: “Pick yourself up; dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

Why am I thinking about all of this? Well here are two teeny hints: consider this number: 15. Then consider this photo:


My baking plans definitely went awry the other day. Case in point: the German Apfel Marzipan Kuchen I made for a New Year’s Day dinner party at a friend’s home. I was hesitant to use that particular recipe since I’d never made it before, but after hours of studying recipes and picking what seemed a fool-proof one (thanks to my confidence in the recipes from David Lebovitz and Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking), I made it. The result was gorgeous in appearance. Yes, I pondered a bit when the center seemed slightly soft when it was ready to remove from the oven, but it had pulled away from the sides, the edges were golden brown (in fact, one edge was approaching burned), and I even got out our new, pricey Thermapen to check the internal temperature – and the temperature seemed a tad on the low side, but I attributed that to the fact that it had been out of the oven for a few minutes before I tested it.

My German Apfel Marzipan Kuchen with an apricot glaze

Normally, after it had cooled, I would have cut into the cake to be sure it was fully baked, but it was so lovely I decided to have faith and bring it to the dinner party whole and beautiful and perfect-looking.

What followed is a food blogger’s possibly-worst nightmare. After we’d consumed our delicious German-themed dinner of pork and sauerkraut and a vegetable mixed salad and yeast rolls, I was asked to serve the Apfel Kuchen – my contribution. And – you guessed it – the center was a doughy mess.

My failed cake

I put on my best fake smile, cheerfully cut pieces from the outside of the cake, and served it up, pretending I hadn’t totally screwed up. Did the dinner guests guess? Who knows.

Ginger Rogers has the perfect song for such an occasion; be sure to watch the whole thing. Did she convince Fred Astaire that he could dance after his failure?

“No one could teach you to dance in a million years.”

It’s kind of amazing how many poems and songs deal with this subject. We all know “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Did you know if came from a Teacher’s Manual, published in 1840?

Will I be trying that recipe again, determined to make a perfect Apfel Kuchen? Nope. But I’ll keep on baking apple cakes; I’m returning to my old stand-by recipe, originally published in the NY Times in 1973 – Teddie’s Apple Cake. It may not be as lovely to look at, but I’ve never had it fail.

And what is the lesson about failure to be learned here? Take it from Kevin McCarthy’s approach (whether you dislike him or admire him):

 ‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine,

  When the fish ain’t on yer line;

  Bait yer hook an’ keep a-tryin’—

  Keep a-goin’!

(even if it’s 1 a.m. in the morning)

Teddie’s Apple Cake recipe first appeared in 1973 – in the NY Times
Continue reading

Best Laid Plans: A Beach Date Gone Awry

Beach Blanket Bingo starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello was playing in theaters in 1965. Although I’ve never seen the film, this trailer
seemed appropriate for introducing today’s Andy’s Corner.

It seems that photos have become a flashpoint of inspiration for my Andy’s Corner pieces. In my previous post I wrote about how a photo from the 1950’s brought back memories of my Boy Scout past. Ann’s photo of our grandson and his girlfriend at the beach that she posted in today’s blog stirred up memories of a beach date from my U C Santa Barbara days when I was about our grandson’s age (and Beach Blanket Bingo was a big hit). It also brought to mind a well known Robert Burns poem and kindled an urge to sociologize a bit (yes, sociologize is a real word).

I’ll begin with the poem. If any poetry speaks to the experience that I am about to disclose none does better than Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785.” I’m sure you’ll recognize the well-known part of the poem that I find so apropos.

The original is on the left and the translation on the right. Burns’ entire poem is linked here.

As you may already suspect (and as I will reveal a little later), my “best-laid scheme” for an ideal beach date managed to go “awry.” But awry or not, it provides me with an excuse to introduce you to some key principles from one of my favorite sociological perspectives, Dramaturgical Sociology. In fact, I’ve shared my beach-date story from the lectern many times with my captive student audiences over the years. Even now as I contemplate telling you this story I have to resist the urge to tell you to turn off your smart phones and to at least act like you’re interested.

Dramaturgical Sociology was introduced in 1959 by Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” He used a theatrical performance metaphor to explain much of the behavior we find in everyday life. He argued that when interacting with others we try to project an “idealized” image of ourselves that we want to be taken seriously- much like an actor on stage tries to portray a character that the audience can find believable. And, also like theater actors, before the curtain is raised we prepare for our performances back stage (or in the “back region”) out of sight of our targeted audience.

Editor’s note: Obviously the above overview only scratches the surface. For greater detail, I recommend Goffman’s book which I included on my required reading list throughout my 39 years of teaching. The only complaint I ever got was from a female student at Sonoma State who marched into my office and announced that she “would rather face a firing squad than read another word of Goffman.” She was offended by his “sexist” prose. I tried to explain that like many scholarly writers of that era (1950s) Goffman was not sensitive to the issue of using gender-neutral language but nevertheless had given us many useful insights. She dropped my course.

So now let’s turn to my beach-date. It took place during my second semester at UC Santa Barbara. I had transferred there as a junior from a JC and was living in San Miguel Hall, an all-male dorm. Mixed-gender dorms weren’t an option until a few years later. Not only were males not allowed to visit residents in the women’s dorms, the women were bound by a strict curfew, which was 10:30 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

I don’t recall in which of my courses I got to know Lana (I think that was her name) but I do remember that I found her to be attractive and friendly and that she lived in Santa Rosa Hall, a female dorm not far from San Miguel Hall. It took me some time to work up enough nerve, but I finally asked her if she would like to go out to dinner with me. To my surprise she said yes.

UCSB campus (the arrow points to my dorm, San Miguel Hall).

I was stoked that she agreed to go out with me, but it put me in a bit of a bind. I had no car at the time and the fine-dining options within walking distance of campus were slim. Keep in mind that this was way before Uber and the likes. Plus, I had assumed that no young woman worth her salt would want to go out with a loser who had no car. So I had to come up with something creative to compensate for that tactical disadvantage.

Then it hit me – why not have a “spontaneous” and romantic picnic on the beach? One of the bennies of being at UCSB was its location on a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean with what was then the equivalent of a private beach for the students. What could be more perfect?

Back Region Preparations.

The first thing I did to prepare for a “spontaneous” picnic was catch a bus to downtown Santa Barbara (which was about 12 miles away) to do some shopping. At a deli I bought an assortment of cheeses and cold cuts, two different bottles of wine (a chianti in a very cool straw basket and another kind that I don’t recall), and a French baguette. Next, in a kitchen shop I found a red-checkered table cloth (a proxy for a beach blanket!), a couple of inexpensive wine glasses, and a cheap cork screw.

Chianti in a bottle with a straw basket (aka “fiasco“) was very trendy in the 1960’s (and the empty bottles made hip candle holders).

I lugged my “picnic” ingredients back to the dorm, being sure that our RA didn’t see the wine – no alcohol in dorms in those days. Then, on the morning before the date I went on a reconnoitering hike down the beach in search of a good picnic site. When I found what looked like a promising location I foraged for driftwood that could be used to build a cozy fire and stashed it behind a sand dune. I was ready for curtain time.

Front Stage: The Performance

I arrived at Lana’s dorm at 6:00 pm and asked the RA at the reception desk to let Lana know her date was in the lobby. I had a Berkeley book bag stuffed with the picnic goods slung over my shoulder with the baguette peeking out suggestively.

This was the best image I could find on the web of the then popular “Berkeley book bag.” Try to imagine it slung over my shoulder with a French baguette peeking out.

When Lana came into the lobby I told her that it was such a nice evening that rather than going to some stuffy restaurant I thought it would be fun to have a picnic on the beach. She seemed ok with that (thank goodness!), so I suggested that we walk down the beach to find a good spot for a picnic.

It turned out to be a lovely evening with nobody in sight and a hint of an upcoming beautiful sunset. As we arrived at the site that I had previously scouted out I said that this looks like the ideal place and I whipped out the checkered table cloth, spread it on the sand, and laid out the food, pulling out the bottles of wine last. Then I uncorked both bottles asking her to taste each, suggesting that we would share the one she preferred (knowing that I could later claim that once a bottle was opened it had to be consumed).

Watching from the beach as the sun slowly sinks into the Pacific Ocean.

By now the sunset was in full bloom and it was cooling off. I told her that it would be nice to have a fire with our picnic and that I would see if I could find any wood. I walked behind the sand dune where I had my stash, waited a minute or two, and came back with an armful of wood exclaiming “we’re in luck!”

So far everything was dramaturgically on script. What was left of the sunset was slowly fading, we had a crackling fire, and were sitting side by side sipping wine and watching the waves roll in. It was about then that she started telling me about the problems she was having with her boyfriend who had transferred to another university. Before long, she was in tears explaining how much she missed him and how guilty she felt for not being more supportive of him. I don’t recall much about the specifics of her boyfriend-relationship issues, but I do recall watching the fire going down along with the prospects for a romantic evening.

This looks like the “woody” that got us back to the dorm.

Lana was still going on about her boyfriend and we had just finishing the second bottle of wine when I realized that it was perilously close to curfew time and it was a long hike back to the dorm. We threw the remainder of the picnic stuff in my bag and started running up the beach. Fortunately, we came across a surfer who offered to give us a lift back to campus in his “woody” (my first and last time in one of those). With his help we managed to get to the front door of her dorm with about 3 minutes to spare.

I didn’t see Lana after that night but I heard through a friend that at the end of the semester she had transferred to the university her boyfriend attended. I always wondered if, over a glass of wine with her boyfriend, she ever told him the story about our beach picnic date. And if she did tell that story, whether she portrayed me as a sympathetic listener or as a loser who had no car (or maybe both). I guess I’ll never know, which is just as well.

Shid Ald Akwentans Bee Firgot – the Many Lives of Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet who published Auld Lang Syne in 1788

While Ann was working on today’s blog our house was filled non-stop with versions of Auld Lang Syne from Spotify’s seemingly bottomless well. We both agree our favorite of them all is the version sung by Mairi Campbell at the conclusion of the 2008 movie version of Sex and the City. If you haven’t already, be sure to listen to it on Ann’s blog.

Scottish pronunciation guide for Mairi Campbell’s first stanza

Hearing all of the different renditions and artists performing that particular piece got me to wondering about its origins and meaning, so I did a some digging around. Turns out that this seemingly simple little sweet Scottish folk song has had a complex and fascinating career.

It’s well known that the words are from a poem penned by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and put to music in 1799. But even this seemingly straightforward origin is a bit murky. Evidently, Robert Burns “collected” folk songs from others and put them on paper. Was this plagiarism? It’s hard to know since was not available back then. Here’s a link to a an overview of the song’s murky origins.

Guy Lombardo

Furthermore, I had always assumed that Auld Lang Syne was written for the ringing out of the old year and welcoming of the new year, as depicted in the final scenes of the Sex and the City movie. Actually, it was Guy Lombardo who, 130 years after it was published, made it a New Year’s tradition (at least in the U.S.).

On December 31, 1929, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians … were tapped to play a New Year’s Eve radio broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Just after midnight, they broke into “Auld Lang Syne.” It was a hit, so a year later they did it again. Eventually, it became the group’s signature tune, which they performed every New Year’s Eve — first on radio and then on television — until 1976. ( from the Saturday Evening Post)

But the New Years connection is just the tip of the Auld Lang Syne iceberg. The song has far more iterations and connections than I ever imagined. Here are just some:

  • In Scotland, it’s sung at the end of a cèilidh which is a traditional dance.
  • In Britain it’s played at the “Passing Out Parade of Young Officers” in the Royal Navy (Can your imagine a parade of naval officers passing out?).
  • It’s often a closing song for jamborees and other international Scout occasions.
  • It’s a part of the Danish Højskole tradition (whatever that may be).
  • It’s used as the Dutch football song “Wij houden van Oranje” (“We Love Orange”)
  • It’s a patriotic Thai song about the king and national unity.
  • It was the national anthem of the Korean exile govenment from 1919 to 1945.
  • It’s been used in animated films, including Mickey Mouse (Chain Gang, 1938) and Winnie the Pooh (A Very Pooh New Year, 2002)
Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake in southern part of the Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland.

And speaking of iceberg tips, what better way to end my post than with a tip of the hat to my cycling buddy Larry (aka “SquarePants”) by sharing this version of Auld Lang Syne – in his ancestral language?

Three Cities

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Cleveland looks pretty amazing to me.

“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

Tennessee Williams, who died in 1981, may (or may not) have made that remark.  And though you might be puzzled, amused, or annoyed by his choices, it has the possibility of stimulating some fun conversation (perhaps around a dinner table!).  Should Chicago have been included?  If Williams were alive today, would he still include SF?  Should Dallas replace Cleveland?  What’s your favorite up and coming city – Portland (could be Oregon or could be Maine)? Denver?  Where does L.A. fit into all of this?

When you think of New York, do you automatically include Brooklyn?  We had a lively conversation about Brooklyn as part of New York City during our visit last week to our Brooklyn kiddos.  Those boroughs of “New York City” could not be more different.  Clearly, Manhattan is filled with amazing attractions; our dinner conversation won’t need to go there.  But what a trip Brooklyn is – food-wise, culture-wise, people-wise, gritty-wise, real-wise.  I’m meeting up with my Fort Collins Besties there in October and couldn’t be more excited.

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I don’t think there is any other place in the U.S. where you hear so many languages and encounter so many ethnicities on one long walk: Irish (hi, Miriam!), African-American, Caribbean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian.

It’s tricky touring around Brooklyn; after all, it has about 1 million more people than Manhattan and area-wise is 70 square miles compared to Manhattan’s 23 square miles.  But you can take it neighborhood by neighborhood: Crown Heights/Prospect Heights for the Brooklyn Museum and for the Botanical Gardens and Prospect Park; Park Slope for beautiful brownstones; Fort Greene for BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music), Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge OverPass) for food, shopping, art, and an amazing view over the East River to Manhattan.

And the food!  Brooklyn has over 90 restaurants in the Michelin Guide, and they include almost every imaginable cuisine – from Mexican/Oaxacan (Claro) near the infamous Gowanus Canal – to Jewish/Japanese (Shalom Japan) in hipster Williamsburg.  We heartily recommend Hunky Dory (Claire, the charming young owner, a native of Houston, came to Brooklyn via San Francisco) and Glady’s (Caribbean) – both just around the corner from our kids’ Crown Height’s condo, the lauded Roberta’s (delish pizza) in Bushwick,  Frankies 457 (Italian) in Carroll Gardens, and Dumbo for the new Time Out Market with fun spots such as Jacob’s Pickles (Southern) followed by a great cup of coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Which reminds me, Andy is still focused on coffee.  After being a coffee wallah on his bicycling trip, he’s now reflecting – in today’s Andy’s Corner  – upon our daughter Sara’s foray into the coffee culture.

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I agree with this review: “These recipes range from fantastic to not very good to overly simplistic.”

In 1992 Molly O’Neill – probably known best as a food columnist for the NYTimes – published the New York Cookbook.  I got the book back out after reading that O’Neill  recently passed away.  Even if the recipes in her book are a little random and may not delight everyone’s palate (eel handrolls? callaloo? dill kalv?), the cookbook is filled to the brim with fascinating snippets about New Yorkers (including Brooklynites!) and their food.  Plus, that’s where we got Katharine Hepburn’s brownie recipe, which is one of our all-time favorites.

Even though I’m not crazy about okra when it’s used in the Caribbean callaloo recipe in O’Neill’s cookbook, I really love okra cooked other ways and think it’s a shame that more folks aren’t willing to give it a try.  So here’s another Caribbean okra recipe; it’s easy; it’s delicious.  And frying the okra takes all that disliked sliminess away.  Now if someone could just explain to me why it’s called “Limpin’ Susan!”  The story goes that it’s an alternative to “Hoppin’ John,” a peas and rice dish.  Mmmmmm.  Why isn’t it Hoppin’ Susan and Limp John? 🙂

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Limpin’ Susan – Fried Okra and Rice

Limpin' Susan

This is really two recipes in one.  My absolute favorite way to do okra is to just slice it and fry it over medium high heat.  Don’t bother to bread it…way too much work.  Then serve it as an appetizer or side dish.  In that case, you just need the oil and the okra (and some salt and pepper) and complete step #1 (well, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is always appreciated).  But if you want something more substantial, continue on with the onions, seasonings, rice, etc.  Recipe adapted from Kim Severson and the NYTimes

  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c sliced fresh okra (1/2 pound), about 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 c finely chopped onions
  • 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger 
  • 1/4 to 1 fresh hot pepper, such as habanero, minced and added to taste
  • 1/2  – 1 tsp  salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of peeled chopped, uncooked shrimp can be included when the onions and seasonings are added (optional)
  • 2-3 cups cooked long-grain rice; leftover rice is perfect
  1. Pour oil into an 8-inch skillet, adding more, if needed, to make sure it coats the entire bottom of the pan. Heat over medium to medium-high heat and add the okra.  Sprinkle with some salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until okra is nicely browned and tender, about 4-6 minutes (you can stop at this point and serve the fried okra as a fabulous appetizer; be sure to serve it sizzling hot; OR you can go on to step #2).
  2. Add everything else but the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Increase heat to high and add rice, stirring gently but constantly for about 2 minutes. If you want the rice to brown. like fried rice, you can cook the mixture longer. Taste frequently, and add more seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

The Raggedy Awards

Raggedy Ann&Andy1943

We did it!  Blogged for a year.

Some end-of-our-first-year-blogging thank-you’s are in order (I feel like I’m giving an Academy Awards speech):

The Raggedys Oscars

First: thanks to all who forwarded our blog to others who might be interested.  Please do it again and suggest they sign up to receive a notice when we post a new blog.

Second: thank you to everyone who responded to something we wrote.  It’s great to get feedback.

Third: thank you to everyone who tried a recipe (Here’s to you, TRICIA! :).  And we encourage y’all to do more home-cooking.  Research at the University of Washington indicates that “people who cook at home more often, rather than eating out, tend to have healthier overall diets without higher food expenses.”  Did we need research to tell us that?

Fourth: many thanks to our guest bloggers, David from Albuquerque and Moss from SF.  San Francisco and Albuquerque appear to produce folks with great food capabilities because 2 more bloggers from those wonderful cities are on our up-next-guest list.  You’ll enjoy their blogs.  If you have any interest in joining this awesome group, just send us an email.

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Thank you, Please, and I Love You!

Finally: thanks to everyone who put up with Andy’s humor, including me. 🙂  Wait till you read Andy’s Corner today; it may be his Hay Day.

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As you know, every year the Raggedys present the Raggedy Awards.  Yes, I hear you when you mention that we’ve just now blogged for a year and you’ve never heard of the Raggedy Awards, but, guaranteed,  this shall become a yearly and highly-anticipated tradition.  The Raggedy is a self-congratulatory thing between Andy and me.  He awards me with The Raggedy for my best blog and I award him The Raggedy for his best Andy’s Corner contribution.  And together we pick our favorite “Food for Thought” and our favorite food item of the year.

We’ve published about 45 blogs since our first one went out in May 2017.  Andy has written about 25 essays.  And we’re still together and having fun with this little food and life blog…well, most of the time 🙂

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Some of the time.

And now to the Awards Ceremony:

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The Raggedy for Andy’s Corner’s BEST goes to:


The runner up for Andy’s Corner’s BEST is a tie between:

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The Raggedy for Ann’s BEST BLOG goes to:

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The runner up for Ann’s BEST BLOG is a tie between: 

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The Raggedy for FOOD FOR THOUGHT goes to:

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The runner up for FOOD FOR THOUGHT goes to:

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These Holsteins west of Petaluma, CA, appear to live an especially lovely life.

Admittedly, loving butter – and most dairy products – is a tricky push-pull kind of affair.  Temple Grandin, the fascinating Colorado State University researcher, has some disturbing insights in this Washington Post article.  The NYTimes gives another overview (informative and interesting – but also depressing) of the situation.  And those don’t even touch health issues: i.e. butter vs margarine (disclaimer: when my grandfather was in Congress he worked to protect the dairy industry by helping to get a law passed that required margarine served in restaurants to be shaped differently than butter; that was after agreeing to margarine being dyed to be the same color as butter – all in the Oleomargarine Tax Repeal of 1950.  Clearly one of the highlights of his Congressional service!).

So do we think of cows as Robert Louis Stevenson did in his lovely little poem, The Cow, from 1913  – or do we think of them as environment busters, destroying everything with their burps and farts?  Do we embrace butter – or reject it and everything else associated with cows?  Oh, please, don’t make me make that choice.

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The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

At least for today we’re going to let butter be the star.  Andy’s birthday was yesterday, so, of course, we had a cake (clearly made with butter) to celebrate.  And we’ve looked through our recipes and picked our favorite butter-ish ones.   Continue reading

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