Author Archives for theRaggedys

Dissecting: a Poem and the Blog

While Andy has been busy this week thinking about being a blogger (see Andy’s Corner), my thoughts have been more focused on the poetic side of things.

Do English professors still ask you to “explicate” poems?  That term strikes terror in my heart, even 50+ years after the fact.  A quick internet search reveals that “dissect” is often used in today’s poetry line-by-line analysis – in which usually-yawning students are forced to participate.

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There’s lots of advice out there about better ways of inspiring students (or maybe even us adults?) to read and write poetry.  On Poets.org there are some especially quirky examples of approaches:

  • post poems in faculty bathroom stalls.
  • create an elegy based upon a NYTimes obituary.
  • at residential facilities for juvenile offenders have a guest poet read a poem in the morning and “at bedtime each night.”
  • gather poems to dedicate to a special person “with personal comments about that poem directed to that person.” (my mind is going crazy thinking of all the possibilities! 🙂
  • go around the community and hand out business cards with poems typed on them.
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What poems might faculty members write here?

What got me started on all of this?  Well, I wanted to blog about tomatoes and I wanted a poem to include.  A quick search of the internet came up with a Louise Gluck poem.  For those of you who don’t focus on the poetry scene, an article in The Los Angeles Review of Books had this to say about Louise Gluck, who is in her 70’s – about my age,

Glück is as important and influential a poet as we have in America, a tagline whose strangeness deepens the more one reads her. She has won every major award; she served as Poet Laureate (how incongruous to think of this bleak, private poet in such a smiling, public role). Her work is an occasion for something like rapture among her admirers. 

I think Gluck’s poem about tomatoes may be brilliant, but I’m not sure.  No matter how hard I try, I’m not certain I understand the last few lines – as I “explicate” the poem in my I’m-no-English-professor manner.  Why does she talk about “the red leaves of the maple falling” when it’s a poem about tomatoes? Are the “vines” she mentions tomato vines?  Or is that another aside, like the maple reference?  Is she saying that the Divine doesn’t have a heart (which actually is kind of interesting to contemplate)?

“Louise Glück: The Ardent Understatement of Postconfessional Classicism” is a must-read for those of you who want to delve more deeply into explication.  It’s a chapter in this U of Missouri Press book.

But first read Gluck’s tomato poem “Vespers”:

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A Black Krim tomato plant in our garden

 

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A tomato hornworm which WAS in our garden.  Someone said that if you fry them they taste like fried green tomatoes.  Want to give it a try and report back?  Be sure to wash them first.

If your tomatoes haven’t been destroyed by the tomato hornworm or succumbed to a fungus with black spot or blight or whatever the heck is wrong with our Black Krim, here are a couple of great recipes, using tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Continue reading

Revisiting Jerusalem

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We’re revisiting Jerusalem – the cookbook – today; and we’ve got a little glimpse of the city.  Andy in Andy’s Corner is revisiting Jerusalem crickets.

I’d been struggling to know what direction I wanted to go with this blog.  Should I focus on Jerusalem, the Cookbook, which I blogged about almost 2 years ago and which was the source of the recipes we all enjoyed at our last Dining In?  Or should I write about Jerusalem, the city?  I’ve never been there so I could hardly give any insight or perspective into such a complex, fascinating place.

But then I found an online site (do we love Google or not? 🙂 and the blog came together in a nano-second.  In a recent blog I wrote about friendships among women of different generations.  And Jerusalem could/should be all about friendships among people of different faiths and ethnicities.  Just a year ago around 800 people gathered at midnight in Jerusalem to sing Bob Marley’s “One Love” in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.   That occasion and Marley’s lyrics are so perfect for today’s world.

One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right

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The cheat sheet for the participants in the Jerusalem song fest.

As I mentioned earlier, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, who are the authors of Jerusalem, a Cookbook, both grew up in Jerusalem, Ottolenghi in the Jewish west and Tamimi in the Muslim east.  They believe food may be the only thing that can bring the city together.  I’d suggest food – and song (and maybe divine intervention).

Here’s our menu based on Jerusalem, a Cookbook.  Why don’t you invite a diverse bunch of friends for dinner and have everyone bring a dish to share.  Then crank up the volume on your speakers, put on Marley’s “One Love.”  You could follow that up with Simon and Garfunkle’s 1964 hit “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”   Or take a different approach: for our dinner party I had a playlist of songs with familiar artists, selected because all of the songs had Jerusalem in the title.

Some of what we heard included…

(An aside:  one of the greatest things about doing this blog is that it’s forcing us to learn or re-learn “stuff.”   I just sat down and paid more attention to the lyrics of “Jerusalem” as written and sung by Steve Earle.  The song fits this blog theme and this day and time so beautifully and poignantly.  In an interview Earle stated, “I believe that our future, our existence as a species, will be determined in Jerusalem.”  Interesting to contemplate.)

Should you have a Sonos system and would like the complete Jerusalem playlist, just let me know! 🙂

Who were those diverse guests at our dinner?  Former competitive speedskaters, New Jersey to California transplants, and wildlife rescue experts.

And what did we dine on?  Here’s the menu and the recipes follow:

  • Hummus  served with pita chips and veggies
  • Zucchini and Turkey Mini Meatballs
  • Conchiglie with Yogurt and Peas and Chile
  • Beet and Carrot Slaw
  • Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Veggie Salad
  • Orange and Almond Syrup Cake

“Let’s get together and feel all right!” Continue reading

The Fleabag Dinner Party

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag

I’ll admit it.  I’m a little uncomfortable in proclaiming that I think the British series Fleabag – with the amazing writer/actress, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is the best thing since sliced white bread.  Andy, on the other hand, may prefer sliced bread.  🙂  (I’m kidding, of course; he prefers his bread whole grain and not sliced.  See this 2017 Andy’s Corner blog.)

Why am I uncomfortable?  Well, if you haven’t seen it – and you watch the first scene of Series 1, Episode 1 – and you’re anywhere near my age, you’ll immediately understand.

Why is Fleabag the best thing since sliced white bread?  It’s so damn clever; it makes you laugh and cry and hurry through dinner to watch more.

And that dinner scene that begins Series 2.  Since we’ve been pushing dinner get-togethers for the past year on BigLittleMeals, I think this is the perfect scene to watch to counter-balance our enthusiasm!  The dinner party from hell.  IndieWire.com has a whole article about that dinner.  Nasty brother-in-law, spacey father, evil step-mother-to-be, morose sister.  But then there’s the priest.  Sigh. 🙂

Andy and I also loved Series 1 of “Killing Eve,” written by Waller-Bridge.  That’s also a little embarrassing to admit, since the violence is almost un-watchable.  But wow, the actress Jodie Comer is something else.

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Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve

It’s sad to think there will be no more seasons of Fleabag (or is it “TeaBag?” See today’s revealing Andy’s Corner), but I’m impressed that Waller-Bridge seems to know when a good thing should end – rather than drag on and on like so many TV series seem to do.

And now for today’s recipe, because we always try to remember that we started this as a food blog!

If you’ve already watched Fleabag, you may remember Fleabag’s grim sister and the “sauce” scene at the dinner party.  She scowls and announces to the family that the sauce she’s been served is “disgusting” but then turns to the overly-enthusiastic waitress and, smiling, proclaims “it’s delicious!”

We have a recipe for a quirky (not unlike Fleabag) sauce that you won’t find disgusting.  It’s absolutely delicious – and easy and versatile.  Use it on a green salad as a dressing or as a dip with chips or add a little miso and use it as a sauce for grilled fish.  Think up your own other ways.  Be as creative as Phoebe Waller-Bridge!

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Quirky Carrot-Ginger Sauce/Dip/Dressing

 

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Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market carrots – perfect for this dippy sauce

 

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Carrot Ginger Dressing on a green salad

Here are a few others of our favorite quirky, go-many-ways saucy dips for all you saucy folks:

Carrot-Ginger Sauce/Dip/Dressing

I’ve never been to a Japanese-American Steakhouse.  But if YOU have, you may have encountered this type of carrot dressing.  That’s where it apparently originated; this is slightly adapted from an old Gourmet recipe.  We recommend using the best carrots you can find – and most definitely NOT the little peeled ones that come in plastic bags!

  • 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 c chopped shallots
  • 1/4 c seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil (I use peanut oil)
  • up to 1/4 c water – to get desired consistency

Pulse the carrots in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the ginger, shallots, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt and pulse until everything is minced.  Add the vegetable oil in a slow stream and process until the sauce is almost smooth. If you have a fancy blender, you can use it to get the sauce even smoother than the processor will do.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

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 Katherine 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 BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Franzisca Tönnies Heberle

This blog – and my recent “girls” dinner party – came about because of Franzi.

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Franzi and her husband, Rudolf Heberle, at our house in Baton Rouge in 1984.

Andy and I knew Franzi – whom everyone addressed only as “Mrs. Heberle” – (pronounced with 3 syllables Hay-Bur-Lee) – and her husband, Rudolf, from our years in Baton Rouge, where both Andy and Rudolf were part of LSU’s Sociology Department.  Franzi and Rudolf arrived in the U.S. in the late 1930’s, leaving Germany as the Nazis solidified their power.

Though we were part of some lovely get-togethers at the Heberle home over the years, it’s my Baton Rouge friend Katie who really gave me insight into Franzi when she reminded me of the talk she delivered at Franzi’s memorial service in 1997.

I loved, admired and respected her, regarding her almost as an additional parent but without the usual baggage between mothers and daughters.

Katie continues – with a hilarious aside – “…their front porch was…the scene of many wonderful parties and afternoon teas.  Rudolf and Franzi were gracious hosts, the company was always varied and the conversation was stimulating and exciting.  The atmosphere was enhanced by the presence on the porch of a life-sized statue of a nude woman, a loan from a friend, I believe.  In my home village, a nude statue would have been questionable anywhere; on the front porch it would have been unthinkable if not illegal.  I knew I was on the fast lane and I liked it.”

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I can’t compete with Franzi.  This is the best nude piece we have – and it’s 8″ – not life-sized.

Though Katie was 30 years younger than Franzi, Katie remarked that “just knowing Franzi would have been a rare privilege; to have had her as an intimate friend for almost fifty years has been an unequaled blessing.”  

It’s ironic that Franzi’s father, the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, is famous for his writings on Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.  Gemeinschaft, after all, is the study of community – the feeling of togetherness.

And when I think about Franzi and Katie – and about Katie and myself, I think about the value of friendships among women – and of having a community of women friends – of all ages.

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Franzi’s father, Ferdinand Tönnies

Just this morning, Katie, who is now 89, and I spoke on the phone for about an hour, as we do several times a month.  We could have easily chatted another hour – about children and grandchildren, about Trump, Brexit, about cooking, about our parents and husbands and brothers, about the weird weather.  And we talked about Franzi.

It was because of Franzi and because of Katie that I decided to have an “Intergenerational Women’s Dinner Party” at our house, dedicated to them both  – and to gemeinschaft.  I think all of our women readers should do the same!  I’ll give you hints.

The dinner party was a piece of cake to plan (please note all of the cake recipes included in our blogs :), because I had my younger friend Sona – who also happens to be a best friend of our daughter – to call upon.  Sona rounded up a cadre of Sonoma friends ranging in age from 50-something on down (I know you’re laughing and asking how that qualifies as young, but when you’re 75, it is!), I invited three over 70’s – and the party was on.

Because Andy, my dishwasher and general clean-up person, was off on his weeklong bicycling adventure (see today’s Andy’s Corner), I decided I had to carefully plan everything, so that I didn’t get in a twit on the day of the dinner.  I could have served a much simpler dinner but I had lots of free time that week – and truly enjoyed my creative time in the kitchen.

The menu?

The hummus and carrots were prepared 3 days before the dinner, the cheesecake 2 days before the dinner, and the burgers 1 day before the dinner (re-warming them just before serving).  The only thing left to do on dinner day was prepare the spinach salad (I bought pre-washed organic baby spinach) and set the table.  I could also have set aside the day just ahead of the dinner to prepare everything, rather than spreading the prep out.  Or I could have taken an entirely different approach and assigned everyone a recipe to prepare.  I think that actually contributes to the feeling of “we’re all in this together.”

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Roses from Lynne for our dinner

The highlight of the evening?  Lynne, who brought this rose bouquet from her garden, made the follow remarks for the occasion:

I always think of my Mother when I arrange roses.  Their beauty and fragrance are quite simply, her.  So I decided to bring a bouquet of roses along so that she could join us, in spirit, for an Intergenerational Women’s Dinner. Like our group, whose ages spanned four decades, the vase held roses that were in various stages of splendor.  Some were large and just past full bloom, their color mellowing to a soft yellow.  Others were bold in shape and rich with red and rose and yellow.  Others were tight buds, still emerging.  Each is a singular beauty, together, a bouquet representing the spirit of all things female and nurturing and loving. 

A perfect conclusion to a lovely evening with this community of women.

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The First Ever – and not the last – Intergenerational Women’s Dinner

Much love to my guests!  Left to right: seated – Connie, me (Ann), Pat, Katherine, Barbara; standing in back –  Lynne, Sona, and Nina

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