Monday, May 31, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Graduation Presents



Since we're in the midst of graduation season, a lovely time of year which is also the season of incredibly boring, self-righteous speakers and speeches, it feels right to bestow gifts on people I like and admire, whose accomplishments I wish to celebrate. However, since we're still in an economic recession (that's what it feels like to me, even though a person in the class ahead of me at college whose job it is to officially deem recessions "happening" or "over" has declared this one over), I haven't much to give, so I'll keep it simple until I can think of something better:

1. First, I recently read the commencement remarks at Smith College made by a particularly unpleasant television pundit. Bombast, hatred and sloppy thinking issue from many quarters these days (always, I suppose), but this woman really gets on my nerves. She said to the graduating seniors:

"Be intellectually and morally rigorous in your own decision-making and expect that the important people in your life do the same if they want to stay important to you."

My first gift is to advise you to ignore what that dreadful, hate-spewing, unfunny, hypocritical woman says and instead think of the words of the English poet Philip Larkin in his poem The Mower:

"we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time."

For reasons that I hope are obvious, I think those are much better words and sentiments. 

2. My second present, also simple, is the following recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie, which looks incredible. It was discovered suddenly by Miss J.B. Cravan during a journey from New York to Pennsylvania last week, and she  marked the moment with a cry of "Eureka!" (which wouldn't be a bad one-word commencement address) from the back seat.



Chocolate Cream Pie

A crunchy crust and pudding-like filling make this pie a standout. This pie should be well chilled before it’s served.
Source: Saveur

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2"
cubes and chilled, plus more for pie plate
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 9-oz. package chocolate wafers,
such as Nabisco, finely ground
(about 2 1⁄4 cups)
3 1⁄2 cups half-and-half
2⁄3 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
9 egg yolks
9 oz. semisweet chocolate,
finely chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate,
finely chopped
2 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
Dark chocolate, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 375°. Grease bottom and sides of a 9" glass pie plate with butter; set aside. Heat 8 tbsp. butter and brown sugar in a 1-qt. saucepan until sugar dissolves. Transfer butter mixture to a medium bowl; stir in ground wafers. Transfer mixture to pie plate; press into bottom and sides, using the bottom of a measuring cup to compress crust. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake until set, about 15 minutes; let cool.

2. Heat half-and-half in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to simmer; remove pan from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together 2⁄3 cup sugar and cornstarch; add egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Drizzle half-and-half into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan; heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until bubbles rise to the surface and mixture is very thick, 3–4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add remaining butter and chocolates in small batches, whisking until smooth; stir in 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla. Set a sieve over a medium bowl and strain chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto surface; refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

3. Remove plastic wrap from chocolate filling and, using a rubber spatula, stir mixture until smooth. Spoon mixture into reserved crust, forming a dome, and smooth surface with the spatula. In a large bowl, whisk remaining sugar, remaining vanilla, and heavy cream until stiff peaks form; spread on top of filling, forming a dome. Using a peeler, shave some of the dark chocolate onto top of pie. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.


School is over. Summer begins. Eureka!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Animals In War Memorial, London





Several years ago, while visiting London during our “Big Ben/Loch Ness Monster/Leprechauns” tour of England, Scotland and Ireland, we encountered unexpectedly the Animals In War memorial at Brook Gate near Park Lane when we set out on a walk from our hotel in Park Street.  We had stayed at this hotel, which was barely a minute from the memorial, many times before, but not for a couple of years, which allowed the appearance of the memorial to come as a complete surprise to us. 
It is a handsome and enormously moving tribute to animals (mules, horses, dogs, elephants, camels, canaries, even glow worms), all “conscripted”,  who served and toiled with men across centuries in the horrifying but universal enterprise of war.  As the legend on the monument says “They Had No Choice”.
The memorial was designed by the British sculptor, David Backhouse, and has been described as “a curved Portland stone wall [that] symbolises the arena of war, with the animals depicted on it in bas-relief. Two life-size heavily laden bronze mules struggle up the steps towards a gap in the wall. Beyond the gap a bronze horse and dog gaze into the distance.”
I hope all of you will have a chance some day to see the Animals In War memorial and to think about the animals whose lives it commemorates. (Note: Clicking on the uppermost photo gives a clear view of the inscription on the memorial.) 









Friday, May 21, 2010

Cy Twombly -- Untitled (Palimpsest)



Will expand on this later. I just wanted to post it so that anyone passing by had something nice to look at.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Miss Cravan Fights City Hall



The Baldwin School
701 Montgomery Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

22 October 2008



The Honorable Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
Gracie Mansion
New York, NY 10028


Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

            Please try to keep the memory of the old Yankee Stadium alive.  For example, you could commission a giant painting or sculpture of it that could be displayed in a museum or outside in a public square, or even have a mural of it on the outside of the new stadium.

            Yankee Stadium has a wonderful, unusually wide left field and is built with winding staircases.  It is almost like a landmark for the team and for New York City. Think of all the great times and memories people had there and of all the souvenirs they bought.  Yankee Stadium has been in the Bronx for a long time – nearly 100 years!  Some people even say that Babe Ruth, the greatest Yankee player, built Yankee Stadium himself.

            I have lived in New York almost my whole life, always loved it, and most of all always wanted to see a game at Yankee Stadium.  Finally, I went to a game (the Yankees won by a long shot) barely a year ago.  It will break my heart when the stadium is no longer there.  Yankee Stadium is phenomenal!

            This doesn’t mean that you have to do what I’m asking since I know you are your own man, but if you do you should know that I will be very grateful and I know that the other citizens of New York will also be.  The bottom line is that I want you to please do something to keep the memory of this amazing place alive.

            Thank you for your time.  I look forward to a response. 

                                                                                                            Sincerely,

                                                                                                             J.B. Cravan (Miss)
                       

P.S.  Go Yankees!  You should go watch them play soon.  (I know you will.)  

--------------------------------
Editor's Note: 

1. I regret to inform the reader that Mayor Bloomberg ignored Miss Cravan's request and razed Yankee Stadium in an almost summary manner. His reply, via "form letter", does not merit republication.

2.  When visiting the "new Yankee Stadium" in the summer of 2009, Miss Cravan and her companions discovered that it was impossible to acquire a hot dog and an order of french fries from the same vendor.  Accomplishing this purchase required completion of a long and strenuous walk.




Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fairy Tale by Ron Padgett



The little elf is dressed in a floppy cap
and he has a big rosy nose and flaring white eyebrows
with short legs and a jaunty step, though sometimes
he glides across an invisible pond with a bonfire glow on his cheeks:
it is northern Europe in the nineteenth century and people
are strolling around Copenhagen in the late afternoon,
mostly townspeople on their way somewhere,
perhaps to an early collation of smoked fish, rye bread, and cheese,
washed down with a dark beer: ha ha, I have eaten this excellent meal
and now I will smoke a little bit and sit back and stare down
at the golden gleam of my watch fob against the coarse dark wool of my vest,
and I will smile with a hideous contentment, because I am an evil man,
and tonight I will do something evil in this city!




Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brown Turns To Grey -- Harvesting Joe Klein (Parody)



We flew into Marjah over a patchwork of poppy fields — not exactly a sea of poppies, but plenty of them. It was two weeks before the harvest, and the last blossoms were floating away in the dusty haze of Helmand province, leaving the prohibitively weird-looking, blue-gray bulbs bald and ready for processing, like an army of alien vegetative creatures. We landed in a wheat field just across the road from the district governor's pathetic headquarters. Remember all those "shovel-ready" projects? Well, they didn't exist. This is why your child's teacher wasn't laid off...and why the fire station has remained open, and why you're not paying even higher state and local taxes to close the local budget hole. This is yet further evidence that Americans are flagrantly ill-informed.

In celebration, before the ceremony, a Kennedy who shall remain nameless took me down to the barn for an intense herbal experience. When I returned to the house, there was Teddy — and it was immediately apparent that he was as shiffazed as I was stoned. We greeted each other like old comrades in arms, sat in a corner and talked about how he wasn't angry about the tomatoes. 

He seemed a ghost the day I met him. He was scared catatonic, of course.  We were at a classic grip-and-grin event, the annual Greek picnic in Lowell, Mass.  . He simply had no idea what to say or do. "So, uh, your family, ah, likes ... meat?" he asked.  No question about the high price of chuck.  I was beginning to feel sorry for the guy. A family conceit, he was not only the baby, but also the screwup.

The pols gadded about with antic smiles and jackets hooked over their shoulders, ties loosened. But we talked again about that day soon after, and memorably so, since neither of us was sober.  Word spread quickly, as word will do in Washington. 

And yet there was a distinct giddiness at NATO headquarters in Kabul. One called it "rushing to failure." Another called it "catastrophic success.”  

A few of the elders raised their eyebrows and nodded at each other; a few others smiled. 

I must admit utter confusion; I've never heard the U.S. military talk so ... airily before.  

It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you're a nation of dodos.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring Wedding In Tokyo


A couple in Japan's capital Tokyo are the first in the world to be married by a robot.
Tomohiro Shibata and Satoko Inoue like robots, so much so they didn't want a priest or a judge to marry them, they wanted a robot. So, at a rooftop restaurant in Tokyo the two were joined in matrimony by Kokoro Co.'s I-FAIRY robot.
Kokoro's I-FAIRY is capable of generating natural seeming movements like head nods and arm gestures based up on the speech it has been loaded with. The couple said that as robots had brought them together - they both work in the robotics industry - having one officiate over their wedding was a natural choice.
This is all a ploy, of course, so when the robot uprising comes, we're caught off guard. Just wait, you'll see.
Source:  BBC
YESTERDAY afternoon, we walked over to Penn's Landing, where we had never been.  It was a very beautiful day.  A rock band was playing in the bandshell overlooking the Delaware River.
The lyric of theirs I remember goes like this:  
"The robots have finished their tasks/Now they're in the back room, drinking from flasks".
Not so great, but intriguing, and on that sunny afternoon it made me think about this BBC news story, that terrific movie The Philadelphia Experiment starring Michael Pare and Nancy Allen (you can see Navy vessels on the river from Penn's Landing) and my friend's college rock band, The Band From Planet 5.  They wrote lyrics like that. 
Obviously, we should wish the couple a long and happy marriage.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Claude; Eton Mess


We acquired our cat Claude (named because when pronounced the French way, it sounds like “cloud”, and he looks like a cloud) when Caroline saw him in the window of American Kennels on Lexington Avenue for what she thought was an excessively long period and she came to believe that no one was going to purchase him.  Although he was quite expensive, his perceived plight  turned this adoption into another cat rescue operation for us and, as I recall, Claude was “only” our fourth cat and, as the poet Christopher Smart said, quite correctly, in his Jubilate Agno, "For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit."
Our Brazilian friends (they are numerous) referred to Claude throughout kittenhood and beyond as a “nene” (pronounced nay-nay), which is Brazilian Portuguese for “baby”.  The name and description stuck for an overly long period due to his small size and, I suppose, because his luxuriant long creamy coat made him seem like a gorgeous female infant.  When Jane was quite small, they could conveniently be seen as being quite small together and nursery teammates.   
In terms of personality, however, nothing could be further from the truth.  Claude has always been a small male lion, a cat of enormous personal power and dignity.  His champion blood lines  seem  to confirm and be consistent with his “royal” demeanor, his natural good manners and inborn grace.  Almost alone among our large family of cats he has a sweet tooth; cake, muffins and scones are irresistible to him.  Claude’s sense of justice is also royal in the most elevated sense.  He has always protected his older sister Rose, who along with Pansy, took him in hand as a kitten and taught him to mouse, is a good sibling, but as a naturalized American has also learned that good fences make good neighbors.  He naturally commands and deserves respect.
A note to prospective Persian cat owners:  Do groom them regularly.  They enjoy it, it’s healthy for them, and if you don’t, you will be forced to submit them for “lion cut” grooming which, although “cool for summer” is essentially like turning your Persian into a Parris Island private.  I’m not suggesting that Claude couldn’t make it in the Marines, but he’s a cat, not a soldier,  and the only time I ever saw him look truly unhappy was when he was shorn of his fur.
Claude would love to sample an Eton Mess.  First up is Lindsay Bareham’s version.  Nigella Lawson’s recipe follows and then Heston Blumenthal’s.  Blumenthal writes, inspiringly:  “What is so wonderful about this dessert is that it cannot be improved upon.”





Eton Mess 1 (Lindsay Bareham)
Serves 6
Prep: 30 min
Ingredients
800g strawberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 meringue nests
500ml whipping cream
Method
Remove the strawberry stalks by running a small, sharp knife round the base of the leaf in a pointed plug shape while turning the strawberry. Quarter large fruit, halve medium ones and leaves small British strawberries whole. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Leave until the sugar melts and the strawberries glisten and turn juicy.
Break the meringue nests into small chunks. Whip the cream in a mixing bowl until it doubles in size and forms soft peaks — do not over-whip! Use a rubber spatula to loosely but evenly fold the meringue through the cream, then repeat with two thirds of the strawberries. Place a sieve over a small bowl and tip the remaining strawberries and sugary juices into the sieve. Use a spoon to press the strawberries through the sieve, scraping underneath so nothing is wasted.
Transfer the Mess to a serving bowl and swirl the strawberry sauce over the top in a pretty pattern.
Eton Mess 2 (Nigella Lawson)
Serves 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 500g strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons caster or vanilla sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate juice
  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 4 x small meringue nests from a packet
METHOD
1. Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl. Add the sugar and pomegranate juice and leave to macerate while you whip the cream.
2. Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick but still soft.
3. Roughly crumble in four meringue nests — you will need chunks for texture, as well as a little fine dust.
4. Take out a ladleful, or about 100g of the chopped strawberries and fold the meringued cream and the rest of the fruit mixture together.
5. Arrange on four serving plates or glasses, or in a
mound, and top each with some of the remaining strawberries.
Eton Mess 3 (Heston Blumenthal)

Serves 4

For the meringue
100g egg whites
100g caster sugar
100g icing sugar

For the mess
4 bananas
2 tbsp lime juice
200ml double cream
Seeds of 2 vanilla pods

1 tbsp kirsch
Grated zest of 4 limes

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting (110C/ 225F/Gas Mark ) and line a baking tray with parchment. Beat the egg whites until very stiff — this is important as they must stay stiff when the sugar is added. Beat in the caster sugar, then the icing sugar. Spoon the meringue mix onto a baking tray, in 12 even shapes. Cook for 4 hours, or overnight. They should be crisp all the way through, with no colour. Turn the oven off, open the door and leave the meringues inside so they cool down slowly.

Peel the bananas. Purée 2 of them with half the lime juice. Cut the other 2 bananas into 3mm-thick slices and mix with the remaining lime juice to prevent them browning. Whisk the cream until stiff — being careful not to overwhip it — and stir into the crushed or puréed banana. Then fold in the vanilla seeds and kirsch.

Break the cool meringue into large pieces, mix with the banana cream and the sliced bananas. Spoon into a bowl and grate over the lime zest before serving.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Congressional Kabuki; Tempeh and Tofu Cooked Salad



This morning I saw a famously insincere politician mouthing platitudes on television. In an attempt to agree with the person asking him rather predictable questions, he described congressional confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court justices as "sad Kabuki theater".  My first thought was: "how pretentious -- why drag Kabuki into this?"  

Then, I learned that the word "kabuki" is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to be out of the ordinary", which is hardly an apt description for most congressional hearings.

However, a propos of politics, one remark I discovered last year did come to mind.  It's from the Scottish novelist Muriel Spark and it goes like this: "All politicians simply want to manipulate people; that, mixed with a marked tendency to kleptomania".


I found the Kabuki photo above on another blogger's website.  She entitled it, interestingly, "Congressional Kabuki".  I have no idea what she meant.

But I'm "re-cured".  No more morning television.

Following is a superb recipe for Tempeh and Tofu Cooked Salad, which is taken from Sri Owen's Exotic Feasts:

425 g (14 oz) tempeh
375 g (12 oz) tofu
125 g (4 oz) beansprouts
2 green chilis, seeded and finely sliced
3 shallots, finely sliced
1 tsp very finely chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. mild vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tsp sugar
6 tbsp water
salt to taste
125 ml (4 fl oz) sunflower oil for frying the tempeh and tofu

Cut the tempeh and tofu into thin pieces, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) square.  Wash the beansprouts and drain in a colander. 

In a non-stick frying pan, fry the tempeh in several batches until it is just beginning to turn yellow. Do the same with the tofu.  Set these aside on absorbent paper.

Discard the oil, except for 2 tablespoonsful.  Fry the chilis, shallots, ginger and garlic, stirring continuously for one minute or so, then add the vinegar, soy sauce, mustard and ginger.  Stir again and add the water.  Let this mixture simmer for 2 minutes, then taste and add salt if needed.

Now put in the fried tempeh and tofu, stir them around and add the beansprouts.   Stir again and leave to simmer for just 2 minutes.  Serve warm or cold as preferred.

Please note that Sri Owen serves this dish as part of a vegan menu consisting of:

Sweetcorn and smoked tofu soup

Wild and white rice pilaf served with:
Spiced aubergine loaf with red pepper sauce and
Tempeh and Tofu cooked salad

Avocado and coconut ice cream

This is the only part of the menu we have prepared, but I've never gone wrong with Sri Owen's recipes or recommendations.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ACravan 1 -- Visitors Nil (Delay Of Game)


Yesterday, when Miss J. B. Cravan’s wristwatch beeped at 7 am on the desk where she left it the night before, it woke the somnambulist  inhabiting the space, who was sitting, waiting and watching, delayed and arrested.  He was dreaming about his “blog” and planning to compose a dismayed and disgruntled piece called Tired Of Waiting For You, using the title of the famous Kinks song.  He anticipated problems in the writing because, to quote another song he liked (by Kevin Ayers), “there’s not a lot to say, when you’re feeling this way”.  Unlike the Kinks song, which is terrific, but basically trivial in its subject matter, the Ayers song says it all in terms of terminal frustration, e.g., “when you’re up, they’ll love you to death/when you’re down, they’ll steal your last breath”.  For the somnambulist, irresolution and problems still seemed to comprise the unchanging daily menu.

Quite suddenly, things improved.  Can’t say why exactly, but they did.
 
Perhaps it was something she said.  Or something he read.  Or the memory of the ancient game carved into the winged figure’s foot by the Assyrian soldiers.   Or the 121st anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower.  

 
Or just possibly, the thought of finally acquiring his own Inspiratron.





Thursday, May 6, 2010

This morning in the Delaware Valley

This morning I originally thought of writing about what grows on trees (leaves, fruit, bark) and what doesn’t (General Counsel positions, significant quantities of courtesy and consideration), but I decided that was too mundane and too limiting, so I turned my attention to ArtDaily.org, the entertaining and visually exciting online art world newspaper, where I learned about the following British Museum exhibition, which sounds really worthwhile:

The printed image in China
from the 8th to the 21st centuries


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I couldn't sleep at all last night

 



      I think my dyspeptic reaction to the Lou Reed “Romanticism” exhibition of photography, which I wrote about last night, had a great deal to do with the fact that I spent a few hours yesterday in rapt and concentrated enjoyment of photographs and paintings by the great American artist, Charles Sheeler. Viewed against the backdrop of Sheeler’s work, the Reed exhibition (and the expensive coffee table book that accompanies it; not the first in the artist's series of photography books and surely not the last), appears simply to be a gimmicky cheap shot celebrity-centric variation on the “blockbuster exhibition” gambit, so tired and in this case writ so small as to induce more than dismay, disgust even. What next for the artist who gave us “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, “Waiting For The Man”, “Heroin” and “White Light/White Heat”?  Am I the only one who recalls that the projected sunglass line, “Lou’s Views”, a sort of optical equivalent of the pocket protector, never got off the ground?  Seeing Lou Reed become Paris Hilton is depressing.

      Because Reed once commented convincingly about his work that: “the idea behind it was to try and bring a novelist’s eye to it ……..I don’t believe in dressing up reality;  I don’t believe in using make-up to make things look smoother” , learning that his “Romanticism” images were achieved through the use of a “special” new Schneider Optics lens, which captures some infrared light and achieves instant Caper David Friedrich effects, conferring the Friedrich mantle on the lens’s owner, was deeply disappointing.

      I mean, when Christopher Isherwood wrote in Goodbye To Berlin: "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking", that was obviously not the case or Isherwood's method. Ferdinand de Saussure’s statement: “Far from it being the object that antedates the viewpoint, it would seem that it is the viewpoint that creates the object”, is more on point.

      Therefore, to try to effect a sort of self-cure and move on, I am posting several pairs of photographs by some distinctive 19th and 20th century artists. In each pairing, I will include one non-figurative work and one portrait:


Charles Sheeler:




 Nadar: 




Man Ray:




Arthur Batut:





      I first saw the last Batut image, an early demonstration of deliberate double exposure for artistic effect, on the cover of the Penguin paperback edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It was extremely effective and I was amazed to learn that Batut is considered the father of aerial photography.  The other Batut photo is an aerial shot (taken from a kite) of Labruguiere, the town where he lived. 
      All that being said, the view from my window last night over the back terrace, which was illuminated by a bulb I had just replaced following a long period of darkness, looked a lot like one of Lou Reed's "aura of strangeness, otherworldliness" photos.  So I guess that I just don't know, I guess that I just don't know.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lou Reed -- Romanticism -- Es Baluard -- Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporaini de Palma -- 29 abril 2010 - 30 mayo 2010




      As someone who listened to Sister Ray this morning, and who has viewed as many of the photographs as I've been able to find online and tried to assess them and the things Lou says below generously, I have strong negative feelings about this. That being said (and said sadly), there's also a very strong "who cares?" element at work here, first on Lou's level (I believe) and then on mine. 

     Palma is lovely, though. And when you get out into the Mallorquin countryside, as you should, please enjoy yourself and have an Hierbas (or two) on me and my friend, Bobby the horse

     As Elvis's bodyguards asked so memorably (with Steve Dunleavy's able assistance), "What happened?"








 



PALMA DE MALLORCA.- 



     The Es Baluard Museum  presents an exhibition of new photographs  by Lou Reed. The exhibition, entitled Romanticism,  features stunning black and white and color images of landscapes and architectural motifs, shot on the artist’s travels to Scotland, Denmark, Big Sur and elsewhere. The photographs are taken with a specially altered digital camera, which gives them an aura of strangeness, or otherworldliness. They have a timeless quality but are simultaneously very modern, like Reed himself. They are surprisingly small in scale, making these striking natural images personal, portable, and intimate.
     This collection of photographs takes its name from the 18th and 19th century art movement that sought a return to the emotion, beauty, and unknowability of the natural as a counterpoint to industrial era’s emphasis on technological development and the pursuit of rational knowledge. Reed’s images recall this impulse: they focus on the aesthetic and the sublime; the splendor of a single tree against a cloudy Scottish sky, suffused with light. There is, however, also something uncanny and eerie about some of the photographs; the absence of human figures, a road leading over a bridge into a dense, shadowy forest. Reed has recently adapted the poet and writer Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, the supernatural is a theme that underwrites much of his recent work. Perhaps, like the Romantics, Reed is commenting on another Industrial Revolution — the rapid developments of globalization are once again placing the natural into both literal and metaphoric danger — the beauty of his landscapes takes on a more urgent meaning.
     Reed says of his work, “I love photography. I love digital. I love digital. It’s what I’d always wished for. Being in the camera and experiencing the astonishing accomplishment of the creations of life sparked through the beauty of the detailed startling power of the glass lens. A new German lens brings a mist to me. The colors and light I come to see through the beauty of the camera. A love that lasts forever is the love of the lens of sharpness – of spirit warmth and depth and feeling. It makes my body pour emotion into the heartbeat of the world. A great trade and exchange. I think of the camera as my soul. Much like a guitar. My lovely Alpa has rosewood grips. What more could you need?”


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cabbage Thoran



This delicious vegetable dish is a centerpiece of Kerala cuisine and identified with Ona Sadya, the main feast during Onam, the major harvest festival celebrating the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali, falling between August and September each year.  

The festival lasts for ten days and is linked to many elements of Kerala's culture and tradition.  Intricate wreaths of flowers, food, Snake Boat Races and the Kaikottkali dance all play a part in the festival.  For this festival, people wear new clothes: men a shirt and mundu, a skirt-like bottom; women a mundu and a gold top, a Nariathu.   Girls wear a skirt called a Pavada and a blouse.  The festival is also important because of its popularity with all communities within Kerala.  Although the festival of Onam originated with, and is connected to, the Hindu religion, it is celebrated today with equal fervor by the Hindus, Muslims and Christians of Kerala.

Many lamps are lit in Hindu temples of Kerala during this celebration.  A palmyra tree is erected in front of temples and surrounded with a wooden balustrade and covered with dry palmyra leaves.  It is lit with a torch and burned to ashes to signify that Mahabali went to hell as a sacrifice.

Cabbage Thoran (Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)

6 tablespoons mustard oil

1 tablespoon whole black mustard seeds

2 bay leaves OR leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh curry leaf.  (Note: Curry leaves are preferred.  We chop them coarsely and they can be eaten in the finished dish.   We buy them at a local Indian grocery.)

3 - 3 1/2 lbs. cabbage, cored and finely shredded (1 medium-sized cabbage)

3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 fresh hot green chili cut into long, fine strips.  (Note:  We use a little more than this and use the fresh green chilis found at our local Indian grocery, which are fairly small in size.)

1/2 cup grated coconut.  (Note:  We use fresh coconut powder, which we purchase in airtight bags at our local Indian grocery.  It melts into the dish and works well, imparting exactly the right flavor.)

Heat the oil in a heavy, wide casserole-type pot over a medium-high flame.  When hot, put in the mustard seeds and bay or curry leaves.  As soon as the bay or curry leaves begin to darken a bit and the mustard seeds begin to pop (this happens very quickly), add the shredded cabbage.  Turn the heat to medium.  Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar, salt and green chili strips.  Stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Cabbage should be bright green and slightly wilted, but still crunchy.  Turn off the heat.  Sprinkle with the coconut, mix well and serve.