Monday, January 31, 2011

Twice Foretold: The Bride Stripped Bare and The End Of The Affair



        1. The Waterfall, 

        2. The Illuminating Gas

(Étant donnés: 

        1. La chute d’eau, 

        2. Le gaz d’éclairage)

        -- Marcel Duchamp, from The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (La Mariee Mise A Nu Par Ses Celibataires, Meme), 1915-23


A story has no beginning or end:  arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.  I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer  who -- when he has been seriously noted at all -- has been praised for his technical ability, but do I in fact of my own free will choose that wet black January night on the Common, in 1946, the sight of Henry Miles slanting across the wide river of rain, or did these images choose me?  It is convenient, it is correct according to the rules of my craft to begin just there, but if I had believed then in a God, I could also have believed in a hand, plucking at my elbow, a suggestion, 'Speak to him:  he hasn't seen you yet.'

        For why should I have spoken to him?  If hate is not too large a term to use in relation to any human being, I hated Henry -- I hated his wife Sarah too.  And he, I suppose, came soon after the events of that evening to hate me: as he had surely must have hated his wife and that other, in whom in those days we were lucky enough not to believe.  So this is a record of hate far more than of love, and if I come to say anything in favour of Henry and Sarah, I can be trusted:  I am writing against the bias because it is my professional pride to prefer the near-truth, even to the expression of my near-hate.

        -- Graham Greene, The End Of The Affair, 1951

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring? (January 30, 2011 History Daybook)

Thor's Helmet (Emission Nebula, NGC 2359), photographed 1/30/07)

        Deeply enmeshed in the frozen weeds as I am currently, I felt hobbled and snowblind as yesterday turned into today, and I wondered "Who knows what tomorrow may bring"?

        Remembering that they say the person who isn't mindful of history is "condemned" to repeat it, I felt I needed to remind myself, using Wikipedia's helpful agency, that:

        "January 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 335 days remaining until the end of the year (336 in leap years)";

and also about the following long listing of notable events that took place on January 30ths Past.

        I have highlighted below those facts and matters that have particular relevance and/or importance to me.  Revealing these may shed some light on my personality and character.

        I would be very interested to know by reply which, if any, of these affect you the most:


  • 1048 – Protestantism: The villagers around today's Baden-Baden elect their own priest in defiance of the local bishop. Later, in a move that would not be seen before the Protestant Reformation, he is also elected Pope by acclamation, just to die that same day. It is rumored that Ildebrando di Soana heard of the acclamation and used it later to get elected himself as Pope Gregory VII.
  • 1648 – Eighty Years' War: The Treaty of Münster and Osnabrück is signed, ending the conflict between the Netherlands and Spain.
  • 1649 – King Charles I of England is beheaded.
  • 1661 – Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England is ritually executed two years after his death, on the anniversary of the execution of the monarch he himself deposed.
  • 1667 – The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth cedes Kiev, Smolensk, and left-bank Ukraine to the Tsardom of Russia in the Treaty of Andrusovo.
  • 1703 – The Forty-seven Ronin, under the command of Ōishi Kuranosuke, avenge the death of their master.
  • 1790 – The first boat specializing as a lifeboat is tested on the River Tyne.
  • 1806 – The original Lower Trenton Bridge (also called the Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge), which spans the Delaware River between Morrisville, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey, is opened.
  • 1820 – Edward Bransfield sights the Trinity Peninsula and claims the discovery of Antarctica.
  • 1826 – The Menai Suspension Bridge, considered the world's first modern suspension bridge, connecting the Isle of Anglesey to the north West coast of Wales, is opened.
  • 1835 – In the first assassination attempt against a President of the United States, Richard Lawrence attempts to shoot president Andrew Jackson, but fails and is subdued by a crowd, including several congressmen.
  • 1841 – A fire destroys two-thirds of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
  • 1847 – Yerba Buena, California is renamed San Francisco.
  • 1858 – The first Hallé concert is given in Manchester, England, marking the official founding of the Hallé Orchestra as a full-time, professional orchestra.
  • 1862 – The first American ironclad warship, the USS Monitor is launched.
  • 1889 – Archduke Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown, is found dead with his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera in Mayerling.
  • 1902 – The first Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed in London.
  • 1911 – The destroyer USS Terry (DD-25) makes the first airplane rescue at sea saving the life of James McCurdy 10 miles from Havana, Cuba.
  • 1911 – The Canadian Naval Service becomes the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • 1913 – The United Kingdom's House of Lords rejects the Irish Home Rule Bill.
  • 1925 – The Government of Turkey throws Patriarch Constantine VI out of Istanbul.
  • 1930 – The world's second radiosonde is launched in Pavlovsk, USSR.
  • 1933 – Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
  • 1942 – World War II: Japanese forces invade the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies.
  • 1943 – World War II: Second day of the Battle of Rennell Island. The USS Chicago (CA-29) is sunk and a U.S. destroyer is heavily damaged by Japanese torpedoes.
  • 1944 – World War II: United States troops land on Majuro.
  • 1945 – World War II: The Wilhelm Gustloff, overfilled with refugees, sinks in the Baltic Sea after being torpedoed by a Soviet submarine, leading to the deadliest known maritime disaster, killing approximately 9,000 people.
  • 1945 – World War II: Raid at Cabanatuan: 126 American Rangers and Filipino resistance liberate 500 prisoners from the Cabanatuan POW camp.
  • 1948 – Indian pacifist and leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is assassinated by Pandit Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist.
  • 1956 – American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s home is bombed in retaliation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • 1959 – MS Hans Hedtoft, said to be the safest ship afloat and "unsinkable" like the RMS Titanic, struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank, killing all 95 aboard.
  • 1960 – The African National Party is founded in Chad, through the merger of traditionalist parties.
  • 1964 – Ranger program: Ranger 6 is launched.
  • 1964 – In a bloodless coup, General Nguyen Khanh overthrows General Duong Van Minh's military junta in South Vietnam.
  • 1969 – The Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.
  • 1971 – Carole King's Tapestry album is released, it would become the longest charting album by a female solo artist and sell 24 million copies worldwide.
  • 1972 – Bloody Sunday: British Paratroopers kill fourteen unarmed civil rights/anti internment marchers in Northern Ireland.
  • 1972 – Pakistan withdraws from the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • 1975 – The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was established as the first United States National Marine Sanctuary. 
  • 1979 – Varig 707-323C freighter, flown by the same commander as Flight 820, disappears over the Pacific Ocean 30 minutes after taking off from Tokyo.
  • 1982 – Richard Skrenta writes the first PC virus code, which is 400 lines long and disguised as an Apple boot program called "Elk Cloner".
  • 1989 – The American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan closes.
  • 1994 – Péter Lékó becomes the youngest chess grand master.
  • 1995 – Workers from the National Institutes of Health announce the success of clinical trials testing the first preventive treatment for sickle-cell disease.
  • 1996 – Gino Gallagher, the suspected leader of the Irish National Liberation Army, is killed while waiting in line for his unemployment benefit.
  • 2000 – Off the coast of Ivory Coast, Kenya Airways Flight 431 crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 169.


  • 133 – Marcus Severus Didius Julianus, Roman Emperor (d. 193)
  • 1563 – Franciscus Gomarus, Dutch theologian (d. 1641)
  • 1615 – Thomas Rolfe, American colonial settler; son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe (d. 1675)
  • 1661 – Charles Rollin, French historian (d. 1741)
  • 1687 – Johann Balthasar Neumann, German architect (d. 1753)
  • 1697 – Johann Joachim Quantz, German flautist and composer (d. 1773)
  • 1720 – Charles De Geer, Swedish industrialist and entomologist (d. 1778)
  • 1754 – John Lansing, Jr., American statesman (d. 1829)
  • 1781 – Adelbert von Chamisso, German writer (d. 1838)
  • 1816 – Nathaniel Prentice Banks, American politician, 25th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and 24th Governor of Massachusetts (d. 1894)
  • 1822 – Franz Ritter von Hauer, Austrian geologist (d. 1899)
  • 1832 – Infanta Luisa Fernanda, Duchess of Montpensier (d. 1897)
  • 1841 – Félix Faure, French politician (d. 1899)
  • 1859 – Tony Mullane, Irish-born American baseball player (d. 1944)
  • 1861 – Charles Martin Loeffler, German-born composer (d. 1935)
  • 1873 – Georges Ricard-Cordingley, French painter (d. 1939)
  • 1878 – Anton Hansen Tammsaare, Estonian author (d. 1940)
  • 1882 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American politician, 44th Governor of New York, and 32nd President of the United States (d. 1945)
  • 1889 – Jaishankar Prasad, Indian poet and dramatist (d. 1937)
  • 1894 – Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria (d. 1943)
  • 1899 – Max Theiler, South African virologist, Nobel Prize Laureate (d. 1972)
  • 1901 – Rudolf Caracciola, German race car driver (d. 1959)
  • 1902 – Nikolaus Pevsner, German-born art historian (d. 1983)
  • 1910 – C Subramaniam, Indian politician (d. 2000)
  • 1911 – Roy Eldridge, American musician (d. 1989)
  • 1912 – Werner Hartmann, German physicist (d. 1988)
  • 1912 – Francis Schaeffer, American theologian and pastor (d. 1984)
  • 1912 – Barbara W. Tuchman, American historian (d. 1989)
  • 1913 – Percy Thrower, British Television Gardener (d. 1988)
  • 1914 – John Ireland, Canadian actor (d. 1992)
  • 1914 – David Wayne, American actor (d. 1995)
  • 1915 – Joachim Peiper, German SS officer (d. 1976)
  • 1915 – John Profumo, British cabinet minister (d. 2006)
  • 1917 – Paul Frère, Belgian racing driver and motorsport journalist (d. 2008)
  • 1918 – David Opatoshu, American television actor (d. 1996)
  • 1919 – Nikolay Glazkov, Russian poet (d. 1979)
  • 1920 – Carwood Lipton, American WWII veteran (d. 2001)
  • 1920 – Michael Anderson, English film director
  • 1920 – Delbert Mann, American film director (d. 2007)
  • 1922 – Dick Martin, American comedian (d. 2008)
  • 1923 – Walt Dropo, American baseball player (d. 2010)
  • 1924 – Lloyd Alexander, American writer (d. 2007)
  • 1925 – Douglas Engelbart, American computer scientist
  • 1925 – Dorothy Malone, American actress
  • 1927 – Olof Palme, Swedish politician (d. 1986)
  • 1927 – Bendapudi Venkata Satyanarayana, Indian dermatologist (d. 2005)
  • 1928 – Hal Prince, American stage producer and director
  • 1929 – Lucille Teasdale-Corti, Canadian surgeon and aid worker (d. 1996)
  • 1930 – Sandy Amorós, Cuban baseball player (d. 1992)
  • 1930 – Samuel Byck, American attempted assassin of Richard Nixon (d. 1974)
  • 1930 – Gene Hackman, American actor
  • 1930 – Magnus Malan, South African politician
  • 1931 – John Crosbie, Canadian politician
  • 1931 – Allan W. Eckert, American naturalist and author
  • 1931 – Shirley Hazzard, Australian-born author
  • 1932 – Knock Yokoyama, Japanese comedian and politician
  • 1933 – Louis Rukeyser, American journalist (d. 2006)
  • 1935 – Richard Brautigan, American writer and poet (d. 1984)
  • 1936 – F. Vernon Boozer, American politician
  • 1936 – Patrick Caulfield, British painter and printmaker (d. 2005)
  • 1936 – Horst Jankowski, German popular pianist (d. 1998)
  • 1937 – Ed Hansen, American film director and editor (d. 2005)
  • 1937 – Vanessa Redgrave, English actress
  • 1937 – Boris Spassky, Russian chess player
  • 1938 – Islom Karimov, Uzbekistani politician
  • 1941 – Gregory Benford, American author and scientist
  • 1941 – Dick Cheney, American politician, 7th White House Chief of Staff, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wyoming, 17th United States Secretary of Defense and 46th Vice President of the United States
  • 1941 – Tineke Lagerberg, Dutch swimmer
  • 1942 – Marty Balin, American musician
  • 1943 – Davey Johnson, American baseball player and manager
  • 1945 – Michael Dorris, American author (d. 1997)
  • 1947 – Les Barker, English poet
  • 1947 – Steve Marriott, English musician (Humble Pie, The Small Faces) (d. 1991)
  • 1948 – Nick Broomfield, English documentarian
  • 1948 – Paul Magee, Irish IRA figure
  • 1948 – Miles Reid, English mathematician
  • 1949 – Peter Agre, American biologist, Nobel laureate
  • 1950 – Trinidad Silva, American actor (d. 1988)
  • 1951 – Phil Collins, English musician
  • 1951 – Charles S. Dutton, American actor
  • 1951 – Bobby Stokes, English former footballer (d. 1995)
  • 1952 – Doug Falconer, Canadian football player
  • 1955 – John Baldacci, American politician
  • 1955 – Curtis Strange, American golfer
  • 1955 – Judith Tarr, American author
  • 1955 – Mychal Thompson, Bahamian basketball player
  • 1956 – Jeremy Gittins, English actor
  • 1956 – Keiichi Tsuchiya, Japanese racing driver
  • 1957 – Payne Stewart, American golfer (d. 1999)
  • 1958 – Brett Butler, American actress and comedian
  • 1959 – Mark Eitzel, American singer and musician (American Music Club)
  • 1959 – Jody Watley, American singer
  • 1960 – Alex Titomirov, Russian-born American businessman
  • 1961 – Dexter Scott King, son of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King
  • 1962 – King Abdullah II of Jordan
  • 1962 – Mary Kay Letourneau, American convicted statutory rapist
  • 1963 – Tina Malone, English actress
  • 1964 – Otis Smith, American basketball player
  • 1965 – Julie McCullough, American model and actress
  • 1966 – Danielle Goyette, Quebec ice hockey player
  • 1967 – Jay Gordon, American musician
  • 1968 – Trevor Dunn, American musician (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Secret Chiefs 3)
  • 1968 – Prince Felipe of Spain
  • 1968 – Tony Maudsley, British film actor
  • 1969 – Carolyn Kepcher, American businesswoman and reality TV actor
  • 1971 – Darren Boyd, British actor
  • 1971 – Kimo von Oelhoffen, American football player
  • 1972 – Lupillo Rivera, Mexican singer
  • 1972 – Chris Simon, Canadian ice hockey player
  • 1973 – Jalen Rose, American basketball player
  • 1974 – Christian Bale, English actor
  • 1974 – Olivia Colman, English actress
  • 1974 – Jemima Khan, English socialite
  • 1975 – Juninho Pernambucano, Brazilian footballer
  • 1975 – Yumi Yoshimura, Japanese singer (Puffy Amiyumi)
  • 1976 – Andy Milonakis, American comedian
  • 1977 – Dan Hinote, American ice hockey player
  • 1977 – Deltha O'Neal, American football player
  • 1977 – Tom Malchow, American swimmer
  • 1978 – John Patterson, American baseball player
  • 1978 – Carmen Küng, Swiss curler
  • 1980 – Leilani Dowding, British model
  • 1980 – Josh Kelly, American musician
  • 1980 – Wilmer Valderrama, American actor
  • 1980 – Pavel Ponomaryov, Russian-Estonian actor
  • 1980 – Joãozinho, Brazilian footballer
  • 1981 – Jonathan Bender, American basketball player
  • 1981 – Dimitar Berbatov, Bulgarian footballer
  • 1981 – Peter Crouch, English footballer
  • 1981 – Mathias Lauda, Austrian racing driver
  • 1982 – DeSagana Diop, Senegalese basketball player
  • 1982 – Jorge Cantu, Mexican baseball player
  • 1984 – Jeremy Hermida, American baseball player
  • 1984 – Kid Cudi, American hip hop performer
  • 1985 – Aaadietya Pandey, Indian astrologer
  • 1985 – Trae Williams, American football player
  • 1986 – Sam Duckworth, British singer-songwriter
  • 1986 – Nick Evans, American baseball player
  • 1987 – Rebecca Knox, Irish professional wrestler
  • 1987 – Renato Santos, Brazilian footballer
  • 1987 – Arda Turan, Turkish footballer
  • 1988 – Rob Pinkston, American actor
  • 1989 – Khleo Thomas, American actor and rapper
  • 1990 – Jake Thomas, American actor
  • 1990 – Luca Sbisa, Swiss ice hockey player
  • 1990 – Eiza Gonzalez, Mexican actress and singer
  • 2005 – Prince Hashem bin Al Abdullah II of Jordan


  • 1030 – William V, Duke of Aquitaine (b. 969)
  • 1181 – Emperor Takakura of Japan (b. 1161)
  • 1384 – Louis II of Flanders (b. 1330)
  • 1574 – Damião de Góis, Portuguese philosopher (b. 1502)
  • 1606 – Everard Digby, English conspirator (b. 1578)
  • 1649 – King Charles I of England (b. 1600)
  • 1730 – Tsar Peter II of Russia (b. 1715)
  • 1836 – Betsy Ross, American seamstress (b. 1752)
  • 1849 – Jonathan Alder, American settler (b. 1773)
  • 1858 – Coenraad Jacob Temminck, Dutch zoologist (b. 1778)
  • 1867 – Emperor Kōmei of Japan (b. 1831)
  • 1869 – William Carleton, Irish novelist (b. 1794)
  • 1889 – Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (b. 1858)
  • 1926 – Barbara La Marr, American actress (b. 1896)
  • 1928 – Johannes Andreas Grib Fibiger, Danish scientist, Nobel laureate (b. 1867)
  • 1929 – La Goulue, French dancer (b. 1866)
  • 1934 – Frank Nelson Doubleday, American publisher (b. 1862)
  • 1948 – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Indian activist (b. 1869)
  • 1948 – Arthur Coningham, New Zealand air commander (b. 1895)
  • 1948 – Orville Wright, American aviator (b. 1871)
  • 1951 – Ferdinand Porsche, Austrian automotive engineer (b. 1875)
  • 1958 – Jean Crotti, Swiss artist (b. 1878)
  • 1958 – Ernst Heinkel, German aviation engineer (b. 1888)
  • 1962 – Manuel de Abreu, Brazilian physician (b. 1894)
  • 1963 – Francis Poulenc, French composer (b. 1899)
  • 1969 – Georges Pire, Belgian monk, Nobel laureate (b. 1910)
  • 1980 – Professor Longhair, American musician (b. 1918)
  • 1982 – Lightnin' Hopkins, American musician (b. 1912)
  • 1984 – Luke Kelly, Irish singer (The Dubliners) (b. 1940)
  • 1984 – Lee McCall, South African bank robber (b. 1950)
  • 1989 – Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz, Spanish pretender to the French throne (b. 1936)
  • 1991 – John Bardeen, American physicist, Nobel laureate (b. 1908)
  • 1991 – Clifton C. Edom, American photojournalism educator (b. 1907)
  • 1991 – John McIntire, American actor (b. 1907)
  • 1994 – Pierre Boulle, French author (b. 1912)
  • 1995 – Gerald Durrell, British naturalist and television presenter (b. 1925)
  • 1998 – Richard Cassilly, American tenor (b
  • 1999 – Huntz Hall, American actor (b. 1919)
  • 1999 – Ed Herlihy, American broadcaster (b. 1909)
  • 2001 – Jean-Pierre Aumont, French actor (b. 1911)
  • 2001 – Johnnie Johnson, British fighter pilot (b. 1915)
  • 2001 – Joseph Ransohoff, American neurosurgeon (b. 1915)
  • 2005 – Martyn Bennet, Canadian musician (b. 1971)
  • 2005 – Wes Wehmiller, American musician (b. 1971)
  • 2006 – Coretta Scott King, American activist; widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. (b. 1927)
  • 2007 – Nikos Kourkoulos, Greek actor (b. 1934)
  • 2007 – Sidney Sheldon, American author and screenwriter (b. 1917)
  • 2008 – Jeremy Beadle, British television host (b. 1948)
  • 2008 – Roland Selmeczi, Hungarian actor (b. 1969)
  • 2008 – Marcial Maciel, Mexican religious figure (b. 1920)
  • 2009 – Ingemar Johansson, Swedish boxer (b. 1932)
  • 2009 – John Gordy, American football player (b. 1935)
  • 2009 – H. Guy Hunt, American politician (b. 1933)
  • 2010 – Aaron Ruben, American television director (b. 1914)
  • 2010 – Bernard Arcand, French-Canadian anthropologist (b. 1945)

Holidays and observances

  • Christian Feast Day:
    • Aldegonde
    • Anthony the Great (Coptic Church)
    • Balthild
    • Hippolytus of Rome
    • Hyacintha Mariscotti
    • King Charles the Martyr (Society of King Charles the Martyr, Anglicanism)
    • Martina
    • Mutien-Marie Wiaux
    • Savina
    • Three Holy Hierarchs (Eastern Orthodox)
    • January 30 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
  • Martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi-related observances:
    • Martyrs' Day (India)
    • School Day of Non-violence and Peace (Spain)

Margaret, 10-day old giraffe, photographed 1-30-08, Chester,UK

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spam: Unexpected Addition To The Recipes Already On File

Text message blows up suicide bomber by accident

Vans of the Russian Emergencies Ministry wait outside Moscow's Domodedovo international airport on January 24, 2011, shortly after a deadly explosion.

Photograph by: Andrey Smirnov, AFP/Getty Images

        A "Black Widow" suicide bomber planned a terrorist attack in central Moscow on New Year's Eve but was killed when an unexpected text message set off her bomb too early, according to Russian security sources.

        The unnamed woman, who is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday, intended to detonate a suicide belt near Red Square on New Year's Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds.

        Security sources believe a message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her at a safe house.
Islamist terrorists in Russia often use mobile phones as detonators. The bomber's handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties.

        The dead woman has not been identified, but her husband is apparently serving time in jail for being a member of a radical Islamist terror group.

        Security sources believe the New Year's Eve bomber and the airport bombers may have been members of a suicide squad trained in Pakistan's al-Qaida strongholds which was sent to target the Russian capital's transport system.

        Nobody has been arrested in connection with Monday's bombing, which left 35 people dead. Police are trying to identify the severed head of a male suicide bomber recovered from the scene.

He Drew The Line At Snoek (Jean Conil)


"But even he drew the line at snoek" is a line taken from The Telegraph's (London) May 1, 2003 obituary of the legendary,  "French-by-birth, English-by-adoption", chef and culinary authority Jean Conil (1917-2003).

        For a few weeks I have been working out in my mind strategies for developing an essay/presentation about Conil's 1959 book, A Gastronomic Tour de France, a masterwork that until very recently had been staring down at me, unopened and unread, from various of my and my parents' bookshelves for nearly 50 years.

        Success has so far eluded me.  The book, handsomely published in London by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. in 1959 and in New York by Dutton in 1960, presents gracefully and economically in its scant (considering the range and complexity of its subject) 300 pages more useful information for the culinary visitor to France than I could have imagined possible before opening its pages.  Conil simply addresses everything you might wish to know regarding every region and sub-region of France, i.e., regional political and social history; geography; agriculture; viticulture; art history; places of touristic interest, including restaurants, hotels and inns; and representative regional recipes, all in good and stimulating prose.  

        The book simulates a large-format photograph of France in the late 1950s seen through the particular lens of a man with a specialized genius, but a highly catholic point of view . Because the  world has changed during the last half-century, its current usefulness as a "tour" may have dwindled.  But I challenge anyone reading the book not to want to hop into the Way-Back Machine, setting the dial to, say Haute-Vienne (Marche),1959, to achieve their own, more genuine "Sputnik moment" than the sorry, ersatz article currently being peddled.

Le Caprice

F & M

        Jean Conil (1918-2003) was well-known in his adopted country as the man who (like his contemporary Elizabeth David) regarded the imaginatively impoverished state of British cuisine following World War II as a national "tragedy". A prominent chef and restauranteur (the Savoy Hotel, Le Caprice, Fortnum & Mason), caterer (the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), journalist and television personality, The Telegraph observed when he passed away:

"It was not the ingredients that were the problem, he believed, but the way they were prepared.  'What we need is good chefs and a good cuisine', he argued. 'If Mr Atlee and Sir Stafford Cripps would eat a solid, well-cooked meal, perhaps they would find themselves better-equipped to discuss affairs of state.  Good business and good diplomacy depend on good food'. 

People tended to blame Britain's poor cuisine on rationing, but Conil maintained that good meals could be prepared with the most humble ingredients.  'Only take sausage meat, onions, parsley, carrots, peas, and some dried egg and you can turn out a meal fit for anyone'. . . . .But even he drew the line at snoek."

Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation, June 2, 1953

Portico of The Savoy, London

        Until I read the Conil obituary, I had never heard of snoek, but I was immediately strongly motivated to learn what this most discriminating, but imaginative and tolerant, of culinary evangelists considered to be beneath consideration. 


        Because of the internet, wonder of our age, my research almost instantly yielded highly fascinating results about this important food fish, treasured by the residents of South Africa, from a variety of sources. Essentially, snoek's (the fish is a form of perch; the name is Afrikaans) terrible reputation in England is a legacy of World War II food rationing.  The South African food blogger (resident in the UK ) and barrister CookSister writes: "During World War II, when everything was scarce, food rationing was rife, and cheap sources of protein were few and far between, somebody had the bright idea to catch cheap fish in South Africa, can it and ship it to England.  Suffice it to say that it did not go down too well over here.  The Web is full of war years recollections penned by people who remember this weird fish with the hugely amusing name arriving and being inedibly bad.  A large proportion of the tins that were imported remained firmly on shop shelves (despite optimistic suggestions from the Ministry of Defence -- like Snoek Piquante, which seems to have become a kind of shorthand for everything unpalatable about food rationing."

 Three aspects of World War II food rationing 

        CookSister goes on to say that: "For those of us in South Africa, it's a very different story.  Snoek is one of the great culinary pleasures of the Western Cape (the province surrounding Cape Town.  The flesh is oily and presumably packed with all the health benefits that oily fish brings; the meat is firm and strongly flavoured, rather like mackerel on steroids".  

         In South Africa, snoek is enjoyed either fresh, salted or smoked. Apparently it is marvelous cooked whole on the grill (or braii) or transformed into a pate, which is how it is most commonly served in restaurants, in the manner of smoked bluefish pate, which is more popular, I think, in the U.S., than bluefish eaten in other ways (something I'll never understand).   At Cape Town airport, sides of smoked snoek are available for purchase in the same way that you can purchase sides of smoked salmon in Ireland.  Snoek cuisine suggestions I have reviewed bring to mind the Spanish way with fresh sardines, another delicious oily fish.  A charming, possibly unpronounceable expression in the Afrikaans language, equivalent to "knock me over with a feather", is "slaat ma dood met 'n pap snoek" or "strike me dead with a limp snoek".

Smoking snoek

        Food memories endure because they intensely convey thoughts of happiness, grief, plenty and deprivation.  The mother of an old friend who was interned in France by the Germans during World War II never again touched turnips because they were fed to her daily during her imprisonment.  Even my own parents and my mother-in-law, who experienced relative luxury on the home front during the war, told stories of rationing that clearly formed a deep and permanent part of their life experience.

        I would like to try snoek one day.  It's right up my alley.  But, frankly, so is that trip in the Way-Back Machine.

        I would be remiss if I didn't provide at least one snoek recipe.  This one, which CookSister linked to (her own smoked snoek pate looks marvelous and could easily be adapted to our own bluefish or mackerel, I think), looks very enticing:  

Snoek With Coriander, Bacon and Orange


1 cleaned and butterfiled snoek
500 g back bacon
1 orange
1 bunch fresh coriander
Olive oil


1.  Place fresh, butterflied snoek on lightly oiled tin foil, flesh facing up
2.  Lightly salt the flesh.
3.  Squeeze over fish the juice of one orange.
4.  Chop all the coriander and cover the fish completely.
5.  Drizzle fish with olive oil.
6. Cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness, in closed tin foil at 180 degrees C, and then open the tin foil and grill the bacon for a few minutes until crispy.

La Guienne in 1360

Boy Scout parade celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby (Charlie Louvin: July 7, 1927 – January 26, 2011)


Last night, my dear, the rain was falling,
I went to bed so sad and blue.
Then I had a dream of you.

I dreamed I was strolling in the evening,
Underneath the harvest moon.
I was thinking about you.

And then you met me in the moonlight,
The stars were shining in your eyes.
But Another was there too.

I don't believe you've met my baby --
You looked at him, you looked at me.
I wondered who you were talking to?

I shook the hand of your stranger,
But I was shaking more inside.
I was still wondering who?

Your arm was resting on his shoulder,
You smiled at him, he smiled at you.
His eyes were filled with Victory!

He said "My sister wants to marry",
And then my heart was filled with ease.
I knew that you would marry me.

        I was wondering all last night what one could possibly say about the passing of Charlie Louvin?  I'm still lost in that process.  
        The first Louvin Brothers song I ever heard was The Byrds' performance of The Christian Life on their 1968 Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album.  The group's vocal and instrumental mastery aside (it is a great  track on an astonishing record), most of the Byrds' Vietnam-era audience undoubtedly felt a sort of sarcastic, spoof-y aspect to the performance. But, as great art will do, the meaning of the whole sunk in, unforgettably, later.


        I really broke through on the Louvins when I first heard I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby, the surrealist "dream song", whose lyrics are inscribed above, performed by Peter Blegvad (accompanied by his own brother Kristoffer) on his album Downtime.  Read the lyrics, listen to the performance, there's nothing more to say.  The Blegvads were brave to essay it, and the song fits perfectly with Peter's original art and perspective, but it is very, very difficult to "cover" perfection.

        Wondering how to respond to Charlie's death, I thought -- do I dedicate something to When I Stop Dreaming, River Of Jordan, We're Just Rehearsing, Broadminded -- something else?  No, for me it's this one, always.

        I listen to the Louvin Brothers every day of my life.  I won't rehearse their importance, their influence (i.e., the things that never could have been if they hadn't been who they were, been there first and blazed the path).  

        The only thing I can say is "thank you" to Charlie and Ira.    Let others read and recount the story of your lives and your penetrating, sometimes shocking, always uplifting art.  Let us all play your records forever and ever.

        You will always remain shiny, diamond-bright and diamond-hard, and eternally young. 


Charlie Louvin photographed in the Grand Ol' Opry parking lot 2010 by Jamie Jemes Medina (borrowed from Andrew McLenon's Facebook page).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dhoklas (Say No More)

        This is a haunting, apocalyptic winter morning following yesterday's snow-lightning storms and nearly fatal (for me; I hope others fared better) driving conditions.  But I need to head to Wilmington, Delaware for a promising business coven, which I expect I'll learn has been canceled sometime during the journey down there when reaching for the cell phone in the car at the most dangerous possible moment.

        No worry (rather, no worry worth indulging) -- if I get far enough, I can always visit Total Wine in Claymont, Delaware, just over the Pennsylvania border, a highly refined wine and spirits megastore, which offers visiting Pennsylvanians considerable savings while reminding them of the chasm of difference dividing individual imagination, ingenuity and drive from our local Soviet-style liquor sales and distribution system, which was put in place as a "temporary" (but of course never repealed)  revenue raising measure to deal with continuing financial burdens on the state following the now-ancient Johnstown flood.

        This is a piece about dhoklas, possibly the most delicious breakfast or snack (apart from Pennsylvania scrapple, savory fried cornmeal mush, or my own Breakfast Biblical Burritos) known to man.   It is a sort of Gujurati Indian version of American corn bread (the close resemblance is found in their texture and, to some extent, their appearance; the taste, which is informed by chickpea, mustard seed and green chili, is entirely different).  I've included a short Wikipedia article below for background information, a couple of pictures that appeal to me, and a recipe (whose English usage I've tried to regularize and will continue to improve in the future).  Dhoklas look easy and enjoyable to make, especially if you enjoy fooling around with steam and double- boilers.

        I would like very much to prepare fresh dhoklas myself, but I'm fortunate to have an Indian bakery source -- Royal India Grocery in Paoli -- just down the road.  They sell dhokla at a very reasonable price and I would hate for my merchant to lose a regular customer.

        I highly recommend adding dhoklas to your life immediately.  They are unforgettable and briefly, but always, chase away the blues.

From Wikipedia:

Dhokla or 'Khummun' is a snack from the Indian state of Gujarat made with a fermented batter of gram (chickpeas)

Chickpeas, or besan in some recipes, are soaked overnight. This paste is fermented for four to five hours, then is spiced by adding chile pepper, ginger, and baking soda.

The dhokla is then steamed for about 15 minutes on a flat dish and cut into pieces. It is fried in a distinct way, wherein oil is heated with mustard seeds in it, until mustard cracks, then assafoetida and chopped green chilies added to this. Sometimes, equal amount of water also added with little sugar to this oil, and then it is poured over the Khaman, after this only pieces are removed from dish. It is usually served with deep fried chilies and chutney made of besan. It is garnished with coriander and often with grated coconut.

Khatta dhokla, Khaman dhokla, Rasia dhokla, and cheese dhokla are varieties of dhokla prepared by Gujarati households and are now also locally available in sweet shops all over India.

Recipe (Adapted from Indian home cooking online source):

              1 cup besan (gram flour/chickpea flour)
·              2/3 cup of water
·              1/4 tsp turmeric powder
·              1 tsp salt
·              1 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
·              1 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
·              1 tsp Eno fruit salt
·              1 tsp oil
·             Tempering (Tadka)
·              1 tbsp oil
·              100 ml water (1 small cup)
·              1 tsp mustard seeds (kali sarson)
·              1 tsp lemon juice
·              2-3 green chillies- slit vertically
·              1 tsp sugar 
·               Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish

1.     1.  Put the besan in a bowl and add water little by little, mixing to create a lump-free batter.

2.     2.  Add salt, turmeric powder to the batter. Let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.

        3.  Grease the thali (platter) in which the dhokla is to be steamed.  Pour 1 glass of water in an outer container (double-boiler) and put it on the heat.  Let it come to a rolling boil.

        4.  In the meanwhile, add ginger-green chili paste to the batter.  In a small bowl, take lemon juice and mix 1 tsp oil and eno fruit salt.  Pour this over dhokla batter and mix.

        5.  Immediately pour this batter on the greased thali.  Put a stand on an inverted small bowl in the outer container containing boiling water and place this thali over it.  Cover the container with a plate. 

        6.  Let the dhokla steam for 5-7 minutes undisturbed over full flame.  Then let it steam for another 15 minutes (20 minutes in total).  The heat should be high so that a lot of steam is formed.  Check by inserting the tip of a clean knife.  If nothing sticks to it, the dhokla is ready.  Otherwise, steam a little longer.

        7.  Remove the thali containing the dhokla from the container and let it cool for 2-3 minutes.  Take out the dhokla from the thali and remove to another plate.  Let it cool down and then cut the dhokla into squares or diamonds.

        8. For the tadka, heat oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds.  When they pop, add green chilis.  After a few seconds, add water and sugar.  Let it come to a boil, turn off the heat and add lemon juice.  

        9.  Pour this tadka over dhokla pieces and put dhokla in the refrigerator.  Let the tadka get absorbed, turning the dhoklas soft.  Garnish the khamman dhokla with chopped coriander leaves. 

Bl   Blue Dwarf in the court of King Mahabali seeking alms. Not the blues I'm seeking to chase away.

·                 Notes: 

         1.The batter should not sit for long after adding Eno fruit salt otherwise dhokla will not rise.

·              2. Mix eno in the lemon juice first and not directly in the batter.

·              3. The gas stove should be on high heat or full flame for steaming the dhokla.

·              4. You can also make dhokla in an idli stand.

·              5. The tempering should contain water for soft dhokla.

·              6. The outer container could be a vessel or a kadhai/wok.

·              7. You can also steam in a pressure cooker with weight (whistle) removed.

·              8. The dhokla batter should neither be too thick nor thin otherwise dhokla won’t come out right.