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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Queen of Katwe (2016)

This is kind of an interesting movie for Disney, one that has some really exceptional black actors, and tells the remarkable story of a young Ugandan girl who takes the chess world by storm.  And quite literally out of nowhere.  The film's director is Mira Nair.  She is the director of one of my all time favorite film trilogies: Earth, Fire, and Water,  three movies that tell some of the truths about Indian society.  The films are incredible, in that they describe the history of modern India in a succinct way.  So this movie has promise.
The story is told beautifully and sympathetically.  The outcome is clear from the beginning, it is after all a Disney movie, but the telling is worth the time it takes, and in the midst of it all we peak into a continent that is poorly known or understood.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sugar Creek Chronicle by Cornelia Mutel

This is a book that is probably largely appealing if you are both a lover of nonfiction nature books and from Iowa.  In other words, this is really a niche market book, and you might have suspected that based only on the fact that it was published by a University Press.  In any case, if you happen to fall into those two categories (and I have to say that I read very little nonfiction and I am not what I would call an attention to detail nature enthusiast and I liked the book), this is a nice short and very sweet read.  A woman chronicles the climate change that is going on in her own backyard, both over the course of several years and over the course of her lifetime, and makes the case that we very much need to pay attention to this because we are in a state of emergency.  Her stated goal up front is that she doesn't want her grandchildren to grow up and think that she was on the wrong side of history.  It is not the sort of book that will sway minds, but it is a good read none the less.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Crispy Potato Pancakes

These are from the kitchen of Christopher Kimball, and are really quite good, if a little bit of a pain to make.
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup grated onion
Salt and pepper
2 lightly beaten eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Vegetable oil
  1. Scrub your potatoes and shred them, unpeeled, using the shredding disk of a food processor.
  2. Add shredded potatoes, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Put half of potatoes in center of clean cloth dish towel. Gather together towel ends and twist to drain as much liquid as possible; allowing the liquid to drain into a measuring cup. Empty dried potatoes into a second bowl, then dry the reminder of the potatoes. Allow the reserved potato liquid to stand for 10 minutes, so that starch and water separate.
  3. Cover potatoes with plastic wrap and microwave for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring mixture with fork every 30 seconds, until warm but not hot. Evenly empty potato mixture over a second rimmed baking sheet. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. There is not need to wash out bowl.
  4. Pour off the water from reserved potato liquid, leaving only the potato starch in measuring cup. Add eggs and stir until smooth. Put cooled potatoes back in to bowl. Add minced parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and potato starch/egg mixture. Toss until everything is evenly combined.
  5. Place another wire rack over a third rimmed baking sheet. Line with a triple layer of paper towels.
  6. Add 1/4″ of oil to a 12″ skillet. Preheat over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until reaches 350-degrees (oil will be shimmering but not smoking). Measure 1/4-cup of potato mixture and place in oil. Push down with spatula until in becomes a thin disk.  Fill pan.   Cook for 3 minutes per side, until they become golden brown. You may need to adjust the burner so that the latkes bubble around the edges.  Remove to drain on paper towels, then place on baking sheet.
  7. You may been to add a little more oil to ensure you have 1/4″ depth, reheat oil to 350-degrees and repeat step 8 with the rest of the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper according to your to taste, and serve with sour cream.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Roman Republic Art (250 B.C.E.)

The things you can learn about a culture from observing it's art!  This is probably the oldest piece of sculpture that we saw on a recent trip to Rome (where we were focusing on the Roman Republic through the Roman Empire, or roughly 250 BCE to 330 AD,  The best news is that this is housed in the funkiest museum that I have been in, the Centrale Montemartini.  It is a bit outside the seven hills of ancient Rome area, but it is very easily accessed by the Metro, and it is housed in the first public electric plant in Rome.  There is a fair amount of sculpture and mosaics that were uncovered when they were digging a branch of the metro, but it also has this particular sculpture, which was featured in two art history classes that my youngest son took.  I like it because there is a certain amount of gruesomeness to it, a man who is carrying around two heads of his dead ancestors, but in fact it very much reflects the values of the culture at that time.  Which goes to show that context is everything.  If you see a piece of art and you don't know anything about it's context, you may miss a great deal of it's historical value and what it can teach you.  The Romans of the Republic very much valued law and order and they respected their elders.  The two heads here speak to the man's social status as well as his respect for tradition.  He is depicted as an older man, with a receded hair line and a wrinkled face, showing Roman values of wisdom and experience over youthfulness and power.  It is wonderfully carved and a marvel to see.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is just about what you would expect in terms of a book with this title.  It is brutal, in the way that Toni Morrison's Beloved is brutal.  Nothing about it rings off kilter.  Nothing about people owning other people brings out the best in them.  They treat them poorly, either sadistically or assaultively, or it just takes a piece of their soul away.  There are no exceptions, no one escapes.  To think otherwise is to ignore the actual parameters of what slavery entails.  This book describes a girl on the path to escape, who gets on the underground railroad at a time when it is starting to be broken up, when the Fugitive Slave Act is forcing the issue.  Good people avoid trouble because they could lose everything, even their lives, if they help runaway slaves, and bounty hunters are getting more violent because in a lot of ways everyone can see that things are coming to a head.  This book dispassionately tells a story of mans brutality to man, and it helps in some ways to see why slavery is a legacy that is hard to escape, and that little men with almost nothing would feel powerful because they owned another man, and when that is taken away the bitterness runs deep.  This is not an anthem for hope.  It is a mirror being held up.  Look America, this is where you were not that long ago.  What is so great about that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Balsamic Glaze Mushrooms

This is another recipe out of Nancy Silverton's Mozza at Home cookbook, and it is equal parts delicious and easy.

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs. mixed mushrooms
salt to taste
1/4 c. fresh tarragon leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Cook the mushrooms, cap side down, season with salt along the way.  Cook until browned, about 10 minutes.  Do it in two batches if your pan is not big enough.  Pout about 1/3 c. vinegar  in and  cook until the mushrooms have absorbed the vinegar, then add more, taste, and add shallots, toss some more, and add more vinegar to taste.  Garnish with tarragon leaves, and salt to taste.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Maggie's Plan (2016)

Maggie is a sweet girl who has had longitudinal problems sustaining a relationship.  She decides that she is ready to have a child, and she has no intention of waiting until she finds the right guy.  She has an acquaintance from college that she asks to help her, and he is agreeable to being the donor.  So that is Plan A.
Enter Ethan Hawke (John), who is married with two kids and a little bit self absorbed.  As is his lovely wife, Julianna Moore (Georgette).  Maggie is full of warmth and confidence in who  John is, far more so than his wife, and he falls for that and she falls for him.  This affair is consummated on the very day that Maggie has self-inseminated herself with her college friends sperm.
Fast forward a couple years, Maggie and John are married, and Maggie is doing literally everything.  She is raising the kids (hers and John's), earning the money, and ferrying everyone around, and one say she looks up and doesn't want to do it anymore.  Never fear, she has a plan for that too.  It is a movie that is a little bit fun, a little bit serious, and a little bit mysterious.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Archaic Smile

Until I studied the art of the ancient world with my youngest son, I had no idea that Mona Lisa had a smile that hearkened back to the high classical Greek period.  There is something that falls between ethereal and fake about this smile, but overall I think that it is very appealing. Which is maybe a gender bias problem that I have, that women should be pleasant and they are more appealing when they are smiling, whether they feel it or not!  The sculptors of the ancient world produced timeless art, art that has been copied for literally thousands of years and is still very appealing today.  Before I had spent time studying ancient art, I was kind of dismissive of the Romans in that they mostly copied the Greeks rather than creating a distinctive style of their own.  First, they did blend some Etruscan elements into their interpretation of Greek art, and second, the Greeks were really way out in front when it came to sculpting, and in some ways, there is a lot we would not know about Greek art if it weren't for the Romans, because they were experts at copying it.  The caryatids that Hadrian had carved for his villa in Tivoli were such exact replicas of the ones at the Parthenon that they were used to make new ones for the Parthenon's remodel. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Strange Stones by Peter Hessler

I was assigned this book by my nephew in Shanghai to prepare for my upcoming trip.  I have read two other books by the author, and one by his wife, so I felt like I was on familiar turf with this one, but it turns out that I was wrong.  This collections of essays showed a slightly different view of China, one that is at once a bit more complicated and a lot more critical than what I had previously read.  That is not a blanket statement, and there are a number of take home messages that are very positive, but I definitely got the sense that the author was a bit worried about where China is headed, and what they are doing along the way.  As is true with any big change in society, there are bound to be unintended consequences of a large social experiment, but there are a couple of things going on simultaneously in China, and sometimes that can spell disaster.  He retains his sense of humor throughout (or almost always), but his tales of the number of new drivers in China and the ensuing accidents, the ways of doing business when you have to do it without any officials, the one child policy and the permutations of that in terms of health and society, and so many other things are fascinating to read about.  Recommended, especially for future visitors to the nation.

Potato Nik

This is a cool potato pancake to try.  It is a variation of a traditional French dish, and this one was clearly not cooked in the pan it is photographed it!
My friend Dina made this for us one night for dinner.  I agree with her that I like the smaller pancakes better because there are more crispy edges, but this one looks beautiful and serves a crowd.

  • 2 pounds Potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs or matzo meal
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Grate potatoes and onion by hand or with grating disk of a food processor; drain in colander or strainer. Combine potatoes and onions in a large bowl with eggs, salt, pepper and bread crumbs or matzo meal.
  2. Put about 1/8 inch oil in a large, deep skillet, either nonstick or seasoned cast iron; turn heat to medium-high. When oil is hot (it will shimmer) put all the batter in pan, and smooth the top. Cook, shaking pan occasionally; adjust heat so mixture sizzles but does not burn. Continue until bottom is nicely browned, at least 15 minutes.
  3. To turn, slide cake out onto a large plate, cover with another large plate and invert. Add a little more oil to pan if necessary, and slide pancake back in, cooked side up. Cook 15 minutes or so longer, until nicely browned.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Today is the Women's March, in both Washington, and around the world.  It has been reassuring to see so many people out in pink pussy hats, saying that we will not go back.  So this is my post for today, my warning, speaking to us from the Eisenhower Cold War days, warning us not to take our democracy for granted.
We decided to watch this classic movie that was set (and made) in the post McCarthy era but when the fear of the Soviet Union was at it's height.  The basic plot is that the Russians and the Chinese collude with each other to capture a soldier during the Korean War, and to brain wash him into being an assassin automaton.  The training takes place in Manchuria, and after a few trials of killing some of his fellow soldiers, he is sent home literally as a hero.  His whole unit is under the spell, and while they have nightmares, they are excused as the aftermath of war and not what they represent, which is memories returning.  The assassin is hooked up with his American handler and the plot fro control of the United States is set in motion.  The opposition has a candidate that they control, and they go about getting him into the White House by means other than those of a democratic state.  Is any of this sounding the least bit familiar?  Well, truth is stranger than fiction, and our current story has yet to finish unfolding.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Capitoline Venus (4th Century B.C.E.)

This is in the style of  Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles, and it is something to behold.The original version of this, from the high classical period in Greece, was rumored to be the most viewed art in the ancient world, more popular than even the pyramids at Giza.  Why was this so?  One is that while it was very common at the time to depict men naked, to have naked women was new.  Venus is depicted just stepping out of the bath, her towel at her side.  Her hand is demurely over her genitalia, but as you move around the statue, her hand appears to be in fact pointing at her genitalia, to invite the viewer so see what all the fuss is about.  she had an expression on her face that is hard to interpret, is she coy or seductive?  She is standing on one leg, with the other knee coming forward, which is a stance that started at this point in time, but continued for a very long time.  It gives the figure an S-shaped stance overall that is quite attractive.  This version is in its own alcove in the Capitoline Museum, and is well worth seeing in person.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Brasserie 1010, Boulder, Colorado

This is a really great French restaurant in Boulder.  It is not unbelievable, like Frasca is.  It is a really good bistro, with excellent food and reasonable prices to match.  I had crepes and they were delicious, and with a side salad were priced at $8.00.   The entree of brick chicken, a tradition preparation for a roast chicken, was excellent and priced at $16 dollars.  The atmosphere is beautifully done, a  large and airy restaurant with good ceramics and cutlery, and it is just a very pleasant place to dine. I wish my own town had something like this, because there were so many things ont he menu that looked good, everything that was ordered at my table was well executed, and it seems like a place you could go again and again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Nice Guys (2016)

I wasn't sure about pairing Russell Crowe with Ryan Gosling, but in this case it really worked.  Jackson (Crowe) is a private detective who you hire for muscle.  If you are pissed off at someone or you want them to stop harassing you, this is the guy that you hire.  He is gritty and competent.  Holland (Gosling) on the other hand, is more in line with the private detectives that Perry Mason would hire, but with one caveat.  He is a hopeless drunk since his wife died in a house fire.  Holland couldn't smell the gas leaking, his wife didn't call anyone but complained about it to her husband, and when the house exploded, she died.  And now he drinks.  All the time.  Even though he is raising their 13 year old daughter, who is seeing a lot that she shouldn't, and she is driving him everywhere.  Between them they are investigating the death of a porn star who some very bad guys are after.  So it is essentially a chase movie with some colorful characters set in Los Angeles in the late '70's.  Light action movie.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bagna Cauda

This is a sauce to put on vegetables and quite literally translates to 'hot bath'.  It has a lot of umami from the anchovies and is easy to assemble.  Use really good anchovies, the best you can find.  this comes from the Nancy Silverton book Mozza at Home.
    • 3/4 cup olive oil
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 12 anchovy fillets
    • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
Blend oil, butter, anchovies and garlic in processor until smooth. Transfer oil mixture to heavy medium saucepan. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring, occasionally. (Sauce will separate.) Season with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce into fondue pot or other flameproof casserole. Set pot over alcohol burner or gas table burner to keep warm. Serve with vegetables and bread.

Monday, January 16, 2017

White Sister by Eva Merriam

Oh, when will she know
That even though
Her sins are white,
The master double-deals her left and right?
Same master deals us black and white ...
Take up your hand  — what do I find?
A pair, sister — we're two of a kind.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
Into yourself when you look at me?
(You stare through me as though I'm a wall,
But you need me to catch you when you fall.)
White sister, white sister, blind as you pass,
Take a look at me in your looking glass!
Back stair, front stair, oh look either where,
Neither has yet our full womanly share;
I've been taken downstairs, but you've been taken, too.
Face up to your mirror: you know that it's true.
I've been kicked down to the ground — mud smeared in my face.
You've been shut away upstairs — set on a wobbly base,
How quickly you can fall from a pedestal base.
Feet firm upon the ground makes a lot safer place.
Don't spend all your mind on making up your face,
Pick yourself up clear and wipe off your tear-smeared face;
Set yourself straight and take your proper place.
White sister. White sister, still blindly you pass,
Gazing alone in your looking glass ...
White sister, white sister, you'll never see
Through to yourself while you look through me.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
You're seeing yourself when you look at me?
On all woman's flesh is the master's mark,
And the heel doesn't care if it's light or dark.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
Into yourself when you look at me?
White sister, white sister,
You'll never he free
Until you take
A good look at me.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Our Brand is Crisis (2016)

Sandra Bullock does a good job of playing the under reacting political strategist, the one who does what it takes to win, even though she has earned the reputation of "Calamity Jane" because campaigns have crumbled at her feet.  Billy Bob Thorton plays the other side of the political strategist, the guy who tries to out creep the opposition, get under their skin and use their revealed weakness in that situation against them.  He slept with Jane in a previous campaign, and he thinks that he is permanently able to pull her strings.  She is not so sure that he can't but she wants to believe that she can resist him.
They come head to head in a campaign in Bolivia, where he is backing the front runner and she is for the corporate candidate.  She does a good job heading her opponent off at the pass and standing up to her candidate, who is stubborn as well.  But in the end she is not happy with the outcome and she stays to work with the opposition.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New England Clam Chowder

I have a little bit of PTSD about New Years Eve, because last year I had three procedures and my bed was in the ICU.  I was seriously sick, and while I am sure that it is almost always the case when this happens, I was jarred by the rapidity that my deterioration commenced.  So I am happy to say that a festive meal was this years alternative.  And I do love clam chowder.

  • 24 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated ‘‘top neck’’ or ‘‘cherrystone,’’ rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
  • 2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then sliced into half moons
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley.
  1. Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 4 cups water, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. (Clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes should be discarded.) Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, and set aside as well.
  2. Rinse out the pot, and return it to the stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium-low. Add bacon or salt pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pork from fat, and set aside.
  3. Add the leeks to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add enough clam broth to just cover the potatoes, approximately 3 cups, reserving the rest for another use. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
  4. Partly cover the pot, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the clams into bits about the size of the bacon dice.
  6. When potatoes are tender, add cream and stir in chopped clams and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let come to a simmer, and remove from heat. (Do not let chowder come to a full boil.) Fish out the thyme and the bay leaf, and discard.
  7. The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it to a bare simmer before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

I picked this one because it was on the New York Times 100 Notable books for 2016, and while I am not always in agreement about what is left off that list, what is on it is almost always quite good.  This is one that is set in NewYork City, which can be a bit dicey, because the Times does have a bit of a bias when it comes to books about its city, but this one is very good, conveying the immigrant experience in a city that continues to be a mishmash melting pot of people from all sorts of backgrounds.  The four immigrants in this tale are all from Russia, so there is a particular kind of story being told, through the lens of one culture, and one that is very relevant right now, given the talk that the American elections were interfered with by the Russians.  So it has a particular kind of resonance, as well as being entirely ordinary, in that all immigrant stories have a common underlying theme. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Miles Ahead (2016)

It is very clear, even before watching this movie, that Miles Davis was a complicated guy.  You have only to listen to his music to figure that out.  Talented, mercurial, and complicated.  We watched this in the early evening on New Years Day because we knew that it would take stamina, attention, and some amount of stomaching the bad in order to watch it.  All of that was very true, and completely worth it.  Davis is a somewhat rare figure in jazz in that he was widely known and admired in his lifetime.  He was considered a musician who could make the name of other jazz musicians, so he could never exactly tell who his friends were.  In addition, he grew famous in a segregated America, and so while he was revered by music lovers, he suffered terrible prejudice at the hands of the police and others.  It is painful to watch and remember that was the norm in the American South not all that long ago. And maybe coming back, given the racist rhetoric of our incoming president.  Davis was also addicted to drugs, and that certainly doesn't set him apart from other musicians, but it did complicate things for him.  He was paranoid and unpredictable as a result, which led to problems in his first marriage as well as problems in his musical expression.  I would recommend this movie, but also say that it should not be taken lightly, and no young kids.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eve Drewelowe (1899-1988)

Eve Drewelowe is an artist who I had never heard of, but saw this painting in the Boulder Museum of Modern Art and really loved it.  So, as is so often the case, the artist has an Iowa connection but I learned about her not at home, but on the road.  She got her undergraduate degree and her MFA at the University of Iowa in the early 20th century.   If you like what you see here, then there is a gallery of images of her work on the University of Iowa web site that are well worth looking at.
I love this bold painting with both vibrant colors and dramatic textures.  It reminds me a bit of Georgia O'Keefe's work (no, I do not know what I am talking about, not in the least, this is just a personal and very unsophisticated opinion).  They were contemporaries at a time when there weren't a lot of prominent female artists in the United States at the time. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year Wishes

Happy Birthday to my wonderful spouse!  Here we are pictured, many years ago, on one of the many great adventures that we have had together over the years.  I love to travel and he is an exceptionally good companion. We have been on six continents together, and been to the top and the bottom on the world.  It hasn't been a great travel year for us, but I have my fingers crossed that we might be able to squeeze a bit more in as we move forward.
This past year has been one that I would characterize as harrowing rather than enjoyable, starting off with me in the hospital. I have been a bit more stable as the year progressed, but I haven't even finished chemotherapy yet, so the road ahead is still long and treacherous for me.  Since when your wife is unwell your life is quite poor, wish him well today and going forward.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Meddler (2016)

This is an interesting movie in that on one level it is very light and fluffy and one the other it is a somewhat profound statement on grief and moving on.  Marnie (played by Susan Sarandon) has lost her husband and has moved to Southern California to be near her daughter Lori, who is a script writer in Hollywood.  Marnie is grieving a husband of many years whom she was happy with and who left her well off in his death.  Lori is mourning a loss of a relationship with a man who treats her badly and she keeps coming back for more. 
Marnie is very annoying.  She calls Lori constantly.  She doesn't know what to do with herself and she doesn't know how to help Lori.  But she tries.  She immerses herself in things in an effort to find her bliss.  She gives freely of herself, and even though it is weird at times, she is rewarded for it and she moves forward.  She goes to Lori's therapist to try to spy on Lori, but when the therapist suggests what her motivation might be, Marnie takes it to heart.  She thinks about things and makes adjustments.  Lori on the the other hand, is completely stuck and she is completely unmotivated to get better.  She wallows in her misery about the loss of her father and her boyfriend.  It is painful to watch.  And it is not solely depression.  There is a component of denial involved.  Lori is a cautionary tale and Marnie is a beacon of hope.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I love Zadie Smith's writing.  I read 'On Beauty' many years ago when my eldest was in college and taking a class on contemporary British literature.  I discovered A.S. Byatt and Zadie Smith, and while it did not exactly cover the cost of tuition at a high end New England college, it did help.
This book is about two friends from childhood who are really almost more like acquaintances from the very beginning.  Their main attraction to each other is that they are the same shade of brown, which is not much of a trait to build a friendship on, but it helped both of them feel less alone when they were in grade school together.  The book goes on to explore color, class, colonialism, and the trajectories that life can take you on when you don't think and just act on what is the thing in front of you that appeals to you.  It is a very well told story, one that involves all sorts of careers and places.  One thing it does say loud and clear to me is that the legacy of slavery in the Afro-Caribbean population is that of not feeling like you truly belong anywhere, not even in Africa.  It makes it easier to pick up and leave where ever you are, but harder to settle down.  Very thought provoking book with main characters who are largely unlikable but who make you think.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado

 We went to this wonderful restaurant in downtown Boulder, and were really wowed by everything that we ate.  There were three of us and four course each, so we were able to share twelve different dishes, along with an impressive salume plate, an amuse bouche, and three different wines.  Sometimes a restaurant does a few things right and sometimes they just nail every dish, and this is one of the later.  In addition to exceptional food and stellar wine, the service is spot on.  The wait staff is attentive and yet not annoyingly so.  They anticipate what is needed and provide it before you even know yourself that you are ready for more bread or the water is running a bit low.  Just a wonderful dining experience.
A couple of the dishes are pictured here.  Above is a beet salad, which featured a beet puree that was so intensely flavored that I almost licked the plate to get more of it.  Each beet was a flavor bomb in and of itself and the shaved fennel and yogurt set it all off beautifully.  The lobster dish was poached and served with a lobster butter reduction and a leek.  So tender, and again, the flavor of the lobster shone in this dish.  I love food that tastes intensely of what it is, the simple and yet spectacular flavors being highlighted.  That is what Frasca does well.  and they have a James Beard award to boot. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dough (2016)

This movie feels very rough around the edges.  The essential story is that a crotchety old observant Jew has a bakery that has been in his family for generations.  It is not just a business, it is a symbol of his place in the world and unfortunately, that place is pretty tenuous.  His son has no desire to run the family business.  He is a Cambridge educated lawyer, and while the mother was proud of his accomplishments, the father quite selfishly is wrapped up in how it reflects on him, and has nothing good to say, about the son, or much of anything really.  The bakery is in a part of London that is rapidly slipping into poverty, and the business hasn't made a profit in a very long time.  Enter Ayyash, a young Sudanese immigrant who has faced nothing but poverty and discrimination since he came to England.  His mother gets him an apprenticeship with the old man, and together they make a go of it.  They pray in different ways to the same god, but they are challenged when it comes to the way the world sees each of them (and has no qualms about telling them.  Maybe Trump's America is just England reinvented.  No civility), and the way they see each other.  It is a very raw movie in that way, and a little hard to watch for all of that, but I would recommend it.  Streaming on Netflix.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken

The Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco that is known for its simple straight ahead food.  The chicken there is some of the best you have tasted, and we have made this recipe at home for a long time with good success.

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Season the chicken 1 to 3 days before serving (for 3 1/4- to 3 1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days): Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry (a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown).
  2. Slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Push an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
  3. Using about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt per pound of chicken and pepper to taste, season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity and on the backbone. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
  4. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat the oven to 475 degrees. Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or as low as 450 degrees during roasting to brown the chicken properly.
  5. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
  6. Place in the center of the oven and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking). Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Pour the clear fat from the pan, leaving the drippings. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. As the chicken rests, tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape.
  8. Cut the chicken into pieces and pour the pan drippings over the chicken.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Nix by Nathan Hill

I had some difficulty getting started in this book, and then I had some difficulty putting it down.  So if it seems slow going at first, give it to page 200. Sam Andersen is a man who is in the middle of a crisis, but the truth is that his life as a whole has had come challenges.  You might think that it started with his mother leaving home when he was in grammar school, but in actuality the problem predated that, because she wanted to leave, despite the fact that she had a child that she would be leaving in the hands of his abandoned father.  So the book is essentially told around that moment, what led up to her leaving, what happened as a result of her leaving, and what happened when she came back.
It is a well told story, one that chronicles a nation's response to the last political uprising and what we were willing to suspend at that time.  I think going into a new political crisis, it is well for us to remember what we are up against and what they will try to take away from us, because in reality, we only hold the votes, we don't hold many of the other cards, and it would be well to remember how we have to fight when that is the case.  Great read.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Allegiant (2016)

This is the conclusion to the dystopian series that parallels the Hunger Games, but has it's own twist.  In this case, one of the twists is that the movie is different from the book.  Which is not a problem for me (although I was mostly just not sure that I was remembering the book correctly, so not a big adherent to the series to begin with and I might be a little less touchy about the change than others).
That said, this is a largely predictable movie that is not less enjoyable for that, if your expectations are aligned in the right places.  It is not a movie for the ages, but it has competent acting, a decent script, a balance between hope and despair for the future, and a smattering of special effects, and a handful of double dealing that always makes the good guys look a little bit better that they can still believe in the good of others even when much of their lives they have been treated badly.  If you missed the first two movies, you might want to skip this one, but if you saw them, catch this one too.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Boulder Museum of Modern Art, Colorado

 The Boulder Museum of Modern Art is just a couple of blocks from Pearl St., which is the main stream tourist street with lots of cute shops and recreational gear outlets.  It is a bargain admission price at one dollar and I think a good beginning to focusing a bit more than I usually do on art and what is beautiful.  This is an affordable place and has some very interesting pieces in it.  The smallness of it makes it easier to see everything and give it its due attention.  My favorite piece in the museum was this ceramic tile installation with a miniature city arsing out of the already widely textured tiles.  I would love something like this on my wall.
This piece on the left I understood far better having had a son who did an intermedia installation.  That means that there is video, there is audio, there might be something written to respond to and and there are actual objects involved.  This one is about the secret lives of bees.  There are several videos of bees within their hives, going about the business of making honey.  The audio is also of bees in a large crowd, busily buzzing.  So if you have a fear of bees, this might have some triggers for you.  It is like being right in a hive.  Then there are combs of honey on the wall and in the middle of the floor, the tangible evidence of the work of the bees, right there in the room with you.  It was a very effective, if a bit unsettling, piece.  So check it out if you are in the neighborhood.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nostalgia to Ring in the New Year

This past year was certainly a challenging one.  It started with me being in the intensive care unit.  I had three surgical procedures in a row on New Year's Eve, and truly forgot that it was the holiday when I woke up the next day.  I was worried more about the things that were leaking out of me, and what all of that would entail when it came to finishing up my treatment for ovarian cancer.
As it turns out, I am not quite done with that.  Bad diseases warrant longer treatments and I am certainly in that camp.  The good news is that there has been time for enjoyment that has been sandwiched in as well, and with shorter vacations, we have been able to focus on food, museums, walking, and theater.  Oh, that pretty much sums up every vacation, but we have done it for shorter periods of time this year.  Just hoping that 2017 has more of the good things and less of the bad things than 2016.