Friday, January 27, 2017


Well, maybe not this many 

Last year in January I read this in The Writer’s Almanac on the 16th:    

It’s the birthday of novelist, essayist, and cultural critic Susan Sontag (books by this author), born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City (1933). She grew up in Tucson and Los Angeles. She was a voracious reader from the age of three, and the first book she remembered being thrilled by was Madame Curie, which she read when she was six. She remembered lying in bed as a child and gazing at her bookcase: “It was like looking at my 50 friends. A book was like stepping through a mirror. I could go somewhere else. Each one was a door to a whole kingdom.”

Fifty friends – oh, more than fifty!  Books have been a necessity for me, like love and food, since I was aware of them and able to hold them. I’ve had many books given to me, and I’ve spent a tidy sum on books ever since I had the means to do so. It follows that I’ve also given away many, many of them. I’ve had only so much room in the homes where I’ve lived over the years. There are also a few real treasures that have “grown legs” over the years, and I do miss them terribly. But my very old-time friends are still on my shelves. Just a passing glance at one of their spines brings the whole story back to me in an instant. The flavor of the book runs a quick video through my memory. I can’t say the same happens when I see some of the newer books on my shelves. Old Friends are the best friends.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I was going to write a blog piece, I used this poem instead. You know I’m not a fan of free verse, but this one speaks to me. Grace Paley took the alternative and turned it into a poem.  In effect, she had her pie and a poem too – clever!

If I have to choose a pie, it will always be pumpkin.
I didn't get enough of it at the end of last year.

The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft      a poem would have had some
distance to go      days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it      many friends
will say      why in the world did you
make only one
this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year      a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Friday, January 13, 2017


Here's another piece I wrote for our community magazine. This one was a labor of love because one of my most memorable vacations was at Caneel Bay on St. Johns, way, way back in the day when, the week before I got there, Frank Sinatra, Roz Russel, and Bennett Cerf and their spouses stayed there. (I got a lot of: "Guess who was here last week?")The place was elegant, the food fabulous, and the relaxation complete. From what I see in the images, it is still a wonderful resort.

This looks like where I stayed at Caneel Bay

One hundred years ago, as of January this year, give or take a month or more for signing, ratification, and proclamations by each of the countries party to the treaty, the United States, after years of negotiations, purchased the Danish West Indies from, of course, Denmark. The price, which has proved to be worth every ounce, was a nice, round figure of $25 million in gold, worth over twenty times that in today’s currency.

The final impetus for the purchase was the fear the Americans had that the Germans would take over the islands and have a foothold in the western hemisphere, and the concern the Danish had for their people there in the troubled months before and during World War I. The continued neutrality of the Danish was insured when the final transfer was made just days before the United States declared war on Germany.

Today we know the Danish West Indies as the American Virgin Islands: St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and the many other small islands and cays.
The history of the islands is quite interesting and includes Stone Age peoples, the more recent Arawaks and Caribs visited by Christopher Columbus, the colonizing Spanish, French, and Danish, and ultimate purchase by the United States.

Explorers once delighted in naming places they visited, regardless of whether they’d already been named by the indigenous people. We owe the name of the Virgin Islands, the US and the British, to Columbus. The whole system of islands and cays reminded him of St. Ursula and her thousands of martyred virgins, and he named the larger islands for saints and such. Some day we may see these places revert to their original names, as has Uluru, formerly Ayres Rock in Australia, and Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

The principal economic factor of the islands had always been the production of sugar and rum. This production declined significantly in the late 1800’s with the rise elsewhere of the cultivation of the sugar beet. Today, the principal economic factor of the islands is rest and relaxation, the enjoyment of good food, great beaches, and abundant sunshine: tourism.

Tourists from all over the world flock to the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands. The peak tourist season, with appropriately elevated prices, is December to March. The best time to visit is off-peak April through June, and even later in the summer when it’s off off-peak. Many northerners wouldn’t consider a Virgin Islands trip in the summer. What they forget is that the islands’ daytime temperature, even in summer, is usually around 80° and it’s usually cooler there than up here. It is certainly breezier there. Yes, there can be hurricanes, and yes, the temperatures may get a bit higher, but it’s usually a serene time in the islands. There is plenty of elbow room and plenty of beach room. There are museums and plantations to visit, duty-free items to buy in a relaxed shopping atmosphere, and swimming, hiking, and snorkeling everywhere, especially in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park. For further information, start googling.

Friday, January 6, 2017


Ah, yes - here's another two-fer.  I wrote this one for this month's community magazine, and I've had a few favorable comments on it. We've all been speculating about the answer to the last sentence.

Image result for lobster newburg delmonico's
Lobster Newburg - I haven't had this in years!
Ingredients include cream, sherry, cognac, butter, and, of course, lobster.

Do you remember Lobster Newburg, Salisbury steak, Chicken a la King, and that all-time favorite Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast? This last one was also known to many of us as Sh..  …well, let’s just say that time marches on and, fortunately for us, so have the trends for what we eat.

We were accustomed to calorie-dense foods, foods that were relatively inexpensive but filled us and provided the calories for hard work and play. Noodles, pasta, potatoes, and bread played a big part in our diets. Unless it was spaghetti night, supper was meat, a starch, and a veg. Salads made very rare appearances on our plates. Farmers markets were few and far between, and unless your family maintained a vegetable garden, your veggies were days, even weeks old. The butcher, the baker, the green grocer, and the milk man, were the common independent purveyors who now find themselves under one roof in the supermarket.

Sundays were the days for a huge roast, perhaps leg of lamb or fresh ham, and all the accompaniments. Mom spent a lot of the morning preparing the roast, and the rest of the family spent the late afternoon working or snoozing off the effects of the meal. Today, such large roasts are served mostly on holidays. Many Baby Boomers don’t even remember a fresh ham, thinking it’s the non-canned variety of a smoked ham.

While weeknight desserts were things like jello, chocolate pudding, or tapioca, Sunday desserts were presentations: pound cakes, layer cakes, pineapple upside-down cakes, coconut cream pies, pies of every flavor, and, in season, things like buckles and cobblers. In summer there might have been a treat of home-made ice cream.

In the Fifties, while we on the western side of the Atlantic were eating these traditional foods, people like Julia Child were over in France learning new ways to cook. No longer was Chinese cooking just chop suey or chow mein. No longer was Asian cooking just Chinese. No longer were chop suey and chow mein or spaghetti and pizza the only international foods on our plates.
Television, advances in freezing foods, and widespread transportation meant that we were getting a larger variety of fresher foods and were learning new ways to prepare them. No longer did one cookbook cover everything we wanted to prepare. Fanny Farmer, Better Homes and Gardens, or the Settlement cookbook, have been joined on the packed shelves by hundreds of others. The vast variety of subjects to be covered in individual cookbooks meant that book stores moved the few cookbooks out of the Reference section, and began to devote whole sections of their shelves to them.

Today we aren’t as reliant on seasonal foods, although eating with the seasons, becoming a “locavore” and cooking with what is readily available from nearby sources, is the latest trend, especially for restaurants. Many restaurants don’t have freezers, preferring to use only the freshest ingredients for their menu. And that’s another difference in the way we eat today: more and more we choose to eat out. Rather than stock our kitchens with all the ingredients for international cuisines, we go to the local places that satisfy our tastes. Just in our area we can have Asian, Italian, Greek, Mexican, New York Deli, Southern, you name it, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it’s nearby. So much food, so little time!

Just wonderin’…   …Remember the party standby, deviled eggs? Just plain deviled eggs. Today, according to a recent issue of Saveur magazine, they marinate the whites in soy sauce and raspberry vinegar - just for fifteen minutes, mind you - and then fill them with the yolks that were combined with lump crab meat, avocado, and apple. Chefs are getting inventive. Food is getting fancy. It’s probably a good thing, but we have to wonder what “comfort food” will be to generations to come.