31 January 2010
30 January 2010
26 January 2010
24 January 2010
23 January 2010
"In 1964, the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss published “The Raw and the Cooked” (“Le Cru et le Cruit”), in which he argued that turning raw food into cooked food traced a symbolic passage from nature to culture. Cooking, in other words, was a kind of bildungsroman for civilization itself. Lévi-Strauss’ essay theorized what Julia Child’s popular television series, The French Chef, had begun to demonstrate a year earlier with respect to American society; for we were evolving, under her tutelage, from the “raw” to the “cooked”— from meat loaf and mashed potatoes to coq au vin and pommes de terres lyonnaises. The recent film, Julie and Julia, is an index to how far we have come, not only in our culinary evolution but in our cinematic one."
Read the rest here.
Pleasure and perfection
When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy. That’s what cooking is all about.
But to give pleasure, you have to take pleasure yourself. For me, it’s the satisfaction of cooking every day: tourneing a carrot, or cutting salmon, or portioning foie gras – the mechanical jobs I do daily, year after year. This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep satisfaction from the mundane.
Say, for instance, you intend to make a barigoule, a stew of artichoke hearts, braised with carrots and onions, fresh herbs, oil and wine. You may look at your artichokes and think, “Look at all those artichokes I’ve got to cut and clean.” But turning them – pulling off the leaves, trimming their stems, scooping out the chokes, pulling your knife around its edge – that is cooking. It is one of my favorite things to do.
Another source of pleasure in cooking is respect for the food. To undercook a lobster and serve it to a customer, and have him send it back, is not only a waste of the lobster and all those involved in its life, it’s a waste of the potential of pleasing that customer. Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do.
When you’ve pulled your pot from the oven to regard your braise, to really see it, to smell it, you’ve connected yourself to generations and generations of people who have done the same thing for hundreds of years, in exactly the same way. Cooking is not about convenience and it’s not about shortcuts. Cooking is about wanting to take time to do something that is priceless. Our hunger for the twenty-minute gourmet meal, for one-pot ease and pre-washed, pre-cut ingredients has severed our lifeline to the satisfactions of cooking. Take your time. Take a long time. Move slowly and deliberately and with great attention.
A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. I can tell you the mechanics – how to make a custard, for instance. But you won’t have a perfect one if you merely follow my instructions. If you don’t feel it, it’s not a perfect custard, no matter how well you’ve executed the mechanics. On the other hand, if it’s not literally a perfect custard, but you have not maintained a great feeling for it, then you’ve created a recipe perfectly because there was no passion behind what you did.
The French Laundry
20 January 2010
"The difference between artisan pasta like Rustichella (or Martelli, etc.) and the mass-market stuff though comes out big time when you cook it. The slightly chewy texture, wheaty aroma, and full flavor of well-made pasta make me realize every time what classic Italian cooks always say: the point of the pasta dish is always the pasta itself, not the sauce."
Read the rest here.
18 January 2010
Out on the road in West Marin
In a cloud of dust I met two djinn
One was bright as pride and thin
The other was fat and black as sin
Isn't this how all good tales begin
The big one looked a lot like you
The other one looked just like you too
They wound me round, they ran me through
A score of lies they swore were true
Isn't that what genies always do
Night come sudden, dawn be soon
Bide my time by the dark of the moon
My strange heroes lead me on
But when I get there they'll be gone
Ever since I was a pup
Deal was I'd sing before I'd sup
My silver spoon's this beggar's cup
And when it's empty I fill up
All I have to do is just show up
The prophet said all flesh is grass
He had a soul like old stained glass
A smile as sweet as sasafrass
Well that ol' boy can kiss my ass
Who the hell can wait for life to pass
I'm going to Adam's home in a world that we can't see
To sing drunk with the angels, play again for free
The way that is no way is calling you to me
If we don't believe together, we might just cease to be
Way down by the shining gate
The djinn revealed to me my fate
You and I, we've got a date
I'll be there, but you'll be late
Maybe things really comes to those that wait
Those two djinn they couldn't stay
Chased away by dawn's first rays
They called back as they ran away
They told me, "Have a real fine day"
Isn't that what genies always say?
A short while back the door flung wide
We all saw good luck on the other side
The door blew shut but here's the deal
Dreams are lies, it's the dreaming that's real
It's the dreaming that's real
Dreams are lies, it's the dreaming that's real
Dreaming that's real
It's the dreaming that's real
Dreaming that's real
Dreaming that's real
Dreaming that's real
17 January 2010
Relaxing. Therapeutic. Challenging, Exploratory. Journaling is a great way to "cook your life."
Everything is interesting, just look closer ... and then write.
I had a great teacher show the benefits of quiet, solitary reflection and exploration, a time when contemplation is best.
A journal, a pen, and an inquisitive mind is all that is needed.
What is commonplacing?
Commonplacing is the act of selecting important phrases, lines, or passages from texts and writing them down. A commonplace book is then a journal in which a reader has collected quotations from works he or she has read. These commonplace books often included comments and notes from the reader. They are a sort of reflective journal of what one read or learned during his life.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, was an avid practitioner of reflective journaling. One biographer noted that Jefferson “would synopsize and capture the key points of his readings and add his own reflections, recording them in a journal which he called his ‘commonplace book.”
Jefferson himself reflects on his practice:
"I was in the habit of abridging and commonplacing what I read meriting it, and of sometimes mixing my own reflections on the subject."
Jefferson’s tutor, James Maury, commended the practice as a means ‘to reflect, and remark on, and digest what you read’.
Also known as a silva rerum, a forest of things, a commonplace book is a collection of thoughts and maintained as a document of where the writer's mind has traveled and how the soul has been inspired.
"He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current.
Nick looked down into the pool from the bridge. It was a hot day. A kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory. As the shadow of the kingfisher moved up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in a long angle, only his shadow marking the angle, then lost his shadow as he came through the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the stream under the surface, his shadow seemed to float down the stream with the current, unresisting, to his post under the bridge where he tightened facing up into the current.
Nick's heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling.
He turned and looked down the stream. It stretched away, pebbly-bottomed with shallows and big boulders and a deep pool as it curved away around the foot of a bluff.
Nick walked back up the ties to where his pack lay in the cinders beside the railway track. He was happy. He adjusted the pack harness around the bundle, pulling straps tight, slung the pack on his back, got his arms through the shoulder straps and took some of the pull off his shoulders by leaning his forehead against the wide band of the tump-line. Still, it was too heavy. It was much too heavy. He had his leather rod-case in his hand and leaning forward to keep the weight of the pack high on his shoulders he walked along the road that paralleled the railway track, leaving the burned town behind in the heat, and then turned off around a hill with a high, fire-scarred hill on either side onto a road that went back into the country. He walked along the road feeling the ache from the pull of the heavy pack. The road climbed steadily. It was hard work walking up-hill. His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him."
Read the rest here.
"Sitting uncomfortably on his stump, Brown Dog lapsed into a state much envied by the ancients. He thought of nothing for an hour and merely absorbed the landscape, the billions of green buds in thousands of acres of trees surrounding him. Here and there were dark patches of conifers amid the blue strip of Lake Michigan. He had never thought a second of the word "meditation" and this made it all easier because he was additionally blessed with no sense of self-importance or personality which are preoccupations of upscale people. Within a minute he was an extension of the stump he was upon. After about an hour he was aroused by the Cooper's hawk flying a scant ten feet away after which B.D. reached into a hole at the base of the stump for a pint of schnapps he stored there and was delighted by the wintergreen berry taste."
Read the rest here.
16 January 2010
"Each one of us will, at one time in our lives...look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same questions. We are willing to help, Lord...but what, if anything, is needed? It is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give ... or more often than not, the part we have to give ... is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us ... but we can still love them. We can love completely ... without complete understanding."
INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD
THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;--
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel--I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother's arm:--
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
--But there's a Tree, of many, one,
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother's mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years' Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,
With light upon him from his father's eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his "humorous stage"
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy Soul's immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,--
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a Master o'er a Slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being's height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest--
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
11 January 2010
Discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654. Perhaps known to Aristotle about 325 B.C.
Open star cluster Messier 41 (M41, NGC 2287) is lying about 4 degrees nearly exactly south of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It contains about 100 stars, including several red (or orange) giants, the brightest being of spectral type K3 and mag 6.9, and situated near the cluster's center. This star is about 700 times more luminous than our Sun. The stars are distributed over a volume about 25 or 26 light years across, and all receding from us at 34 km/sec. As they are at a distance of 2,300 light years, they appear scattered over an area of 38 arc minutes diameter.
The age of M41 was estimated at 190 million years (Sky Catalog 2000) and 240 million years (G. Meynet's Geneva Team). The hottest star has been found to be of spectral type A0. All sources agree that it is to be typized as of Trumpler class I,3,r. This stellar swarm is receding from us at 34 km/sec.
Helfer, Wallerstein, and Greenstein have investigated M41's K-type red giant stars, and found their chemical composition very similar to that of our sun.
J.E. Gore mentions that M41 was "possibly" recorded by Aristotle about 325 B.C.; this would make it the "faintest object recorded in classical antiquity" (from Burnham). However, this identification is uncertain: A.A. Barnett presumes that Aristotle may have described the Milky Way near the star d CMa.
Hodierna was the first to catalog it before 1654, and it got generally known after John Flamsteed's independent rediscovery of February 16, 1702, who remarks (No. 965 in his catalog): "Near this star (12 CMa), there is a cluster." It was independently found again by Le Gentil in 1749, and apparently by Charles Messier, who added it to his catalog on January 16, 1765.
Read more here.
From Earth & Sky ...
A reader wrote, On November 4, I went to study the constellation Orion, but first I had to see the star Sirius and there was a glimmer below Sirius and upon looking it seemed to be a very nice comet. Has anyone else seen this? I am a newby … (and) would like someone to verify if they see this. I am quite up and excited.
It wasn’t a comet, but very likely was a lovely star cluster called M41. So the identification with a comet was wrong, but it is a reasonable mistake. The nuclei of comets look like fuzzy patches, much like M41 in a small telescope.
Read the rest here.
10 January 2010
One of my favorite historians was born on this date in 1926. Stephen Ambrose was a master storyteller, you need only read one of his masterpieces to tell this. His work includes Band Of Brothers, Nothing Like it in the World: The Men who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, D-Day, and two that would go to a desert island with me , Crazy Horse and Custer and Undaunted Courage., the story of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery mission to the Pacific.
Ambrose participated as a consultant in the Ken Burns documentary, Corps Of Discovery. I recommend it.
08 January 2010
05 January 2010
03 January 2010
02 January 2010
"Music is going the way of meals, drinks and sex, all of which are ceasing to be occasions for bonding and becoming sources of solitary addiction instead. Humanity is being divided in two by its own inventions. On the one side are the IT-savvy nerds, who do not relate to each other directly, but have mastered all the ways of achieving satisfaction from digital substitutes. On the other side are the savages, as Aldous Huxley might have called them, who sit down to meals with their families, and who drink and sing madrigals with their friends like Samuel Pepys. And the two classes are increasingly estranged from each other, since the moments in which they might have united, as people unite through singing, no longer exist."
Scruton explains here.
01 January 2010
If you get lonely on your daddy's farm
Just remember I don't live too far.
And there's a red bridge that arcs the bay, yeah
You'll be at my place in less than a day.
So get on your bad motor scooter and ride
Up over to my place and stay all night.
First thing in the morning we'll be feeling all right
So get on your bad motor scooter and ride.
Ooh, the last time I seen your face
swore that no one would take your place.
Now since you've been gone I've been feelin' bad, yeah
I'd come out to your place (but)
I'm afraid of your dad. So you...
Ride, ride, ride.
Come on baby, ooh yeah.
Crank it on up!
You can fight
Fight without ever winning
But never ever win
Win without a fight
"To carry out his duties, Cordier had to organise a system of letterboxes where messages could be left (Lyons had the advantage that, unlike Paris, its buildings had no concierges), recruit his own helpers, find lodgings — in a city he hardly knew. He conveys the extraordinary intensity of his existence in this period: the constant danger of being arrested in a routine inspection of papers, the frequent news of the arrests of comrades, the moments of immeasurable solitude-and the sheer exhaustion. Finding so much time taken up walking from one rendezvous to another, Cordier asked Moulin's permission to buy a bicycle out of the funds allocated from London. But when the bicycle was stolen, Moulin, who believed in not wasting official funds, told him curtly: "So now you will just have to walk." Cordier also describes the strange paradoxes of Occupied France. One family who sheltered him in their apartment for several weeks out of sympathy for the Resistance turned out also to be fervent supporters of Marshal Pétain. In Paris, he observes that the only people to be seen carrying the German collaborationist magazine Signal were Resistance fighters who were using it to identify each other at meetings in public places. If the Germans had arrested everyone carrying Signal, they would have destroyed the Resistance.
Read the rest here.
Wow! The French really are more than just mayonnaise!
My life was tinted purple by so much love,
and I veered helter-skelter like a blinded bird
till I reached your window, my friend:
you heard the murmur of a broken heart.
There from the shadows I rose to your breast:
without being or knowing, I flew up the towers of wheat,
I surged to life in your hands,
I rose from the sea to your joy.
No one can reckon what I owe you, love,
what I owe you is lucid, it is like a root
from Arauco, what I owe you, love.
Clearly, it is like a star, all that I owe you,
what I owe you is like a well in the wilderness
where time watches over the wandering lightning.
- Pablo Neruda
“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” -Tennessee Williams
I have known my friend, John, for half of my life. He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Much of what I enjoy in life has been introduced to me or enhanced through my friendship with John. He is a Renaissance Man, the consummate learner ... always researching ... and very adept at teaching. Food, music (especially bluegrass), drink, engineering, cartography, drink, hiking, trains, weather, electricity, politics, birds, trees, carpentry, bikes ... my friend lives life extraordinarily. Not extravagantly, extraordinarily.
He is patient but no push-over. Compassionate and understanding. One of my favorite things about him is that he is one of the rare people the the planet who not only understands my childish, immature, and sometimes "inappropriate" sense of humor, he encourages it and participates right along with me.
I'm proud to to call John my friend, and humble that he calls me his.