Saturday, February 28, 2009

Old Gourmet Magazines

Not only do I have stacks of books around the house (since all the bookcases are full), but I have stacks of old cooking magazines too. I use them for menu ideas, seasonal recipes, and what not. March 1986 Gourmet, "The Magazine of Good Living" does not disappoint. I love pre-1990 issues of Gourmet. Not only are they full of recipes, they also have interesting articles of all kinds. Here are a few samples from the March 1986 table of contents:

- Gourmet Holidays: Antwerp
- The Ballymaloe Cookery School
- Paris' Open-Air Markets

- Purim: The Festival of Lots
- Christie's Wine Course
- Cooking With Jacques Pepin

You see, the magazine is about more than cooking. It really is about "fine living". After about 1990 I noticed a marked change though. Fewer articles, more advertising, less real content...maybe the publishers decided to take "nouvelle cuisine" concepts and apply them to the magazine too. Probably it was just a business decision, but they lost me.

Back to the March 1986 issue...I have learned so much about the city of Antwerp. Having raced by it on a high-speed train a few years back, I'm now sorry we did not stop there to seek out some of its museums, diamond centers, and of course, chocolatiers. I learned about the history of the name "Antwerp". Ant is "hand" and werpen is "to throw". This is from the legend of the Roman warrior Silvius Brabo (whose statue stands in the square of the Grote Markt):

"...Silvius Brabo, the Roman warrior who freed the Schelde land from a reigning giant. The giant was an unpleasant bully who extracted exorbitant tolls from all who passed along the river and cruelly whacked off the hand of anyone who wouldn't pay. Brave and indignant Brabo fought the giant, cut off the ogre's hand, hurled it into the Schelde, and practiced posing while some clever Flemings translated his good deed into a suitable city name...Delightful reminders of the legend are also found in every bakery and chocolate shop in the form of delicious cookies and bitter, milk, or white chocolate Antwerpen handjes."

I also learned from this article that traditionally, until the middle of the fifteenth century, only images of the Virgin could be decorated with diamonds. The French Kings changed all that. And now Antwerp is (at least in 1986) the world's leading diamond city.

Besides Antwerp, I now want to visit Ireland and go to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I wonder if it is still in business? internet research project. Stay tuned, I will let you know what I find out.

So, if you see a pre-1990 Gourmet magazine at a garage or library sale, buy it. I guarantee you will find a treasure trove of ideas for "fine living".


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (on Wednesday!)

My favorite book blog, "Books Please" has this little challenge each Tuesday. I am a day late here, but thought it would be fun to do anyway. Here are the "official rules": Select a page at random in the book you are currently reading and pick two sentences between lines 7 and 12.

From Wallace Stegner's "Crossing to Safety", Penguin paperback, 1987. Page 95.

"If she could not persuade them, then she would have to extract a promise that they would wait until Sid finished his degree, assuming he went for a degree, and found a job. No more than Charity did she take seriously those nine beanrows."

This is Aunt Emily (Sid's future mother-in-law, called "Aunt" even by her own children) planning her next move...

I would love to read your "Teasers", even if it is Wednesday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weekend Visiting

We're off to the coast to visit family and have a little break.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Guard

Fergus and MacGregor doing their favorite thing.

Waiting and watching
Winter dogs on guard.
Kids on bikes, baby strollers,

Weed Free (For Now)

At last! A mild off and on sunny day, a back on the mend...time to weed the asparagus bed. As you can see, it is finished, and am I ever glad. The path to the car meanders right by the asparagus bed, so every day I saw those awful weeds. I got them out just in time too. The bitter cress was in bloom and had already set a few seeds. I accidentally raked out a white asparagus tip, so things are already working down there. The soil was surprisingly friable for this early. We are pretty far behind our normal winter rainfall and it shows in the garden.

Monsieur Milbert would shake his head and remind me that I am a month late getting this done...but at least it is FINALLY finished.

Now, C will work a few buckets of compost into the soil. Then, we wait.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Magus

OK, I like Fowles' ideas about writing, but this book? Not so much.

The 60s are so far away and this book dates itself, I think. Too much like a Fellini movie. I got about a third of the way through, and gave up when in one scene a mysterious man wearing a jackal's head mask appears and mysteriously disappears. We have satyrs and nymphs cavorting in the woods, Victorian ladies strolling on the beach (in the 1950s), talk of get the picture. It sounds kind of interesting, but was quite boring to me after a bit. I think I am jaded by the reality of now v.s. the 60s when this kind of thing was quite new and surprising (especially in film).

Well written, it is the story of a bored young Englishman who goes to an isolated Greek island to teach school and gets involved in the machinations of a local wealthy recluse. It sounded like something I might like but the fantasy aspects just turned me off.

I prefer literary realism.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Me Too

I am just beginning John Fowles "The Magus". Fowles is on the "must read" list in my writing notebook. No idea where I got the idea that he is a "must read" but wherever it was, all I can do now is throw out a "thank you" into the ether.

His foreword to the May 1985 Bantam Doubleday Dell paperback, on the very first page echoes something I have felt for a long time:

"A more objective side of me did not then believe I should ever become a publishable writer; a subjective one could not abandon the myth it was trying, clumsily and laboriously, to bring into the world; and my strongest memory is of constantly having to abandon drafts because of an inability to describe what I wanted. Both technique and that bizarre face of the imagination that seems to be more like a failure to remember the already existent than what it really is -- a failure to evoke the non-existent -- kept me miserably aground."

I am still not sure if "the already existent" does not really exist. Often, in that dreamlike state, just before actually being "awake" in the morning, words stream through my mind like water. When I wake up, the memory of the words is there, but not the substance. Is there, in my mind, a place where the words flow unaided? Is this the place I "go" when I sit down and write two thousand words so effortlessly it feels like floating? Am I transcribing, or creating? Is this the "muse"? If it is, why can't I access it at will?

John Fowles started The Magus in the 1950s. It was published in 1965.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Still down with my back but feeling MUCH better. Yesterday's entry in my favorite little "book of days" describes a lunch party. Oh, wouldn't one have wanted to be a guest at this little soiree?

"1959 - In Nyack, NY, after a luncheon of souffle, oysters, grapes, and champagne, Carson McCullers puts music on the phonograph and invites Marilyn Monroe, then married to Arthur Miller, and Isak Dinesen to join her in dancing on the marble-topped dining room table." From "A Book of Days for the Literary Year".

Oh, Arthur was there too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Light posting here because I'm "down" with my back. Feeling somewhat better now. I'm trying to work from home and stay in a creative frame of mind too. Here is what Dr. Johnson has to say about pain:

"The mind is seldom quickened to very vigorous operations but by pain, or the dread of pain."
Johnson: Idler #18 (August 12, 1758)