Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mom's Recipes

My mother was a great person -- but not a great cook. Given the choice, she would always rather be outside than in the kitchen; visiting than cooking. Her recipes were imprecise; "use a pat of butter the size of an egg;" a pinch of salt; season to taste. If she didn't have the right ingredients, she would substitute freely; sometimes with good results, sometimes not.

So, it was with some surprise that I read the email from my sister, Seester, suggesting that for our family get-together this Christmas, we make recipes from my mother. There were groans all around. As it turns out, almost nothing anyone is making for our family feasting is one of Mom's recipes, except that Seester made Mom's oatmeal cookies, and they are really good (of course, Seester has the advantage of not having burned them because she got distracted by the cow getting into the garden.) So, in case anyone is interested in really good, old fashioned Amish oatmeal cookies, here's the recipe:

4 cups oatmeal
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup melted lard (really. Seester tried other shortenings and came back to lard.)
2 eggs
1 cup coconut
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

(No instructions on degrees of heat or time. In all likelihood, when this recipe was put together, the cooks were using wood stoves without precise oven temperature control.)

Seester has Mom's recipe book, complete with stains, mis-spellings and odd recipes for things like "salting beef steak," making cheese, "to fix pickles," "swell cure for lung fever," and these pediatric concoctions.

Children's Medicine

2 oz. glycerine
20 drops aconite
2 oz. rain water

Receipt for Making Drops for Children

1 quart old rye whiskey
1 oz. ground cinnamon
1 oz. cloves
1 oz. opeum
12 cents wroth safron

Put together in bottle and shake once a day for 6 days and then it is ready for use. Give a child at night when going to bed. 1 drop for every week of age. Give more than once a day if necessary. To older persons 50 to 60 drops may be given.

Christmas Pictures

An Absolutely Delightful Holiday

I am writing this from the mountains of western Maryland where 32 family members and friends are staying at an 8-bedroom house called Absolute Delight (some of us are sleeping at a Comfort Inn down the street.) The scenery is beautiful and the fellowship is fun. The house is ample. Everyone is here except for one brother in Vienna; Son Number One and Daughter-in-Law Number One, who have to work and are saving vacation time for a trip to Korea, and Son Number Two and his Significant Other, who will be arriving tomorrow afternoon. I just went back upstairs to hear my brother the Humble Carpenter/Farmer/Philosopher explaining the basic ground rules on arguments to some of the hangers-on, i.e. that it's unfair to actually know something about what you are arguing.

The Wife and I started out at 6:30 a.m. yesterday and drove all day through sleet and rain, but we all made it safely. I made my famous French toast, my brother, The Trucker made eggs over hamburger, and my sister, The Sensible One, made a mixed fruit Gellate, for 30 people for brunch. Pictures to come.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Accolades for Jack Quartet

Here's another music critic, this one in Philadelphia, who saw 200 musical performances in 2008 and is rating a Jack Quartet performance in Philadelphia (a different program than the one that wowed the New York Times) as among the top shows he heard during the year.

And people are bragging now that they "knew Jack before they were famous."

I have to tell this story on myself. I was up, as usual, very early Saturday morning, around 6:00 a.m., checking the internet for mail and news when I found the New York Times article I mentioned below. Naturally, I was excited, but The Wife was sleeping late as usual, so there was no one with whom to share my excitement. Finally, about 8:00, I could stand it no longer, went into the bedroom and said to The Wife, "If you will wake up, I will show you something exciting."

"What is it?" she mumbled sleepily from under the blankets. "Are you standing there without your clothes on?" It has been a long time since I have laughed as long and as hard.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wow: Heady Company for Jack Quartet

Yesterday's New York Times does a typical end of the year roundup of the "most memorable classical music performances of 2008." Four of the five performances are not surprising -- a lot has been written about them not only in the Times, but in other national publications. They are the performance at the Park Avenue Armory of Die Soldaten, a German opera, where the audience is seated on tracks and moves around during different parts of the performance; the New York Philharmonic's concert in North Korea; the Mass project at Carnegie Hall in honor of Leonard Bernstein; the performance at Carnegie in honor of Elliott Carter's 100th birthday, with the old man in attendance, and the Jack Quartet performance in October at (le) poisson rouge. Holy cow. Those kids are on to something.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

John Stewart's Take on Illinois's Governor Problem

As usual, John Stewart has the best analysis out there about Illinois's embarrassing governor. It's funny, but oh, so true.