I’m behind in sharing published pieces. Here’s a single-page spread that came out in the November ’14 issue of HighFive magazine. It’s fun to do the images for these fun, little poems!Add a Comment
I’m behind in sharing published pieces. Here’s a single-page spread that came out in the November ’14 issue of HighFive magazine. It’s fun to do the images for these fun, little poems!Add a Comment
As a small boy in the 1920s, my father sang in the choir of the parish church, St Matthews, in Walsall in the British Midlands. Twenty years later, he was married with a couple of children and our small, tight family belonged to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. Friends do not have church services. There is no hymn singing. But every Christmas Eve, religiously as one might say, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the family gathered around the radio to listen to the broadcast of carols and lessons from King’s College, Cambridge.
That was long ago and for me, since I now live in Florida, far away. I have long since lost my faith in the Christian religion. Even if this were not so, I doubt that I would much enjoy Christmas overall. When the kids were little, it was a lot of fun. But now, it strikes me as appallingly commercialized and an occasion when you spend way too much on presents no one really wants, eat and drink to excess, and end by quarreling with people that you have not seen for a year and by which time you both realize why it is that you have not seen each other for a year.
But every Christmas Eve I track down the broadcast of the King’s service and listen to it, even though because of time-zone differences it is now for me in the morning. Music spurs emotions as does no other art form, and I find listening an almost-melancholic experience as memories of my childhood come flooding in and I recall with huge gratitude the loving family into which I was born. I remember also my dedicated teachers recreating civilized life after the horrendous conflicts of the first part of the century. How can one speak except with respect of a man who spent the first half of the decade driving a tank over North Africa and Western Europe, and the second half explaining to nine-year olds why Pilgrim’s Progress is such a tremendous story and something of vital relevance to us today?
So Christmas remains very important for me, as does the other great highlight of the Christian calendar. As a teenager, having failed O level German miserably, I was packed off one Easter vacation to stay with a family in Germany, so I could (as I did) succeed on the second attempt. Music again. On Good Friday, German radio stations played Bach’s Matthew Passion, and listening to that – even though in respects I prefer the dramatic intensity of the St John Passion – has remained a life-long practice.
Perhaps because it is all so German, I find myself focusing on the dreadful events of the Third Reich, but also – and obviously the theme of Christ’s sacrifice is all-important here – on those who showed super-human qualities in the face of absolute evil and terror. Above all, Sophie Scholl, at twenty-one years old a member of the White Rose group in Munich who started handing out anti-Nazi pamphlets in the middle of the war. Inevitably discovered and condemned to death, as she was led to the guillotine, she said: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
I would not for anything relinquish the experience of Easter and the moments when I contemplate the truly good people – I think of those combating Ebola in West Africa – who stand so far above me and who inspire me, even though I am not worthy to clean their shoes. You don’t have to have religious faith to have these all-important emotions. You do have to be a human being.
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.”
And so finally to the third festival, that of Thanksgiving. Growing up in England, it was something unknown to me until, to go to graduate school, I crossed the Atlantic in 1962. In the early years, in both Canada and America, people invited me into their homes to share the occasion with their family and friends. This is something that has stayed with me for over fifty years, and now at Thanksgiving – by far my favorite festival overall — my wife and I hugely enjoy filling the table with folk who are away from home or for one reason or another would not otherwise have a place to be. No special music this time – although I usually manage to drive everyone crazy by playing opera at full blast – but for me an equally poignant occasion when I reflect on the most important thing I did in my life – to move from the Old Word to the New – and on the significance of family and friends and above all of giving. In the Republic, Plato says that only the good man is the happy man. Well, that’s a bit prissy applied to me, but I know what he means. People were kind to me and my wife and I try to be kind to people. That is a wonderful feeling.
Three festivals – memories and gratitude; sacrifice and honor; giving and friendship. That is why, although I have not a scrap of religious belief and awful though the music in the mall may be, I look forward to Christmas, and then to Easter, and then to Thanksgiving, and to the cycle all over again, many times!
“I was lucky all the time in having great teachers,” says clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. When I asked him about special ways his early teachers helped him, he mentioned his elementary school band director who was “enthusiastic and cheerful, no matter what,” and also a private teacher he had in high school who taught him how to practice with purpose. But the teacher who seems to have had a life-changing impact was his first private teacher, with whom he studied for about a year during junior high at a music store in San Francisco. That teacher instilled in young Mr. Stoltzman the idea that he could indeed become a musician.
Other musicians have cited similar confidence boosters when asked about the especially helpful things a teacher did for them. Here are teacher reminiscences from Mr. Stoltzman and other professional musicians.
Richard Stoltzman — “He taught me both saxophone and clarinet,” says Mr. Stoltzman of his first private teacher at that San Francisco music store. “He didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t play classical music and improvised music.” At this store, young Mr. Stoltzman played his first “crossover recital,” performing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” as well as a classical piece. “This was a big moment for me, that my teacher allowed me to do those things and encouraged them.” Then the Stoltzmans moved to Ohio. “I was so sad to leave that teacher. At my last lesson, he looked me in the eye and said something like, ‘You can do it. You can play music. Don’t stop.’ If somebody believes in you, that makes you say to yourself, ‘Well, this person believes in me. So even if I don’t think I can do it, I guess somehow I better keep doing it.’”
Isabel Trautwein — “My confidence was very low at the end of my undergraduate years. I was close to quitting because I was so uptight and just couldn’t stop worrying that I might play out of tune,” says Isabel Trautwein, violinist with the Cleveland Orchestra. “Then I went to Cleveland to study with Donald Weilerstein. He used the ultimate non-judgmental approach. He never used criticism. He would go through a piece line by line and wanted to know what I was trying to say, as a person. He would say, ‘In this phrase, where are you going?’ My eyes would open wide. I would think, ‘I don’t know. I’m just trying to play it in tune. I’m trying to play it well.’ But that’s a terrible goal. So he would say, ‘OK, but do you want it to be gutsy? Or dark? Are you going for the gypsy approach? Are you going for fantasy? ’ He had all these great words. He’d also say specific things like, ‘Feel your index finger when you play.’ It was a mixture of musical cues that have to do with the character and musical feel, and then physical cues that had the ability to take your mind away from that voice that says, ‘Oh, that wasn’t good,’ the critical voice. If I’m thinking about my fingertips, I’m not going to be able to judge myself on what just went wrong. Weilerstein’s lessons were only about the violin. Never psychoanalytical. It helped a lot.”
Paula Robison — “I had been studying with Marcel Moyse for about five years, and was already in the professional world of music as well as the artistic one, but I still had many questions,” says flutist Paula Robison, who studied with this renowned teacher at the Marlboro Music School. “One day I came to a lesson with the Concerto in D of Mozart. I played the first movement. Mr. Moyse was silent. He puffed on his pipe, in deep thought. Minutes passed. I waited. Then he slowly said (in his wonderful French accent) ‘Paula, I have teach you many theeng, but now you MUST GO YOUR OWN WAY.’ I was shocked. I felt like a bird kicked out of the nest. But he was right. It was time for me to fly. And I did.”
Jennifer Undercofler — “I am so thankful to all my teachers for their tireless commitment and dedication, but the one lesson that stands out was the lesson I learned from the great Dorothy DeLay,” says violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who studied with Ms. DeLay at Juilliard. “She told me to go to the library and listen to all the recordings I could get my hands on and attend concerts as much as possible, to listen and learn as much as possible. She thought it would be incredibly helpful to study the phrasing, tempi, sound, and technique of all performers so that I could imbue my own sound with this insightful study and thoughtfulness. This purpose of being able to teach oneself with the right tools, so as to ‘own’ your sound, was the greatest lesson of all.”
Jennifer Undercofler — “I’m probably most grateful to my first piano teacher, a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire, who was deeply creative, with a wonderful, wry sense of humor. She always expected more out of me than I thought I could give. I remember her assigning me an Ives etude (I must have been 10 or 11 years old), declaring that she hated it, but knew that I would probably love it. She proceeded to break it down with me over the coming weeks, with considerable gusto. She was right, of course—I did love it. I don’t know many teachers, even now, who would have taken that particular plunge with an elementary school student,” says pianist and music educator Jenny Undercofler, whose fascination with ‘new music’ has continued ever since. “In a similar vein, I remember Jerry Lowenthal calling me when I was a masters student at Juilliard, to tell me to make time to play ‘new music’ on the Focus Festival. I was so surprised and flattered by the call, and of course I then played in the festival, which further opened the ‘new music’ door. I think of this when I encourage private teachers to have their students play with Face the Music. Their ‘endorsement’ can make a world of difference.” Face the Music is a ‘new music’ ensemble for teenagers that she started as an outgrowth of her work as music director of the Special Music School, a New York City public school.
Toyin Spellman-Diaz — “The impetus for my interest in music came from my first public school music teacher in fifth grade,” says the Imani Winds oboist, Toyin Spellman-Diaz. “She inspired in me a love of seeing a project come to fruition. She put on musical productions. She would play the piano, rehearse the choir, have kids get costumes. She had crazy ideas and somehow made them come to life and did it with determination and joy. I remember watching her as a young child and thinking that even though it was a lot of work, she enjoyed what she was doing. I remember thinking, ‘I would really like to do something like this when I grow up.’ I sang in the choir. She introduced me to the flute and I played in the school band. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and be a music teacher,” says Ms. Spellman-Diaz, who has a studio of pupils now. She also serves as another kind of teacher during Imani Winds concerts, with the informative comments that she and others in the quintet share with the audience before each piece.
Headline Image: Sheet Music, Piano. Public domain via Pixabay.
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For this American, my favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. Why? I have an image in my mind of Native Americans and colonists meeting and sharing food together; they share knowledge and stories. In the midst of their concerns about each other, they found respect for each other. Their spirit of sharing is a great inspiration.
As an economist in this upside-down world of people stressing over their future and present, I find answers in that image of Thanksgiving. People eventually survive by sharing with each other as a community. The poor are fed. The sick are cared for. The struggling are helped, and communal ties are strengthened.
There is a term in economics, social capital. This term refers to the cultural interactions within a society forming cohesion, coordination, and cooperation that allow an economy to function better. An economy relies on people from diverse backgrounds talking, sharing concerns, negotiating, making plans, and working toward common goals. The social quality of their communication determines the true strength and potential of their economy.
When the Native Americans and the colonists met and shared, I see social capital being built. The society became stronger. People would be better able to have their needs met. There would be less conflict and more enjoyment of work. The societuy would be able to grow in potential.
The focus of my research as an economist is in the area of labor share, which is the percentage of the income from production that is shared with labor. I research how changes in labor share affect such things as potential production, employment, productivity, investment, and even monetary policy from a central bank.
In almost all advanced countries, even in China where labor share was already low, labor share has fallen in an exorbitant way since the turn of the century. What has been the effect of labor receiving less share of a national income? Potential output has fallen. Unemployment will be higher than before. Productivity growth will stall much quicker, or even fall as in the United Kingdom. Nominal interest rates from central banks will be stuck near 0%.
The fall in labor share represents a problem in the social capital of advanced countries. Labor is being excluded from economic development. Their concerns are not being heard, while corporate profits extend to new records. Labor’s wages are expected to fall in order for companies to be more competitive globally.
Stop. Take a moment of silence.
Acknowledge the growing problem of inequality, and return now to celebrate this holiday of Thanksgiving. Within this day exists the answers to our economic concerns. As societies, we only need to share more. And in sharing, we show our respect for the value of people within society.
A man can’t get rich if he takes proper care of his family.
The Navajo, or Diné, have a saying: “A man can’t get rich if he takes proper care of his family.” The wisdom embodied in this saying is immense. The wisdom not only assures the strength of each member of the community by building social capital, but it assures a stronger economy.
Now we need to answer the question: Who is family?
Here comes the true meaning of Thanksgiving: We are all family. The poor, the rich, the uneducated, the educated, the powerful, and the powerless, as well as those of different races and cultures. Families, friends, and strangers are invited into our homes to celebrate Thanksgiving. The abundance is shared and ties of respect are celebrated.
The extent to which a society can see everyone within the society as family determines the potential of their economy and eventually the quality of life. So Thanksgiving is a moment to celebrate how different people can embrace each other in a spirit of sharing. In that sharing, a broader vision of family is cultivated. In that vision, sick economies can be healed.
Featured image ‘Home to Thanksgiving’ litohraph by Currier and Ives (1867). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
I’m posting over on the Emblazoners site today. Come on over to see what I’m thankful for this holiday season :) http://emblazoners.com/thank-your-lucky-stars Tagged: lucky stars, shooting stars, thankful, thanksgivingAdd a Comment
Turkey Day is just around the corner and families are already making plans to gather.
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy – our homes, our harvests and the time we spend with our families. In our current culture, that time seems increasingly to be disappearing with the rapidity of cranberry, turkey and stuffing off a Thanksgiving platter.
Many stores today are impinging on that ever closing window of family time, even on traditional family holidays such as Thanksgiving. They are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself to get a jump on the traditional kick-off of the holiday shopping season, termed by retailers as “Black Friday.” I often wondered why that particular term was adopted, but I guess it’s because retailers have a grand opportunity to get into “the black” or plus side of the profit ledger on THAT day, if they haven’t been all year. I am certainly NOT against retailers, profits by any means, nor a vigorous economy, but can we hold the cash register “ka ching” till AFTER the turkey has at least cooled?
Stores are starting to try and outdo themselves with earlier and earlier opening times on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s may have been one of the first to kick it off following its grand daddy of all Thanksgiving Day Parades, with the air barely let out of those lofty balloons of Superman and Snoopy, than the doors of Macy’s swing open at 6pm, two hours earlier than last year, to shoppers jamming their store for bargains!
ToysRUs is opening at 5pm not to be outdone. Best Buy will open also at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day and here’s one I had to blink to believe was true. Kmart shoppers attention: IT will open at 8am! That’s right, they will open in the morning, in case you would like to pop the bird in and then get a little shopping done BEFORE the guests arrive.
Maybe I am sounding just a mite peevish over this, but sometimes BIG changes in a culture happen so gradually, we rarely take issue until it’s a done deal. All right maybe this might be an over reaction on my part, and people should have the right to shop when they want to, even at the cost of family time. BUT, those stores must be staffed with OTHER people that might not have had the option to work on a day they might have preferred to lie on the couch after the turkey, and be lulled with tryptophan from the bird – with a good book. Great idea! and here’s a thought: maybe that shopping time could be better spent reading to a captive audience of small children gathered, and now sated at the feast, that famous six stanza poem by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River And Through the Wood”. Plus, here are a great selection of others to choose from:
The Night Before Thanksgiving – Natasha Wing
In Every Tiny Grain of Sand – Reeve Lindbergh
Balloons Over Broadway – Melissa Sweet
Turkey Riddles – Katy Hall
I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie – Alison Jackson
One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims – B.G. Hennessy
The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Book – Lauren Kraus Melmed; illus. Mark Buehner
Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving – Laurie Halse Anderson
The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving – Maribeth Bolts; illus. by Terry Widener
And so, as Dickens’ Bob Cratchit intoned to his family on another holiday, “To the founder of the feast!”, and as far as I’m concerned, those founders would probably agree with me, and ask us to put off our shopping for just one more day!!Add a Comment
Finally had a chance to watch the segment that CUNY's Independent Sources asked me to do with them about children's books and Thanksgiving. My belly is always in knots when I do something like this. But! The people I worked with there are terrific. Thanks, Nicole and Zyphus! I think it turned out great and hope AICL's readers will take a few minutes to watch/share it, and of course, get the books I recommend!
Scroll down to see the video. Here's some screen captures of it. I'm sharing them because THEY LOOK SO COOL!
At this time of year if there is one thing as certain as dressing and leftovers it’s parody verions of Norman Rockwell’s famed “Freedom From Want.” And I finally found the best round-up of parodies including the Justice Society one. A little of these goes a long way so here are a mere three.Add a Comment
(MANNY, the boa constrictor slithers in)
(cont’d.) Did anyone ever tell you that you have a beautiful, full body. I bet under all those feathers, you have nice firm flesh
What started as a simple festival celebrating the year’s bountiful harvest has turned into an archetypal American holiday, with grand dinners featuring savory and sweet dishes alike. Thanksgiving foods have changed over the years, but there are still some iconic favorites that have withstood time. Hover over each food below in this interactive image and find out more about their role in this day of feasting:
What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Let us know in the comments below!
Joyeux Turkey Day, my fellows! Between bites of sweet potato and rolls, perhaps it might do the soul good to listen to a l’il ole podcast that’s actually a bit perfect for the day. The “original” Thanksgiving was between Pilgrims and Native Americans, or so we were taught in grade school, yes? Well perhaps we should do away with the myths and listen to some American Indians today in one of my Children’s Literary Salons. Normally they’re not recorded but Cheryl Klein and her husband James Monohan turned one such Salon into a podcast. Here’s Cheryl’s description of it:
In happier news, the recording of the Native American Young Adult literature panel at the New York Public Library is now available here: http://www.thenarrativebreakdown.com/archives/698. Joseph Bruchac (author of KILLER OF ENEMIES), Stacy Whitman, Eric Gansworth (author of IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE), and I had a terrific conversation (moderated by Betsy Ramsey Bird) about finding Native authors, the editor-author relationship across cultural lines, creating authentic covers, and the many pleasures of Native YA books. Please listen! #Weneeddiversebooks
Go! Enjoy! You’ll feel happy you did. They were an impressive crew and kept me on my toes.Add a Comment
“My thanks to my parents is vast,” says Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboist with the Imani Winds woodwind quintet. “Without their help, I would never have become a musician.”
Many professional musicians I’ve interviewed have responded as Ms. Spellman-Diaz did, saying that their parents helped in so many ways: from locating good music teachers, schools, and summer programs, to getting them to lessons, rehearsals and performances on time, while also figuring out how to pay for it all. In addition, there are those reminders (often not well received) that parents tend to give about not forgetting to practice. Ms. Spellman-Diaz received her share of reminders, noting that “at some points, I didn’t feel like practicing. Dad’s going to be thrilled that I’ve admitted that it helped that he nagged me to practice. For decades he has been bugging me to admit that.”
But beyond these basics, when I ask musicians to recall something especially mhelpful that they’re thankful to their parents for in terms of furthering their musical development, the responses tend to focus on how a parent helped them find their own musical way.
Toyin-Spellman Diaz: The non-musical goal her parents had while looking for a good private flute teacher for their daughter during elementary school had a profound effect on Ms. Spellman-Diaz’s musical future. “They wanted an African-American teacher so I could see a classical musician who looked like me, to show me that there were African-American classical musicians out there,” she says. Her second flute teacher was also black, as was one of the three oboe teachers she had during high school, after she switched instruments. “It absolutely made an impact and is partly why I play in the Imani Winds.” This woodwind quintet of African American musicians was started in 1997 with much the same goal her parents had: to show the changing face of classical music. However, one of her flute teachers was also into jazz. “I think my parents were trying to steer me toward jazz. They would have been really excited if I became a jazz flutist,” she says. But classical music won out, and that was fine, too. “With my parents, it was knowing when to let go and let me find my own voice, my own passion for it.”
Jonathan Biss: This pianist credits his parents with creating an “atmosphere that I didn’t feel I was doing it to please them or because it was good for me. I was doing it because I loved music.” When he was young, he too sometimes needed practice reminders. “But if they said, ‘Go practice,’ which wasn’t often, it was always accompanied by ‘if you want to do this.’ Their point was that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but if you choose to do it, you have to do it well.”
Paula Robison: After she started flute at age eleven, her father realized that she had a special flair for it and “saw a possible life for me as a musician,” says Ms. Robison. He knew regular practice was essential, but he didn’t want to become an overbearing, nagging parent. So when she was twelve, they shook hands on an agreement: she promised to practice at a certain time every day and if she didn’t, it would be all right with her for him to remind her. That went well until one day during her early teens when she was “lounging around on the couch” during the hour she was supposed to practice. He reminded her of their agreement. She says she angrily “stomped up the stairs” to practice and “whirled around and shouted, ‘Someday I’m going to thank you for this!’” And she has. “I thank my father every time I pick up the flute.”
Liang Wang: When asked what he was most grateful to his parents for, this New York Philharmonic principal oboist says, “They allowed me to be what I wanted to be. A lot of parents want their kid to fit into what they think the kid should do. Oboe was an unusual choice. There aren’t many Chinese oboe players.” But he fell in love with the sound of the oboe. They supported him in his choice. He notes that his mother “wanted me to pursue my dream.”
Mark Inouye: When asked about the best musical advice he received as a young musician, Mark Inouye recalls something his father said to him at about age eleven, after a particularly disappointing Little League baseball game “in which I had played poorly,” says this principal trumpet with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The pep talk his father gave him carried over to his beginning efforts on trumpet, too. He says his father told him, “You may not be the one with the most talent, but if you are the one who works the hardest, you will succeed.”
Sarah Chang: “Mom understood I had enough music teachers in my life. The best thing she did was leave the music part to everyone else and be a mom,” says violinist Sarah Chang, who started performing professionally at age eight. “Bugging me about taking my vitamins, eating my vegetables, fussing about the dresses I wore in concerts. . . She was always encouraging, my number-one supporter.”
Headline image credit: Classical Music. Notes. Via CC0 Public Domain.
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The last Thursday of November freshmen are returning home to reunite with their high school sweethearts. Except not all are as sweet as they once were. Your old flame may show up with a new admirer or give you trouble because you didn’t spend enough time on Skype on Saturday nights while away at college. Be prepared: pack an arsenal of tunes that catch the sad and sometimes mixed feelings you may have after Turkey-Dumping Day. For your convenience, a list of the 10 great breakup songs for a post-Turkey recovery:
10. Pink’s “Blow me (One Last Kiss)”
One of the more lighthearted tracks to make the list, Pink’s lead single from her sixth studio album The Truth About Love (2012) nonetheless gets the message across: After too much fighting, tears, and sweaty palms, the time comes when turkey is not the only thing you have finally had enough of.
9. Passenger’s “Let Her Go”
Passenger’s second single from the album All the Little Lights (2012) made the list not only because of the soul-wrenching, melodic tune but also because of its spot-on content. Looking into the heart of a dumper, the lyrics forcefully delineate the paradox of love: you don’t really know whether or how much you love someone, until he or she is gone.
8. Christina Perri’s “Human”
The lead single from Perri’s second studio album Head or Heart (2014), this pop power ballad features almost no drumsticks (pun intended). Instead it showcases the American singer’s ethereal voice. And the lyrics hit the nail on the head: Being happier and hotter without your ex may be the best way to get even. But don’t worry if you fail spectacularly, ’cause you’re only a little human.
7. Hilary Duff’s “Stranger”
Tapping into the style and sound of Middle-eastern belly-dance music, Hilary Duff’s single, recorded for her fourth studio album Dignity (2007), is a bouncy yet husky song about suddenly seeing an unkind stranger in the torso of your beloved. After listening to this tune, put on the dumper’s apron before slicing the turkey.
6. Jaymes Young’s “Parachute”
Despite its blunt language, Seattle-born singer Jaymes Young’s fragile ballad made the list because of its lyrics about being lied to and instantly knowing that it’s time to take the “l” out of “lover.”
5. Taylor Swift’s “I knew you were trouble”
Taylor Swift’s bass-heavy dubstep drop, recorded for her fourth studio album Red (2012), is aptly warning us about the trouble-makers–those types that make you fall in love only to leave you behind.
4. Sam Smith’s “Stay with me”
Although it’s not quite a turkey-dumping song but rather a desperate-for-love ballad, this gospel-inspired hit from British songwriter Sam Smith’s debut studio album In the Lonely Hour (2014) still made the list. Critics deemed it overly sentimental, but “brutally honest” is evidently a better description.
3. David Guetta’s “Titanium”
French DJ and music producer David Guetta is hard to pass over when it comes to ferocious breakup songs. This 2012 hit from his album Nothing But the Beat gives you relationship hardship and a shot of resilience to help take the pain out of Turkey-Dumping Day.
2. Fefe Dobson’s “Stuttering”
“Dobson can sing,” say the critic. Yes, indeed. The tune and the debated music video leave you stuttering and wondering: Can the green-eyed monster make you that crazy? Yes, it can, not least when the cheater isn’t your man.
1. David Guetta’s “She Wolf”
Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” gets an honorary mention for its heartening lyrics but it’s David Guetta who takes the first place with another ballad, featuring vocals from Australian recording artist Sia. Reflecting on the most poignant of breakups, this impassioned chorus on the feeling of being replaced takes us inside the mind of someone who is “falling to pieces.”
|Sharing the Good things in Life with my BFF|
|And a Good Time was had by All!|
“A Full Belly is the Mother of all Evil,” Benjamin Franklin counseled the readers of Poor Richard’s Almanack. For some mysterious reason this aphorism hasn’t had the sticking power of some of the inventor’s more famous sayings, like “he who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” Most of us are more inclined to see a full belly as one of life’s blessings. The offending epigram, however, can’t be described as an aberration. Franklin’s writings are filled with variations on this advice: “A full Belly makes a dull brain”; “The Muse starves in a Cook’s shop”; and “Three good meals a day makes bad living.” It’s no wonder that one canny writer has taken advantage of the unquenchable American appetite for both the founding fathers and diet books to publish The Benjamin Franklin Diet, a complete guide to slimming down, eighteenth-century style.
Franklin’s antipathy to a full belly reflected his Puritan upbringing, which stigmatized gustatory pleasures as low or impure. When he was growing up, he recalled in his Autobiography, “little or no Notice was ever taken of what related to the Victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable of inferior.” Franklin claimed to have thoroughly adopted this legacy of indifference to food, but there is good evidence to the contrary. He abandoned an early commitment to vegetarianism when, on board the ship that carried him away from bondage to his brother in Boston, he succumbed to the temptation to indulge in a catch of cod. As he confessed, “I had formerly been a great Lover of fish, & when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smeled admirably well.” Reasoning that fish ate other fish, and thus why shouldn’t he, the pragmatic Franklin “din’d upon Cod very heartily.” The famous portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, painted decades later in France, suggests that he gained no better control of his appetites as he matured. Not even a hero worshipper could call the man thin. A second chin falls heavy below his jaw line, his belly strains against the buttons of his sumptuous waistcoat, and his arms bear a resemblance to fattened sausages.
Not a total hypocrite, Franklin did include passages in his writing that treat the pleasures of the table more positively. Poor Richard’s advice that “Fools makes Feasts and Wise Men eat them” suggests that frugality, more than distaste, motivated Franklin’s advice be temperate. During his embassy in Paris, when Franklin sought to win France over to the American cause, he ate out six nights a week. And without a doubt he enjoyed many of the nice things he was served, such as îles flottantes and champagne.
A proud American, Franklin also sought to introduce his French friends to some of the glories of his native cuisine. He insisted that American corn flour could make a sweeter bread than wheat alone (several of the philosophes were engaged in pursuit of a more nutritious bread recipe to improve the condition of the peasantry, who derived the majority of their calories from the staff of life). Later, after his return to Philadelphia, Franklin sent his friends shipments of Pennsylvania hams – remarkable for the sweetness of their fat, which he attributed to the pigs’ subsisting on corn.
If you want to try Benjamin Franklin’s recipe for corn bread you can find it in the appendix to Gilbert Chinard’s wonderful 1958 essay “Benjamin Franklin on the Art of Eating.” This little pamphlet, printed by the American Philosophical Society, contains a number of recipes found among Franklin’s papers, few of which could be described as dietetic. Franklin’s recipe for roasted pig pays great attention to producing a delicious crackling. His oyster sauce is heavy on the cream. And his puff pastry, recommended for encasing his apple pudding, calls for a pound of butter. Frarnklin’s apple pudding makes a tempting proposition for a food historian on the eve of Thanksgiving, especially since, like many eighteenth-century recipes, Franklin’s terse instructions offer just enough detail to inspire certainty that the end result would be inedible by twentieth-century standards. What better reason could there be to break out the mixing bowl!
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To make an apple pudding.
Make a good puff-paste, roll it out half an inch thick, pare your apples, and core them, enough to fill the crust, and close it up, tie it in a cloth and boil it. If a small pudding, two hours: if a large one three or four hours. When it is enough turn it into your dish, cut a piece of the crust out of the top, butter and sugar it to your palate; lay on the crust again, and send it to table hot.
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The sense of the unfamiliar has always been what compels me about history, it gives me the feeling of discovery and assures me that I am not just finding my own reflection in the sources. I, for example, do not bring a love of boiling to my reading of dessert recipes. Baking I expect – hours of boiling, not so much. I boil few foods, and those only briefly. I boil pasta 7 to 12 minutes, always anxious to drain the pot while the noodles are still al dente. Sometimes I boil green beans, but just for a couple minutes and often I steam them instead. I boil eggs, but I like the yolks soft so I don’t leave them in for more than six minutes. I never boil dessert pastries. But Benjamin Franklin told me to, so for the sake of historical knowledge I threw all my cooking know-how to the wind and set out to slavishly follow his orders.
Difficulties confronted me long before I arrived at the boiling. To begin, Franklin directed that I make a puff pastry, mixing four pints, or a quarter of a peck, of flour with half a pound of butter. How much did eighteenth-century dry pints weigh? And did they weigh the same in the colonies as they did in England? Today the imperial wet pint is four ounces more than the American wet pint (20 oz vs. 16 oz). One thing is for certain, whatever the exact weight of an eighteenth-century dry pint might be, four of them is a whopping amount. I made the executive decision to weight a pint at 16 oz and cut the recipe in half so that I didn’t completely empty our flour bin. Halving the butter as well, I ended up with a very dry mix:
The next direction was to add cold water until a stiff dough formed. Having spent the past twenty-five years of baking trying to add as little water to my pie dough as possible to prevent it turning tough, I needed to tamp down all my better instincts to pour in the cup and a half of cold water that my dry mix required to come together.
The brick of paste that resulted was so hard that it had to be beat into submission to follow the next directions, which called for the dough to be rolled out, buttered, rolled up, rolled out, and buttered again, nine to ten successive times until another half pound of butter had been added.
After an hour of buttering and rolling, I was left with a lovely, pliable, yellow dough, which I rolled out “half a thumb’s thickness” and set on a cheese cloth.
Franklin’s recipe calls next for chopped cored apples to be placed on the dough. No seasoning is done at this stage: no spices added to the apples, no sugar, no butter, no lemon. Just apples. How big? How many? Over how much of the dough? It doesn’t say.
Nor did the recipe explain how to seal the dough. I went for crimping and ended up with something that looked like a giant Cornish pasty.
At least until I wrapped it up in pastry and began the boiling, whence it commenced to look more like a brain. It was hard to commit willful destruction of this beautiful pasty, rather than pop the parcel into a hot oven where it might grow golden and crisp. What was the purpose of building up 10 layers of lamination only to melt out all the butter in a bubbling pot? Again, Franklin was mute.
The cooking instructions said to boil the pudding from two to four hours depending on its size. Unsure of the standard of measurement, I decided on three hours. There were no further cooking directions and perhaps I should have just let it be, but worried that the pudding wasn’t getting cooked on the top, which bounced above the bubbling water, I flipped the package each hour. Perhaps if I hadn’t, the pudding would have developed more of a crust.
For the final step, Franklin directs that the top of the pudding be removed, sugar and butter be mixed in with the apples, then the top replaced and the whole served immediately. When I cut away the muslin and lifted the soggy lid I found that the apples inside had reduced to a beautiful sauce within the boiled pastry casing. I added some chopped butter and brown sugar, then closed the pudding back up and let the flavors meld. I can’t say the result would win first prize in a pie contest, it wouldn’t even win honorable mention. But I can report that the mess tasted quite nice in a bland, comforting, soft, sort of way. Not a bad match for turkey at all.
Featured image: “The First Thanksgiving,” Jean Leone Gerome Ferris (c. 1912). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
|Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want|
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The light was getting purple and soft outside.
Almost time for my father to come home from work.
What’s the matter? What you crying for?
Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie.
No, he’s not.
Yes, he is, too.
No, he’s not.
I promise you Daddy is not going to kill Ralphie.
Why don’t you come on out of there?
Would you like some milk?
Here you go.
I’ll see you later? Okay. Bye.
I heard the car roar up the driveway, and a wave of terror broke over me.
He’ll know what I said, the awful things that I said.
I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, there is always a twinge of guilt. My youngest daughter ALWAYS says a prayer for the noble bird that sits glistening on our festive table. Maybe you have young ones that have a similar feeling and if you do, “Too Many Turkeys” is at first glance, a very deceiving title as to where it is headed. But it will make kids feel good about toms in general and the story and illustrations are chock a block with turkeys.
It’s the story of Belle and Fred, their tiny farm and the “added benefits” for gardens that come with a turkey who wanders onto the farm. At first glance Belle is horrified at the thought of her prize garden rampaged by the “infernal mess” the turkey, they name Buford, will make. Well, Buford DOES make a mess, but it is a mess with benefits!
Suddenly Belle’s gardens are the envy of her neighbors. A new ingredient has been added, courtesy of Buford! Belle smile benignly and says when asked, “What’s the secret?”, Belle innocently replies, “My special formula fertilizer. A little of this, a smidge of that.” It’s a smidge all right – a smidge from Buford!
The fly er turkey in the ointment is the allure of Belle’s veggie garden and the tiny farm is soon awash with tons of OTHER turkeys. Tricks of every sort are devised by Fred to fool the tenacious turkeys and get them “off the farm.” Well sir, the jig is up and the only way to see clear of this sea of turkeys is a bit of old fashioned neighborliness.
Fred trades Belle’s secret formula for her lush gardens ( and even a generous portion of her secret, for the help of their neighbors in finding new homes for the pervasive poults!
Some of Belle’s seeds, a bunch of the “secret ingredients” plus a turkey each, depart with every helpful neighbor. One hand washes the other, as they say.
All find homes save Buford who, if your young readers peer under the porch on the last page, has found his turkey soul mate and will be “talking turkey” again to Belle and Fred!
Bountiful gardens are no accident and for the agro-interested, this turkey tale is timely for Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble! Happy Thanksgiving Buford!
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I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko. Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.Add a Comment