Tuesday, January 31, 2012

plus one

At the cost of proving my technological Amishness, allow me state that Google+1 leaves me cold. Perhaps, I don't understand its utility, or maybe my willingness to share is low, but my concept of a social network involves physical people, conversing, sharing, not tethered to an electronic leash. Suddenly, and I blame +1, formerly warm, cuddly Google now feels like an early incarnation of Darth Vader.

I'll grant, it is new to most of us and I am willing to learn. To maintain my multi-universe citizenship papers I have signed up for a Google +1 account, then instantly threshed my crop circles, dammed my streams, locked down my Picassa photo albums, signed out of what services I could and pulled up the draw bridge.

I too often rely on your good graces to protect me from myself, and friends this may be one of those times. I'm not "worried" yet about whatever privacy issues may be spun from this demon, but until I understand its "why this is good for me", I'm not going to play +1. I do have an openable mind however, and if someone has a REALLY good reason to play, open up, I'm all ears. You may change my world.


Monday, January 30, 2012

The End

They never (hardly) saw the '70's. Their last live concert-the rooftop concert- thrilling all on Saville Row until broken up by the police, occurred on this date 1969.

Yes it's London, in January, on Saville Row, in an era when clothing wasn't especially attractive, but notice how well everyone on the street is dressed.

Someday men's hats will return with a vengeance, just wait, you'll see.

For some of us it seems like yesterday.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Armchair Traveling

the lower Chambeshi river by Phil Harwood

Fellow armchair adventurers may recall Scottish explorer David Livingstone in 1877 was the first European to explore the middle and lower Congo River. Leaving Zanzibar with 356 men, of whom 119 survived, Livingstone travelled for 999 days.

In 2008 British explorer Phil Harwood, with help from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, became what is believed to be the first man to travel, by canoe, the 2922 miles from the source of the Congo River to the Atlantic Ocean. His journey took 8 months through some of the most dangerous territory on earth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

If you are in London today Phil is speaking at The Olympia at 1400, during the Adventure Travel Show.

Should you find yourself at home, his book, Canoeing The Congo is very good read. Available from Phil, or your favorite bookseller can order it for you. It's not a journey you'd likely consider making yourself. While you are waiting for your new book to a arrive, you can always reread Heart of Darkness.


The 10th US President-John Tyler

This news item jolted me out of my reverie earlier in the week. I find it fascinating. Most Americans can name the early US Presidents up to maybe #5 or 6, beyond that there were a lot of one term, do nothings that history has forgotten about. President Tyler was one of those.

Born in 1790, son of a Virginia governor,later a Virginia state legislator, Virginia governor, US congressman, Senator, Vice President, President, not a bad resume. Tyler became president in 1841, upon the death of President William Henry Harrison, 3 years into the reign of Queen Victoria of England. Tyler offended almost everyone he ever dealt with politically and was never elected President. When he left the White House he returned to his Virginia plantation, Sherwood Forest. In 1861 he was elected to the Confederate Provisional Congress. Due to his Southern sympathies, his death in 1862 remains the only Presidential funeral not officially mourned.

Tyler did have one exceptional talent. He and his 2 wives (my bride would rewrite this to read: his 2 wives..)had more children than any other president; 8 by his first wife, 7 by his second. He was 63 when Lyon, the 5th child by his second wife was born, and 67 at the birth of his last child in 186o. My wife allows how I'm unlikely to be so fortunate.

Lyon Tyler was another late fathering prodigy. In 1924, at the age of 71 he begat his son Lyon, and 4 years later had another son, Harrison, who lives in Sherwood Forest, the family estate built by his great grandfather in the late 1700's . Both men, born the same years as my parents, are still alive. So what you say?

Take a look back at your family tree. Are any grandchildren still alive 152 years after their grandfathers death, or say their great-grandparents lived 200+ years ago? I can't.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Chuck Lorre Vanity Cards vol. 5

Kahlil Gibran
(1st draft)
A young woman stepped forward from the throng and asked, "0' great prophet, tell us how we might find love that is unconditional, unwavering and unending." The prophet did not answer right away. He looked off into the distance, gathering his thoughts. Silence descended upon the crowd. Then he turned his gaze upon the young woman and said, "Get a dog."

It's been a while since we last checked up on Chuck Lorre's Vanity Cards. Chuck is the creator/producer of such television hits as Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. At the end of each show hidden amongst the credits are his Vanity Cards, usually a paragraph or two rambling about what's on his mind. He has plenty to say.

Some of the cards may be lost on the young, but if you are of a certain age, you likely agree with many of his thoughts. We left off in high 290's last time. You may catch up here.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where can I find?

Once again I come hat in hand, asking my favorite, most informed friends where to find that which I cannot. I'm looking for shirt weight 100% cotton, white Oxford cloth fabric.

Since winter appears willing to give us a miss this year, I'm diving straight into summer. Last fall, I announced my intention to have tailored a white cotton oxford suit. I've the alchemist on board, now I need the fabric, probably not more than 6 yards.

Where please should I shop?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

robbie burns day

American's hardly know and little care that today is Robert Burns Day (or Night), the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet and lyricist, the Bob Marley of his time, Robert Burns. We canna do the accent, and so long as 95% make up the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, and Scots distillers remain in operation we are mostly OK giving Rabbie a miss. But we should know a bit about the Bard, if only to be neighborly.

Rabbie took to writing verse, when he found it was a good way to chat up birds, at which he became quite successful. His first book of verse was sold to raise funds to hightail it to Jamaica with his girlfriend, Mary Campbell, in order to escape his mother's servant, the mother of his first daughter Elizabeth and Miss Jean Armour who was pregnant with his twins.

That the book sold well was a blessing and a curse in that it convinced him he had another talent, one that paid, so he cancelled the move to Jamaica, dumped Mary and married Jean. Prolifigate Robbie had at least 13 known children, 5 out of wedlock, 3 named Elizabeth.

Written for his first born Elizabeth was A Poet's Welcome to his Love Begotten Daughter

or as Burns called it "Welcome to a Bastart Wean"

So raise a glass tonight to Mr. Burns, he deserves to be remembered, for his poetry, his storytelling, his love of Scotland and his love of fine lasses. May they each live forever.

To Bobby

Laird Toad

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

From the Tangential Thinker

Every now and them I am blindsided by my perhaps willful ignorance. Years of expensive private education hasn't saved my from myself yet occasionally I find brilliance in the oddest places.

Our neighborhood newspaper The Ladue News, has a weekly feature The Tangential Thinker, written by Debbie Baldwin. Her column reads like a blog entry. You rarely know what's coming, but it's always entertaining, occasionally thought provoking, and generally pretty funny. Debbie also writes the movie reviews.

I saw myself in her eyes this week, and it caught me short. I thought I'd share.

by Debbie Baldwin
Ladue News, January 20, 2012

I've got a Bad Feeling about This
For years, I have been at odds with my mother. I have always maintained that if you, say, inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, you ought to feel badly about it. My mother thinks it’s feel bad. She elaborates that if you feel badly, you have a poor sense of touch. I argue that feel is a verb regardless. So it goes. Back and forth. And everybody I ask not only has a different answer, but a different explanation for that answer.

So I had to end it. It was time to bring the mountain to Mohammad: I emailed Richard Lederer, one of our country’s foremost grammarians, as well as the author of dozens of books on the subject, including the hilarious Anguished English. He also was my husband’s English teacher at St. Paul’s School. Here is what he had to say:

The adjective BAD, meaning “unpleasant, unattractive, unfavorable, spoiled, etc.,” is the usual form following such linking verbs as look, smell, sound, and taste: After the rainstorm, the water tasted bad. The contents of the refrigerator smell bad. After the linking verb feel, BAD is the most common adjective, although feel badly is frequently seen and heard, especially with the meaning of “I regret:” I feel badly that I let you down. Although this represents an admirable attempt to differentiate physical ill being (I feel bad) from emotional ill being (I feel badly), much in the manner of I feel good vs. I feel well, feel badly has been criticized for more than a century. Ask the offended why they object, and their voices will slip into the tonal groove that the century-old explanation has worn for itself: “If you feel badly, your finger tips must be numbed, or you’re wearing thick gloves.” Har har—but for a great number of people this disapproval is very real. You might attempt to explain to the finger waggers that the ‘badly’ in ‘feel badly’ is not an adverb but an adjective, in the manner of costly, elderly, friendly, kindly, sickly, and more than a hundred other adjectives that wag–‘ly’ tails, and they will still feel strongly (ahem!) that feel badly is somehow wrongheaded. That’s in part because BADLY is not a fully integrated adjective: If you are sickly, you are a sickly person, but if you feel badly, you are not a badly person. At this juncture in the winding way our language travels, you will communicate more effectively if you feel bad, rather than badly.

So there you have it. My mother was right, but not for the reason she thought she was right. So ha, take that. I was wrong—but I don’t feel bad about it.
Debbie Baldwin

Remember the old joke, I should have listened to my mother!
What did she say?
I don't know I wasn't listening.

I too should have listened.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dear Hallmark Channel- a rant

Dear Hallmark Channel:

I've a bone to pick with you. This past weekend you aired all twelve hours of the Jane Oke's inspired miseries (read mini-series) Love Comes Softly. For reasons unknownable to male people, this series ticked a lot of boxes for your female viewers and its coming was highly anticipated by members of my household, including me who looks forward to 12 hours of peace spread over the next few days.

So, how much harder would it have been to air the 6 movies in sequential order instead of mimicking the piston firing order of an old 6 cylinder Buick? My bride programmed her TIVO to record the movies (no, she hadn't read the books) and as she had time, got comfortable expecting to watch them one after another. Ten minutes into the second movie she asked me, "who are these people, and how did they get there?" Loving husband that I am, I Googled the series, provided my bride the titles, in the order they should be seen and defended myself, mostly unsuccessfully, against Hallmark's programming wizards. Why should I have to?


Saturday, January 21, 2012

In praise of a bow tie wearing fat man

I don't like gourmet cooking or "this" cooking or "that" cooking. I like good cooking. -- James Beard (1903-1985).

Do you remember when the notion of a celebrity chef was as preposterous as a celebrity bus driver? Chefs were hidden in the back of restaurants, away from the prying eyes. Who knew or cared who was preparing their food when they ventured out?

One of the men responsible for creating the celebrity chef was James Beard, the anniversary of whose death we honor today. Beard is remembered for his 22 cookbooks each of which successfully transmitted Beard's love and passion for food. Beard was a great chef, one of the earliest television chefs but more importantly he lived the life he preached.

So how did he create the era of the celebrity chef? The James Beard Foundation created by Julia Childs after Beard died offers scholarships and grants to aspiring chefs. The James Beard Foundation Awards are the annual Academy Awards for top chefs and culinary professionals. To win a Beard Foundation Award is to mark the winner, by his peers as one of the best in the industry.

Have a great weekend, we are off the a Bobby Burns dinner and...


Friday, January 20, 2012

Then and now

While not actually shopping for one as much as hoping to find one at a garage sale, but at least on my wish list of somedays, is an Eames Aluminum side chair, like the one shown above. I'm beginning to appreciate mid 20th century furniture and something about this chair calls to me, much like the list of cars I have in my fantasy garage. Cars I'd like to look at everyday, but don't want to own.

Wanting to know more about the Eames' chairs, I visited the library where I picked out The World of Charles and Ray Eames, a legacy of invention, published by Abrams. The book was a visual treat but not terribly useful until I came to a section devoted to how Eames' chairs were used in advertising.

The first ad, from Hughes Products, ran in US News and World Report in 1956. "How soon can you enjoy wall television?" How long did it take? 45 years?

Television was so new in 1956 it's a wonder the ad agency could imagine wall televisions. What they couldn't envision was a larger screen. The lounge chair worked in pre-remote days because the channel never changed during the evening. Sunday night-CBS, Monday night-ABC....

I was curious to find what else Hughes Products had in store for us in 1956 so I tap danced through Google. Next was "How far away is the pocket TV camera?" We had an RCA VCR/Camcorder in the mid 1980's which was only slightly smaller than the Hughes 1956 version.

I'm uncertain how useful such a gadget would be for the home market, but I'll give them a passing grade for this.

Finally, "How soon will you be able to see over the phone?" Note the rotary dial, a speakerphone would have been nice touch. A solution searching for a problem if ever there was one. AT&T executives used a product called "Picturephone" internally beginning in the late 50's. It worked poorly, but wasn't officially scrapped until the late 1980's.

The answer to all these pressing questions according to Hughes Products was just as soon as we invent the parts, while I keep searching for a chair.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poe Day, Pooh Day, and Pooh Bear

Are you familiar with the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe? On this his birthday I present his most autobiographical poem, Alone.


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were--I have not seen
As others saw--I could not bring
My passions from a common spring--
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow--I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone--
And all I lov'd--I lov'd alone--
Then--in my childhood--in the dawn
Of a most stormy life--was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still--
From the torrent, or the fountain--
From the red cliff of the mountain--
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold--
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by--
From the thunder, and the storm--
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view--

-Edgar Allen Poe

II. As long as I'm mixing my metaphors, I'm a day late honoring the birth of AA Milne, creator of Edward Bear-Winnie the Pooh to you. Yesterday would have been his 130th.

Christopher Milne and Edward

Still mixing metaphors, and 3 days late I failed to honor my constant companion and sweetheart, our oldest Shih Tsu, Pooh Bear. A year ago Monday she came to live with us.

As companions go, I could do much worse than have a Pooh Bear.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lost career opportunity

If you were young when television was in its infancy, you can't help but to be amazed by how much the world has changed. Some of us may recall organ grinders, or twice a day mail delivery. Others, including me can remember deliveries by horse and wagon. How many recall the many products sold door to door? Avon calling!

Not wishing to make fun of the dead, I love the skill and grace of the Telegraph's obituary page. While reading the Telegraph Obituary of Lindsay Masters, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Lindsay Masters
Telegraph photo

The first sentence tells a remarkable story of a time long gone;

Lindsay Masters, who has died aged 79, was a one-time door-to-door lederhosen salesman who transformed Haymarket, the publishing company that made Michael (now Lord) Heseltine’s fortune.

I can perfectly imagine how a career in lederhosen sales came to be. What I cannot I imagine is how incredibly difficult each sale must have been. Shelley,were leather shorts popular in post war Britain?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beatles Ties

I began wearing bow ties exclusively some ten years ago in response to a disagreement with Mrs. T over neck ties. We tend to disapprove of each others choices. For fear that she would continue buying ties which I would return the next day, I switched.

Last summer I wore a long ties twice and liked it. I liked it so much so that I've dug out some of my old favorites, just to see if I could still handle the knots. Like dad's in the '50's I've even begun wearing a tie around the house periodically, mostly to see the reaction. Today, I wore this one.

"What the hell is that?" I heard. "It's a Beatles tie", I replied, "dates from the early '90's when the Beatles needed money to pay their lawyers." The Beatles lawyers always made more money than the band did.

Sometimes we play a game called "perilous doubting". I'll say something true which sounds outlandish, to which Mrs. T will take exception. The dialog goes like this: The Beatles never sold ties, did so, did not.... and ends with I'll betcha, make it big, and huge sums of monopoly money are wagered, which when I win, I use to wager against Kansas University basketball games with my son.

The label was my proof this morning, an easier bet I've never won. My tie is Eleanor Rigby, copyright 1991.

There was a large collection once upon a time, each one uglier than the next. Still I like mine, but I've never seen another being worn.

As improbable as it may seem, Muhammad Ali turns 70 today. Wherever has the time gone?


Monday, January 16, 2012

He had a dream

All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mrs. T's anniversary

My blogger profile describes me as the happiest married man ever. It's true. More so everyday. I'm blessed beyond imagining. My greatest blessing is my bride, and today is her wedding anniversary.

She is not my best friend, she is not my soul mate, she doesn't complete me. She makes us "we" and together we are indomitable. I love her madly.

Each year on this date she asks if I'd reup for another year. I'm now up to 2678 AD with no end in sight.

My adored, I love you mostest. Thank you for a wonderful life.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Roald Dahl Stamps

To honor the Roald Dahl fans and stamp collectors amongst us, the British Post office has just released a set of Roald Dahl postage stamps illustrated with Quentin Blake's illustrations of 6 of Dahl's best selling children stories.

According to the wonderful folks at the Roald Dahl Museum, with whom I've corresponded, the museum web store should soon have the stamps available for sale to those of us across the seas, without access to the BPO, or a ready supply of GB Pounds on hand (they'll take plastic).

Also it's that time of the year when we wish another Great Brit, Lou Archer of The Archers at the Larches our annual happy birthday greetings, although somehow she never ages. Happy Birthday Lou!!!!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Separated at Birth?

Jean Grimbert 2011
at Arny's Paris

Lord De Grey
Vanity Fair 1890
artist: Leslie Ward (spy)

Two dashing gentlemen.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

What a difference a day makes

My garden issue is solved for now.


My Christmas kicks have arrived

Have I mentioned my bride despises my Albert slippers? She finds them effeminate, and nothing I can or do say is likely to change her mind. Over time she has become less vocal about it, unless or until another pair arrives. My Christmas present to myself arrived yesterday which once again opened the floodgates.

I was unsure how they would turn out. Of course, I had a photo of the swatch recommended by Shaun and Mike of Broadlands Slippers, but heaven only knows where the colors my monitor shows and reality coincide.

I love them, out of the box they just felt perfect. Today, they are my favorite pair, although that hasn't kept me from thinking about my next. With an 10 week lag from inspiration to delivery, mayhaps something for spring would be in order. Linen? Available for boys and girls, tell 'em I said hi.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Odds and Ends

Garden Question

Unless you grow winter wheat, the warm winter in North America has been wonderful. We haven't had a hard freeze yet and I still have roses in bloom. As my ex told me, "I'll get mine."

Walking around the garden yesterday afternoon I noticed that too many plants and bushes were beginning to bud. Forsythia is always too early around here, but Iris, hydrangeas, azaleas were beginning to sprout. Surely the weather will change eventually and not for the better. Shall I let nature take its course and plan for a late or stunted spring bloom as these buds die, or do I need to protect these plants somehow? If so how?

shawl collared cardigans
I have the unfortunate habit of wanting some article of clothing I saw last year, this year. Know the feeling?

I'm on the lookout for shawl collared cardigans. Last year they were as a common as leaves in fall. This year they are either made of gold, as is this number from Ben Silver , or

somewhere, somehow just not quite right, like this from wool US Army replica with the too small shawl from What Price Glory.

The more I look though, the more I like this cotton sweater from Orvis, but not enough to buy.

Available in 4 colors, each one slightly wrong.

My favorite thus far is from J Crew. Perhaps a bit too much like a Lands End Canvas I already have but I've waited too long and now it's gone.

Any recommendations?

Screaming yellow linen pants

I know it's early in the year, and it's not really my place to say, but I gifted these Ralph Purple Label screaming yellow size 42 linen flat fronts to my buddy Giuseppe of An Affordable Wardrobe for his store. Look for them in a few weeks, or if interested get in touch with G.

Keep in mind they are Purple Label thus trim and short rised.

And finally

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Ferry

Best wishes to the happy couple, who were married January 4. My sole regret is that no one told me the rules had changed. Once upon a time it was accepted, and taught at boy school as fact, that the ideal age difference between a man and his mate was that she should be half his age plus 7 years. The 66 yo Bryan has 37 years on his bride. He's got shoes older than her.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Casey is the handsome dude on the right, his bonus brother Elwood at left. Casey is my daughter's only child and a very fine sweet lad he is. That wasn't always the case.

Casey showed up at our house a wee pup, just when Ted was at his wildest, adolescent stage. Some believed that Ted would help nurture Casey, but they were more like dumb and dumber.

For several years I cursed that dog. He ate anything and everything, included the illuminated Christmas lights off our house. He feasted on baseboards and garden sprinkler heads. It was rumoured he could swim until he got tired, but there is no evidence of his ever getting tired. Somewhere inside him are the remains of my 50 ft extension cord.

Casey (left) and Elwood

Several years later he and she moved to Colorado to enjoy the good life. She married Elwood's partner, a superior guy and lover of canines, while Casey learned from Elwood that the sun rises and sets each day for his new dad. Casey's almost 14 years old, has lost a step or two but still has the fire of a pup in his eyes. His spirit is willing but the body is weak.

He is now sick as a dog. His best days are behind him and the effort now is to keep him comfortable. As I once cursed him, now I get misty eyed thinking about him not being around.

When our 4 pups heard Casey was sick, they asked us to send him treats, which we did,
using the recipe for Dog Biscuits from the Flour Bakery and Cafe (Boston) Cookbook, modified only a bit. Your dogs may like these as well.

Homemade Dog Biscuits From Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe)

2 cups (250 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 grams) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (133 grams) medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
1 cup (120 grams) bulgur
½ cup (100 grams) nonfat dry milk
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt (we used table salt, no one has complained yet)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups (300 grams) chicken, beef or vegetable stock


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Stir together flours, cornmeal, bulgur, dry milk, and salt until well mixed. Set aside.
  • In small ball whisk yeast into stock.
  • On low speed of stand mixer, add stock to flour mixture until stiff dough forms, 2-3 minutes.
  • Roll out dough to about ½ inch thickness on a flour dusted work surface and cut into desired shapes. (the cookbook says to roll to 1 inch thickness. That didn't work for our cookie cutters)
  • Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until they start to brown and feel firm. (the cookbook says to turn oven off when done and leave dough in the oven for 8 -12 hours)
  • The dog biscuits can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

    Tell your pups they are from Casey.

  • Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Knole House

    Knole House

    The patron saint of English garden writers, poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West grew up in her family pile Knole House, one of the largest homes in Britain. She was so heartbroken, her father's only child, at having to leave Knole due to the rules of male primogeniture upon the death of her father in 1930, she wrote half seriously that she considered murdering her father's heirs.

    She threw her anger and energy into what in in 1930, must have appeared absolute madness when she purchased the derelict ruins of Sissinghurst Castle and along with her husband Harold Nicholson created what is now one of the country's greatest gardens Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

    Sissinghurst Castle

    Eighty years on, a new generation of Sackville-West's occupy Knole House. The 53 year old current Lord Sackville of Knole inherited the title in 2004 when his uncle died, and recently announced he plans to throw history and tradition on its ear. Keep in mind his Lordship is young and his only son and heir is now 12 yo, but Lord Sackville has announced his preference for leaving Knole to one of his daughter's, instead of his son.

    I have visions of a young Jane Austen character. Think Sense and Sensibility with me here. A young well-to-do woman, with expectations of a large inheritance is suddenly left penniless when her father's executors turn the dogs on her. You can see it coming can't you?


    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Now at your neighborhood Borders

    Autographed by whom? Kings David or James, Mathew, John, Mark, Luke, Ruth, Ester...


    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Food Porn

    It seems like everywhere I turn lately I'm confronted with the typical New Years Resolution diet stories like how to lose weight fast, or the "water diet" or some such nonsense. I've gone the other way. I've been reading food books for fun.

    Christmas Eve I was listening to The Splendid Table on NPR. Edward Behr, the editor of The Art of Eating magazine was telling the story of how his magazine began 25 years ago, its contents and how they write about food. I was spellbound. I never knew food writing could be so sumptuous.

    I am not a good eater, and you'd never want to invite me home for dinner. While I can hold up my end of the conversation, the list of things that never cross my lips is far longer than those that do. But I am resolved to try, a least a little bit, to expand my dining repertoire this year.

    I figured there were two ways of doing that. I could hold my nose, fork in hand and pretend that I enjoy vegetables, or I could learn to want to savor veggies by following the examples of those that had gone before me and lived to write about what a wonderful experience they had. I chose the later, beginning with several back issues of The Art of Eating. I'm learning.

    For Christmas I purchased a copy of New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik's The Table Comes First, Family, France and the Meaning of Food.

    I usually enjoy Adam's writing, although I found this book a slog.

    I did take away 3 points that all good cooks know intuitively, but I had to learn the hard way. First, the rule of triple action in cooking: take something to eat, do something to it, do something else to it, and don't do anything else after that.

    2. Let your oven be either very hot or very cold. None of that 325/350F (160-175C) stuff.

    Finally taste is a fiction, shaped by time. We make up our tastes and it is the making-it-up that makes it matter. That gave me hope.

    The best part of Gopnik's book I found to be the many references he cited. Foremost was The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin, published posthumously and anonymously in 1825 by the heirs of a French nobleman renowned for his erudition on matters cullinary, and translated into English by MFK Fisher in 1949.

    Brillat-Savarin is probably best known to Iron Chef watchers. His maxim "tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are" opens the show. I found a heavily marked up, underlined and dog earned copy on Alibris last week and am happier for it, it may be unwittingly, the funniest book I have ever read.

    Any book which begins "What woman wants, God Wants" demands that the reader pay attention. His message is "that the pleasures of the table are for every man, of every land, and no matter what place in history or society; they can be a part of all his other pleasures, and they last the longest, to console him when he has outlived the rest."

    For over 400 pages there are 30 Meditations on all things Gastronomic from simple definitions of the senses to control of obesity and everything in between. It's a guide to enjoying yourself at the table. Over the past 200 years some phrases have changed meaning, and some medical advice is plainly wrong, yet the work holds up very well, proving his point that good living is an act of intelligence.

    Forget the food component, if you are interested in culture, history, sociology, this is a must read. Foodies too should not give this a miss. It's the best couple of bucks you'll spend this year.

    The sole area where Mrs. T and I often disagree is what constitutes food. I believe that if it is going into your mouth it had better taste good, if not what's the point? My bride on the other hand is a trier of the first order, willing to substitute taste for health. In 15 years we have made little headway convincing the other.

    Mrs. T reads cookbooks like some women read romance novels. She has been working out a new cookbook on us since Christmas, 1000 Diabetes Receipes by Jackie Mills. While there is not a diabetic in the house, this book is currently replacing any number of low fat/no fat cookbooks usually found on our kitchen counters or night stand.

    I generally find low fat cookbooks off putting. Substituting taste for wax is not the way to a man's heart. This book though I like, a lot. While the nutrition info of all the dishes is included I find it isn't necessary. The food tastes like food. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Desserts. All things you'd enjoy eating, using identifiable ingredients. I sense a bit of headway. Highly recommended.


    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Dr. Schwartz-Our Family Astronomer Royal

    I've written in the past about our family Astronomer Royal, the late Dr. Richard Schwartz of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Days before he died, Richard was notified that his last scientific paper had been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the Geological Society of America.

    His work, An Astrophysicist Looks at Global Warming, appears in the January 2012 edition of GSA Today. The paper while written in professional scientist language offers easy to follow proof of the existence of global greenhouse gas warming. I hope you find it rewarding.


    The Astronomer Royal position is still open. Interested candidates should apply on line.