Saturday, October 31, 2020

In my new skillet

In my kitchen in October, my only new item is a skillet. It was on special sale during Amazon Prime Days, and I was also using up a $10 credit that was only good during the 2-day promotion. 

New stuff is small consolation for the current status of the world and the dread with which we wait for next Tuesday and its possible long aftermath. Will we re-elect an incompetent, corrupt, and self-serving President and Senate? Will we perpetuate an administration whose policies have caused large numbers of people to become sick and impoverished? Will more and more members of our society become jobless, homeless, bereaved, isolated, without hope? Will another 4 years enable these demagogues to deprive several million Americans of health care insurance? To destroy the environment? To intensify inequality and racism? To encourage and abet domestic terrorists more than it already has done? 

Let me keep my mind away from the immediate future and the long-term future. Let me cook. Here is my new toy, with some pictures of how I am using it. Maybe it's becoming my favorite pan.

New 10" non-stick skillet, replacing one that got sticky.

First in the skillet: I made black beans to go in a tortilla casserole.
The casserole -- beans, tortillas, cheese, & salsa -- baked in the oven.

Leftover tortilla casserole becomes skillet beans & eggs for lunch.

Toasting quinoa for pilaf in the new skillet. (Recipe here.)

Steaming the quinoa while making sweet potato and red lentil curry
in one of my other skillets.

Curry, quinoa, and yogurt with cucumber.

Heating the new skillet for some sourdough pancakes.

A good surface for a nice big pancake!

Salmon croquettes: another job for the skillet. (Recipe here.)

The croquettes with yogurt sauce and baked potatoes.

Omelet with vegetables and cheese.

Frying delicata squash for pasta casserole.
In the other pan is a Béchamel sauce.

Browning onions for pumpkin-tomato soup.

Toasting oats for a breakfast bowl.

Breakfast bowl: yogurt, dried apples, oats, maple syrup.

Finally: even bread can use the new skillet. For a Japanese Milk Bread,
the first step is cooking a starter mixture of flour, milk, and water.

Len's loaves, ready to bake.

The bread was delicious! (Recipe from NYT)

A few skillet fry-ups that didn't get into the photos were brown flour for brown gravy (I don't think I could make brown flour except in a working no-stick skillet) and croutons for a panzanella salad of my own devising. I’m  having lots of fun with this new kitchen item. And I'm sharing this post with Sherry's once-a-month kitchen event, "In My Kitchen" where bloggers share new items and ideas from their kitchens. 

This post and all photos © 2020 mae sander. To see what Sherry has in her kitchen along with links to many other bloggers' posts go to: 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Have a Happy Halloween!


Chute for distanced trick-or-treat distribution.

UPDATE for those who asked: Yes, these are real pumpkins.
They weigh over 1000 pounds. A local farmer grows them,
and the neighbor buys them and carves them every year.
These are around 4 feet tall, but some years they are taller.

New trees being planted at a decorated house.

Another scheme for distanced candy handouts.

... and a perfect mystery story for just before Halloween, The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, recommended by my friend and fellow blogger Jeanie of The Marmelade Gypsy:

The amateur detective, Ruth, is an archaeologist, almost 40 years old, and quite overweight. The setting is a very scary salt marsh near a fictionalized King’s Lynn, England. The characters have spooky ideas about the Druids and other ancient peoples who lived in the area and built “henges” and held mysterious rituals in the marsh. The detective, Nelson, is a very English police detective, who needs help solving the mystery of two little girls who have disappeared. The ending is a surprise. There’s even occasional food that punctuates the fast-moving story: 
“Ruth, slightly ashamed of being so hungry, tucks into a ploughman’s lunch. Nelson eats sausages and mash like someone refuelling, not noticing what he puts into his mouth. He has insisted on paying. Ruth drinks diet coke—she doesn’t want to be caught drink-driving after all—and Nelson chooses the full-fat variety.” (Chapter 13)

Blog post and all photos © 2020 mae sander.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"Bleak House"

Bleak House, serialized 1852,
published 1853.
Bleak House, the third novel by Charles Dickens I've read this month, has been my entertainment for the last several days. At 921 pages in the Kindle edition, it's by far the longest book I've read in quite a while. The cast of characters is huge and represents almost every social class and personality type in Dickens' England. The highest are Lord and Lady Dedlock "whose family greatness seems to consist in their never having done anything to distinguish themselves for seven hundred years."(p. 104). The poorest is a street urchin who lives in the ruined area of London called "Tom-all-Alone's." 

Dickens loves word play. An example I enjoyed was the word play in which he makes fun of the politicians of his day: 

"Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle— supposing it to be impossible for the Duke of Foodle to act with Goodle, which may be assumed to be the case in consequence of the breach arising out of that affair with Hoodle. Then, giving the Home Department and the leadership of the House of Commons to Joodle, the Exchequer to Koodle, the Colonies to Loodle, and the Foreign Office to Moodle, what are you to do with Noodle?" (p. 175).

OR played with words in the names of a flock of pet birds called "“Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach." (p. 217). 

Much of Bleak House takes place in London, where Dickens memorably uses the creeping fog from the Thames as a key descriptive point, and "at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery."(p. 14). The lawsuit at this court titled "Jarndyce and Jarndyce" is drawn out in pointless legal wrangling for generations, ruining many lives. Its terrible impact on some of the characters is at the heart of the story -- and is probably the most famous element of this very complex and quite famous novel. 

Perhaps the second-most famous invention in Bleak House is a character, in fact a minor character. She's a middle-class woman named Mrs. Jellyby, who engages in a campaign on behalf of the natives of a far-off African country: "Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger.” As she dictates letters attempting to raise funds for these natives, her children are neglected, her servants are drunk and incompetent, and her husband desperate. For example, at a dinner at her home, 

"A fine cod-fish, a piece of roast beef, a dish of cutlets, and a pudding; an excellent dinner, if it had had any cooking to speak of, but it was almost raw. ... All through dinner— which was long, in consequence of such accidents as the dish of potatoes being mislaid in the coal skuttle and the handle of the corkscrew coming off and striking the young woman in the chin— Mrs. Jellyby preserved the evenness of her disposition. She told us a great deal that was interesting about Borrioboola-Gha and the natives, and received so many letters that Richard, who sat by her, saw four envelopes in the gravy at once. Some of the letters were proceedings of ladies’ committees or resolutions of ladies’ meetings, which she read to us; others were applications from people excited in various ways about the cultivation of coffee, and natives; others required answers." (p. 50-53).

Dickens' descriptions often start with something pleasant and then suddenly turn against the character in question. For example, he could describe a delightful meal and then use it to show something about the diner, as he did with two separate characters in the two following quotes:

"The best tea-service is set forth, and there is excellent provision made of dainty new bread, crusty twists, cool fresh butter, thin slices of ham, tongue, and German sausage, and delicate little rows of anchovies nestling in parsley, not to mention new-laid eggs, to be brought up warm in a napkin, and hot buttered toast. For Chadband is rather a consuming vessel— the persecutors say a gorging vessel— and can wield such weapons of the flesh as a knife and fork remarkably well." (pp. 279-280). 

"When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern grapes." (p. 324). 

Dickens depicts a wide range of moral values in his characters, above all the nearly-saintly Esther Summerson, who narrates many of the novel's chapters, and whose life from childhood onward is central to the plot. Beyond this ideal, though, Bleak House is especially notable for ruthless or opportunistic characters who take advantage of other people, either cynically or by pretense of naivety. Several of these are lawyers, who contribute to the mania of the potential heirs of the lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce

“Are you arrested for much, sir?” I inquired of Mr. Skimpole.
“My dear Miss Summerson,” said he, shaking his head pleasantly,
“I don’t know. Some pounds, odd shillings, and halfpence,
I think, were mentioned.” (p. 89)
There are also the claimed innocents -- who take advantage by being or claiming to be naive. The most vivid of them is Harold Skimpole, who professed to know nothing about money, but took it from many people, who often bailed him out of a variety of pecuniary difficulties. 

Also an impressive creation is the elder Mr. Turveydrop whose pretense to be a model of "deportment" enabled him to take advantage of his son and daughter-in-law. These two worked hard and lived badly so that he could have all the luxuries he claimed to deserve. 

"He was a fat old gentleman with a false complexion, false teeth, false whiskers, and a wig. He had a fur collar, and he had a padded breast to his coat, which only wanted a star or a broad blue ribbon to be complete. He was pinched in, and swelled out, and got up, and strapped down, as much as he could possibly bear. ... He had under his arm a hat of great size and weight, shelving downward from the crown to the brim, and in his hand a pair of white gloves with which he flapped it as he stood poised on one leg in a high-shouldered, round-elbowed state of elegance not to be surpassed. He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he was not like anything in the world but a model of deportment." (p. 207). 

I realize that trying to go through the most memorable characters in this book is impossible in a review of manageable length. The subplots have subplots -- and every one has its own vivid individuals. What's amazing is the extent to which all these subplots intertwine with each other, and contribute to the overall advancement of the novel, which is really quite unified despite length and constant switching of actions.

Just one more observation. One subplot involves a dramatic murder: a conniving and manipulative lawyer is shot to death. Several suspects have been at the scene of the crime. A police detective investigates. Interested parties are brought together in a fine room of a fine house, and the detective leads them through a series of observations, and then reveals the perpetrator. He describes the perp's actions, including getting rid of the gun that was used — which he retrieved from a little lake. The officer takes the perp into custody, leading them off in handcuffs. This sounds like a pretty standard scene in many murder mysteries that we've all read -- but Bleak House was written in 1852. None of these conventions for detective fiction existed yet. Dickens was far ahead of his time. Even Wilkie Collins, whose novels are credited with inventing the genre didn't publish until the 1860s.

As I mentioned when I wrote about the other Dickens novels I have read recently, it’s a bit ridiculous to write about a book that has been in print for nearly two centuries, and about which so much criticism has been produced, but I’ve done it anyway!

Blog post © 2020 mae sander.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Bit More Color


Balloon Mural

Around 10 miles west of Ann Arbor we noticed a beautifully painted mural on a garage. The owner, who came out when we stopped to look at it, says she is the artist.

 Blog post © 2020 mae sander.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Very Old Drinking Song

In the year 1287, a manuscript was published that included the first recorded version of a classic student song titled "Gaudeamus Igitur." It's a cheerful meditation on the brevity of life and the need to enjoy it while one can. The medieval manuscript with the first reference to the song is in the National Library of France. Some of the lyrics in it are similar to a few of the very numerous verses of the song as it is still sung: for example in the video above, by students at the Jagiellonian Universtiy in Krakow, Poland in the Youtube-presented pandemic singing exercise from last spring. The sentiment of the song somehow seems very apt for the current global threat to long life and carefree youth!

The best-known verse, in Latin, which you may recognize from some almost-forgotten high school class:

Gaudeamus igitur
Iuvenes dum sumus.
Post iucundam iuventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

And in translation if you like me have forgotten Latin itself, as well as the high-school class:

Let us rejoice, therefore,
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troubling old age
The earth will have us.

Many references to the song have appeared throughout history -- sung when students got together to drink beer or wine — or when glee clubs and singing groups met and sang student songs. You thought college drinking was a recent phenomenon? Think again!

A bit more history comes from Wikipedia (of course): 
"The first appearance in print of the present melody was in Lieder für Freunde der Geselligen Freude ("Songs for Friends of Convivial Joy"), published in Leipzig in 1782, together with Kindleben's German lyrics; however, the tune was evidently well known before this date. The first publication of the present Latin text together with the present melody was probably in Ignaz Walter's 1797 operatic setting of Doktor Faust. It is also heard in Berlioz' Damnation of Faust." (source)

Many other classical composers wrote versions of the song, or included snatches of the melody in other compositions, including Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, and Johann Strauss.  The Wikipedia article includes an incredibly long list of films, popular songs, and other entertainments where the tune or the words have been referenced.

According to the Williams College Alumni site: "'Gaudeamus Igitur' is one of the oldest 'college songs' in the Western Hemisphere and has a long history of association with many colleges and universities. Though the Latin text, the occasions at which it is often performed, and the quality of the melody give the song a formal air, it is in fact a light-hearted take on university life." (source)

But for something completely different, here's the Monty Python Philosophers' Drinking Song:

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill

Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every day

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle
And Hobbes was fond of his dram

And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart
"I drink, therefore I am."

Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed

Here are the Monty Pythons singing it at the Hollywood Bowl, with repeats and audience participation:

Are you in principle opposed to alcoholic beverages? Then I guess this post isn't for you. Sorry. Also sorry if you aren't a Monty Python fan. I'm neither a big drinker nor a teetotaler. But I'm definitely a big Monty Python fan!

On the other hand, if you don't mind some fun about drinking, then this post might be for you. I'm sharing with Elizabeth and her weekly blog event at Altered Book Lover, which is dedicated to drinks of all kinds, especially tea. This post is by Mae Sander, © 2020, with Youtube images as credited.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Buffalo Wings Coming Soon?

New takeout place in my neighborhood, at a location where many have failed!

At least the store front is now beautifully painted!

Will "Side Biscuit" succeed here, where so many others have not?

I wish them well, but I won't be trying the chicken wings from this new place, so close to my house. Why? Because I'm avoiding purchasing any chicken from battery-raised hen houses and worker-endangering industrial meat processing plants. Also, chicken wings are normally too greasy for me, and their version sounds especially over-the-top. I hate to say it, but I suspect that a lot of the people who live near this new place will have similar reasons to skip this new offering, and it's just a little too far from where most of the students live, where the demand might be higher.

Blog post ©2020 mae sander

Saturday, October 24, 2020



And the witches’ cats...


all photos © 2020 mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com