Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good Maine Food

Last year I was looking over the wares at our town swap-shop located at our recycling center (aka town dump to most of us) and came across an old, hard-bound cookbook. While I do like to cook occasionally, I don’t go out of my way to collect cookbooks as my house is already overflowing with a wide variety of books new and old. But I couldn’t pass up acquiring this particular volume: Good Maine Food by Marjorie Mosser, with an intro by Maine author Kenneth Roberts.

Copyrighted in 1939, mine is a 1940 edition with these Yankee gems: Cod Tongues and Cheeks; Fiddleheads; Fish Hash; Haymaker’s Switchel (a molasses drink); Spruce Beer; and Maple Syrup Pie.

Of course there were plenty of wild game recipes as you might imagine would well-suit a rural state like Maine: venison, quail, rabbit, partridge and woodcock.

Fitting the world events at that time and the required rationing of some food items, the cookbook offers up War Cake – made with brown sugar instead of white.

A recipe for Indian Dinner calls for a common preparation and cooking, but then servings separated into three dishes for: beans & corn; corned beef & salt pork; and chicken, turnips & potatoes.

About the only recipes that turned me off were ones for Tripe and for Stewed Eels. Ummm, I’ll pass on those and have another piece of Maple Syrup Pie.

Mr. Holt

This is the last call-out for any of my High School teachers (last names: one “G” and three “H’s” – must be some significance in that). I liked Mr. Holt because could dish it out as well as take it. He could be a master put-down artist when he chose to be, as attested by the tagline in my yearbook.

One class I had with Mr. Holt contained a fair number of the school toughs (or JDs, or whatever term you’d like). These were the proverbial wise-guys who talked endlessly about superchargers, rebuilt transmissions, and their weekend drinking escapades. Mr. Holt was well up to the challenge presented by this group and never lost control of the class sessions even through the frequent back and forth flying volleys of barbs and mock insults.

But one day during a classroom back-and-forth exchange, one of the toughest of the toughs suddenly got serious and asked Mr. Holt, “So what would you do if your parents said you were leaving home as soon as you turned 18?” I was dumbfounded to see that all wise-guy pretenses were gone as he explained solemnly that his parents were kicking him out of home soon, even before he finished high school – 18 and that’s it; that’s all we owe you. End of story. I honestly don’t recall anything specific that Mt. Holt said to our classmate, only that it was transmitted with sensitivity and empathy and left us now-pensive bunch of teens with a mini lesson in relationship building and adult conversations. An interesting class that day.

Nature’s Way - Spirit

Randy California was born Randy Craig Wolfe on this date, February 20, 1951. A talented guitarist, he played in Jimi Hendrix's band Jimmy James & the Blue Flames in the summer of 1966 when he was just 15 years old. The stage name "Randy California" was given to him by Hendrix to distinguish him from another Randy in the band (who Hendrix dubbed "Randy Texas"). When Hendrix was invited to come to England to play and record, Randy's parents did not allow him to go so that he could finish high school. So the 15-year-old guitar genius missed a chance to become a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Reportedly, Hendrix wanted Randy to go to England with him so they could "go find Jeff Beck."

In 1967 California founded the band Spirit with several other musicians ---- originally named Spirits Rebellious. The band's first demo was produced by Barry Hansen, later to become DJ Doctor Demento on the airwaves.

Spirit enjoyed a successful run and California also toured solo into the 1990s. Randy California died on January 2, 1997, while rescuing his son from drowning (swimming in Molokai, Hawaii). He himself was pulled out to sea and drowned.

Nature’s Way was a 1970 release written by Randy California and was a staple of the then-growing environmental movement (1970 saw the first Earth Day, Richard Nixon created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Congress passed the Clean Air Act, all milestone events – for better or worse).

YouTube has some better performed clips of Nature’s Way, but I like this one because it was created as a somewhat cheesy enviro promotional video. I also like this version because it contains what I believe is the original phrase in the second stanza, “... It’s nature’s way of telling you, soon we’ll freeze.” which in later years was replaced by “…It’s nature’s way of telling you, summer breeze” in live performances. Why the switch? In 1970 climate scientists were all warning about the coming new Ice Age, so Randy’s lyrics reflected that global fear. My, how times have changed!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is that you Quicksilver??

In talking with some friends last evening, one mentioned that he had been listening to NPR earlier that day and it struck him how similar all the announcers/hosts/news readers all sounded. What he was expressing in so many words was the signature sound for that particular venue – smooth, articulate spokespeople whose professional training dictates that their on-air voices are interesting (hopefully), but not too expressive of emotion. Fairly measured, hit the center of the bell-shaped tonal curve. Got it. This is how all FM radio announcers sounded to me when I grew up in the era of static-filled AM radio blaring out those wild, independent rock & roll stations. Their domain was the AM band, classic music and such claimed the FM band.

So I found myself on another business trip to Vermont this week, driving along and twirling the (FM) radio dial to sample what the state had to offer (I can only do this when I’m alone as the spouse hates this as much as when I flip through TV channels). I came across a calm, FM/NPR type voice coming from one Burlington stations but the gentleman was speaking a rock & roll dialect. Intriguing. Not just that, in this era of gooey American Idol/Top Pop pabulum, the guy was broadcasting album cuts from Savoy Brown, Jeff Beck Group, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Couldn’t remember the last time I heard some of those. Turns out I was listening to WZXP FM, a unique station even by crunchy Burlington standards. WZXP is the labor of love of Russ Kinsley, an aging hippy type, but with a (close-to) NPR voice. Album play is their passion. I don’t know if they’re making money these days, but I was glad to catch a sampling of their output. I applaud independent stations. Check these guys out at WZXP.

"OK" Was Ahead of Its Time

What I never knew about a favorite expression: BBC article  Some of the numerous readers' comments are pretty interesting as well.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

They're Downright Giddy in Norway

Since AVI’s youngest Romanian son is headed to northern Norway for employment opportunities later this month, I thought I’d post this excerpt from a recent issue of Forbes about the world’s happiest countries that cited Norway as No. 1:

The world's highest per-capita GDP at $53,000 a year. Spending on health care is second-highest after the U.S. An unparalleled 74% of Norwegians say other people can be trusted, 94% are happy with the beauty of their environment, and a very high 93% believe hard work will help them get ahead in life. Having a lot of oil and gas reserves helps.

I love that last line in the excerpt. It’s like saying, “Anyone can have a real bad day once in a while, but if you’re filthy rich you’ll probably bounce back quickly.”

In fairness, the full article does put most of the headliner stats in perspective - and provides info about the other countries that were ranked.

Mr. Hicks Liked His Moxie

Like the previous high school teachers that I’ve mentioned, Mr. Hicks left a lasting impression on me because of his wit.  He was passionate about history and geography and would shoot facts and figures at you, sometimes in staccato style. He would commonly interject certain references, almost as wile asides to see if we students were paying any attention at all.  References to obscure locations like the Maldive Islands were always popular with Mr. Hicks.  But I remember him most because of he inserted frequent references to Moxie into his lectures. “And they probably took a break at the Battle of Bunker Hill to enjoy a tall bottle of Moxie!”  It would crack me up, in part because while I was born in New England I grew up in the Mid Atlantic and southern states and my family only returned to New England just before I started high school.  So Moxie the soft drink was not really part of my diet, but Mr. Hicks gave me a fond appreciation for this quirky drink and its history in Yankeeland.  In fact, our town housed the last separate Moxie bottling plant.  When the plant was moved out of Boston, it relocated to a much smaller building in Needham Heights, just to the east of Rt 128. Nowadays Moxie is bottled by contract bottlers in New England, and at least one in Pennsylvania.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It’s The Law

I made a business trip to Vermont this week. Now I’ve been to Vermont many times on both business and leisure. It’s nice state, maybe a bit different in character than New Hampshire (but we won’t go there, at least not on this post). Vermont (and Maine actually) are certainly known for many things – including the abundance of Subarus on their roads. On my trip this week it absolutely seemed like two out of every three cars I passed, or that passed me, were Subarus. With time on my hands, I got thinking of all the reasons why the Subaru brand was so prevalent in a state like Vermont. I ended up focusing in on one hypothesis to test: that a State law requires that every household own a Subaru. And maybe a subsection of that law prescribes that while your second car (should you own one) could be any make or model you desire, the State prefers you purchase and drive a Volvo station wagon.

In the profession of auditing, the auditor relies on three lines of evidence to develop findings and then draw conclusions: review of written documentation, conducting interviews with relevant parties, and personal observations. For testing the Vermont Subaru Law (VSL) hypothesis, I could have reviewed State motor vehicle statutes to determine if the suspected law regarding vehicle ownership is found on the books. But I didn’t – no time, I’m on a business trip with a schedule to keep. Or, I could have interviewed a reasonable representative sampling of Vermont residents to ask what make of cars they drove and why, and then tally the responses. But I didn’t – I don’t really think Vermonters want to converse with non-Vermonters, and there’s that schedule thing that I mentioned. So I fell back on the third leg of my auditing stool and relied solely on my personal observations. Yep, I’m sure there’s a State law requiring that each Vermont household purchase a Subaru. The scientific evident is irrefutable.