Do Re Mi

A young actor studies for an audition.

A former prima ballerina teaches her students.

One fine chef layers flavors expertly.

What do they all have in common? The actor is reading for Romeo and Juliet, a classic. The ballerina makes certain her student’s arabesque is perfect. And the chef uses the fonds du cuisine to make a masterpiece on the plate.

Sister Maria had something to say to all:

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with do-re-mi.

One starts with the basics and moves on to be able to use that knowledge and, if good enough, be able to take your own riff on it. But nothing can happen without learning the rules first, all of them. My friend the young actor is studying Shakespeare. My friend the ballerina is shocked that her students don’t want to learn any basics, just do their own thing. And my “inner chef” is now fully trained and I know in my heart and mind that I prefer the purity and soul of Italian cooking to fancy French fare any day.

Now let’s talk about a smart little girl living in a small village in the middle of no-where USA whose high point of the week (sorry, Father, it wasn’t Sunday Mass) was being dropped off at the tiny village library with her sister while Mom went grocery shopping. So, the first Black person I ever met was Harriet Tubman, the first Jew Anne Frank, and Native American, the ballerina Maria Tallchief. I read Death Be Not Proud and To Kill a Mockingbird when I was eight years old. No, they were not assigned in school, as my classmates were still reading basic stuff. My friend Steven and I were asked to sit at the back of the room to study on our own. All the others were learning phonics and we already knew how to read so our parents forbade it.

My father was first-generation American, first to ever go to college and my mother started college the year I did. Dad worked at his alma mater so I was introduced to opera, symphony and plays and had the luxury of private violin, piano and ballet lessons. Plus, my aunts were English teachers so had a lot of reading selections for us to fill those cold winter nights.

By learning, at home and school, the basics of history, literature, fine and culinary arts I was given a gift, one that allowed my mind to grow and me to learn what is important in life. Telling the truth, social justice, loving thy neighbor, equality, being kind to others, no matter who they were.

Today, the powers that be are running out of “others” to hate. Let’s see, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, “elites,” gays, drag queens, transsexuals, and now all women. Did I forget anyone? Banning the teaching of history in history class does nothing to create a well-rounded U.S. citizen. Banning books does no-one any favors. And touting “freedom” when it’s only the freedom of Americans to do what a minute fraction of white nationalists want to let us do, is not freedom at all.

Winston Churchill once said “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” We should not go down that rabbit hole as a nation, as it does a disservice to all our futures. I know in my heart that children want desperately to learn, and I’m all for letting them read anything they’re ready for. I don’t expect a six year-old to digest Hamlet, but I know how important parents and teachers are to early child development. With knowledge comes, eventually, wisdom. I know that because I have something to say and for the last half of my life I’ve learned how to say it. Out loud. I was once afraid to write, no longer.

Our children are the future of our nation. If they don’t know their, our shared history they cannot responsibly carry on what the Founders intended for an informed, engaged citizenry. And while we’re at it, let’s fix the Supreme Court as well. What would RBG say if she were still with us? Vote! Dee

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Fabulous Focaccia

I love happy kitchen surprises. Given my age and culinary experience, nothing much phases me these days. But, I’m no baker. I don’t do desserts and it’s so much easier to buy a good French or Italian loaf than to make one, but I made an exception yesterday.

Two reasons. First my newest toy, a full-sized convection oven. Yes, I’ve had it for a year but use the top regular oven because it’s small and I’m usually cooking for two. But lately I’ve been playing with the convection roast and bake options. And second, a new recipe, well not really. I based the focaccia recipe on The Moosewood Cookbook (Katzen, Ten Speed Press 1977) but used all AP flour (I usually use 00 flour and whole wheat), added a bit of Lyle’s Golden Syrup with the yeast, and used only 1.5 tsp yeast. But I really used my version of Cuisinart’s 1970’s manual for pizza dough I’ve been making since those days.

The dough was a dream to work with. I recently repotted and placed outside last year’s rosemary so I chopped a bit of that and added it to the dough. I used rapid rise yeast, let it rise for an hour, punched it down and let it sit ten minutes, then patted it out to an oblong shape, pressed dents into it, brushed it with olive oil. I added kosher salt, a bit of pepper, and more fresh rosemary and baked it for 20 minutes on roast (convection). Let it sit on a rack for 15 minutes and tore into it as part of a cold dinner featuring Black Forest ham, hard-cooked eggs, tomato wedges, aged cheddar, veggies and marinated olives. Yum!

I just love it when dough works like a dream then cooks like one too. Makes me think that if I’ve the right banetton, I can give French boule another try! Happy cooking! Dee

Spouse-Splaining

Happy weekend! Ours started off with a bang. A lesson for my husband. At issue was the concept of “routine.” He asked for something different for breakfast. OK, I can deal with that. Then he went for Lulu’s new “Chuckit” to go to the park instead of of her morning constitutional.

One man: One special weekend breakfast.

One herding dog: Changing routine for one day to incorporate fun new toy.

To understand why it becomes a conundrum is to know the mind of both the husband and the herder. For the husband it’s easy to know that during the week, things are rushed and one cannot have a perfect omelet, a rasher of bacon and English muffins every day. For a herder, one fun thing, done once becomes routine. Routine is sacred. She always gets the same breakfast, dinner and four walks per day. Routine. Treats are extra and usually earned. Easy life for all.

Introducing Chuckit is a no-no, and to demonstrate so, I went to the nth degree. OK, dear. How about when it’s ten below zero outside, you need layers and scarf and hat and gloves and boots and her winter coat and she brings you Chuckit, saying “It’s routine, Daddy!” Oh, he finally got it.

Lulu got her routine walk, he got his special breakfast. Crisis averted, now we can get back to the weekend. Enjoy yours. Dee

Little Things

Grief is a strange thing. It affects everyone differently, and I’ll not go into my most recent experience. Whew! You say. People say it’s the little things you remember that mean the most.

My father traveled a lot for work, when I was growing up, and later upon retirement for leisure. Weeks before he passed we were supposed to go, en famille, on a cruise down the Rhine and visit his parents birthplaces in Germany and Switzerland. We didn’t get there. But he did travel the world and always brought back something from the countries he visited.

When he started going to Florence, Italy regularly the gifts changed. At first in the fall, he’d always bring back the olio novello, the newest, first pressing of the olives. Now, if I wanted, I could order it online but this was back in the day, and it was special as it came from him. As he got older, he traveled lighter, and didn’t like the thought of a bottle of olive oil breaking in his suitcase.

He started on Ferragamo scarves. Impressive silk scarves with a hint of whimsy that I loved. Then he changed to little boxes. I have them all over the house now. Made of metal, wood or paper, they echo the ambiance of the places from whence they came. That is to say, they didn’t come from airport gift shops! That would be my husband, and because of my rule of nothing breakable, nothing collectible so he gets me a refrigerator magnet from anywhere he goes. Tomorrow when Lulu (the dog) and I go pick him up at the airport, I’m sure he’ll show up with a magnet in the shape of the Alamo!

But I digress. In the middle of my kitchen peninsula, I’ve a cheap plastic timer. It’s an Italian in a chef’s toque. It’s the silliest gift Dad ever gave me, but I see it every day and it brings back fond memories.

I don’t know where they got the idea, but our parents picked a themed Christmas ornament for each kid, every year, then when we moved out of the house, we had enough ornaments and memories to start a tree of our own. It’s similar with travel gifts and photos. They last a lifetime and mean so much to the recipient. Just a thought. Happy Spring! There’s a cruise ship that tours the Great Lakes and it’s pulling into port just now to start the season. Gotta plant the herbs outside and get a tomato plant – I’m not growing from seed this year. Dee

Service Days and Breakfast Ballets

Yesterday was a perfect day, sunny and warm, no vestiges of snow or the mud it left behind. We entered the park and there was a two year-old girl on the swings calling “Doggie! Doggie!” None of Lulu’s canine friends were there so we went over and the two spent some time together with treats and tricks.We also stopped by to say hello to a couple of college girls with a blanket and blow-up sofa getting some sun while they studied.

Afterwards we walked home past the rehab center/old folks home and there were several patients outside enjoying the weather. We said hello and chatted a bit. Lulu may just have a therapy dog inside her, as soon as she calms down a bit. She enjoys making people happy, and it’s good to have a day like this when it’s not all about chasing another dog or another ball, just making the day of one other person a little brighter!

In the morning I have my routine, I move from area to area in the kitchen taking care of Lulu, my husband, and, finally, me. The usual for both, frozen raw and a bit of quality kibble for Lu, scrambled eggs and toast for the human. The worst is when my husband is standing there over me, or, heaven forbid, wants to “help.” As I measure out our vitamins and prescriptions, I look out at the lake and plan the day. The familiar steps are a science that has evolved into art. No wasted movement as I go between counters and sink and dishwasher. The “kids” fed, I turn to my breakfast and hope that I’ll have time to eat it before the next chore beckons.

Snippets from a day in the life… Cheers! Dee

Progress

Dad was the first kid in his family to go to college. He attended, then worked for a small college that was part of a large university system thus was able to parlay his baccalaureate degree into a doctorate and celebrated career. Mom graduated with honors from high school, met Dad and moved to the States where she had a Green Card for fifty years.

The minute Mom got pregnant with me, her life was stuck, unchangeable, so my parents went on and had three more kids. Mom said I could only aspire to her life. Dad said I could be anything I wanted to be. Nam and ERA came around and I went to college and though I was slated to get married two weeks after graduation, I gave back the ring less than three weeks after it was placed on my finger because I knew I wanted to try to make it on my own, move away from home, get a good job, so I did. Why? Because those avenues were now open to me.

Mom and I started college and finished the same year. She was Summa Cum Laude, I only made Deans List. She became a paralegal then a CPA and even after she retired, she volunteered doing taxes for seniors. Now I’m told I’m entering my “golden years” so, of course, Social Security and Medicare are gonna go broke in the foreseeable future and my generation’s daughters and grandchildren no longer have the opportunities that we did in the 70’s and 80’s.

Did I mention I grew up proud to be an American, and a big fan of democracy, open government and personal privacy? I worked for all of that, for many years, only to have a fraction of dissatisfied Americans try to unilaterally create an autocracy that hates everyone but white males. It hates immigrants like my mother, and my grandparents. It hates education. It says it’s for freedom but only for the privileged few.

I never thought I would hear white “christian” men speak so ill publicly of their mothers, wives and daughters. Are we merely a shell for their seed, to die for a fetus inside us because doctors are afraid to operate? Yesterday the “abortion pill” was literally erased by one man in one court in nowheresville, Texas. That means rich women will still be able to get abortions, while poor women will suffer.

Texas abortion bounty-hunters? How is Idaho to police family vacations? Pull them over, make sure they’re a family, search the vehicle to make sure neither mother nor daughter are pregnant? Walk the line straight, ma’am, while peeing in this cup.

If mifepristone is outlawed, how about suing to eliminate scalpels from being used for any surgery? Sorry, sir, you’ll never be in the Olympics because I can only use this stone knife that was created before the Bronze Age and it’s not small enough to do the micro-surgery you need to walk again.

I trust the FDA to vet drugs and vaccines that I’ve used for nearly 65 years. They do a pretty darn good job of it, regardless of what one Texas judge thinks. And as to standing to sue in court, saying that women are too ashamed to speak for themselves and need men to argue on their behalf is ridiculous. I know of what I speak, survivor of a traumatic brain injury with a court representative to speak for me? No way. I had the lawyer over, made him a cup of tea, assured him I could take care of myself and he cancelled the court hearing right then and there. We’re women. People with brains. God created us equal.

Certain of the people who want to change the USA to an autocracy don’t want women to work, or vote. Poor little dears, it’s too much for their delicate nature, to deal with real work and politics instead of meatloaf and cookies. You know what politics is? In a summer job at age 21, I had a crew of five drivers to take artists and lecturers to the airport, 90 minutes away. My father’s cousin was visiting, and was a bit of a misogynist and guess what lecturer was also going to the airport? Betty Friedan. Yes, I put them together. He deserved it.

Women, especially suburban women, need to heed the call to not go back to the 1950’s. At the very least, vote. Womens’ lives depend upon it. Voting rights, women’s rights, now is the time to move forward and assure us the multicultural democracy our founders envisioned. And when you hear inevitable conspiracy theories, consider who is promoting them and what they gain by doing so.

Wisconsin is taking back its Supreme Court, but gerrymandering has an unconscionable hold on its legislature and there are already rumors of impeaching the new justice before she even takes office. Tennessee is a call to action if ever there was one. Young people need to stand up on that one. Before the book banners threaten teachers to no longer teach about how democracies work, it’s time to teach our children how to be upstanding citizens and fight for liberty for all. Life for mothers with with untenable pregnancies. And for the right to pursue our futures through an education that makes us think, rather than spout back what we’re told to think. We all have work to do! Dee

With Or Without Duo

Apologies, U2, to have appropriated the name of your song. 1,020 days ago I took up language study. With Duo. Two reasons: a traumatic brain injury led me to languages and crosswords as a way to affirmatively heal from my accident and simultaneously prevent premature aging; and COVID took hold that month and we were all confined to barracks for the foreseeable future so why not?

My education up to college was all public education, despite the fact that when I was young my mother was a staunch Catholic and brought up in parochial schools. To her credit, she checked out the schools and found that the public schools in the village we were raised in were better. Then in middle school, we moved south of the Mason-Dixon line and I still was in public education but it was worse.

Ninth grade, I started French. Most kids took Spanish, and my best friend learned German, but I needed the language of the United Nations, the language of diplomacy, according to my parents! I took two years of French, which was so bad that when we moved back to New York State to begin my Junior year, I had to start over, so took French I and II through high school.

Fast-forwarding decades later, I decided to take Italian and chose Duo because I could learn at my own pace and it was nearly free.Nearly three years later, I’m still learning. I learned all five levels of Italian and felt able to be a tourist and order in a restaurant. But I could do that before Duo. I love Italian, so I started on French. Why? To learn how Europeans think about language.

Now I’m getting somewhere. After I finish all the French levels, considerably more comprehensive than Duo’s Italian program, I’m going back to ace Italian. Then perhaps Greek, once I learn the alphabet.

Before traveling to Europe, I always learned the basics such as good morning, good afternoon, hello, goodbye, please and thank you, excuse me and where is the bathroom. Also menus.

I’ve a theory that has proved out for me, at least. Northern languages and people are colder, like their weather and their food choices. They do not suffer fools, and language newbies, kindly. The further south one goes, the weather and people and languages grow more tolerant. I love Italian, and yes, I have been made fun of by speaking French in Paris, but then Parisians are not known for their tolerance of strangers.

Say please and thank you in Greek, in Athens, and the shop owner/restaurateur is delighted! One day, nearly forty years ago, my sister and I went to a tobacco shop in Athens to buy my father a cigar because I was flying home the next day. We had a long conversation with the shop owner, a woman, and aside from the requisite please and thanks we never uttered a word, except to laugh heartily. I said I wanted a cigar, she asked why two girls were taking up smoking, no, it’s for Dad! It was so much fun!

Same with my last night’s dinner in Athens. We walked in early (I had a flight out at the crack of dawn) and nearly walked out. The owner asked us to come back, and luckily we did, as he regaled us with a multi-course meal with beverage for each that was fantastic! In the end, we learned so much about what real Greeks eat (my sister insisted on spaghetti bolognese every day no matter the country) and the bill came to $7.50 apiece. We though the price outrageous, but then again my sister was upset that I used all the $25 my parents gave her for my 25th birthday for a “nice” hotel and that meal.

As to Duo, I’d like a more immersive experience, but I’ve learned a lot of the rules of the road, plus some vocabulary and I’d feel comfortable going to France, Italy, or even Greece. I’ll stick with it but know that if one tries, it goes to some length in erasing the negative impression of American tourists who always demand “Speak English!”

Whenever I order spanakopita or moussaka at the taverna nearby, I say please and thank you in Greek and the owner is delighted. His staff doesn’t understand, as they’re from Ecuador. Don’t worry, my husband took immersive Espanol in hopes of bringing his business to South and Central America one day. Learn a language, do a crossword puzzle and challenge your brain! Cheers! Dee

PIB’s and Gwyneth Paltrow

Oh, I can imagine Park City UT all a-twitter these days, what with a movie star and a rich doctor in court over a Deer Valley ski incident. It’s “mud season” there now, what normal people call Spring. Post-ski, pre-summer activities. Luckily when I lived there, mud season was when the Greater Sandhill Cranes came to the Preserve to mate, guard their eggs and raise their colts before flying back to New Mexico in the Fall. Now THAT was fun to watch!

Sundance Film Festival came every year. We called the famous visitors PIB’s, People In Black. Most often, at the grocery store, we’d run into SPIB’s, the Slaves of People In Black. They were easy to spot, with a shopping cart blocking the aisle so no locals could do their regular grocery shopping, going through every jar of jam until they hopefully came upon the esoteric fruit their boss craved. Their hauteur knew no bounds. How dare we mere mortals even get near them while they were accommodating their masters’ wishes.

One year I thought it’d be nice to volunteer for Sundance so I put in my application, having worked my way through college at Chautauqua Institution (where Salman Rushdie was nearly fatally attacked last year), a lecture and performing arts venue. A month later, I got a job. I would be standing out in the freezing, snowy weather keeping film-goers in lines until 2 a.m. Nope. Not I. I explained that I was older and have arthritis so can’t be standing out in the cold all night throughout the Festival.

So they gave me a better job. Indoors. Yea! Verifiying credentials. I was to be the person to tell fake press that their credentials were invalid and to go to the end of the line for tickets like everyone else. A volunteer job to deny entry to the big ticket event! Wow. Alas, I couldn’t take it as my husband’s company laid off a third of its tech force and we moved away.

Sundance is a big deal there, but it’s brief, as is this crazy ski injury of the century trial, but life goes on. It’s usually pretty normal, and I even learned to love mud season! Cheers! Dee

My (Still) Funny Valentine

“For a strange pizza, it’s not that bad” was last night’s faint praise from my husband, for my pizza. I made him a separate one, crust included, with his favorite ingredients.

He’s a creature of habit and likes tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, peppers and pepperoni. Mine was different, with sliced pears, Gorgonzola dolce and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, topped with lightly dressed arugula out of the oven.

As a longtime cook, professionally trained in French cookery, I try to widen his “meat and potatoes” vision of edible food. His reaction to my moussaka? Good but it has eggplant in it, ick. Roast chicken with a balsamic glaze? This has bones and skin! Steak and baked potatoes? Can we have it for Thanksgiving? And Christmas?

Not to mention that I can’t even cook fish or have a tuna sandwich because he’s deathly allergic. So I try. I do enjoy his reactions, however.

In a grilling phase about ten years ago my butcher gave me a great recipe for a marinade with rosemary and maple syrup. I put it on nearly everything until my husband had enough.

He does tell everyone that I’m a great cook and that even if a new creation isn’t spectacular, he says that it’s the best most cooks could hope to achieve and that by my third time it’ll be great! Gotta love him for that. Happy Valentines Day! Dee

I Am Spartacus

Hello, normal people who care about the security of the Social Security we’ve paid into our entire adult lives! I’ve an idea. Let’s all go to Congress to see Mr. Jordan’s and Mr. Comer’s offices and offer them our laptops. It’ll be our own “I am Spartacus” moment, we can take a group photo of us and our laptops and post it to whatever service we use and be done with it.

Until then, I offer the mundane contents of my MacBook, iPad and iPhone. Who knows what I have on each, I’m neater in real life than in my virtual one:

Here goes;

  1. the only nude photos I have are of the dog (see above), partly because she’s only forced to wear a winter coat when it’s less than ten degrees outside. It’s clothing optional, including collar, indoors and she chooses nudity.
  2. evidence since COVID began in March, 2022 of attempts to learn two foreign languages. Ici, je parle fran├žais, et qui parlo italiano. Pas bien. Non parlo bene. Posso ordinare una bistecca alla fiorentina in un ristorante. Basta.
  3. fifteen years of a cooking blog that, at times, waxes nostalgic or turns quite political.
  4. lots of old emails and a couple of old voicemail messages from my parents, who are gone now.
  5. current bill pay spreadsheet
  6. lots of photos, mainly of the dog and flowers, a few of my husband in a hospital bed awakening from several surgeries, so I could show his mother he made it!
  7. miscellaneous work files, letters and stories
  8. audio and kindle books, some for fun, some work or political, and the complete works of Jane Austen
  9. crossword puzzles, which I do, along with language study to keep my brain functioning as I age

I do not have any classified documents or plans to overthrow anything, especially the government. My legal name is my legal name, changed only through marriage with. documentation thereof. Open book. I am Spartacus.

What’s on your laptop? Tell the Congressional Oversight and Insurrection Committees. I’m sure they’re dying to know what voters are concerned about. Cheers! Dee

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