July 29, 2014

Plant No Tree Before the Sacred Vine






Just last night I was staring at the label of a Barolo we carry, and it had the motto "Nullam Sacra Vite Prius Severis Arborem" on the winemakers crest. Dying of curiosity, I searched for a translation. It is, of course, from Horace, one of wine's great chroniclers and Rome's great poets:

Nullam, Vare, sacra vite prius severis arborem
circa mite solum Tibruis et moenia Catili;
siccis omnia nam dura deus proposiuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitundines.
Quis post vina gravem militiam aut pauperiem crepat?
Quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque decens Venus?
Ac ne quis modici transiliat munera Liberi,
Centaurea monet cum Lapithis rixa super mero
debellata, menet Sithoniis non levis Euhius,
cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinum
discernunt avidi. Non ego te, candide Bassareu,
invitum quatiam nec variis obsita frondibus
sub divum rapiam. Saeva tene cum Berecyntio
cornu tympana, quae subsequitur caecus Amor sui
et tollens vacuam plus nimio Gloria verticem
arcanique Fides prodiga, perlucidior vitro.


Plant no tree, Varus, before the sacred vine
around the soft ground of the Tibur and walls of Catilus;
a god has ordained everything difficult for dry people and
biting anxieties don't flee in any other way.
Who rattles on about serious military service or poverty after wine?
Who does not rattle on more about you, father Bacchus, and you, comely Venus?
And yet anyone abuses the gifts of moderate Bacchus,
the battle fought to the bitter end of the Centaurs over their wine with the
Lapiths warns, Bacchus not light with the Thracians warns,
when those greedy of desire discern lawful from sin
with a small limit. I do not shake you, white Bacchus,
unwilling, nor do I snatch by the light of day your
sacred things covered with various leaves. Hold savage
drums and the horn from Berecyntus, which blind self-love follows
and Glory raising an empty crown too high and
Faith wasteful of secrets, more transparent than glass.


- Horace, Ode 1.18

June 06, 2014

My Goodness That's a Lot of Clippings


Did you know there are flamingos at the National Zoo? I was so excited. So was the four year old I was with. But that's fair: I am basically a four year old when it comes to the zoo. Also the Zoo App is super handy. (FONZ)

First listen to First Aid Kit's new album on NPR. (See what I did there?!) This is perfect early morning, ohmygosh I have so much laundry to do before my vacation summertime music. (NPR)

Been absolutely fascinating to read about a Brooklyn Restaurant Empire, and their many off-shoots, and, shall we say, family interests, in this Bon Appetit series: Out of the Kitchen

Why do I always forget about the witty, humble, entertaining, and profound Joseph Epstein? He is such a marvelous essayist, and this is a jewel. (Commentary)

Handwriting for the win - though, sadly, it is disappearing! - Is this a problem? YES! (New York Times)

You know I'm a sucker for a good map story. But what does "GIS" stand for, anyway? Because I read the whole article and still am not sure. (Smithsonian)

So you know how in P. G. Wodehouse, some obscure Uncle is always threatening to die, and leave you with nothing but his obscure collection -- if you're lucky! Reform my friends: You want to inherit from this uncle! (Garden & Gun)

"Scruffy Hospitality" is the name of my game, for sure. Come one, come all. Never mind about the dishes in the sink. No you can't help me clean the dishes in the sink. Sit down. Have a glass of wine. Let's talk. (Knox Priest)

Oh, my Dominicans were ordained last week. Love them so much. (Catholic News Services)

Oral history of MST3K. I didn't really know what an oral history was until I read this. Also: Miles O'Keefe!!!!! (Wired)

"How I Evolved on Gay Marriage" from the always thought provoking Matthew Scmitz (First Things)

This girl is fabulous. I wish I felt that comfortable in my skin, ever. (The Sartorialist)

This Medieval song about summer is charming! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!  (Medivalists)

Um. 6 frozen beer desserts, of course. The Creamsicle Pie made with Berliner-Weiss is brilliant! (Draft)

The Best Places to Be Alone in Washington DC - other than your car, sitting in traffic. Still need to go to that Planetarium in Ballston. (Washingtonian)

Verily rounds up some cute shirt dresses. I will die a thousand closet deaths when shirt dresses and chambray stop being popular (Verily)

The best article Simcha Fisher has ever written. (I Have to Sit Down)

This is the best bit of news I have ever read (or ever will read) from the Facebook "Trending" column: Ghostbusters gets Theatrical Release in celebration of 30th Anniversary! (Variety)

And, in anticipation of Sunday: 7 saints for Pentecost. As I said on FB -- I really ought to have better devotion to the Holy Spirit given how many of my favorites are on this list. (Catholic Exchange)


May 19, 2014

The Pixie and the Scout Buildout!



Look. I work in food. I routinely have a really fabulous chef making me my daily dinner (hurrah family meal). I get to sample incredible dishes, great cheeses, lots of wine and beer, of course. What I'm saying is, I know a good meal, and I enjoy them often.

But: I've never had a meal like the pop-up dinner I had last year cooked by The Pixie and the Scout.

We sat down, filled out a funny little questionnaire designed to gauge our knowledge, appetites, (allergies, of course), and adventurousness. (Eg. "Name as many members of the Onion family" and "Draw a picture of something you can forage on a roadside.") And then Katy and Jonathan created a menu of 6 courses entirely for our table (and another one for the table next to ours, and on, and on). There were flavor combinations I had never thought of (savory strawberries), ingredients I'd never heard of (I can't even remember but there was some sort of edible succulent thing that just blew my mind), and the juiciest roast chicken I've ever eaten (and honey, I love roast chicken)! It was one of the best meals of my life.

Now The Pixie and the Scout have leased a huge space in Brooklyn, and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the renovation of this space. They are close to meeting their goal, but if you're interested in helping a great young couple do incredible things with food, pop on over to Kickstarter, and lend them a hand, won't you?


April 30, 2014

Recipe: Lazy Risotto



So, lazy is the best word for this recipe, but that doesn't mean it's quick. Or for everyone. It is only for people with long days at home. There is an economy here, but it is not an economy for everyone. In fact, I'll bet, in my limited readership, there is only one person who will really benefit from this recipe, and that's only because I talked with her about it yesterday and we got interrupted by one of the three three-year-olds in the house at the time.

Anyway, this recipe...nay, this technique is for when you have a full day at home and only want to pay attention halfway to whatever you're cooking.

1) HOMEMADE VEGETABLE STOCK.

For that you need to obsessively save vegetable scraps. I do this, sticking vegetable odds and ends and roots and slightly gone greens into a big plastic container in my freezer. (Or a ziploc bag.) This is the perfect base for a rich and hearty vegetable stock. I take all those veggies (today, asparagus ends, fennel stems and leaves, scallions, wild garlic ends that had dried out, onion skins, several cloves of garlic, and some bok choy) and rinse them quickly cool water to shake off any freezer ice. If you don't save veggie ends, I bet you have some veggies in your fridge that are about to go, and of course you have onions and garlic in your pantry, or a bag of frozen peas. Any greens, any onions, any vegetables so long as it is not starch will do.

So, take all your veg, and stick them in your biggest stock pot and cover with water. Throw in a couple bay leaves and set it simmering.

And then leave it, for an hour at least, completely unattended.

(So long as it's only simmering, you don't need to watch it.) When I get my second cup of coffee, I'll maybe give it a stir, and, if the water looks low, I'll pour in a bit more cold water. Sometimes I'll add salt, or peppercorns. Sometimes not.

After 90 minutes to two hours, when the water is reduced by 1/3 or 1/2, and it's starting to look dark and rich I'll drain the stock into a separate pot, (discard the veggies) and taste it. If it needs more salt, add it now. If it seems a little lackluster, I'll chop up an onion finely and add it in there.

2) Now THE RISOTTO: The typical ratio of rice to broth in risotto is 1:3. Plus you have to keep ladling it in and stirring it, and ladling it, and stirring it, and keeping the broth hot on the stove, and using all the pots in the house, and being super attentive, and sometimes it's a pleasure, but today, this is too much work. I am being lazy!

So take your practically-free vegetable broth and double that ratio. Put in 1 cup of rice to your 5 or 6 cups of broth. (If you don't have six cups, add some water and some white wine.) Stir it round. Add in some saffron and a knob of butter, and set it simmering. And leave it, mostly unattended, for 40 minutes, or till the rice has absorbed all the broth. (Give it a stir every now and then, ok.)

Add some freshly grated dry cheese (pecorino, parmesan), and another knob of butter, and some freshly chopped parsley, and serve.

Alternately, you could do this "oven risotto" from Martha Stewart, which is pretty fool-proof, and probably coincides better with your definition of lazy.

April 22, 2014

The Lord is Risen Indeed



"Thine's all the glory, man's the boundless bliss."

Well this has been on repeat in my head since Sunday. William Billings, you are delightful. Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter, all!

April 15, 2014

A very random, not Holy Week centered Clippings



Don't forget my Easter book recommendations are available here. (The image above is from Petook, by Caryll Houselander and illustrated by Tomie dePaola)

A profile of the amazing Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore -- a man deeply committed to his hometown, and to truly sustainable cooking. (He has a full time preservation team, which cans 50,000lbs of produce every year!) His cooking is truly Mid-atlantic: focused on the meat, fish (especially) and produce that thrive in this rich but "undocumented and uncelebrated" area. (First we Feast)

Sidecar and Myrna and I went and saw The Grand Budapest Hotel. And I have lots to say, but, right now: SWINTON. She's crazy, whoa. (Vulture)

Love this headline about the amazing Sr. Helena Burns, aka: "The Nun who got Addicted to Twitter" - it's a great article too. (The Atlantic)

And speaking of the New Evangelization online: the Vatican Library is going digital! (The Art Newspaper)

Chef, 15 years old, making stunning meals in a supper club in his parent's house. (New York Times)

These marble dresses are incredible. (This is Colossal)

How Greg Maddux pitched (The Washington Post)


RCA + Miss Hale: There's a new collection of Muriel Spark essays being published! Informed Air (Amazon via Michah Mattix)

Oh my word, yes: Confessions from the Confession line (Smicha Fisher)

David Brooks on Passover and Liberation and Obedience (New York Times):
When John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin wanted to put Moses as a central figure on the Great Seal of the United States, they were not celebrating him as a liberator, but as a re-binder. It wasn’t just that he led the Israelites out of one set of unjust laws. It was that he re-bound them with another set of laws. Liberating to freedom is the easy part. Re-binding with just order and accepted compulsion is the hard part.
This Confessions of a Christian Film Critic is good. We live in the tension, my friends. (The Washington Post

April 14, 2014

Easter Books on CIC Kids


Still need gifts for the Easter Basket? I've got three posts up on CIC KIDS listing some of the best picture books for Eastertide:

+ Picture books about Easter itself

+ Biblically based picture books and illustrated Bibles

+ Religiously themed board books for toddlers + infants

Some of these books are out of print so won't arrive in time. Others are readily available even at your local big chain bookstore. Most are available on Amazon (and for all purchases through Amazon, the CIC gets a little percentage back.)

Am I forgetting any? What are your family favorites?

March 28, 2014

Clippings: Mostly Trivial



How I've felt much of the time at the new job. The caption ought to read: "When People Start Talking About Religion Before They Know What I Believe" -- but the .gif stands. Don't get me wrong: the job is good and I like the work, but the culture is very different from what I'm used to. And, my goodness, there is a lot of swearing. I'm pre-emptively giving up swearing for lent (or, you know, forever) just to try to combat my already bad habit from getting worse. (Mary is My Homegirl)

J. R. R. Tolkien translation of Beowulf is being published! (The Guardian, via CH)

Last week was a week of mourning for many of us. Olivia and Emma Lewis (obit), Fr. Ray Ryland (obit) and Lauren Langrell (obit). The news of these deaths spread round Facebook and Twitter, and even Instagram -- which struck me as odd, but also necessary: where else would I have gotten the news of these deaths? Relatedly: Here's an interesting piece on modern mourning.  (New York Times)

Lent with St. Francis de Sales (Bows + Bowties via DN)

I could live in this house very happily. (Remodelista)

I could live in this dress very happily. (Vanessa Jackman)

What's your breakfast style? Sweet or savory? (Bon Appetit)

Bon Appetit has also been having some fun sharing the history of different food-relates items and words -- like vegetable metaphors and cocktail umbrellas. (Bon Appetit)

Folks songs, and Plato, and the boys of St. Greg's. (Dominicana)

You're welcome. (Celebitchy, but, I promise, SFW, and this is literally the first time I've ever clicked on that site...)

Who Wore It Best: Olivia Pope or Pope Francis (HT: Emily Hale)

March 25, 2014

Two Annunciations

Two modern Annunciations for you, for today's Feast of the Annunciation:


This painting by Raphael Soyer was one of the only grabbers at a new exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum  and grab me, it did. It is a large piece; hung on the dingy grey walls of the exhibit hall, it seemed lifelike in scale and proportion. Two ladies going about their business, getting washed, getting dressed, but with very different internal dispositions. One has a look of focused concentration (I'll wear my green dress, and the white hat. Have to remember to pick up stamps on my way to work. Are my brown shoes still at the cobblers?)  the other: an openness, an expectancy, a peace (Let it be done unto me according to your word).

I like thinking of Mary in these situations, because it reminds me that I need to live like Mary in the rush of our days: that is, in constant readiness to do the will of God. Even to listen for it. Especially in the rush of my current work, where there is little to know me except by my manner: my willingness to work, my cheer, my attention to detail. These could become burdens — the cares of the world — or they could be come joys, thanks to an open disposition to listen for the will of God, and live it.

— — 

The second "Annunciation" is actually a poem, from a collection of poems by Mary Szybist, called Incarnadine. Incarnadine, which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry, is loosely based around the Annunciation and those moments where the natural world in unsettled by the spiritual (as well as the varying responses to that unsettling. (My favorite of the poems was "Here, There are Blueberries" which you can read here.)

ANNUNCIATION OVERHEARD FROM THE KITCHEN
by Mary Szybist

I could hear them from the kitchen, speaking as if
something important had happened.

I was washing the pears in cool water, cutting
the bruises from them.
From my place at the sink, I could hear

a jet buzz hazily overhead, a vacuum
start up next door, the click,
click between shots.

“Mary, step back from the camera.”

There was a softness to his voice
but no fondness, no hurry in it.

There were faint sounds
like walnuts being dropped by crows onto the street,
almost a brush
of windchime from the porch—

Windows around me everywhere half-open—

My skin alive with the pitch.

March 18, 2014

Quotation from Helena by Evelyn Waugh


And then Helena said something which seem to have no relevance. 'Where is the cross, anyway?'

'What cross, my dear?' [said Pope Sylvester.]

'The only one. The real one.'

'I don't know. I don't think anyone knows. I don't think anyone has ever asked before.'

'It must be somewhere. Wood doesn't just melt like snow. It's not 300 years old. The temples here are full of beams and paneling twice that age. It stands to reason God would take more care of the cross then of them.'

'Nothing "stands to reason" with God. If He had wanted us to have it, no doubt He would have given it to us. But He hasn't chosen to. He gives us enough.'

'But how do you know He doesn't want to say have it — the cross, I mean. I bet He's just waiting for one of us to go and find it — Just at this moment when it's most needed. Just at this moment when everyone is forgetting it and chattering about that hypostatic union, there's a solid chunk of wood waiting for them to have their silly heads knocked against. I'm going off to find it,' said Helena.

 — from Helena, by Evelyn Waugh
Image:  St. Helena from The Rothschild Prayerbook

February 28, 2014

Clippings with a Long Ramble about the Oscars


A really marvelous look at the way literature forms us, by Joseph Prever (Catholic Exchange)

Open letter to Alec Baldwin: " It seems strange in our goal-oriented times, but the truth is that naked happiness-seekers tend to find themselves alone and miserable. To live a life of meaning and integrity, you must build it around something that it is bigger than yourself." (The Federalist)

Color charts! (Present & Correct)

Opening today at the American Art Museum in D.C. -- Modern American Realism. Art Daily reports. (via Mr. Newton)

I have one dear friend who cannot have dairy or eggs or wheat or chocolate or nuts. Let me tell you, her birthday is just about the hardest day of the year, culinarily speaking. Flour-less chocolate cakes have egg and chocolate. Almond flour is out, so there goes all my standby gluten free cakes. Can't make a fool, because cream is out. And I love fruit, but it has to go over something.  Most vegan cakes rely on nuts for sustenance. Most gluten-free cakes rely on dairy and eggs for texture and moistness. So, I am going to archive this post for all posterity: Coconut ice cream. And it doesn't use totally crazy substitutions, either; it's base is coconut cream. That'll do, kids. That'll do. (Food 52)

For all other birthdays: mint-chocolate chip ice cream cake. (Herriot Grace)

On a serious note: on trick for ending the War on Women. (Simcha)

Glad to see one of my favorite Arlington coffee shops getting some attention (photo, above, taken there this morning).

In anticipation of this weekend's Oscars (about which I have no thoughts whatsoever since I've only seen one of the films in the running)...here's an interesting list of the 85 Oscar Best Picture winners, ranked according to how good picks they were. It's obviously a subjective list, but interesting all the same. I have some major complaints with this list. I agree pretty much with the top ten, and I love that she put Gigi at the bottom (what a tedious film). I think she's too hard on both the 80's and the early years of film. And Amadeus (especially ranked against the competition of the year) should not be placed so low.  What I find most interesting is seeing what history has done to the winners and the losers. So many films are vastly better than the others in their category (I mean, were there any movies other than The Godfather that came out in 1972?). Others are real head-scratchers, when you think of the legacy of their competition (Hard the believe The Greatest Show on Earth beat out High Noon and The Quiet Man.) I'd also like to assert that a world where Tootsie wins best picture over the ok, but self-righteous film, Ghandi is a world I want to live in. Alas. (Buzzfeed)

I did not watch Downton Abbey this season, but I did quite enjoy the Fug Girls' recaps. (Go Fug Yourself)

Winter got you down. Make things with citrus, kids! (Eat Boutique)

This. so many feelings!!! (ESPN)

February 25, 2014

Recipe: Cremat for Carnival!


So, Cremat is a traditional Catalan fisherman's drink, and it is completely amazing, but I honestly don't know if it is drunk during Catalan Carnival festivals there are (I don't even know what festivals they hold leading up to Lent. No doubt Mr. Newton will inform me of the proper traditions, as he is the one who introduced me, rather recklessly, to Cremat.)

Guys, this is a great cocktail. It is for a party, because it really cannot be made in small doses. And it is perfect for the dead of winter. And this year, my word, has it ever been the dead of winter. I think the only thing that could get me revved up for a feast like Carnival is flaming coffee-infused hard liquor. I mean: this cocktail is lit on fire. I don't know how else to sell it to you.


CREMAT
Serves 8-10

750ml Rum (nothing fancy or aged or artisan, but not cheap sugary stuff. A solid, unflavored rum.
1 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
peel of 1 lemon or 1 small orange, cut into thick strips
1 cup strong brewed coffee

Pour the rum and brandy into a heat resistant earthenware pot, or an earthenware or cast iron dutch oven. Add sugar, cinnamon sticks, and citrus peel. Stir till sugar dissolves. Heat on low on your stovetop till it begins to steam. 

Carefully bring the pot outside. Using a long match, or one of those long lighter thingys, set the rum ON FIRE!!! Let it burn for 10 minutes, (stand out there in the cold with it, you wimps!).  After 10 minutes, extinguish the fire by pouring the black coffee over it.

Serve in warm mugs (not cocktail glasses, which will crack with the heat), with a twist of lemon or orange peel.