walt whitman | election day, november, 1884

6 11 2008

walt_whitman_edit_2

Poetry Dispatch No. 257 | November 6, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Ahead…upon reflection …Whitman always understood the heartbeat of America. Norbert Blei

strichstrich

Election Day, November, 1884

by Walt Whitman
(1819-1892)

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and
show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones–nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes–nor
Mississippi’s stream:
–This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the still
small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–
Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling–(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity–welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
–Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify–while the heart
pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.





bob dylan | when the ship comes in

5 11 2008

strichstrich

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.159 | ELECTION DAY NOVEMBER 4, 2008,

THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE

WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN
ELECTION DAY

When The Ship Comes In
Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.

Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The hour that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’.
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Then they’ll raise their hands,
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh’s tribe,
They’ll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered.


“When the Ship Comes In”

is a song by Bob Dylan, released on his 3rd studio album The Times They Are a-Changin’ in 1964. Joan Baez stated in the documentary film No Direction Home that “When the Ship Comes In” was, more or less, inspired by a hotel clerk that refused to allow Dylan a room due to his “unwashed” appearance (he was not famous outside of the folk movement at this time). The song then grew into a sprawling epic allegory about vanquishing the oppressive “powers that be”. Another inspiration was the Bertold Brecht/Kurt Weil song, “Jenny the pirate’s bride”.





david sedaris | undecided

30 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 158 | October 29, 2008

THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE

THE NEW YORKER/
HUMOR/
DAVID SEDARIS

One of the many pleasures of being a longtime subscriber to The New Yorker each week, is the surprise factor of each issue, beginning with the cover illustration and ending with the cartoon caption contest on the last page. I want to do a complete essay on The New Yorker one of these days…but for present purposes (politics/literature/the upcoming election) let me put in a few good words about writing humor—almost a lost art in most American publications these days.

The New Yorker has a long tradition of fostering this form of writing, developing some of the most humorous writers in our culture. If you think Woody Allen is only funny in film…you should have read some of the first pieces he published in The New Yorker. And just when you think we’ve lost a great American humorist of literary distinction (New Yorker writer James Thurber, for example), before too long another writer enters (with laughter), and within a few years you begin recognizing him or her as a ‘New Yorker’ regular. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that David Sedaris is the James Thurber of our time (yet)…but I’m more than comfortable, overjoyed in fact, to pick up a current issue of the magazine and find another piece by Sedaris–which always speaks to our times. Norbert Blei

UNDECIDED

by
David Sedaris

I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters. “Who are they?” the news anchors ask. “And how might they determine the outcome of this election?”

Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it comes to the economy.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they profes¬sional actors? I wonder. Or are they sim¬ply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

When doubting that anyone could not know whom they’re voting for, I inevita¬bly think back to November, 1968. Hu¬bert Humphrey was running against Richard Nixon, and when my mother couldn’t choose between them she had me do it for her. It was crazy. One minute I was eating potato chips in front of the TV, and the next I was at the fire station, waiting with people whose kids I went to school with. When it was our turn, we were led by a woman wearing a sash to one of a half-dozen booths, the curtain of which dosed after we entered.

“Go ahead,” my mother said. “Flick a switch, any switch.”

I looked at the panel in front of me.

“Start on the judges or whatever and we’ll be here all day, so just pick a Pres¬ident and make it fast. We’ve wasted enough time already.”

“Which one do you think is best?” I asked.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she told me. “That’s why I’m letting you do it. Come on, now, vote.”
I put my finger on Hubert Humphrey and then on Richard Nixon, neither of whom meant anything to me. What I most liked about democracy, at least so far, was the booth—its quiet civility, its atmosphere of importance. “Hmm,” I said, wondering how long we could stay before someone came and kicked us out.

Ideally, my mother would have waited outside, but, as she said, there was no way an unescorted eleven-year-old would be allowed to vote, or even hang out, seeing as the lines were long and the polls were open for only one day. “Will you please hurry it up?” she hissed.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some¬thing like this in our living room?” I asked. “Maybe we could use the same curtains we have on the windows.”

“All right, that’s it.” My mother reached for Humphrey but I beat her to it, and cast our vote for Richard Nixon, who had the same last name as a man at our church. I assumed that the two were related, and only discovered afterward that I was wrong. Richard Nixon had always been Nixon, while the man at my church had shortened his name from something fun¬nier but considerably less poster-friendly— Nickapopapopolis, maybe.

“Oh, well,” I said.

We drove back home, and when asked by my father whom she had voted for, my mother said that it was none of his business.

“What do you mean, ‘none of my business’?” he said. “I told you to vote Republican.”

“Well, maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.”

‘You’re not telling me you voted for Humphrey” He said this as if she had marched through the streets with a pan on her head.

“No,” she said. I’m not telling you that. I’m not telling you anything. It’s pri¬vate—all right? My political opinions are none of your concern.”

“What political opinions?” he said. I’m the one who took you down to reg¬ister. You didn’t even know there was an election until I told you.”

“Well, thanks for telling me.”

She turned to open a can of mushroom soup. This would be poured over pork chops and noodles and served as our din¬ner, casserole style. Once we’d taken our seats at the table, my parents would stop fighting directly, and continue their argument through my sisters and me. Lisa might tell a story about her day at school and, if my father said it was interesting my mother would laugh.
“What’s so funny?” he’d say.

“Nothing. It’s just that, well, I suppose everyone has a different standard. That’s all.”

When told by my father that I holding my fork wrong, my mother would say that I was holding it right, or right in “certain circles.”

“We don’t know how people eat the world over,” she’d say, not to him but to the buffet or the picture window, as if the statement had nothing to do with any of us.

I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of evening, and so I told my father that I had voted. “She let me,” I said. “And I picked Nixon.”

“Well, at least someone in the family has some brains.” He patted me on shoulder and as my mother turned away I understood that I had chosen the wrong person.

I didn’t vote again until 1976, when I was nineteen and legally registered. Because I was at college out of state, I sent my ballot through the mail. The choice that year was between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Most of my friends were going for Carter, but, as an art major, I identified myself as a maverick. “That means an original,” I told my roommate. “Someone who lets the chips fall where they may.” Because I made my own rules and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of them, I decided to write for the name of Jerry Brown, who, it was rumored, liked to smoke pot. This was an issue very close to my heart—too close, obviously, as it amounted to a complete waste. Still, though, it taught me a valuable lesson: calling yourself a maverick is a sure sign that you’re not one.

I wonder if, in the end, the undecideds aren’t the biggest pessimists of all. Here they could order the airline chicken, but, then again, hmm. “Isn’t that adding an extra step?” they ask themselves. “If it’s a going to be chewed up and swallowed, why not cut to the chase, and go with the platter of shit?”

Ah, though, that’s where the broken glass comes in.

from THE NEW YORKER, October 27, 2008

David Sedaris

contributes frequently to The New Yorker. He is the author of “Barrel Fever,” (1994) and “Holidays on Ice,” (1997), as well as three collections of personal essays: “Naked,” (1997), “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” (2000), and “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” (2004). In 2005, he edited an anthology of stories, “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.” He has also regularly contributed personal essays to Esquire. Sedaris and his sister, Amy Sedaris, have collaborated under the name The Talent Family and have written several plays, including “Stump the Host”; “Stitches”; “One Woman Shoe,” which received an Obie Award; “Incident at Cobbler’s Knob”; and “The Book of Liz,” which was published in book form by the Dramatists Play Service.

Sedaris made his comic début on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, reading “SantaLand Diaries,” which recounted his strange but true experiences of his job as a Macy’s elf clad in green tights. His original radio pieces can often be heard on the show “This American Life.” In 2001, Sedaris became the third recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. He was named by Time magazine as “Humorist of the Year” in 2001. In 2005, he was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word Album (“Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,”) and Best Comedy Album (“David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall,”).





antonio machado | la palabra en el tiempo

25 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch Nr. 256 | October 25, 2008

la palabra en el tiempo:

ANTONIO MACHADO
by
Norbert Blei

I never wanted fame,
nor wanted to leave my poems
behind in the memory of men…

Machado poems illuminate both darkness and day. I don’t know how else to describe his work except once you have found him and he has found you, his poems will broaden your spirit, put you in a place you want to be. The kind of feeling one experiences walking out of an ancient church into a starlit night.

Memory is valuable for one thing,
astonishing: it brings dreams back.

In Robert Bly’s magnificent translation, TIMES ALONE, Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, Wesleyan University Press, (1983), he notes in his introduction:

“His poetry secretes in itself the rhythm of the walker, When John Dos Passos, just out of college, traveled to see Machado in Segovia, he found an awkward man with a deep voice, “an old fashioned teacher,” dressed in a black, double-breasted suit, who walked for hours in Segovia and the countryside. When a person walks, he experiences objects one by one at a pace agreeable to the body. And every walk ends; sooner or later the walk is over and we are back home.”

Bly also notes Machado’s love for well-made things, something any writer can relate to:

Form your letters slowly and well:
making things well
is more important than making them.

Some excerpts from one of the selections included in TIMES ALONE:

“Fourteen Poems Chosen from ‘Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs’ “

5.

Put out on the fields
a physical laborer, a thinker, and a poet.
You will see how the poet is enthusiastic
and silent, the thinker looks and thinks…
The laborer looks around, probably,
for blackberries and mushrooms.
Take them to the theatre,
and only the laborer isn’t bored.
The one who prefers what is alive
over what is made up
is the person who writes, dreams, or sings.
The head of the physical laborer
is full of fantasies.

8.

It is good knowing that glasses
are to drink from;
the bad thing is not to know
what thirst is for.

9.

You say nothing is created new?
Don’t worry about it, with the mud
of the earth, make a cup
from which your brother can drink.

13.

Mankind owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars,
and the fear of going down.

Antonio Cipriano José María y Francisco de Santa Ana Machado y Ruiz, known as Antonio Machado (July 26, 1875 – February 22, 1939) was a Spanish poet and one of the leading figures of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of ’98.

Machado was born in Seville one year after his brother Manuel. The family moved to Madrid in 1883 and both brothers enrolled in the Institución Libre de Enseñanza. During these years, and with the encouragement of his teachers, Antonio discovered his passion for literature.

While completing his Bachillerato in Madrid, economic difficulties forced him to take several jobs including working as an actor. In 1899 he travelled with his brother to Paris to work as translators for a French publisher. During these months in Paris he came into contact with the great French Symbolist poets Jean Moréas, Paul Fort and Paul Verlaine, and also with other contemporary literary figures, including Rubén Darío and Oscar Wilde. These encounters cemented Machado’s decision to dedicate himself to poetry.

In 1901 he had his first poems published in the literary journal ‘Electra’. His first book of poetry was published in 1903 with the title Soledades. Over the next few years he gradually amended the collection, removing some and adding many more, and in 1907 the definitive collection was published with the title Soledades. Galerías. Otros Poemas.

In the same year Machado was offered the job of Professor of French at the school in Soria. Here he met Leonor Izquierdo, daughter of the owners of the boarding house Machado was staying in. They were married in 1909: he was 34; Leonor was 15. Early in 1911 the couple went to live in Paris where Machado read more French literature and studied philosophy. In the summer however Leonor was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis and they returned to Spain. On 1 August 1912 Leonor died, just a few weeks after the publication of Campos de Castilla. Machado was devastated and left Soria, the city that had inspired the poetry of Campos, never to return. He went to live in Baeza, Andalucia, where he stayed until 1919. Here he wrote a series of poems dealing with the death of Leonor which were added to a new (and now definitive) edition of Campos de Castilla published in 1916 along with the first edition of Nuevas canciones.

While his earlier poems are in an ornate, Modernist style, with the publication of “Campos de Castilla” he showed an evolution toward greater simplicity, a characteristic that was to distinguish his poetry from then on.

Between 1919 and 1931 Machado was Professor of French in Segovia. He moved here to be nearer to Madrid, where Manuel lived. The brothers would meet at weekends to work together on a number of plays, the performances of which earned them great popularity. It was here also that Antonio had a secret affair with Pilar Valderrama, a married woman with three children, to whom he would refer in his work by the name Guiomar. In 1932 he was given the post of professor at the “Instituto Calderón de la Barca” in Madrid

When Francisco Franco launched his coup d’état in July 1936, launching the Spanish Civil War, Machado was in Madrid. The coup was to separate him forever from his brother Manuel who was trapped in the Nationalist (Francoist) zone, and from Valderrama who was in Portugal. Machado was evacuated with his elderly mother and uncle to Valencia, and then to Barcelona in 1938. Finally, as Franco closed in on the last Republican strongholds, they were obliged to move across the French border to Collioure. It was here, on 22 February 1939 that Antonio Machado died, just three days before his mother. In his pocket was found his last poem, “Estos días azules y este sol de infancia”.

Machado is buried in Collioure where he died; Leonor is buried in Soria. Geoffrey Hill has hailed him as Montale’s ‘grand equal’. His phrase “the two Spains” — one that dies and one that yawns — referring to the left-right political divisions that led to the Civil War, has passed into Spanish and other languages.

Machado’s poetic evolution has strong links to larger European trends in the same period. He turned away from the hermetic esthetic principles of post-symbolism and cultivated the dynamic openness of social realism. Like such French æsthetes as Verlaine, Machado began with a fin-de-siècle contemplation of his sensory world, portraying it through memory and the impressions of his private world. And like his socially conscious colleagues of the Generation of 1898, he emerged from his solitude to contemplate Spain’s historical landscape with a sympathetic yet unindulgent eye.

His poetic work begins with the publication of Soledades, in 1903. In this short volume many personal links which will characterize his later work are noticeable. In “Soledades, Galerías. Otras poemas.”, published in 1907, his voice becomes his own. The most typical feature of his personality is the antipathic, softly sorrow tone that can be felt even when he describes real things or common themes of the time, for example abandoned gardens, old parks or fountains, places which he approaches via memory or dreams.

After Machado’s experience with the introspective poetry of his first period, he withdrew from the spectacle of his conflictive personality and undertook to witness the general battle of the “two Spains,” each one struggling to gain the ascendancy.

In 1912 he published “Campos de Castilla”, a collection of poems lyricising the beauty of the Castilian countryside. Just as the poet’s own personality revealed mutually destructive elements in the earlier Galerías and Soledades, so too did the Cain-Abel myth, interpreted in “La Tierra de Alvargonzález” later attest to the factions in Spain that tore at each other and shredded the national fabric in an effort finally to restore unity. At the same time, other poems projected Castilian archetypes that evoked emotions like pathos (“La mujer manchega”—”The Manchegan Woman”), revulsion (“Un criminal”), and stark rapture (“Campos de Soria”).

In 1917 various poems were added to “Campos”, including a group of poems written in Baeza about the death of his young wife, a series of short reflective poems, often resembling popular songs or sayings, called “Proverbios y Cantares”, and e series of “Elogios”, dedicated to characters such as Rubén Dario or Federico García Lorca who had been influential in his life.

Machado’s later poems are a virtual anthropology of Spain’s common people, describing their collective psychology, mores, and historical destiny. He achieves this panorama through basic myths and recurrent, eternal patterns of group behavior. He developed these archetypes in Campos de Castilla (“Castilian Plains”) in such key poems as “La tierra de Alvargonzález,” and “Por tierras de España”, which are based on Biblical inheritance stories. The metaphors of this second period use geographical and topographical allusions that frame powerful judgments about socio-economic and moral conditions on the Peninsula.

His next book, “Nuevas canciones” (New Songs), published in 1924, and begins the last period of his work.

The complete work of his poetry, “Poesías Completas” was published in 1928 and contains his work “Poesias de Guerra” (Poems of War), outstanding the elegy to the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, called “Ocurrió en Granada” (It occurred in Granada).

Perhaps Machado’s most famous work is two verses from “Proverbios y cantares XXIX” in Campos de Castilla.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar

This however, is but an excerpt of a longer and less hopeful poem. The popular Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat interprets this poem as a song that has brought Machado’s work greater diffusion. Serrat added some verses so that the song speaks about a poet dying far away from his country.

The Puerto Rican novelist Giannina Braschi references Machado’s poetry in the contemporary novel Yo-Yo Boing! during a fight scene between a Cuban nationalist and a Puerto Rican independista who are arguing over the topics of dignity and national identity:

–Qué es la dignidad?

–La medida de la libertad.

–Quiero decir, quién es más fuerte, la isla que se vende y come bien, o la que se mantiene erecta, y se muere de hambre y de soledad.

–Cuál es más libre?

–Ninguna de las dos es libre. Todo pertenece. Soledad te acompaña, viajero. Pero como decía Don Antonio Machado, donde hay vino, bebe vino, y si no hay vino, chico, qué te cuesta, tómate el agua fresca.

Major publications

  • * Soledades (1903)
  • * Soledades. Galerías. Otros poemas (1907)
  • * Campos de Castilla (1912)
  • * Poesías completas (1917)
  • * Nuevas canciones (1924)
  • * Poesías completas (1936, cuarta edición)
  • * Juan de Mairena (1936)

source





donna balfe | I thought I had confessed everything…october

23 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch Nr. 255 | October 22, 2008

DONNA BALFE

I Thought I Had Confessed Everything…OCTOBER
by Donna Balfe

October is my best month:
And I’m living it up again in Indiana, driving the back roads,
storing up images for winter, for emergencies, times of tragedy
or sadness, for the final illness—for dying. But in October
I never think about dying. It would be wrong to die in October,
there is so much to do. I’m a kid again with my grown-up
daughter.
We scour the county in her pick-up, windows down, twanging
country
songs at the top of our lungs and laughing while we search out
wild
asparagus, teazle, milkweed, cattails, sumac, and bittersweet.
My depression is in remission, and I am the big believer in life.
How long can this present last.

How long can the present last?
The first week in October is like late summer. I’m making
and breaking schedules, going a little crazy trying to categorize,
organize, prioritize, arrange my affairs. I resort to bar graphs
and pie charts…my life is a statistical nightmare. I buy
a Franklin Planner and spend the second week transferring
addresses,
phone numbers, insurance information. I list blood type, dress
and glove sizes of next of kin, identify special dates
and deadlines. I create the master plan of my life.
David reminds me that we have a computer program
that does it all.

from THE LAST HOUSEWIFE IN AMERICA, Cross+Roads Press, #19, 1997

Donna Balfe | The Last Housewife in America

“…another in the series that will appeal particularly to women… Donna Balfe takes readers through a year of moods, challenges and reflections.” – Harris/ADVOCATE

more on Donna Balfe can be read here…

(out of print) limited number of archived copies only. | 1997

25 Euro incl. shipment world-wide

50 Euro incl. shipment world-wide for a signed copy.

If you are interested in buying this book please go here…





edouard de pomiane | soups

18 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 157 | October 18, 2008

Recipes & Writing in Autumn

by
Norbert Blei

When the bright days and brisk nights of October arrive I think of the glowing feast of color, the warmth of food. Autumn leaves, squash soup. My book shelves beckon after midnight…an appetite for words…something to read and eat. (“The “Literature of Food”—another from a list of writing courses I will probably never develop or ever teach. But oh how nourishing.)

Soup alone. A warm bowl cradled in the hands, aroma rising in steam.

“Poet-chef.” What could be more complete?

Pomiane…I think of him. Consider some lines written on the back of one of his books:

As a dietician and a professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, Edouard de Pomiane (1875-1964) acquired a profound knowledge of the nutritive and medical values of food, and of its history. He made a study of the chemistry of cooking and explained the reasons behind the methods, enabling his followers to understand just why certain ingredients behaved as they did, to avoid culinary mistakes, wherever humanly possible, and to put things right where, in spite of care, they had gone wrong. Yet his attitude was light-hearted, his delight in good food infectious, and his approach to cookery charmingly carefree. A certain dish, he warned, was disastrous to the figure – ‘but one can always start slimming tomorrow!’ All his life he enjoyed cooking for his family and friends and regarded it as an art with which to express the warmth of human kindness. But he was a very practical cook with many demands on his time and he well understood the need to produce delicious dishes with the minimum amount of fuss, and was also fully aware of the necessity of balancing the housekeeping budget. Dedicated users of the first edition will welcome its return with great pleasure: devotees of de Pomiane’s Cooking In Ten Minutes will turn with delight and with confidence to this wider selection of recipes: new readers have a real treat in store.

I move next to “The King of Chefs,” Georges Auguste Escoffier. A little biography, some anecdotes about Escoffier (1846-1935):

One evening at the turn of the century, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) came to dine at London’s Savoy and was startled by an offering near the top of the menu. It read: “Cuisses de Nymphes a Vaurore—Nymphs’ Thighs alt Dawn.” Intrigued, the prince nibbled at them, then called for the chef and demanded to know what he was eating. Frogs’ legs, announced the chef. (In this case poached in a white-wine court bouillon, steeped in an aromatic cream sauce, seasoned with paprika, tinted gold, covered by a champagne aspic and served cold.) Aristocratic English circles in those days considered as vulgar an animal as the frog a gastronomic monstrosity, but the prince’s verdict was: delicious. From that time Nymphs’ Thighs became a familiar tidbit in the best London restaurants, and the chef became known as the man who taught Englishmen to eat frogs. The High Cost of Salmon. He was, of course, a Frenchman. He was also a genius. His name: Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), renowned as “the king of chefs and the chef of kings.” He plied King George V with variations of one of the monarch’s favorite dishes, cream cheese. He fed Kaiser Wilhelm salmon steamed in champagne. “How can I repay you?” the Kaiser asked. “Give us back Alsace-Lorraine,” the Frenchman replied. [Source: TIME]

Literature, indeed. Stories. Drama. History. Humor. And of course, poetry.

Ah, there she is. One of my American favorites in the mix of literature and food: M.F.K. Fisher. A pen or a wooden spoon in hand? Perhaps both. Among her many works, fiction and nonfiction, her classic: HOW TO COOK A WOLF. Always a good read. Basic survival, words &food; sugar & salt. And never to forget: “It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it”–M.F.K. Fisher. (Read her short stories sometime.)

Finally, how can I forget my experience with the famous Hungarian chef in Chicago, Chef Louis Szathmary, back in the 1970’s? (See CHI TOWN). A man of power, performance, brilliance, humor, history, literature. An artist who spoke and wrote in the true language of food.

“I see no reason why the artists in the kitchen who are creating our daily bread should not be treated academically the way other artists are. To be a good chef, a good culinarian is to be an artist, and a scientist. Our skills are the perfect combination of creative, visual, and performing arts at once.”Chef Louie

October—cool, sunny days, warm, tasty soup. Here’s Pomiane, writer and chef:

Edouard de Pomiane

SOUPS

Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes I feel that I am very old. When I consider all the changes which have occurred over the long years since I was a child, I feel like a stranger even in the Paris where I was born. The din of the traffic has put the street songs to flight. One is no longer woken by the cry of the groundsel sellers. The raucous song of the oyster man no longer reminds one that it is Sunday which must be celebrated round the family table with a feast of oysters.

The shops have changed too. Only the windows of the butter, egg and cheese shops have kept their character, and on the pavement just beside the door one can still admire the giant pumpkin with gaping sides squatting on its wooden stool and seeming to say to passers-by, “Why not make some pumpkin soup ? And you will need some milk for it too. Come inside and buy some.”

Certainly in my young days there was no wooden stool. The pumpkin was balanced on top of two other uncut pump¬kins which were the rendezvous of all the dogs in the neighborhood who stopped there … for a moment or two. The stool is a triumph of modern hygiene.

If you are making pumpkin soup, buy a slice weighing about 1 lb. You will need 1 1/2 pints of milk and 2 ozs of rice as well.

Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into small pieces. Put them into a saucepan with a tumblerful of water. Boil for about 15 minutes, then mash the pumpkin to a puree. Add the milk and bring it to the boil. Now pour in the rice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes.

At this moment the rice should be just cooked. Adjust the seasoning to your taste adding, if you like it, a pinch of caster sugar. I prefer a sprinkling of freshly-milled black pepper.

[from COOKING WITH POMIANE, Faber Paperbacks, 1976]

Edouard Alexandre de Pomiane, sometimes Edouard Pozerski (20 April 1875 – 26 January 1964) was a French scientist, radio broadcaster and food writer. His parents emigrated from Poland in 1863, changed their name from Pozerski to de Pomiane, and became French citizens. De Pomiane worked as a physician at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where he gave Félix d’Herelle a place to work on bacteriophages.

His best known works to have been translated into English are Cooking in Ten Minutes and Cooking with Pomiane. His writing was remarkable in its time for its directness (he frequently uses a strange second-person voice, telling you—the reader—what you are seeing and smelling as you follow a recipe) and for his general disdain for “traditional” elaborate French cuisine. He travelled widely and quite a few of his recipes are from abroad. His recipes often take pains to demystify cooking by explaining the chemical processes at work.

Books

  • * French cooking in ten minutes : or, Adapting to the rhythm of modern life (1930) ISBN 0-571-13599-4
  • * Cooking with Pomiane ISBN 0-340-59937-5

Georges Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846–12 February 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a near-legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Much of Escoffier’s technique was based on that of Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French Haute cuisine, but Escoffier’s achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême’s elaborate and ornate style.

Alongside the recipes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier’s contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession, introducing organized discipline to his kitchens. He organized his kitchens by the brigade de cuisine system, with each section run by a chef de partie. He also replaced the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu).

Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking.

Publications

  • * Le Traité sur L’art de Travailler les Fleurs en Cire (Treatise on the Art of Working with Wax Flowers) (1886)
  • * Le Guide Culinaire (1903)
  • * Les Fleurs en Cire (new edition, 1910)
  • * Le Carnet d’Epicure (A Gourmet’s Notebook) (1911)
  • * Le Livre des Menus (Recipe Book) (1912)
  • * L’Aide-memoire Culinaire (1919)
  • * Le Riz (Rice) (1927)
  • * La Morue (Cod) (1929)
  • * Ma Cuisine (1934)
  • * 2000 French Recipes (1965, Translated to English by Marion Howells) ISBN 1-85051-694-4
  • * Memories of My Life (1996, from his own life souvenirs published by his grandson in 1985 and translated into English by L. Escoffier, his great granddaughter in-law), ISBN 0-471-28803-9
  • * Les Tresors Culinaires de la France (2002, collected by L. Escoffier from the original Carnet d’Epicure)

Louis I. Szathmary, born June 2, 1919, Budapest, Hungary. Graduate, University of Budapest, Masters degree in Journalism; Ph.D., Psychology, 1944. During the war he briefly attended the Hungarian cooks school while in the Hungarian Army. One of his responsibilities as a psychologist was to write the instruction manuals for the troops regarding field artillery as well as any issues of field cookery and proper procedures relating to military rations. Immigrated to United States, 1951. Married Sadako Tanino, of Los Angeles, CA, 1960. Died in Chicago October 4,1996.

1989-1996 Founder/Curator Emeritus Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University (The world’s largest culinary museum. His contribution was over 400,000 pieces from ancient times to the present.) 1989-1996 Chef Laureate, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI 1964-1996 President, Louis Szathmary Associates, Food System Designers and Management Consultants, Chicago 1962-1989 Executive Vice-President, Lou D’Or, Inc., ChicagoOwner-chef, “The Bakery” Restaurant, Chicago 1959-1964 Manager, New Product Development, Armour and Company, Chicago 1958-1959 Plant Superintendent, Reddi Fox Caterers, Darien, CT 1955-1958 Executive Chef, Mutual Broadcasting System, New York 1951-1955 Chef, New England Province, Jesuit Order, Norwalk, CT

Author And Columnist

  • * “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”
  • * “Sears Gourmet Cooking Forum”
  • * “American Gastronomy”
  • * “The New Chef’s Secret Cook Book,”
  • * “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook.”
  • * Editor, 15-Volume “Cookery Americana,”
  • * “Antique American Cook Books.”
  • * The Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series; Nelson Algren’s “America Eats.”
  • * Countless books in Hungarian, including several books of poetry.

Over the years, Szathmary has written for the “Skyline,” (a near north newspaper), the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle, and “Inside Lincoln Park.” He has been contributing editor of “Chef” Magazine, published by Talcott Publishing Company. He has authored more than 500 articles in food service, scientific and educational journals, among them the Cornell Hotel Quarterly, Food Service Magazine, Cooking for Profit, American Wine & Food, Food & Wine Society, Travel/Holiday Magazine, Hungarian Heritage Review, In This Issue, Biblio Magazine, as well as and several Hungarian publications in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Over some 50 years, he participated in more than 1,150 television and radio broadcasts, local and national, including Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Phil Donahue, Kathryn Crosby, Oprah Winfrey, the Pat Sajak Show, “Good Morning America,” “PM Magazine,” “Kup’s Show,” “ABC Network News,” and NBC “Go.”

Lectures and demonstrations at more than 30 colleges, trade and professional associations, including: Cornell, Michigan State, Florida International University, Roosevelt University, Tirton College, Kendall College, Washburn Trade School, California Polytech, Boston University, Oklahoma State, University of Missouri, Penn State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Oxford University, England, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Chicago, Purdue University, University of Michigan, Culinary Institute of America (New Haven & Hyde Park), University of Southern California, Grand Rapids Junior College, and Johnson & Wales University. Also, The Young Presidents Organization, National Restaurant Association, National Frozen Foods Association, National Festival of American Foods and Cookery, American Culinary Federation, American Academy of Chefs, Honorable Order of Golden Toque, and The Food Service Executives Association.

From 1992 to the present, among the many places he lectured at were the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., National Space Society’s “Treasures of Discovery,” the 11th International Space Development Conference, Penn State, University of Iowa, Johnson & Wales University, and Oxford University in England.

Appeared in numerous broadcast commercials and print advertisements, sponsored by Sears, Charmglow, Chicken Delight, Tum’s, Lipton Tea, Lea & Perrins, Christian Dior, Jim Beam, Armour, American Express, Stewart’s Coffee and many others.

Member of: Society of Professional Management Consultants; Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education; Board of Governors, National Space Society; Board of Directors, Chicago Academy of Sciences; Screen Actors Guild; American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; International Association of Cooking Schools; Les Amis d’Escoffier; American Culinary Federation; American Academy of Chefs; Honorable Order of the Golden Toque; Chefs de Cuisine Association; Master Chefs Institute; International P.E.N. Club; International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association; International Wine & Food Society of London; Caxton Club of Chicago; Cliff Dwellers Club of Chicago; Groiler Club of New York; Stephen Parmenius Foundation; and American Hungarian Cultural Association of Chicago.

It was at the 1974 American Culinary Federation convention in Cleveland, Ohio, when keynote speaker Chef Louis Szathmary declared that European governments honored their Executive Chefs, but that in America, chefs were officially listed in the same category as “domestics, dog walkers, chamber maids and butlers.” He called on the convention to change this official view and gave the first $500 to hire a professional lobbyist to achieve this goal. In January 1977, at the final Washington, D.C. meeting which included Department of Labor and American Culinary Federation officials, the listing of Executive Chef was advanced in the Dictionary of Official Titles from the “Services” category to the “Professional, Technical, and Managerial Occupations” category. America’s Executive Chefs were officially recognized as professionals!

Awards and Recognitions

  • * Honorary Doctorate in Business – Lincoln College, Lincoln Illinois
  • * Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts – Johnson & Wales University, 1990
  • * 1996 appointed to Editorial Advisory Board of Biblio Magazine, The Magazine for Collectors of Books, Manuscripts, and Ephemera
  • * Living Legend Silver Spoon Award – Food Arts Magazine, 1995
  • * Living Legend – Illinois Restaurant Association, 1993
  • * Living Legend – James Beard Foundation, 1995
  • * Hotel Man of The Year – Penn State Hotel School, 1977
  • * Lifetime Achievement Award – Jozsef Venesz Award from the Hungarian Chefs Association, Hungary, 1996. (The highest honor for a Hungarian chef for promoting Hungarian Cuisine internationally.)
  • * Hall of Fame -Life Time Achievement Award, American Academy of Chefs, 1996
  • * Chef Laureate – Johnson & Wales University, 1989
  • * Outstanding Culinarian – Culinary Institute of America, l974

Works In Progress At The Time of His Death

  • * “The Bakery Restaurant Catering Book”
  • * Hungarian Cookbook (both in English and Hungarian)
  • * “History of The First Stomach” a book to be based on his presidential autograph collection.
  • * A Dutch television crew was to film a television special based on his collecting habits at the end of October.
  • * A traveling Culinary Archives & Museum exhibit at the 81st International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, November 9-12, l996 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City.
  • * In April l997 he was to be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Penn State Hotel Society.
  • * At Johnson & Wales University, Chef Louis was working with the school’s Advancement Department on fund-raising efforts to build a permanent home for the Culinary Archives & Museum.
  • * He also was planning to lecture to students in The Hospitality College and the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales in November.
  • * After his retirement he devoted himself to working on culinary related exhibits at the Culinary Archives & Museum and traveling exhibits to such places as Oxford University, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Gerald Ford Presidential Library, Villa Terra- Milwaukee, Clements Library University of Michigan, Dartmouth, San Francisco International Airport Museum, Cosmos Club, Roosevelt University, University of Chicago, University of California-Santa Barbara, Hungarian Embassy-Washington D.C., Hungarian Consulate-New York City, etc. etc.
  • * Although he was a retired chef , he came out of retirement to cook for causes close to his heart: The International House of Rhode Island, American Institute of Wine & Food, James Beard Foundation, openings to his book exhibitions and a private dinner for his dear friend and CEO of McDonald’s Fred Turner.
  • * His presidential culinary related autograph collection was to be featured on the upcoming PBS special series “Presidential Palate” featuring former White House Executive Chef Henry Haller.
  • * On election night November 5, 1996 on TV Food Network News his presidential culinary related autograph collection is to be featured in a two- hour special with intermittent election updates — a first in television history.

Chef Louis Szathmary lectured to culinary and hospitalty students all over the world. He would emphasize why he felt it was important for industry leaders to take the time to lecture to the next generation of culinarians and hoteliers. His internationally renowned “The Bakery” Restaurant was located across the street from a funeral home. Chef often remarked that for 26 years he observed those who had passed on being taken in and out of the funeral home. He noted that when they left this world, they were not able to take any worldly possessions with them. After years of observing this he felt an obligation to pass on as much of his knowledge to students because he realized that, when he was gone, he would never have the opportunity to share it with anyone.

Upon his retirement, the administration at Johnson & Wales University, wanted to provide him a house to reside in Providence, Rhode Island. He absolutely refused, citing the funeral home.

The accomplishment he was the most proud of was that he lived among the students he loved, in a residence hall. Among students, he was more recognizable than than the President of the University. He was the only adult on campus who was not a member of the Residential Life Staff who lived in the dorms, “by choice.” He enjoyed eating in the cafeteria with the students, walking in the halls, riding the elevator, and even the 2:30 a.m. false fire alarms — including the evacuations while still in their pajamas.

He felt that the best discussions he had in his life, were the moments he shared with the students — out of a classroom, when he was just one of them.

Szathmaryism:

“I see no reason why the artists in the kitchen who are creating our daily bread should not be treated academically the way other artists are. To be a good chef, a good culinarian is to be an artist, and a scientist. Our skills are the perfect combination of creative, visual and performing arts at once.”

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Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (July 3, 1908 – June 22, 1992) was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books deal primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. Fisher believed that eating well was just one of the “arts of life” and explored the art of living as a secondary theme in her writing. Her style and pacing are noted elements of her short stories and essays.

Fisher was born Mary Frances Kennedy in Albion, Michigan on July 3, 1908. In 1911, her father, Rex Kennedy, moved the family to Whittier, California to pursue a career in journalism. Although Whittier was primarily a Quaker community at that time, Mary Frances was brought up within the Episcopal Church.

While studying at the University of California in 1929, Fisher met her first husband, Alfred Young Fisher. The couple spent the first formative years of their marriage in Europe, primarily at the University of Dijon in France. At the time, Dijon was known as one of the major culinary centers of the world and this certainly had an impact on Fisher, who later went on to become one of the great culinary writers of the twentieth century.

In 1932, the couple returned from France to a country ravaged by the Great Depression. Having lived for years as students on a fixed stipend, they were wholly unprepared for the economic situation that faced them. Al got odd jobs cleaning out houses before finally landing a teaching job at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Fisher did her part teaching a few lessons at an all-girls’ school and working in a frame shop.

In addition to being an author, Fisher was an amateur sculptor working mostly in the realm of wood carving.

During the Fishers’ years in California, they formed a friendship with Dillwyn “Timmy” Parrish and his wife, Gigi. Later, in 1938, Fisher was to leave Alfred for Timmy, referred to as “Chexbres” in many of her books, named after the small Swiss village on Lake Geneva close to where they had lived. The second marriage, while passionate, was short. Only a year into the marriage, Parrish lost his leg due to a circulatory disease, and in 1941 took his own life. Fisher went on to be involved in a number of other turbulent romantic relationships with men and women.

Fisher bore two daughters. Anna, whose father Fisher refused to name, was born in 1943. Mary Kennedy was born in 1946, during Fisher’s marriage to Donald Friede, which lasted from 1945 to 1951.

After Parrish’s death, Fisher considered herself a “ghost” of a person, but went on to live a long and productive life, dying in California in 1992 at the age of 83. She had long suffered from Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, but lived the last twenty years of her life in “Last House,” a house built for her in one of California’s vineyards.

Books

  • * Serve It Forth (1937)
  • * Aix-en-Provence
  • * Consider the Oyster (1941)
  • * How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
  • * The Gastronomical Me (1943)
  • * Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (1946)
  • * Not Now but Now (1947)
  • * An Alphabet for Gourmets (1949)
  • * The Physiology of Taste [translator] (1949)
  • * The Art of Eating (1954)
  • * A Cordial Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man or Beast (1961)
  • * The Story of Wine in California (1962)
  • * Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (1964)
  • * Recipes: The Cooking of Provincial France (1968) [reprinted in 1969 as The Cooking of Provincial France]
  • * With Bold Knife and Fork (1969)
  • * Among Friends (1971)
  • * A Considerable Town (1978)
  • * Not a Station but a Place (1979)
  • * As They Were (1982)
  • * Sister Age (1983)
  • * Spirits of the Valley (1985)
  • * Fine Preserving: M.F.K. Fisher’s Annotated Edition of Catherine Plagemann’s Cookbook (1986)
  • * Dubious Honors (1988)
  • * The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence (1990)
  • * Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (1991)
  • * To Begin Again: Stories and Memoirs 1908-1929 (1992)
  • * Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me: Journals and Stories 1933-1941 (1993)
  • * Last House: Reflections, Dreams and Observations 1943-1991 (1995)
  • * Aphorisms of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from His Work, The Physiology of Taste (1998)
  • * From the Journals of M.F.K. Fisher (1999)
  • * Two Kitches in Provence (1999)
  • * Home Cooking: An Excerpt from a Letter to Eleanor Friede, December, 1970 (2000)

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