August 2, 2021

A la Carte: Time for Tea … so Let’s Have a ‘New Tea Cake!’

Lee White

The recipe below is, I think, almost perfect.

Ruby chips.

I have been playing for more than a year to find ways to use a new flavor bean found by the Callebaut chocolate company called a ruby chip (available on Amazon.com.) It is a deep pink and looks like any chocolate chip, but it takes nothing like a chocolate chip. Instead it has floral notes and when you taste it, you look for its essence.

Priscilla Martel, my human food encyclopedia, asked if I’d like to share the cost of an enormous cache. But I had a difficult time finding a way to use them where its flavor could shine.

Over the past month or so I played around a recipe for banana bread, leaving out the banana and pure vanilla extract. I added ruby chips, fresh fruit and buttermilk. I made it with fresh strawberries twice, once with fresh raspberries. I may try it with plums.

If you can’t get ruby chips, try regular chocolate chips or maybe cinnamon and adding back the pure vanilla extract instead of the almond. 

A New Tea Cake

Yield: 3 loaves each of which will feed 10 and freeze beautifully

4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
12 ounces ruby chips in tossed with 2 tablespoons flour (other chips will work)
½ cup sour cream
4 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
12 ounces butter (1½ sticks), melted and cooled
1 pint fresh strawberries or raspberries, coarsely chopped

Adjust oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 350 degrees and use spray Pam on the bottom of the three 8-ounce loaf pans.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, pecans and chips in a large bowl. Toss the fruit with about 2 tablespoons flour and, using your hands, add the fruit.

In another bowl, add sour cream, eggs, extract, buttermilk and butter. Fold into the dry ingredients and add the mixture fairly equally into the prepared pans.

Bake loaves for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Try not to eat it until it is cool. Better even a few days later. Yummy if toasted and topped with just a little butter.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com

Gardening Tips for July from ‘The English Lady’; The Month of ‘Hollyhocks and Hammocks’

Photo by meriç tuna on Unsplash.

If I had my way, I’d remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead. (Roald Dahl)

Watering is so important during the heat of summer. If you planted trees or shrubs this spring, particularly evergreens, these plants require extra moisture to establish a strong root system. We have had an abundant amount of rain this spring and into the summer, but it is still important to keep an eye on the weather.

Here in New England, plants require at least an inch of water per week.  If you are using a regular hose, you lose 40 percent of moisture to evaporation. However, a hose is necessary for a deep first-watering when a plant goes into the ground and for containers.

Watering is so important in July. Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash.

Soaker hoses in your borders are the best method of watering, attached to a house spigot with a timer. By using this method of irrigation, moisture goes to the roots of plants where it is needed and not on the foliage, which can cause disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. These hoses attached to a timer can be used efficiently not only in the borders of the garden but also in the vegetable garden, where annual vegetables, in particular, require a lot of water to produce a good crop.

In addition, composted manure added to the containers and copious amounts to the vegetable garden, help to retain a good amount of moisture. Manure used as mulch for the vegetable garden adds more nutrition, manure as mulch does not cap or form a hard crust, as do other mulches, so that water goes directly to the roots.

LAWNS & SOIL

Water the lawn only when the green glow begins to fade.  An established lawn will bounce back following dry hot spells.

I want to emphasize the importance of soil and soil health, which has been severely neglected and abused with poisonous chemicals for years. Soil is the most important element of plant growth; it is not an inert medium that merely holds the plants erect, it is a living organism that needs to be replenished with nutrients.

The nutrient is composted manure, manure builds soils structure and its bacteria partners with the millions of microbes below the surface to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. If you have not already done so, I strongly suggest that you carefully discard all chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

The addition of composted manure to your soil in spring, early summer and in early fall together with the addition of natural brown bark mulch, builds the carbon compound or humus component in the soil.  We are all carbon-based creatures, as is every living element, this is our lifeblood and the lifeblood of the soil in our gardens.

As we build the humus component by adding composted manure and fine bark mulch, we produce the healthiest possible growing environment and the strongest disease-resistant plants.  As we add the composted manure and natural fine bark mulch season after season, the humus component continues to build in the soil, continuously extracting carbon from the atmosphere into the soil.

ROSES 

These flourish beautifully with the addition of composted manure and mulch applied on the soil about two feet away from the base of the plant and require deep watering at least once a week. Now, in July add another light layer of composted manure around the roses. Manure is food for the roots of the roses and no other products are necessary for growth and bloom.

Stop adding manure to the roses in mid-August, so that the roses can into a slow dormancy through late summer and early fall, a natural part of their growth cycle.

If you are a first-time rose grower or adding to your rose collection, consider David Austin English roses — they are my personal preference.  The David Austin nursery is only 21 miles from my hometown in Shropshire in England; it was a fragrant pleasure to visit the nursery in June. David Austin roses are more trouble-free than many other roses and are repeat bloomers, with beautiful colors that enhance our senses with delicious fragrances.

Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:

  • A Shropshire Lad (my home country in England) a peachy pink
  • Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow
  • Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot hued flowers
  • Fair Bianca a pure white rose
  • Heritage a soft blush pink
  • Carding Mill Valley begins as a peachy orange double flower, becoming an apricot-pink

A lovely combination to enjoy are climbing roses and clematis planted together as both enjoy the same planting environment with their heads in the sun and their feet (roots) cool, with manure and mulch. This combination looks great, climbing over a fence, wall or arbor.

MULCH 

Do not use the artificially-colored red mulch, rubber mulch or cocoa mulch; use only natural brown bark mulch.  Do not mulch right up to the base of the plants, as this invites rodents to nest and gnaw on the stems or trunks of the plants.

Note: Do not use Cocoa mulch, produced by Hershey, this mulch has a Thorazine compound and other poisons which are hazardous to pets who are attracted by the chocolate odor. Ingestion of this chocolate mulch can cause seizures and death within hours.

HYDRANGEAS

Blue hydrangeas. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

Plant Hydrangeas in a sunny area if you live near the coast enjoying seas breezes and in part-sun away from the coast on the west or east aspect of the garden. Plant them in organically rich soil with composted manure and add extra composted manure around the base now in July.

If you have the blue Hydrangea, add some peat or aged oak bark around the base because the acidity in the peat or oak bark encourages a deeper blue hue.  Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water throughout the summer. We had a late spring and with all the spring and early summer rain and good sunshine, the foliage and bloom of the hydrangeas are performing well. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with the following powdery mildew recipe you can mix yourself:

*Two tablespoons baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of dish soap with a gallon of water in a sprayer.  For any recipe spray you make at home, spray only in the morning when there is no wind and when the temperature and humidity added together do not go above 180.

Prune Hydrangeas immediately after they finish blooming in late August or early September but no later, as Hydrangeas set their buds for the next season by mid-September. If you prune after September, you will lose next season’s bloom.  When you prune, cut out some of the old wood and the weakest of the new shoots.  In October put more composted manure and brown mulch around the base to nourish and protect the roots through the winter.

GARDEN ANTIBIOTICS: Garlic & Hot Pepper

Did you know that garlic is the antibiotic of the garden I just love garlic to use in my recipes and it is an important anti-fungal element to protect your plants.  I suggest in early fall, plant plenty of garlic, if you do not already have some in the garden.

Garlic plants after harvest. Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash.

Plant garlic:

  • around mildew-prone plants to prevent mildew on  such plants as summer phlox and bee balm
  • around strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries to avoid fungal diseases
  • under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease
  • next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into the water to deter adult mosquitoes.

When you notice marauders where either insects or animals have been munching, make a garlic spray to apply on the plants including vegetables.

Garlic spray recipe

4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent

Put all ingredients in 2 cups of hot water in the blender, blend, then leave overnight. Then put the mixture in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning when there is no wind, observing the rule of 180.  Observing the rule of 180  is when the temperature and humidity added together do not go above 180.

Hot Pepper spray

To deter squirrels and chipmunks, try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in 2 cups of hot water, in the blender, blend and leave overnight then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray the problem areas in the early morning.

This pepper spray works well on squirrels, chipmunks, deer as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.

HANDS:

Gardener’s hands are their tools of the trade so it’s important to take care of them. My hands remain healthy by indulging them in a hot cream treatment once a week before bed. 

Combine Calendula cream with honey and essential oil of lavender heated in the microwave, apply generously and put on white cotton gloves for sleep. When I wake up my hands are soft and smooth as can be.

Wear gloves, when working in soil that contains manure or when spreading manure. Manure is an organic product that contains bacteria; bacteria is great for the soil but like many bacteria not healthy for you. The garden gloves I prefer are the soft leather farmer’s gloves that are washable.  

FLAVORED OILS 

Many herbs are at their peak right now and are ideal for using in flavored oils.  The oil I use as a base is organic olive oil. I harvest basil, parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano in a morning, rinse them well, pat them dry with a paper towel and then make this recipe.

Choose an herb and add to two cups of oil.

For thyme and lavender, I use only the flowers with one cup of oil to a handful of blossoms.

Puree the herb mixture in a blender and store covered in a wide-mouthed jar for three days, shake at least three times a day for the first two days and on the third day let the mixture settle to the bottom, then strain it through a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth into a clean jar.  You will now have a tinted but clear mixture.

Refrigerate each mixture and use within two to three weeks.  The herb oils I make are lavender, lemon, garlic, shallots and basil with olive oil as the base – these are my favorites and are great brushed on vegetables and meats for grilling.  The lavender oil is great with desserts. Rosemary and lemon oil taste excellent on salads.

MOLES

I know I have given you a few mole remedies in the past; but I have not given you the Exlax method for a while. I can attest to the fact that I have used this method as have many garden colleagues for years, as it works.  Buy Exlax, whose main ingredient is Senna, a natural herb. Insert Exlax into the mole holes, the moles and voles eat it then die of dehydration.

If you have dogs and cats, do not use the chocolate Exlax — use only the plain Exlax as chocolate is dangerous to pets.

In early April of next year, apply organic grub control, which means less grubs for the moles to feed on, and without their supply of grubs, the moles will go elsewhere for food. In addition, the white grubs of Japanese beetles can be diminished with the grub control.

Japanese beetles love our plants and there is a method to deal with them naturally. In the early morning, the Japanese beetles are drowsy and can be captured.  Lay a drop cloth under the plant or plants where you see them and gently shake the plant; the drowsy beetles will drop onto the cloth, which you gather up and drop them in a garbage bag and discard.

Many of us are committed to organic gardening without chemicals, which has enabled the earthworm population to once again increase; earthworms are a great boon to the garden soil as their castings add 50 percent nutrition to the soil together with 11 trace minerals.

SUMMER PHLOX 

Summer phlox always put on a show. Photo by Steph Cruz on Unsplash.

I just love my summer phlox and to keep the mildew problems at bay I use the natural baking soda mix* I mentioned above.  I have found that white Phlox Miss Lingard or white Phlox David are more resistant to mildew that other summer phlox.  Monarda commonly known, as Bee Balm and Hydrangea, are also prone to be affected by powdery mildew, and this is where the baking soda once again can be used.

For a second bloom on the Summer Phlox, prune off 10 to 20 inches from the flower stems just after the flowers have gone by and within a few weeks you will experience new growth.

KEEP YOUR GARDEN CLEAN 

A healthy garden is a clean garden. Do not put any diseased items into your compost.

Deadhead all annuals and perennials for a second bloom and clean up all spend blossoms.

When Coreopsis and Spirea have bloomed, shear off dead flowers and they too will rebloom.

CONTAINERS

Containers need watering daily during hot summer months.

Make sure you have composted manure and fine bark mulch applied on top of the soil in your containers and keep them watered as containers dry out quicker than garden soil. In hot weather the containers will need to be watered daily, morning and evening watering is the best.

If you do not have time in a morning before you leave for work or errands, empty your ice cube trays on the containers; this provides slow-release watering until you can get to them later.

Finally, enjoy being in the garden, stay hydrated, continue to stretch and take time to ‘smell the Roses’ and I’ll see you in your garden in August.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.

A la Carte: Need to Slow Down Your Metabolism? Try Auntie Todd’s Slow-Carb Muffins

Lee White

Todd Lyon, restaurant reviewer, food writer, all-around great person and fashionista from New Haven, Conn., found that her body had turned its back on her … sort of. She developed Type 1 diabetes. She loved breakfast, but found out that her favorite breakfasts (cereal, toast, pancakes, fruit juice and the like) gave her body a jolt but metabolized quickly. 

“Eventually, it became clear that I needed a breakfast of slow carbs that wouldn’t cause a spike, but had enough protein and fiber to stay for several hours” Todd explained. “After a whole lot of trial and error, I came up with this recipe and it worked so well that my A1C readings—that’s a three-month reading of glucose levels—dropped by 1.5 points, which is a big deal in the wonderful world of diabetes.”

In the world of non-diabetes, this is a terrific recipe for all of us.

Many supermarkets now carry flours other than all-purpose and sweeteners other than sugar-laden jams. I suggest we go online and get the King Arthur Catalog. Once you have the flours, you might do as I do: make packages of the dry ingredients so you just put the packages in the freezer and make another 12 muffins in a few minutes 

I will make these muffins for breakfast whenever I don’t crave eggs over easy and rye toast or a bagel with cream cheese, a slice of tomato and sliced onion. 

Slow-Carb muffins. Photo by Yehor Milohrodskyi on Unsplash.

Auntie Todd’s Slow-Carb Muffins
From Todd Lyon, New Haven.

Yield: 12 muffins
Approximate nutritional value per muffin: calories 220; carbs 14 (adjust for fruit); fiber 12.4 grams

Dry ingredients
1 cup ground-milled flax seed
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup almond flour
½ cup crushed nuts (almonds, pecans and/or shelled pistachios)
¼ cup cinnamon (this is correct; it’s a lot of cinnamon)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3 teaspoons baking powder

Wet ingredients
6 eggs
½ cups coconut milk or almond milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
About 6 tablespoons sweetener: agave nectar, local honey, no-sugar-added jam
Optional 1 cup chopped apple, peaches, pears, blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin cups with Pam or other oil.
Blend dry ingredients by hand. Blend wet ingredients with mixer until lightly foamy.
Combine wet and dry ingredients by hand. Fill cups and bake for 18 minutes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.

Reading Uncertainly: ‘Table of Contents’ by John McPhee

‘Bear’ with me: this review is the result of strange circumstances.

In mid-April I received an email from some Lyme neighbors, announcing a new resident with a photograph – a black bear strolling unceremoniously along Ely’s Ferry Road. As it happened, I had just started a re-read of one of my favorite authors, John McPhee, and his 1985 series of essays.

The very first two described the growing advent of black bears into eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, and the second the efforts of a New Jersey biologist and bear-trapper, Patricia McConnell, at work in her home state.

Black bears are curious, vegetarian, nocturnal creatures, as interested in human beings as we are instinctively afraid of them. What I learned in McPhee’s essays made me wish I was still living in Lyme!

But black bears are also cavorting up here in Massachusetts — my physical therapist reported one in her family’s back yard just a few days ago. How interconnected we are!

McPhee’s essays continue with a lengthy dissertation on the growing interest in doctors becoming “General Practitioners” (GP’s), as he relates their efforts, travails, and joys in the northern extremes of the State of Maine. He extols the “omniscient, ubiquitous” GP as a real aberration in the growing specialization of taking care of us fragile human beings.

He determines that the greatest skill of the GP is a willingness to sit and listen to our stories of our ills and ourselves. How many docs these days really sit and listen?

McPhee then moves quickly to a story of following ex-Senator Bill Bradley in a campaign stroll along seaside towns on the Jersey Shore. In it he displays his unique capability of describing what each person is wearing, from hat to shoes, as well as distinctive facial expressions. “He wears a blue-and-white striped shirt with a button-down collar. His tie is brown and has small New Jerseys all over it like sea horses.” It is a perfect, yet brief, follow-up to his best-seller, A Sense of Where You Are”.

Another essay relates the growth of “mini-hydros”, the resurrection of eroded old dams, their waterways and ancient turbines to take advantage of new legislation requiring power companies to buy small bits of electricity produced by these revived facilities. Again, curious and ambitious entrepreneurs willing to take a chance. And risk their modest funds.

And finally, the author’s last essay describes his meeting, and working with a Northern Maine bush pilot, named, of all things, John McPhee (better known as Jack.)

As the author explains, “ There is a lot of identification, even transformation, in the work I do – moving along from place to place, person to person, as a reporter, a writer, repeatedly trying to sense another existence and in some ways to share it.” What an extraordinary thing to meet a State of Maine Bush Pilot with your name!

If you’ve seen a black bear recently, do read John McPhee. With the continuing chaos in the daily news, reading this author is a distinct relief.

Editor’s Note: ‘Table of Contents’ by John McPhee was published 1985 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year former resident of Lyme, Conn., he now lives in Peabody, Mass. He writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history, but he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and served faithfully as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

A la Carte: Pasta with Peaches … and Tomatoes? Try It, You’ll Love It!

Lee White

I don’t know about you, but I bought my CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) last December, 2021. 

Remember December, 2021?

Joe Biden had been elected in early November. We knew that two COVID vaccines were being tested, but no one had them yet.

I had not been inside a restaurant in almost a year and I was 1) tired of my own food, and yet 2) couldn’t really afford much good take-out. I also felt then, and still do, that restaurant food should be consumed in the restaurant where it had been cooked by chefs (or even just cooks) and served to us when it is meant to be tasted and savored. 

In any case, I had written a check for my CSA in December, for Stone Acres Farm in Stonington. I paid it early, since the concept is that the farmers can buy their seeds or plants with that money and then live frugally through the hard winter months in the knowledge that — once the seeds have turned into food we can buy — they can pay their own bills during the summers and falls.

My CSA began June 22 and each week I get to visit their farm stand and pick up $30 of beautiful, fresh vegetables and herbs and I will be one happy camper until late September.

I am itchy, however, for the produce I may not get — including my favorite, tomatoes — until late July.

But southern-grown peaches are available now in supermarkets, and so are cherry and grape tomatoes. I never thought about peaches and tomatoes together, but here is a recipe I can use right now. And feel free to add sliced chicken, steak or shrimp atop the salad.

Peach and Tomato Pasta

From Fine Cooking, June/July 2021, page 54

12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 pounds peaches (about 6), pitted and sliced or coarsely chopped
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved (I would use regular green olives)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼  to  ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Chopped toasted almonds (optional)

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, reserving ¼ cup pasta water. Drain spaghetti, return to pot and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, cook the garlic in hot oil over medium-heat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook, uncovered, 2 minutes.

Add peaches and cook until just soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in olives, basil, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and the red crushed pepper and heat through.

Add peach mixture to the cooked spaghetti along with the reserved pasta water and toss to combine.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with almonds, if using.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: So You Have Heard of a BLT … Well, Why Not Try a BLT Soup?!

Lee White

By the time you read this, my CSA (community-supported agriculture) will have begun.

Will the farm stand at Stone Acres be filled with the summer’s best of the best? Well, not really.

Sweet corn will be a few weeks away (and usually the Connecticut’s first sweet corn comes from the Windsor area) and tomatoes may not available for another month or more. 

I love my own CSA, but, like the signs announcing “yard sale” that beckoned years ago (I’m looking to get rid of stuff now, not getting more), my little Hyundai Kona brakes for farm stands.

Last week I bought two quarts of strawberries from Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme and asked when the corn would be available. “Maybe in a few weeks,” the younger Scott said.

I know that White Gate will have the biggest yield of the most heritages in every size, and that Whittle’s — closest to where I live — will have big, gorgeous red ones for the longest period, maybe into October.

In the meantime, there will be lots of greens, from bok choy to all kinds of lettuce.

From the first cookbook I ever bought after I met my husband (The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne), the second or third recipe I made was for Wilted Spinach. 

Today I scoured my bookshelves looking for that cookbook and could not find it, so I just ordered another copy.

But I did find in my computer files a recipe that called for lettuce, this one called BLT soup. I love this recipe and I think you will, too.

I will send you that wilted spinach recipe (but if any of you have the 1961 Claiborne book, let me know.)

By the way, save the bacon fat from the BLT recipe; you will need it for that wilted salad, too.

Butter Lettuce Soup with Bacon and Tomato
Adapted from The BLT Cookbook by Michele Anna Jordan (William Morrow, New York, 2003)

Yield: serves 4

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided)
1 small yellow onion, diced (I use the sweet ones, and Vidalias are almost here)
2 large heads of butter (or Bibb or Boston) lettuce, cored, washed and dried
Salt to taste and freshly grated black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 slices bacon, minced
1 cup (or more) very good canned diced tomatoes (as always, I use Muir Glen)
2 tablespoons snipped chives
½ cup or more little cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium-large soup pot set over medium-low heat; add onions and sauté until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut lettuce into one-half inch-wide slices. Stir into the cooked onion and season with salt and pepper; add parsley and pour in the broth. Increase heat to medium-high, bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 7 minutes.

Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towel. Using an immersion blender, or in batches on a blender, puree the soup. To serve hot, ladle the soup in bowls, drizzle with diced tomatoes, crisp bacon, chives, the cherry tomatoes and crème fraiche.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for June, Which ‘God Invented [Because] Spring is a Tough Act to Follow’

“Cast ne’er a clout till May is out” is the medieval English saying means do not put away your long johns until May is over; well, we certainly have had a few very cool nights recently, which is just wonderful … allowing sleeping with the windows open.

I cannot remember the last time we had a real spring like the one we are experiencing this year, with plenty of rain. May is typically a dry month, although with the effects of global warming, no weather is typical these days. However, this beneficial rain is wonderful for all the spring plant growth happening in the beginning of the growing season.

Peonies by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash.

I am so in awe of the miracle of Mother Nature; the symbiotic relationship between plants and others of God’s creatures. As I look out of my window into my field, I can see the buds opening on my long stand of peonies, which brings to mind just one of those symbiotic relationships — the friendly partnership between ants and peonies.  

I am often asked “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is “That’s not a problem, lots of ants on the peonies just demonstrate that you have healthy plants with big buds producing more nectar and therefore attract the ants”.

Make sure Peonies get plenty of water and after blooming, apply a light dose of organic 5-10-5 fertilizer and check the soils PH it should be between 6.5 and 7.0.  It is hard to ruin a good peony border but you can err in the fertilizing process, so go easy on the organic aged manure (never thought I would say that) and apply just the light dose of fertilizer — to reiterate apply the fertilizer after blooming.  

Now, in June, I pinch off the side-buds on my large stand of peonies, thus ensuring big blooms on the rest of the plant.  

On the subject of ants; if you see them “let them live,” because often their presence indicates that we have aphids around and ants feed off aphids; they are very useful creatures.

Another very useful creature in the pest wars; is the lowly toad so I always put out some toad houses (which you can purchase from the garden center) around and about in your borders.  You can also use an old clay pot that is cracked and make sure that the crack is two to three inches wide for the door so the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, which you keep damp, so that your friendly bad-bug-eater has his or her ideal home environment.

MULCH:

Mulch your gardens in June; when the ground has warmed up to about 45 or 50 degrees. When you mulch, be careful mulching around trees; do not get the mulch any closer than four inches from the trunk, as any closer it can promote rot and disease in the tree itself. Also trees that are mulched too deeply near the trunk invite mice and other rodents to come nest and then gnaw on the trunk.  

The garden as a whole can be mulched to a depth of between two and three inches. I prefer fine hardwood mulch in the dark brown color but no dyed red mulch please … keep the garden looking natural and not like a Disney theme park.

ROSES:

An ‘Evelyn’ rose by David Austin, the author’s favorite.

June is the month when Roses begin to bloom. I prefer David Austin roses that I find are the most trouble free roses, are repeat bloomers and have wonderful fragrances. Some of my favorites are A Shropshire Lad, a soft peachy pink, Abraham Darby with blooms in apricot to yellow, Fair Bianca a pure white, Heritage, a soft clear pink. My absolute favorite is Evelyn, pictured at right, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape and the fragrance is second to none with a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.  

Feed your roses with an organic rose food called Roses Alive, which you can obtain from “Gardens Alive” on the internet, feed them once a month until mid August, then stop feeding so they can go into a slow dormancy.

Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses, so any Japanese beetle traps should be placed far away from your borders on the perimeter of the property. Or check TheEnglishLady.com on the Organic Products page for other solutions to the beetles and other unwanted pests.    

A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the morning before 10 am, just above a five leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water.  Inside the house recut the stems under warm running water, forming a one and a half inch angular cut, then place in a vase filled with warm water.  Do not remove the thorns on cut roses, I have found this practice reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.  

HYDRANGEAS:

These need plenty of water, (in the fields they were originally found close to water being a wetland plant before they were introduced into our gardens), also organic aged manure, good ventilation, organic fertilizer and full sun.

Wisteria in full bloom is always a sight to behold. Photo by Alyssa Strohman on Unsplash.

WISTERIA:

Regular pruning through spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower — and by that I mean several times during the season. Prune every two weeks at least six inches on each stem.  

CLEMATIS:

If you have a wilt problem with clematis, you notice it early because the shoots wilt and die. Unfortunately this disease is impossible to cure, as it is soil-borne. Therefore you cannot plant another clematis of that species in that area but you can plant the Viticella clematis selection; these are vigorous, free flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt.  Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette (both are purple) and Huldine, which is a white,  

CONTAINER GARDENS:

If you have room for one pot, you have room for a number — placed close together in different shapes and sizes, they can create your own miniature garden. Apart from regular pots, the most unexpected objects make really interesting containers. A friend, who cut down trees this past winter, left the stumps and hollowed them out to make containers — one large and two smaller stumps together — a really interesting combo.  

At the same time look in your basement, shed or barn to see if you have an old wheelbarrow, which, even if it has a wheel missing, will present an unusual angle as a planter. Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar — I, in fact, have an old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted, ideal for drainage, which will look great on my newly-painted blue bench next to my red milk shed.  

LAWN CARE:

Do not forget to add organic grub control through July, so that you keep down the mole infestation; remember no grubs, less food for the moles.  

POWDERY MILDEW:

Keep an eye open for powdery mildew, especially after a rain and the humidity returns.  In a sprayer, mix two tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons of vegetable or horticultural oil in a gallon of water and spray the mildew.  Summer phlox is particularly prone to this affliction; I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species, these are the most mildew resistant.  

Monarda, commonly known as Bee Balm, is also affected by the mildew; the one I have found to be the most resistant is Cambridge Scarlet. Do be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; they, like Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose are extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.  

On the subject of invasive plants, if you plant mint, plant it only in containers, otherwise mint will spread throughout your borders.  

I hope these tips are useful to you in this busy time of year in the garden and I’ll see you in the garden or on my website next month.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.

A la Carte: A New Twist on an Old Favorite with an Unexpected History

Lee White

Sometimes I try to come up with recipes that have themes or special times of years, such as holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day.

But I sometimes I forget, before Columbus landed first in the Bahamas and later on the coast that would become America, that the native Americans were here first.

I also forget about the white people, who came soon after Columbus, who herded Black Africans, took them from their homes and families to work, against their will, in the white people fields and houses in the 17th century.

A new documentary from Netflix called “High on the Hog” tells the story of these enslaved people, who tried to keep their own lives and traditions alive along with their culinary journey.

In this documentary, I learned that Thomas Jefferson  and George Washington owned Black chefs, who went with the masters to Paris, brought back French techniques and recipes, which they blended with the ingredients available in the New World. For their own food, in the slave quarters, they took the ingredients the white owners didn’t want — the leftover pieces of vegetables and fruits,  the peels of potatoes and, most of all, the bits of beef, sheep and chickens the owners threw away. 

The recipe below was adapted from a recipe I found in a cookbook from 2001.

Until I saw this documentary two weeks ago., I never knew the first recipe for macaroni and cheese was created by enslaved Black people working in their masters’ kitchens. 

I hope you stream “High on the Hog” on Netflix.

Queens (N.Y.) Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Macaroni & Cheese: 52 Recipes, from Simple to Sublime (Villard, New York, 2001)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 pound elbow macaroni
3 12-ounce cans evaporated milk (2 percent milk works well, too)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon Red Devil sauce (or less, to your taste)
4 cups (1 pound) coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½  pound Velveeta or American cheese, cut into one-half inch cubes
½  cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs), or fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 3 and ½ -quart deep baking dish or 9 by 13 baking pan.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, pour into a large mixing bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of the butter.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a scald and add to the macaroni. Add mustard, Red Devil sauce and Cheddar and stir well (the cheese should start to melt. Add Velveeta and cream and stir well. The macaroni and chunks of cheese should be swimming in the sauce. Add egg and mix well. Season with salt, if necessary, and plenty of pepper.

Pour into the prepared baking dish that has been place on a sheet pan to catch spills (the baking dish will be completely full. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

Legal News You Can Use: Basic Information About QDROs

When a couple is going through a divorce, they often know that they will need to divide their property and there may be decisions to make regarding child custody. However, they may not be aware of the requirements of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) and its role in the divorce.

Retirement plan benefits

A QDRO is a domestic relations order that creates or recognizes an alternate payee’s right to receive all or some of a participant’s benefits under a retirement plan. It is completed after the divorce is final.

The alternate payee must be a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of the plan’s participant. The QDRO may be included with the divorce decree, a property settlement or it can be issued as a separate order.

The QDRO must contain the name and mailing address of the participant and payee, the name of each plan the order applies to, the amount to be paid to the payee and the number of payments or time period for the payments.

The administrators of the retirement plan that provides benefits affected by the order have specific responsibilities. They act as plan fiduciaries, meaning that they act in the interest of the plan participant and the beneficiaries. They are required to provide notice to participants and alternate payees when they receive the order and information about how they determine the status of an order.

It is very important that QDROs are completed accurately and they can be very complex.

An experienced attorney can answer questions about the QDRO process, provide representation for divorce matters and help parties make informed decisions.

Attorneys at Suisman Shapiro can discuss the divorce process with you and answer your questions on the subject. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

Sponsored post by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

A la Carte: Cowboy Beans … a Sure-Fire Favorite

Lee White

I have had the requisite failures in the kitchen, and they may have been legion, but the one I remember happened decades ago and it had to do with baked beans.

We lived in our first old house in Leicester, Mass. It had massive stone kitchen fireplaces, this one with a beehive oven. That failure was on a day we invited friends for dinner.

It was a cold winter, and we had taken a few classes on hearth cooking. I decided the dessert would be a bread pudding, but I would make it in the regular oven. I knew if a meal was mediocre, dessert should be a sure-fire home run, and a dessert made with buttered bread, lots of eggs and cream, a few shots of bourbon and a caramel sauce would be one.

Good thing that dessert was terrific for I made baked beans from scratch.

I’d read lots of recipes, some from a beehive oven, others bubbling on a cast-iron pot hanging from the side of the hot over, a third right on the coals and the lid topped with more hot coals. I let the beans soak overnight in water. I used all the right ingredients with the beans: pieces of fat, brown sugar, ketchup, onions, some mustard. I let it hold on the coals for hours. We had hot dogs with the beans.

The kitchen was redolent with all the right smells.

How were the beans? Like eating buckshot, but much bigger pieces of buckshot. As friends worried about the fillings in their teeth, they smiled, kindly, but after a few bites, they ate the hot dogs.

The bread pudding was wonderful.

There had been plenty of beer and wine. 

I no longer make from-scratch baked beans. Today I just doctor canned beans. Sometimes I just doctor Bush Beans Original beans. They rarely need much doctoring. But here is a recipe that would work every time … and no need to worry about your fillings!

Cowboy Beans

From Savory magazine by Stop & Shop, June, 2021 (free from the supermarket)
Yield: serves 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (I always use a sweet onion)
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef (85 percent is fine, too)
2 15.5 ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 ounce can reduced-sodium beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup smoky barbecue sauce
½ cup strongly ground coffee
2 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion and jalapenos and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until tender, stirring often.

Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring.

Add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring and breaking up beef with oven.

To Dutch oven, add beans, barbecue sauce and coffee. Stir to combine.

Heat to a boil on high and then reduce to a simmer. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened and beef is cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Stir in mustard. Season with salt and pepper.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

Reading Uncertainly? ‘And Yet . . . ‘ by Christopher Hitchens

Here is yet another compendium of literate, acerbic, often hilarious, and thoroughly opinionated essays from Christopher Hitchens, the UK-expatriate who moved to Washington for freedom from monarchy and amusement.

He died in 2011 at the youthful age of 62 but these essays will long outlive him.

He dissects both people (Che Guevara, Edward Kennedy, George Orwell, Barack Obama, Gertrude Bell, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ian Fleming, Edmund Wilson, and more) and places (Ohio, the Parthenon, Armenia, London, the South, and especially Washington).

His views and ideas always poke fingers into your mind.

Consider: (1) Turkey is “an army that has a country.” (2) “We live in a culture that’s saturated with the cult of personality and with attention to private life.” (3) “ . . . the great soap opera of our existence . . . .” (4) Leaders are “as much the prisoners of events as the masters of them.”

No holiday is exempt from his derision. Twice he lectures us against the celebration of Christmas. His favorite Protestant fundamentalist (Hitchens himself is an outspoken atheist) is Oliver Cromwell, who “banned the celebration of Christmas altogether.”

Hitchens also skewers himself, with three riotous chapters about his attempt toward self-improvement, readily acknowledging his three major flaws: smoking, drinking and gorging on fat food.

Yet he often sheds some new insight. He compliments Barack Obama’s rare qualities as, “…an apparently very deep internal equanimity, and an ability to employ irony at his own expense.”

Even while seeming certain, he acknowledges this, “… age of uncertainty which has now definitively become our age. It seems that there are no rules, golden or otherwise, even natural or otherwise, by which we can define our place in the universe or the cosmos.”

Do read these challenging essays, plus, if you are ambitious, try two of his earlier works, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, and god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. That is correct, the word “god” is deliberately not capitalized.

Hitchen’s conclusion: “ …  internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.”

Editor’s Note: And Yet . . .’ by Christopher Hitchens was published by Simon & Schuster, New York in 2015.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, Conn., he has recently moved to Peabody, Mass.
Felix now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there.
For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry and, while living in Lyme, served as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee.
His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

A la Carte: A Special Soup for Summer … Asparagus, of Course!

Lee White

I had promised to send you my friend Stacie’s flan recipe, but time, as often, got away from me last week. 

Perhaps I was dreaming about a  book I just finished reading, “We Begin at the End,” a sort-of growing up and murder mystery recommended by my good buddy, Rick Koster of The Day. Or maybe I was thinking about a new novel I am reading now, “The Plot,” written by an author whose books I have loved.

This one is a novel inside a novel written by an author who is writing a novel. I even went out for a late lunch/early dinner with friend Ginger Smyle.  After our meal, we got bought  ice cream in Mystic, and sat on a bench beside the Mystic River, pretending we were tourists.

But most of all, I am dreaming about vegetables, for my CSA begins in a couple of weeks.

There weren’t be many veggies ready for my weekly trip to Stone Acres in Stonington, so I drove to Trader Joe’s and bought a few packages of their frozen vegetables (almost as good as the ones we will get at the farm markets by mid-July).

And in the supermarket I bought what is still available or somewhat is local: asparagus.

I will cook as much asparagus as I can, because it will not be fairly local until next spring. And remember, those skinny stalks are not as delicious as the fat ones. Break the bottom at the point where it wants to, then use a potato peeler up to about an inch of the “flower.”

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed, bottom broken and peeled about an inch from top “flower”
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
salt
freshly ground white pepper (black if you don’t have white)
½ cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional*

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green from the asparagus tips; drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve.

Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I skim the water into the mixture.) Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley Food Mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color—to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold.

If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

*The soup does not need cream but it is delicious. Another way to use the cream is to swirl a little cream into each bowl before adding the asparagus tips.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A View from My Porch: Epic Poems of Folk and Rock Part 3 — The Rock and Roll War

Editor’s Note: This is the third column by Tom Gotowka under the heading, ‘Epic Poems of Folk and Rock.’ Find Part I  at this link and Part II at this one.

I continue the “epic poems” theme in this essay, but shift to the epic works of conflict; focusing on the rock and roll genre, as influenced by the Vietnam War.

In review, Part 1 presented several works of folk music that, I felt, were the natural successors of the epic poems of antiquity. In Part 2, I considered how America became entangled in the Vietnam War, as a prerequisite for this review of the music of that war.

Epics of the Vietnam War Era:

As noted last time, Stars and Stripes” called Vietnam “the first rock and roll war”. I present, in the following, some of the music that supports that contention. I provide some context for each song, and include a sample of the lyrics, trying to ensure that the sample still conveys the original message.

Some of the lyrics are a little gritty, and the context may be troubling, but they’re included to fully illustrate the era, not to offend the reader. So, here’s the war in six songs.

“Fortunate Son”: Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

Photograph of Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968). L-R: Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook, and John Fogerty.

When John Fogerty wrote the song, draft deferments were undoubtedly on every teenaged American boy’s mind. His lyrics support the men who served in Vietnam, but condemn the “children of privilege” (i.e., “millionaire’s son”), who used that privilege to “dodge” the draft.

Pulitzer Prize winning Vietnam War correspondent, David Halberstam, reported that the ways in which draft-age men received deferments favored those who were wealthier and more educated. For example, able both to remain in college full-time, and then pursue advanced degrees after graduation; and thus, qualifying for student deferments. 

In addition, those same young men could obtain deferments for physical problems, even untreated bone spurs, more easily than could poor or working-class men; and, “rather than trying to convince a draft board that they were physically unable to serve in the military, they could just get a note from their family doctors”. 

“Some folks are born, made to wave the flag;
they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”,
they point the cannon at you, Lord!
Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand;
Lord, don’t they help themselves?
But when the taxman comes to the door,
the house looks like a rummage sale.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me;
I ain’t no millionaire’s son.
I ain’t no fortunate one”.

“Feel Like I’m Fixing’ To Die Rag”: Country Joe McDonald ​(1965)

In this dark parody of the war, Country Joe (and the Fish) demonstrate the hopelessness that many Americans felt toward the War. The artist touches on, albeit, sarcastically, several important war themes in the full seven verses: the government notion that going to war was in the country’s best economic interest; and, consequently, the support from Wall Street, weapons manufacturers, and an “overly aggressive” Pentagon. 

The song also has the distinction of having been performed twice at Woodstock, and I have corroboration from a very reliable eye witness, my wife, Christina, who was present at those “3 Days of Peace & Music” in the Catskills, in 1969.

“Well, come on all of you big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He’s got himself in a terrible jam, way down yonder in Vietnam.
So put down your books, and pick up a gun,
we’re going to have a whole lot of fun.
And come on mothers throughout this land, pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on pops, don’t hesitate, send them off before it’s too late.
And then, it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.
Next stop is Vietnam!
And it’s five, six, seven,
open up the pearly gates.
Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we’re all going to die.”

“Revolution”: The Beatles (1968)

Trade ad for Beatles’ 1964 Grammys. Public Domain.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song to demonstrate their strong objection to the increasingly violent protests that had occurred in response to the war.

To illustrate, in April, 1965, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), held its first national protest march in Washington, DC. Co-sponsored by Women’s Strike for Peace, 25,000 attended.  After this peaceful protest march, SDS grew increasingly militant, and their tactics then included the occupation of college administration buildings on campuses across the country. The 1968 violence at Columbia University is covered in “The Strawberry Statement”, by James Kunen (both book and movie).

On Oct. 21, 1967, over 100,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial; and later that same night, over 35,000 of the group marched on to the Pentagon for a second rally, where they sparked a violent confrontation with the soldiers and U.S. Marshals protecting the Pentagon complex. Nearly 700 demonstrators were arrested. 

Notably, the demonstrations produced the famous “flower power” photograph of a protester placing a flower in a paratrooper’s M14 rifle barrel. 

On March 17, 1968, 10,000 protesters demonstrated in Trafalgar Square against American action and British support in Vietnam. This was followed by 8,000 protesters marching to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square; where a fierce battle with riot police and mounted officers ensued.

In August 1968, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, bore witness to a series of riots, involving tens of thousands of Vietnam War protesters, both during and before the convention. Eight protest leaders were tried on charges of criminal conspiracy and incitement to riot. 

The eight eventually became the “Chicago Seven”, after convictions were overturned because of procedural errors and Judge Hoffman’s “overt hostility to the defendants”.

Tragically, on May 4, 1970, just four days after President Nixon announced the escalation of the war into Cambodia, four students at Kent State were shot by National Guardsmen during a protest.

“You say you want a revolution.
Well, we all want to change the world.

You say you got a real solution.
Well, we’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution.
Well, we’re all doing what we can; but, 

if you want money for people with minds that hate;
all I can tell you is, brother, you have to wait.
When you talk about destruction,
don’t you know that you can count me out?
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao;
you aren’t going to make it with anyone, anyhow.”

“Ballad of the Green Berets”: Barry Sadler (1965)

The United States Army Special Forces, the “Green Berets”, are the Army’s special operations group, whose mission extends well beyond conventional warfare. 

In May 2004, a plaque was dedicated at Fort Campbell, honoring the 695 Green Berets killed in action, and the 79 missing in action during Vietnam.  Of the MIA, only three soldiers have been recovered. 

“Ballad” is a patriotic tribute to our soldiers in Special Forces, and one of the few popular songs of the Vietnam War era that portrays the military in a positive manner. 

Sadler served as a medic with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and his song, written to boost morale among our troops in Vietnam, also served as the inspiration for the John Wayne movie, “The Green Berets”.

“Fighting soldiers from the sky, fearless men who jump and die.
Men who mean just what they say; the brave men of the Green Beret.
Silver wings upon their chest; these are men, America’s best.
One hundred men we’ll test today, but only three win the Green Beret.
Trained to live off nature’s land; trained in combat, hand-to-hand.
Men who fight by night and day, courage peak from the Green Beret.”

“I Ain’t Marching Anymore”: Phil Ochs (1965)

Ochs was the “iron man” of “protest” singers; and, in his career, performed, as a “regular” at anti-war, civil rights, organized labor, and women’s rights events. 

I believe that this is his best; or at least his best- known anti-Vietnam War song; and it became an “anthem” at rallies and protests. 

The song is really a treatise on the entirety of American conflict, and he casts himself as a tired soldier, who has fought in each American war, beginning with the battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. And on through both world wars.

He performed the song in August 1968, during the violent protests outside the Chicago Democratic National Convention, and, it is claimed, inspired hundreds of young men to burn their draft cards (really). He later described it as the highlight of his career.

“Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans,
at the end of the early British wars;
the young land started growing, and
the young blood started flowing,
but, I ain’t marching anymore.

I’ve killed my share of Indians, in a thousand different fights.
I was there at the Little Big Horn;
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying;
but, I ain’t marching anymore.

Chorus: It’s always the old who lead us to war;
it’s always the young to fall.
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun.
Tell me, is it worth it all?

I stole California from the Mexican land,
and fought in the bloody Civil War.
I even killed my brothers, and so many others;
but, I ain’t marching anymore.

I marched to the battles of the German trench,
in a war that was bound to end all wars. 

I must have killed a million men, and now they want me back again;
but, I ain’t marching anymore.

I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies, and
set off the mighty mushroom roar.
I saw the cities burning, and 

I knew that I was learning;
that I ain’t marching anymore

Call it peace or call it treason,
call it love or call it reason;
but I ain’t marching anymore.”

“Born in the USA”: Bruce Springsteen (1984)

Bruce Springsteen performing at Roskilde Festival 2012. Photo credit: Bill Ebbesen. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I present “Born” as the anchor of the song list because Springsteen’s focus is on America’s poor treatment of returning Vietnam War veterans. The lyrics are an account of the disrespect those veterans faced on their return home to a society that was largely opposed to the war. 

This song may be one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock and roll history. Since its release, the song’s chorus has been omnipresent at political rallies; and heard as a celebration of American life. The anti–war message is rooted in the verses, and may have been lost early on, because the song was released about a decade after the war ended.

The song is consistent with what I noted last time in “Working-Class War”, by Christian Appy; who observed that the typical U.S. soldier in Vietnam was from a poor or working-class family; a large portion were from the inner cities and factory towns. 

In the first verse, Springsteen introduced the story of a young man, born into a failing American town, who was apparently abused by his family. In some trouble, he is ordered by the courts to enlist rather than serve time. His brother, or close friend, is killed in action. 

He returns home after the war, can’t find a job, and is treated with indifference by the V.A. The final verse describes his progression into despair.

“Born down in a dead man’s town; the first kick I took was when I hit the ground.
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much,
until you spend half your life just covering up.
Got in a little hometown jam; so, they put a rifle in my hand.
Sent me off to a foreign land; to go and kill the yellow man.
I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fighting off the Viet Cong.
They’re still there, he’s all gone.
I came back home to the refinery; hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”.
I went down to see my V.A. man; he said “Son, what don’t you understand”?
In the shadow of the penitentiary; out by the gas fires of the refinery.
Nowhere to run, and nowhere to go.”

Author’s Notes:

Unlike Bruce Springsteen, I am not certain whether the courts can, or ever did, require enlistment in lieu of serving time for a criminal infraction.  If so, I can’t imagine that these individuals would be considered high value recruits. A large portion of the opposition to the war was the onus of the draft. I was not able to find reliable data on the portion of draftees, versus voluntary enlistees, in Vietnam, as opposed to prior, or subsequent (e.g., Afghanistan) wars.

I only included works that I could directly attribute to the writer’s reaction to the war. Clearly, there was a wealth of additional music that was popular at the time and was probably listened to regularly by soldiers in Vietnam.   For example, I included nothing by the Rolling Stones; and did not consider “We Gotta Get out of this Place”, by the British group, The Animals, although the song has been part of the sound tracks of many productions about the war. 

If you want to explore a very realistic production, I recommend “Hamburger Hill”, which is a highly accurate 1987 movie about the 1969 assault by the Army’s “Screaming Eagles” Battalion on a well-fortified enemy mountain position. The editors dramatically incorporated the music of the day into their soundtrack.

I was a “fortunate one” — the United States Navy and the military provided financial support and enabled deferments for over 10 years of advanced education. I had agreed, up front, to repay that support in service, which I’ve previously said was at a Naval Hospital.

My next “View” will be of the remarkable changes that have occurred in CT’s hospital and healthcare landscape I think that hospital advertisements on local newscasts now exceed those for replacement windows. 

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

Gardening Tips for May from ‘The English Lady’: A Feast of Color Highlights the Merry Month of May

May brings ‘darling buds’ and ‘blooms on bulbs and trees.’“ 

OLD LYME — The darling buds of May” is such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months, bloom on bulbs and trees and the fresh foliage on trees winking in the sun. 

By now, you have probably removed most of the winter debris, pruned broken branches and re-edged borders. Do not however, apply that spring layer of composted manure as the soil needs to warm up to 60 degrees for the soil organisms to accept the bacteria of the manure in order to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. 

When shopping for garden supplies, pick up a soil thermometer to check soil temperature and I am sure the right temperature will be reached in about two to three weeks. 

I am seeing our old nemesis, weeds springing up everywhere.  Pull them up by hand and try to get weeds complete with roots.  I say by hand, as using a tool breaks up the weeds, the result being hundreds more weeds from the broken pieces. 

Follow on the weeding with the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics; this product will keep weeds away for quite a few weeks.   

When the soil warms to 60 degrees, apply composted manure around daffodils and other spring bulbs so that soil organisms will produce nutrients to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom. Also do not cut down the daffodil foliage as the nutrition from the foliage goes into the bulb for bloom next spring. 

In a few weeks apply composted manure and a light layer of fine bark mulch on all maintained areas of the garden now, then again in July and before putting the garden to bed in October.  The manure and mulch will begin to build the humus component.  

Rhododendrons create a blaze of color.

A note on mulch  – only use the natural brown mulch of natural non-colored wood; do not use the colored mulches, which contain chemicals, and do not use rubber mulch. 

A special word of caution on cocoa mulch. This product is highly toxic to dogs and cats — it is manufactured by Hershey and sold in many large garden centers.

It is made from the residue of chocolate products and others ingredients and contains a lethal ingredient that has resulted in the reported deaths of a number of cats and dogs that are attracted by the chocolate odor. It contains Theobromine, which is a Xanthine compound similar to the effects of caffeine and theophyliline. The symptoms for the animals are seizures and death within hours.   

I wrote about the carbon component in my April tips but wanted to emphasize its importance by stating it again. 

All living things including us are all carbon-based creatures. Humus brings carbon from the air into the soil.

Humus acts like a sponge and holds 90 percent of its weight in water. Because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus bringing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other important elements to the plant, preventing these nutrients from washing away, acting like nature’s slow-release fertilizer.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plants to root in this environment with better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. Humus also helps to filter toxic chemicals from soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

I recommend that you go online to Scientific American.com/article/Weed-Whacking Herbicide to check out the dangers of Round-Up. This is the most dangerous herbicide not only because of glyphosate, which is on the list by the World Health Organization as a chelating agent that causes cancer, but also because of the inert ingredients.

I ask that you are not swayed by the word ‘inert’ as the ingredients are anything but inert and those ingredients combined with Glyphosate are deadly to human cells. 

A yellow burst of color is offered by Forsythia in May.

Forsythia is in bloom with lovely fresh yellow blossoms.  If the bloom on your shrub is not as prolific as in previous years, prune out the old sparse wood after bloom ends.  

A favorite native tree is the Serviceberry tree, with its creamy panicle blooms, followed by small green leaves and within weeks, red fruit, and a delicious menu for our feathered friends. Before the birds eat all the fruit, pick some to make a delicious jelly for your morning toast.  

Here in my town of Old Lyme, the Magnolias, Cherries and Eastern Redbud are vying with one another to show their finery together with the graceful Dogwoods. Following the recent rains many of these trees are blooming at the same time or within a few weeks of one another. Their bloom will soon be over then we can look forward to rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel into June. 

The graceful dogwood can be enjoyed in many locations this month.

 

The Carlesii Viburnum (also known as Korean Spice) is showing pink buds, opening to white flowers and their delightful fragrance fills the air outside my kitchen door. 

Covering the barn wall and scrambling up to the barn roof is my climbing hydrangea – bright green leaves emerging with hundreds of buds indicating that this beautiful climber will be laden with blossoms in summer. 

Tulips, creeping phlox, forget-me-nots, primroses and candytuft are bringing much-needed color to borders and rock gardens. 

May borders are often a delight to behold.

If you have not had time yet, for another week or two you can still prune your roses. Pull back the old mulch from around the base of the roses and in two weeks apply manure about six inches from the trunk of the plant. Then a week later reapply a layer of the brown natural mulch on top of the composted manure.

As well as building the humus component, these layers keep the roots cool, keep weeds at bay and help retain moisture. Do not mulch right up against the base of any plants as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants. 

Beware of fungi that look like weird mushrooms in your mulch; this is a sign of Artillery fungus and can stick and invade the walls of your home and cause problems.  If you notice this fungus, you will need to remove all the mulch and get it off your property. 

Apply lime and manure around the lilacs, they like sweeter alkaline soil, thus the lime. By now, you may have already applied lime to the grass, which also enjoys sweeter soil and organic grub control to kill the Japanese beetle larvae – less food for moles. 

If you are making an organic vegetable garden this year, a garden measuring 16 ft. x 24 ft. can feed a family of four for a year, but keep the size within your needs and capability. Don’t work the soil if it is too wet or too dry.  

Double-digging is the best way to go; it takes time and effort but its well worth it – dig down about one foot and remove the top soil, put to one side, then dig down and loosen the next six inches of soil and add about three inches of composted manure then put back the top soil and add another three to four inches of manure.  

Do not rototill, as this will destroy soil structure. The gently loosened, aerated, fertile soil will give an excellent yield of fruits and vegetables in the garden. 

These vegetable beds are a work in progress.

I prefer 6 ft. x 4 ft. beds rather than rows; beds produce a larger yield of crops. In addition, beds make for ease of weeding and harvesting by having narrow, compacted soil or grass paths (having removed lawn from the area) in-between the beds. 

The vegetable garden should be situated on the south or southwest side of the property for maximum sun exposure. 

Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible by hand, before you even begin digging.  

You need a water source close by as vegetables require lots of water, particularly annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics which means they are (mostly water). 

Rotate crops, by that I mean, do not plant the same vegetables in the same place as the previous year.  With this method you are preventing any soil-borne diseases from occurring.     

In the loosened soil, plant the vegetables plants so that they are touching, this forms a natural canopy, shading out weeds and helps retain moisture. 

I prefer to mulch the vegetable garden with composted manure, the reason being that manure, as mulch, does not cap. Capping is when mulch forms a crust, which does not allow water or air to penetrate to the roots of the plants.

Fence in the vegetable garden with a tall fence to keep animals out. At the base of the fence install eight inches of fine mesh chicken wire above ground and eight inches below ground to keep out the digging and burrowing animals. 

Organic insect control:

Insects do not like fragrance so plant fragrant plants like marigolds, nasturtium, lavender, nepeta and honeysuckle and roses to name a few.  

Encourage lacewings, which feed on aphids by planting marigolds and sunflowers,

Attract ground beetles by laying a log or a rock on the earth, under which the beetles can hide. These useful insects are nocturnal and eat slug and snail eggs, cabbage maggots, cutworms and even climb trees to feed on armyworms and tent caterpillars.  

Grass is now a vibrant shade of green, therefore when mowing, keep the blades of grass at about three inches; the taller blades attracts sunlight, promoting a healthier lawn. The taller blades also shade out weeds and help to retain moisture in the grass.   

When mowing, leave grass clippings on the lawn, the clippings are a natural source of nitrogen. If you have clover in the grass, clover is an added benefit as clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil providing additional nutrients for plant growth.

After flowering is over, prune flowering shrubs by 25 percent – do this task immediately before new buds set for next year. 

On a rainy day go shopping for any garden supplies that may be needed, then when the weather is dry you can be outdoors doing what you love and not indoors shopping. Buy good hoses — cheap ones will bend and crack.  

Peonies are becoming increasingly popular and are often, “a sight to behold.”

Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds. I have a 30 ft. long stand of Peonies in my field. The Peonies have been in the ground for over 40 years and are a sight to behold when in bloom. I give them lots of loving care with a light dressing of aged manure in early May. In a few weeks, I will pinch off the side buds while they are still small, leaving the terminal flower bud on each stalk, which will develop into a large main bloom.

Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water during the season, also applying manure and mulch around the base. If you have blue Hydrangeas and want a deeper color of blue, add some peat around the base of the plant — the acidity in the peat produces the color.   

If you need to prune a Hydrangea, which has become too large, then prune it immediately after flowering, in early September by about one third of the old wood and the weakest shoots. Do not wait, as Hydrangeas begin to develop bloom buds for next year later in September. 

If you wait to prune, you will not have bloom for next year. 

Blue hydrangeas start to develop their blooms for the following year in September of the current year. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

My maternal grandmother’s favorite plant, the Lily of the Valley, soon will bloom tucked under the boxwood hedge on the north east side of the farmhouse near the front door. I love the delicate white flowers and fresh unique fragrance.  

When the lilacs have finished blooming, pinch off the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel and rhododendrons in late June to ensure good blossoms next year. 

In mid-May apply composted manure, a light application of peat and fine bark mulch around all evergreens and rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas; these plants are shallow-rooted and the mulch will keep the roots nourished, protected, warm and moist. 

Some annual seeds that may be planted outside in mid May are: Calendula, Coreopsis, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nicotiana and Zinnia.  

If you purchase annuals, on Mother’s Day weekend, place them in a sheltered spot on the south side of your home. Plant them no earlier than Memorial weekend as we can still get a late frost. 

Tuberous-rooted begonias, caladiums, cannas and elephant ears can be moved from porch or cold frame to a part shade area as the weather becomes warmer and there is no sign of frost in the forecast.   

If you staked trees, when they were planted last year, cut the stakes off at ground level. Do not pull them out of the roots as you could tear and therefore damage the root system.

Aphid tip: squish a few in your hand; dead aphids release a chemical that causes other aphids to drop off the plants. 

Another ants and aphids tip – if you drink mint tea, sprinkle an y left-over tea on the bugs, as they do not like the smell of mint.  

Mint spreads vigorously if left to its own devices so always plant this herb in a container. Photo by Eleanor Chen on Unsplash.

A word of caution on mint – plant mint only in containers, mint is tremendously invasive and can take over your garden.

When planting annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees, shrubs or evergreen, keep them watered but not drowned.   

Houseplants can be moved outdoors for their summer sojourn at the end of May.  However, do not put your African Violets outdoors as they will burn, but rather move them to a porch that is covered and shaded, or keep them indoors in a window that does not receive direct rays from the sun.

Wait until the soil warms up at the end of May to set out Dahlia tubers.  

Roses are not the troublesome creatures you have been led to believe. I prefer to plant David Austin roses; these shrub roses are repeat bloomers with lovely fragrances. Roses need at least four hours of sun per day, good air circulation, and excellent drainage. 

During their growing period from the beginning of June to mid August; add a little extra composted manure each month; it may be applied over the mulch.  Stop adding the manure in August so that the roses can go into a slow dormancy. 

Roses like the same growing conditions as Clematis and planted together in companionship planting, they flourish well together, with feet in the shade and head in the sun. Before you top up the soil around the roses, add water and check if the soil drains, roses need good drainage. Deep watering is recommended at least once a week. 

Plenty of stuff to keep you hopping, folks, and remember to keep your eye out for any pest trouble and when you spot it get on the ball immediately to avoid further problems. Carefully discard all herbicides and pesticides; these poisons have the same effect on your health as second-hand smoke.  

Your garden offers an anchor for peace and quiet enjoyment.  Enjoy the warmth, the gentle breeze, the earth’s fragrance and bloom and please remember to breathe. 

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.

A la Carte: These Chicken Lettuce Wraps (After PF Chang’s) Make Perennially Popular Hors D’Oeuvres

Lee White

I can’t remember a more beautiful couple of weeks in May.

Years ago my husband and I would charter a sailboat in the Caribbean for a week in the winter. The mornings were cool in the morning, warm and cloudless in the afternoons and out of nowhere a cloudburst would appear for just 15 minutes. After that it was clear and sunny for a few hours and cooled down bedtime.

This past weekend’s weather was similar but even better since I was able to spend time with 30 friends I had not seen in almost two years, as we began our boules summer that didn’t happen in 2020.

(Boules, by the way, is sort of like bocce, but the balls are smaller-than-bocce balls, stainless steel and must be played on a gravel or dirt court, since the tiny wooden ball we tried to hit would be invisible on a grass lawn.) 

The first 2021 party was in Old Lyme, and the food was outrageously good—beginning with escargots in a ramekin lidded by a thin cracker that shattered, almost like the top of the burned sugar on top of crème brulée.

Dinner was lamb chops, two kinds of meatballs, couscous and ratatouille, then a cheese course and salad and a flan, or crème caramel, which made us moan.

Could most of us ever make a feast like this for 40 people? I sure could not.

But one of our hors d’oeuvre, which we ate as we played, we could.

Our host, Tim Boyd, said he got the recipe online from PF Chang’s restaurant. And the dessert was a flan made by Stacie Boyd — she says she will give me the recipe soon. I will send it to you next week.


PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Yield: serves 4 (at least three for each; I might triple the recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced small
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon Sriracha (optional, but it should be in everyone’s pantry)
1 8-ounce can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head of butter lettuce (romaine would be fine)

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks; drain excess fat.

Stir in garlic, onions, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha until onions have become translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in chestnuts and green onions until tender, 1 to 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, spoon large tablespoon of chicken mixture into center of lettuce leaf, taco-style.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: Surprise! Creamy Cauliflower Rice with Shrimp is a Winning Combo

Lee White

I used to write about the surprises I often find in my garage freezer. I used to call it Lee’s Freezer Diary. The truth is that if I kept a diary, perhaps there wouldn’t be surprises, since the freezer often looked like Fibber McGee’s closet.

(For those younger-than-me readers, it was a radio show in the 50s and maybe in early television in the 60s. Fairly often, Fibber’s wife, Molly, would try to get something out of the closet and got nearly run down by the treasurers Fibber hoarded.)

When I moved from Old Lyme to a condo in Groton, I swore I wouldn’t go to all the food sales and buy way more than I’d need for the next two years and the overloaded freezer. I am better than I used to be, but a few times a year I still hoe it out. And the surprises are often real treasures: one-pound packages of shrimp, just a little icy, but ready to cook after two hours of thawing and drying the babies of excess water. 

A couple of weeks ago I got my Real Simple magazine. The food recipes are pretty simple and really easy to make. This shrimp dish is a real keeper and, in two weeks, I have made it twice. You do know that most of the shrimp we get has already been frozen, so feel free to buy lots when it is on sale and keep it frozen until you use it. 

Creamy Cauliflower Rice with Shrimp

From Real Simple, May, 2021, page 125

Yield: serves 4 (for me, it might serve 4, and it will be find nuked the second meal

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, tails removed
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced (2 cups)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 12-ounce package fresh riced cauliflower (4 cups)
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 ounces fresh baby spinach (2 packed cups)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (about ¾ cup) plus more for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add shrimp and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until firm and pink, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add wine, cook, stirring constantly, until wine is fully absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in cauliflower and broth; cook, stirring often, until broth is fully absorbed, about 3 minutes.

Stir in spinach, cream and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.

Add cheese; cook, stirring constantly, until melted, about 1 minute.

Remove heat and stir in cooked shrimp. Serve immediately with more cheese, if desired.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

Reading Uncertainly? One Old Man Reads Another — Kloman Reviews Angell’s Latest

What can I say? One old man reading another!

Roger Angell, the prolific editor and author from the pages of The New Yorker, begins by calling his latest book “a dog’s breakfast, because that’s what this book is. A mélange, a grab bag, a plate of hors d’oeuvres, a teenager’s closet, a bit of everything. A dog’s breakfast.”

Letters, essays from the magazine, the odd haiku, baseball memories – Angell paints an engaging “portrait of my brain at ninety-four.” And, best of all, he repeats a few of the immortal rhymed Christmas couplets started by Frank Sullivan in 1932 and that he continued from 1976 to 2012.

These annual odes to the known and the unknown inspired me to try my hand at a “Greetings, Friends” in 1954 for the Daily Princetonian and again in 1956 for my shipmates on the U.S.S. Zelima, a Navy refrigerator ship moored in Yokosuka, Japan, for the holidays. They were my last Christmas chanteys, deferring to far better poets.

And Angell gives us the perfect conclusion: his report on the fan-less Oriole-White Sox baseball game in Baltimore in April 2015: two teams playing at the soundless Camden Yards in the aftermath of that city’s disruptions.

Memorable names appear on almost every page: his step-father, E. B. (Andy) White, Harold Ross, John Updike, John McPhee, Saul Steinberg, Fiorello La Guardia, James Thurber, Chas. Addams, William Steig, Peter Arno, John Hersey, Vladimir Nabokov, all of whose stories, ideas, and cartoons remain engraved in our memories (at least if you are old enough!)

On aging: To his son on his birthday – “One always tries to weigh the meaning of these ten-year chunks, and the only answer is mortality.” Or: “the rule about age is never to think about it.”

On writing:  “Writing is a two-way process and the hard part isn’t just getting in touch with oneself but keeping in touch with that reader out there, whoever he or she is, on whom all this thought and art and maybe genius will devolve.”

On glee:  “ . . . us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness.”

On reference books: Angell still uses the Eleventh edition (1911) of the Encyclopedia Britannica, while I, some 12 years his junior, refer almost monthly to the Thirteenth.

Why is it that we derive so much pleasure from something written by an author near our own age? I do recall from a few years ago the advice to read a book when you are the same age as when the author wrote it. In this case, sound counsel!

This Old Man is a proper memory stimulant, just when I need it! I’m 88 … on to 94!

Editor’s Note: ‘This Old Man’ by Roger Angell is published by Doubleday, New York 2015.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, Conn., he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings.
His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

A View From My Porch: Epic Poems of Folk and Rock Part 2 

In my previous essay, I discussed a few contemporary works of folk music, that, in my opinion, are natural successors to the epic poems of antiquity. I continue the “epic poems” theme in this essay, but shift to the epic works of conflict; focusing on the rock and roll genre, as influenced by the Vietnam War, which remains in my memory as a chaotic and tragic period of American foreign policy history. 

However, discussions regarding ending the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest war, are again underway; and so, it may be a good time to revisit how we ended what will, consequently, become “America’s Second Longest War”. 

Returning to the original theme, songs that were inspired by past conflicts include “Yankee Doodle” (mid-1700s); “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” (1863); “Over There” (1917); “We’ll Meet Again” (1939); and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (1941).

In advance of reviewing the songbook of the Vietnam War, I provide, in the following, an overview of how the United States became entangled in Vietnam. 

However, my goal is to present the War at the “boots on the ground” level; i.e., from the perspective of the “grunts and jarheads”. Note that these are not insulting terms. In Vietnam, ‘grunts’ were U.S. Army and Marine Corps infantrymen, or foot soldiers. ‘Jarheads’, on the other hand, are USMC personnel of any rank; and the term is an homage to the high and tight haircuts worn by Marines.

I don’t feel that you can appreciate the music without understanding the war.

Vietnam: The War formerly known as “America’s Longest” (1954 to 1975)

The war in Vietnam was extraordinarily unpopular with Americans. There was no “Pearl Harbor” or “Nine-Eleven” at its beginning; and most Americans probably had only limited knowledge of that part of Asia. Vietnam was the first truly televised war. Camera crews were on-site almost continually; and journalists often recorded their coverage right in the field. Thus, Americans had a very realistic view of the devastation and violence of the War. 

The Threat of Falling Dominoes:

This map shows the partition of French Indochina after partition under the 1954 Geneva Conference. This file by SnowFire is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 license.

After armed forces led by communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, defeated French colonial forces in 1954, and ended nearly 75 years of French colonial rule, world and regional leaders passed the Geneva Accords, which divided Vietnam into the communist North and a more democratic South. 

President Eisenhower warned that the situation in Vietnam was like, “a falling domino, whose loss would lead to rapid and widespread communist victories in neighboring countries.”

Ho Chi Minh then sought to unify the two Vietnams under his communist regime; and precipitated the conflict that placed North Vietnam, with its Viet Cong allies in the South, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. 

The United States provided funding, armaments, and training to South Vietnam’s government and its military. Unfortunately, tensions rapidly escalated into widespread armed conflict, and President Kennedy expanded our military aid and committed to deploy soldiers to the region.

In his 1961 inaugural address, Kennedy had stated his belief that “U.S. security may be lost piece to piece, country by country, as the result of the domino effect”.

After Kennedy’s death in 1963, his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, continued down the same path, and further increased troop deployments. 

“Domino” was then used by successive administrations to justify continued escalation of our involvement in Vietnam. Note that Congress never declared war, and never formally gave the President the authority to escalate our presence in Vietnam until early 1964; and only after the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident”, during which the North Vietnamese fired on two American ships in international waters. 

At the same time, the Soviet Union and China were pouring weapons and supplies into the North; and providing combat troops for North Vietnam’s campaign against the South. 

By 1969, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam, and the bulging costs and casualties of the war finally proved too much for Americans to endure, and a poorly-conceived peace agreement was negotiated by the Nixon Administration’s national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, in 1972.

The Paris Peace Accords resulted in the withdrawal of all U.S. and allied forces, the release of Americans who were prisoners of war, and a very loose cease fire, which was almost immediately violated.

The end of the Vietnam War actually occurred on April 30, 1975, after the Saigon government surrendered to the North. Over the next 12 months, North and South were formally united under the control of North Vietnam’s communist government, becoming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Vietnam has estimated that nearly 2 million civilians (i.e., both North and South) perished; and over a million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters were killed. The U.S. military estimates that nearly 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war.

The American Soldier in Vietnam:

Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military drafted 2.2 million American men from an eligible pool of about 27 million. Historian, Christian Appy, observes, in “Working-Class War”, that the average U.S. soldier was 19-years-old, and from a poor or working-class family, and had not attended college.

A large portion of U.S. troops were African-American men from the inner cities, boys from farming communities, and the sons of immigrants from factory towns. Many of these men enlisted or were drafted right out of high school. 

These young soldiers found themselves in a land of intense heat and humidity, flooded fields, and dense jungles. It could rain nonstop for days at a time during monsoon season. 

They were not welcomed by the local farmers and villagers, but viewed with distrust or hostility. To the Vietnamese, this was the “Resistance War Against America”. 

The fighting conditions in Vietnam were “dreadful” and strained our military tacticians. Unlike past conflicts, Vietnam combat was not “conventional”; rather, it was guerrilla warfare; and the jungles made this form of attack very effective. Tactics included ambushes, sabotage, “hit-and-run” raids on our supply operations, and booby traps. Some civilians, including women and children, actively assisted the Viet Cong guerillas.

A US “tunnel rat” soldier prepares to enter a Viet Cong tunnel. Public domain.

An additional problem was the extensive underground system of tunnels, which was used by the Viet Cong; and “tunnel rat” became an unofficial specialty for those who cleared and destroyed enemy tunnel complexes.

The final Vietnam War tally was 58,148 killed and 75,000 severely disabled. Of those killed, nearly two-thirds were younger than 21-years-old; and the Marines accounted for a third of all American casualties.

Many of our servicemen were exposed to the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange; and hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans have died from their exposure to dioxin, the deadly toxin in Agent Orange. Dioxin can cause multiple cancers, peripheral neuropathy, and has also been linked to an elevated risk for Parkinson’s Disease. 

Epics of the Vietnam War Era:

“Stars and Stripes”, the daily independent news source for the military, named Vietnam “the first rock and roll war”. It was the Sixties, these were young men, and the songbook was immense. 

In the next essay, I will review a series of songs from that era that provide some insight into how many Americans responded to the War and expressed their opposition. 

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Author’s Notes: On April 25, 2021 the New York Times reported 571,753 COVID deaths in the United States; nearly a ten-fold increase over our Vietnam War combat deaths. I recall how intense our response was to Vietnam casualty reports, which were eventually updated almost daily on the then still-trusted evening news. I don’t believe that we’ve ever mourned COVID deaths with that same passion.

Anti-Vietnam War protests increased remarkably in the United States through the 1960s, and the draft became the focus of organized resistance. Despite our technological advantages, larger forces, and better weapons, the Viet Cong were able to hold us off and prevent the United States from achieving any sort of victory in Vietnam from winning.

The public was never really in support of the war.

Tragically, our returning soldiers were often treated with contempt. These servicemen usually did a one-year tour of duty. Men came back from Vietnam by themselves rather than with their units; and, as one soldier shipped out, another returned home.

I served during the Vietnam War era, but the entirety of my active duty was at the Naval Hospital at NAS Pax River, MD. My patients were primarily Naval Aviators, and their ground or flight deck support, returning from or going to the war zone.

At the very least, in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., inscribed with the names of 57,939 members of U.S. armed forces, who had died or were missing as a result of the war.

My close childhood friend was killed in action, and his name, Gary John Shea, is engraved on Panel 61E Line 2 of the Memorial. I have seen the engraving.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

A la Carte: Linguini with Rhubarb and Parmesan is a Perfect Combo, Who Knew?

Lee White

I am wild about rhubarb. 

I had wonderful friends who had an enormous rhubarb patch. When they were younger, they would bring arms full of the ruby and green fruit to me so I could make strawberry-rhubarb pies and puddings. (Yes, I know, rhubarb is a vegetable, just as tomatoes are a fruit, but we are free to call them whatever we like!)

They also showed me how to “stew” rhubarb and use it as a sauce with pork chops, chicken and fish. As they got older, and, although they continued to drive, had a problem getting up the driveway and into our somewhat steep steps into the house, I would come to their house and cut the rhubarb myself, then spend hours talking them in their cozy kitchen.

They are gone now. I no longer live in the same town and have no idea who bought their house. I could probably find out who did, and maybe drop over and ask if they might let me cut a few stalks.

No, this is New England; one doesn’t drop in on strangers.

A couple of years ago, because the season for rhubarb isn’t long, I started freezing rhubarb, fresh and stewed. I sweeten it a bit and serve it as a savory adjunct and with strawberries for dessert.

But in this new issue of Fine Cooking, there are some new ways to use rhubarb, including with pasta. I suggest you pick up a copy of this April/May issue, but this is one recipe I found absolutely delicious.

Linguini with Rhubarb and Parmesan
From Fine Cooking, April/May, 2021. “Spring Fling”

Yield: serves 6

12 ounces dried linguini
3 cups ¼-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup very good extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese, about 1 ½ cups), more for garnish
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.

Place rhubarb in colander, and drain the pasta over it. Wipe the pot dry.

In the same pot, cook the garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 30 seconds or until lightly golden. Add pasta mixture. Remove from the heat.

Add the 6 ounces cheese and pasta water. Toss to coat. Return to medium heat.

Cook and stir until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add parsley and pepper. Toss to combine. Garnish with additional parmigiana and serve immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: Pasta, Pesto … and Chicken!

Lee White

I woke up to this sun-filled morning and decided that, for dinner, I wanted pasta with the basil pesto I still have from last summer’s batch.

I am happy just with pasta, but my body didn’t need, with its still pandemic 20 (extra pounds), five or six ounces of pasta.  I wondered if I still had Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book on how to make a thin chicken cutlet to go with that pasta. 

I looked in my bookshelf and I hadn’t given it away to the Book Barn. Not only that, I still have the column in my computer files, from 2014, but I hadn’t made it since my move to a condo.

So, I foraged into my garage freezer and found boneless, skinless chicken breasts and found the pesto from my kitchen freezer. That evening, I made the chicken with the Marsala pan sauce. This way I only needed two ounces of pasta. 

I took the tiny package of pesto and warmed the plastic in my hands. I drained the pasta, added the pesto, topped it with some fresh parmigiana, and placed it on a warmed plate with the chicken Marsala.

Show me a restaurant, who can do that as well as you (or I) can!

Sautéed, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Cutlets with Pan Sauce

Adapted from How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson (Broadway Books, New York, 2000)

Yield: Serves 4

Photo by MadMax Chef on Unsplash.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut horizontally and opened (like a book)
Salt, ground black pepper and one-quarter cup flour poured into plastic bag
Pan sauce (see below)

  1. Heat butter and oil into an 11- to 12-inch skillet over low heat. While pan is heating, dredge breasts into flour mixture and shake out excess. (You will sauté them in batches single file, if necessary, so that they do not steam.)
  2. A couple of minutes before sautéing, increase heat to medium-high. When butter starts foaming and to smell ‘nutty,’ arrange the chicken breasts in the skillet. Cook, turning only once, until chicken breasts are rich golden brown, about three minutes per side.
  3. Remove chicken from skillet and place on warmed platter… 

Pan Sauce Possibilities

How to Make a Pan Sauce

  1. Measure pan sauces ingredient in a measuring cup (liquid always total ½  cup.
  2. Pour liquid into hot skillet once chicken cutlets (or pork or veal or fish, for that matter), scraping off good browned bits.
  3. Reduce liquid to ¼  cup.
  4. Tilt skillet and whisk in butter or cream, and spoon over each portion and serve.

Red Wine-Dijon Pan Sauce

Liquid  ¼ cup canned low-sodium chicken broth;  ¼  cup full-bodied red wine
Flavoring—1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fat—1 tablespoon butter

Measure broth, wine and mustard in a measuring cup. Following instruction for making a pan sauce above

Marsala Wine Pan Sauce

Liquid—1/2 cup Marsala wine
Fat—1 tablespoon butter

Follow instruction for making a pan sauce above

Balsamic Vinegar Pan Sauce

Liquid—1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; one-quarter cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
Fat—1 tablespoon butter

Combine vinegar and broth with a measuring cup. Follow instructions for making a pan sauce.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.