May 14, 2021

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 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 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 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.

Letter From Paris: Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral Symbolizes Hope for Both France, the World

Nicole Prévost Logan

April 15, 2021 was the second anniversary of the fire, which ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, and also the day when France reached 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. President Emmanuel Macron of France stressed that the reconstruction of the cathedral will be the symbol his country’s rebound from the pandemic.

Before giving the latest update of the most recent restoration process, here is a recap of what has been achieved over the past two years. The scope of the work is enormous.

For a long time, whenever I used to walk around the church prior to the 2019 fire, I had noticed that there was always scaffolding somewhere on  the church. It was a reminder for visitors that the cathedral was very old and fragile.

Throughout the centuries, it had suffered many fires and disasters. But the 2019 fire was the most catastrophic of all. It was a miracle that the cathedral survived that last tragedy.

After the fire, with hardly a square inch of the stone building still visible under so much scaffolding, wooden frames, plastic wrapping, tarp covers, and other protective contraptions, it was almost no longer recognizable. It ended up looking like a sick old bird.

View of the cathedral showing some of the extensive scaffolding. Photo by Nicole Prévost Logan.

The gables and pinnacles at the end of the north and south transepts were in danger of toppling over with the force of the wind. Workers, dangling in the air like alpinists were doing their perilous job of wrapping the carved stones. Hovering over the cathedral cranes and other heavy machinery made the church look as if it was under perfusion.

The stained-glass windows were taken down and replaced by what looked like giant French doors. The collapse of the 19th century spire over the nave had left an enormous gaping hole at the crossing of the transept. Water – regardless of whether it is rain or the power spray used by firefighters – can cause lots of damage. It penetrates the stones, destroying the mortar between them .

The fire obliterated the roof. The lead dripped, spread and left a thick layer of toxic dust everywhere. For months, no one could go inside the cathedral because of the danger from the lead dust and also from the debris falling from the broken vault. A lonely robot, directed by remote control, was able to clear up the charred remains.

The organ and the three rose windows were thankfully preserved, but they will, however, require  lengthy restoration. The 7,800 pipes of the largest organ in the word have been pulled apart and so have been all the stained-glass pieces.

The stunning South Rose window in the cathedral. Photo by Nicole Prévost Logan.

It is particularly comforting to know that the Rose Window at the south end of the transept is intact. Given the light of the sun throughout the day, it is the Rose Window, which gives the cathedral its beautiful warm glow. Notre Dame would not be the same without the scenes of the triumphant Christ depicted through that magnificent window. In 1250, Louis IX, or Saint Louis, donated it after the end of the second crusade.

The April 15, 2019 fire left the cathedral in danger of collapse — in fact, it was a touch-and-go situation. The most urgent step was to consolidate the structure

A gothic cathedral is like a house of cards:- if one side weakens, the whole thing collapses. Because of its daring height and the fact that the outside walls are weakened by several tiers of windows, the structure is fragile.

The medieval master carpenters were real geniuses when they designed the 28 flying buttresses to reinforce the strength of the walls. An arch or beam extends from the walls of the church to a pier against the lateral forces arising from the roof and pushes the walls outwards.

Ken Follett in his 2002 book, The Pillars of the Earth, wrote a gripping story of the 12th century monks attempting to do something never done before, failing many times and starting all over again.

The earliest buttresses of Notre Dame date from the 12th century. They are massive and fairly close to the main structure. Later, during the flamboyant gothic period in the 14th century, the spans of the flying buttresses are longer and more decorated.

The first phase of the restoration — preservation and protection — lasted 15 months. President Macron appointed General Jean Louis Georgelin, former chief of staff under President Sarkozy, to supervise the work.

This photo shows the cathedral’s 14th  century flying buttresses prior to the fire. File used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The 28 damaged buttresses were reinforced by fitting custom-made wooden “centering frames” under each one of them. Each one of the buttresses had different dimensions, hence the fitting required utmost precision.

Then started the most difficult and dangerous operation: dismantling the scaffolding, which had been erected in May 2018 to repair the crumbling spire created by 19th century architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

That scaffolding had melted, creating an ugly- and mean-looking black mass of 40,000 metal pieces glued together. Rope access workers (called cordists in French) had to pick the pieces by hand one by one, hanging from ropes high in the air. Sensors were placed under that unstable mass.

At one point the alarm sounded. Everybody fled. To disentangle that mass was like playing a giant pick-up sticks game, which involves removing sticks without disturbing the rest of the pile.

Twice the restoration work on the cathedral was interrupted: first when the scare caused by the lead contamination forced all activities to stop. Workers had to wear white haz-mat suits with masks connected to supplies of filtered air. They looked as clumsy as moon walkers.

Subsequently, the lock-down caused by the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 shut down operations for three months.

Five days before the fire, as a result of a near-miracle, the 10 ft. tall copper statues of the apostles and evangelists, climbing up the bases of the spire were air-lifted for restoration. Parisians enjoyed watching the ballet in the sky.

The statues are being restored in two workshops located near Perigueux. It takes four month to restore one statue. Pending the completion of the cathedral, all these art works will be exhibited  at the museum of architecture on Place du Trocadero.

This rooster was on top of the spire. It is now exhibited in the Museum of Archaeology. Photo by Nicole Prévost Logan.

The rooster, pictured left, which used to sit at the top of the spire, will remain in the museum.  A replica will replace it.

Late in June 2020, chief architect Philippe Villeneuve climbed on an inspection tour of the cathedral. He was able to access the top of the vaults, which by then had been cleared of most of the debris.

Villeneuve was pleased to see that the limestone of the vault had resisted the damage caused by the fire itself as well as the water to extinguish the fire. For him, it was a milestone and he declared that the structure was now safe.

The first phase of conservation was over and one could look forward to the restoration to be launched at a later date.

In July 2020 came the decision everybody was waiting for. After months of deliberation and heated discussions between architects, historians and restoration professionals across the globe about how the future Notre Dame would look, a consensus was reached.

Based on a 300-page paper presented by Villeneuve and with the support of the public opinion, it was decided that the cathedral would be returned to its original appearance:- a spire identical to 1859 Viollet-le-Duc’s creation; a lead roof; and a wooden framework to support the roof.

A large part of the restoration work will be carried out using the methods of 13th century builders. Fortunately this type of savoir faire is kept alive in France thanks to a guild of crafted artisans, who are trained as Compagnons du Devoir.

All restoration will be done respecting the safeguards established by ICOMOS (the International Council for Monuments and Sites) founded by the Venice Charter of 1964 to protect historic monuments.

In 1991, UNESCO placed Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine within the area considered as part of the world heritage.

Within 24 hours of the fire, pledges to pay for the restoration poured in and reached close to one billion Euros. The two richest men in France raced to be the highest bidder. François Pinault pledged 100 million and refused to accept tax deductions. Bernard Arnault beat him with a sum of 200 million.

Arnault is the head of the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) luxury goods and champagne empire. The readers of this area might be interested to know that Antoine, one of the Arnault’s five children, is building a “cottage” in the Fenwick peninsula in Old Saybrook. He is married to Russian super-model Tatyana.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris prior to the fire. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

At the two year mark since the fire, it is fitting to give the most recent update on the restoration process of Notre Dame. The task concerns the strengthening of the cathedral’s vault and the preparation of the future wooden framework, which will support the roof.

The scope of this phase to secure the building should be completed by next summer. It is just gigantic.

Most of the cathedral’s interior is now encased in metal scaffolding. An umbrella-like tarp has been installed above the gaping hole, where the spire once stood, for protection against the rain.

The vaults connecting the crossing of the transept were covered with platforms to enable rope-access workers to complete their job of removing the last fallen debris. This operation is still ongoing.

Most of those debris — stone, metal, glass — have been cleared up, analyzed, and used toward the creation of a 3D model, which is a replica of the original architecture and guiding the restorers in their mission.

Wooden scaffolding is being installed to stabilize the fragile areas of the cathedral’s vault, particularly the vaults adjacent to the crossing of the transept. Stonemasons apply plaster to the gaps and the exposed ends of the stones. They reinforce the most damaged areas with fiberglass.

The next step will be the insertion “of half-hangers” (also called “centring frames”)  under the six-rib vaults in the choir, the north transept and the nave. Note that the spire  crashed toward the West, onto the nave.

Above the vault and under the roof, other major work is in progress. The reconstruction of the 12-14th century wooden framework, called “the forest” is being prepared. Made-to-measure “half-hangers” and large-size triangular frames are being wedged under the roof to support it.

One thousand of the best oak trees have already been picked out in several French forests. A CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) study of the use of timber led to surprising conclusions. Those conclusions differ from what one often reads in non-scientific publications.

The 13th century trees were much younger and smaller than often stated:  60 years, 39 ft. in height, and 12 ins. in diameter. Furthermore, the trees were not left to dry for 18 months but were used while still green, after being felled.

From the top of the cathedral, President Macron, accompanied by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot expressed huge thanks to the hundreds of people involved in the restoration: carpenters, scaffolders, rope access technicians, crane operators, master glassmakers, restorers, stonemasons, archaeologists, researchers and donors.

Macron reiterated his vision of the cathedral reopening to worship by 2024 in time for the Olympic games, while acknowledging the fact that the complete restoration will probably take several years longer.

A glimmer of hope is much needed for the weary French population. The latest curfew at 6 p.m., which applied to the whole country, should be lifted in early May, with café and restaurant terraces reopening by mid-May — that should really boost morale!

Legal News You Can Use: What To Do After a Car Accident

The steps you take after a car accident are critical. Photo by Matthew T. Rader on Unsplash.

Even though someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior may have caused you to suffer a car accident, there is no guarantee that you will receive the compensation you need to cover the costs of your injuries.

A car accident involving medical injuries can cost thousands of dollars, so how can you be sure you are doing what is necessary to secure the best possible outcome?

The steps you take after your car accident can help improve your chances of maximizing your compensation, making the process of recuperating from the accident easier for you and your family. Here are three steps everyone should take after a severe accident:

Contact the police

After a major accident, the police can help in many different ways. Their efforts can contain the accident and begin the process of cleaning up any wreckage that is on the road. The resulting police report can act as a major piece of evidence to support your injury claim.

They can also help provide you with any necessary medical assistance you need at the site of the accident.

Gather information

If you or a passenger are physically able to, collect as much evidence at the scene of the accident as possible. Take thorough photographs and videos of the accident, gather recorded witness testimony, and collect the contact information, license information, and insurance information of the other drivers involved in the accident.

Call an attorney

A personal injury attorney can help you pursue the compensation you need after an accident. They can handle the legal challenges of filing paperwork, accessing injury costs, and negotiating fair compensation while you focus on your health.

Your lawyer can also keep you from making mistakes that may reduce or eliminate your compensation, like accepting a low-ball settlement offer.

The action you take after your accident can define how well you recover from your injuries.  Make sure you do everything in your power to put yourself in the best possible position after your accident.

This is a sponsored post by 

Editor’s Notes: Suisman Shapiro is located at 75 State Street, New London, CT 06320. Their mailing address is 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591 New London, CT 06320. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

Gardening Tips for April from The English Lady:

You may consider the dandelion (pictured above) a weed but, in fact, its young foliage is delicious in salads Photo by Jan Ledermann on Unsplash.

Those April showers that come our way
They bring the flowers that bloom in May
And when it’s raining, lets not forget,
It isn’t raining rain at all, its raining violets

April is the month of activity in the garden, and our old nemesis, the weeds, are beginning to rear their heads, so before we actually begin to extract the little devils before they get too large or strong, I feel that I must point out the benefits of many weeds.

Nettle, for example, are food for butterflies, clover extracts nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil and oil from jewel weed soothes poison ivy rash. Whilst the young foliage of dandelions is great in salads and when cooked tastes like spinach and is healthy as it contains many nutrients.  Not to forget to mention that our songbirds and other wildlife depend on weed seeds as a food source.

But let us return to the actual weed-pulling, weeds must be pulled gently so the weed and roots do not break for when this happens thousands of weed seeds will reseed and you will find yourself with an endless cycle of unnecessary weeding. When careful weeding has been accomplished I suggest applying an organic weed pre-emergent, with a corn gluten base by Bradfield organics.


Photo by Bailey Chenevey on Unsplash.

Plant bare root roses at the end of April and container roses in mid May.  Add manure with a fine bark mulch about one foot from the base of the roses not now but in the middle of May. Check my March tips to refresh yourself on pruning roses.

Be careful clearing winter debris from around rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas, these evergreens have shallow roots and you do not want to chance the roots being exposed. If the winter weather did indeed erode soil around any roots, add a few inches of soil to cover the exposed roots, at the same time resettle the plant in place and apply manure and fine bark mulch as well as some peat, which evergreens enjoy at the beginning of May.

In late April, plant gladioli corms at two-week intervals so that you will get a succession of bloom.  Planting the corms eight inches down; the extra depth helps keep the heavy blooms erect.

The Red Lily beetle is rearing its ugly head therefore I suggest applying organic Neem oil on the Lilies when they are about four inches above ground to help prevent and deal with this infestation.


This is an effective way to control many soil borne problems, specifically the tomato blight that causes fruit rot. Covering the soil with clear plastic at the end of April, for one to two months can generate high enough temperatures in the top six to 12 inches of soil to kill pests, nematodes, weed seeds and many disease organisms like the tomato blight.  This process has proved invaluable for home gardeners and the beneficial effects seem to last for several seasons.

To solarize, dig a trench several inches deep around the bed, and spread a thin, clear plastic film (1-4mils) over the bed.  Press the plastic into close contact with the soil and seal the edges by filling the trench with soil.


I urge you to throw away any pesticides and herbicides; they have the same effect as second hand smoke on you, your children and pets.  I am covering the state with my lecture on Garden Earth to reconnect people’s hearts, hands and minds with the nourishing energy of Mother Nature’s Life giving gardens. 

I am teaching people how to create a beautiful landscape but more important how to maintain it organically. That has always been the philosophy of my family’s heritage in landscaping and the same modus operandii is carried through in our company. Check ‘what to use in the garden ‘ on this website for all organic product sources.  

Manure all the borders with composted manure in bags from the garden center or aged manure from the bottom of the farmer’s pile. Mulch with a fine brown hardwood mulch, and in the vegetable garden when it comes time to mulch, mulch with manure which will not ‘cap’, meaning it does not form a crust like other mulches and therefore air and water can get through to the roots of the plants where it is needed.      

If you did not apply an organic grub control on the grass in March, apply now to keep the grubs down and cut down on the mole population.    

The soil is the most important component of the growing business; compost, organic manure and peat amend the soil to rebuild its structure. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure and applies peat to the planting mix in the ratio of one part peat to three parts manure when planting evergreens. 

Good soil structure assists with drainage, prevents compaction, and the rich nutrients that is the result as these amendments break down encourage the soil animals beneath the surface to work at full capacity. In a light soil such as sand, humus binds the sand particles together and in heavy soil such as clay it keeps the clay particles apart making room for air and drainage.  Other humus forming materials are leaves and seaweed tea which we will have for sale in the two few weeks has a root growth hormone, which assists plants to form a strong root system.   

Conditions in April are very favorable for new plant-root development, so with this in mind, transplant evergreen shrubs and new evergreens can be planted at the end of April.  With the organic manure and peat with the topsoil in the planting hole in the ratios I mentioned above. Give the roots a work out before planting to release them and open them up so the roots will reach into the surrounding soil for nutrients and water and will not dry out in the heat of summer.    

Organic fertilizer contains blood meal, bone meal, seaweed, poultry litter and natural grains. The bulky organic amendments mentioned above must be incorporated into the soil to improve soil texture and structure and many of the necessary nutrients to plants. 

Before and a month after you have applied the bulky amendments of manure and compost, test the soil to see if there are still some nutrient deficiencies, particularly in clay soil and correct these with some organic fertilizers. Its always better to under fertilize so go sparingly but do not be cheap with the bulk amendments.

When I moved into my farmhouse on the shore 14 years ago, I found soil that was sandy, which is good for drainage but without nutrients.  I began adding a few inches of manure to all planted borders in April, July and October and today when I put a spade in the ground to check the color of the soil in spring, it’s ‘black gold’. 

If you have used chemical fertilizers in the past, many of the soil organisms that play such an important role in maintaining natural fertility will have died off.        

The major plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), which promotes healthy leaf growth, phosphorus (P) for healthy root growth, and potassium for flower development and ripening wood. Other important nutrients are required such as sulphur, magnesium, calcium, boron and iron, but in lesser amounts.  The organic fertilizer provides all the important nutrients listed above.  When buying the products read the labels — if there is a word you cannot pronounce; it’s a chemical so do not buy it.  

The amendments and organic fertilizers are of plant and animal origin so gloves should be worn when using them as bacteria is present in them.  These bacteria are great for the plants and the soil but not good for your health.  These products tend to be slow acting; gradually making the nutrients available to the plant and the rewards are infinite.

Organic fertilizers are applied in spring around mid to late May when the plant has about six inches of growth; this allows for the fertilizer to become active when the plant is growing most rapidly.  Avoid applying fertilizers after the end of July as new growth may not go dormant before winter and the plant could suffer damage.  

As well as the amendments of organic aged manure, peat and/or compost you can incorporate an organic root development enhancer like the seaweed tea by soaking the top four inches of the soil around the base of the trunk when planting trees and shrubs.  Top dressing organic fertilizers are scattered over the soil surface and around the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage. 

Organic soil enhancers like manure and seaweed tea, when applied to the soil, are most quickly absorbed by plants and are especially useful for container planting and these teas are excellent for feeding throughout the growing season. Foliar (aka leaf) feeds with the teas are a quick-acting tonic and are useful in supplying nutrients to plants especially in the heat and humidity of mid summer.  

April is the time to tackle a new lawn or patch seed, use only good quality seed and organic fertilizers.   


The daffodils will soon be in bloom and when the bloom has past, do not cut the leaves of any of your spring flowering bulbs, the leaves send down energy into the bulbs to store for next season’s nutrition. 


Do not be lulled into complacency with a few back-to-back warm days; we can still get a frost and I caution you not to plant annuals until Memorial weekend.  Do not cultivate around the perennials in the borders until mid May. Do not panic if you were not able to get the April tasks done until May, your garden will wait for you and the constancy that is Mother Nature will continue to keep your patch of earth flourishing. 

Enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors in warmer temperatures, inhaling the pungency of awakening soil and experience the connection with growing things. Do not overdo it; warm up the body before the garden labor and stay well hydrated with lots of water. We are inexorably entwined with the earth and know that even the smallest gesture of a garden has positive rewards and the effects not only on you but our planet. 

I’ll see you in your garden in May.

Contact Maureen at

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: Celebrate the Season with Spring Green Spaghetti Carbonara

Lee White

There was snow in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, according to friends and family who live in those places, but not here (crossing fingers here for the next month or so). But there has been rain, and lots of it, for the beginning of April. Now it has been glorious, except for that night that dropped to 28 degrees. 

But to me it is spring.

I bought a large flat of pansies and a new garden trowel and will put them in my little plot of land in front of the porch.

Birds are busy. At friends in Madison, a dozen red-winged blackbirds were looking for some swampy areas with tall grasses to nest.

I have a very tall sort-of evergreen that is at least three stories tall. All kinds of tiny birds, sparrows, finches, wrens and chickadees consider this fluffy slim tree a high-rise and are nesting together. In a week or so I will put out hummingbird feeders, but if I don’t get them this year, my seventh year, I will consider they found a better place after their sabbatical.

In any case, I saw this springy recipe in Food Network magazine. I love carbonara, and I like the fact that Ina Garten has lightened it up a bit and added lots of vegetables, making it like a spaghetti primavera. It is yummy.

Spring Green Spaghetti Carbonara

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe on Food Network magazine issue of April, 2021
Yield: serves 6

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces spaghetti
½ pounds snow peas, julienned lengthwise
1 cup shelled fresh peas (1 pound in the pod), or frozen peas (what I always use now)
12 to 14 thin asparagus, bottom third discarded and tips sliced in 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces small-diced pancetta
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for servings
5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
¼ cup minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
Zest and juice of one lemon

Bring a large pot of water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, then add snow peas, fresh peas and asparagus to the spaghetti and cook for 2 minutes longer. Drain pasta and vegetables together.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium (10- to 11-inch) saute pan over medium heat, add the pancetta and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned, Transfer pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

While pancetta cooks, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water and set aside to heat the bowl. Just before you drain the pasta, pour water out of the bowl.

Put the cream, eggs, egg yolks and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta sauce water into the bowl and whisk to combine. Immediately add the hot pasta and vegetables and toss with tongs for a full minute of two until the pasta absorbs the sauce. Add enough reserved pasta water to keep the sauce creamy. Add ¾ cups parmesan, the scallions, chives, lemon juice and zest, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and toss well.

Add pancetta, sprinkle with salt* and serve hot, topped with extra chives and parmesan.

*I tend to under-salt. That last sprinkle of salt might not be necessary Taste and decide yourself.

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 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: Savor a Hint of Hungarian with Chicken Paprikash

Lee White

Last Saturday night, for the first time since March of 2020, I had dinner inside a  restaurant. My stepdaughter, who is bicoastal (spends two weeks in Boston and the other two at her home in San Francisco), drove down and we had dinner at the Water Street Café.

My friend Amy is chef-ing there while owner/chef Walter Houlihan rehabs from a broken leg, and Walter’s wife, Stephanie, is hostess-ing. Mike, one of my favorite waiters in the whole world, took care of the two of us. I teared up to see them again. 

I have lots of friends, who will not eat inside a restaurant yet, and maybe never will. But I myself feel safe enough and want so much to help my restaurant owners and waitstaff friends. I am not sure any organization has suffered as financially during the pandemic.

For the next few weeks, though, it is back to cooking in my own kitchen. I looked through my pantry and freezer and remembered that my husband used to make chicken paprikash. I looked for his recipe among my columns but, alas, I’d never written about it.

I went onto the internet and found a recipe that looked just like his. While this one is for the slow-cooker, he used to make it in a big Le Creuset lidded pot. If you make it in the InstantPot, use the “sauté” button to sauté the chicken, onions and spices; add the broth and pressure cook it for about 20 minutes. Reduce the liquid at the end on “sauté.” 

Slow-Cooker Creamy Chicken Paprikash

Adapted from
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) or 1 habanero chile, seeded
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 cup sour cream

Spray large slow cooker with cooking spray.

Season chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; in 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin-side down in skillet. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until brown on both sides. Transfer chicken to slow cooker.

In the skillet on medium heat, add onions and cook about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, paprika, red pepper and rest of the salt and pepper; continue to cook and stir for about 1 minute. Transfer to slow cooker. Add chicken broth to skillet, scraping any brown bits on bottom of skillet. Transfer to slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 5 to 6 hours or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to the bone (at least 165 degrees). Transfer chicken to serving platter and keep warm. Increase slow cooker to high.

In a small bowl, beat cornstarch and water with whisk until smooth. Beat into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Cover; cook about 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Beat sour cream into cooking liquid with whisk. Cover; cook about 5 minutes, until hot.

Serve chicken and sauce over buttered noodles.

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 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 I

In this essay, I posit that many works of contemporary folk and rock music are the natural successors of the epic poems of antiquity. In support of that hypothesis, I begin with a brief review of the epic genre; and then, discuss a few contemporary works that I feel meet the epic standard. 

The Epic Poem:

An epic is a long, narrative poem that chronicles the extraordinary deeds and adventures of courageous men and women. The earliest epic poems generally had no discernible author, and were probably developed in the pre-literate era. Those epics were conveyed orally, usually in brief episodes, either to an audience, or to another storyteller. However, epics were also created by a clearly-identified author. 

At the Mindszenty School, where I was a college prep student many years ago, we studied epic works of both sorts. 

First page of Beowulf in Cotton Vitellius A. xv. Public domain.

“Beowulf” was written anonymously in old English, and set in the 6th century in what is now Denmark and Sweden. The hero, Beowulf, came to the aid of the Danish monarch, whose kingdom had been terrorized by the monster Grendel, who was notable as a descendent of Cain.

Although losing some of his warriors to Grendel, who then drank their blood; Beowulf finally slays the monster in a bloody encounter, and hangs the monster’s arm and claw over the rafters of the king’s great hall as proof of its death.

In a final act of heroism, Beowulf also kills Grendel’s avenging mother, though requiring a magic sword. 

The “Odyssey,” which is a sequel to Homer’s “Iliad,” is a Greek epic poem, written near the end of the eighth century BC.  The poem relates the activities of Odysseus, the hero, during the final year of the siege of Troy, and his 10-year, and epically perilous, journey home to Ithaca, after Troy’s fall.

We also considered Milton’s 17th Century “Paradise Lost,” but, absent a monster, and temptations from three sirens, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden drew only limited interest. 

Clearly, the most noteworthy characteristic of an epic poem is its length. The “Odyssey” has 15,000 lines., “Paradise” over 10,000. Further, the epic hero (or heroine) is a great warrior, and willing to engage in intense combat.   

In the following compositions, the title is followed by the author’s name and the publication date. A second name, when included, is, in my opinion, the best cover artist. A single name and date indicate that the author also performed the work. 

I provide context for each work, and include abridged lyrics. I took care in my abridgement to ensure that the song’s sense and message remained clear. The original lyrics, in their entirety, are available on the internet.

I’ve included a song by Woodie Guthrie (see number III below), who is considered one of the most influential figures in American folk music. School children are often introduced to Woodie with his song, “This Land is your Land”.

1. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” — Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

Album cover of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ by Gordon Lightfoot. This image qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American freighter that, when launched in 1958, was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, nearly 800 ft. long and  weighing more than 13,000 tons without cargo. She hauled iron ore from mines in Minnesota to iron works in ports on the Great Lakes.

The skipper, Captain Ernest McSorley, was very experienced, and well-respected by his contemporaries and his crew. The ship sank on Nov. 10, 1975 in a storm on Lake Superior, with the loss of the entire crew of 29 men. The bodies were not recovered. 

In true epic poem style, one of the prevailing theories regarding its sinking is that it was hit by a series of three consecutive “rogue” waves, a phenomenon called “Three Sisters” on Lake Superior. Their tendency to occur without warning, and with huge force makes them especially dangerous. 

Gordon Lightfoot’s lyrics are a “play-by-play” of the disaster. Be sure to note the cook’s role in the progression of events. 

Abridged Lyrics:

The legend lives on, from the Chippewa on down; of the big lake they call ‘Gitchee Gumee’.
Superior, it’s said, never gives up her dead, when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore, twenty-six thousand tons more,
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and crew, was a bone to be chewed,
when the gales of November came early.
The ship was the pride of the American side,
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait,
when the gales of November came slashing.
When suppertime came, the cook came up top;
saying, ‘fellas, it’s too rough to feed you’.
At seven p.m., a main hatchway caved in;
and he said, ‘fellas, it’s been good to know you’.
The captain wired shore that ‘he had water coming in;
and the good ship and crew were in peril’.
Later that night, when her lights went out of sight,
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
And a church bell chimed, until it rang twenty-nine times;
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

2. “Charlie and the MTA” — Steiner and Hawes, (1949) / The Kingston Trio

A formal publicity shot of the original line-up of the Kingston Trio (l-r) Dave Guard, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds. Image published under under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

The song was originally composed for a “left-wing” mayoral campaign in Boston’s 1949 election, to protest the five-cent fare increase by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).  Fighting the fare increase was an important plank of the Progressive Party candidate, Walter A. O’Brien Jr.’s platform. He had also advocated the removal of the complicated entry/exit fare structure, and opposed the tax-funded bailout of the system’s previous operator. 

O’Brien’s campaign had no funds for radio advertising, so he commissioned campaign songs from local folk artists, covering his themes; and played recordings from a loudspeaker on a truck driven throughout Boston.

The 1949 mayoral election was a raucous affair, with five candidates, including the amazingly popular, and notoriously corrupt incumbent, James Michael Curley, whose campaign song began, “Vote early and often for Curley”.

O’Brien finished last; and was routed by John B. Hynes, who then remained Mayor of Boston until 1960. Bostonians also approved a change in the structure of future mayoral contests (i.e., select two final candidates in advance of each general election).

Abridged Lyrics: 

Well, let me tell you the story of a man named Charlie, who on a tragic and fateful day;
put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family, and went to ride on the MTA.

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned; and his fate is still unknown.
He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston; he’s the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station,
and he changed for Jamaica Plain.

When he got there, the conductor said, ‘one more nickel’;
Charlie couldn’t get off of that train.

Now, all night long Charlie rides through the stations, crying, ‘what will become of me’?
‘How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea or my cousin in Roxbury?’

Charlie’s wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train comes rumbling through.

The Kingston Trio’s original version of the song began with a spoken introduction: “The people of Boston have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened. Today, the MTA, is attempting to levy a burdensome tax. Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you.”

In 2004, the “Charlie Card” was introduced as the payment method for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

3. “Deportee — Woody Guthrie (1948) / Joan Baez 

Woody Guthrie in 1943. World Telegram photo by Al Aumuller. Public domain.

Guthrie said that the inspiration for “Deportee” was the radio and newspaper coverage of the Los Gatos Canyon plane crash, which provided the names of the flight crew and the security guard, but not the farm workers, who were also on the flight; referring to them only as “deportees.”

The crash resulted in the deaths of 28 migrant farm workers, who were being transported back to Mexico at the end of their braceros contract. The bodies of the migrants were placed in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, Calif. The grave was marked only, “Mexican Nationals.”

The Bracero Agreement:

During World War II, the United States negotiated a series of treaties with the Mexican government to recruit Mexican seasonal workers, all men and without their families, to work on short-term contracts on farms and in other war industries (braceros.)

The program was developed because of severe labor shortages caused by the war. The labor contractors were expected to provide transportation to and from the Mexican border.

The first Mexican bracero workers were admitted in September, 1942, and by the program’s end in 1964, nearly 4.6 million Mexican citizens had been hired to work in the United States, mainly on farms in Texas, Calif., and the Pacific Northwest.

Abridged Lyrics: 

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting;
the oranges are piled in their creosote dumps.
They’re flying you back to the Mexico border,
to pay all your money to wade back again. 

Some of us illegal, and others not wanted,
our work contract’s out and we have to move on.

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita;
adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
you won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane;
all they will call you will be ‘deportees’.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon;
a fireball of lightning, that shook all our hills.
Who are these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, ‘They are just deportees.’

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?

Author’s Notes: First, I want to acknowledge the persistence of Messrs. Jakubowski and Corsi, English faculty at the Mindszenty School, who never assigned required readings that were also available in “Classics Illustrated” comics.

It is ironic that the United States has not yet addressed, in a bipartisan and humanitarian manner, immigration from Mexico, especially because we welcomed millions as migrant workers during and after World War II, (described above in “The Bracero Agreement”). 

Our policy seems to remain: “They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves,” which is also a Guthrie lyric.

Even American television recognized braceros. You may recall a late 1950s, and early ‘60s television series, “The Real McCoys”, which included a character, Pepino, who, I now realize, was a bracero worker on the McCoy farm in the San Fernando Valley. 

We all first heard the Ojibwe term: “Gitchee Gumee” in Longfellow’s 1855 epic poemThe Song of Hiawatha”. 

If Madame Editor agrees, I will continue this “epic poems” theme in the next essay, where I consider contemporary epic poems of conflict.

Editor’s Note to Mr. Gotowka: She agrees.

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.

A la Carte: A Better Bit of Brisket Made for a Super Seder

Lee White

It was such a nice seder for Passover 2021. My friend Lisa and Eric invited six of us, all but eight of us vaccinated twice, the others soon to get their second. We played boules for a couple of hours; I hadn’t seen Jacques, the Hopkins or the Yavaris for over a year.

In addition to appetizers including home-made latkes, along with gefilte fish and chopped liver, we drank wine.

For dinner, it was potluck: Jacques made chicken with lettuces (which I had watched him make a week ago on television), Raisa and Paula made roasted vegetables, Lisa made her incredible baby potatoes in truffle oil and the Hopkins made cookies.

And as if we more needed dessert, there was that, too.

I made a new fresh brisket entrée. I have probably made it 25 times, from many recipes, but I figured, if it was my regular brisket, Jacques would know I used Lipton’s onion soup and Coca Cola. So I made the new recipe below. It was so much better than anything I’d ever made before.

Here is this new recipe:

Cook Classic Beef Brisket in the Slow Cooker
Adapted from Kitchn by Meghan Splawn (online)

Yield: Serves 8 

1 5 to 6 lb. beef brisket, preferably flat cut
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 pound sliced mushrooms
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups low-sodium beef broth (I used three tiny bouillon cubes in warm water, well mixed)
½ cups ketchup
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup of Coca-Cola (very much optional)

Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and place into the slow cooker; hopefully the cooker is a 6-quart or larger. (If the brisket has a particularly thick fat cap, you can remove it now. The author doesn’t and neither do I; the fat makes for an even more luxurious brisket.) Sprinkle the brisket on all sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until softened and beginning to brown and char in some spots, at least 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

Add smoked paprika, black pepper, thyme, oregano and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally until very fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the onions, mushrooms and garlic over the brisket.

Remove the skillet to medium-high heat, add the broth and using a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape all the lovely browned bits up off the bottom. Add the ketchup, brown sugar and tomato paste and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then pour over the onion mixture and brisket. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours (or maybe a bit longer)

Transfer the brisket to a clean cutting board and slice. Either serve immediately or store with the gravy. 

To make the gravy: Pour the juice from the slow cooker into that skillet, heat element to high and cook until it is slightly reduced. As it bubbles, in a small bowl add a teaspoon or a bit more of the cornstarch and add cold water to make a slurry. Pour it into the bubbling juice and continue to stir the juice. If it needs to be a little thicker, add a bit more cornstarch and cold water to the bubbling juice; continue stirring. Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

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 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? ‘American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence’ by Pauline Maier

Have we over-sanctified the American past in the last 50 years? It may well be, argues Pauline Maier, a professor of history at MIT, in her now-classic analysis of the creation of our Declaration of Independence.

Three key documents epitomize the start of “these” United States: the Declaration, the Constitution, and its following initial amendments, the Bill of Rights. They are indeed worthwhile documents to study, but are they as perfect as we have been led to believe?

Professor Maier argues the Declaration was a product of “the grubby world of eighteenth-century politics,” with contributions from “a cast of thousands.” Its impetus came from a growing belief that monarchy and hereditary rule were “major constitutional errors.”

The simple distance from Great Britain had much to do with their dissatisfaction, too, coupled with insensitive colonial taxation.

She recalls the history that led to the Declaration. First came the English Declaration of Rights that permitted the nobility to restrain the monarch in 1689. But a short sequence of events in 1775 pushed the Continental Congress to action: the Battle of Lexington on April 18-19, 1775, the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by some out-of-control colonials on May 9, Bunker Hill on June 17, the British destruction of Falmouth (now Portland), Maine on Oct. 17, and a similar assault on Norfolk, Va., in January 1776.

By then many states had already declared their removal from English authority, creating enormous pressure on the delegates In Philadelphia during the spring, that pressure spurred the delegates to take joint action. Many state and local governments had already declared their “independence” by July 1776.

As Professor Maier notes, “ . . . the society that adopted Independence was national to a remarkable extent considering that before 1764 the North American colonies had no connection with each other except through Britain.” After 1764 they expressed their “sense of shared grievances.”

While the prime movers of the rushed Declaration in Philadelphia were indeed Thomas Jefferson and his designated “committee,” including John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Pickering, and, belatedly, Benjamin Franklin, the author argues that many others contributed to its phraseology through prior words and documents, and indeed the Congress altered the Committee’s draft afterwards, before it was published.

It is a fascinating story, especially in that the Declaration seems to have been largely disregarded after it initial acceptance, only to become sanctified when the Federalists and Republicans tussled with each other in the 1820s.

And only more recently have we tried to deify both the words and its creators.

Professor Maier carefully dissects words, phrases, and their contributors, creating a convincing thesis that the Declaration was the work of hundreds, not a few, and that, as a “peculiar document,” it hardly deserves its later sanctification.

She concludes: “The symbolism is all wrong; it suggests a tradition locked in a glorious but dead past, reinforces the passive instincts of an anti-political age, and undercuts the acknowledgement and exercise of public responsibilities essential to the survival of the republic and its ideals.”

By all means read the Declaration, but let’s move on and deal with the present using all that we now know.

It is not “scripture.”

Editor’s Note: ‘American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence,’ by Pauline Maier is published by Vintage Books, New York 1998.

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 la Carte: Smart Spice Veggie Soup Goes Easy on Calories, But Big on Taste

Lee White

I had such a lovely weekend in Newburyport, Mass., two weeks ago. My granddaughter Casey, a junior at UMass-Amherst, is still in on campus learning in-person, but Sydney, whose 26th birthday we were celebrating, was there, as was middle-granddaughter Laurel, a tennis teacher/elementary school teacher.

We all met at my daughter-in-law’s house and my son, Peter (the two are divorced, but still friendly and very involved with their daughters) was there for dinner. It seemed odd that we were all enjoying wine (if the girls are drinking, I am definitely old.) I made Bolognese, pasta, salad, dressing and garlic bread that I’d made at home. 

We waited a few hours before we dove into the red velvet cake. We each had a slice with our coffee, but I took three quarters of it home. I sent a big slice to my friend Richard and had a tiny slice on Sunday, but today I will remove the frosting, cut the rest of the cake into chunks and freeze them.

When there is another celebration, I will make a trifle, layering the cake with strawberry jam, pudding, sliced bananas and sliced strawberries, topping the trifle with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

In the meantime, I am trying to lower my pandemic 20 via intermittent fasting. For me, I can eat from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., then fast until the next day at 11 a.m. I don’t get hungry because my dinner salad takes me half an hour finish and I go to bed early.

I must lose at least those 20 pounds and there is no way I would try on my old bathing suits after 12 months of eating through pantry and refrigerator.

In addition, this week I will have my first in-person interview. For a year, my biggest decision was what to wear from the living room to the kitchen. For these interviews, sweatpants and a UConn sweatshirt will not do. 

As for the diet, this is one delicious soup and each serving is about 250 calories with the chicken, 198 without. If you don’t have kale, use any kind of lettuce, the greener the better.

Smart Spice Veggie Soup

Adapted from Power Spicing by Rachel Beller (Clarkson Potter, New York, 2019)

Yield: serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, shopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon red curry paste
8 cups low-sodium vegetable chicken broth
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
2 zucchini, diced
4 cups chopped kale
2 cups cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook another minute more.

Add carrots and celery; cook 3 minutes. Add turmeric, ginger, black pepper and cayenne (or red curry paste). Stir until veggies are coated with spices.

Increase heat to medium-high, add broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add chicken (if using),  cauliflower and zucchini. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until cauliflower is very tender.

Stir in kale and beans and cook a few minutes, until kale is wilted.

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 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: Crepes Cake is Beyond Delicious

Lee White

I guess I thought, once I had had my second dose of COVID vaccine, plus waited the two-plus week to make sure I was safe from the infection and to be around people, but still safely masked most of the time, friends old or older than I could go out to dinner, in a restaurant.

I was wrong. Nobody wanted to go out and play.

I am still reading two to three books a week, watching too much television, finishing Sunday’s New York Times often by Monday night and still tired of my own food. Both UConn basketball teams have made the NCAA brackets (the men by a hair’s breadth, the women one of four in the highest bracket), but there is no college basketball this week.

I called my friend Nancy Trimble and she said there is America’s Cup sailing from New Zealand but says I don’t stay awake long enough to watch it. She is right, but I can DVR the finals and I have NBCSN. 

But am I that bored? Yup.

While a friend of mine once said watching sailing is like watching paint dry, Nancy promised me it isn’t these days. Is it multihulls? I asked. To me, that is not sailing. She said these are single-hulled boats and each of the finals last around 25 minutes. She is right. These boats are fast, we can watch it from four different angles (three different cameras and one digitized), it is exciting and, for a woman of any age, the men are gorgeous.

The boats are, too. 

I still am reading a lot, writing a lot, watching too much television (my latest is the Morning Show, on Apple TV) and still a bit tired of my own cooking. But I haven’t made crepes in years and they freeze easily, layered with piece of waxed paper.

They are great for savory or sweet leftovers and I love a crepes cake. You can layer the crepes with chopped walnuts, maple syrup, bitter or sweet jam or even orange butter. I made the crepes in under half an hour and had them in the freezer in no time.

They are so delicious. Your first or second crepe might not look good. On the other hand, they taste delicious. Eat them. Your new ones will be gorgeous. 

Grand Marnier Crepe Cake

From Gourmet magazine, March, 2008
Yield: at least 24 to 40 crepes, depending on size of pan

6 eggs
1 cup of whole milk (2 percent is fine)
3 cups chilled heavy cream, divided1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
2 teaspoons grated orange zest, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Blend eggs, milk, one-half cup cream and one-half teaspoon vanilla with flour, salt, one-quarter confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon zest in a blender until just smooth.

Brush a 10-inch nonstick skillet lightly with some of the melted butter, then heat over medium-high heat until hot. Pour in a scant one-quarter cup of batter, immediately tilting and rotating skillet to coat bottom. (If batter sets before skillet is coated, reduce heat slightly for next crepe.)

Cook until underside is golden and top is just set, 15 to 45 seconds. Loosen edge of crepe with a heatproof rubber spatula (I used my finger nails), then flip crepe over with your fingertip and cook 15 seconds more. Transfer to a plate. Continue making crepes, brushing skillet with butter each or every couple of times and stacking crepes on plate.

Beat remaining 2 and one-half cup of cream, one-half teaspoon vanilla, three-quarters cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest and Grand Marnier in a large deep bowl with an electric mixer until cream holds stiff peaks.

Center a crepe on a serving plate and spread with one-quarter cream. Continue stacking crepes and spreading with cream, endings with a crepe. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Serve with fresh berries for garnish, if you like.

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 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:  Is it Time for Americans to Acknowledge Climate Change?

Last April, published a “Primer on Global Warming and Climate Change

Since that time, there has been a change in Presidential leadership; and, in January, the United States transitioned from a science-averse, to a science-centric Executive Branch, which may have an impact on how the Country views climate change. 

This essay is a “refresh” of the April essay, and reviews a few recent weather events, in light of the consequences predicted by climate scientists; and lays out the climate priorities proposed by the Biden Administration. My goal in this essay is logically and concisely to present the issue of climate change for the reader’s consideration. 

The Fundamentals:

Global warming is one symptom of the overarching phenomenon of climate change. The “side effects” of that warming include some significant shifts in weather patterns, and an increase in the frequency of abnormal and severe weather events. 

The Paris Carousel:

In 2015, representatives of 196 nations negotiated the Paris Climate Agreement under the auspices of the United Nation’s Convention on Climate Change. The goal, when signed in 2016, was to strengthen the international response to climate change mitigation. 

The Obama Administration pledged that, by 2025, the United States would cut carbon emissions by 26 percent below 2005 levels. He hailed our leadership in developing this Agreement as one of his major accomplishments.

His successor, Donald Trump, announced, in mid-2017, that the United States would terminate all participation in the Paris Agreement. He stated, “The climate deal was less about the climate, and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore.” 

As the first and only country formally to pull out of the Agreement, his decision stunned our allies. He also then went on to roll back or loosen many of America’s key environmental policies and regulations.

President Biden signed an Executive Order soon after his inauguration that initiated the process for the United States to reenter the Paris Agreement. In February, Secretary of State Tony Blinken called it, “A good day in our fight against the climate crisis,” and promised that the United States would, “Waste no time in engaging our partners around the world to build our global resilience.”

The Focus on Fossil Fuels:

Burning carbon-rich fossil fuels produces water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and trace gases like methane and nitrous oxide, which are collectively referred to as “greenhouse” gases, Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash.

Since the mid-20th century, human activities have had an extraordinary impact on the Earth’s climate; and scientists have concluded that burning carbon-rich fossil fuels, like oil, coal, and natural gas, is the largest driver of that impact.

When they burn, fossil fuels produce water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and trace gases like methane and nitrous oxide, which are collectively referred to as “greenhouse” gases.

Their accumulation in the atmosphere is responsible for the “greenhouse effect”, which is the warming that occurs when these gases trap heat in the lower atmosphere; i.e., in a manner that’s similar to the heat-trapping glass on a greenhouse.

The most important of these gases is CO2. Although it absorbs less heat per molecule than methane or nitrous oxide, it is remarkably more abundant and remains in the atmosphere much longer. 

Data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory show that we now add about 40 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, mostly by burning fossil fuels. Scientists estimate that this increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise.

In 2019, coal accounted for 40 percent of global CO2 emissions, oil for 34 percent, and natural gas, 20 percent. Note that, worldwide, China and the United States rank first and second, respectively, in annual volume of CO2 emissions. 

Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in recorded history. According to Princeton University-led research published in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” even if we immediately stop all new CO2 emissions, the carbon dioxide that is already in the Earth’s atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years. 

It’s been well said by Theodor Geisel: “How did it get so late so soon?”

Recent Unusual Weather Events:

I have selected a few events to illustrate the outcomes predicted by climate scientists.

You might argue that these examples do not really reflect climate change, but are more akin to changes observed by, and often attributed to, Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

The Lefthand Canyon fire, pictured above, started on Oct. 18, 2020. The fire burned 460 acres of brush and timber approximately one mile west of the town of Ward in the area of Lefthand Canyon and Spring Gulch in Boulder County, Colorado.

Last year, five of the six largest fires in California history, and three of the four largest in Colorado history, all burned.

By the end of the year, more than four percent of California’s landmass had been consumed by fire, making 2020 the worst wildfire season in California’s modern history. The U.S. Forest Service observed that California’s mean air temperatures have risen since 1980, resulting in increased evaporation, drier brush, and, with concomitant reductions in rainfall through recent decades, had generated one of the worst “megadroughts” in California history. 

A “perfect storm” of weather events, which included a prolonged heat wave followed by a remarkable and unprecedented lightning siege of over 10,000 strikes over several days, finally precipitated the conflagration. 

Earlier this year, the Texas “deep freeze” brought the coldest temperatures in over a quarter century to the state. Most of the state was covered with snow, a freak event, and their under-prepared and poorly-designed power grid was brought down for almost 4.5 million Texans, many of whom were forced to remain in poorly insulated, freezing homes for more than a week.

At least one elected official decided to flee to Mexico.

Extreme weather events have also been on the increase in the northeastern United States. Major winter storms impacted the region in both December 2020 and February 2021; and a study recently published in the journal, “Nature Climate Change”, reported that the 27 major Northeast winter storms that occurred in the decade spanning the winter of 2008-9 through 2017-18, were three to four times the totals for each of the previous five decades. 

The Administration’s Climate Agenda:

President Joe Biden

In January, President Biden said, “We’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis, we can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes. We know it in our bones, and it’s time to act,” (Come on, Jack!)

He ordered a pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, setting a goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean waters over the next 10 years. He also added new regulations targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and directed federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

He reiterated his daunting climate goals. I’ve listed the highlights of his $2 trillion plan in the following:

  1. Achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. (i.e., we can still produce some emissions, as long as they are offset by activities that reduce greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere (e.g., planting new forests.)
  2. Make the electricity sector free of carbon pollution by 2035.
  3. Make all new U.S.-made buses zero-emissions by 2030.
  4. Create jobs for construction workers, scientists, and engineers to build electricity-producing sources from wind and solar. 
  5. Develop an Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard for utilities and grid operators.
  6. Create a climate research agency that works to make nuclear reactors safer and more efficient.

Final Thoughts:

The issue of mitigating climate change will be very contentious, and it appears that Republicans are already digging in against the President’s plans. 

For example, Wyoming’s Senator John Barrasso (R) has said, “I’m not going to sit idly by, or my colleagues, if this administration enforces policies that threaten my State’s economy …” As a point of reference, Wyoming produced 102.1 million barrels of crude oil in 2019, up from 87.9 million barrels in 2018.”

In contrast, the President insists that a shift to clean energy will create better paying jobs, saying, “We can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, and our energy infrastructure.” 

I just don’t know, after more than a year of dealing with COVID, whether a divided United States will have the mettle for climate. The biggest hurdle I see is transportation. Americans are buying more cars and driving more miles. We’ll soon be flying more. Prior to the pandemic, air travel had been up 5 percent a year over the past few years. 

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular, but there is no equivalent for air travel. Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash.

Unlike the promise of electric cars, there is no electrical alternative for long distance air travel. 

Further, in Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future, the authors observe, “Many Americans view the findings of climate science through a partisan or ideological lens. For those who reject the scientific consensus, their views are based more on emotional reactions than rational responses. It is of course also true that some people who accept the consensus are doing so for reasons that are not exclusively rational.”

I mentioned “planting new forests” above. I realize that climate mitigation efforts like planting trees may be a long-term and certainly idealistic solution, but there is also the option of slowing down or putting a halt to deforestation. We should probably do both.

In closing, my next essay considers the epic poems of folk and rock music.

In starting the transition, I wonder how Dylan would revise the lyrics of Subterranean Homesick Blues to reflect climate change. Would he still say, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows”?

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 March from The English Lady: Spring is in the Air, Making it a Busy Month in the Garden

Spring has sprung! Let Maureen Haseley-Jones guide you through your many tasks in the garden during March.

March is a month of ‘wait and see’ as we anticipate walking around our gardens. This morning I walked outside, into a southwesterly breeze and a pleasantly warm sun. I took a deep breath and as I did, I caught the rich fragrance of the soil beginning to awaken.

All of us are itching to get into the garden and I believe that foray will be earlier than last year owing to our mild winter and the fact that frost did not penetrate deep into the ground.

The sodden soil will dry out in the next few weeks however, I urge you to tread gently as you tend our precious commodity of Mother Nature – soil. In that regard I am asking that you do not till the soil as tilling damages soil structure and can break friable root systems.

I am asking you to be patient right now and I know it’s not easy after being house-bound for so long with the pandemic. However, patience is what is necessary for ‘dyed in the wool’ gardeners for the next few weeks as all of us are chafing at the bit to get hands into the soil.

In the meantime, I suggest you go full steam ahead with planning for the upcoming season. Planning means organizing, which prevents gardening mistakes that can occur later in the season if you do not plan.


For example, let’s look at your trees – check the trees in your garden to evaluate any work that needs to be accomplished. It is less expensive for arborists to do tree work before the foliage appears and when the branches and the overall shape of the trees can be seen more clearly, the labor goes quickly and is less expensive with less strain on your budget.

What to look for:

  • Are there broken or dead limbs?
  • What branches require cabling?
  • If a tree appears to be 50% dead or unhealthy looking then it should be removed.

Also, think about whether

  • To change a medium shade area into a dappled shade area, allowing more sunlight in by thinning out the upper tree branches or tree canopy.
  • To remove a tree to transform a shade area into a sunny spot, which allows for a larger choice of plants available to you.

I always hesitate to remove a healthy tree but sometimes a tree may have been planted too close to the house and consequently the roots have undermined your home’s foundation and the shading over the roof has resulted in mold and mildew. If you need any of the above work to be done, please contact a licensed arborist.

There is an art to tree work knowing how, when and why to cut. Tree work  should to be carried out by a professional so that at the completion of the work, the effect is both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

An experienced arborist will also take into consideration the health of the trees. Having the work done by an arborist also avoids injury to yourself from falling from ladders or perhaps tree branches or trees falling on you.


March is the month to prune evergreens before the new growth appears.

Hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by new spring growth.  Please keep to the natural shape of the shrub – no round balls.

Prune Spirea to six inches from the ground.

In April, prune Lavender to three inches.

In late March, prune Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra), cutting out the oldest branches.

Lilac – Prune back all old branches to various lengths before leaf growth begins, from two to five feet, retaining a natural shape. Sprinkle lime around the base of the Lilac and add manure in May.  Lilacs enjoy alkaline soil benefitting from lime.

Prune Butterfly Bush to two feet from the ground and in May apply composted manure around the base.

Prune Forsythia (pictured above) after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.

Prune roses when the forsythia blooms.  If the roses have only been in the ground for one year, do not prune, wait until October.

Do not remove the protective mulch from around the base of the roses, wait until mid May, and then apply a dressing of manure and fine bark mulch.

You may be asking, ‘Why wait until May to apply manure’ The answer is that the soil needs to warm up to 55 degrees otherwise the nutrient benefits of the manure bacteria working with plant roots and soil organisms are not activated. I suggest you invest in an inexpensive soil thermometer to check the soil temperature. At soil temperature of 55 degrees apply a three- to four- inch layer of composted manure.

When April arrives, carefully begin to clear away winter debris, treading carefully on the soil to avoid damaging soil structure and friable root systems. When you have carefully cleared away the debris, make a clean edge to the borders with a sharp spade; this makes a pleasing effect on the look of your garden.

The best tool to use is a sharpened lawn edger, the blade is a half circle 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep with a flat top – this tool creates a deep edge. Face the bed and thrust the edger down to its full depth and push the cut soil into the bed. Continue along and then remove the spade and surplus clumps of soil and grass.

Edging was one of the first lessons I was taught at our family nursery in England; my great- grandfather was a strict taskmaster standing over me for quite a few days until I got the edging correct.

If you are contemplating the location of a new planting bed or expanding an existing one, here are some tips:

  • Think in terms of where you spend your leisure time outdoors where you can sit in close proximity to the new bed in order to enjoy the bloom, fragrance and structure of your plantings.
  • From indoors are you able to view and enjoy the new border?
  • Is it an area where there will not be drainage problems, erosion concerns or water pooling?
  • Is it convenient to tend and enjoy where you can place a bench or chair?
  • Will you be abler to water it with relative ease?

For an informal garden I prefer a curved bed – a curved line gives grace and fluidity. I lay out a garden hose in the desired shape and size of bed, adjust the hose until you are satisfied with the gentle curves.

As previously mentioned, the best tool to use to edge or cut out a new bed is a sharpened lawn edger, the blade is a half circle 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep with a flat top – this tool creates a deep edge. Face the bed and thrust the edger down to its full depth and push the cut soil into the bed. Continue along and then remove the hose and surplus clumps of soil and grass.

Manure – do not apply manure until the soil temperature has reached 55 degrees which is usually in May, but with a soil thermometer you can check earlier. Many of you who have been my radio listeners and lecture audiences know how I feel about that wonderful natural product.

Manure is not a fertilizer – it builds soil structure, aids in drainage and its bacteria encourages the millions of soil animals below the surface to come alive and work with the manure bacteria to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.


Poultry manure – I know the odor can be rather objectionable, however, this manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels in any manure. If you have access to poultry manure, allow it to age for two months and then add it to the garden.

Horse manure is about 0.5 % nitrogen. If you obtain horse manure from a stable, which has sawdust on its floors – it should be pretty weed free. What I have done in the past is obtain horse and cow manure from stables and farms in April.  When you get it home, spread manure out in a flat area (not in a planting bed) then cover it with a tarp for a month.  This method will suffocate the weed seeds and encourage the manures to continue to decompose. A week before using horse and cow manure remove the tarp to allow the sun to further decompose it.

Cow manure is 0.25 % nitrogen and is the most available manure.  If you get horse and cow manure from the farm, ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile so that it is already partially decomposed.

Compost pile:

If you do not have a compost pile, maybe it could go on your list for this season. Vegetable waste from the kitchen plus grass clippings, and wood pruning can be added to the pile. The high temperature in the compost kills the weed seed and cooks all those other necessary ingredients.  The ratio of compost and manure for your garden is 1 part compost to 3 parts manure – but if you do not have compost – manure will do the trick

**DO NOT apply fresh manure to the garden, as it will burn the plants.  If you do not have a source of manures from a farm, purchase composted manure in bags from the garden center.

To produce the best-planting environment, resulting in a soil that is ‘black gold’ apply 3 inches of composted manure to all planted areas in May, July and October.

Natural fine bark Mulch can be added later in May. Do not use buckwheat mulch as it flies everywhere. Do not, I repeat do no use cocoa mulch, which is poisonous to dogs and cats and please do not use the chemically colored red mulch.  The benefits of natural fine bark mulch is that mulch helps to retain the beneficial moisture in the soil and also aids to retard weeds as does Bradfield organics, a corn gluten based weed pre emergent.


I know I have written about the importance of the Humus component for the soil but I feel I must continue to stress this fact.

In 1937 Franklin D Roosevelt told us ‘that the nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.’

Unfortunately, America has not heeded that warning. Precious soils in this country and around the world are being destroyed by dangerous practices used in industrialized agriculture as well as poisonous chemicals, which completely disrupts our eco system and poisons all living things.

In your own garden you can build and retain a rich growing environment by building the Humus component -We are all carbon-based creatures as is all life on earth. Not only humans but also our soil microbes need carbon to flourish. To attract carbon from the atmosphere into your soil you need to build the humus component.


Do not till soil – tilling breaks up soil structure.

First step – Add composted manure three times – in spring when the soil has reached a temperature of 55 degrees.  If the soil has not reached that temperature, the soil organisms are not able to work with the bacteria in the manure to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants.

This year, as we have not experienced deep frost therefore, the soil temperature may reach 55 degrees by the end of April or early May.  Add the manure again in July to continue to nourish your growing plants and again in October to protect and nourish your plants and roots through winter.    Manure is not a fertilizer; it builds soil structure and works with all the soil animals to keep a healthy disease- free growing environment.

Second step – Add wood chips in the form of brown fine bark mulch or wood chips that you produce from your garden;  these are aged wood chips combined with leaves, twigs and branches.

These two major steps build the humus component. If you do this in your own garden – not only will you be  helping to heal the planet but also produce the healthiest of gardens.

A question I am often asked is ‘can I put manure over mulch for example in my July garden’? The answer is ‘yes’ – the manure together with nature’s moisture and your own irrigation enables the manure to find its way easily into the soil and the roots of your plants.


Humus acts like a sponge and can hold 90% of its weight in water.

Because of its negative charge – plant nutrients stick to humus for nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and minerals, which prevents these from washing away and acts as nature’s slow release fertilizer throughout the year.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plants to root in this soil to get better access to nutrients, water and oxygen.

Humus also helps’ filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, mulch like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

We are not able to control industrialized agricultural practices – but in your own garden you can make a difference. Feed the soil and it will feed the plants.

Once again, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. So back to a cloudy day at the end of March, at this time you can gradually begin to remove protective covering from shrubs and small trees. In exposed garden areas, where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid April. Cold wind is more damaging and drying to plants than extreme cold and frost.

If some perennials, trees and shrubs have heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil or mulch until mid May when they can be settled back in place.

I just walked around the corner of my house to check on my trellis on the chimney where I have roses and clematis planted together. Roses and clematis are a delightful combination in a companion planting.

A companion  planting means the rose and the clematis planted together have the same growing needs, ‘feet in the shade and heads in the sun’. Each month beginning in May, add manure and mulch around the base of both. Discontinue feeding roses and clematis in mid August; this enables both plants to go into a necessary slow dormancy.


When the lawn has dried out in April, rake lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs.  Raking gently raises the mat of the lawn, which enables the emerging grass to breathe again.

Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn.  Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; following this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced.  Do not use the large thatching machines, as these machines damage the grass.


In April apply an organic fertilizer and organic grub control before the grass begins to grow.

Reseed bare or sparse spots after gently loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, then cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away.  Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will scatter the seeds. As with lilacs, grass enjoys alkaline soil which is why we use lime for this purpose.

To keep the mole population at a minimum in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month from March for two months; less grubs, less food for the moles. When you see signs of moles, find the mole holes and insert Exlax which contains Senna, an organic herb. The moles eat the exlax, become dehydrated from defecation and die.  Apply organic Pre-emergent crabgrass killers in March and April.

Spread castor oil around the base of plants and keep mulch away from the base of the plants so that voles, which are canny little creatures are not able to hide there and gnaw on plants and roots.

Do not cut off the leaves of the crocus as they bloom; the leaves make food for the bulbs for next season’s bloom.

When the green shoots emerge; spread composted manure around the plants.

‘A host of golden daffodils.’ Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

The stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers.  Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours.  Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers.  If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process. Change the water in the vase often.

When perennials are about four inches above soil level, in May when soil is 55 degrees, apply composted manure around them to further encourage healthy growth.

At the end of April or beginning of May, you can divide late blooming perennials that have been in the ground for four years or more; these divisions encourage stronger bloom.

Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions.  Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were originally in the ground.

When dividing irises, barely cover the root system so they do not fall over – if Irises are planted too deep they will not bloom.

Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.

March is the time to plant the following seeds indoors: gaillardia, salvia, marigold, zinnia, petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena. Before planting these seeds, soak seeds in warm water and plant them in sphagnum moss or coir. Coir is the outer shell or fiber of the Coconut, either of these two mediums prevents a disease called “damping off”, which can cause seeds to rot before germination.

Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap, which creates a mini-greenhouse, which provides moisture that seeds need to germinate.

Note: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, as the soil needs to drain and needs air circulation around the emerging stems.

If you are going away on business, or on vacation reapply the plastic wrap over the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners. While you are away the seedlings will stay moist, make sure the seedlings do not come in contact with the plastic.

Start tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.

DORMANT SPRING SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open.

Call in a professional company and request that they use only organic products.

Houseplants – repot them if they need repotting in April.


The plants that you brought indoors at the end of last season check them and when the new side shoots appear, cut them back to four inches and repot them in clean pots about and inch and a half larger with fresh potting soil.

Well, fellow gardeners I know you are getting excited to be in your gardens this season and I hope that these tips have given you plenty to think about to keep you busy for a while. Enjoy photo of lovely gardens that my son Ian and I have designed on Facebook and if you wish I suggest you contact Ian for a consultation and enjoy the photos on his website

Enjoy being outdoors in spring sunshine and I look forward to seeing  you in your garden in April!

Contact Maureen at

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: Chicken Adobo with Coconut Rice is ‘Good and Easy’

Lee White

This was another interesting food and friend weekend. I began the week with a Milton cauliflower pizza, which lasted for two evenings. I also finished up the beef stew topped with some quinoa I’d cooked and refrigerated. I like playing with quinoa.

Then I made a sheet pan dinner that also lasted for two night. This time I placed parchment paper on the sheet before I added salt, pepper and truffle oil to the potatoes, salted and peppered the broccoli and topped the chicken thighs with butter, curry powder and a little honey.

The latter (the curry, butter and honey) is the first combination I made with chicken maybe 50 years ago. The combination was delicious. (I had used frozen broccoli I’d bought at Trader Joe’s and wasn’t sure it would go straight from the freezer to the oven, but it worked out very well.

On Saturday, Sue and Karen came over on Saturday to watch the noon Connecticut women’s basketball game (yes, we won by lots). We ate snacks (Cheez-Its, trail mix from Costco, peanut butter cups from Aldi). After we won, I put tiny potatoes into the oven, created an enormous salad and Karen grilled a rib eye filet they’d bought from their own house (a new cut for me) on the Weber. Dinner was delicious.

Then we watched two movies in a row: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (meh) and Judah and the Black Messiah (Daniel Kaluuya and movie memorable). All together, eight hours of three things I like the most: good people, good food and movies.

Hope we do this more often.

Now I am back to routine: write a column or two, thaw some chicken for dinner, prepare for a 6 p.m. board of meeting, finish book for book club. The recipe below is a very good and very easy. Use any fairly spicy chile you have. I always have cans of unsweetened coconut milk. I also buy big packages of sweetened coconut chips for my salads, but if you don’t have chips, a little toasted coconut works fine.

Chicken Adobo with Coconut Rice
From Fine Cooking, February-March, 2021
Yield: serves 6

For the chicken:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (3 to 3 ½ pounds)

For the rice:
1 cup long grain white rice
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup toasted unsweetened coconut chips; more for garnish
3 scallions, sliced

In a Dutch oven, combine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, serrano, bay leaves and black pepper. Add chicken, skin-side down, Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Turn chicken and simmer 15 minutes more. Place chicken skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bring cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil gently uncovered, until thickened and reduce to about 1 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard bay leave. Skim the fat.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Broil chicken, 5 inches from heat, until skin is browned and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.

Make the rice: Place rice in a fine-nesh sieve and rinse with cold water, Place in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in coconut milk, ½ cup water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let stand 10 minutes.

Fluff the rice with fork. Stir in toasted coconut and half the scallions. Serve the chicken with the rice. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with remaining scallions. Garnish with additional toasted coconut.

A la Carte: There’s Always Something to Celebrate with Red Velvet Cake

Lee’s Red Velvet Cake recipe can be adapted to make delicious cupcakes. Photo by Owen Bruce on Unsplash.

I have not seen my son, daughter-in-law and their three grown daughters since Thanksgiving of 2019. I missed another Thanksgiving, Christmases, Greek Easters and many birthdays.

But Sydney, my second oldest granddaughter, will celebrate her March 16 birthday with her nuclear family and me in Newburyport, Mass. I will bring dinner, probably Pasta Bolognese, a big salad, lots of garlic bread and dessert. And that dessert will be Red Velvet Cake. 

The day Sydney was born, we drove from Old Lyme to the hospital in Beverly, Mass. I had been eating clementines in the car. When I held her in my arms  and she was then fewer than 24-hours-old, she sucked my orange-scented finger. From that day, I was hers forever.

Maybe I will take her a bottle of Grand Marnier!

Red Velvet Cake*

Adapted from The Confetti Cakes Cookbook by Elisa Strauss (Harper Row, New York, 2007)
Yield: serves at least 12 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter each pan, line bottoms with parchment, then butter parchment. Set aside. 

3 ½ cups cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 and ¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs (I have extra-large, which is fine)
6 tablespoons red food color (3 ounces!)
1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 and ¼ cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 and ½ teaspoons white vinegar

Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat a medium-speed until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine in low, very slowly add red food color (be careful, it can splatter). Add vanilla. Add flour mix alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and cake until cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes, then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel parchment. Cool completely.

*To make cupcakes: use cooking spray to muffin cups (or use cupcake liners), add batter and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. 

Red Velvet Cake Icing

Adapted from The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook by John Doherty with John Harrison (Bulfinch, 2006)

2 cups heavy cream, cold
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (reduced-fat is fine)
8 ounces mascarpone (available in most supermarkets in the fancy cheese section)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Softly whip cream by hand in electric mixer. Cover in bowl and refrigerate.

Blend cream cheese and mascarpone in bowl of stand mixer or in large bowl with electric hand mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, pulse briefly and add confectioners’ sugar. Blend well. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until needed. Yield: enough icing for top and slice of three-layer cake.

Place first layer cake on wide plate. Place pieces of waxed paper under each quadrant, about 2 or 3 inches in. Place lots of icing on top of layer and spread about half an inch to the end. Add second layer and to that again. Place the top layer on top and frost the entire cake around the sides. Add lots more to the top and spread. (I had enough left over for one one-layer cake). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lee White

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 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? ‘The Survival of the Bark Canoe’ by John McPhee

John McPhee, the ever-curious observer, listener, and recorder, has written and published some 30 books, exploring almost every facet of human existence. I’ve just re-read one of his earliest, and best, from 1975, an ode to, of all things, the canoe.

Attracted to the water at an early age, he confesses “the canoe … is the most beautifully simple of all vehicles.” So it is natural that he is attracted to Henri Vaillancourt, a New Hampshireman with Nova Scotian blood, a builder of birchbark canoes, for a mid-life story (McPhee was 44 when he wrote this book.)

McPhee introduces himself, establishes a connection and persuades Vaillancourt to join three of his friends for a lengthy excursion in the far north of Maine’s lakes and rivers. This is the story of that trip.

It begins with no-see-ums, those pestilent creatures that sneak through almost any screening. And as they paddle north, we learn almost everything there is to learn about bark canoes.

What is a wulegessis? It’s a “flap of bark that forms a deck over the bow (or the stern) and extends a short way down the sides of the canoe.” But this is an essential piece of knowledge if you are building your own birchbark canoe, assuming you have the time, energy, and patience!

McPhee recounts the conversations, frictions, stories and favorite words of this group (“bummer” is Henri’s normal), even while diverting to history: how the native Americans developed the “vehicle”, and the story of Thoreau’s similar trip to Maine a century earlier.

He lets the reader know that it is indeed possible to travel in a canoe from New York City to Alaska, and down the Yukon, to the Bering Sea (with, perhaps, a few portages …)

And we learn a few new word meanings: “to frog it” is to manhandle a canoe through shallow, rushing water, standing on its side. And how five men manage their “acute propinquity” during several weeks in the wilderness? Their “continued sense of motions, the clear possession of a course to follow, the sense of journey” bring them all closer together.” Plus the loons forever laughing at them …

The end? They finally reach the conclusion of their travel, disappointed that they have seen not one moose, predicted at their start. Then, as they are driving south, they are forced to the side of the dirt road to let a moose rush by, going north, pursued by a huge truck.

John McPhee is now 90. I eagerly await his next set of musings.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Survival of the Bark Canoe’ by John McPhee is published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 1975.

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.