March 14 is π Day. You remember π (Pi) right? (Hint: It’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. For any circle, dividing its circumference by its diameter will give you exactly the same number every time: 3.14159…, π. Last year π enthusiasts were very excited to be able to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime epic event on 3-14-15, at 9:26:53.) In any case, on March 14, the sets of math geeks and pie lovers overlap in a deep-dish, double-crust Venn diagram, piled high with whipped cream. In honor of π Day this year, I set out to explore the art and science of pie-making with a few of the local masters — all conveniently located within a several-mile radius of my house. Continue reading →
There are remarkable people who come into our lives and become authors of certain types of adventures. I am speaking of my former “gentleman friend,” a Mr. Watkins, an Englishman who took me three times to England, and was responsible for a career turning point in my life when I became a staff member of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Even after we parted (after nine years together), English ways and recipes carved out new horizons for me.
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, 1940.
The newspaperman – the cliché is that anyone working for a paper is a rogue and a joker, a cross between hero and raconteur, and possibly drunk at that. It’s the kind of character made famous by The Front Page (1931) and His Girl Friday (1940), and usually played by someone as charming and suave, as Adolph Menjou or Cary Grant.
Indeed, it’s these kinds of films that shaped the idea we still have of what reporters and journalists do and act like, a type that seemed to spring to existence right after the Depression (although they were around much earlier than that), always acted slightly uncomfortable in a white collar and determined to put his or her bosses in their place. It’s no accident The Front Page (the source material for His Girl Friday) was written by two former newspapermen, Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur, who went to Hollywood and gilded their own reputations, finding the money easy and the competition “idiots.”
What do baking and letter writing have in common? Passion! Communication! Adventure!
Two of my most revered friendships came about because of letters I wrote. Last year I told you about Rose Levy Beranbaum; today, I would like to share another story about meeting M.F.K. Fisher, and share the recipe she loved most of all the things I made for her. The recipe is called “Starlight Sugar Crisps,” from a 1950s Pillsbury Bakeoff book, a croissant type of pastry laced with vanilla sugar.
Flashing back for a moment, someone lent me The Art Of Eating, an anthology of five books written by M.F.K. Fisher. Her style, sensibilities and wry humor captured me instantly. She made me fall in love with France all over again.
Two things drew me to visit Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol: They serenade their barrels with music, and they have an all-female distillery team. Unusual on both counts, it was worth a trip out of town to get a closer look at the operation. As a bonus, getting there provided a scenic view of the vineyards and the acres of brilliant yellow mustard flowers that pop up every year at this time. Continue reading →
Beautifully shot in black and white – a rarity these days – Ciro Guerro’s Embrace of the Serpent is Columbia’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, and deservedly so. An “elegy for lost cultures and an indictment of exploitation,” this saga of human endurance in the wilderness – also the theme of fellow Oscar nominee The Revenant – plays like “a rainforest fever dream.” Critics Daniel Barnes and Dennis Harvey present their takes on this vivid physical adventure, which opens across North America in February and March.