postcard from paris

birdman jeff

The Birdman of Notre Dame: Tourists pay money to put birdseed on their head for the pigeons at Notre Dame.  There were 3 guys with big bags of birdseed.  If you paid them they would put some on your head and in your hands.  The pigeons would eat out of their hands and peck their heads.  Maybe you could start doing it in Market Square.  There also were a lot of Asian brides getting photos by Notre Dame.  One with pigeons on her.

postcard from flúðir

iceland springsIn the small village of Flúðir, Iceland hot spring water makes a river smoke.  The water is also pumped into an outdoor pool formerly known as Gamla Laugin (Old Pool).  It was rebranded as “The Secret Lagoon” in 2014.  #mystopover

a book about white bread

image“white bread:  a social history of the store-bought loaf” (2012) by aaron bobrow-strain is about white bread as it represents peoples’ dreams & aspirations from the late 1800s to the present 

i have never read a more tiresome & tiring book on what could have been a neat subject \ after reading informative & entertaining treatises about food & beverages <documented under “books” in this blog> this is utterly disappointing & a book one can put down / my main problem is the author’s treatment of the subject matter \ and this is to project white bread as a metaphor for people’s “dreams” – of purity, of abundance, of health & discipline, of strength & defense etc. \ really? people dream of purity?  of health & discipline? / i don’t think that was the most interesting angle to take \ i find it hard to connect dreams & aspirations to bread because to me bread particularly white bread represents commonness & status quo

bobrow-strain could have dug deeper into the collusion of government & industry in crafting food & public health policies \ the impact of marketing as well as innovations in complementary & substitute bread products would have been interesting too / the demand & market for artisan bread in recent times would have been informative & a great counterpoint to the rise & fall of industrial white bread \ more detail on what ingredients goes into industrial white bread & its enrichment would also have given more color to the story

about the most interesting revelation in the book was that softness became the gauge of desirability by consumers / they could not smell it <the way one can with homemade bread> so touching & pinching the bread through the packaging became a way to assess the product \ and so white bread was manufactured to be oh so soffftttt….oooh how did they make it so soffftttt? / btw – you can also round it up like a ball & make it bounce!

an interesting yinzer fact from the book pertains to the ward baking company which for some 50 or so years was headquartered in pittsburgh before returning to manhattan where it originated / ward baking company went on to produce wonder bread \ in the news earlier this week was the defacement by graffiti of an old advertising for ward’s bread on the wall of a house in polish hill, pictured above \ note: advertising says “100% pure” – remember “dream of purity” / according to bobrow-strain this also pertained to racial purity

a fun fact for me was mention of “cornell bread” which was created in the 1940s by cornell nutrition professor clive mccay as a low-cost nutritious & good tasting staple during the war-rationing days

i found out about this book from my favorite curmudgeon / are you finished with it yet?

an evening of jamon iberico & other indulgences

iberico ham tasting

i did not have to go to spain to have a taste of iberico ham  / taking advantage of’s 18th anniversary promo, i ordered this expensive epicurean delight:   These slices of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota come from the ham, or back leg, of an acorn fed Ibérico pig. Indigenous black Ibérico pigs roam the ancient woodlands of southwestern Spain feasting on the sweet ‘encina’ acorns, along with grasses and other herbs. This combination of special animals, exercise, diet and two years of curing in the mountain air all combine to make this the finest ham in the world.

i invited my favorite curmudgeon and his partner for an evening of ham indulgence \ as comparison to iberico ham, we had prosciutto – one made in pittsburgh & another imported from italy <iberico is the dark one in the pictures> / to round out the ham tasting experience, we had iberico cheese, ciabatta <from breadworks>, concord grapes from the curmudgeon’s farm coop, honeycrisp apples & caramel, fresh mangoes \ and of course, dogfish head beers:  black & blue, birra etrusca bronze & theobroma / there also was quail eggs, salted duck eggs & the notorious filipino balut <no takers>

the verdict was unanimous: we liked jamon iberico a lot! even love it if not for its price tag  ~$256/lb not including shipping <10-15 times more $$$ than prosciutto!> \ it tasted full & rich and had a very pleasant sweet-nutty-salty taste / the local & imported prosciuttos tasted very similar to each other & were decibels saltier than iberico

an equally special treat: our favorite young musicians played the violin <irish legend, theme from shindler’s list & accolay’s concerto #1 in a minor>, piano <a time for us> & ukulele <psycho killer> for us \ a very nice evening with good friends, a warm way to start the fall season

fashion faux pas? ne…plus!

white after labor day

not wearing white after labor day is passe! \ times & the climate have changed or didn’t you notice? / a subtle positive effect of global warming  is that your favorite white dress or pantsuit can now be worn much longer in the year than you’ve come to believe\ right up to columbus day!*  / or if you were ahead of the times <& climate>, you’d wear white year-round, whenever you like, as though you never left the philippines <no such rule, labor day is may 1, summer year-round>

in fact to most sensible yet fashion-conscious people, banning white after labor day is nonsense / as one of my friends <a fashion plate no less> rhetorically asked, “is the day after labor day impure?” \ another fashionable friend said, “i never believed in this no-white rule,  it’s like saying you can’t wear red after christmas, not till valentine again” / it’s like telling a new yorker, “you can wear black only 5 days out of the week” \ in a recent survey, a solid 80% actually adhere to this nonsensical rule for fear of reprisal from the unenlightened fashion police in their midst / and i feel sorry for them \ so today, the first day after labor day, i wore one of my many white dresses

*my favorite curmudgeon’s estimate of when the enlightened camp of the fashion police would reconsider it to still be fashionable