Out of Body


To be entirely truthful, my overriding feeling during my visit to the Rubin Museum for a press opening was more out of head.

The Second Buddha at the Rubin Museum of Art

The premise of the entire museum for 2018 is that the past, future and present are fluidly enjoined. More truth: I found it hard and, in some instances impossible, to fully grasp all the information, some written in art-cum-Buddha speak. Notwithstanding, much of the art is wonderful regardless of interpretation.

portable shrine

Among my favorite pieces is a portable shrine from Bhutan made of painted and gilded wood with clay figures, small enough to be carried around by teaching monks to broaden the reach of the so-called ‘Second Buddha’s’  vision.

Another highlight of my visit was experiencing Virtual Reality. I donned a headset and grasped what looked like a white television remote and, with the help of a museum guide, entered the famed Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong, a British hill station in West Bengal. (In the early twentieth century, the hotel was the jumping- off point for many explorers including one in search of the Yeti.  Then, in the early 1960s, after the so-called Sino-Soviet split, Kalimpong, and presumably the hotel, was characterized as a ‘nest of spies’, because of intense political activity there.)

At one point in my VR adventures, I ‘stood’ at the bottom of a long flight of steps and was told to walk up. The risers were steep so I put out my hand for the banister and started climbing, moving my feet until my brain clicked in and I realized that I was shuffling forward on a carpeted floor.

After opening doors and walking down hallways I was “teleported” to a room in a nearby monastery.  I walked to a display case in the center of the room that held the arm and hand

Yeti –aka Abominable Snowman.

of the Yeti (not at all gross, more like a piece of armor.) After that I went outside to stand among ancient-looking rocks and see realistic mountains as well as trees that appeared to be made of colored paper. The Yeti himself (itself?) walked by as did a couple of “ghosts.” At the very end of what was about a half-hour, the floor I was standing on fell away until I was in space with stars all around.

As soon as I removed the headset I was back where I’d begun, not dizzy but feeling as though I’d been far away. Despite a few glitches at the beginning, the technology is amazing in the true sense of that sadly overworked word.

After returning to earth, it would have been nice have been served this Tibetan Rice Pudding (recipe courtesy Saveur Magazine)

6 cups whole milk, at room temperature

12 cup clover honey, plus more as needed (any honey will do)

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed well

2 oz. dried apples, chopped into 12” pieces

12 cup golden raisins

2 tbsp. butter, plus more as needed

Put the milk, honey, and salt into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer; do not let it boil. Stir in the rinsed rice, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is very soft and milk is nearly absorbed, 30-40 minutes.

Add the apples and raisins and continue to simmer until the apples are softened and pudding is very thick, 5-10 minutes more. Just before serving, stir in the butter. Serve plain or drizzled with additional honey or butter, if you like.

In the Himalayas, beer and ara, (a version of arak, a clear spirit often drunk mixed with water), are popular but somehow don’t go with the nursery quality of rice pudding. Maybe a nice cup of tea and a nod to the Yeti.





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Designing Women–and Men

Accessible icon (figure used to be upright and static)

There has been a giant uptick of design with, by and for people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and sensory abilities with ordinary aging part of the mix. To that end, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, always a gem, has mounted a show, Access + Ability, (a title I can’t seem to get into my mental Rolodex,  talking about getting older),  showcasing a variety of items that help with daily routines. The premise is that products for those with disabilities used to be designed by engineers; now they are in the hands of engineers. Bye bye clunky, hello style.

When the show opened in January, The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman wrote a great review –link here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/arts/design/cooper-hewitt-access-ability.html

At the museum, I was given a stylus linking to item labels that sent more information to my home laptop where I accessed it using a code on my admission ticket. Brilliant idea even if a few of the links weren’t quite ready for prime time.

The technology is great but the objects themselves are even better. Take canes—utilitarian but often not pleasing to look at.

Those on view at C-H are stylish and multifaceted:  some can be picked up when dropped with a tap of the toe, others have glow in the dark handles or hook onto a table and stay put and many are customizable. Farewell plain Jane canes.

There is a pair of cool sneakers designed at the request of a teen-aged boy with cerebral palsy who wrote to Nike explaining he had trouble tying his shoelaces. The result: the FlyEase with a zipper around the sides and Velcro closures. Not only are they easy to get on and off, they’re good-looking.

Check out the hearing aids, the bane of many aging adults who are uncomfortable revealing their disability. As Kimmelman points out, eyeglasses used to be considered “medical equipment” until fashion designers got into the game. Now they are “fashion accessories.” You might not want to go as far as the bejeweled hearing aids in the show but they are a terrific idea.

Bejeweled hearing aid

And lots more:  an athletic-looking walker that could make someone want to get out and jog, memory aids for Alzheimer’s patients and a shirt with magnetic “buttons” that makes dressing a, well, snap. I loved the Velcro-covered wall that lets a user stick a TV remote, eyeglasses or other objects to it.

Every item on view is  well-designed, pleasing- to- use and simplifies a mundane task. The exhibition is on view until September 3, 2018.  It’s highly informative and fun.

After the exhibit, (which you can view on line),  summon your inner designer and make pizza. Start by buying either a ready-made crust OR pizza dough from a shop. This is a prototype for a spinach and mushroom pie but design away using any vegetables you want.– just cook them first, doing it a simple way like roasting .  For the spinach/mushroom pie read on:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 cup fresh spinach, rinsed and dried

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (yes, in a bag) 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (your choice: button, porcini, exotic like hen-of-the-woods, a combo, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil and sesame oil. Brush onto pre-baked pizza crust, covering entire surface. Stack the spinach leaves, then cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips; scatter evenly over crust. Cover pizza with shredded mozzarella, and top with sliced mushrooms.

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and edges are crisp.

And voila, lunch, dinner, snack or what you will, designed by you. Toast yourself for being so clever.






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Christmas in Kathmandu

The UNESCO Stupa, Kathmandu

To reach Bhutan I flew via Hong Kong into Kathmandu, Nepal. I’d been there years ago but  found a very different city, this one clogged with traffic and choked in dust, largely from construction in response to the horrific April, 2015 earthquake that killed nine thousand and injured thousands more. After a wonderful two weeks in Bhutan, I returned to Kathmandu en route home.

Lobby of Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu

A  friend from the trip  and I entered the lobby of our hotel. In contrast to the rough-and-ready guests houses we had stayed at in Bhutan this place screamed luxury: the bar area had upholstered sofas and chairs; soft rugs covered the floor and a long table was stacked with newspapers from all over the globe. It was twelve days before Christmas so the lobby was festooned with holiday decorations including a display of gingerbread houses; five chefs in sparkling white aprons topped by traditional toques proudly paraded around.  This western holiday cheer was a little odd but lots of modern Nepali are crazy about our culture as evidenced in many ways including their preference for jeans over their traditional dress.

My friend and I had been thrilled with Bhutan but had missed pre-dinner cocktails–we had  steered clear of alcohol  as drinking can increase the likelihood of altitude sickness which neither of us wanted to risk. Now, on our way home, we could have a drink. We approached the barman and explained exactly what we wanted—vodka martinis–straight up for her, on the rocks for me, olives all around, “and please use dry, not sweet, vermouth.” The man nodded and repeatedly assured us he understood.

A long twenty minutes later, our drinks emerged. My friend’s looked all right although she said it tasted peculiarly like licorice. Mine was a martini glass with a foot high mound of pulverized ice, tiny straws sticking out at angles. I sipped and got the tiniest hint of vodka. “Just what you wanted,” my friend said, “a vodka slurpee!”

At that minute there was a roar; we looked up to see Santa zipping through the lobby on a


motor scooter. On the other side of the room, a largely Nepali group had burst into Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree followed by Joy to the World although the melodies and rhythms were slightly off. I wandered over to check out the singers, mostly parents and kids including a few babies. The adults were drinking what I was  told was mulled wine and having a great time. On one side of the room, teen girls were fluffing each others’ hair and showing off fancy dresses that could have come from any American mall. On the other side, a group of monks in traditional crimson and orange robes were enjoying the music, tapping sandaled feet to keep time.

Back at the bar, I looked at my friend and we burst into laughter. Forget the royal palaces in Durbar Square. Never mind the Boudhanath stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979. We were experiencing the –slightly unreal— joys of Christmas in Kathmandu. For the moment, namaste gave way to Old Saint Nick.

Classic martini straight up

Wish the bartender had known how to make a classic vodka martini:

3 ounces vodka (use a good brand. A good martini is better with good vodka.)

1 teaspoon good dry vermouth.

James Bond likes his martini shaken not stirred. Fine with me. I like mine on the rocks but straight up is pretty and classic. Garnish with a twist of lemon or 2-3 large pimento-stuffed olives. If you want a dirty martini, add about a teaspoon of juice from the olive jar.

After enjoying your drink, consider a donation to any of the many organizations aiding victims of disaster be it earthquake, flood or fire.



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Dancing on Top of the World

Flag of Bhutan

My Bhutan itinerary didn’t include any dance viewing which I casually mentioned to our group leader.

Eureka! Towards the end of the trip he announced that there was a festival at the Dochula Pass where we would be en route back to Paro, site of the country’s only major airport. Time in Bhutan is “elastic” in that events don’t necessarily happen at the stated time—or even at all. Our leader said we’d go to the Pass and, if the festival was happening at the anticipated time, we’d be in luck.

Festival at Dochula with Himalayas in background

We did and it was. The weather was glorious—blue sky, no wind, and by eleven A.M.  about sixty-five degrees.  The Queen Mother, the festival’s patron, was there with a cadre of security guards whose job appeared to be insuring that she wasn’t crowded. She seemed to enjoy mingling with the general public, moving through the large audience, shaking hands, murmuring “nice to meet you” and smiling. Two or three members of our group “met” her. I was more interested in the festival so moved aside, trying to get the best view of the dancing.

At one point I was in full view of “backstage” where the dancers were changing costume. In my quest to see the dancing from the front, I fetched up next to a CNN TV crew filming background for an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown to air this spring. (If anyone spots the episode, I’d love a heads-up.) The cameraman and I know people in common and one of the assistants handed me a mo-mo (dumpling with a rice flour exterior and something veggie/shrimpy inside.) See link to NY Times article about new mo mo spot in Jackson Heights, Queens: www.nytimes.com/?action=click&contentCollection=Food&region=TopBar&module=HomePage-Button&pgtype=article

The performance included men in red suits with jester-like hats from which protruded large, pink penises—in Bhutan, phallic symbols are traced to Drukpa Kunley, aka the

Typical store display (especially for tourists)

“Divine Madman”  and are supposed to drive away the evil eye. The whole phallic worship bit is both frowned on by modern Bhutanese and enjoyed as it appeals to tourists.  Here is a link to article about it from the New York Times (no, not my only source of the printed word): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/world/asia/bhutan-phallus-commercialization-tourism.html?_r=0

Just in case you think I’m crazy enough to offer a recipe for mo-mos, think again. This is for chicken soup, something I made recently for the first time.

A Superior Chicken Soup—Julia Moskin, The New York Times

1 chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, with skin, cut up (I used chicken backs with lots of meat on them)

3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks

2 large carrots, cut into chunks

2 yellow onions, peeled and halved –leave skin on, gives nice dark color

1 parsnip or parsley root (optional) –nope

About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley

About 1 dozen black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste

To finish the soup:

3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat, more if needed

3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons –nope

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice

Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper

Egg noodles (fresh or dried) I used barley. ANY starch works fine.

Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions, dill or a combination.   Um, yes, if you have them handy.

Put chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. (I used store-bought chicken stock)

Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust heat until the soup is “smiling.” i.e., barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble.  Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth –yes) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer (or reserve the vegetables, chill and serve with vinaigrette. (I did and they were blah at best).

Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately until a layer of yellow fat rises rises to the top of the broth.

When ready to finish the soup, use fingers to separate chicken meat from bones and skin; keep meat only. (Note: Julia feels you use only the white meat. I used both.)

Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Put 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid.

Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. (I omitted the leeks entirely but they would have been nice.)

Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) Do not brown.

Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles/ your choice of starch and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped. Add chicken, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top.

Note: this looks incredibly complicated. If you go whole hog, it is, kinda. However, adding “fresh” carrots and onions after soup is done is smart as the already-cooked veggies have had all flavor drained out of them.

This makes a lovely meal. You could serve with bread and cheese and call it lunch or dinner.  Or, you could serve to a sick family member or friend and call yourself Mother Teresa.

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Yakkety Yak

Mt. Everest (Nepal) seen from plane into Bhutan

When friends heard I was headed to Bhutan, many asked “where is it?”  Very understandable as this tiny Himalayan kingdom, sandwiched between China and India, only opened to tourism in 1974 and regulates the number of visitors by imposing a daily fee of $250 per traveler.

Getting there is not half the fun as you have to fly to Kathmandu, Nepal (a long way from Hong Kong, Dubai or all other stopovers and featuring one of the world’s darkest, most chaotic airports) before boarding a Drukair plane (a fleet of three) into Paro, Bhutan. However, the trip is worth it to see a country hurtling into the twenty-first century with an expanding economy, a rich culture and welcoming people, mostly young.

I’d anticipated that the food would be mostly rice and chilies but  it turned out that “tourist” food is a sort of Chinese/Indian mashup, often served buffet style with at least eight offerings including lots of vegetables. Bhutan is a great place to be a vegetarian (I’m not) and, if you’re spice-adverse, plenty of dishes are have none. As Buddhists, Bhutanese don’t kill animals but import meat from India. Many lunches and dinners included “boneless chicken with bones” or pieces of pork, usually in a delicious sauce.

And those yaks? Grazing all over the place although they belong to nomads who live high in the mountains.  Far more unusual is the takin, the country’s national animal, which I saw at a preserve. Takins, a sort of


goat-cum- antelope, look like they’re made from a combination of spare animal parts—so ugly they’re almost cute. Bhutan is also home to the wild boar, red panda (small and foxyish), golden lemur, barking deer, snow leopard, tiger and other species. There is a huge variety of birds including the black-necked crane which we saw in abundance in the beautiful Phobjikha Valley as well as all kinds of trees and flowers because Bhutan is one of the last remaining biodiversity hotspots in the world with forests covering seventy-two percent of the country and an emphasis on keeping it that way.

If you insist on five-star hotels, unlimited internet or super highways, Bhutan is probably not for you. However, if you go there, it’s impossible to be unmoved by the spirit, tenacity and unique charm of this little nation.

This recipe for Ema Datshi (chilies with cheese, eaten by Bhutanese at every meal) has been toned down for western palates. If you want a hotter version, substitute green chilies. (Recipe courtesy of Compass and Fork)

chilie selection

8 ozs Anaheim chilies (if you want the dish spicy use green chilies)

4 ozs red chilies (if you want no spice whatsoever, remove the seeds)
1 medium onion roughly chopped

2 tomatoes roughly chopped

2-3 cloves garlic roughly chopped (I’d use a garlic press)

1 cup water

2 ozs feta cheese (because Butanese cow cheese isn’t available anywhere else)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

8 ozs gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese, grated

In a wok or large pan over a moderate heat, add the pepper, chili, onion, tomatoes, garlic and water. Stir to combine, cover and bring to the boil.


When boiling, turn heat down to simmer. Add feta and butter, stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the gruyere cheese and stir well to combine. When the cheese has fully melted, stir again to fully incorporate.


Put in bowl and serve with red (or other) rice as a side dish.


Toast gross national happiness, the philosophy of Bhutan coined by the country’s fourth king, with beer. Or the beverage of your choice, perhaps tea. Tashi delek!

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April 20-ish, 2002- -November 18, 2017

 The only possible recipe is tuna on a bed of tears


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Who Was Sylvia?

Sylvia Plath



The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, (with an entrance that looks—but isn’t—impassable due to nearby construction), has been around for one hundred and twenty five years. The Grolier celebrates books and prints and was one of the first organizations in the US to do so; it has terrific exhibitions that are free and open to the public. Check out their website: www.grolierclub.org

A current Grolier exhibits deals with the works of Sylvia Plath, (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963), sadly best known as an American poet who committed suicide. I took a tour of the exhibit with Judith G. Raymo, who assembled it from her personal collection of Plath’s work.

Plath went to Smith and then to Cambridge’s Newnham College on a Fullbright. Of her works, the best known are The Colossus, a poem, and The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death at age thirty.

Plath’s novel under an actual bell jar at the Grolier

From a young age, Plath’s writing gifts were obvious: her first work was published in the Christian Science Monitor just after she graduated from high school and she kept an elaborate diary starting at age eleven.

During Plath’s time at Smith she began exhibiting symptoms of clinical depression which was treated with multiple bouts of ETC (electroshock therapy). Much psychotherapy followed. Plath had had a troubled relationship with her parents but possibly the worst thing that happened to her was meeting and marrying British poet Ted Hughes with whom she had two children. Hughes was jealous of Plath’s success, isolated her and, after her death, burned or lost several of her journals and novels, part of the estate he inherited since when she died Plath and Hughes were married though separated. Plath described Hughes as “a singer, story-teller, lion and world-wanderer” with “a voice like the thunder of God.” Well, yes but he was also an abuser whose beating may have cause her to miscarry her second pregnancy. Plath left Hughes in 1962 after she learned about his affair with Assia Wevill. (Wevill then spent six years with Hughes and ultimately killed herself using the same method as Plath– asphyxiation from a gas stove. Hughes does not epitomize a kindly, loving partner.)

The Grolier Club’s downstairs gallery

If Plath hadn’t left such a brilliant legacy her life story would be even more heart-wrenching (if that’s possible.) She seems like a woman bewitched by a man whose personality was such that it helped wreck her. On the plus side, Plath’s success in work outstrips her difficulties and the Grolier show is a fine tribute.

Amazingly, Plath baked a lot. This is supposedly her favorite cake recipe, a quintessentially 60s item if ever there was one.


Better than ingredients would have you believe

Classic Tomato Soup Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (courtesy Graywolf Press)

 3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 tablespoons shortening

1 can tomato soup

2 cups white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon mace (a spice you can buy)

1 cup white sugar

1 egg (well-beaten)


1 package cream cheese (3 ounce)

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients.

Wash and cut raisins and roll them in a little flour.

Cream the sugar, shortening, and egg together thoroughly.

Add dry ingredients and soup to the creamed sugar mixture in alternating batches, a third at a time, and mix until all soup and dry ingredients are incorporated.

Fold in raisins and chopped nuts.

Pour into floured cake pan.

Bake one hour; let cool before icing.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese until soft and airy. Add sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Spread on cooled cake.

You’re probably not going to recreate this but it’s said to taste pretty good. And, if you don’t tell anyone about the tomato soup they won’t guess.



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Visiting a college friend in New Haven, I was warmly welcomed both by her and co-host, Beau. Beau is a Papillon, (note the butterfly-shaped ears): he is also the only dog I know who spurns food. Weight Watchers would find him an excellent role model.

The friend and I, (Beau had a pass), had a food-and-culture-filled weekend starting with a performance of Pentecost, a three-and-a half hour play at the Yale School of Drama. Act I deals with when the Renaissance actually began as well as the pros and cons of art restoration; Act II introduces ideas about immigration. Not only is the work a bit overlong, there is no

Meryl as if you didn’t know

Meryl among this group of students who haven’t learned to articulate and often intensify the problem by addressing the rear wall.

Some of the pottery currently on exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art is brilliant. Edmund de Waal, (of the Hare with the Amber Eyes fame), is represented as is an installation, Made in China, by Clare Twomey with eighty large red porcelain vases shown in the entrance and elsewhere in the building.  Perhaps the Twomey installation is meant as a spoof? It comes off that way.

Twomey in entrance of Yale Brit

Onto the Yale Art Gallery across the street for two war-related photography exhibits that left me cold and a delightful small show of ancient glass that brought back memories of the glass museum in Zadar in Croatia. Zadar gets my nod but glass exhibited in New Haven comes minus jet lag.

Our culture caper ended with a concert of Evening Ragas in Yale’s glorious Battell Chapel, used today by Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other groups for religious gatherings as well as for non-sectarian performances. The hypnotic music was courtesy of Rabindra Goswami on sitar and Ramchandra Pandid on tabla, both consummate artists.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz13DSCYhms

For the cheese-centric, a strong recommendation for Caesus, a cute spot serving lunch and dinner, catering and selling over one hundred cheeses and other fancy food, http://caseusnewhaven.com. If cheese isn’t your thing, the restaurant offers plenty of cheeseless (and gluten-free) options.

Because it’s a classic, here is;

Baked macaroni and cheese

Kosher salt

8 ounces fusilli or other short pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk, heated

1 bay leaf

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (you could, um, cheat here and buy it already shredded)

1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese (cheat here as well if you can find it)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, and then drain the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick, 8 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in 2 cups cheddar and the gruyere. Stir in the pasta and the reserved cooking water to make a loose sauce. Butter a 2-quart baking dish; add the pasta mixture and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake 15 minutes.

Not quite as easy as from a package but a great deal better, no additives and a hit with all ages. Milk for the little ones; something stronger for you.


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Frankly Speaking

Frank Lloyd Wright changed the way we build and the way we live. Visiting Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater, both in western Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, I came away with greater appreciation for his work and a better sense of the contrary, uncompromising man he was.

Kentuck Knob was completed in 1956 for Bernadine and her husband, ice cream magnate I.N. Hagan. The house is a good example of Wright’s Usonian style, meant to be practical for middle-class clients and run without staff. Because he loathed clutter, Wright refused to provide a garage and instead built the Hagens a carport (and is said to have coined the

Kentuck Knob carport

word.) Wright didn’t believe in storage spaces either and wanted the house’s rooms to be small but somehow Mrs. Hagan prevailed so the kitchen was

KK kitchen burners

enlarged, (with clever burners that flip up to preserve counter space),  the living room expanded and the outdoor dining porch made bigger so the skylights became part of the “ceiling.” I found the house dark and many elements—ceilings, beds, desks– low as Wright, a small man, designed on a scale that worked for him but must have been a challenge for tall guests. Getting in and out of the bathtubs looks like you’d need a hoist.

As planned, the house blends into the landscape starting from the crescent-shaped entrance curling around the courtyard. We were told that the site was originally bare but the Hagans planted thousands of trees that have grown up and are at least partly responsible for the lack of light in the living room. At the rear there is a TDF view of the Youngiogheny River gorge with surrounding hills and farmland.

Fallingwater, the weekend retreat of the Edgar Kaufmann family, was completed in 1937 amid squabbling about how much weight the cantilevered structure could bear. (Major renovations took place in 2001.) Kaufmann wanted his house to sit opposite the waterfall; contrarily, Wright built it directly over Bear Run Creek which is why Edgar Jr. reportedly referred to FW as “Rising Mildew.” Since Wright designed houses to blend fully into the natural world, bedrooms are small to encourage being outdoors; the living room hearth integrates boulders from the site and many windows have no surround so they fit

FW windows I’m glad not to have to wash

seamlessly into the walls. Stunning and unusual yes; also uncomfortable. FW  has over one hundred stone steps and both houses have very narrow passages and built-in benches in the living room that are aesthetically pleasing but would make conversation hard. Sybarite that I am, most Wright-designed furniture looks difficult to live with. As a man on one of my FW tours said, “when you bought a Wright house, you had to take the entire package,” meaning style first, the rest maybe not so much.

Looking for a recipe that goes with Pennsylvania (Wright famously didn’t give a damn about food) inevitably comes up as “Pennsylvania Dutch.) Fall is coming so it might be a good time to trot out:



Apple Crisp


3 cups sliced tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, preferably unsalted, room temperature

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375° F. Arrange apple slices in an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine flour, sugar and butter. Mix with hands until small lumps form. Add nuts and sprinkle over apples. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and top is lightly browned. Place on a cooling rack and let cool slightly before serving warm or at room temperature.  I’d serve with vanilla ice cream.

Want to buy a FLW house? Here are several on the market, most at what seem like low prices. Good luck with the upkeep: http://mentalfloss.com/article/504416/5-frank-lloyd-wright-homes-you-can-buy-right-now


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Lost and Found in D.C.

Lucky me—on my Labor Day weekend jaunt to Washington, D.C. I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the House and Senate. Back in the day either I zoned out during Social Studies or décor wasn’t mentioned because I didn’t anticipate the magnificence of the decoration throughout, especially the elaborately tiled floors and painted ceilings.  The Brumidi Corridors are particularly terrific as is the Old Senate Room which is a good bit more somber.  My experience was marvelous but I’m pretty sure the public tours are also

Old Senate Room


When Julia Child was televised dropping a chicken on the floor, casually picking it up and plunking it on a platter, she won my permanent adoration. Her kitchen, in the National Museum of American History, was removed from her house in Cambridge, MA and given to the Smithsonian. It’s huge as is her batterie de

The one and only Julia Child

cuisine—more pots and pans than several ordinary households put together.  The exhibit includes photos, recipes, kitchen tools and lots more—the First Ladies’ gowns pale beside it.

I continued the food motif at Eastern Market at lunch with a new friend.  The Market, completed in 1873  had a fire in 2007 that damaged the main space but didn’t stop activities.  There are vendors inside and out depending on days of the week as well as many restaurants and the complex hosts numerous community activities.

The morning of my departure I visited several of the big deal monuments exploring FDR, Martin Luther King, Vietnam and the Lincoln Memorial.  FDR’s space is composed of several separate “rooms” with the third one featuring  a statue of Roosevelt next to his dog, Fala who seems a little too big in relation to his master. The MLK memorial occupies less

Fala and FDR

ground space but is, to my mind, more imposing.  Although I’d been in Washington before, this was the first time I had climbed the stairs to see Abe up close and personal. The steps are a little daunting but are well worth negotiating.  Lincoln is larger than life in every sense.

Overall I found getting around DC confusing, odd considering I have no trouble in other cities worldwide.  In Washington-speak, “three blocks away” is far. The Metro is dandy but stops are spread out so a hike to the station is often in order. When people describe Washington as a “walking city” they aren’t kidding.

In homage to the great Julia, this is–more or less–her recipe for ratatouille. It looks  lot more difficult than it is.

Julia’s Ratatouille

Ratatouille Julia Child

1 lb. eggplant:

1 lb zucchini or summer squash

4-6 Tbsp. olive oil (love to think what Julia would have made of today’s EVO shorthand)

1 tsp. salt

2 cloves garlic, mashed

About 1 1/2 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced

Salt & pepper to taste

2 green peppers (about 1 cup) sliced

3 Tbls minced parsley

1 lb ripe tomatoes.  Julia wants them peeled, seeded and juiced. I might forgo this. Just saying.

Note: Per Julia, you can use canned tomatoes. If so it’s about 1 1/2 cups.


Peel and cut eggplant into lengthwise slices about 3 inches long and 3/8-inches thick. Scrub summer squash and cut into pieces the same size as eggplant. Put veggies into a bowl, toss with 1 tsp salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Then drain slices and dry with a towel.

Put four tablespoons olive oil in skillet.  Sauté summer squash and eggplant, one layer at a time, for about one minute until slightly browned. Transfer to a dish.

Cook pepper and onions in the same skillet, adding a little olive oil if needed, for 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Slice tomatoes and layer them over pepper and onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes on a low heat until the tomatoes start to render juice. Check the seasoning and raise the heat. Cook until juice evaporates entirely.

In a deep casserole put in 1/3 of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle minced parsley over tomatoes. Arrange half of the summer squash and eggplant on top. Layer the remaining tomatoes and parsley with remaining summer squash and eggplant trying to finish with  tomatoes and parsley.

Cover casserole and put it on a low heat. Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, raise the heat a little and cook everything for 15 minutes uncovered. Cook until all the juices evaporate. Throughout, be careful with heat so vegetables at the bottom don’t scorch. Serve hot or at room temperature (my preference.)

Like most of Julia’s recipes, this has several steps and ingredients but the end result is worth it. You can make a whole meal of ratatouille, embroider with cheese or serve as a side dish. It keeps well and seems to go on forever.   Bon appétit!

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