Scots, Wha Hae (poem by Robert Burns)

Here is the entire poem: Somewhat incomprehensible right?  Read on….

William Wallace, the original Braveheart,, credited with leading the Scottish resistance to English rule

I’m recently back from several weeks in Scotland.  The Scots themselves are terrific people—when you can understand them. In some areas, especially Glasgow, the regional accent is so broad it can be hard to grasp what is being said.  Food in Scotland never won awards but a “full Scottish breakfast” is impressive: eggs, bacon (sometimes  like what we call Canadian bacon); black pudding (sausage); white pudding (another form of sausage); oj or apple juice and inevitably toast served in a silvery toast rack so it can get cold immediately. Sometimes  a full Scottish comes with haggis–which has an undeserved bad rap. No longer cooked in a sheep’s stomach.  today’s version has a casing a bit like that of a hot dog. Made of “innards” and oatmeal, it’s tasty although I wouldn’t want to dive


into it daily. At breakfast aporridge is often available as well as fruit usually in the form of fruit salad.

My travel partner and I had some good meals in high end restaurants some very creative. Overall veggies are not big on the Scottish hit parade unless you count potatoes and carrots.The salmon—smoked or as a fish dish—is great but salmon in New York  is just dandy.

There are some good museums in Edinburgh especially one devoted to the work of Barbara Hepworth but many museums all over are a hodge- podge of artifacts, Jacobite history, paintings by Scottish artists and a jumble of other stuff. In Glasgow lots of sites feature the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh, a native son.

Charles Rennie Macintosh

I had an introduction to Peter Trowles who lives just outside of Glasgow; is an authority on Macintosh  and all things Glasweigian. Peter operates a service called Cultural Perspectives that enables him to o take visitors around to various sites in Glasgow for a fee. Here’s his website: If you or a friend is interested in his services, let me know. (He’s fun to  to be with and to understand.)

And then there’s the highly touted scenery. It’s pretty but not especially dramatic in that many parts of the U.S. (looking at you Vermont, Maine, Arizona, Colorado and others) are more exciting. If you’re an ardent hiker or camper Scotland is calling your name. There are some  wonderful Scottish l place names: Portree, capital of the Isle of Skye, Lower Breakish and Pitlochry among them.

Following the weather report, I packed for damp and cold and hit mostly warmish (mid 60s and up) and sunny.

A week of the trip was organized by McKinley Kidd, a Scottish company. MKK arranged a visit to four areas of  the Inner Hebrides to which we  traveled on trains including the Jacobite steam train and also booked  the guest houses we stayed at, mostly wonderful. In addition to Scotland, MKK organizes trips to  Wales, Ireland, the Channel Islands, England and combos of severa countriesl: They do guided tours, train tours, unguided, self-drive etc.

Jacobite Steam Train aka the Hogwarts Express

Highly recommended.

Blessed by flawless flights both over and back it’s hard to complain. Coming home via Delta we were treated to the sight of Greenland, visible as there was none of the usual cloud cover.

Shortbread appears all over the place. The popular Walker brand has trucks delivering the stuff on every corner.  But homemade is great and pretty easy to make:

Traditional Scottish Shortbread

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature (the better the butter, the better the shortbread)

1/2 cup caster sugar, called “baker’s sugar” in the U.S. (if you can’t find it just pulse granulated sugar in a blender until very fine. Do NOT use powdered sugar)

1/2 teaspoon salt

How to:

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 8×8 or 9×9 inch square baking pan (or use a round cake tin and cut the shortbread into triangles.)

Put sugar, flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it’s combined and looks like coarse breadcrumbs but is soft and pliable and comes together in a dough when you press it together between your fingers. If it’s too dry and crumbly pulse a little longer.

Pour the mixture into the greased baking pan.  Use your fingers and hands to firmly press down the mixture. Prick the shortbread with the tines of a fork, creating rows.  Or run a knife between each row.

Put shortbread on middle oven rack and bake for 30-35 minutes or until light golden and firm. Let cool. Cut and serve.

The obvious beverage would be whiskey, probably one of the fancy Scottish single malts like Laphroaig, The Macallan or Glenfiddich.  (I tried– and failed– to visit a distillery in Portree—all tours booked). For something milder go with coffee, tea or a glass of milk .

Get out those bagpipes!


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Birds of Various Feathers


Lured by the communications efforts (good job, Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and ease of getting there, a friend and I went to see the gardens themselves as well the current For the Birds exhibit, a series of birdhouses set along the walks.

Love that exhibit is ‘presented’ by Warby Parker; have never shopped there but concept is great.

June 18, 2022 was a perfect day; warm but not hot, breezy and just when many flowers are in full bloom. BBG occupies fifty-two acres and was founded in 1910.  We walked casually, enjoying the various gardens: Children’s; Rose; Discovery; Fragrance; Japanese Hill-and-Pond; Herb and others. Only the Osborne Garden (friend studies Italian gardens) was a bit disappointing—formal with very little planting to break up the green.

Most of the birdhouse names or descriptions are a little tongue in cheek so they might not work for everyone. For instance, there’s one labeled A Flock without a Murder. Not everyone knows that a group of crows is a murder (as a group of whales is a pod.) Some of the houses look like they would work for real birds; others are fanciful which doesn’t make them any less fun to look at, just less practical as homes for feathered creatures  (Emily Dickinson fans take note: BF, were you here you’d be on it in a nanosecond.)

I adore poppies, setting aside The Wizard of Oz and their use in producing opium. Also love artichokes which I thought wouldn’t flourish in the NYC climate–wrong.








It would be hard to not love these bird houses: E Pluribus Unim with mosaics, crystal beads, paintings, Americana, and household objects as well as a “wise” barn owl, American kestrel, American redstart, American goldfinch, and American robin; the 100 Martin Inn where the  notes neglect to say this bird is having a hard time keeping going and the Birdega, a cute local riff.




We had a birthday lunch of tuna sandwiches on focaccia, chips and rosé at the outdoor café, battling heavy breezes that tended to provide plenty of spills I’m sure the birds enjoyed.

The exhibit runs until late October. If you like birds, flowers or just a nice walk in a lovely setting get there. It’s an easy subway ride.


And to follow up, a chicken recipe: Tfaya Baked Chicken from Nargisse Benkabbou (New York Times Cooking)

The name is Moroccan- don’t be put off—it’s a cinch and delicious with almost no work.)

2 cups raisins

3 large red onions (about 1 pound), halved and sliced

4 chicken leg quarters (I used thighs because that’s what I had)

Generous 1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the marinade:

½ cup vegetable stock (I subbed dried veg bouillon as that’s what I had—worked fine)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

4 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped (well, no)

¾ teaspoon ground turmeric

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (omitted)

 Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Soak the raisins in hot water for 5 minutes or until softened; drain and transfer to a deep roasting pan. (my raisins were softish so I didn’t bother to soak)

Put stock, olive oil, honey, garlic, turmeric, ginger, salt, black pepper and cinnamon in a large bowl; mix until smooth and well combined.

Add the onions to the roasting pan and pour approximately half of the marinade over the onions and raisins. Use your hands or tongs to combine.

Transfer the chicken to the large bowl with the remaining marinade and use your hands or tongs to make sure that the chicken is thoroughly coated. Place the chicken legs on top of the onion mixture, skin-side up, and pour any remaining marinade over the chicken.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and scatter the almonds on top. Return to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the almonds are nicely toasted.

I served this with orzo and a green salad.

Whatever you chose to drink, whistle.





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Stepping Back in Time

On Memorial Day weekend I visited family in the Boston area. Saturday, in  an on- and- off downpour, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts, primarily to see the Turner show. Organized by the Tate Britain in London, the show goes way beyond typical Turners of sea and sky. In Turner’s Modern World, the artist delves into war and independence, slavery and technological innovations of the era. There is an interesting video of a contemporary

A Turner at the MFA

watercolor artist ‘reproducing’ a Turner. It’s a lovely show with an unusual point of view. Applause to my family who aren’t major museum-goers but very kindly accommodated me.


Faith plays Matisse’s Musical Fence

The next day I joined a former Vassar suitemate (meaning singles or doubles with a shared ‘living room’–nothing fancy) for a trip to the Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA. The museum, housed in a huge house with an open roof, is eminently skippable but the sculpture garden is terrific. Thirty beautifully landscaped acres include some of the most beautiful trees anywhere. Walking around the park visitors (many with kids and dogs) come upon works by Sol LeWitt, Paul Matisse and Andy Goldsworthy. I thought the piece by Jim Dine the best of the lot.

Jim Dine–even better closeup

There is an excellent gift shop and a café. While I might not make a special trip to Lincoln for the Decordova, if you’re in the area it’s well worth the time.


That afternoon back at my friend’s home in Newton, MA, we watched the Memorial Day parade, a town tradition that has been on hiatus like most events, for the last two years. The parade featured (small) marching bands, clowns and stilt walkers of yore, lots of military and first responder floats and trucks and, in a nod to diversity, Chinese dragons and a brilliant African-American girls’ dancing group

With so much outdoorsy stuff going on, this is a picnic recipe from New York Times’ food writer Mark Bittman. He has never failed me.

Corn Salad Mark Bittman

2 to 3 cups raw or cooked corn kernels (from 4 to 6 ears) (I’ve used frozen with total success)

1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into fairly small pieces

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves (I’d sub in parsley as I’m not a fan of mint in salads but suit yourself.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the corn, tomatoes, cheese and mint (or parsley) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat.

This is a great—and incredibly easy—side dish that goes with almost anything. Drink beer, soft drinks, iced tea, white or rose wine and give a few minutes thought to all those who have lost their lives defending our country. Then think about the January 6th event and subsequent hearings and do something—phone bank, write letters or postcards, canvass, give money… anything but don’t leave it up to others. It’s our democracy at stake folks. Get in the game.

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Utica Starts with You!

This post is in memory of a very dear friend who died last Sunday. He is deeply missed.

Utica is in the part of New York State filled with classically named cities: Rome, Troy Ithaca and Syracuse, among others. The tenth biggest city in the state, Utica lies in the Mohawk Valley midway between Buffalo and NYC. After the Erie Canal arrived in 1825 Utica officially became a city.

Today despite a slew of buildings on the National Registry of Historic Places, I can’t think of a reason to visit Utica except for the fabulous Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.  Located in a building designed by Phillip Johnson, the institute is linked to Fountain Elms, home of the Williams Family and is now a ‘house museum’ exhibiting (largely) decorative arts. The whole arts institute derives from the Munsons, Williams and Proctors, three generations of a Utica family.  The money behind the whole shebang came from textiles, coal mining, canal development and railroad/steamship transportation. Helen Elizabeth Munson Williams, (1824-94), described as a “shrewd investor” started the collection. Today the institute offers classes, workshops for all ages, tours and community education.

More bric than brac

The permanent collection is nothing short of dazzling encompassing 18th through 21st century paintings; stoneware, sculpture, textiles and a great deal more. In the lobby there is a spectacular Jackson Pollack from 1949.

Pollack in the lobby






       The collection has such breadth and quality it’s impossible to describe so here’s a link:

The following day we escaped the madhouse that is today’s Saratoga Springs to drive to Glens Falls for the just–reopened Hyde Collection. The core collection includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Seurat, Picasso, Renoir and American artists Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, and James McNeill Whistler. There are modern works by Albers, Gottlieb, Kelly, LeWitt, Motherwell, Rauschenberg and others.  I was particularly knocked out by Steve Roden’s The Silent World and a work by Myron Stout.

Steve Rodin



For an additional artistic touch, here is the recipe for Ansel Adams’s Poached Eggs in Beer from The Photographer’s Cookbook 

¼ cup (⅛ pound) butter                                                                      
Mixed spices (this one is a mystery. I’d probably omit.)
Dash sherry
1 bottle dark malt liquor or strong ale (ordinary beer is not strong enough)
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 pieces toast
Dash paprika

1) Melt butter in microwave oven, but do not allow to brown. Add (a dash of mixed spices) and sherry. 

2) In a small bowl, microwave malt or ale with ¼ teaspoon salt just to the boiling point. Carefully slide eggs into this hot liquid, cover with paper plate or glass bowl (to retain thermal heat), and cook as desired in microwave. (See note below on microwave cooking.) 

3) While eggs are cooking in microwave, make two pieces of toast. Spread part of the butter-spice mix over the toast.

 4) Serve eggs on the toast, and pour over the rest of the butter-spice mix. Add a dash of paprika.

I find that 1 egg in the hot ale or malt takes about 1 minute to cook, 2 eggs about 2 minutes (this note from curator Lisa Hostetler at the George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY)

This sounds like a breakfast or brunch dish. Depending on the weather, how about tea or coffee, hot or iced? If you want to get really artsy, try an absinthe cocktail as absinthe was drunk by many writers and the subject of many paintings.  Widely banned in the early 1900s, it no longer contains wormwood, popularly thought to make drinkers go mad, blind or both. Pernod and other anise-flavored beverages are often served in lieu of absinthe but the thought of this alongside poached eggs is unappealing.  Maybe just hum a few bars of Mona Lisa a la Nat King Cole…

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Jane: Her Own Urban Legend

Jane Jacobs

As in Jane Jacobs, urban planner, writer and activist who argued that urban renewal didn’t respect the lives of city dwellers. Jacobs stood up to Robert Moses who wanted to overhaul Greenwich Village where she lived and helped cancel plans for the Lower Manhattan Expressway which would have wrecked what today is Soho along with parts of Little Italy and Chinatown.

Jane is recognized on a weekend in May all over the world. In New York City the Municipal Arts Society organizes a group of free, docent-lead tours knows as Jane’s Walk. I went on one that more or less centered around the East River. Although I’ve lived here my entire life, I didn’t know about the fire on June 15, 1904 on the paddlewheel boat the General Slocum.  The fire’s cause was possibly a carelessly discarded match; of the 1,358 passengers, many of whom were women and children, 1,021 died, largely because they couldn’t swim and were hampered by the heavy clothing of the day.




I also didn’t know (or forgot) that York Avenue was named for Sergeant Alvin York, one of the most decorated soldiers of WWI. TCM fans probably know the 1941 movie, Sergeant York, staring Gary Cooper which brought him that year’s Oscar for Best Actor.

One more Jane-related factoid: Since its founding in 1901, Rockefeller University has produced twenty-six Nobel Prize winners.

Having tried and failed to find a recipe with “city” in it (if you come across one I’d love to hear) I’m going with a Manhattan.

2 ounces rye whiskey (or bourbon if you prefer)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 dash orange bitters

Garnish: brandied cherry or lemon twist

Add the bourbon (or rye), sweet vermouth and both bitters to a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled.  Strain into a chilled coupe. (I doubt that you will be struck by lightening if you use a glass.} Garnish with a brandied cherry (which everyone has around the house) or a lemon twist.

Before your first sip raise your glass to Jane.

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Old World/New Exhibit

Salmagundi front entrance

The Salmagundi Club has been around since 1871 and today occupies a quirky brownstone on lower Fifth Avenue. The name is derived from the Salmagundi Papers published by Washington Irving and James Kirk Paulding in the 1820s. The word salmagundi first meant a dressed salad of meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast; in modern parlance, a salmagundi is a mixture or potpourri.

The Club has several large galleries for art exhibitions; a bar and restaurant downstairs arrived at via a room displaying paint-daubed artists’ palettes;

three vintage pool tables; a  library available only to members and a press for printing monotype. The building was originally built for Irad Hawley, president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company and his wife, Sarah.  Past members include William Merritt Chase, Louis Comfort Tiffany, N.C. Wyeth, Childe Hassam and Winston Churchill


Every spring the club hosts a major exhibition of works by members of the American Watercolor Society (AWS) with artists from all over the world showing their impressive paintings. All work shown must be in water soluble media: watercolor, acrylic, casein, gouache and egg tempera – only on paper, canvass not allowed. To see the works on view click  her


visitors in upstairs gallery

Impressive take on an eggbeater

















Speaking of water, here is a recipe for raspberry/lemon infused water—refreshing, pretty and a good way to cut back on the sugar in traditional lemonade.

2 quarts water

1 cup fresh raspberries

3 lemon slices

Combine all ingredients in a large glass carafe or pitcher. Cover and refrigerate 12-24 hours. Strain before serving.

I suppose you could kick it up a notch by adding vodka or gin but that would undercut the point. For additional trippiness, play or hum Starry, Starry Night.  Maybe you’ll get the urge to start painting. Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was 76 when her fingers became too stiff to do embroidery. You may not love her work but gotta admire that spirit!  Cheers.

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My Asia Week (redux)



Asia Week New York, self-described as a “nine day extravaganza of exhibitions, auctions and museum shows,” takes place towards the end of March and has done so since 2009 barring when the city –and the world –has been in shutdown mode.  I learned a little about Asian art from my late husband who owned Art Asia, a gallery-cum-retail biz on Madison Avenue, so the week is always of interest.

In this Year of the Tiger there were opportunities to view Asian porcelain, jewelry, textiles, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, bronzes, prints, photographs, and jades sourced from different Asian countries and dating from 2000 BC to the present.

I went to three exhibits, all worthwhile,  all very different as are the three galleries.

Da Ichi Arts, 18 East 64th Street, tucks a lot into a small brownstone space.  The gallery’s Asia show was Future Forms: Avant-Garde Sculpture in Modern Japanese Ceramic. Kato Momi made this beautiful ceramic piece of stoneware that is a very light pale green. Happily, it sold. Shingu Sakaya’s Erosion reminded me of a sea anemone which the gallery assistant agreed was apt as she explained the complicated method by which the inner “tendrils” are rolled and hand-cut.


Work by Jonathan Yukio Clark was at Miyako Yoshinaga, 24 East 64th Street, as was Jonathan himself. Japanese-American, raised in Hawaii, Jonathan showed me the stones he cast for this work which are based on actual stones in a wall built in Japan by his grandfather. The piece has a little sliding panel and incorporates a monotype (look it up; too complex to explain here) and several kinds of exotic wood

Note “rocks” on left

At Colnaghi, 38 East 70th Street, work from TAI Modern, a gallery in Sante Fe, focused on bamboo. Though all of it was worth seeing, the highlight were pieces by Yufu Shohaki, an 80-year-old artist known for his rough-plaited baskets that incorporate bamboo branches and roots, half-split chunks of bamboo, and bamboo ropes meaning he twists long pieces of bamboo into ropes and then makes shapes of them.

Basket by Yufu Shohaku


Asia Week is an exceedingly special time with lots of great work that isn’t ordinarily featured. Would that my bank account would permit owning one or two!

This recipe for Asian slaw is easy—don’t get fazed by the ingredients. If you can chop a carrot—or buy one already chopped– you’ve got it.

Asian Slaw from Once Upon a Chef by Jenn Segal

(Segal says this serves 6 as a side dish—looks like more to me)


¼ cup honey

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1 tablespoon peanut butter

Heaping ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional) –I’d omit

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (peel and chop, no technique required)


4 cups prepared shredded coleslaw (note “prepared” i.e. in bag from supermarket)

2 cups prepared shredded carrots (can be bought ready to go)

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces

2 medium scallions, finely sliced

1 cup cooked and shelled edamame (serve the rest of the bag another time)

½ cup chopped salted peanuts (or you can leave them whole)

½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro (I’m in the non-cilantro camp and omit)

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl –be sure the peanut butter is dissolved. Set aside.

Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss well. Let the slaw sit for at least ten minutes so the vegetables have a chance to soak up the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (maybe needs more salt?)

Note: Leftovers will keep in the fridge. Dressing can be made and stored several days ahead. This will pair well with almost any main course.

If you know or wish to look up a toast in Japanese, Korean, Chinese or another Asian language, do so.  Won’t matter if you raise a glass of water, beer or something more exotic.

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Poor Butterfly

The song is said to be inspired by Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The sentiment is so un- PC it makes me cringe but it’s a pretty melody.

This dog is a Papillion which means butterfly in French referring to the wing-like ears. Unlike the woman in the song, this pooch is anything but poor, living as he does in a cute house in New Heaven with his owner, a college friend. The pup’s name is Beau and he gets pretty much what he wants thanks to his indulgent companion.


The breed, a variant of a toy, i.e., small, spaniel, is smart and eager to please. It’s been around for ages as seen in paintings by the likes of Watteau, Fragonard and Veronese.

Lady with Papillion by Titian

Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette are said to have owned a clutch of Papillion’s; as this was long before commercial dog food maybe they did feed them cake. Rumor has it that Marie carried her favorite Papillion with her to the guillotine; the dog was spared Marie’s fate and later cared for by a friend.

I’m more a proponent of shelter dogs but that’s not how you acquire a Papillion. ‘Nuff said.

Next week I’m going to a rehearsal of Madama Butterfly at the Met in a production by Anthony Minghella. As many of you undoubtedly know,

Met showing the Chagall murals on view in the evenings

this opera takes place in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki at the turn of the last century. I doubt if Cio-Cio-San will appear with a Papillion but you never know at the Met where producers are fond of introducing live animals (and have a special door for large ones, like horses, to enter from.)

Instead of a recipe for dog food, here is one for very easy Fried Rice with Shrimp and a revoltingly-named (Yum Yum) sauce that is also a snap and delicious.

Shrimp Fried Rice

2 cups uncooked jasmine rice (Reach for the Uncle Ben’s unless you stock exotic rice)

3 cups water

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced (not in my house; maybe one clove put through garlic press)

1 (16 ounce) package frozen peas and carrots

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 eggs

4 tablespoons oyster sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 lemon, juiced, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined


1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon white sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring 3 cups water and rice to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and water has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in cooked ice and frozen peas-carrot mixture; fry until rice begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons butter and stir to combine. Pour in eggs and cook until firm. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, and 1/2 lemon juice; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.


Combine mayonnaise, water, paprika, ginger paste, white sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl to make sauce. Stir well. Serve with the fried rice.

Note: make the sauce a day ahead so flavors combine.

I’d serve this with sake but white wine or beer would be dandy. Put on Madama Butterfly or content yourself (or hum along) with Callas singing Un Bel Di which never fails to make me sob.



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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My father was a big Conan Doyle fan and passed his interest along to me -hence my visit to the Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects show at NYC’s Grolier Club. The Grolier, a largely unheralded gem, never has a many visitors at one time. Founded in 1884 and named after Jean Grolier, a Renaissance collector known for sharing his treasures with friends, it is America’s oldest and largest society for all things book-related.

The Sherlockian cannon is not enormous: fifty-six stories and four novels. All kinds of material relating to the work has been amassed by Glen S. Miranker, a former Apple executive: letters; manuscripts; book illustrations; photos of William Gilette, the late 19th century  actor/stage manager  noted for portraying Holmes onstage and in a 1916 silent film; movie posters and a host of pirated editions of books, i.e., cheaply printed volumes published without the consent of the author. The exhibit’s  title is a nod to Holmes’ 221B address where he presumably lived with Dr. Watson.

221B Baker Street, London, now a Holmes museum

Among the items I especially enjoyed are posters advertising The Hound of the Baskervilles showing the beast with its jaws dripping blood and a handwritten speech by Conan Doyle noting that {killing Holmes}” “was justifiable homicide in self defence. (CD’s spelling).” The demise of Holmes left the public so frantic that Conan Doyle resurrected his hero in 1901 in the Hound story. There is also a 1901 Christmas card sent by William Gillette with an annotation on the back: “Did you ever imagine that Sherlock would be sending his compliments to his maker?”

Benedict Cumberbach, the most recent Holmes, in deerstalker

There is no deerstalker per se, although there are many illustrations of Holmes wearing one, nor does the exhibit include a magnifying glass, violin, pipes or any indication of cocaine use, (Homes famously injected a seven and one-half percent solution.) In the late 1880s cocaine was a new drug used as a local anesthetic, nerve tonic and in throat lozenges, gargles, wines, sherries and ports. Conan Doyle,  a trained physician  also used cocaine.  Interestingly, he wrote several articles in favor of vaccination against smallpox and also denounced the views of anti-vaccinators.  The more things change…

If Homes interests you and you are in New York, you might enjoy the exhibit. NB:make an appointment.

In Victorian times recipes could be very elaborate especially in well-off households. Working class folks ate what was cheap and available which meant a lot of onions. If you learn how to caramelize the vegetable you can incorporate it into many dishes. It takes a while to complete but you can putter, sip a glass of wine, read or whatever you prefer during the process. Herewith:


Caramelized Onions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced

½ teaspoon sea salt

Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until starting to soften.

Add the salt, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 50 to 80 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the onions are very soft, golden brown, and caramelized. The timing will depend on the size of your onions and the heat of your stove.

If at any point the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low. If the onions aren’t deeply brown after 50 minutes and you’d like to speed things up, you can turn the heat higher to get more caramelization. Stir continuously (well, every so often) to prevent burning.

Once done, caramelized onions have lots of uses: pile onto a burger or almost any sandwich, add to scrambled eggs, eat on a piece of toast with goat cheese, top pizza or flatbread, etc.  You can keep them for several days in the fridge or freeze them.

It’s elementary as Holmes would say. What is not elementary is having this published–gremlins at work. If you get it I’d greatly appreciate hearing from you– a quick “got it” would be terrific. Thanks.



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