Friday, June 26, 2009

Art in the Age of Mindless Production

One can best judge a eatery by the willingness of the staff to cater to one's requests, the quality of ingredients, the time it takes to go from placing an order to receiving the food, the attentive nature of the staff and the presentation of the dish. How many restaurants are actually willing to depart from a set menu in order to offer the customer what he or she requests? I know of a few in the Greater Bowling Green Metropolitan Area, but, my favorite is the Corner Grill at the intersection of Main (US 25, also known as the old Dixie Highway) and Court Streets. Seen here in a photo from February 2008:
This morning when I requested a one-egg omelet instead of the larger three-egg version of the same, the cook (who, incidentally, also took my order from behind the counter, served me, and was my cashier) suggested that I consider ordering a two-egg omelet, or a scramble, that it would be difficult to wrap all the goodness that is the quality fillings into a single beaten egg, but, he would try. I offered him broad artistic license to interpret my breakfast order as his set of skills would allow.

While engaged in conversation with my fellow companions (each foodies in their own ways), I carefully watched as he cracked a fresh egg into a stainless steel bowl, whipped it, and poured it out onto the griddle. On a separate quadrant of the grill, he mounded, cubed ham, green peppers, tomato, and cheese. I became distracted in conversation and in short time, this neatly-wrapped little pocket of joy and tastiness was in front of me (don't you just love the diminutive square of American cheese placed on top?:

If you don't have a favorite local diner or grill that prepares and serves "real" food--go find one.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Some Shameless Self-Promotion

After a trip to the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet, a short stop for flowers, herbs, pepper and tomato plants at the Toledo Farmer's Market, and then to the original Tony Packo's on Front Street for a stuffed cabbage roll, paprikás dumplings with gravy, Hungarian pickles, and a signature Packo's hot dog,
Michelle bought me this delicious marble cake at Wixie Bakery in South Toledo.
I was fine with an unadorned cake, but Jessica and Emily insisted on the personalized message.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

West Side Market--Cleveland

To continue with the Cleveland day trip from this past weekend, I would like to post some photos from our second destination of three. Cleveland's oldest publicly owned market: The West Side Market. The building you are looking at has been in use since 1912; however, this site has been designated for use as a public market since 1840. One may purchase any of the large variety of prepared and ready to eat foods available at the market, like these Pasties (pronounced Pass-tee), a combination of meat, vegetable and starch in a light flaky pastry:
Then retire to the gallery to watch food shopping as a spectator sport. The interior concourse houses around 100 vendors. An interior shot from the spectator gallery.
There is also an exterior arcade with 85 vendors, mostly produce.
The monger below is selling some of the BEST dried fruit I have EVER tasted. I guess I should have taken a photo of the two-pound tub I purchased, alas, it was not to be. However, one may notice the vibrant colors and wide variety of dried fruits in the deli containers below. Our container held, pineapple, pears, peaches, two varieties of apricots, apples, whole dates, date pellets, figs, a variety of plump, juicy raisins, cranberries, prunes, candied ginger, papaya, star fruit, kiwi, bananas, coconut flakes, mango, and the BEST dried strawberries I have ever tasted. I really like eating a bit of the candied ginger then chasing it with some dried cranberries.
Also at the market, Buckeyes candy in both traditional and white chocolate:
Chocolate covered jalapeno peppers:
A plethora of dried ingredients:
And even this little piggy's at The West Side Market:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Electric Sex in the Window--A Major Award

Fans of Bob Clark's 1983 film A Christmas Story should recognize where I went this past weekend.

Michelle and the girls went to Washington DC, so Matt came down from Ann Arbor and we headed to Cleveland for the day on Saturday. If you did not already guess where I was this past weekend, our main destination was the recently-opened A Christmas Story House and Museum in beautiful and scenic Cleveland, Ohio.

The majority of the exterior scenes of A Christmas Story were all shot on location in Cleveland and St. Catherines, Ontario, while the interior scenes were shot on a sound stage near Toronto, Canada, with a few exceptions, such as the Higbee's Department Store scenes, and the leg lamp scenes (delivering and uncrating the major award, interior shots looking out onto the street, and from the street into the living room).

While some of the interior scenes shot on location make use of the family living room, kitchen and entry way, the floor plan of the house was not the same as on the sound stage and when the house was remodeled for use as a touristic destination and museum, it required extensive repair and modifications to look as it does today. For example, there was a bed room where the staircase is now located, and all the wood floors on the main level had rotted out and there were vermin living out their own Christmas story in the house. The reconstruction of the interior of the house carefully used production stills as a guide and there are numerous reproductions of properties in their appropriate locations. The vintage radio even loops the Little Orphan Annie Show!
Our docent informed us that, originally, each room was open to the public; but, folks kept eating the Lifebuoy Soap. Now, the bathroom is cordoned off.
Across the street from the house, the museum holds original costumes and props from the production. NC

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor

On one of my many trips to pretentious and over-priced Ann Arbor, Michigan over the past few weeks, I decided to take my camera to capture some of the interesting sights of what the locals refer to as AA, or A2.

If one pays close attention to the little things in life, like flowers and architecture, one may also notice that "we" are not alone. A close observation of the small details can reveal the existence of wee ones, or Urban Fairies all around--and I have photographic evidence of their existence.

Like this eye-catcher next to the "people" door at Red Shoes at 332 South Ashley:

And this slightly more gritty portal in the exterior wall of Selo/ Shevel Gallery at 301 South Main (even fairies have to deal with a certain amount of urban decay):

Of course urban fairies are much like their much-larger, human counterparts, in that they read, eat, live in houses with doors and front stoops; yet, they live their lives on what may seem to their human neighbors to be a Lilliputian scale with everything that is theirs in miniature. However, to the fairies, their homes seem to fit them just right.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Holding pattern

In the same way that American singer/ songwriter John Denver observes on the title track of his 1981 album Some Days Are Diamonds "some days are diamonds, some days are stone," so goes the business of writing. For the past six months, I have been putting in exceptionally long days in my office at the university trying to say something intelligent about modes of cultural production and transmission. Now, if every minute could have been productive, I'm sure I would probably have something more profound to say. Yet, some days are diamonds . . . you know how the rest goes.

More often than not, the business of writing is just that, something one must do, a task one must labor over, muddle through, carefully chip away at a little by little. Now that I've disposed of the most obvious cliches, my personal response to the writing process is that it is just that, a process. For me, writing is a process that simply must be worked through, and waiting for a muse to speak is not an option.

With that said, the dissertation is to my committee and I have been in a holding pattern for the past three weeks: unable to make significant revisions; unwilling to do much writing other than that which I must; waiting to see what the dissertation defense scheduled on 4 June will hold.

While I have used the past three weeks to reformat and make minor revisions to the manuscript, I seem to have hit the ground running, trying to make up for lost time. In doing so, I have completely avoided my office, taken lots of day trips, spent time with family and friends, and I've even taken in two festivals (The 35th Annual Utica Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival and the 39th Annual New Straitsville Moonshine Festival)--more on these later.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Strange sights in BG

I'm sure riding this bike would live up to it's name.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Greetings from South Bend, Indiana

Greetings from beautiful and scenic South Bend, Indiana; I'm here for the Great Lakes American Studies Association annual conference and have been on campus all day. Here are some images of campus icons: Notre Dame is a gorgeous, self-contained campus; however, South Bend has nothing to offer. For example, when I and my traveling companions motored into town, we all had a hankerin' for some good local food. We drove around the downtown area for an thirty minutes and finally decided to eat at South Bend's favorite local dive, Burger King. This "town" has nothing to offer in the way of food.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tradition Dripping from the Trees

Notes from the 2009 Seneca County Maple Festival:
Snavely's Sugar Shack stands in the same maple woods the Snavely family has tapped for seven generations. The original sugar camp was built in 1864 by Paul Snavely's great-great grandfather, Henry Bowerman, and stood until it was replaced in 1982. Today, the sugar shack is located on the site of the original camp on the north side of this twenty-acre woods.

Storms the night before, and the day of, the 2009 Seneca County Maple Fest brought more than two inches of rain. This is the "festival shuttle" taking people back to the woods. The water was between 12 and 18 inches deep on the crushed-stone road back to the camp. In years past, we enjoyed the walk to the woods; this year, no one walked or swam. Once there, festival patrons have the option of touring the camp and the woods, or heading straight to a hot breakfast of pancakes, locally-made sausage, vanilla ice cream, and all the fresh Snavely maple syrup you care to use.
We headed directly to Jenny Greer's mobile catering booth. Greer and her family have been participating in the festival since it started in 1992. Breakfast:

How often does breakfast come with an ice cream course? Not often enough! Especially when it's from Toft's and there's hot, fresh, pure maple syrup--straight from the evaporator--to pour on it.
Approximately 300 galvanized metal buckets hang from metal spiles (taps) inserted about waist high into the mature maple trees in Snavely’s twenty-acre woods, with an additional 1000 taps, all on buckets, in eight surrounding woods within two miles of their maple camp. Usually, this "creek" is dry:

I love my EB Tek gortex jacket, but I still needed my La Crosse rubber barn boots, Wellingtons for the Brits, and an umbrella to get these shots. Holding an umbrella while taking photos is not the easiest thing to do, but the rain really brightened the colors:
This is a collection of vintage spiles hanging on the inside wall of the sugar shack:
When the sap buckets are nearly full, they are emptied into 150-gallon gathering tanks pulled behind four-wheelers.
The sap is then poured into one of the four 300 gallon stainless steel tanks outside the the sugar shack, and leaves are filtered out. 180 gallons of maple sap is siphoned from a tank, to the evaporating equipment inside the shack.
Snavely's upgraded from a wood-fired evaporator to an oil-fired evaporator for the 2002 season. At the same time they completely refurbished the attached woodshed and converted it into a kitchen with a wood-burning stove for heat. Sugar maple sap only contains about 2 to 2.5 percent sugar, it takes 2.5 to 3 gallons of heating oil to reduce about 40 to 45 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Evelyn Snavely, in the cream-colored sweatshirt, explains the process to festival patrons:
The 180 gallons of sap is moved through 150 feet of heated copper tubing, cooking the raw sap down. The cooked sap is pumped into the evaporating section and is cooked until it reaches a temperature of 217.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Paul Snavely explaining that the temperature determining the final product varies depending on the barometric pressure. Once the correct temperature is reached, an alarm sounds and a red light turns on, indicating the syrup is ready to be dispensed. An automatic valve opens and allows the syrup to drain into a bucket at which time it is double-checked with a hydrometer to make sure the syrup has reached it desired temperature and density. If the syrup does not reach 32 on the hydrometer then the unfinished syrup is poured back into the evaporator and reprocessed until it meets all requirements for bottling. Paul Snavely with Emily and Jessica: When the syrup has reached the appropriate temperature and meets the other required measurements, it is then poured into the bottling container, but not before the syrup is poured through a fine cloth that separates the sugar sand and the syrup. After the sugar sand and syrup are separated the syrup is ready to be bottled into gallons, half-gallons, quarts, pints, half-pints and 3.5oz bottles. The syrup has to be at 180 degrees Fahrenheit, in order for the bottles to seal properly. The original 180 gallons of sap, when boiled and evaporated down, will make 3 ½ gallons of Ohio Maple Syrup.