Started and Finished

Not gonna overdo this, but I want to start the year with a pic of some Market Street wires:

market st. wires

I finished the best year I have had in a long time by going next door to Jeff&Stephen’s for a New Year’s Eve party that was great fun. Relating to several people on entirely different planes was a hoot – a foodie here, a poet there…that kind of thing. And I got to please many of ’em with the chile con carne that I’d made out of leftover pork roast. I got a second chance with those who weren’t chili fans with my new invention, the mascarpone/gorgonzola tortelet.

No, not torte, not tartlet, but tortelet.  And thanks to my cousin Jania’s years in Italy, she helped me with a name for them: “Tortini Luigi.”  Here’s the recipe.  OK, they’re not real dainty since you need to get enough cheese in there to balance two walnut halves, but it sure does make a nice flavor explosion as you chew. And yes, they’re tedious to make, but they’re so rich, you don’t need all that many of them.

Both dishes were really quite popular, and I didn’t tell anybody that the chili was made three days ago out of leftover Christmas pork roast. Look, you cook any meat for hours with tons of chile powder and nobody knows what animal it came off of, much less when, or whether it might have once graced a Christmas table.

I started this year out right this morning by going to the gym and then coming home and making a batch of kiwi jam, my second pass at kiwi jam. Not too bad although I’m not sure kiwi is ever going to be one of my favorite jams….at least not my kiwi jam.

While making the jam I finished a wonderful series of taped lectures on the English language by a Stanford Professor named Seth Lerer. I had been listening to these tapes (18 of ’em) for a couple of years during mindless tasks like stuffing beans in jars and cutting up stuff for jams and chutneys. Actually, the jam was finished before the last side of the tape and for once I just sat there in the kitchen enjoying the tape without “getting anything accomplished.”

Those tapes brought me great joy, and at one point last summer I was moved to tears by his gorgeous discussion of the Great Vowel Shift, an experience I doubt many folks have shared.

So radiating gratitude to my friend Susan who had lent them to me, I went to package the tapes up for the return journey. Since I couldn’t find a box of the correct size, I was forced to search my shelves for a book to fill in. (See, the filler had to be a book or tape so that the package would qualify for the educational materials rate.)

I settled on Susan Solomon’s The Coldest March not because I knew in my heart that my Susan was just dying to read a meticulously researched study of Antarctic weather patterns over the past few centuries that Ms Solomon uses, in conjunction with a scrupulously detailed inventory and a close examination of the procedures of Scott’s failed expedition, to make a very strong case that Scott was not the infamous bungler who – because of his ignorance, rashness, and obstinacy – cost the lives of himself and all his men while failing to beat Amundsen to the pole, but rather the victim of freak weather conditions never previously experienced and thus not unreasonably unanticipated.

No, it was not chosen for that reason. No, indeed.

Rather, I selected it because Ms. Solomon is one of a group of modern women writers including the incomparable Caroline Alexander who write in fields in which women only very recently endeavored… and they do so divinely. The book is both well written and wonderfully entertaining.

It was also the right size.

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