From the UW Archives:
Athletic Photo of Athletic Photos

John Hickman, photoed here around 1934. was a three-year varsity swimmer before assistant- and head-coaching at the UW on and off until 1969. Hickman's eerie calm and old-school suit both interest me, but I'm most captivated by the stack of other photos behind him. Why were these taken? Where are they now? Presumably some of them are in the archive. I would love to have a huge photo of a UW swimmer from the 30's displayed in my home.


Watermelon, olives, mint, red onion, sheep's feta, lime juice, olive oil

I cannot resist photographing this salad each time I make it. I know I've posted it at least once before. May these repetitions mark the rhythms and regularity of cooking and eating.


The tarragon tomato soup which I posted yesterday was based on a recipe from Georgeanne Brennan's Vegetarian Table - France. The book contains two great tomato soup recipes which I return to year after year. The other is a gingered tomato soup pictured below.

I remember when Bradford and I began cooking with Brennan's book. He was exasperated that the recipes direct you to remove the skins and seeds from the tomatoes: "If this is what French cooking is about, I'm not sure I'm interested." At the time, I wholeheartedly agreed. I lost all the tomatoes' juices while removing the seeds, and I found removing tomato seeds to be maddening.

These days, I appreciate Bradford's declaration but in a different sense: I think that he's absolutely right that French cooking is in many ways about refinements and details such as removing seeds and skins, sieving broths to remove solids, etc., etc. Mind you, I know that French cooking is an abstraction and thus impossible to pin down. Also, my French cooking is vegaquarian: I have no idea how meats and fowl fit into the grand scheme, but I know that they are primary, that vegetables hold a back seat-- a wayback seat-- in fine French cooking. But, back to my point about refinements and details: I'm increasingly convinced that the seeds and skins affect not only the textures of the soups but also their flavors.

The good news about Brennan's recipes is that peeling and seeding the tomatoes is the biggest step in otherwise simple recipes. Dropping ripe tomatoes in boiling water makes the peels slide right off. To seed them, I cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and use my fingers to pull the seeds and juices out into a fine-mesh sieve which I've seated in a bowl. Running a spoon through everything caught in the strainer, I extract and save all the juices. Once chopped, the tomato flesh goes right into the bowl with the juices. And voila-- gingered tomato soup, served here in an otherwise not-so-French menu.

From the UW Archives: Spunky Wrestler

Gentle reader, I promise not to spring any more UW-archive-based tragedy on you for a day or so. I want to post some Vietnam-protest pictures, but I'll hold off in the wake of the Chas Mohr tragedy. Jim Jordan, NCAA champion at 134 pounds in 1985 and 1986, is shown here in a photo taken in November 1984. He emanates a distinctly 1980's aura. I love the way that plays off of the vintage AMG resonance of this image.


From the UW Archives: May Fête, 1912

I'm not quite sure what's going on here (makeshift kimonos?), but I'm certain I approve.

Chèvre Flans

These little savory flans from a book by Daniel Boulud are a new favorite. I adore the simplicity of the recipe: chèvre, eggs, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg.

I floated them in a tarragon tomato soup, and--

in a more down-home move-- I served them with collards and cornbread.


From the UW Archives: Tragic End of Boxing Beauty

During the 165-pound NCAA-championship match held in Madison on April 9, 1960,
Charles Mohr, 1959 NCAA Middleweight Champion, collapsed after a second round technical knockout by Stu Bartell of San Jose State University. Mohr suffered a brain hemorrhage, never regained consciousness, and died eight days later on April 17. As a result, Wisconsin discontinued the sport of competitive boxing, and it was eventually banned by the NCAA.


All Tomorrow's Picnics

When we arrived at the H. V. Burns Farm in Townsend, TN at the end of July, Kenneth and I knew that we'd spend a day or so fixing the place up: little had been done-- cleaned or organized-- there since Kenneth's grandfather passed away five years ago. The candles posted yesterday attest to the state of things. Prior to his death, Herbert, in his 90s, lived there alone, and like most folks in their 90s he didn't see well and therefore didn't clean or tidy particularly well. I in no way mean to disrespect Herbert (I myself live in more filth than I'm willing to acknowledge). I simply want to establish the fact that the place was a bit of a mess when we arrived. Kitchen knobs and pulls were tacky to the touch, frequently used drawers and doors had significant soil marks, and so forth. In the clean up and clean out, I collected a number of items, curiosities if you will, that had to be photographed before they were thrown away:

a few dozen salt packets rubber-banded together

packet of plastic cutlery with the carcass of a critter and the critter's leavings inside the sealed plastic

change purse filled with sugar substitutes

Pondering these items, Kenneth and I spoke of Appalachian thrift (Herbert once transformed an unused VW-- airtight windows still intact-- into a fruit dryer) and the amazing impact of the Great Depression. Then we tossed them away.

From the UW Archives: Boxing Schedule

Kenneth and I have long admired the UW's annual team posters and schedules: beautifully designed spreads of the wrestling team dressed as vikings*, etc. We've both searched in vain for an example I can post to illustrate. Anyhoo, this lovely image of Gene Rankin suggests that UW athletics' schedules have a long history of compelling design.

*This example is a mental paraphrase or composite or rough estimate: I've no idea if the wrestling team (or some other team) ever posed as vikings (or gladiators?). I have some memory of some team on motorcycles. You see how hard this is without an actual example at my fingertips. I did find this, but it's not nearly as lovely as most of the posters I have in mind.

Duck Duck Goose

Kenneth: I looked in a box over my grandparents' bed-- it was full of empty pantyhose eggs.


From the UW Archives: Former Pool w/ Canoe

With a tip of the hat to a friendly reader...


Kitchen Triplets

from Townsend, TN - Vacation - Summer 2007

* I brought
  1. a basil plant,
  2. a grater,
  3. a pepper mill.

* I wished for
  1. cayenne pepper,
  2. Gruyère,
  3. more than two working electric burners.

* I bought
  1. parchment paper,
  2. a reamer,
  3. a fine-mesh strainer.

* I discovered
  1. an electric can opener,
  2. a filthy cast-iron skillet (which I bleached and re-seasoned),
  3. a soufflé dish.

* I prepared tons of
  1. okra (fried mostly but also stewed with tomatoes and orange peppers),
  2. gougères (sans Gruyère),
  3. (Kenneth having requested them because Lurline always served him a surfeit) Tollhouse chocolate-chip cookies.

We had okra almost every night. When someone asks me where I'd like to establish my career, I plan to tell them, "Any place where local okra is plentiful and reasonably priced."*

*Willy St. Co-op currently has too-big okra for $6/lb. No dice. I can find it at the Saturday Farmers Market, but I have to go very early...

From the UW Archives: Primary Post

Introducing a new feature in which I post choice finds from the UW-Madison's archives, which I've dipped into recently while working on Dance Program documents and publications.

It looks like a little city

Kenneth is rigging one of our computers so that it can record HD television in HD and play it back on our HD television. Very exciting! However, as a result of the project, I haven't been able to access pictures from our camera. As soon as I can, I promise more, more, more vacation posts. Just wait.


New. Urban. Living.

Near the end of our vacation, Kenneth and I spent a late afternoon strolling around downtown Knoxville, killing time before that evening's Grand Ole Gospel Reunion concert (an event that we both enjoyed but which Kenneth is much more likely to blog about. I lack the patience to articulate and qualify the pleasure I took in many of the performances.). For years, downtown K-town was abysmal: but for weekday lunch hours, it was empty, dead, and dreadful. I'm happy to report, however, that Knoxville's downtown is currently undergoing a renaissance. We dined at The Tomato Head, which has long been in Market Square but which now-- with its airy, alternative atmosphere-- typifies the square. We shopped at Mast General Store. We popped into the terrific Yee-Haw Industries, a Hatch Show Print rip-off more pleasant and enjoyable than the Hatch original, which takes itself mighty seriously. We had a beverage at a coffee shop/cleaners in a beautifully renovated building on Gay Street. We took cellphone calls while checking out the East Tennessee Historical Society's exhibits on the 1982 World's Fair and Henry Horenstein's honky-tonk portraits. Then we entered this drug store so that Kenneth could purchase a ChapStick:

I couldn't resist snapping a cell-phone pic of old downtown Knoxville, my old downtown Knoxville, that is, as many others preceded my experience: ashamed, denuded, confused, plain yet garish, ugly, desperate. Upon returning home and reviewing my pictures, I was delighted to discover that the reflection of the window captured what I hope will remain the future of the city: New. Urban. Living. Keep it up, Knoxville!


Well phrased, Anna Wintour:

"It's a common misconception that an interest in dressing well is inimical to being a person of substance."

Where, now, the bats their wavering wings extend,/Soon as the gloaming spreads her waning shade...

It's bat migration season. I just opened my office door and sent a bat flying down the hallway. "Whoa!" I cried, shutting the door before peeking out again. Five bats had to be dealt with in Lathrop Hall yesterday. Yikes! I'm told that the fellow comes with a big net but just sets it aside and catches the bats with his bare hands.

Yep: that's just about what m'bat looked like, though I didn't get a very good look in the millisecond between opening the door and jumping back into my office. Was very batty, though, I'm certain.


Just You Wait...

Kenneth and I just returned from two weeks of vacation in Townsend, TN where we frequently drove past the above billboard and a couple others like it. Thanks for waiting so long for a new post and just wait 'til I post more about our trip.