THE CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: BAKED APPLES

BAKED APPLES

By John Rudy

I have been making baked apples for decades.  There is nothing easier to do.  The only important thing to remember is to purchase apples that are relatively soft or they will take forever to bake.  My favorites are Cortland, Braeburn and Honey Crisp.  I prefer an apple that is large and relatively fat (more broad than tall).  No matter what type you pick, you will want to watch them in the oven and remove them when they reach the consistency YOU like.  My preference is that, when the first apple develops a vertical crack, I remove the pan.

4                Apples

½ cup       sugar

¾ cup       water

Cinnamon-sugar

Raisins

  1. Heat the oven to 350°
  2. Combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. The objective is to dissolve the sugar and create a syrup.  It will take about 10 minutes.
  3. Peel the top of the apple. I normally do two loops with the peeler which is maybe ¾ of an inch in total.  The skin is needed to hold the apple together.
  4. Use a corer to remove the core and pits. It may be impossible to get it all out, and you want to avoid breaking through the bottom of the apple.
  5. Optionally, fill the center of the apple with raisins.
  6. Pour in the syrup to cover the raisins and use what is left to flow over the skins of the apples.
  7. Sprinkle with some cinnamon or some cinnamon-sugar so that it will crystalize on the top of the apple.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes (but it might be as few as 30 or as much as 60 depending on the type and size of the apple you choose).
  9. When it is close to being done, the aroma will draw you back to the kitchen.
BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

 

MEMOIR WRITING WITH SCOTT STRATFORD: Striking Gold – In My Belmont Basement

Striking Gold – In My Belmont Basement

By Scott Stratford – Belmont, July 2020

The photo is askew.  It is faded, the people becoming ghostlike as if slowly leaving our reality. To the observer, it is a carelessly framed and poorly exposed snapshot of an altogether ordinary family.  The overall sense is of an artifact of little significance, on its way to becoming invisible.

It was worth more to me, when I found it, than any precious metal on the planet.  It is the find of a lifetime.  And I owe it to BOLLI.

The scene is Sheridan, Wyoming, circa 1923.  My mother Mary, the younger Maxon daughter, is far less pleased than sister Jane to be posing with her parents and grandmother, even as a visiting uncle and aunt bookend the ensemble.

I grew up imbued with Stratford family lore, the saga of Montana homesteaders whose wheat farm I helped work during its century in our possession.  My father and his six siblings led intertwined, often fractious lives where love and grudges always co-existed.  They shared an awe, and a disdain, for “Pop”, my charismatic, poetic, domineering grandfather, who staked his claim south of Billings in 1910.

My Maxon heritage—my mother’s side—went uncelebrated and largely unshared.   In my youth, the extent of the lineage was my grandmother Elsie, across town, and my Aunt Jane, the Detroit school principal whose annual visits en route to mountain fly-fishing thrilled us all.

I never met my grandfather, a loving man who died of a second heart attack in 1939 while a conductor for the Northern Pacific.  Mom was reticent to inflict (as she saw it) family reminiscences on her three feckless sons.  And, like too many Boomers, I didn’t develop an interest in my family history until there was no one left to learn from.

Fast forward to last semester at BOLLI.  Sue Wurster’s Creative Nonfiction Writing class got me delving into old Stratford stories, which re-awakened my regrets at my near-total lack of Maxon history.   Those regrets were compounded by the fact that, for fifteen years, box after box of Stratford and Maxon family memorabilia had sat untouched in my basement office, just a few feet away from the desk where my BOLLI assignments were written.

Add this re-emerging guilt to the yawningly empty hours of pandemic lock-down, stir in the moments when I opened each box with combined emotions of dread and curiosity, and what emerged was a project—one I warmed to, bit by bit, even as the scope felt overwhelming.

The scrapbooks, letters, and thousands of photographs span 140 years.  A few photos were instantly recognizable; in some other cases (too rarely) a penciled note denoted the person and perhaps even the year.   And, sadly, many of those keepsakes of nearly a century and a half will never be identified and appreciated as they deserve to be.

But it was that photo that abruptly turned my project into something far more meaningful.  Shock, euphoria, elation; however a “Eureka moment” is supposed to feel, I’ll never experience a deeper one.

Here, for the first time in my life, I had a scene of my mother’s intact family.  Grandfather Harry stands smilingly off to one side, letting the women (his daughters, his wife Elsie, and my great-grandmother Jennie) have center stage.  I subsequently learned that Harry had two sisters and three brothers, one of whom was evidently visiting with his own spouse at the time.

At the moment I can’t truly express just how much this picture means to me.  (Even if I eventually do, Sue will advise me to watch out for cluttered writing!)  I will forever be grateful, to her and to BOLLI, for enabling me to overcome years of inertia and discover such a connective tissue to generations I thought were forever lost to me.

Through the miracles of Photoshop, the photo is now straightened, cropped, and preserved very closely to its original quality.  But the true miracle was finding it in the first place.

 

BOLLI Member Scott Stratford

Before taking on the more satisfying career of at-home parent in the ’90s, Scott was Senior Editor for Economics in McGraw-Hill’s College Division.  He served on Belmont’s School Committee and has been a Town Meeting member since 1995.  In a more normal summer, he and his wife Holly would be hiking and kayaking near their condo in Bozeman, Montana.  They joined BOLLI in 2018.

THE FEELING OF DISCOVERY by Jane Grignetti

THE FEELING OF DISCOVERY

By Jane Grignetti

I have been addicted to the world of image and image making ever since I discovered Life Magazine as a kid. I poured over those black and white images as if they were magical. It wasn’t until 1972, however, that I took a photography course and began to learn something about how to actually make a picture. At the time, I wasn’t married, so it made perfect sense to me to convert the kitchen of my apartment into a dark room. Needless to say, I was so enthralled by the dark room process that I learned more about making photos than I learned about making meals. The kitchen became just a kitchen again when I married my husband in 1973, but other things became magical.

Now that I am semi-retired, I am spending much more time on photography. I am trying to take the time to see the world around me in a deeper and more dynamic way. This process gives me the feeling of discovery!

These two butterflies resulted from a sudden recognition.  I was initially unaware of them when suddenly I saw their movements in and about the small garden I was passing. I felt totally enchanted and spent a long time trying to render their world with a little bit of their magic.

Pandemic worries, on top of climate change, are so overwhelming that they have me even more wedded to the need to cherish nature and to protect it. We are blessed with a yard that attracts many beautiful birds,  and we are practically a sanctuary city for Lexington’s chipmunks.  I find myself spending as much time as possible outside, monitoring the progress of plants going through their cycle, from gestation to flowering. I have been tracking our robin couple from their choosing of nest sites to the debut of their next generation fledglings. How industrious our robins are!

The fella in the birdbath discovered a way to cool off in our recent hot days–we can all laugh as we recognize ourselves in his discovery!

BOLLI member and photographer, Jane Grignetti

Jane grew up in New Haven and received degrees from Vassar and Boston University. Her career as a psychiatric social worker has ranged from clinical positions in hospitals to private practice and consultation.  She has also served as an instructor in psychiatry at both Beth Israel and Tufts hospitals.   In 1995, she was presented with the National Association of Social Workers lifetime achievement award.  We are happy that Jane finds time for BOLLI courses and, of course, the Photo Group!

QUARANTINE TALES: READING IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

READING IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

by Donna Johns

I learned to read when I was three. Nothing to brag about, really. Just means that the little parts of my brain that allow me to make sense of the lines and squiggles on the page developed early. Some children are taller than normal; some have advanced motor skills. I read.

And from that time, reading has been an important part of my daily life. Nobody who knew me was surprised when I became a librarian. It was a perfect match. As a reader, I am an omnivore. I forgive the badly written books and the ones who lose their way halfway through. No genre is taboo. I like them all.

So imagine my surprise when, shortly after the birth of my first child, I discovered that I couldn’t read. Oh, I still knew how. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t concentrate on a page. I read and reread the same sentence and couldn’t process it. It felt like an amputation.

At first, I blamed it on hormonal imbalance, but it continued, month after month, long after I felt completely normal. Then I figured out what was wrong. My internal monologue had come to visit and take over my every thought. It went something like this.

“Is he getting enough to eat? Is that little rash a problem? Is he sleeping too much or not enough? Has he hit all the benchmarks? Is it time to start solid food? If I start solid food, will he get fat? Will he ever stop upchucking on my shoulder when I burp him? Does he have a disease because he upchucks a lot?” On and on and on.

No wonder I couldn’t read.

I solved my problem by subscribing to People Magazine. Each day, my goal was to read at least one short article. Written on a fifth-grade level, the reading wasn’t challenging, but my zest for celebrity gossip restarted my reading engine. Within weeks, I moved on to Stephen King short stories. Then on to actual books. With my second and third children, I repeated the process and got back on track much faster.

And now, many years later, I find that I cannot read again. The third volume of the Wolf Hall trilogy sits idle on my Kindle. My internal monologue this time is different but is just as distracting. It goes something like this.

“Did I have it? I was sick in February and had some of the symptoms. Should I get an antibody test? Oh wait, Dr. Fauci said immunity could not be assumed. Is Signe OK? Her husband is working security at hotels. Will he bring it home to her? Will I ever see any of my children and grandchildren in three dimensions again? I wonder whether drive-ins will make a come-back? Should I watch the governor’s press conference? That guy needs a voice coach. He’s smart enough, but his voice puts me to sleep. Come to think of it, why is my sleep cycle so weird…two hours one day and ten the next? When will this end? Will it end?”

It’s time to subscribe to People Magazine again. And order that new collection of short stories by Stephen King.

DONNA is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

 

 

MEMOIR WRITING: KENNEBUNKPORT by Maxine Weintraub

KENNEBUNKPORT

by Maxine Weintraub

My husband and I lived in southern Maine for almost fifteen years – in the shingle-style cottage we built across from the ocean in Kennebunkport in the early 1990s.  He worked at Southern Maine Medical Center, and I ended up doing the advertising for a start-up internet company.

Over the years, we shared this home with friends and family, an ex-President and his family, famous authors and local bridge players, foxes and their families, carpenters and realtors and writers and well known historians, governors, moose,  bobcats, snakes, deer.  and chipmunks.  Friends and acquaintances in pick-up trucks and limousines, “heat packing” secret service agents and rifle carrying hunters.  Gracious first ladies and the owner of the local super market.  Our children and their friends and then our children and their children.  Weddings.  Deaths.  Republicans and Democrats and the generally disgruntled.  Jews–not so many–and Catholics, Protestants, non-believers, card-carrying communists, born-agains and Bible thumping believers.  Gays and straights,  New Yorkers, Texans, and everything in between. Habitat for Humanity liberals and diamond dripping conservatives.  Ministers and Rabbis and agnostics.  All friends.  And all in a small resort town in southern Maine.

We fell asleep at night to the sound of the surf  and woke to the call of the gulls.  The air was fragrant with the smell of the sea, hot tar, beach plum roses, and pine.  On clear nights, the moon lit up the sea.  The ocean sparkled.

I can still hear it and see it and smell it.  Still.

BOLLI Matters contributor Maxine Weintraub

Maxine, one of the founders of the current BOLLI Writers Guild, has frequently been published in the “Goose River Anthology.”  She has self-published short story collections and is currently working on both a set of short stories to be published this year as well as a memoir focused on her life in Kennebunkport.

BLACK LIVES MATTER: White on Black in Black and White by Marty Kafka

White on Black in Black and White

By Martin P. Kafka

 Who knew that Amos Jones and Andrew Brown (a.k.a.) Amos n’ Andy were conceived, written, and voice-dubbed by two white-skinned black-face actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll who first conceived their distinctive characters while producing a radio drama series.

Having thrived by learning to mimic American negroes’ distinctive jargon, their very successful minstrel show performances groomed Amos n’ Andy to reach an ever-expanding radio audience and became the first radio program to be nationally syndicated.

With the advent of black and white television in 1936, the successful radio drama series eventually morphed into the Amos n’ Andy Show, a half-hour weekly comedy series.  White voices were replaced by black actors and black voices, of course, whose humorous, folksy, but sometimes denigrating depiction of black culture and racial stereotyping was eventually censured by the NAACP. Eventually, social pressures forced the show to leave the air waves in 1966.

As a kid, I was studious and not much of a television watcher, but I fell in love with Amos n’ Andy, Kingfish, Sapphire, and Momma. Their humor–and especially Kingfish’s outlandish money-making schemes–consistently kept my attention. I especially recall Kingfish because of his enthusiastic naivete, his persistent entrepreneurial spirit, and his legacy expression, “Holy Mackerel!” These TV characters were sentimentalists, and I adored them. The show’s brand of “black” humor memorably tickled my white-kid funny bone. When they bungled, I giggled, and that was the way it was in Flatbush during the early and middle fifties.

In the all-white neighborhood I grew up in, “racially mixed” translated to ethnically mixed which further translated to Catholics, Protestants, and Jews all mixed on the same street in private homes. When we kids played stickball, stoop-ball, or the Three-Steps-to-Germany variant of street curb tag, we cared about ‘athleti-city,’ not ethnicity. During the winter holiday season, in my parents’ generation, menorahs were prominently displayed in front facing windows on my block. Some houses had Christmas lights and real Xmas trees. For their generation, the racial issue wasn’t black and white–it was the Jew, the Gentile, and the long shadow of the Holocaust. Both my mother and her mother frequently spoke of “the Goyim” as if they were some “other” or alien race to be wary of. I recall really disliking it when they spoke that way, but in retrospect, it was their ethnically-tinged way of saying “Jewish Lives Matter.”  My grandmother had barely survived Cossack progroms in Russia, and both my mom and dad served during World War Two.

So, Amos, Andy, Kingfish, and the rest of your heartwarming crew, although you are all long gone now, your African American legacy has evolved into today’s Black Lives Matter movement. I know that you would all be proud marchers for racial justice in today’s America. And I hope that, in coming days, our culture will become less white on black in black and white.

BOLLI Matters contributor and Writers Guild member, Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.