THE CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOAN THORMANN: PLUM CAKE

PLUM CAKE (Zwetschgen Kuchen)

 from Joan Thormann

This is a special kuchen since it can only be made in late summer and autumn when Italian or prune plums are available.  It is also a beautiful cake, which always brings “ooohs” and “ahhhs” when served to someone who hasn’t seen it before or even those who had it the previous year.

When I  visited the Boston area German refugees  in the plum season, I  would be greeted with coffee and some variety of plum kuchen. This is the variety  that my mother made, and I think her recipe  is the best.

Murbe Teig Pie Crust for 2 round pies (8 or 9″ round)  or one 9″ x 13″ rectangle

4 oz butter (one stick)

4 oz sugar (½ cup)   ½

8 oz flour (1 ½ cup)

1 egg

12 to 14 medium sized prune plums for each pie dish

1 to 1½ tsp tapioca

Mix the crust ingredients together to form a ball, and put it in the refrigerator while preparing the plums.  This makes two pie crusts or one large pyrex dish of cookie sheet crust.

Cut one side of each plum along the seam line and remove the pit, keeping the two halves together.  Make two slices in each half of the plum, from the top to about half way down.

When finished slicing the plums, take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut it in half.  Butter the pie plate or spring form very well.  Flatten the dough out and then place in the pie plate.  With the heel of your hand and fingers spread the dough into the pie plate.  Poke dough with fork a few times.  Bake the dough for about 10-12 minutes at 350°.

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with minute tapioca (about 1- to 1½  tsp), to absorb the plum juices.  Place the plums skin side down in the crust starting at the outer edges and filling the crust in circles.  Bake for about 15 minutes at 400° and then another 30 to 45 minutes at 350°.  The pie is done when the plum juices flow. It sometimes takes over an hour.

When you take the cake out of the oven, you may want to sprinkle it with sugar if the plums are not very sweet.  My mother always did, regardless of sweetness.  I like the tartness of the plums, so I never sprinkle it with sugar.  Try it both ways.

BOLLI member Joan Thormann
During her last five years teaching at Lesley before retiring, Joan ended up teaching teachers to teach online–by teaching them online.  If you know people who need help in this area, she shamelessly asks you to let them know they can find her book on Amazon. 
When Joan isn’t occupied with life maintenance, she paints watercolors, makes quilt tops, and listens to audiobooks. Two years ago, she started taking classes at BOLLI and enjoys learning from the SGLs and classmates.

PANDEMIC PROSE: HOME ON THE STRANGE

HOME ON THE STRANGE

by Barbara L. Jordan © 2020

Home is the yellow and turquoise 13-foot paddleboard that takes you gliding some summer mornings  in coastal Maine. Over fish, maybe even sharks, around Sow and Pigs Island, past the neighbors waving lazily from their deck chairs.

Right palm on the paddle’s handle, pushing downward as it moves you forward in upright bent-kneed posture, you are a black nylon wetsuit-clad figure below a wide-brimmed white hat protecting you from the cancer ray sun.

You are not at the gym in a mask.

Socially distanced from all sentient beings, it is not possible in this hour to spread or absorb one deadly viral particle unless there’s something you don’t yet understand about this disease.

And then Summer turns to Fall.

Your house is sort of a home, until you let in the servicemen whose face masks slip below noses or you deposit mail on the foyer bench to disinfect.

What used to be a casual run to the market for dinner ingredients is now a carefully planned “trick or treat” with personal protective gear and a “who’s behind that face costume?” guessing game.  Maybe you’ll recognize the hair, the eyeglasses, or bag and then struggle to communicate without sounding desperate and as tired as you are of all this.

Out out, damned virus. Go back home. Just don’t take up residence in my home, the body I felt at home in once, in late February but not so much in March and beyond.

In this land of the free, you on the Other Side are free to bare your face and spit at me, and do so every day, fearlessly, while I plan my exit strategy should the end come in November. Home of the brave no more, home to ever more raging cowards.

God Bless the few remaining spaces on water and land that aren’t yet destroyed by fire, rain, wind, and the demon leader with homely hair and the wife flaunting that she “really doesn’t care.”

There are no monsters, this is not yet Halloween. But there are more than 200,000 dead here in God Bless America, our home sweet home.

But we can’t kid ourselves.  Home is not safe anymore.

BOLLI member and writer Barbara (“Babs”) Jordan

Barbara is the founder of “Heavy Hitters Music,” an Emmy Award-winning publishing company which provides independent songwriting talent to the film, television and advertising industries. She is the author of “Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting” and has taught songwriting and lyric writing at the Berklee College of Music and in workshops across the country. Her songs have graced the soundtracks of hundreds of television shows and feature films, including such productions as “The Sopranos,” “N.C.I.S.,” “Analyze This,” and “Being John Malkovich.”

HELPFUL HINTS FROM JOHN RUDY: Prescriptions

Prescriptions at a Good Price and with Added Safety

from John Rudy

About 2 years ago, I learned of a company called GoodRx.  It had been recommended to me by a Raytheon HR Director, so I assumed it was legitimate–and it is! Through GoodRx (and a prescription from my doctor), I was able to order medication bypassing my insurance company.  For one of my meds, Crestor, the price was about half of what CVS charged even with my insurance plan.  So far, I’ve saved over $200.

Recently, I heard about another company that does a similar thing: you put in your medication, your location, quantity, and dosage into their web page, and it tells you the least expensive places to buy it.  I was able to better my GoodRx price by about 30% and improve two other medications (where GoodRx wasn’t helpful) by about 30% below the insurance cost.

See https://www.americaspharmacy.com/medication

Through this site, you can print out a DISCOUNT DRUG COUPON which you take to the pharmacy.  For my three medications, the lowest cost in my area, tied with a few other places, was at my local Stop and Shop.  Given the high cost of many medications, it seems smart to look around for multiple options.

I recently received an email from Bruce Nogueira.  Many of you will remember him as an MSD HR manager and also as an ARR Board member.  One of the things he mentioned was that, occasionally, a pharmacy gives you the incorrect dosage of the med.  This can be due to either a doctor or a pharmacy error.  In either case, the wrong dosage could, of course, cause major problems.  I maintain a spread sheet with the correct values, and I always check when I receive a refill.  The worst case, and the one Bruce pointed out, was where the shape/size of the pill in the bottle was unfamiliar to him; luckily,  he  checked it out.  It was 10 times the correct dosage though the bottle was marked with the correct value!  Bruce then told us of a site to identify pills.

It is called https://www.drugs.com/imprints.php   Here is what the home page looks like:

The site offers additional services as well.

Be healthy and safe!

BOLLI Matters columnist and contributor John Rudy

In addition to his regular “BOLLI Matters” recipe offerings, John provides tech help and shares his findings when it comes to medical equipment and prescriptions.  Thanks, John!

STORIES FROM STEVE: ECLIPSE

 ECLIPSE

 

by Steve Goldfinger

 Pull your covers up, Esme, and I’ll tell you a special story. Yes, just like that. Snuggle in tight.

Do you know what an eclipse is?  It’s when the earth gets in the way of the sun when it tries to shine on the moon. The moon gets very dark So how do you think the moon feels when this happens? Well, here’s my story.

“I don’t want it to happen again,” said Moon to no one in particular, particularly because no one was there. “I know it is only three days away …. or should I say three nights?  And I dread it.”

“Being eclipsed is no fun. I hate it when it gets so dark that I cannot see anything happening. If a cow jumps over me I want to be able to spot it so I can wave to it and even shout out Moo. I did that once, you know. And the cow laughed and asked me if I liked milk. Not especially I said, but do you like green cheese because if you do I can easily get some for you. The cow made a bad face. I laughed. This could never happen when I get eclipsed.

“And how would my first visitor, a man called Neil Armstrong, ever find me in the dark?

“There is a song that says I belong to everyone, but how would they feel if they can’t see me?

“There is something else of course. It has to do with how I feel about myself.

“I am very lonely up here. In fact, I am only happy when I can shine down on others and they can look up and admire me. I know I have inspired (that’s a new word, Esme, it means excited) people who paint pictures, others who write poems, ones who make up songs and even those whose only talent is to fall in love. That can’t happen when I can’t shine.

“So what have I learned from eclipse after eclipse?

“Well, I guess it is that, even in the darkest hours when I am most miserable, the time will come when I will be happy again and be able to make other people happy. And be able to see any cow that comes my way and have fun with her and be able to call her my friend.

“Being in the dark isn’t really so bad when you know you will shine again.”

BOLLI Matters contributor Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI a few years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group and more.  

MEET OUR MEMBERS: RICHARD AVERBUCH — MAKING DRAMATIC CHANGES

RICHARD AVERBUCH–MAKING DRAMATIC CHANGES

When Richard Averbuch arrived at BOLLI a year ago, shortly after his retirement, he joined CAST (Creative Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) and quickly became a mainstay in this very special Special Interest Group.  With his background in theatre–and improvisation, in particular—he was soon leading exercises and workshops, eventually becoming, along with Sandy Clifford, the group’s co-leader.  This term, he and Becky Meyers (long time Scene-iors leader) have joined forces to lead BOLLI actors in an online production of A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room.”

BOLLI actors have certainly enjoyed getting to know Richard (pictured above in a recent BOLLI Play Reading group sbot) and so, it seems a fitting time to introduce him to our community as a whole. 

So, Richard, how did you get involved in theater?

 When I was in middle school, sometime in the late 1960s, our English teacher took us to see a series of three plays at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.  To his credit, he wanted to challenge us, so he selected Death of a Salesman, Under Milkwood, and Six Characters in Search of an Author.  I didn’t fully grasp either “Milkwood” or “Six Characters,” but I was totally mesmerized by the environment created by the actors, the language, and the production values of each.  And I was transported by “Salesman.”

When I was in high school, our drama teacher encouraged us to explore alternative theater.  He had a highly skilled mime performer come in to give workshops, culminating in the creation of a mime troupe at the school.  By way of audition, we were asked to perform an original mime, something I had never done before!  Mine was a sketch about a fisherman who baits a hook and casts it into the water. After a few minutes, he notices a tasty looking sandwich that has been left on the beach.  Curious, he decides to take a little bite and—you guessed it—he gets a hook in his mouth and is pulled into the sea by a very different “fisherman” from a watery world.  Much to my surprise, the audience laughed, and I was selected to be in the troupe.

That same drama teacher also brought a member of The Committee, a pioneering improvisation company in San Francisco known for their cutting-edge political satire (anti-war and social justice themes, in particular).  But most important, all the members had strong theater backgrounds—mostly trained in Viola Spolin’s improvisation techniques.  I absolutely loved the approach, and my mime experience fit very comfortably.  I took a variety of workshops with The Committee, which had a theater in North Beach, San Francisco.  One of the members of the company was an acting student at the College of Marin—Robin Williams.  It was clear, from the start, that he was gifted.  Soon, he was off to Julliard and beyond.  I ended up creating an directing an improvisation company at my high school, and we performed at various venues in San Francisco.  Our performance specialty was a long-form “Herald,” an extended piece for the entire ensemble.  After graduation, I ended up being a performer and education director at the Roundhouse Theater, still a very successful theater outside Washington D.C. in Bethesda, Maryland.

Richard in a group improvisation at Aretha Spolin’s 2019 workshop in Watertown.

                       What led you to make what seems like a.                            dramatic career change from theater to health care?

After 6-7 years in the professional theatre, I wanted a new intellectual challenge, so I enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  After graduation, I ended up working on health policy—and eventually, I leveraged my knowledge of communications into marketing/communications positions at Beth Israel Deaconess and Mass General.  And my health care career came to a close working for the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care—i.e., working on improving care for those with serious illness also facing end-of-life.  Very inspiring!

And BOLLI?

 I became interested in BOLLI as a way to reconnect with my background in the humanities, literature, visual and performing arts.  Especially exciting for me has been connecting with other BOLLI members interested in the theater.  As part of the CAST special interest group, I’ve taught improvisation workshops, and we’re currently planning to perform The Dining Room as our major activity this term.

Richard and his Spolin workshop partner engage in a mirror exercise as fellow BOLLI member Sandy Clifford takes a observational pose.

But, in addition, it’s been great to see the broad selection of courses offered in my areas of interest as the study groups feed the intellectual life of the entire BOLLI community.

I’ve found BOLLI to be a welcoming community of continued learning.  Of course, we all look forward to the day when we can return to in-person classes; they enhance and enliven the experience, for sure!

BOLLI “Matters”  Sue Wurster

It’s been a while since posting a BOLLI member profile!  During this time, in particular, it is harder for us to get to know each other, so it seems fitting that we bring back this part of our blog activities.  Have someone you’d like to either profile yourself or have us profile?  Please send ideas!  (susanlwurster@gmail.com)