Category Archives: Food

Thanksgivings of yore

I found myself thinking on feast day this week of Thanksgiving past.

My first real recollections of Thanksgiving are at Aunt Esther’s home in Columbia.  Uncle John would have been alive then, back in the 1970s.  The Carter crew would pile into the station wagon or the van and make the day-trip to Columbia.  This was always a pitch-in affair, although Aunt Esther did the most of the cooking. G-ma Blocher (my mom’s mom, and Aunt Esther’s sister) would be there, of course.  So would an interchangeable cast of Aunt Esther’s nieces and nephews (my mom’s generation) and their children (my generation).  I recall that the Musgraves were usually in attendance, and it seems that Paul Gutshall’s family was too.

I hated stuffing.  Just couldn’t stand it.  And then somewhere around 18, my taste buds found salvation.  I realized that I liked sage!  And thus began a love affairs with cornbread or bread stuffing that has lasted to this day.  None of oyster stuffing for me.  Give me sage and cornbread stuffing, with loads onion and celery, and I’m happy.

Stuffing also figures into one of my deep regrets with my own mother.  Her brother, my Uncle Edwin, and his wife Mary were up for Thanksgiving.  I was home from college.  And Mom was prepping Thanksgiving dinner.  I found out there was no stuffing on the menu, and I recall going on and on about that.  So did Uncle Edwin.  So Mary, to my mother’s pique, made cornbread and put together stuffing.  Mom said something along the lines of “my meal isn’t good enough for you.”  And I was instantly chagrined.

I don’t know that I ever made amends for that, as we never mentioned it again.

When my parents took off for Argentina, Thanksgiving was suddenly at G-ma’s home in Adrian.  Uncle John had died in 1984, and Aunt Esther was no longer doing Thanksgiving.  By 1990, though, I was having Thanksgiving with Jerry and Jeannie Young and their family in Independence, and later in Oak Grove.  They were second family to me for many years until I moved away after doctoral studies.  My sisters and I all fended for ourselves — Karen with her husband, Beth away in Brazil for two years, and then with G-ma.

My more recent tradition has been to host a friends Thanksgiving.  In Muncie, that was always with music faculty colleagues who weren’t traveling and would otherwise have been alone.  These pitch-in affairs lasted all day and into the evening, with loads of booze and way too much food.

Here in Saint Louis, that tradition has extended to inviting students from Webster to join me — kids in my voice studio or a class that I’m teaching.  They seem to appreciate a decent home-cooked meal at a real dining room table.  And sometimes a friend or three stops by as well for the meal.

Notable Thanksgivings away include one in Vienna earlier this decade, and of course 2008 when I was just back from Seattle, closed my new home the day before Thanksgiving, and then moved that same weekend.  (The day itself was with my colleague Glen Bauer and his late husband Tim, at their flat in the Central West End.)

Last year I was in NYC for Thanksgiving; the year before, with my family for the last holiday gathering with my father before he died.

Cheese grits are a fixture at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is the holiday that moves me the most.  It’s this ‘autumn’ thing I have going on.  This year, Thanksgiving is colored by the death of my mentor and friend and former boss, and the huge void in this world that his death leaves.  But the day (as I write on Thursday) will be with people I love, and all will be well.

Photos from Thanksgivings past:

NASM 2019

I am in Chicago as Webster University’s voting representative to the annual meeting of National Association of Schools of Music.

The meeting is always the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, and we are often in warmer climates, but Chicago is the place this year.  I arrived early to take in some of my favorite places at the Art Institute of Chicago, and to catch a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

Around the conference sessions, I’ve also had hotel-room time to finish some projects and write plenty of emails.  I’m feeling a bit more caught-up at the office.

One of the joys of these conferences is seeing friends and colleagues from around the nation.  Hallway conversations turn into meals or drinks.  Quick hugs turn into lingering conversations.  And all is right with the world.

Another joy?  Food!

I dined on Chicago-style pizza, AKA ‘heart attack in a deep dish,’ on Sunday evening, at Lou Malnati’s around the corner on State Street. The buttery crust was heaven.

Afterward, walking back to the hotel, I was asked by four nice men hanging around street corner “Are you stuffed, ’cause I’m really hungry”.  I gladly handed over my box with the last two chunks of pizza, and in fact had left the pizza joint with that box, hoping to run into someone who looked like a meal would be a nice thing.  I demurred, though, at buying the same man a 40-oz. beer in the corner 7-11.


The Hilton Chicago has a huge gingerbread display in the elevator lobby on the main floor:


The conference’s plenary sessions always feel a bit like an old Soviet five-year meeting, with dutiful approvals of pre-ordained decisions.

But there’s some fun too, like asking the question “Which of these photos best represents music theory meetings at a conference like this?”.

This was a rolling photo display on a meeting room call board . . . .


Finally, an obligatory selfie from Sunday morning:

I think I had on the only pink shirt in a room of 800 people.

Sourdough

And this, my friends, is what sourdough looks like when it fails to rise in the oven.

I have not made sourdough in well more than a month. While I have fed the sourdough starter at least once weekly, I am thinking that I should have poured some off, then engaged in a full day of feedings, before using it to bake.

The dough looked and felt normal when I finished it Monday evening. But this bread certainly failed to rise in the oven.

I really don’t want to handle the bread, for fear that I will drop it on my foot and never walk again.



Fall Break NYC: Circus Day

[Headline photo: one lone leaf on a book in a vendor’s stall by Central Park.]
Thursday was Circus Day in Manhattan.

I started the day with a matinee performance of Big Apple Circus, in an audience filled mostly with children.  Loud children.  Shrill children.  And I loved it.

This poor guy in a circus uniform just wasn’t having it….

Lunch followed at Rustic Table, with Jessica the Circus Lady and her posse of friends, plus her son Keaton and his girlfriend.  My lunch of shredded chicken, harissa tahini, and such was a huge delight.

I bussed my way over to 60th and Madison Avenue, and took in the latest exhibition at the Grolier Club, one of my favorite out-of-the-way nerdy places in NYC.

And then I spent some time in Central Park.

On the way to the evening circus performance, I stopped by the Jo Malone shop (my wallet is groaning) at Columbus Circle, then headed on across 59th toward the Hudson River to see Keaton Hentoff performing in Australia’s contemporary Circa ensemble as part of the White Light Festival.  The show, En Masse, was simply stunning.

11, 922 steps on Thursday.  That’s my best day this week.